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From Here & Nowhere

Musings of a Joyous Spirit



By Joy Gartshore


Agio Publishing House, Canada

Published through Smashwords


© 2017, by the late Georgina “Joy” Gartshore. All enquiries to Bob Gartshore.

All rights reserved.

Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book.


From Here and Nowhere

ISBN 978-1-927755-64-8 (paperback) ISBN 978-1-927755-65-5 (ebook)

Cataloguing information available from Library and Archives Canada.

Agio Publishing House is a socially-responsible enterprise, measuring success on a triple-bottom-line basis.


Acknowledgements and Dedication


Firstly I would like to acknowledge my wonderful wife Joy who was instrumental in encouraging me to begin this project and for her ongoing help in editing and suggesting changes while keeping distractions to a minimum. Her total love was my ongoing inspiration and this book is dedicated to “My JOY.” 

My deep appreciation goes to Joy’s niece, Deborah Robinson who, with her daughter Marah Farmer, arranged Joy’s musings to create From Here & Nowhere, this beautiful book of memories. And to Joy’s niece, Myrna Kerr, for her lovely foreword.

I also thank my publisher, Bruce Batchelor of Agio Publishing, for his direction, expertise and encouragement in the publication of Joy’s book.

And finally, to our loving Lord, who gave me my Joy to “Love and to Hold” for 62 wonderful years, my everlasting thankfulness.

Bob Gartshore



Table of Contents

Foreword: THE BLESSING


Section 1: FAMILY and OTHER UNAVOIDABLE ADVENTURES

You Want Me to Do What ??? …The Arrival

All Shook Up

My Nemesis

Lists and Other Useless Exercises

The Feds Strike Again

Second Fiddle

Debut

Random Access

Pitter Patter of Little Feet

Whisper that You Love Me

Another Racket

A Seasonal Compulsion

Marshmallows and Baked Potatoes

Leaky Boots

Wildflowers

The Perfect Peace

Down Under

Echoing Sentiments

Take Me Home

Unto the Hills

Signs and Wonders


Section 2: BROADSIDE

How Boating Took Its First Bite

Weather Report

Taking Leave of the Senses

Broadside

Something for the Boat

To Wax or Not to Wax

Until Death Do Us

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

The Compass Always Points North


Section 3: PONDERINGS

Never Really Lost

Small Gifts

Pseudonym, Please!

Crossing the Editor’s Desk

A Gift of Love

All I Want for Christmas

Wonders of the Firmament

Roadrunner

The Scenic Route

Praise Song

Simply There

Back to the Soil

The Far East

Hark, the Herald Angels Sing!


Section 4: EPILOGUE

Caliente Contemplations





Foreword


The Blessing

Where our family lived, on the Prairies in Alberta, a last child born – often many years after their siblings and often not expected – was called “a blessing.”

Georgina Phyllis Tooley, born 1933, was such a blessing. Her best friend, and husband of 62 years, Bob, called her Joy. Whenever he spoke of her to others, he said, “My Joy.”

Joy grew into a beautiful, talented woman. Her life was filled with many successes: she excelled in school, was a lifeguard and swimming teacher at Sylvan Lake, a Girl Guide Leader, and a strong member of the Presbyterian Church where her beautiful voice led the choir.

As you’ll see in this collection of stories, Joy was a friend to everyone, and had a wonderfully quick and quirky sense of humour that could keep the family laughing.

Always, her great desire was to have children. You’ll read a tale of when she was a mere six years old, how she went to the doctor’s house, knocked on the door and asked the doctor for a baby. The doctor replied, “You’ll have to wait.” Joy sat on the step and waited until a neighbour explained that she would need to be older to have a baby, and sent her home!

I was the first grandchild, born when Joy was eleven. My mother brought me home to Grandma’s house and put me into Joy’s arms, saying: “Here is your baby!”

I was the first of many she nurtured – Joy’s nieces and nephews, her own children, their friends, her sisters as they aged, her mother and mother-in-law, and friends. We were all loved and cared for by Joy.

