"Cowardice asks the question...is it safe? Expediency asks the question...is it politic? Vanity asks the question...is it popular? But conscience asks the question...is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because it is right." ~Dr. Martin Luther King

Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Friend

A small envelope is propped against the monitor. A band of red encloses a space sufficient to hold my name and address written in beautiful copperplate writing .Thick and thin upright lines could only be enscribed with pen and ink.

The letters are exactly how I remember being taught though mine were never so even or precise or so beautifully shaped. The card arrived two weeks before Christmas with a note updating me on their lives.

Ethel had hip-surgery in the summer. A week after she left hospital, she was back in with pneumonia but has been well since. Johnny had to cook. It was fine as long as all he had to do was put things in and out of the microwave.

They moved from where they lived all of their lives together in the Village of Symington where Ethel was active and involved . Troon would be more convenient. The car had to go when Johnny had quadruple heart surgery. They needed to be handy for shops and buses.

Ethel was looking forward to coming back to Canada to see Frank and Lorna's new house . She hoped to see me again soon and wished my family well.

The handwriting tells so much about her. An incredibly tidy little woman; fastidious and meticulous. Her eyes dance and flash with wit and curiosity and the laughter is never far from her lips.

On the day of our family gathering, there was a phone call from Scotland. Ethel was back in hospital in a breathing machine. By the time Lorna arrived there, the news was better. She had improved, was out of the machine but still in hospital.

My friend was eighty-eight years old. I don't believe I ever told her how much I admired her handwriting. The Christmas card will be the last .

Ethel died two days after Christmas.

Just slipped away quietly and tidily in her sleep.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Christmas Gathering

On Sunday we had our Christmas Gathering at Heather and Andy's house.

Lizzie didn't get there. She's at University in Peterborough and has a job and a cat and a dog. She will be home for five days at Christmas. Not all of us will see her then and she will not see all of us.

Vanessa and the twins were expected home from Tacoma Washington. But after sitting on a plane for one and a half hours waiting for take-off, they didn't. Stephen, Vanessa's Dad. left the Gathering to drive home to Kitchener and then to Detroit and collect the little family. They are home now. Tired but safe It's a lot of hours for wriggly little ones to be strapped into chairs. But Vanessa said they would come home. And home is where they're at.

Patrick came from Ottawa and Myles and Melissa from Mississauga.

There were forty-eight people in Heather and Andy's house.

Heather has become involved in competitive swimming. She was "discovered" in the water with the Special Olympic swimmers. Adam is a member of the team. Heather never had a swimming lesson but she swam five kilometers on Sunday morning without a rest. That was before The Gathering.

My young ones learned to swim at Bruce's Mill , Seneca Pond and Preston Lake before they were old enough to know you had to learn. The first challenge for each of them was swimming under water. They looked like beavers when their heads emerged.

Andy leaves the house every morning at five-thirty for work at this time of the year. He manages
an Ontario Liquor Store. He likes to compete with himself.

Fifteen year old Robyn took care of things at the house. She made the rub for the beef ,got it going and kept it basted.

By special request of everybody. I made meat balls and sauce. There must have been twenty pounds of the juicy little morsels. I had to tie on the lid of the crock pot, they were packed so tight. But the boys got into them before dinner was served and the pot was empty before the last diners reached it. That's the first time that happened.

Roast beef was on the menu . It is always well received and easier than turkey when preparing a feast for a multitude.

Rory was there. He is six feet five inches tall now. His special friend Devin came too. Mark's friend Mindy and her little sister Laurie lost their mother recently after a year long battle with a brain tumour.They came along with the Keswick Satellite Clan.

Eric's mother Betty came with Eric's cousin from Windsor who was visiting for Christmas.

Doug and Margaret, Andy's Mum and Dad were there.

Great-grand-daughters, Cheyenne and Abigail were together. They are no longer traumatised by numbers. They enjoy the excitement more than anyone.

Lorna didn't make it. News came that morning from Scotland about Ethel, Lorna's mother. Lorna has to take the first available flight home. But Frank was with us.

Aaron took the Young Bucks downstairs to show pictures of their recent fifty-six day tour of great places in Europe. But as soon as the show was over they all trooped back up into the kitchen.

Marnie's Mum, May was there. She didn't make it to the last Gathering. But she got good news recently about her eyesight. Treatment has been amazingly successful so she needed to celebrate.

Everybody who could squeeze into the kitchen was in the kitchen.

Andrew, Rhonda, Meghan and Hayley were merrily present.

Not being responsible for the roast beef and the gravy, I took leisurely pride of place in the corner. May joined me and Margaret too when space opened up.

Eric always has to make reference to insanity in my family. Eric lives with my first-born grand-daughter Stephanie.They have been friends since high school. I told him again I take full responsibility for all of it. I think he just says it to hear me lay vigorous claim to all present.

Some of us will gather again at Martin and Marnie's house in Barrie on Christmas Day. Lizzie will
be there with her dog and cat.

Martin and Marnie have a dog and a cat as well.

There will be joy and laughter there too.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Early Morning Saturday

The sky was blue and there was a ridge of cloud tinged with pretty pink above bare branches of the trees.

A batch of meat ball mixture is in the frig ready to cook. Erik asked for them They can't be cooked the day before.

The recipe has six beaten eggs , two cups of milk , soft breadcrumbs and nutmeg.They can't be cooked, chilled and re-heated any more than a souffle. The lightness,the juiciness,the flavour is lost.

Well, they can. But they're not the same. Erik asked for them. To-day we will celebrate his Father's life

Bruce died at home early last Sunday morning. Betty, Erik and Stephanie were with him . Stephanie burned sweet grass for safe passage.

Family and friends will gather at the house to-day and celebrate a life well lived.

