My First Job – at F.W. Woolworths


My friend Carol has just recently joined Facebook and has been discovering all kinds of things about people and places we knew when we both grew up in Brockville. She introduced me to the sites, and they have brought a lot of memories and filled in some information that I’d forgotten.

When Carol posted the question, “Who worked at Woolworths in Brockville,” I could answer “yes” but I’d worked there only for a couple of days. I still don’t know why, but now I have some names to put into my story.

When I turned sixteen my mother thought it was time for me to find a summer job, although I don’t recall her ever mentioning it to me. She just came home from shopping one day and told me that I was to go the next day to see Mrs. Shipman at the Snack Bar in Woolworths. She’d asked her to give me a job!

Now, contrary to what a lot of people thought about me, I was really very shy. But if I was told to do something, I’d do my best. So I went to see Mrs. Shipman. I filled out some forms and I showed up for work on the day she told me.

I remember only a few details about the job. The first day I spent my entire shift in the upstairs kitchen, putting together ice cream sandwiches. At the end of the day, I was given a uniform and told me to go back the next day. I took the uniform home with me, because I thought that was what I was supposed to do. I’d wear it back for my next shift. She’d given me no instructions and I was too shy to ask. Later my mother got a phone call telling her that I wasn’t supposed to take it home and to make sure I took it back.

The next day I was behind the counter. I was taught how to take orders and put together lunches. I was taught how to make banana splits, and I was given a tip jar. I got to know Gloria Byrd, who helped guide me through the day. She went to my high school and lived not far from me. I don’t recall being too busy, until the lunch crowd started coming in and a whole family sat down and ordered six banana splits. I had to make them! Maybe Gloria helped me.

At the end of my shift, Mrs. Shipman gave me my tips and said she’d call me when she wanted me to come in again. I left my uniform there. I think the only call I got was to tell me to pick up my pay cheque.

For years I wondered why I never got called back, but now reminiscing, I imagine it’s because I wasn’t outgoing enough for such a job. Too bad. I think had I’d been given a chance I might have learned how to relate better and stepped out of my shell sooner.

Memoir Monday – The Princess Doll


I was dragging my feet along the tiled floor of the grocery store aisles, my mind probably at home in my room with my toys and books.  Or maybe I was thinking about what would be on the table for dinner that night. Perhaps it would be my favourite, chicken and dumplings. Of course my child’s mind didn’t think about how that would happen when it was already getting dark outside, and Mom the cook was still in the grocery store.

My daddy was holding my hand while mother was consulting her list and piling items from the shelves into the metal shopping cart, when my eyes darted upward to a crowded shelf that held not peas and corn, nor bread and cereal.  Instead the shelf was full of toys! There were big red trucks and shiny toy drums, building blocks and dolls. Dolls! That’s when I saw her. My eyes grew big as saucers; my feet stuck to the floor. There she stood, taller than all of the others, that princess doll.  Her shoulder-length hair was a dark blond and set in a Paige-boy style. The sparkling “silver” tiara on her head completed the royal look presented by the dark blue satin gown, trimmed with white lace. Her blue eyes shone from her perfect rosy face. All I could do was stare. I could imagine her sitting elegantly on my bed.

Although Mom and Dad looked toward where I was pointing, they didn’t seem to share my excitement and my pleas to buy her went unheeded. It was just a few weeks before Christmas and Mom’s thoughts were on getting the Christmas baking ingredients and the week’s meal supplies. They may have told me too that they couldn’t afford to buy her then. Or possibly they’d suggested I put her on my list to Santa. I’m sure I dreamed about her that night, but she wasn’t mentioned again.

The weeks passed and soon it was Christmas morning.  I wasn’t allowed to go downstairs until the rest of my family was up. Since my three siblings were teenagers who’d much rather linger in their beds, I had to be content with dumping out the contents of my stocking that hung on my bedroom door knob. When I was finally allowed to creep down the steep stairs to the living room, my eyes lit up in disbelief. There in front of the Christmas tree stood my princess! That was all I needed. I ran to examine her. She was even more beautiful up close than she’d been up on that shelf.  I looked at the little pearl earrings on her earlobes, and the triple strand pearl choker necklace around her neck. Her nicely shaped feet fit perfectly into the silver plastic, high-heeled slippers. That was the best Christmas ever!