These stories reflect how no one was left out. Joy kept spirits high when we were hurting, regardless of circumstances. No judgements were made; her acceptance was all encompassing and unconditional.

Our family was held together by Joy. She was the centre for all of us, our touch point for information and security. Joy was a safe place to go with our trials and successes, where sound advice was given – if asked for. We were all blessed by her love, her kindness, her laughter and by her creation of a secure family so that no one was forgotten in the circle of her caring.

Truly, she was a blessing. I hope you’ll enjoy this collection of her writing: her wry humour, her enquiring mind, her passionate opinions, her warm heart. I hear her voice and her laughter in these pages, and take delight in the fact that they shine with the essence of Joy.


Myrna Kerr

Joy’s niece and forever friend



Section 1: FAMILY and OTHER UNAVOIDABLE ADVENTURES


No “harried housewife” here,

only witty, wry and philosophical observations

on life, love, family, travel,

and – last but still lots of fun – horseback riding!



You Want Me to Do What ??? …The Arrival

Living on Canada’s West Coast had never been on my wish list, having grown up with the understanding that everyone living there was old. At the ripe old age of forty, that was beginning to sound ominous.

We were being transferred by the airline and decided to live in Victoria rather than on the Lower Mainland – smaller city and the traffic somewhat less frenetic. Bob would spend the next twenty-three years commuting for his flights, which would normally leave from Vancouver; still, he felt it would be a quieter place to raise his anything but quiet little family.

Everyone was very excited as we boarded the B.C. ferry on a beautiful, calm day. They all proved to be good sailors. All but me, that is. My face took on a slightly green hue the moment we got out of the car, and that very unflattering colour was to be common as we learned to live near this watery environment. At times, I considered buying a matching wardrobe.

The kids, on the other hand, took the ship by storm and, before we were halfway across the strait, had given our life history to anyone who would listen; located all the toilets; asked to visit the captain; and more or less cleaned out the snack shop. Their father tried mightily to disassociate himself from the lot of us – difficult to do when every few minutes one or the other of the five would run up to him demanding money or asking for information on the operation of the ship.

Bob and I had flown out ahead of time to get the furniture in place, and then gone back to Alberta to get the family, so we weren’t arriving to the usual chaos one experiences with a move. Still, it came as somewhat of a surprise when a man came down our driveway an hour or so after our arrival, carrying a large bouquet of flowers and a look of sympathy. He wouldn’t come in but mentioned that there may be others turning up. Our ten-year-old had gone up and down the street, and invited everyone to tea that afternoon! I am eternally grateful to my neighbours for their forbearance – no one came! We were, however, greeted with huge smiles and friendly waves any time we were outside.

Our ocean-front home was a wilderness of high grass, dense underbrush, monster trees, and voracious mud wasps that immensely enjoyed the new meat being offered them. Our boys have never taken pain quietly, and there is a distinct possibility that they were heard, faintly, on San Juan Island across Haro Strait. When there seemed no percentage in being fed to the wild life, they all trooped down to the sea to catch mud sharks and a bag of snakes. There was some discussion about what should be fed to whom, but since I knew that five siblings can never reach a consensus on anything, the possibility of an early demise of one of them was highly unlikely. While the argument raged, the snakes departed for a locale with less traffic. The sharks, having been accidentally tipped out of their baby bath, decided to take their chances with the killer whales.

The greatest discovery was an old, small gauge railway car left abandoned in the underbrush. It proved to be a much cherished plaything. The wheels were iron and made a wonderful racket when one or two kids climbed in and rode wildly down the steep little hill on our driveway. Alone, it made a terrific noise; loaded with screaming kids, it defied description. The neighbours, being good sports, assured us that it didn’t bother them at all; mind you, as the years progressed, we noted that one by one they quietly sold their houses and moved away. I envied them.

