Memoir Monday – Remembering Days of Lily-of-the-Valley, Pea Pods and Coal


If, like many bloggers, you have been journaling for a very long time, do you ever wish you could have started much earlier? Like when you were a child?

I’ve been trying to work on my Memoirs. I’d like to start at the beginning, but all I have are old, black and white photographs to spur my memory of those times. Sometimes it’s a long reach back. It’s hard to remember the details, and the pictures often don’t show what I need.

This week two things have brought back some memories of my childhood home – the Lily-of-the-Valley that are coming up nicely in our flower beds here at the condo, and the news from the US that the President is determined to bring back coal production.

A very young me in front of our family home

A very young me in front of our family home

This is the only picture I can find that shows anything of the two-story white clapboard,  house with  black trim, where I grew up. In the background behind me, you can see part of a long verandah. It stretched across three-quarters of one side of the house and around the corner to the front door.

The verandah brought a few memories together.

The Lily-of-the-Valley

In a flower bed that bordered the side length of the verandah, my mother had planted Lily-of-the-Valley. One summer day when they were in full bloom, a bored young me thought it would be fun to climb up onto the verandah railing and jump off to the ground. I don’t know if I was unaware of the work Mom had put into planting the garden, or if I thought I could jump over it.

Lily-of-the-Valley

Lily-of-the-Valley

As I climbed up for the second time, my mother tore through the side door.

“Judy! Get down off of there!”

“But I just want to jump!” I replied.

Needless to say, she was not impressed, especially when she saw the flatten patch of  the green and white perennials.

Pea Pods

Mom picked up a large wooden basket full of green peas still in the pods, and a bowl of from the cupboard.

“Come with me. You can help me shell these peas,” she said, as she nudged me out to the verandah.

We sat side-by-side in the wooden porch chairs, the basket between us, the bowl in her lap and she showed me how to snap open the pod and carefully scrape the peas into the bowl. I don’t remember how long we sat there; I don’t remember any conversation, although being an inquisitive child I’m sure I had lots of questions for her.

Funny, I never liked cooked peas when I was a kid, but I swear I can hear her scolding me for eating more of these peas than I was putting into the bowl!

The Coal

At the front of the house, a heavy trap door in the wooden verandah floor provided access into the basement. I remember a day when a big truck arrived, and a man removed a section of the verandah railing, opened the trap door and set up a chute from the back of the truck to inside the door. I saw him shoveling chunks of black coal onto the chute. I watched it slide down through a cloud of black dust, and disappear below the floor, until my mother hauled me back indoors, out of harms way.

When the delivery man had finished his job, replacing the verandah panel and closing the trap door, I was outside again, watching my mother scrubbing the blackened walls and floor of the verandah with a mop and large bucket of soapy water.

Once winter winds began to howl, my dad would shovel the coal from the basement bin into the coal-fired furnace to provide his family with warmth through the long, cold winter.

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Looking Back – Our first Cross-country trip to British Columbia, through the US


Because we’ve not been traveling since our return from Arizona more than a month ago, I thought it would be fun to revisit our very first cross country trip to British Columbia in 2006. I did do a little blogging about it at the time, on a site that no longer exists. The only purpose of my blogging then was to keep family and friends informed of our progress.

That trip was quite different from the ones we have taken since. Our first “motor home” was an old (1973 I think) high top Chevy camper van. It had a fold-down table with bench seats that could be converted, with great difficulty, into a narrow “double” bed at night, and a small kitchen with overhead cupboards that I hit my head on every time I prepared a meal. There was a two burner propane stove and a finicky mini-fridge. We removed the port-a-potty and used that room for clothing storage. There was no shower; no bathroom sink; no furnace. We had to depend upon public restrooms and campgrounds for personal care and laundry, but we ate many meals in that little camper.

How the Adventure Began

The purpose of our trip was to attend the graduation of my one daughter from the Kootenay School of Arts in Nelson, and the wedding of my second daughter, in Vancouver. We pulled a trailer containing our Yamaha Venture motorcycle to use for transportation once we reached British Columbia.

We left Peterborough at 8:15 in the morning on April 13th and headed west, then north towards Elliot Lake, where we would spend our first night with friends, in the comfort of their apartment. By 11:00 it was time for a pit stop. We saw a sign for gas off to our right.  Thinking we’d use the washroom there, we took the exit.  This is what we found!