I will cook the meatballs . They will stay.hot, in the sauce, in the crock- pot, to be enjoyed the way all things ought to be.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

They Are Home

Keenan and Kari amd Aaron are already over Canadian air space. They will land in Toronto around two o'clock. Fifty six days have flown past but they will never forget their experience.
The landed in Belgium , travelled to France to England, Scotland and Ireland.

Back to France, the Riviera, Italy, Switzerland, Austria,Germany,Holland and back to Belgium.
They have seen places they could never have imagined. Met people they will never forget. Every minute has been a life-changing adventure.

They worked and saved for a year to make it happen. They carried the plan through making small changes on advice from fellow travellers, mostly Australian women ,they met on their way.

Their bond as brothers and sister will be forever strengthened from their shared experience.
They will have a new appreciation for home and family and their native land.

Aaron met a special girl. From Sudbury, Ontario.

It will be good to know they are home.

They will be forever changed.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Stock Pot Is Simmering

The feast is over.

Stephanie and Eric were here after all. Eric's dad wasn't up to making the trip to Wahnapitae. They came down instead. Cheyenne and Abigail had great fun with Aunt Stephanie and packages of the feast went north with Stephanie and Eric today and to several other destinations.

Patrick took what remained of the meat balls and other goodies home to Ottawa with him.

Myles phoned from Ottawa. He and Melissa are expecting their first child in Spring , Thanksgiving was the right occasion to proclaim the news to the family.

Keenan and Aaron and Kari got in touch. They had just finished a Vespa tour of Tuscany. It ended in a winery where they had an Italian lunch with fresh baked bread with olive oil poured over. They are eating things they've never known before and enjoying them. They are on their way to Florence,Vienna and Prague. They are meeting young people from the world over who are sharing their best experiences.

But they were thinking of Mum's and Grannie's Thanksgiving Feast and the family coming together without them.

We were thinking of them.

It is the first Thanksgiving Feast,they have not celebrated with the family.

Robyn and Heather baked pumpkin pie and tarts and a huge tray of milk chocolate brownies dusted with icing sugar. Heather brought a huge basket of her small sweet golden rolls.

Aunt Marnie baked two trays of dark chocolate brownies, one with walnuts and one without, with dark smooth swirling chocolate icing on top.

Stephen and Mary brought one of those large luscious pecan tarts from Costco that are too big to buy for a family of one or two and so rich,only a small slice can be eaten at a time.

Uncle Frank brought a variety of small crisp crackers,three different cheeses and a pot of chutney Lorna's sister Jill made while she was here on a visit from Scotland.

The feast was prepared and shared....with love.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Barrie Will Be Here

Heather brought fresh sage from her garden early this morning. Lots of it.

The bread has been pulled to pieces in the big bowl. Onions cooked to a golden hue.Sausage into crispy crumbs and the pan emptied over the bowl with the bread.

I'm separating sage leaves from stems ...wondering if I should use the big ones with perfectly circular holes chomped out by insects, or just the small ones.

Maybe there's a place I can use the big ones; I love the smell of sage.

I 'll spend the day in the kitchen, on a stool at the counter my son made for me.

I used the magic bullet for chopping a batch of sage. I think I'll do the rest with a sharp knife.

It occurs to me the sausage stuffing for the turkey is how it's been done down through centuries.

When the turkey comes out of the oven, stuffing has to be sampled all around while the bird is being carved. .

The gravy has to be sipped from a spoon and suitable sounds of appreciation are appreciated.

But the turkey is being cooked today. It's not enormous. . Roast beef has been added to the menu of late.I will cook that tomorrow with roast potatoes.

Patrick is coming home from Ottawa . It's not Thanksgiving at Grannie's unless there are meatballs and special sauce. I made it the first time I cooked barbecued ribs in Canada.

Rhonda really likes ham so I have a honey cured Pilsner Black Forest Ham as well. I will bake that with brown sugar, mustard, pineapple and cloves.

I know I can buy everything already made. It's done on television all the time. But I don't want to.

A feast must be prepared with everything the way it always has been.

And shared.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Thanksgiving Feast

Vanessa ,James and the twins live in Tacoma Washington .Too far to come for dinner.

Lizzie, at Trent in Peterborough, has to work and won't be home.

Myles and Melissa will be in Ottawa.

Keenan , Kari Chung and Aaron were in Monte Carlo, gambled at the Casino and won. Keenan and Kari kept their winnings.Aaron couldn't stop and lost his. They walked the Monte Carlo Car Rally route .Now they are on their way to Tuscany where they will rent Vespas .

Theresa and Rory will be in Peterborough for a car race.

Stephanie will be in Sudbury. Eric's Dad wants to spend Thanksgiving by the Red Deer Lake in Wanapitae. He doesn't have long.

Andrew and Rhonda and Meghan and Haley will be at a family farm in Palmerston.

Lindsay, Cheyenne and Abigail will be here for a little while.

Stephen, Mary and Patrick and Heather, Andy, Robyn and Adam and Cyril will be here.

We have not yet heard from Keswick , Hockley Valley or Barrie.

So, ten will be here for dinner for sure with maybe ten more and three for a short visit.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

High Notes

On Thursday night Kari, Keenan and Aaron phoned home from a Guinness House on a high point in the City of Dublin, Ireland. The view, they said, was awesome.

They have been welcomed with warmth and open arms by cousins and friends of cousins. The family ties have been renewed.

Earlier in the week ,they took a twelve hour tour of the Highlands from Edinburgh. They passed by Loch Ness .They found the majesty of the mountains completely amazing.

They visited the room in Edinburgh Castle, where great long red bound ledgers bear the names, handwritten. complete with rank and number , of every Scot who fell in World War One and Two. They found my brother's name . They weren't sure of my mother's brother's name so they had no success there. .