The first day of school was anticipated with much pleasure because this would be the first year they would all be in school. The thought of three hours silence was wonderful for, of course, we expected them home for lunch.

Imagine our surprise to learn that all the children in Victoria take their lunch to school every day; whereas in Edmonton, where we had previously lived, they couldn’t stay at school unless it was minus twenty degrees Fahrenheit or colder. Back there, one had a choice: we could wrap them in lots of clothes and scarves, shove them out the door and hope for the best (bearing in mind that they were income tax deductible), or go out into the sub-zero garage and turn over a very hesitant car engine, leaving it to run for ten minutes while dealing with the normal chaos attendant on getting several reluctant kids ready for school. This, of course, meant dressing all of them, even if they weren’t school age, for the car would not be warm enough to ride in when lightly clothed. This procedure had to be repeated four times a day.

Looking back on it, I wonder why we felt our children were too fragile to walk to school in the prairie cold. As children ourselves, we walked it as a matter of course. In those days, there were few cars and, unless there was a horse and sleigh available, everyone walked. Staying home was an option only when a bad blizzard forced the closure of all schools.

Victoria rarely freezes at any time of the year and, on a hot September day, packing lunches seemed bizarre. Besides, I’ve long been a proponent of the old adage, “Never look a gift horse in the mouth!” The powers that be sure weren’t going to get any arguments from me.

Watching them leave for school that day was an interesting experience: my emotions ranged from sadness to joy, with a bit of pride thrown in. It was wonderful, however, to have the choice to do whatever I wanted for the next several hours, and I sat with a cup of coffee and savoured the freedom. This state of euphoria lasted until mid-morning, when the silence hit me. There had always been a toddler at home, and now my littlest was gone too.

This tiny one was always the calm in the storm – a quiet, busy little girl whose brothers taught her how to climb ropes as soon as she could walk. In the midst of the racket that four older siblings created, she was as often as not climbing a rope tied on the sun deck, or constructing a tree house which would forever be accessible only by rope; not for her, the niceties of a ladder. She was neither shy nor lonely, just introspective. Now she was in school, and I was sad.

At noon, the phone rang and a teacher asked if it would be alright to send her home for lunch, as she seemed sad. I tried not to sound too thrilled!

When she ran into my arms, I picked her up and said softly, ”What’s the matter, love, don’t you like school?”

Her reply, in her funny little way of talking, was to stay with me forever: “My like school, but my loves you!”

With that one simple sentence, she made it alright for both of us. She never had to do that again, and I never needed her to.

As she left again to go happily back to school, I thanked God for this precious little creature who had been added to our family when we thought it was complete.

There was a codicil to that, however: ‘Please, God, NO MORE!’


First day of school

All Shook Up

Coming from the Prairies where earthquakes only happen somewhere else, we were on the West Coast some time before it entered our heads that the house might shake enough for us to notice. The first time we heard an earthquake, it sounded like a train rolling toward us, and reminded me of sitting in a station as a kid, feeling the building shake as the train went by. It was no big deal, really. The only one upset was one of the kids who was accused by the others of walking too heavily down the hall.

However, years of reading warnings about being prepared for the “Big One” finally got to me, especially after an Alaska quake threatened a possible tsunami wave on the West Coast. So, I bought a pamphlet and we had an unproductive discussion about what, if anything, we should do.

Bob is always in agreement with whatever requires him to run off to the store to buy some necessary gadget that, from henceforth, neither of us will ever be able to find again. I insist on vast quantities of food which will feed an army, or the arrival of family, whichever comes first. I read somewhere that the safest place to be is under the stairs but, on close inspection, I can tell you that unless I can corkscrew myself past twenty years of junk, I’m in deep trouble. Besides, what if I get trapped in there with nothing to eat but white flour and an old pair of riding boots?

Bob arrived home recently to find me crouched under the piano, wearing a hockey helmet, shoulder pads and my high school sweater. The last isn’t on any of the preparedness lists, but I kind of liked the way it all went together.