It seemed the operating gas station was many kilometers further, so we decided to continue down the highway. A few kilometers outside Parry Sound, we found an information center with washrooms and picnic tables.  After a 45 min. break, we were on the road again.

In Espanola we filled up the gas tank at 106.9 per litre, for a grand total of $104.01 Yikes! That’s why the next day we would cross the border into the US.

By 4:00 we were in Elliot Lake.

The next morning we crossed into Michigan at Sault St. Marie and drove until 9:00 pm (Wisconsin time, 10:00 our time).  We had planned to stop earlier but were unable to find a campground that was open.  We thought we had it planned out with the KOA sites, but it turned out the ones they had listed were 30 or 40 miles away from the highway we’d chosen!  Private ones weren’t open yet.  There weren’t any convenience centres along the way either. When my bladder was about to burst, we finally found a motel and campground in Brule Wisconsin.  The campground wasn’t actually open yet, but they let us park and use the electricity for only $10.  The showers and washrooms were closed, so we had to make do with what we had in the camper.  I sure was wishing we’d kept that port-a-potty! The temperature plummeted during the night and I vowed to purchase an electric heater before the next night arrived.

Highlights of the Next Few Days

April 15 – Easter Sunday, we spent on the road. The weather warmed up, so we postponed getting a heater. We parked for the night at the KOA in Bismark, North Dakota, where we indulged in hot showers before leaving the next morning.

April 16 – We took some time to take pictures of these huge metal sculptures along the highway in North Dakota, and visited Painted Canyon and the Badlands.

We were at the KOA in Billings, Montana by night fall. Later in the evening a thunder and rain storm blew through. It rained all night; the temperature dropped 10 degrees and the Weatherman predicted up to 14 inches of snow the next day!

April 17 – We left camp at 9:00 am. By 10:00 we were driving up the mountains in a blizzard, with no snow tires!

Fortunately, it didn’t last too long, but changed to rain off and on most of the day.  The van really struggled going up the hills. By the final fill up for the day Jim realized that the gas octane he’d been buying was way lower than ours at home.  When he used a higher octane at that fill, it made a world of difference.

After spending a couple of hours in a Walmart debating with an employee about an exchange or refund for a defective camera that Jim had purchased a few months ago, and looking for a heater (they had none), we set out again. We’d thought we’d make it to Nelson that day, but it wasn’t looking good.

We weren’t back on the road long before Jim thought there was a problem with the transmission.  He stopped at a gas station to check it and put in some transmission fluid.  Then it wouldn’t even start!  He checked the batteries and didn’t think it was that.  He thought it was the starter. He spent a half hour taking things apart to get at it and still couldn’t get it fixed.  He finally decided he needed a new starter.  Luckily there was an RV repair center right across the road so he walked over.  The guy came over with his big service truck and boosted the battery.  It was dead, but they discovered that the alternator belt was loose as well, which caused the battery to not charge.  The cost was nominal. I breathed a sigh of relief. We finally got back on our way and stopped at 7:00 pm for the night at the KOA in Missoula, Montana.

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Apr 18 – At 4:00 pm our van was parked outside my daughter’s apartment in Nelson, BC where it would stay for the next thirteen days while we attended the family events and travelled around BC on the bike.

It would be May 11th before our 10,000 kilometer trip would end, upon our arrival home.

Looking back now, I wonder how we survived nearly a month in such tight quarters without any major conflicts! Of course a year later we did another month-long trip to Canada’s East Coast, that time on the motorcycle all the way and tenting most of the time.

Memoir Monday – Traveling with New Technology


These days flying paperless is as common to me as taking my own shopping bags to the grocery story. I now have many electronic devices that I can use, but it wasn’t that long ago that I did it for the first time. This is what I wrote about this adventure in 2012.

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Traveling with New Technology

I’ve made the trip from Toronto to Vancouver many times, but this time was different. This time I was determined to go “paperless” by using my newly acquired iPad to get me through the gate.

At the self-check-in kiosk, a quick scan of the code displayed on the iPad screen produced my printed baggage ticket. I needed no paper boarding pass. At the baggage counter the code was scanned from the iPad again, and I was given my boarding gate number. Boarding would start at 11:00, I was told.