I didn’t play much with that doll. I was almost getting to an age that I was more interested in playing games and reading books and playing outdoors than playing with dolls.  But I loved to look at her where she sat on my bed. She held that spot as I grew up, married and had daughters of my own. My father-in-law, an antique dealer, once offered me $100 for her, but I turned him down. A number of years later, when her dress had faded to a dull purple and the elastic of her necklace and slippers had rotted and broken, like my marriage, and I needed the cash, I made her a new dress and regretfully sold her on eBay for far less.

I wonder now what that doll represented. Why did I want her so badly? And why, when my daughters were given a number of very pretty and costumed dolls as Christmas gifts from an uncle, did I have a shelf built for them to be displayed, rather played with? Interesting questions.

Do you have a similar story, a childhood memory about a special gift? I’d love to hear about it.

Memoir Monday – The Beginning of Online Dating


In three days I’ll be back in British Columbia visiting with friends and family. It won’t be the complicated and exhausting trip that I took last year because I’m not trying to visit everyone in one trip this time. I’ll spend most of it with my daughter and grandchildren. I may or may not have anything new to write about while there, but I will try to do my Memoir Mondays, by sharing some of the memories of the various stages of my life, as I have written them over the years, in no particular order.

At one time I thought I’d write a book about online dating. The following is the first chapter, written more than fifteen years ago. I’d be grateful for your feedback, good or bad.

The Online Dating Trap (One Woman’s Perspective)

A few years ago, with a need to fill a void left by the passing of my life partner, I stepped out of my comfort zone and joined the game of online dating.  I tentatively posted my profile on one of the sites and began reading those of others.

It was a few weeks before I got even a bite, but once things began to move it turned into one hell of an emotional roller coaster ride.

 I soon found it to be an addictive pastime that brought with it the desperate urge to turn on the computer to check e-mail messages the minute I walked through the door, no matter how tired I was or how stressful a day it’d been.  Sometimes this brought relief to the stress; other times it increased it to dangerous levels.

 Chapter 1


Gerard

Gerard was the first one to respond to my posting.  He sounded very excited in his first e-mail, expressing how interesting I sounded and how much we had in common.  We started exchanging a few e-mails, and then tried the chat online, but it wasn’t working very well.  Finally, I just gave him my phone number and he called me.  We chatted for nearly an hour about travel and hiking and outdoor activities, all things that we both enjoyed.  We did indeed sound very compatible, so we arranged to meet for coffee in a couple of days. In the meantime, we exchanged more e-mails.

He revealed that he was retired from a position in Human Resources.  He had moved from the bigger city about four years ago.  He’d been divorced for two years.  He had no children and had no desire to have any at this point in his life.

When the time came for our meeting, I was feeling nervous, but confident.  I believed I had a lot to offer the right person.  I entered the coffee shop and looked around the area, but could see no one that matched Gerard’s description.  Rather than sit at a table, I figured I’d be easier to spot if I were standing, so I got into line to buy an Icedcap.  Then I saw a tall, slim man in faded blue jeans heading in my direction and scanning the crowd.  I stepped out of line and approached him.

“Gerard?”

“Yes. Judy?”  He extended his hand.  “Nice to finally meet you”

I was impressed.  Although he had described himself as “no movie star”, he really was quite attractive despite his thinning grey hair and beard.  He had beautiful blue yes that looked straight into mine.

We picked up our coffee and found a quiet table to begin our attempt to get to know each other.

Another hour passed.  Being rather shy with new people I tend to do more listening and observing.  I let Gerard do most of the talking.  He had lots of questions.

“Do you like to read?” he asked.

“Yes I do,” I replied, “but I haven’t had time to do much for quite awhile except for the motivational books I’ve had to read for my sales job.  I’d like to start reading for pleasure again though.”

Although I was an avid reader, I could think of neither titles nor authors of books I had enjoyed reading before my life had become so hectic. He suggested an author that he enjoyed and I thanked him.  I tried to make a mental note of it.

Do you like wine?” said Gerard.

