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Showing posts from 2014

A Glimpse of a Girl

Once upon a time in England, lived a quiet, shy girl, who loved nothing more than to lose herself in the pages of a book. She also loved to draw, write and take photographs. When she was 12 she started 5 years of Domestic Science classes at school, in which she discovered a passion for cooking. She loved English, art and history and singing hymns. When not reading or drawing, she was always busy sewing, knitting or doing embroidery.

The year she turned 12 her parents gave her a five year diary for Christmas. It only lasted her for four years because once she turned 16 she couldn't fit everything she wanted to say into the small space available.

In 1963 her father made his two children a heavy wooden sled, (which English children call a "sledge.") It was painted maroon, and because he also nailed aluminum strips to the wooden runners, it ran as swift as the wind! That winter the girl developed chilblains--painful itchy patches on the backs of her heels, from prolonged time …

A Life of Celebration

I've been busy baking many pies this week, so instead of writing something new, I am sharing a post from the archives--first published 5 years ago as part of a series of posts about the time in our lives when our children were growing up and we were house parents to a group of 12 men with disabilities. This is about our Christmases then...


Brenda and I sipped our Saturday morning coffee recently, sitting back in comfortable armchairs in the sunshine that streamed through the windows of our spacious back room. She was thinking back to her childhood and the impact it had on her, her ten years of growing up at Maplewood Lodge.

She said, "I was always surrounded by adults who listened to me and made me feel as if what I had to say was actually interesting."

"And we celebrated everything!"

Yes, we did celebrate. We celebrated St. Patrick's day by giving prizes to the person who wore the greatest number of green items of clothing or we had Irish stew and mashed potat…

Traditions Held Dear

Did you know that the word "tradition" comes from the Latin "tradere"; to transmit, or give for safekeeping? Thank you Wikepedia for that information! 

This, of all times of the year is bound up in tradition. Who can't look back on their childhood and remember, not just that there were Christmases, but the particular way in which it was done; the little rituals that you could count on?

When our children were growing up, they knew that they would have one gift on their bed, along with a Christmas stocking when they woke up on Christmas morning. I think we hoped (vainly) that this would buy us a few more minutes in bed! 

As new families form they make their own traditions based on thier values. One young mom with two preschoolers has begun a tradition of sharing their family Christmas with friends who would otherwise be alone. How true to the spirit of Christmas to shift the focus from giving things, to giving the gift of welcome. 

And sometimes we hold onto traditio…

Happy to be "Here"

Exactly one week ago today Paul and I heaved a joint sigh of relief and relaxed as we have not been able to for four months--the four months that our house has been on the market.

It was July 23, in the hot and verdant Ontario summer, when the "For Sale" sign went up on the front lawn of our beloved house. I wrote about the emotional turmoil of that, here.

A big part of what prompted our decision to sell was that maintaining the acre our house sits on was getting hard for Paul. He was living with chronic joint pain, and as we anticipated our retirement next year, it felt like time to downsize. But we prayed throughout the process for God to guide--and we are still here.

In the four months of having a lock box on our front door; a sign in our foyer saying, "please remove your shoes;" and visiting real estate agents' cards on our hall table; I learned a lot that I am grateful for. I wrote with a groan in July about "the ruthless tidiness of it all." Keepin…

Connections

There are times imprinted in memory because of the seasons in our lives in which they occurred, although memory can also be a fragile faculty.

At the monthly meeting of the writers group that meets in our home, November's topic was Memories/Remembrance. Everyone came at the topic uniquely. We met on November 11, Remembrance Day, and one person, instead of writing, brought memorabilia of generations of her family at war and spoke of her hopes and fears now that a son-in-law has enlisted. We passed around her fascinating items and photos. 

I shared the story of my father's two months overseas during the war, right at the end, and I brought out one of my own treasures, a rifle oiler from World War 1, a gift from my nephew John in 2011. You can link to my post about the rifle oiler, with photos of it, here.

Magda shared a story about her family's history, starting in Holland during World War 11 and then continuing into their first decade or so in Ontario after emigrating in the 1…

A Prayer for Peace

It was the evening after Remembrance Day and Paul and I had a quiet evening in. He said, "I've got an episode of Inspector George Gently saved on the P.V.R. do you want to watch it?" And I said, "Yes." The episode was called Gently with Honour, and was about top secret psychological warfare experiments on a British military base during the Cold War, with a concurrent back story about a conspiracy of silence during an earlier war.

Ex military himself, Inspector Gently, attended the funeral of a soldier from his old regiment. At the pub after the funeral, where the emphasis was on the brotherhood of the men in attendance, it was apparent that Gently was struggling with something that had happened involving the soldier whose funeral it was. He was chided by his ex superior officer for bringing up events that were past. 

Throughout the episode, which involves a cover up of things gone too far in the more recent past, Gently struggles with his complicity in witnessing…

In Remembrance

This is just one man's war, but he was our father, and I share this in his memory and in honour of all of the ordinary men and women who served and returned from the war forever changed.


Seventy years ago, in 1944, our father, Chris Cater, was working in a reserved occupation in Lancashire, a traditional recruiting area for the Brigade of Guards. He enlisted in spite of being of being officially prohibited from doing so and his service record shows that he enlisted in the Grenadier Guards at Wolverhampton on May 22nd 1944. He was 23 years old.

Chris was  proud to have been a Guardsman. He was assigned to the King's Company, an elite corp. because they were short one man and he was 6 feet tall.

After training for about 10 months, Chris was sent to Europe for two months; from March 2nd to May 2nd, 1945 when he was wounded by shrapnel.  He returned in 1946 as part of the occupying force; the British Army of the Rhine.

