As writing stories goes, this was an easy one – mainly because I didn’t write it. Years ago, a woman was putting together a book about early life on the concession where my dad grew up. She asked him to contribute some memories, and during the process, he got hooked on writing. He delivered the requested information to her, and then proceeded to write a book for his grandchildren. When it was completed and edited several times, I printed and bound copies for him. He signed them all at Christmas in 1994, and then passed away peacefully at home just seventeen days later.
One day one of my sisters decided it would be great if Mom would write her memories as well, gave her a ‘life journal’ with leading statements at the top of each page, and she filled in most of it. We were really happy to have her stories recorded, because she eventually developed Alzheimer’s and we could no longer ask her about her early years.
To call the nineteen-twenties and –thirties ‘the good old days’ doesn’t make much sense when reading about some of their experiences. Here is what our dad had to say about work:
‘Many of the old farmhouses would be desperately cold if we got several days of really hard weather. I remember sleeping in one bedroom that was so cold, when I went to bed, instead of removing my clothing, I put more on. I would go to bed with heavy winter underwear, a heavy lumberjack shirt, a pair of tweed breeches, two pairs of woolen socks, plus a pullover sweater, and on top of that, another sweater. The bed would have several blankets on it, but all that bedroom did was keep out the wind and snow. My rubber boots would be frozen so hard in the morning it was almost impossible to get them on. I could hardly wait to get my breakfast so I could get my axe and go to the bush to get warmed up. It was a very cold day if a man couldn’t keep warm cutting wood.’
And from my mother:
‘When my Uncle Rob MacFarlane needed someone to help on the farm, he hired a man from Lanark County where Rob and my Dad grew up. The first time he sent Alan to our farm next door with the horses and wagon to borrow something, I was upstairs helping Mother, but I made an excuse to come down so I could look out the window as he passed, and get a glimpse of him. The next Sunday he sat in church with Uncle Rob and Aunt Nellie and since I was singing in the choir, I had a better look at him.
He just worked there from May first to the end of October, then back home for the winter where he cut wood for neighbors. He worked there four years, just in summers.
It was the second summer that we started dating and wrote to each other for the next two winters. One week he was sick in bed with flu, so had his sister Isobel write instead. I kept all his letters, tied with a ribbon, for years after we were married. When Alan died suddenly on January eleventh, 1995, we had spent fifty-six happy years together.’
When I had transcribed and edited the two books, I decided to ask my ten siblings and their children to send me some memories of life with our parents. These have been added, along with a transcript of my mother’s funeral service, conducted by my brother Bruce, because it was really funny, and was talked about for weeks afterwards.
So that’s it for today. I have almost completed the first children’s book about fruits. There will be a second one about veggies, but probably not any time soon.
Yesterday we joined the march against Monsanto in Kingston, Ontario, Canada – not that we are activists, by any stretch of the imagination, but because we are really concerned about the state of the planet and what we are leaving behind for future generations.
Signing off until next week, Jean.
You can find this one here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/170612