Those are works of art! Charming portraits of a family on the Canadian prairie’s flashed on the screen during the slide show I put together for my Aunt Viola’s 95th birthday. I had found many of the photos saved in albums and envelopes when I helped her move into a personal care home. Some of the scenes were so idyllic and lovely my brother suggested they could be turned into beautiful paintings. I just loved these portraits of my mother’s family. I asked my Aunt Viola who had taken all the lovely photos and she said most were taken by her Aunt Marie. My Great Aunt Marie, my grandmother’s sister never married. She had a job in California working for a wealthy family. When she came home to visit her family in Drake Saskatchewan she always brought along beautiful clothes for her sister and her sister’s children. Great Aunt Marie also owned a camera and she took photos of her sister’s family.
Tbese are just a few samples of the charming prairie family photos taken by my Great Aunt Marie.
I am grateful to her for recording these beautiful memories from my mother’s childhood.
My brother and Aunt Vi check out her cake.
My Aunt Viola turned 95 years old yesterday. On Saturday our family hosted a party for her in Saskatoon. I think over a hundred people came to wish her well. I was so happy that a big group of my cousins and their children as well as some of my aunt’s cousins were there.
My sister and Aunt Vi enjoy a happy moment.
I made a speech about my aunt describing her as a world traveler, devoted daughter, voracious reader, dedicated teacher, loyal friend, faithful sister, caring aunt, gracious hostess, prolific needle worker, active church member, dedicated volunteer and plant lover!
Aunt Vi greets some of her many friends who came to the party
Aunt Vi surprised us all when she got up to make a speech too. She talked about her life and how it had been her desire to serve God in all she did. She also encouraged us to share a kind word or even just a smile with others.
Aunt Vi with some of her cousins.
I thought Aunt Vi would be tired after meeting and greeting people for almost three hours but when we got back to her suite she wanted to look at all her cards. So we formed a little assembly line. My Dad and brother opened the envelopes, my sister read Aunt Vi the notes and signatures in the cards and I put them all up on a wall in her room so she could look at them again and again.
Nieces and nephews and great nieces and nephews and a couple great, great nieces and nephews who came to the party along with my Dad.
It is quite something to live to be 95 and still be in a state of health and mind to enjoy it. I’m glad that’s the case for my aunt. Happy Birthday Aunt Vi!
A Tipped Caboose, A Black Eye and A Wedding
Aunt Vi’s Autograph Book
I was guiding a group of grade sevens through the art gallery. We stopped to look at Dee Barsy’s artwork about her four grandmothers. “Why would someone have four grandmothers?” I asked. One girl’s hand shot up. “Probably all her grandmothers are lesbians,” she said matter of factly. I hadn’t thought of that as a possible answer but it was certainly a valid explanation of why someone might have four grandmothers.
Four Grandmothers by Dee Barsy
I did tell the children that Dee Barsy was adopted and her painting depicted both her two biological and two adoptive grandmothers. But I thought it was great that it seemed perfectly natural to the young girl on my tour that someone’s grandmothers might be lesbians.
Older people may still be struggling with the idea of same sex relationships but for the up and coming generation it is something quite natural and unremarkable.
Do you know what a bonus family is? I’ve just found out by watching the Swedish television drama Bonus Family on Netflix. It tells the story of Lisa and Patrick a couple who have fallen in love and moved in together. Both Lisa and Patrick share custody of their respective children with their former spouses.
Bonus family is meant to be a positive term. Children whose parents move on to second partners gain a bonus parent, bonus siblings and a bonus family. One of the show’s producers explains that in Sweden “we don’t say step-dad or step-mom anymore because it has a negative connotation; instead we say ‘bonus dad’ or ‘bonus mom’.”
The cast of Bonus Family.
But adjusting to life in a bonus family is often far from positive and the television series Bonus Family does not sugarcoat just how incredibly difficult it can be to merge two families, to share custody of children, to handle finances after a divorce, to co-parent one another’s kids, and handle grandparents who are having a hard time adjusting to the bonus in-laws they have suddenly inherited.
Lisa and Patrick end up going to counselling sessions to help them deal with all the difficulties inherent in creating a bonus family.
Bonus Family addresses a serious issue in a serious way but there are also some very funny moments and viewers grow to really care about all the characters. If you are looking for a new Netflix series to watch I can recommend Bonus Family.