Also under there with me was a very large jug of water, food, dishes, a can opener, candles, radio, sleeping bag, I.D. and a chamber pot with toilet paper (bet you never thought of that).

It was crowded, extremely uncomfortable, and I had the uneasy feeling that if the piano fell through the floor, being squashed into a shape like a grand piano was not going to be even slightly flattering!

Bob pointed out that as a décor, the “preparedness” look smacked of early American Attic, and he really wasn’t interested in being that prepared. Besides, he seemed to feel that the likelihood of my being close enough to the piano to get under it was somewhat remote, and missiles flying about the room would make progress hazardous in any case. (Why did he think I was wearing the helmet?)

Eventually, we came to an agreement. He secured the really dangerous stuff to the wall and I removed my gear from under the piano. (When he isn’t looking, I may stash it under the dining room table.) Actually, since we live so close to the water, we should probably invest in one of those life boats that you can sit inside and zip up. We could tether it to the deck, and just leap out of the bedroom window as soon as the rumbling starts.

On second thought, have you ever been in a very small vessel being tossed about in large waves? I have, and believe me, death is preferable!

I have evaluated the situation, and have come to a decision. I will carry I.D. at all times, except maybe in the bath, so that they can always identify me. I wouldn’t care to be labelled as the fat dame shaped like a piano.

We have made some headway on our emergency preparedness kit. Currently, we have in our possession a battery-operated radio, which I am unable to figure out how to turn on; a coal oil lantern, that only runs for about thirty minutes, at which time it takes a three-hour lunch break; two big containers of water buried under three tons of treasures; and probably enough food to last us until the Rapture. We will not need to worry about water for washing dishes (if, indeed, any survive) since any large surge of water will likely deliver quite enough salt water into our basement to more than supply all our needs.

In any case, I don’t know what all the fuss is about. One death is what I’ve been promised and my insurance papers are filed in The Book of Life. If you have a choice between singing praises in Heaven, or feeding all the survivors that would come to the door, which would you choose?

I, for one, am sick of cooking.



My Nemesis

We often read stories and see cartoons dealing with the frustrations inherent in operating a computer, but my problems extend to anything that is mechanical, computers merely providing the pièce de résistance.

It first began to dawn that things worked differently for me than for Bob when he bought me my very own car. It was a Chevy and it had just six cylinders. With five kids and varying numbers of dogs, performance was not one of the superlatives usually applied to it. One of the boys dubbed it the “Rolls-Can-Hardly.” It rolled well downhill and could hardly get back up. To me, it was a delight, for it gave me a great sense of freedom. While it was very reliable, it did have an odd sound from time to time under the hood, although never when Bob drove it.

Driving into a gas station one day, while it was making this odd noise, it struck me as a great opportunity to ask the attendant, while he was checking whatever it is they check under there. I asked if he could locate the little man that kept flushing a toilet. It did seem possible that my driving must be causing him the problem!

Some of these attendants have no sense of humour: he simply looked startled and left me to pump my own gas.

Pressure cookers are another gadget designed to shorten the life span of the female race. When using mine, a lot of precautions are essential. Bob walked into the kitchen the other day and stopped dead-in-his-tracks. I was out on the sundeck, dressed in my bright yellow sou’wester, high boots and yellow rain hat, carrying an umbrella in one hand and holding binoculars up to my face. I wasn’t pointing the binoculars out to sea. I was hunched over and peering into the kitchen window. With the patience learned over many years, Bob leaned wearily against the wall and said: “This ought to be good!”

It is my opinion that anyone stupid enough to go within 20 yards of a pressure cooker in full steam should have their head examined. I’ve tried sneaking up on the thing but that never works – the minute I’m within spitting range it takes on the role of a factory whistle.