Several key events took place during the two months Chris spent in…

Leaving Mish

It was Saturday evening; the end of our week in Mish.  That day we emptied out the fridge and freezer and put the kitchen back in good order, giving away all of the food we were amazed that we still had left.

The truck was loaded with everything but the essentials for the morning, as we planned to start out early, drive 264 km along highway 599, to highway 17, and stop in Ignace for breakfast.

We were sitting around the table after supper, when Rebecca showed Joyce the burn on her leg from the exhaust pipe on Jamie's motorbike on the journey to Mish a week earlier. Joyce, a retired nurse, had been checking it all week and it had seemed to be healing well, but on Thursday and Friday, Rebecca had gone swimming with the children, and now the wound looked nasty and the flesh for several inches above it had turned a hot looking pink. 

I panicked; possessed with a sense of urgency that told me Rebecca needed to be on antibiotics.  All of a sudden we seemed so far away from the kind of help…

Gentle Teachers

When we got permission to stay at Missabay Community School for our week in Mish, I thought that our team would occupy the sprawling large school alone, since it was closed for the summer. But that was not the case. People came and went at all hours.I got up early each morning to have time alone, and sometimes; as I padded my way to the girls' washroom on bare feet, with the early morning sunshine pouring through the windows at 6.00 a.m.; would cross paths with Marita the custodian, coming down the hallway to start her day's work.

 I was always looking for somewhere to be alone for a few minutes before the busy day got started, and one morning I thought that the office was the ideal place where I could close the door, read for half and hour, and write in my journal. But one of the staff came in to use the computer and started filling out some paperwork, nodding hello to me and carrying on with his business as I sat awkwardly with my journal. It dawned on me slowly that we were …

How We Lost our Hearts

One week in Mish left me with a heart undone. I have onlyto close my eyes and little Tabitha is sitting beside me in the front seat of my car with her laughing, dark, almond eyes. She is smart and funny and makes me laugh when she tells me that someone wanted to buy her puppy from her. "Give me the money first and I'll give you the puppy," she said she told the potential buyer. She still had the puppy, so I guess the money didn't materialize.


As we drove into the parking lot of the community centre on Sunday, our first day on the reserve, some children ran up to our cars, recognizing members of the team from earlier visits. Christina, a spunky little girl with a serious expression and hair falling to one side over her eyes, knocked on my car window and motioned to me to wind it down.  Her sharp eyes had spotted something of interest. Pointing to the almost empty bag of chips on the car seat, she said, "Chippies! Can I have some?" 

The children of Mish were a …

Love Gifts

Several weeks before we began our journey to Mishkeegogamang, Paul commissioned a painting to be done by our granddaughter Tippy, as a gift for Chief Connie Gray-McKay, both an honoured leader and friend.

Tippy did her very best, painting a beautiful picture in vivid primary colours, of a crouching wolf with other creatures within its flowing frame. The colours and creatures were each chosen for their symbolism.

I was worried about it's fragility and wrapped it carefully in two soft pillowcases, surrounded by generous layers of bubble wrap. Over our three day journey I made sure that the picture was safe as luggage went in and out of the vehicle. I could not wait for Chief Connie to see it.

When we arrived though, Chief Connie was away, and not expected back until later in the week. After all of my anticipation, it felt anticlimactic to have to wait longer, and we weren't even sure if we would be able to see her then!

One of our team, Sharon, had been working on a beaded scarf for…

For Serenity and Neesh

Like crimson flames the leaves are turning the page on summer, but the memories continue to glow; embers that won't die.

On our last day with the children of Mish we drove them the 8 kilometers from the village and through the cemetery to the beach one last time; an end of the week celebration tinged with sadness at what that meant. 

The children ran from our cars, not to the beach at first, but to visit the small white wooden crosses marking graves, looking for those of people they knew, pointing them out to one another. Death seems an all too frequent a visitor to the families of Mish. 

"My auntie's here; she burned," said one little girl. Her tone was as matter of fact as if burning is as normal a cause of death as old age. But then, on the reserve, tragically, it is. Buildings burn often and the people in them die.
Down on the beach the first children to have arrived were already shrieking with joy. Their laughter carried up to the hilltop where I stood, at a grave f…

The Prayer

In the continuing story of our week long adventure in Mish, this story of the evening after our outing to the beach on Thursday, is from Susan Stewart. 
When Paul mentioned that he was disappointed that Belinda wasn’t going to be at the community center that night to take photos, I completely understood her position.  The night before, I felt just like I suspected she felt now - like I had “hit the wall”. 

Everyone else had headed over to the community barbecue and the dance that followed it, but though my spirit was willing, my body told me in no uncertain terms, “there’s absolutely no way you’re going anywhere tonight where there are people”.  My muscles were aching and my brain was fried – to a crisp. I felt like I couldn’t answer one more question, make one more decision, or interact with one more person.  So I stayed back while everyone else went to the dance, knowing I was probably missing something very significant, and quite possibly even “wonderful” but I also knew that after …

The Dogs of Mish

The dogs of Mish live on the fringes of the community, or if lucky, on a porch or under a deck.

They know their place, and it is generally not inside a house.

Sometimes we passed a puppy walking along the road at his master's heel without a leash, obviously a loved pet, but the pampered life of many pets in the south, is very different to that of the dogs of the north.

They exist like a separate tribe among the humans and are ever present. At lunch time, when Joyce and I arrived with sandwiches, spaghetti, or macaroni cheese, they circled hopefully, willing the food out of the children's hands, and if dangling at all, it would be gone. It was impossible to harden our hearts though, towards these poor beasts, so many of them sadly neglected.

There was Princess, who had evidently recently had puppies, and King who was a male version of Princess, both of them the colour of pale sand with pointy ears and curly tails. There was a big black dog, with intelligent eyes and a slash dow…