I flashed my iPad Boarding Pass at the first stop on the way into the security area. The young man’s surprise was evident. “Look at you!” he said. I smiled, thinking “not bad for a grey-haired lady.”

At the security desk I handed over the iPad once more, but the technology was as new to the man receiving it as it was to me. We both held our breath and sighed in unison when the scan took.

I removed my shoes as requested, and walked through the scanner with no problem – so far so good. Now what gate was that? I retrieved my belongings, and quickly skimmed the overhead monitor until I saw a flight to Vancouver, leaving from Gate C26. Without confirming the flight number (I’d had only a few hours’ sleep and my brain often lets me down when I’m tired), I found a seat at Gate C26, the last one to the left. At 10:45 I made a final pit stop and sat back down to wait for the boarding call. On the board behind the desk I could see the flight to Vancouver listed. I squinted. It looked like flight 475, but I was too far away to make out the time. I looked at my Boarding Pass once more. When, at 11:10 I’d heard no mention made of the Vancouver flight, I figured a closer look at the board was warranted. “Flight 475 to Vancouver leaving at 1:00,” it read. What?! Suddenly my sleepy brain sprang to life. This wasn’t my flight!

A more careful check of my Boarding Pass revealed that my flight number was 465! I was at the wrong gate! I rushed to the monitor and saw that I was to be at C27, but where was that? The only thing that I could see beyond Gate C26 was a Tim Horton’s. Logic told me that C27 had to be past C26, so I started speed-walking in that direction, my over-night bag bouncing on its wheels behind me.

“Last call for boarding of flight 465 to Vancouver at gate C27,” blasted over the air. I ran, still not seeing my gate.

Finally, there appeared before me a large sign and arrow “C27.” Panic and embarrassment were replaced by relief when I rounded the corner and saw some other stragglers approaching the gate. I wasn’t the last to board.

I admit that if I had really been iPad savvy, I would have made a mental note of the gate number on my electronic Boarding Pass, before putting my iPad away, or looked more closely at the monitor. As for traveling with new technology, it’s amazing! Like anything new, it just takes practice.

Coping with the Unpredictability of Weather


Is it just me, or do the rest of you think that weather has become much more unpredictable over the last five years or more?

If you’ve read my post in Memoirs, Seeking a Diagnosis, you will know that I suffer from chronic pain that has never been diagnosed as being caused by anything other than some “mild” arthritis. Maybe that’s the best diagnosis there is. Some studies say that wet, cold weather can make arthritis worse, and more and more I believe it. Most of the time I can deal with my pain and continue to function, but on my really bad days, when I can’t seem to finish any task, when my whole body hurts and my brain wants to shut down, a major change in the weather is involved.

During the past week, here in our community, we’ve gone from damp, rainy days to warm sunny ones, sometimes in the middle of the day. A week ago yesterday was one of those days. We had to drive my son to Toronto to catch his flight to Poland, where he is making his new home. The next day I was thankful that his flight was on Thursday and not Friday.

Friday morning was a sunny day with a little wind; by 3:00 pm the wind had accelerated so much that tree branches were taking out power lines, not only in our community, but in various locations throughout the province. Flights were cancelled in Toronto, which is 200 miles west of us, yet the nearest town to the east of us still had power. While we sat in a restaurant in that town, waiting for dinner, I watched the overhead traffic lights and signs swinging and bouncing precariously at the intersection.  Across the street a row of young cedar trees danced to the music of the wind, and discarded plastic bags and grocery fliers whirled through the air. I washed down two Advil with coffee to keep the pain in my shoulders under control. When we left the restaurant with the plan to purchase some battery operated candles, we saw that a street light had broken near its base and toppled over onto the sidewalk, narrowly missing a parked car. The store that we hoped would sell us the candles had just locked its doors and sent employees home.

Back at home I sat with my charged electric massager on my shoulders, while entertaining myself with games and puzzles on my iPad. The power came back on for half an hour, enticing me to turn on the washer and dryer to finish the laundry I’d started hours before. The last load of wash was done before the power went off again; the clothes in the dryer were still damp. By flashlight I hung them around the bathroom. We called it an early night, sure the power would be restored before morning. It wasn’t. The wind had died down and the sun was shining, but it was 3:00 in the afternoon before I could finish the laundry and make a meal.