On Saturday night, they called from the top of the Eiffel Tower where they were looking down and all around, at the City of Paris. They were suitable impressed with Paris.

From there they were off to three days relaxing on the beach of the French Riviera.This is the start of their fourth week.

They met a couple of Australian girls at a hostel in Ireland. Australian and New Zealand women are extraordinary world travellers. They told the kids is cheaper to fly and of course it's obviously faster. So, they did, from Dublin to Paris.

They won't be home for Thanksgiving.

They will be missed.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Oh My Lord

My grandsons have sent photos of themselves on the shore I loved all the years of my childhood. It's the first place I have to be any time I return.

Even when I was a teen-ager and crowds in the hundreds hung around the ice cream parlors,
where there was music and jostling and waves of chat and having to be where everyone else was, I could sometimes persuade a friend to walk for miles along the shore, leaning into the wind with the tide always on the move, coming in or going out and the wet hard sand either flat as a table or ridged like the ripples of the waves. I never understood why the sand changed character like that.

Now they are there. They can have no idea how much it means to me that they knew they had to go and see it resembles the Sandbanks on the shores of Lake Ontario in Picton County, the place we discovered when my own children were young and where their family has spent vacations since they were infants sometimes new-born, camping in the Provincial Park.

They are home now with my cousins and the children of my cousins, and the grandchildren and great grandchildren of Aunt Meg and Uncle Davey and whoever else they might meet in the few days they are there, who have welcomed them like the family we are.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Another Significant Event

Keenan is twenty two and Aaron is twenty. Kari is Keenan's special friend.

They've been working and saving for a year. Yesterday they boarded an Air India Flight and took off for Brussels and a back-packing trip in Europe.

Keenan and Aaron are my grandsons and Adam's brothers. Kari quickly fitted into the family circle. Their house will be strangely silent for the next fifty-six days.

Keenan is six feet tall. His hair has turned into a russet colour. His sideburns are like brushes. His face has pixie features , small with a short up-tilted nose and freckles.

Aaron, the younger is taller. His limbs are strong and straight and immensely long. He listens to reggae music and talks in Jamaican patois. It's interesting to hear him call me on philosophers completely unknown to me, in reggae language.

He knows computers like I know pen and pencil.

Before I was elected in 2003, I regularly dropped in to share a meal. afterwards we played scrabble. Aaron found words in the dictionary to fit the tiles he had.

I used words from Scottish vernacular. Andy, their Dad insisted they weren't. I was always more surprised than anybody to find them in the dictionary . I bought a new dictionary for the house to support my efforts.

I used to join them on camping vacations at Sandbanks and watched them grow and change.

They grew up in New market. Their other grandparents were my friends before they came into the world. They're as close to my own as it's possible for grandchildren to be. And now they are thousands of miles away . And I can't help if they need me.

They will go to where I was born. Cousins will take them about. . The buildings don't exist anymore. A town library occupies the site. I hope they go to the building down past the railway bridge. They have been been kept in original state. The same style of housing.

Not far from there is the shore where I spent my early summers. They will see how it resembles Sandbanks, except it has tides that ebb and flo.

I wish I could be there. I used to think about exchanging my house with somebody so that all my grandchildren could come and see where we came from.

Aaron has one of those fancy phones .They can call and e-mail and send instant photos.They have sent some already and my computer for some reason isn't letting them through. If I ever get them and Heather Sisman comes to visit, I will share them.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Extraordinary Life...I don't think so

We live in extraordinary times. But I'm not sure the extent of change can be appreciated unless one has experienced the impact.

In my childhood, when there was a death in the family, someone had to go the rounds to inform the family of the death and particulars of burial.There were no phones or cars. Mail was delivered the same day but writing a letter and mailing would not be the same as carrying the word and sharing news of the loss.

When my father's younger sister died in childbirth. It wasn't expected. I was eight years old. I don't remember the face or name of the person who came.Only the terrible news she brought.

Mary was beautiful, intelligent and talented. She was expecting her first child. Her parents didn't even know she was in labour until her husband brought the news on the morning that she and the baby had died.

The parish was the community. For the most part, families lived close. They were each other's friends and supports.

It must have been that constant relationship that kept them grounded in the present. It was all encompassing.The past had little relevance.

In my mother' s last years, much of our conversation was about her memories. She was frustrated. I was asking questions and she wanted to know the answers but had never thought to ask them and didn't understand why.

Now, someone living in England , four thousand miles away, finds a reference in a Canadian Blog to a place in Scotland that hasn't existed for at least fifty years, makes contact, discovers and provides a clue to a lost great grand-parent and finds a distant relative in a matter of minutes through the wonders of the world wide web.

Now...that's extraordinary.

At a time when the national media are less able than ever to provide current news of community affairs, individuals have at hand the means to keep each other informed independently.

Of course, there are those who are not enamoured of the notion. It's more convenient for some to work in shrouds of "now you see it, now you don't"

That's not extraordinary. It's not even unusual.

The first printing press was broken up by people whose interests were threatened. (I have no memory of that event.I learned about it in the classroom).

But it didn't stop the printed word nor halt the amazing progress it made on ordinary people's lives.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Nagging,Niggling Mystery solved

The McGuires were occasional visitors to the house. They were there on the day of my grandmother's funeral. I never understood who they were but knew there was a connection.

I thought of them over the years and wondered . Yesterday, out of the blue ,or ether. or wherever e-mails travel, came the answer. From Lindsay in Cumbria, England. Her mother was a McGuire. Efforts to trace her great- grandfather had heretofore come to a dead end.

There was a record of death of James McGuire aged twenty-three at Bartonholm. His death was registered by his mother. There was a record of marriage between James and Janet Fox and birth of John. After James death, Janet and John disappeared from records.