Telephone answering machines are usually fairly straight forward; they either work or they don’t. Mine, however, seems to be having a mid-life crisis. About two months ago, it decided that taking calls should be the responsibility of the people of the house, and every once-in-a-while, it takes a notion to place a call. Now normally we wouldn’t have a problem with that, but the long-distance operator does. You see, it has learned how to dial out; but so far, although one can hear it breathing, it hasn’t learned how to talk! For this we are truly grateful. Just try taking it in to be repaired! When you describe what it is doing, they treat you as if your elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top. They won’t even take the stupid machine in to give it a general check-up.

Modern technology has come up with a machine that can call Aunt Mathilda in Syracuse, but one of those will not be residing soon in our home. Can’t you just imagine the chaos?

From now on, any gift to me will be acceptable as long as it doesn’t have a function; it takes me all my time to cope with the machinery that owns me now. What would be really useful would be a dress that changes shape according to whether I am expanding or contracting. On second thought, perhaps that wouldn’t be such a great idea. It would probably decide to contract just as I expanded and it might just manage to strangle me. (Something Bob has, no doubt, often been tempted to do!)

All it takes is a power failure for a few hours to make me realize that we can’t live without gadgets. Dripping candles, cold rooms and warming fridges soon have us praying for power to return. Neither we, nor our homes, are made of the stuff of pioneers.

It seems that we in our modernized world need to have a power failure at times to make us grateful for all we have. So, too, does a personal failure or loss make us realize how much we need God in our lives, and how poor and weak and cold we are without Him. How blessed we are to call Him Father!



Lists and Other Useless Exercises

Bob is nothing if not organized, and this of course extends itself into many facets of our lives together.

When the kids were young and their rooms looked like the aftermath of a tornado, he had an inflexible rule that all items left on the floor (this meant everything they owned), would be picked up by their father and thrown into “Daddy’s Box.” This monster cardboard box lived in the laundry room, and contained all their clothes – some clean, some sort of clean, some downright filthy – toys, dirty sneakers, home work, and at times, when he scooped up indiscriminately, some dirty dishes.

The kids of course hated the thing because it all smelled like a locker room, and made it very difficult for them to get dressed in the morning.

I also hated it because, at times, it became necessary for me to dump it all out and wash vast piles of laundry.

Daddy’s Box came to an untimely end one day when something alive and well-fed crawled out and snarled at me. Since I was barefoot, I was forced to use a baseball bat to subdue it. It was shaped a lot like a sock with a sneer, and sported a sort of mouldy hair piece. Having mercilessly slaughtered it, I skewered it with a screwdriver and rushed upstairs and dumped it in Bob’s lap. I then informed him I wasn’t paid active duty allowance, and if I was going to live in a war zone, I wanted a machine gun!

It was, of course, him who instituted the Christmas wish list which each child was required to put up on the bulletin board. Our eldest son’s always read like a school supply list and was very boring. The next two always asked for things like Porsches and dune buggies, while the girls carefully listed every item seen on T.V. that week. Meanwhile, Bob and I wracked our brains trying to think of several items, none of which cost more than $1.49.

As they became adults, nothing much changed as far as the usefulness of the Christmas wish list exercise. One still reads like an office acquisition form, and the next two want permanent jobs with no lay-offs pending. The girls want clothes, none of which they will like, and all of which they will exchange on Boxing Day.

Bob has upped the anti to items under $5, and faithfully listed the usual socks, pen refills, etc. I finally balked since they never bought anything on my list anyway, so the next time around a new creative list was pinned on the cork board.

Complaints began almost immediately and were all somewhat similar: “Mom, give me a break! What kind of a list is that?”

I thought it was rather well thought out – nothing too expensive (they are still all broke), and while the items may be somewhat hard to locate, they won’t be bored while they search. The list is as follows, in case any of you are needing a challenge.

A pair of pantyhose, one size fits all OF ME. This may be a bit tough, since they usually only fit from the knees down. Makes it so hard to walk when your knees are tied together.

A hot water bottle with lots of tread. They make them smooth now, which is fine if you have a somewhat concave shape. I however am convex, and am sick of having the rotten thing slither off every time I take a breath.