Aftermath of first wind storm

Aftermath of first wind storm

Yesterday morning I awoke in major pain, the worst I’ve ever had. My head pounded, my shoulders felt like they carried a hundred pounds and none of my joints wanted to move. At first I thought it might be due to all of the pickle ball playing I’d done every day this week, but when I got up and opened the blinds I knew the cause. The sky was filled with heavy black clouds and it was already raining. As the winds picked up, so did my pain. The whole day was a write off for me. Shortly after the lights flickered at 4:30 I scurried to get some dinner cooked, knowing the power was going to fail us again. It did. We ate in the condo common room under the skylights and read until the sunlight disappeared. We used Jim’s phone data to watch a couple of TV shows on his iPad, and ate a snack by candle light before giving up and going to bed.

candles2

The power came back on in the middle of the night. I know because the kitchen lights were shining into my eyes through the bedroom doorway. Today the sun is fully exposed, the winds are calm and my pain level is back to moderate.

I’m thankful that our power was restored in such a short time, unlike some areas of our country and others.

What are your thoughts on our unpredictable weather, and how does it affect you?

Seeking a Diagnosis ©2016


I wiped the fog from my glasses, and read the sign on the double glass door. “Sleep Clinic patients please wait by the door and the technician will be down to get you”.

Maybe I was a little early for my 9 p.m. appointment. I raised my wrist to check my watch, but it wasn’t there. The instructions had said “leave all jewelry except wedding bands at home.”

With my overnight bag in hand, I waited. The building cleaner came through to vacuum the doormat and we made small talk about how difficult it is to keep the mats clean in winter. Another few minutes passed. Finally a young woman in burgundy-coloured scrubs pushed open the door.

“Judith?” she asked, referring to a folder in her hands.

“That would be me.”

“Hi, I’m Amanda. Follow me and I’ll take you to the clinic. Do you prefer stairs or the elevator?”

I followed her up the stairs and down the hall.

“This will be your room,” she said, indicating a room on the left. “You can change into whatever you’re going to wear to bed and then come back out to the waiting room.”

I was there in that five-by-eight-foot examining room because my doctor and I were trying to discover the cause of my too-frequent pain and fatigue in various parts of my body. A sleep disorder that would deprive me of adequate sleep, was one possibility. A bed had been prepared, and a camera peered down at me from one corner of the ceiling. I quickly changed into my yellow Bourbon Street t-shirt and yellow cotton pajama bottoms, telling myself that the camera would not yet be turned on.

Through the open door of a room adjoining the waiting area, I saw a man being connected to a number of wires. When he emerged, he had wires protruding from his head, his face, his shirt, and others dangling from a box that hung from a lanyard around his neck.

“I feel like the robot guy,” he said, with as much of a grin as he could muster under the circumstances.

“Judith, you’re next,” Amanda said.

“I’m going to measure your head and fasten some electrodes to a number of spots so we can read your brain waves while you sleep,” said Amanda. “While I do that, Carolyn is going to attach some more to your legs and to your chest.”

The room smelled of oranges, probably the remnants of someone’s snack, and rubbing alcohol.

They had just begun positioning straps, and swabbing areas for the electrodes, when an alarm sounded somewhere and Amanda went to investigate. She came back with the news that there would be a power outage while a problem with an electrical panel was being rectified. The lights weren’t affected, but the room monitors were.

Does that mean I get to go home?

The now-familiar pain was beginning to creep into my neck and shoulders. The desire to sink into the comfort of my own bed to drift off to sleep was compelling, but no such luck. Amanda and Carolyn continued with their work, applying cool gels and other goop onto my skin and into my hair.

Good thing my hair is short!

Before long my wiring was complete, and the power was back on. Eighteen wires were plugged into the metal box that dangled from a black and red cord around my neck. A nose-piece was attached below my nose by a strap that looped over my ears and joined at the back of my head. This was to check my breathing, Carolyn informed me. A band holding a couple of other wires was around my chest and another encircled my waist.

Now I have to confess that when it comes to sleeping I’m like “The Princess and the Pea.” I can’t get to sleep if my nightclothes or sheets are bunched up or twisted, and I don’t like anything but the covers touching me while I sleep.