The Bechdel Test
Breaking Bad- What’s to Like?
Last Friday I saw the play Yellow Bellies put on by the Theatre of the Beat drama troupe. It told the story of Mennonite conscientious objectors during World War II. One scene made a personal connection for me. Rudy the young man in the play has received a notice telling him he must appear before a judge to defend his request for conscientious objector status so he can do alternative service rather than join the military.
Rudy appears before the judge.
There is a scene in the play where he appears before a judge who has a reputation for being pretty hard on conscientious objectors and he asks Rudy some tough questions.
Dad as a young man
This reminded me of a story my father-in-law Cornelius Driedger told me. He received a similar letter in the summer of 1942 just after he had announced his engagement to my mother-in-law Anne. Dad took his letter to his uncle and the pastor of his church N.N. Driedger who said he would help Dad fill out his application for conscientious objector status and he would go to court with him. Since Dad was a baptized member of the Mennonite Church he didn’t think he should face too much opposition.
Dad’s family in 1924 when the immigrated.
Dad had come to Canada from Ukraine with his family in 1924 and while an earlier migration of Mennonites in the 1800s had been promised automatic exemption from military service the later group of which Dad was a part had to have their cases heard before a judge. Dad’s court case went well and he received conscientious objector status .
Mom and Dad on their wedding day
Mom and Dad had only been married for four months when Dad received word he would have to report to Montreal River where conscientious objectors would be put to work for the duration of the war by the Department of Highways helping to finish the construction of a link of the Trans Canada route.
Dad in the centre cutting lumber.
Dad’s job was cutting lumber to clear bushland.
The men in the conscientious objectors camp with Dad in Montreal River
His time in the conscientious objectors’ camp was an experience Dad never forgot. You can read more about it in the link below.
The Theatre of the Beat’s production of Yellow Bellies provided a good reminder of an important part of Canadian Mennonite history. It also brought back personal memories for people in the audience whose family members had played a role in that history.
Autograph Book From A Conscientious Objector’s Camp
Filed under Family, History
“How did you enjoy the play,” I asked someone I had seen in the audience at Winnipeg’s Prairie Theatre Exchange the night before. “Enjoy isn’t really a word you can use for that play.” he said.
Last Saturday my cousin Lynne took me to see the play Gracie for my birthday. It follows a young girl from childhood to her teen years. She is living with a fundamentalist Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints group in Bountiful British Columbia. Her mother becomes the 18th wife of the group’s leader and Gracie tells us all about her life in the community. The play starts when Gracie is eight and ends when she is fifteen and destined to become the wife of a much older man.
To give the writer Joan MacLeod credit for being balanced we not only learn about the scary and difficult aspects of the community but also discover that Gracie experiences lots of love there and a sense of belonging and security.
Although Gracie is a fictional character Joan MacLeod visited the Bountiful community to do research and found some normalcy in the young people she encountered. In an interview she said while it might seem unimaginable to us that a mother would allow her teenaged daughter to become one of the many wives of a much older man it is important to remember that, from the perspective of the fundamentalist mother, such a choice is the only one that will put her daughter on the path of eternal salvation.
According to a Globe and Mail story a man and woman from the Bountiful community were recently sent to jail for taking their thirteen year old daughter to the United States to marry an American man from their sect who is now in prison for assaulting two of his child brides.
Even though I am a person of faith the play made me wonder as I often do if the world wouldn’t be better off without organized religion.
Kill Me Now
Getting to Know Richard II
The Costumes Were Worth the Price of Admission
I prepared a slide show documenting my husband Dave’s life for his 65th birthday party. These two old photos were included in it. They were both taken on some of the first visits I made to Leamington Ontario to meet Dave’s family. I think his Mom must have snapped the pictures. I found them after she passed away and we were going through boxes of old family albums she had kept. This one is out on the field on Dave’s parents’ farm. Just because he was home from college in Winnipeg for a short visit and had brought his new girlfriend along didn’t exempt him from having to do his share of the work on the farm. In this second photo Dave has his ball glove in hand and from the sweat in his hair I am assuming he just finished a game of catch with one of his brothers before his Mom snapped the picture of the two of us. We look so young and happy.
“What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce.”– Karl Lagerfeld
“The past beats inside me like a second heart.” – John Banville from his novel The Sea
My Parents’ Romance
At Sixes and Sevens
The Path of Life