James and Janet had come separately from County Antrim in Ireland with their parents .They married in Kilmarnock.

There was record of a marriage between James McCafferty and Jane Fox of an address in Irvine. Jane was twenty-five and James, a bachelor, twenty-seven. They had a large family. The name John McGuire did not appear again.

Until this week. Lindsay was still searching and googled the name Bartonholm. It brought up my Blog ;"Setting the Record Straight" I had watched a T.V.documentary about an unknown soldier, buried where he fell in the mud in France in the first world war. along with sparse belongings. Research indicated he had been a Scottish coal miner who joined the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders hoping things could become better for his family.

I had a powerful negative reaction to the degrading depiction of life for coal mining families in the piece. The presumption that poor people who work hard to provide for their families have no sense of dignity, status or even self-respect has always grated.

I promptly posted a Blog of what I knew from my mother's stories of her childhood and my own experience. It was substantially different to the T.V. documentary . Writing it afforded me great satisfaction.

This week , it was read by Lindsay in Cumbria. Social conditions for past generations of her family has become as much an interest as family history. She was enjoying reading the Blog when the names James McCafferty and Jane Fox "jumped out at her "

An e-mail started an excited exchange that allowed us to fill in for each other a missing piece of the same puzzle. The McGuires who came to visit, were the family of my grandmother's half-brother,James son of Jane Fox, who is my great-grandmother and Lindsay's great-great-grandmother.

Lindsay found her lost great-grandfather and I learned more than I ever hoped to know about a woman who has been a strong and secret source of pride.

James and Jane had many children. After Jane died(I think) James bought a house at 100 Fullarton Street and lived in it with Mary his eldest daughter and her family,the Kennedys.

Several of his grandchildren became teachers. One, George McCafferty , became a priest and then a Canon in the Ayrshire Diocese of Galloway. Great grandchildren became teachers. At least five great grandchildren emigrated to Canada . The first, myself, became Mayor of Aurora, a small town in Ontario in the 1970s and continues to serve as a Councillor in the year 2009.

James McCafferty, had the advantage of an education .In the eighteen hundreds, it was not universal in Ireland. Only one member of the family might learn to read and write, usually a son. But that person was expected to assist whoever had not the advantage.

Jane could neither read nor write. But as well as raising a large family, she "kept a pig and knitted socks"

James lived until he was one hundred years old. Jane died years before him and five years before the birth of my mother.

Grandfather was remembered sitting up in bed with a long white beard ,wearing a red stocking cap and people still coming to see him with official papers to read and write responses for them.

There was intelligence, enterprise and a substantial contribution to their community. By any standard, their lives were successful.


Watch Them Grow

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Expedition

Mary and Patti had two flat tires yesterday. They were fixed in a little place with a garage and a mechanic within an hour and a half. That was a stroke of luck. They are on the road between Sault St. Marie and Thunder Bay .The scenery is mind-blowing. Stompin' Tom Connors keeps coming to my mind for some reason.

Last night they had cake and water for dinner, they were too tired to care . A little further into the trip, meals will become high points of the day.

I think we all have the instincts of nomads inside us . I used to feel the urge every fall, before the winter set in, to go down to the sea somewhere. I needed to smell it and feel the wind on my face. It was always about driving thousands of miles . Bailey's Irish Cream figured largely at the end of each day.

Every time I went back to Scotland and got off the plane, the dampness in the air was like fingertips lightly touching all over my face. I found out in the island of Mull in the Kyles of Bute ,that the sea air is the reason why the scents of everything that grows are so strong

We were there for just a day and took a taxi to see the whole island....in an hour. The driver told us why the scent of blue bells was so strong. He wouldn't have known it either except he had lived in Winnipeg for years and realised the difference. He had been divorced from his wife and came back to the place he was born to find what he needed to be content.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Family Events

Mary. mother of Vanessa ,wife of Number One Son Stephen and grandmother of the beautiful twins you see below is off on an adventure.

Vanessa and James and the twins have moved into their own place in Takoma, Washington with the bare essentials. All their wedding gifts have been here since the wedding.They went to Korea after the wedding with the intent of making money to pay off student loans. They came home shortly after and Vanessa prepared for the twins in Kitchener and James went off to Takoma to make a living.

Vanessa and the twins could not go there to live until they had been processed. It took until the twins were five months old whiich nobody on this side of the continent was complaining about.

Mary has set off on a cross continent journey with a life long friend in a jeep loaded with wedding gifts. They left from Montreal where Patti lives. On the way they passed through the office district of the city and picked up a couple of pristine office chairs at the side of the road They added them to the load. That will be a story to tell in years to come.

Mary has set up a blog. I'm not sure she would want it shared beyond the family so I wont provide the link . Mary is a very private person. But I will keep you posted. And if she says it's O.K. I will provide the link.

Stephen's has his two golden retrievers to keep him company in the house in Kichener.

Adam is on vacation at Sandbanks Provincial Park in Prince Edward County with his parents and sister Robyn. They have been going there since Adam was an infant.Keenan and Aaron are not with them. They are working and saving for a trip to Europe in a few weeks. Keenan's special friend Carey is going along as well.

Adam was in Windsor a couple of week-ends ago for a Special Olympics Baseball event They are a C team. They played with B teams. They didn't win any medals but Adam made a couple of extraordinary plays which I will report in full to you later.

Police Chief Armand La Barge was there representing York Regional Police Department sponsors of Special Olympics in the Region.

The parents group had a Yard Sale at the Church of the Nazarene on Main Street, Newmarket
the Saturday before the trip and raise almost six thousand dollars in a few short hours of work.
It helped to pay for the bus.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Latest

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Two Men in My Life

My son Frank is a man of many talents. He is articulate, humorous, successful in business and a talented singer and musician. His many friendships have lasted a lifetime. He is a kind and caring human being. He didn't learn to be like that. I didn't have to teach him. It is in his nature.