A large box of no-calorie, chocolate-covered almonds. Knowing my kids, they won’t make much of an effort on this one. They will simply buy the regular kind, then eat them.

A bottle of soy sauce that is impervious to osmosis. I am fed up with soy sauce rings in my fridge, and on the table cloth. How does it do that?

Musical eye glasses, programmed to play a tune only when missing. Enough stuff beeps around here.

A fantasy bathtub that will maintain an even temperature no matter how long I lie in there and read. It will also accommodate a stand for my book, have a telephone handy, and supply a storage rack to hold my low-calorie, chocolate-covered almonds.

I got a whole new perspective on gift giving when I was reading recently about a young couple who were labouring as missionaries to the natives in the northern part of the province. For a number of years, they had remained childless, and longed with all their hearts to have a wee one. Finally, a lovely little boy was born to them, and they were simply overjoyed.

Then one dreadful night the little one became ill, and before they could get any help, he was taken from them. They were completely devastated, and as the weeks and months went by, their sorrow was still very acute.

The Christmas season came, and they sorrowfully attempted to share their beliefs with the people, but it was evident that they had no real joy to offer. Then came Christmas Eve, and as they were sitting by the fire, a knock came at the door. They found on the doorstep a young Indian father, and in his arms he held a tiny baby boy. With a great deal of love, he handed them the child and said simply, “We give him to you because we love you.” Then he turned and left.

We celebrate the arrival of another little boy, given to us out of the depth of our Father’s love. When life falls apart at the edges, it’s important to hang on to that fact.

Jesus loves us. That’s the greatest gift of all time!



The Feds Strike Again

There is a strange and virulent virus that makes vast inroads into the population from time to time. The symptoms are easily recognizable: it begins with a harried demeanour, but develops fairly rapidly into the zombie stage. Its presage is always a brown envelope with “Government of Canada, Taxation Department” printed in the upper left-hand corner. That title alone has the power to turn a normally passive individual into a nervous wreck. This is particularly true if it arrives in mid-summer after the all-clear letter has been received.

You know, of course, that the Feds are never interested in big time crooks who blatantly pay no tax at all; they are much too busy watching for failure to pay blood money on the bond that Aunt Matilda left you, which brings in the grand sum of $23.45.

The April virus started hitting our household many years ago, around the time one began to need an economics degree to fill out page one.

I’ll never forget the first time Bob came out of his study, where I knew he had been wrestling with the inevitable. He had a grey pallor and was bent over as if in pain. In a voice that would have done justice to a bit part in a third-rate melodrama, he said, “I have done the income tax AND WE ARE BANKRUPT!!!”

“HOW MUCH?” I cried in horror. “Ten thousand,” he replied as he stumbled back to his study looking like a man sentenced to the gallows.

Now I have never been one to sit and stew about something, so I had already listed one of the cars for sale, had made an appointment for a job interview and was speculatively eyeing one of the kids who was being particularly revolting at that moment, when I looked up to see him pouring himself a glass of milk out of the fridge. As he disappeared around the corner, still looking rather ill, he said, “I’ve got it down to $7,000.”

A glimmer of hope! Maybe I wasn’t going to have to start working for a living. Maybe if we were very careful we could sell the car and, if we could just find someone dumb enough, sell the dog.

Another hour passed, during which time everyone we knew had been informed about our extreme poverty. A bill was issued to the kids: “From henceforth, the trough from which we have been in the habit of feeding every stray kid in the countryside, will no longer be full of juice, fruit and milk, but will instead be minimally supplied with bread and water!”

I was actually beginning to enjoy the pathos of it all, when Bob emerged from his little room looking rather cheerful. “Guess what!” says he with a smile. “I made a couple of errors. I think they may owe us something!”

This little scene was re-enacted every year for a number of years and each time my reaction was a little less volcanic. By the time we moved to Victoria, I was able to view this performance with a somewhat jaundiced eye. I would respond with, “That’s nice, dear. Maybe with any luck one of your relatives will peg out and leave you some money,” or “Never mind, perhaps you can get a job rag-picking in your spare time.” It didn’t matter much what was said, for he heard nothing anyway. His head was too full of alarm bells.