It amazed me how many people were wine drinkers.  For years I’d sipped at various types that were handed to me, just to be sociable, but unless it was a very sweet brew, (which it usually wasn’t) I didn’t really care much for it.  I decided this time to be honest. “No, I don’t really like it.  I don’t care for beer at all either.  I don’t drink much, but if I do, I prefer a mixed drink”

“Oh.  I make my own wine. I enjoy spending my evening sitting with a good book and sipping a good glass of wine.”

Damn!  “That’s ok.  I don’t mind if other people drink, just as long as you don’t drink too much.  You don’t do you?”  I stammered.  I quickly explained that I’d once dated someone who made his own wine and drank so much of it that I suspected he was an alcoholic, then I gave myself another mental kick.

At times he caught me off guard, unable to give a quick answer, which he seemed to expect, but being a romantic optimist, I wasn’t too concerned. I thought that once we’d gotten past this first awkward meeting, we’d spend more relaxed time together when we’d naturally discover more details about each other.   I was a little disappointed when he suddenly said he had to leave to get back to painting his house. He didn’t suggest another meeting, but said we’d do some more e-mailing. Still, I went home smiling.

But it was a few days before he agreed to meet again, this time for a walk in a park.  Another hour spent chatting.  Again he had more questions.

“I like to go on long hikes.  Have you done much hiking?”

I had already told him during our first phone conversation about my experiences hiking for two days while in Thailand, so I didn’t want to repeat myself.

“Yes, I was a Girl Guide leader for 10 years and led the girls on many nature hikes,” I replied.

“But you didn’t take them on day long hikes, did you?  That’s my kind of hiking,” he countered.

We climbed up a grassy knoll and he suddenly stopped and pointed to the ground.

“What’s that?” he asked.  Before I realized what it was he was pointing to and could recall the name of the wild flower, he’d already answered his own question.  “It’s Chickweed.”

We passed a cultural building and in the window hung a large Dream Catcher. He asked me what it was. I was happy to explain it to him, although I was surprised that he wouldn’t have known. Was that another test?

At the time I didn’t notice it, but in retrospect I saw that he seemed to be testing me and trying to find fault.  He was even a little sarcastic.  The next day he sent me an e-mail saying that he didn’t think we were compatible, that I didn’t share his interests.  When I questioned him about that he complained that I didn’t like wine, I didn’t read much, I didn’t like opera (I’d answered that question by saying I  hadn’t had the opportunity to go to an Opera, but was open to new experiences), I didn’t like to hike or canoe. Except for the wine, none of it was true. It became apparent that he had “interviewed” me the way he would someone applying for a job. He’d expected certain answers to his questions.  When I didn’t answer quickly or fully enough, I lost points!

I was devastated.  It was a real blow to my ego because never before had I been so bluntly rejected. I knew he was wrong about me, but still it took me a few days to start believing it again.  Dating had certainly changed a lot in the past five years and this online dating thing was a whole new ball game.

Memoir Monday – Remembering My Dad


In the photo album there is a picture of my mom and dad and me standing on a hill in front of the cottage.  I was probably about two years old.  I look at the picture and feel Dad’s hand holding mine, yet I don’t really remember much from when I was that young.

Dad, Mom & Me

I remember going with him on insurance calls.  One recollection was of a boy/man who I think was celebrating his 21st birthday.  He had a very large head and a body so tiny that he lay on a pillow on the kitchen table. Today I’m still not sure if this is true or it was a dream.

I remember sitting on Dad’s knee in the big overstuffed chair in the living room while he read to me from my storybooks or a “comic” book.

When I was a little older Dad would come home from a week of deer hunting sporting a rough unshaven face and playfully give me a whisker rub.  One time that I remember, he brought a deer home and had it hanging in the garage.  I remember scolding him about that.

I remember having lipped him one morning before going to school and receiving a spanking that left me sobbing. Only once.

I remember laughter.

LaughterwithMom&Dad (2)

I remember him driving me to parties and always being available to pick me up after if I needed a ride home.

I remember him giving me my first driving lesson and afterwards suggesting that I take Driver’s Ed at school.  I remember him being proud of me when I passed and the examiner told him I was a “good little driver”.

I remember going fishing with him for rock bass and perch at our cottage on the St. Lawrence River; and waking up to the smell of  fish frying for breakfast, Dad having been out early to catch pike.