My grandson Adam is equally impressive. When he was born, we realised how little we knew about Down's Syndrome. We had to learn. Adam taught us.

First they told us he wouldn't be able to nurse. It wasn't true. Social workers came to the house and talked about infant stimulation and limited expectations. What they said he couldn't do, he did.

Because of Adam and what he taught them, his mother and father became a positive resource for other young parents.

He learned but at his own pace. He had an abundance of caution. He never fell off a bed or a chair or down stairs. He scooted everywhere on his bum. He had more control that way. His mother and I each took a hand to encourage him to walk. He lifted his feet off the ground.

He loved the pool and watched his younger cousins in succession .as each got the nerve to jump into the deep end. He ventured in and all around, toes clinging to the small ledge and arms hugging the deck. When finally he did go off the diving board , he wore a life jacket. He 'd go with a shout ,down into the water. The jacket stayed afloat until he bobbed back up into it. We would shout at him to take it off. He would shout back in outrage “Do you want me to die”

He played all the usual sports and when he grew older, he bowled and played golf as well. Then another boy's Dad had a vision. A special league was formed and Adam went on the ice. After years of being number one fan at his younger brothers' games, Adam became a player too.

He 's the goalie in a league of different ages and skill levels. When he skates onto the ice, his team follows like a line of ducklings. They know all the chants and moves in the pre-game skate around. His brothers' help on the ice. His dad coaches. A young man of twenty-seven, who in his whole life had never been involved in anything or with anyone but his parents joined the league His Dad laces his skates for him and he takes to the ice with his team.

A small boy of eight, who almost never speaks, sits beside Adam and softly repeats his name
There is one skill Adam has not mastered completely He understands speech. He has a vocabulary of choice expressions and knows when to use them. He pronounces emphatically on his loves and hates. If he likes what I'm wearing he tells me “That's cute” But his conversation is mostly understood by cadence.

He has friends , a job and a special girl . At a party, he's a dancing fiend and now he has an ipod that keeps him movin' to the music. He is an inexhaustible break-dancer par excellence.

Adam grew up in Newmarket. He attended Canadian Martyrs and Sacred Heart High School until he was twenty-one . Last week he had his twenty-fourth birthday He is currently a participant in Special Olympics .He is a powerful swimmer.
We live in an age and a community of opportunity for everyone who wants to take it.

Youth Bocci is an annual magazine which provides sponsorships, encouragement and recognition for young people like Adam. So that they can strive like all the rest, to be the best that they can be.

And we are all the better for it.

I was asked to write this little piece for the magazine. My son Frank is a sponsor,my grandson Adam a recipient of one of their bursaries. I thought I would share.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Twins and Other Thoughts

The Baby Shower was a delight. The twins were the stars of the show. Everyone got to hold them They slept through it all in perfect peace and tranquility.

Vanessa went to Montreal with her mother Mary on Monday. She had to attend at the American Consulate . There are only two in Canada . One in Montreal and one in Vancouver.

Heather went to Kitchener to help her brother Stephen, the grandfather, take care of the twins
until Tuesday. The babies have to be fed every two hours on the hour. It's a very busy schedule.

Heather and her brother are good friends. He is the eldest of my children. Heather is number five. Thinking of them together with babies conjured up many memories.

Stephen was always first out the door when I brought a new baby home. He would be twelve years old when he took Heather from my arms.

When she was no taller than his legs were long, she would put her hands on her hips and leaning her head as far back as it took to look up into his face she regularly gave him a piece of her mind about how things were to be.

Their families would get together every summer, camping at Sandbanks Provincial Park. Now that his kids are grown,Stephen still goes down and joins Heather's family for a week. We discovered Sandbanks when my family were young and it's been a favourite place ever since. The games on the dunes were pretty much the same as those I played myself on the sandy hills of the shore in Scotland, where I grew up.

And this week she was happily engaged helping him take care of his new-born twin grandchildren.

Stephen is quite convinced, there are two tiny angels in his house.

They will leave soon when all the formalities are completed. To live and grow up all the way across the continent in Seattle, Washington.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Beautiful Babies

[HEATHER'S NOTE: Claire is the fair-haired baby, and her brother Reid has very dark hair. They're beautiful! Congratulations Vanessa & James, and families!]

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Update on Twins and other stuff

Vanessa came to the Easter Gathering on Sunday. She is looking very well and happy. The babies are still in hospital but she hopes they will be home for the Shower in May. If they are not. I am thinking the Shower will have to descend on the hospital. We were planning a caravan for the birth, but that didn't happen.

It was a plane that brought them to Guelph from Windsor, not a helicptor as I first indicated. Vanessa had a room at the hospital while they were there. The mother needs to be close.

Reid is over four pounds and Claire is just three ounces behind him. They will still be in Canada when the Forrester family cottage is opened at Christie Beach. Mary tells me they will have their feet dipped into Georgian Bay before they leave for America. So they will always know where they come from.

Vanessa has to go to Montreal to the American Legation for an Immigration Hearing for the three of them to enter The States. Stephen will take her and Mary will have the babies to herself. Arms filled with a soft sweet smelling bundle of baby are fulfilling nature's best purpose. Twins must be doubly satisfying.

We were a merry throng on Sunday. A number of birthdays happen around Easter. The practice is to have birthday cake, sing the Birthday Song, They Are Jolly Good Fellows and a round of three rousing Hip Hip Hoorays. No gifts are exchanged. We are each others gift.

This year Robyn again made the birthday cake. But she decided it would be a chocolate layer cake. Of course it wasn't big enough. The Masters golf tournament was on television. The songs were not sung, the cheers were not shouted and to his great disgust my son Frank did not get a piece of birthday cake.