This little melodrama is no longer enacted at our house, because we now live in the A.F. era. It stands for: “After Fred.” Now all we do is put it all together and hand it to Fred, our accountant, who in due course sends it back all neat and tidy, and best of all, ACCURATE. No need to suffer any longer the haunting nightmare in which five little waifs are taken to visit Daddy in the hoosegow because he is found guilty of cheating the government.

What A.F. has done for our finances, A.D. has done for our lives. While it is doubtful we can truly appreciate what Christ has done for us until we see the balance sheet spread out before the throne of grace, it behoves us to make an effort.

At Easter time, we rejoice in the Resurrection. Let’s not lose sight of why He was crucified. He hung there for us.



Second Fiddle

I had a sudden urge the other day to dust the book shelves. After evaluating the desire for some minutes, I decided to a least make a start on them. Years of experience have taught me that something in there will catch my attention and the day will slide out from under me with nothing much accomplished. Book shelves are fascinating.

The first shelf was pretty boring and got cleaned rather rapidly, but on the second shelf, I hit pay dirt. There is nothing like reading your old report cards and yearbooks to give you a wonderful trip down memory lane.

Growing up in a small town on the Prairies in the Thirties, one experienced a sense of freedom that is unknown to our youngsters today. We had the freedom of the town at a very early age and I was blessed with a best friend who loved all the things I did. We spent hours climbing trees, hiking, or playing Cowboys and Indians. Shirley was two months older than me, which put her in school a full year ahead of me, so my life fell apart the day she started school. This situation was solved by sitting on the school steps all day and looking sad. By the end of the third day, I was brought in and given a desk – the teacher couldn’t stand it any longer!

This was a woman who was at least fifty years ahead of her time in teaching techniques, for we laughed and sang our way through grade one with probably a far more thorough education than any of us would ever receive again. Likely it is remembered with such nostalgia because the competitive spirit hadn’t yet reared its ugly head.

The years rolled on and two things happened: first, I had a driving desire to be at the top and, second, a certain Miss Goody Two Shoes joined the class. You will all recognize her: she always had the top mark in everything, her dress was perfectly ruffled and always clean, even at the end of the day. She could draw and paint, she had blonde ringlets which never got out of place and, worst of all, she was the teacher’s pet.

To be perfectly fair, if you had one kid who looked like that and another who was always slightly grubby, had pig tails braided so tightly they gave a somewhat oriental cast to the blue eyes, a body shaped like a melon and a definite inclination to devilment, which one would you choose? I know the teacher liked me a bit though, for she gave me her orange when mine got dropped down the hole in the outhouse!

My arch enemy moved away before high school and the number of students dropped off as well. These were the years when parents thought a kid didn’t need a high school education.

High school was great and, since there was no longer a whiz kid in the group, the challenge to succeed was somewhat nullified by the stronger urge for self-education. This went along swimmingly, until the day I blew the windows out of the lab and was informed – in no uncertain terms – that if I wanted to learn something about chemistry, I’d have to take a course in it. In today’s system, we could probably claim learning repression, but in those days, they simply locked me out of the lab. Perhaps just as well, for although the thought of dying didn’t worry me much, my preference was to arrive at the pearly gates with my facial hair intact!

Funny how we change. These days I’d almost welcome an explosion. It must be quicker and certainly no more painful than ripping my facial hair off with wax!

So, I drifted to the top of a very small heap, but it was an uneasy position. Being awarded top marks in grade twelve left a lot to be desired. It’s easy to be top when you are the only one who passed! The certificate awarded me by the Town Council was eaten by the dog upon arrival. Poetic justice!

Sitting on the floor of my living room with all the dust balls floating around me, I came to the conclusion that one could sum up my academic career in three words: “She also ran.” This could be a rather sad epitaph but for one thing: I had a great time down there in second place.