“Am I really supposed to sleep with all of this stuff hanging from me?” I sheepishly asked Carolyn.

“Sure,” she replied. “I’ve done it. You don’t need to worry about them. They won’t come off, and if they do I’ll go in and put them back”

That wasn’t quite what I was worrying about, but I tried to be positive.

At last I was in my bed and all plugged in. The system check was done. An infrared light was clipped and taped to the second finger on my left hand. The mattress and pillow both felt hard to my sparsely-padded body and they crackled every time I moved.

“If you need me for anything just wave that light three times and I’ll come in,” said Carolyn. “You can go to sleep now.”

Yeah, right.

In the dark and silent room I had no problem closing my eyes, but the rest of my body would simply not cooperate. I switched from my back to my right side, to my left side and back again, ever conscious of the extra, fine appendages now sharing my body. I pulled the covers up high; I threw them all off. My bent legs ached. I stretched them straight out. My nose itched. I scratched it. Something felt tight across the tops of my ears when I lay on either side. How long did that go on? It seemed like hours, but I could only guess. There was no clock in the room.

Suddenly I heard a voice and felt someone touching my hair.

“It’s only me,” Carolyn said. “You’re sweating.” She adjusted the connections on the back of my head and left.

I gave a grunt and squeezed my eyes closed again.

I didn’t know I was sweating. I guess I must have finally fallen asleep. Can I go back there?

It wasn’t to be. The tossing and turning began once again. There were times when I felt my mind drift into nothingness and I was sure I was on the brink of sleep, only to have a leg give a jerk, or another itch require attention, and I was back to the reality of my torturous sleep deprivation.

When Carolyn next came into my room to adjust my heart monitors, I was still awake.

“You’re having a hard time sleeping, aren’t you? You’ve been awake for a long time”

“That I am.”

“Well there’re still two hours to go, but if you haven’t gotten to sleep in another hour, just wave your hand and I’ll get you up and you can go home.” She didn’t tell me how I’d know that another hour had passed. A few tears trickled from the corners of my eyes and I quickly wiped them away before they flowed under the electrodes.

Finally my body and mind relaxed, and I drifted into dreamland.

“Judith, it’s time to get up.” That now familiar voice penetrated my consciousness, and my whole being protested. No, no, I just got to sleep. Let me sleep some more!

Slowly, I pulled myself up and swung my legs over the side of the bed so Carolyn could peel the tape from my face, my legs and my chest. My skin smarted with each tug.

“So what happens now? Since I didn’t sleep much, will any of this have done any good?” I asked.

“We’ll have to see what the doctor says when he reads your results. You did sleep for the last bit so that may be enough. If not, you’ll be back.”

Oh, joy.

“Once you’re dressed, come out to the desk. We have a questionnaire for you to fill out, and then you can go home.”

I picked up the clipboard and squinted through my bloodshot eyes at the questionnaire.

How long did it take you to get to sleep?

  1. How long did you sleep?
  2. How many times did you wake up?
  3. Did you feel rested when you woke up?

Are they serious?

The sun was just beginning to lighten the day when I stumbled out to my car and turned the key. I looked at the clock, 6:00 a.m. As I pulled out of the parking lot the opening words to a Four Seasons song popped into my head. Oh, what a night!

A few weeks later, I was back. This time my husband dropped me off because I was required to stay later into the next day.

“There didn’t seem to be an indication of a night time sleep disorder, but I’d like to give it another try to see if you can sleep longer,” the specialist had said. “I think you should stay for a day time test as well.”

So I appeared at the appointed time and watched while I was once again prodded and poked, and taped and wired. I brought my own pillow with me this time, and some snacks to ensure that I wouldn’t get hungry before the lights went out. Perhaps that helped stave off the pain.

As before, the wires and clips prevented me from getting much sleep. Early the next morning Carolyn was at my side.

“I’m going to take some of these wires off now.  Then you can walk around; go down the hall to the washrooms. Did you bring something to eat?”