But the ham and roast beef were done to a T and my gravy was delicious. Next time, Robyn can make the cake again but there will be a back-up just in case.

While we were together, someone else was visiting friends in Aurora and sharing memories of happy days in the Factory Theatre. Gail Kendall had acted with Frank in a play called "You Can't Take it With You" and sent her best wishes to all of us through an e-mail.

It was a very nice ending to a great day.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


The twins are in Guelph. That's closer to home. They were transported by helicopter one at a time.
Big brother came first on a high-wind Saturday and the pilot had trouble landing. So little sister was brought on Sunday. Apparently there's only room for one infant with all the trappings and attendants .So they had to be brought one at a time.

Vanessa is able to sleep at home now. James had to go home to Takoma the Friday before the little family were transported. So it's a blessing, they didn't have to stay in Windsor any longer.
The babies are still making progress.

Vanessa is a strong person but the experience must be taking it's toll.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The New Family

The twins are still progressing. But in Windsor. If two spaces become available in Kitchener
they will be transported immediately. But if a preemie arrives in Kitchener and there is a space, the new arrival will have priority. Two spaces are even more difficult to come by than one.

Vanessa is discharged but has to stay in hospital to be with the little ones. James will be going back to Seattle any time. She has her lap-top but can only use it at the library. Stephen and Mary go down at the week-ends. She is a very strong young woman and the circumstances require it. The main thing is the babies are making good progress. The care is excellent.

The clan is gathering on Easter Sunday but we don't expect to see them here. These babies will be going to live in America when the documentation is completed and transport is sensible. That will be a heart-ache. Especially for Stephen and Mary. I hhave never had to contend with anything like that.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Newest Satellite is still in Windsor

They are doing well. Babies born eight weeks early, every hour of survival is positive. They are eight days old.

Brother is off the feeding tubes and being nursed. Little sister is sleepier, not so active but coming along. Every day there is hope they will be brought closer to home but they are all together and care is the best.The shower has been put off until May.

I'm still knitting but I've done all the lacy I mean to do. I had to unravel many hours of intricate stitching in the skirt of a little coat because of an early error. So no more of that. It's almost inevitable if you knit for hours and into the wee small hours. I'm glad I didn't start with shawls. From now on whatever ornamentation goes on will be hand stitched.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Safe Arrival

The twins are here. They arrived at 3 p.m. on Friday afternoon. in a hospital in Windsor,Ontario.
The Kitchener hospital wasn't set up for them yet. They came eight weeks early.They are fine and feisty and breathing on their own. Two more added to the clan.

Claire got things going but was second to arrive. Reid is the longest,weighs 3pounds, eight ounces and has dark hair. Claire weighs seven ounces less and is blonde. Mom and Dad survived the experience nicely. Dad took the Red Eye from Seattle to Detroit and crossed the river to Windsor in plenty of time to share the excitement.

Grandparents, Stephen and Mary were in Mexico for the March break and missed the excitement...well not exactly...they just weren't on the spot.

It's not clear how long the new family will be in Windsor, We should know to-morrow. The shower is next week-end in Kitchener. It would be nice if they could be at the party.

The little lacy dress is knitted but not stitched together yet. The shawls will never be knitted now.A shawl can not be knitted in a hurry. By the time they'd be finished, their small persons would already be too grown-up. Only new-borns can be wrappped in shawls so the moment has passed. Those moments in an infant's life are like sunbeams. If you don't catch them when they happen, the same chance never comes again.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Delightful Dilemna

I'm knitting again. A tiny lacy dress of many pastel shades. The twins will be here soon.
A boy and a girl; Claire and Reid. Vanessa has asked her father Stephen, my first- born, to ask me to knit for the babies. I had been thinking about it but I wasn't sure if this Queen's University graduate, world-traveller, sometime inhabitant of Korea and Australia and Seattle, Washington and currently Kitchener, Ontario would be particularly interested in my old fashioned enterprise..

"Ah yes." said Stephen. "She is really is. She already has a keepsake box"

My daughter Heather, has things I knitted for Vanessa. Mary, Vanessa's mother, passed them on to Heather when Robyn was born. Robyn is almost sixteen. Heather was keeping them for Robyn but Vanessa says she would like them. So now they will be on the move again.

A lacy pattern takes longer than plain knitting. If it's going to be a keepsake it needs to be special. Who knows how many babies will wear it. Modern yarn never fades or shrinks, moths don't eat it and little ones grow so fast they don't wear it long enough to wear out.

I have to find something special for the boy baby.

My baby knitting books are almost as old as myself. I found them in the Goodwill years ago. My own were left behind. Someone else had kept these ones for forty years. Infant boys and girls were not dressed differently long ago. Clothing for tiny bodies had the same purpose. I had a thoroughly modern French Phildar book when I was knitting for my grandchildren. It is currently missing. Damn.

The needles for a lacy pattern are not much above a wire gauge. They are long. One fits under my right arm and the yarn winds around the fingers of my right hand. It provides for even tension and economy of movement. The index finger on my hand has sprouted a lump on either side of the first joint but it doesn't interfere with the knitting. The needle in my left hand is the only one that moves. The needles are bent. I really need to replace them.

I wanted yarn with a silky fleck. I need to look at modern patterns and new needles. But knitting shops are sparse on the ground. I like a shop that only has yarn and needles and patterns and beautiful finished garments hanging above one's head everywhere. I like walls covered with boxes of yarns of different thickness and multiple blends and colours than cant even be imagined. I like a table and a chair for leisurely turning pages of all the familiar pattern books and new ones besides. Such a shop is quiet because soft yarn everywhere absorbs sound and there's a feeling of reverence. Such a shopkeeper is a knitter. I like she who isn't averse to sharing experience without acting like a High Priestess. I learned to knit at the same time as I learned to write. It's not that big a deal for goodness’ sake.