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I remember boat trips to Alexandria Bay to buy Tootsie Rolls and Poppycock. I remember him teaching how to drive and dock our boat, and later allowed me to take my friends out myself.

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I remember how he came to my rescue when a friend and I were stranded with a broken down car in Belleville; and when I’d had enough of Toronto and wanted to move back home; and when the wedding rings didn’t fit and he took me to the Consumers Distributors store to exchange them, only to learn it was too late to get them resized in time for the wedding. The next evening he took me to his favourite jewellery store to buy replacements. I wonder what he would have thought when Brian and I broke up.

I remember him always being there for me if I asked, but not interfering if I didn’t.

I remember his confusion, the sadness of moving him into a nursing home; stopping in on my way home from work to see how he was and finding that he didn’t speak but took hold of my hand and walked me through the halls.  I remember his no longer having control over his bodily functions or understanding of social ones.  I remember taking him to the doctor when he broke his finger, and visiting him in the hospital when he broke his hip, and crying at his bedside because I knew from his vacant stare that he didn’t know who I was or why he was there.

And finally I remember getting the call when we were in Vancouver for my niece’s wedding, the call that informed us that the father who had mentally left us five years earlier had now left us physically as well. He was 82.

I don’t go to the cemetery to pay my respects; I don’t put memorials in the newspaper.  But I do remember and miss him.

 

I don’t remember saying “I love you, Dad” nor do I remember him telling me that he loved me, but I knew that he did and I hope he knew that I did.

Memoir Monday – Delivering Newspapers


I wonder how many people get a newspaper delivered to their door these days? I know there are some, but they are usually delivered by car. Are there “paperboys” (or girls) anymore? It’s been a long time since I’ve noticed any.

When I was a kid, every neighbourhood had a paperboy. I don’t think it was something girls did back then, but I remember helping out a couple of times:

I was outside on the verandah of our white clapboard house, wearing my brand-new, brown sandals, when my brother, who was nine years older, picked up his bag of newspapers and asked if I wanted to help him deliver them.

newspaperbag

“Yes!” I cried with delight and ran down the steps.

I didn’t notice that the sky was becoming a little dark, but my mother did.

“Change your shoes, Judy.  It’s going to rain and you’ll get your sandals wet!”

Too late! I was already headed down the street chasing my brother.

Robert handed me a newspaper and told me on which doorstep to place it, while he did the same on the other side of the street.

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It wasn’t a big route and we were finished in about half an hour. But before we made it home, the clouds opened with a burst of rain that was soon pelting down on us and swirling in huge puddles on the street and sidewalks. I splashed home as fast as my little legs would carry me, but much to my mother’s chagrin, my new sandals were now soggy, and I got a tongue lashing. I don’t remember how the sandals fared after they dried out, but I suspect that they stayed together and I wore them until they no longer fit me.

I remember another time when I was walking home from somewhere, older then, when another paper boy stopped to ask me if I could deliver a paper for him on my way by a particular house. Being shy and unquestioning, I took the paper and knocked on the door, but no one answered. I must have been told to deliver it directly because I remember that I didn’t know what to do with it. I vaguely recall taking it home and asked my dad.  He told me that the boy shouldn’t have given it to me, but he made sure it got delivered.

Memoir Monday – A Story About Online Dating


While looking through some of my early writing, trying to find something for Memoir Monday, I found this short piece that I thought you might like. I have many more about this topic I could share, if there is enough interest.

Smart, Smarting, Smarter

A few years ago, with a need to fill a void left by the passing of my life partner, I stepped out of my comfort zone and joined the game of online dating.  It’s an addictive pastime that brings with it the desperate urge to turn on the computer to check e-mail messages the minute you walk through the door, no matter how tired you are or how stressful a day it’s been.