Bleary-eyed, I walked down the hall. The scent of toast and coffee drifted out from somewhere and my stomach grumbled. Back in the waiting area, I munched on a bagel and cream cheese that I’d packed into a cooler bag the night before, and wished I could find a toaster to warm it. While I sipped my water (coffee wasn’t an option in the Sleep Clinic) and tried to read my book, the room came alive with the sounds of chatter and doors opening and closing as the night shift left and the day shift arrived.

Soon a new female voice was calling my name.

“It’s time for you to get back into bed, Judy. I need to hook you up to the sleep monitor, and then I’m going to turn out the lights. If you go to sleep within fifteen minutes, I will let you sleep for fifteen minutes. If you don’t I’ll get you up again.”

Well, I was definitely tired, the room was dark and silent, and all that remained of my clusters of wires were a few on my head and the one clipped to my finger. What else would I do? I went to sleep. Fifteen minutes later I was awakened.

“You can walk around, or read for fifteen minutes now,” the technician said. The routine for the next couple of hours was set. Each time I got a little more sleep, until I was finally told that I could go home.

I called my husband. “I’m ready to leave, but I’m going to start walking. I need some air and exercise. Watch for me along the way.”

The sun was warm on my face as I breathed in the fresh morning air.  I ran my hand through my hair and my fingers dislodged a clump of clay, and then another. When my ride appeared, I climbed into the car and flipped down the vanity mirror.

“Good grief, what a sight I must have been to those who’d passed me on the street, a weary looking woman with spikes of gray and charcoal hair stuck together with glue, and a pillow under her arm!” My husband chuckled.

I wish I could tell you that it was all worthwhile; that a cause and cure for my pain had been found. But that wasn’t the case. I was diagnosed with “possible daytime drowsiness” which meant I shouldn’t do any long distance driving, and a slightly irregular heart rate. I was given a prescription for Ritalin to control the daytime drowsiness, despite my telling him that I didn’t understand the necessity. After only three doses my heart rate went into overdrive and I refused to take any more.

My family doctor, following due diligence, then sent me to a heart specialist who, after stress tests, Doppler tests and monitors could find only a very slight, and quite common, heart irregularity. My cholesterols were exactly where they should be. Still he felt he should give me a prescription for something, which he admitted I didn’t really need.

“Will it relieve my pain?” I asked.

“No, but it might prevent you from having a heart attack or stroke in twenty years.”

Sometimes there just isn’t a magic cure. Sometimes you have to listen to your body and do what you can. I’ve figured out some triggers for my pain and have learned to avoid them. Some days I just have to give into it and take the day off, knowing that it will pass and tomorrow will be better.

Book cover2This story is one of 81 chosen through competition to be included in this Anthology of Women’s Memoirs, which was published on January 8, 2016 and was the recipient of an Honorable Mention Award from the New England Book Festival. You will find it in Reflection Pond. The books can be ordered (e-books only) on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca

Through Thick and Thin ©2012 A History of the Audrey and Ernie Victor Family


In 2012 I published my second book.

Through Thick and Thin

“We don’t make much money, but we have a lot of fun.”

This was the philosophy of Ernie Victor, a well-known and loved entertainer in the area of Peterborough, Ontario, from the early 1930s until his passing in 1978.

There are many interesting stories told of people who have become famous for their amazing life accomplishments. There are many more wonderful, untold stories of people whose accomplishments seldom make headlines, but are nonetheless just as interesting and worthy of telling.

This is the story of an ordinary family born from the love of two young and perhaps naïve people who struggled through some hard times times, their love of music and a good laugh binding them together through it all.

This book was published through Lulu Publishing.
It can be ordered at Lulu.com or by contacting the author.

From Landed Immigrant to Proud Canadian ©2008


(published in The Country Connections Magazine, July 2008)

Canada is blessed with many seniors who immigrated to Canada forty or more years ago to become an integral part of our society, and they have wonderful stories to tell. This is the story of Elsa’s journey.

elsa-deruyter

When they married in 1950 in their homeland of Holland, Elsa and Gerrit Deruyter lived in a small house without indoor plumbing, on a dairy farm, where Gerrit worked as a farm-hand. The accommodations were free as was all the milk they needed. They owned a few cows and chickens. Even though farmland was scarce and expensive at the time, it was Gerrit’s hope to have his own small farm one day. He’d been told he would inherit his elderly aunt’s farm, but a change in plans dashed that dream. Disappointed, Gerrit thought he’d have a better chance in Canada, and he suggested to Elsa that they make the move.