The tiny little lacy dress is nicely taking shape. I bought enough yarn in Wal-Mart to make outfits for both infants. But the multiple shade is knitting up more girly than white so I have to find a wool shop for the right pattern book and yarn for Reid. And I must have straight needles.

Twelve rows form the pattern - each having 143 stitches. I can't stop in the middle. I need to finish the twelfth row. I don't mind except that I'm always drawn to start a new pattern. I don't watch the clock so sometimes I am going to bed closer to four in the morning than three. I don't mind that either. But I must have straight needles.

Should I go out now and seek out a shop or will I finish the back of the dress? The front is done. The back is half done. If I go and find a knitting shop I may not get home for hours.

What to do? What to do? The Baby Shower is in a couple of weeks. The work must be completed. If I had started a month ago, I could have knitted two feather and shell pattern shawls with two-ply yarn. I don't even know if there is such a thing as two-ply yarn any more.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

An Addendum

I read the post about my grandparents again and it brought back a few more memories. So, I went back in and added a thing or two. (Keeping The Record Straight)

My family like the personal Blog better than the political. The more I write the more they want me to write. So every time I remember something else it seems sensible just to go back and slip it in. That's the beauty of Blog.

I work on some stuff for hours. I go over it again and again , tidying and tweaking, hopefully to make it flow and read better. Then there comes a point when I have to end it and post it or scrap it. Then I read it again days later and realise there was more to tell.

If James Joyce can ramble on in his endless stream of consciousness prose, I can round out memories in my own Blog. Check it out.

Heather Sisman says I'm wasting my time because people won't read it again. Well, now I'm telling you. If you liked it the frst time you might like it better the second time. What can it hurt? It's all between friends, isn't it?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Moment in the Lives of.....

Sometimes, when I waken from a night's sleep, the clarity of the image in my mind is startling. This was one of those moments.

A flashback from my childhood: My mother standing in our doorway in a one-sided conversation with a neighbour also standing in her doorway less than two feet away. In his chair, behind the door, my father, mimicking my mother and silently mouthing her occasional responses.

“Uh-huh... Uh-huh.... Hm-Hmm...… Hm-hmm.” In my memory it seems the exchange went on for a very long time.

We were a family of six: Mother,(Annie) Father(John), Annie, Patrick, Kathleen and me I was the youngest. My little brother Terry was not on the scene yet.

Mrs. McNab, our neighbour had three sons and a daughter. Donald was her husband. She was a plain thin woman with dark eyes and dark hair done up in a bun at the back of her head. She wore flat shoes , put her feet down hard with toes pointed outwards. She always carried a basket over her arm for messages when she went out. They were fairly well off. They had Sunday clothes and books. Wee Donald was a tradesman at the shipyard. He worked all the time. In Scotland and Northern Ireland only a Protestant could get into an apprenticeship.

Her name was Maggie. but people addressed each other by the title of their status. . For all the years they knew everything about each other, my mother was Mrs. Finnigan and Maggie was Mrs. McNab. It's how things were. Less familiarity seemed to mean more respect.

Mrs. McNab was a good kind soul who had lots to say about everything. When she stopped for breath my mother would fill in with an Mm-hmm or an Uh-huh.. All the while, behind the door, my father sat with arms crossed, one hand raised with a finger touching his chin. mouthing my mother's small sounds. . .

Television was unknown. Only well-off people had "the wireless". In the evening, families clustered around the fire in the light of a gas mantle. We sang boy scout songs or played guessing games like "My Mother had a Sweetie Shop" to amuse ourselves. The only warmth was in that small space around the fire.

We had a room and a kitchen. Both had fireplaces but only the one in the kitchen was ever lit. The door to the room would be kept tight shut to keep the heat in.The space never seemed small but the rooms were likely not more than eight by ten feet. There was an armchair but the weans sat on stools around the fire. They were small stools. It was a small fire
We had no such thing as popcorn, chips or any other treats. Occasionally there might be apples but never a whole one each. They would always be sliced in half. The apple would be meticulously scraped down to the skin with a teaspoon.

At the week-end, we might have a jug of ice-cream with wafers. The ice-cream man wasn't the only street vendor but he was the only one with a car. The ice cream churn sat beside him in place of the front passenger seat.

Before the war, Pepini's son had an ice-ream coloured convertible. It was magnificent. It played a jingle to announce his arrival..

Ice cream parlours were the brightest, cheeriest places in town. They had big shiny, gurgling urns for coffee. Shelves on the back wall were lined with tall beautiful glass jars filled with chocolates and toffees pastilles and satin cushions and big butterscotch-covered brazil nuts .Ice cream churns topped with heavy, shiny screwtop lids were embedded in the counter behind glass-fronted shelves filled with a wide variety of chocolate bars in colourful wrappers and fancy lettering.

Ice cream could be sandwiched between plain biscuit-coloured wafers, shell-shaped wafers, cones of various sizes or coloured double wafers with marshmallow layers between and sealed with chocolate edges. They were called nougats. The ultimate luxury and delight was a double nougat sandwiched high with ice cream .

Only Italians made ice-cream. They made it fresh every day. Serving styles were only limited by the number of ice cream parlours. It was always vanilla. In a dish, with raspberry syrup spooned over. That was a penny McAlum in Big Bob's shop. . His son was an albino. For a little more money, you could have a sprinkling of shaved chocolate or some other delicious topping. Big Bob kept his head shaved. . Like Mussolini.

Big Bob's shop was in the Halfway. It was a street halfway between the main intersection of the town, (The Cross) and the sea.