On one such day, a month or so after my initiation, I received a message from “Wayne”, in Sarnia.  I lived in Kingston at the time, a four or five-hour drive away.  The geographical distance between us gave me a moment’s hesitation, but being a curious sort who’d rather not close a door without first investigating what’s behind it, I responded.  He asked me to add him to my messaging contact list, and I obliged. From then on, every time I logged onto my computer, there was Wayne, looking for me!  If I wasn’t online, he sent me e-mail.  For a full week, fingers flew across the keyboards several times a day in an exchange of lengthy chats and e-mails.  Excitement began to build.  We compared all of our likes and dislikes, our visions and desires for a future relationship, our personal values. I wasn’t ready to throw caution to the wind just yet, but if he was being truthful, there seemed to be emerging a strong foundation for further development.  He revealed that he’d been married twice before and shared his story of how both wives had taken advantage of his generous nature.  I sympathized with him, but also recognized a possible red flag.  He was quick to dismiss my concerns about the geographical distance between us.  Distance could be overcome and worth the effort if it meant finding your soul mate; we could meet in Toronto since he was there twice a month on business; he could meet me at the bus station if I didn’t want to drive.  By the end of the week Wayne was certain that he was ready to meet me, and the sooner the better it seemed.  I was convinced to give it a try.  We talked about possible dates.

Then the penny dropped.

Wayne’s profile included a picture; mine did not.  Although I’ve been told that I’m an attractive woman, I’m not very photogenic. I had already discovered that sharing my not-very-flattering images too early could bring the “dating” to an abrupt end.   However, Wayne kept urging me to send him a picture, since I knew what he looked like while he had only my written description. I finally gave in.   Not happy with any photos in my file, I chose one randomly, attached it to an   e-mail, and hit SEND.  Almost immediately I had a stinging response.

“Thanks for the picture.  Unfortunately it didn’t give me that I want to meet her kind of feeling.  Good luck in your search”.

Ouch!

This ouch would have sent me spiraling into depression and self-doubt a few months ago, but now, after shaking off the shock, I chuckled to myself and added him to my growing list of “jerks”. If I’d judged him solely on his photo, I never would have responded to his first message.

I was finally beginning to see how fickle some men could be.  Obviously I was better off without this one and I was thankful that I hadn’t wasted a trip to Toronto.

Memoir Monday – Brockville Miss Teen Centennial Queen


Walking  stiffly down the runway, (which was really the dock at St. Lawrence Park) I was feeling very self-conscious in my green-striped swimsuit and high-heeled shoes, my hair piled high in curls on the top of my head.  My sash fell off my shoulder, but I couldn’t move my hands  to slide it back into place.  I just kept walking towards the judges’ table.  I looked at the one familiar face there, that of Norm, a friend of my sister.  I gave a feeble smile.  He smiled back.  I don’t remember making my way back up the ramp, nor what happened next.  When was the judging done?  What did we do while we waited?  Obviously we changed into our dresses at some point, and must have done the walk again. I don’t remember any of it. I know that I eventually joined the line of other contestants, all anxiously waiting on the runway in front of the judges for the names of the winners to be called – Miss Congeniality, Fourth Runner-up, Third Runner-up, Second Runner-up, First Runner-up, and finally Miss Teen Centennial.

It was the summer of 1967, Canada’s Centennial year.  I was a very shy seventeen year- old, greatly lacking in self-confidence.  What was I doing here?  The pageant was sponsored by the local Kinsmen Club, and my neighbour was scouting for contestants.  He approached me once and I was flattered, but declined. The second time, I agreed without thinking about what was involved.  I guess even then I knew that I had to push myself to move out of my comfort zone.

My sponsor was to be one of the local pharmacies.  We were required to make appointments to have our pictures taken by the local newspaper, and to have our hair done for free at one of the beauty salons.  I needed a new dress and swimsuit and shoes.  My older sister was recruited by my mother to take me shopping. Why would she not want to take me herself?

We had a fun time doing the stores, looking for bargains. We came home with the modest green and navy striped one-piece swimsuit, a simple, form-fitting shift-style dress in a satiny tapestry of pastel colours, and a pair of white (I think) high-heeled shoes.

Why are there no pictures?

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I made my hair appointment. I took myself down to the newspaper office for the photo shoot and interview. A few days later, I got a request to go back. She told me the pictures didn’t turn out very well. When the newspaper arrived with my picture and bio I was very devastated. The picture was terrible! My eyes seemed to bug out from my face. Could it have been better than the first one?! I think Mom might have kept that, but I insisted it be destroyed.