“I said no. It wasn’t a good time to leave his mother, who was so distraught over the recent death of Gerrit’s younger brother,” Elsa explained.

They remained in Holland for another ten years, moving twice to different farms as Gerrit changed jobs, and they were blessed with three children.

When, in December 1959, Gerrit suggested once more that he’d like to go to Canada, Elsa agreed. It took nearly four months to get their passports and make all the necessary arrangements.

Their decision was made a lot easier by the fact that the Dutch government, fearful of overpopulation and unemployment, and the limited amount of arable land after the Second World War, had put policies into place to assist those wishing to emigrate.  They were still in effect when Elsa and Gerrit were ready to leave Holland. All transportation costs for the family and for their belongings were paid by the government, and there was no limit on how much they could take with them. Gerrit was even entitled to two weeks of holiday pay from the Municipal Office.

On April 27, 1960 they embarked on their journey with their young children, aged three, five and seven, leaving a large extended family behind. The thirteen hour flight from Amsterdam to Montreal wasn’t a pleasant one for Elsa. Both she and her older son, Herbert, suffered from air sickness. After a nine-hour wait in Montreal they boarded a train to Bowmanville, Ontario where Elsa’s step-aunt was expecting them. It was on the train that they encountered their first challenge.

“We didn’t know how to flush the toilet,” laughed Elsa. “There was no chain like the ones in Holland.  But it wasn’t long before three year old John figured it out!”

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Elsa and family heading to plane in Amsterdam

Their furniture that had been sent by ship arrived in Bowmanville six weeks after they did, and they moved into their own one-bedroom apartment.

I asked Elsa what her first reaction was upon arriving in Canada. “I looked out the train window and exclaimed at the high clotheslines! In Holland clotheslines are only one strand and hang low to the ground.”

When they arrived, Gerrit could speak a little English, and Herbert could count to ten, but Elsa and the other two children knew none of the language. The children learned very quickly.

“My daughter Reina came home from school three times because she couldn’t understand. I told her she had to go back.  After that she learned and had no more problems.”

When shopping, Elsa couldn’t read the labels and had to look to see what was in the packages. It was two years before she became comfortable enough with the language to go to work doing housecleaning and babysitting.

It took Gerrit only two days to find work. Because they had no means of transportation, Elsa didn’t want to live on a farm again, so he searched for other jobs. He was hired at a Nursery in Bowmanville, and began working the next morning for $1.00 an hour. Although this hourly wage was less than what he made in Holland, they were amazed by how far a week’s pay would go. Gerrit was also surprised at being sent home from work if it was raining, since it rained most of the time in Holland.

After about two years in the Nursery, Gerrit tried a job in a factory in Newcastle, catching a ride to work with a friend, but some days he’d get to the plant only to discover that there was no work for him. He’d walk back home to Bowmanville, a distance of eight kilometres. He soon got hired at The Fittings in Oshawa, and could travel by bus.  It wasn’t until 1965, when they finally had saved up enough money to put towards a farm, that they bought a car, and they both learned how to drive.

In Holland a family could earn a living on a fifty-acre farm, so when they bought their fifty-acre farm on the 6th Line of Millbrook, Gerrit expected to be leaving his factory job and working the farm full-time within five years. They worked hard. Each day began at four in the morning. Gerrit milked the cows before leaving for work at the plant.  Elsa got the children off to school, and then did the rest of the chores. Gerrit cleaned the barn when he got home at night. Ten years later Gerrit was still at the plant, and they switched to beef cattle to lighten the work load. He worked in the plant for twenty years, until retirement.

Despite the hard work and a few disappointments, neither Elsa nor Gerrit ever regretted coming to Canada. By 1969 they knew they were here to stay and applied for Canadian Citizenship.

They made their first trip back to Holland in 1975 for a five-week visit.

“It was too long,” said Elsa. “I couldn’t stand the cramped space. Everything seemed so small.”

In 1987, having lived their dream, they sold the farm, and became involved in the community of Millbrook. Gerrit passed away in 2000. Elsa enjoys life at Millbrook Manor Seniors Residence, and is proud to be a Canadian.