In the years during the Great Depression, children had very little to play with but we were able to find great pleasure from some tiny thing that we found or were given. My brother gave me a huge magnet from an old Model T Ford and we were amused for hours trying to see how far away a nail could be placed and still be attracted to it. A tiny magnifying glass brought endless pleasure, although it was too poorly made to actually burn a hole in wood. A wee mirror was used to make signals to call in reinforcements during an imaginary Indian raid, or could shine light onto broken bits of glass with the hopes of producing multi-facets of colour.

The years have taught me that we don’t need to be terribly intelligent or beautiful or rich or famous to succeed, but rather just be a little mirror that reflects the light and love of Jesus Christ into a dark and lonely world.


Debut

After many years of singing opera on the boat, in the bath or whilst horseback riding, the opportunity finally arrived to be part of a real opera. And no one told me to be quiet! This is for sure going to be at the top of my résumé if ever one is required.

On second thought, perhaps this might have uncomfortable ramifications, for if one were to delve too closely into my performance, it would soon become evident that this wasn’t exactly a personal invitation. Rather, the gifted director of my all-women university choir came close to getting down on her knees and begging the choir to go. Little did we know what we were getting into.

Practices were very long and very late. We were to perform at the end of the last act as the Heavenly chorus. They asked us to wear black! This seems an odd colour for angels, but it turned out that they didn’t want us to be seen, just heard. Now I was raised on the old adage: “Be seen and not heard,” (my mother had other failures as well) so this seemed to suit me well. At my age and condition, being invisible rather appeals. When we arrived for the dress rehearsal, it turned out that they wanted to be very sure we weren’t seen—they had us come in at the back of the audience in pitch darkness! This would have been fine, except learning all those Latin words had proven difficult and the cheat sheet secreted up my sleeve was impossible to read.

I’m here to tell you that we made lots of noise in a language a Latin scholar would not recognize, probably because at least one of us was making up her own words. In my opinion, angels should be able to sing in any language they choose.

John Chancellor once said: “If you want to make God laugh, just tell him your plans.” Well, until God laughs, I plan on being a singing angel. Or maybe just an ethereal voice behind the throne of God, singing praises and rejoicing. This time I’ll know the words because they will be mine. No one will tell me I’m on the wrong page, or too loud, or off key because Heaven wouldn’t be perfect if they did. I’ve already practised being loud and invisible. An invisible angel riding on a white horse would be nice.

In the meantime, you may call me Diva!


Trinity Choir



Random Access

Recently a group of church folk were standing around discussing age so, of course, some time was spent talking about memory loss, aches and pains. Then an attempt was made to be more positive about growing old. As usual, there were comments about discounts afforded seniors. Not too many other advantages surfaced, so the conversation lagged. At that point, I interjected with a profound statement: “When I turn 65, I’m going to do anything that strikes my fancy!” There was a stunned silence, then with one accord they said, “But you always have!”

Now that point of view gave me food for thought. My conclusion was that they weren’t entirely correct.

When I was with my parents, it was always politic to comply. When they forbade me matches – after nearly burning down the barn – and declared the crumbling root cellar off limits, they were obeyed.

During the Depression years, there were a lot of very sad men riding the rails across Canada, trying to find work. An old cottage at the back of our acreage was left available for such men. There was a wood stove in it, which must have been a life saver during the bitter winters, and the food Mom dispensed at the door would have been desperately needed. We were cautioned never to go near the cottage, a command we always obeyed, for the look of desperation and hunger was frightening to young children. Even as adults, we shy away from anything so horrific.

My sisters once took me on a hike and threatened annihilation if I told Mom they had been smoking. They reinforced this command all the way home. A four-year-old can get quite disturbed by pressure like that, so it really is no wonder that the first thing I said coming in the door was: “Mom, I’m not going to tell you they were smoking!” For quite some time after that, I made a real effort to keep my mouth shut.


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