One evening all the contestants had to meet at the park to go through the stage plan. My boyfriend at the time walked me over and proudly assured me that I would be a winner.

On the morning of the pageant, I got my thick, brown hair piled onto the top of my head. The stylist was quite chatty and he commented that only one of the contestants had failed to make a hair appointment. He figured she wouldn’t have a chance. The whole contest was based on looks. I spent the afternoon sitting in the sun at the cottage, working on a tan.

There was a lot of chatter and excitement in the change room before the pageant. Someone didn’t have gloves; someone loaned her extra pair. We fussed with our hair and makeup and offered each other encouragement. We draped our white satin sashes over our shoulders. We admired each other, and silently assessed our own chances. We were asked to fill out a secret vote for Miss Congeniality, and then it was time to line up for our walk.

“Miss Congeniality goes to Miss …” The girl who shared her gloves.

“Fourth Runner-Up, Miss…”

“Third Runner-Up, Miss …” I think this was my distant cousin, Paula, who I thought was most likely my stiffest competition. My excitement began to build. Maybe I could be a winner after all.

“First Runner-Up, Miss …” My heart was pounding.

“Miss Teen Centennial Queen, …” The winner was the girl who didn’t get her hair done; the one who appeared in her everyday plain brown swimsuit, and flat shoes; the one who didn’t fret about how she looked.

Maybe they weren’t judging only on looks. Maybe self-confidence played a role too.

As we walked past the spectators, back to retrieve our belongings from the dressing room, I heard a few comments that helped lift my spirits.

“You should have won!”

But I didn’t and I moved on. I had never before considered myself to be a Beauty Queen anyway, but it was exciting to think about for a short time.

Many years later, when I met Norm again at my niece’s wedding, he apologized to me.

“I really thought you should win, but I couldn’t convince the other judges.”

I smiled. “Thanks, Norm. That’s alright.”

Memoir Monday – The Princess


I was dragging along the aisles of the grocery store, holding Daddy’s hand while my mother consulted her shopping list and piled items from the shelves into the metal shopping cart. As any ten-year-old girl would be, I was bored and anxious to get home to dinner. Then the line of items along a shelf high above the groceries caught my attention. There sat toys! There were big trucks and toy drums, building blocks and dolls. Dolls! That’s when I saw her and my eyes popped! There she stood, taller than all of the others, that princess doll.  Her shoulder-length hair was a dark blond and set in a Paige-boy style. The sparkling “silver” tiara on her head completed the royal look presented by the dark blue satin gown, trimmed with white lace. Her blue eyes shone from her perfect rosy face. All I could do was stop and stare. I knew I had to have her.

But, although Mom and Dad looked toward where I was pointing, they didn’t seem to share my excitement and my pleas to buy her went unheeded. It was just a few weeks before Christmas and Mom’s thoughts were on getting the Christmas baking ingredients and the week’s meal supplies. They may have told me too that they couldn’t afford to buy her then. Or possibly they’d suggested I put her on my list to Santa. I’m sure I dreamed about her that night.

The weeks passed and soon it was Christmas morning.  I wasn’t allowed to go downstairs until the rest of my family was up. Since my three siblings were teenagers who’d rather sleep longer, I had to be content with dumping out the contents of my stocking that hung on my bedroom door knob. When I was finally allowed to creep down the steep stairs to the living room, my eyes lit up in disbelief. There in front of the Christmas tree stood my princess! That was all I needed. I ran to examine her. She was even more beautiful up close than she’d been up on that shelf.  I looked at the little pearl earrings on her earlobes, and the triple strand pearl choker necklace around her neck. Her nicely shaped feet fit perfectly into the silver plastic high-heeled slippers. That was the best Christmas ever!

I didn’t play much with that doll. I was almost getting to an age that I was more interested in playing games and reading books and playing outdoors than playing with dolls.  But I loved to look at her where she sat on my bed. She held that spot as I grew up, married and had daughters of my own. My father-in-law, an antique dealer, once offered me $100 for her, but I turned him down. A number of years later, when her dress had faded to a dull purple and the elastic of her necklace had rotted and broken, like my marriage, and I needed the cash, I made her a new dress and regretfully sold her on eBay for far less.

Unfortunately, I can’t find any pictures of her.

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.

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?