Every town in Scotland had numerous ice cream parlors and fish and chip shops. I think the craving for sweets had something to do with limited sunshine, dreary grey skies and rain.

When it came time for Italian boys and girls to marry, an envoy would go off to Italy to find a spouse. That has changed. It hasn't been altogether like that for a very long time.

Did I ever tell you about the night Italy joined Germany in the war. Apparently the announcement was expected on the news. Thugs with clubs were waiting in closes and entries and other dark places for nine o'clock. . They smashed plate glass windows and tore out equipment and supplies. What they couldn't move, they battered. I don't think there was a hint that was going to happen. It was the same all over Scotland.. Come to think of it think of it, it seems to have been spontaneous . That's weird isn't it. After the war we saw films of Germans doing that to Jewish establishments. Much like the KuKluxKlan burning crosses in the American South.

They pushed Pepini's beautiful ice-cream coloured car into the harbour. On our way to school, next morning , we found boxes of wafers and cones at the side of the river. They must have been too light in weight to fall straight into the river where they were probably thrown from the bridge.Until now I never understood how they came to be at the side of the river. .

Italian families had to hide in neighbours' homes until the rampage was over. Even their homes and personal possessions were vandalized.

At school, we were asked to contribute whatever our families could spare to help the Italian families.That was ironic.The Italians were always much better off than we were. They had their own businesses and they tended to keep to themselves.

Husbands and sons over a certain age were gathered up and transported to internment camps.We thought the camps were in Cahada. Apparently a ship taking Germans and Italians to Canada was torpedoed by the Germans and thousands lost their lives. After that they took them to the Isle of Wight instead. A lot of silly things as well as terrible stuff happened during the war.

The shops re-opened but with none of their former glory. Women and children carried on. That's what you do in the face of the terrible and the unthinkable. There isn't much else you can do.

During the war, an Italian prisoner-of-war camp was established in the sandy hills on the edge of town. In the evening, the young prisoners would sit at the side of the road playing accordions and singing or playing cards. Like young people the world over, lthe girls would promenade past to check out the talent.

Nobody I knew ever thought about Italians being enemies.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Another Epic Birthday

My first Canadian born child, Martin, became fifty this month. Marnie, the love of his life, held an open house to celebrate. They have lived in Barrie over twenty years. I expected most guests would be from there.

Save one, all of his brothers and sisters came. Mark injured his back and knee and because he wasn't there, neither was his family. They were missed but others were there to mark the epic. New partners and friends join the ever-growing circle.

Friends from his school days were there.Gary Simpson with his wife Linda and Linda's parents.Gary and Martin started kindergarten together, One year they had to be put into different classrooms. Their comedic antics distracted the entire class, including the teacher.

In Grade six , Bob Gibson came to St Joseph's from Our Lady of Grace. He was at the party with his wife Leslie. Brian Horton and Karen, Phil Alcorn and Diane.and their children, friends from Williams High School days were there. Brian and Phil grew up in Vandorf. Brian has two brothers and Phil has six. Martin has four brothers and two sisters.

Martin and Marnie were in high school together. Marnie's parents, May and the late Thompson, were heavily involved in Aurora Soccer, when it was a minority sport. Thompson was responsible for starting soccer for kids in Aurora. He taught Martin how to coach. Thompson was an intense Scot, dedicated to the sport of soccer.

Martin's son Cameron, in his twenties, has left Junior hockey and soccer behind. But his Dad is coaching a Barrie hockey team again this year.

For the party,two rooms in their house were a gallery for photographs of Martin from his Christening, in the Victorian robe I brought from England, to his wedding and breakfast reception at Seneca College. The wedding photos were taken at the Lakeside Pavilion. Seneca was a new public resource in those days.

Martin was born in 1959, two years after our arrival in Canada. We came here after the Suez Crisis in 1957. The Second World War had been and gone. But not really.

Crisis continued to follow crisis.

Germany's restoration benefited from the Marshall Plan but Britain had massive debts to pay to the United States for the lend-lease program. They had supplied us on credit . After several years of heavy corporate profits, they became our allies, when they were attacked at Pearl Harbour.

Austerity was still a national policy in 1957. Many products were manufactured strictly for export to help make the "balance of payments" of debt to the U.S. Because we needed to limit imports, we still had ration books for some items. The war had been over for twelve years. Purchase Tax was 66.66 per cent on certain items considered to be luxuries, like washing machines and vacuum cleaners. Tax on petrol was 100%.

We lived in two rooms on the main floor, with no bathroom and shared a toilet with several other households in a ninety-two year old Victorian house in N.W. London (Abbey Road). New houses were being built outside the city. Monthly cost for commuting to work were higher than a mortgage payment. The rail system was in such poor shape, hardly a week went by that commuters didn't spend hours sitting in broken down trains. In the cold.

I worked in a law office overlooking Trafalgar Square, alongside a young woman who had lived in Calgary for a number of years. She had left her husband for someone else and come home to have the lover's child and wait for him to join her. His name was Terry. He never came. She talked incessantly about Canada and carried photos with her always.

I had read Mazo de la Roche's books about Jalna and White Oaks.I was caught up in the romance. Living in the U.K. gives no sense of the distance that is Canada. In a narrow Victorian Street in London, the sky is not nearly so high or wide. I was here a while before I realized Sibbald House was Jalna.

Anyway, there was a deep and collective sigh of exhaustion in the U.K. and elsewhere in Europe when Britain and France sent their armies to secure private property from Egypt's decision to nationalize the Suez Canal. Thousands of people rose up like flocks of flamingos and emmigrated to Australia, New Zealand, Africa and Canada.

We had two sons; Stephen who was seven and Frank, not quite three. We needed to make a decision about buying a house. A couple we knew with two children also lived in rooms. But they were furnished. With each child, they had received notice to vacate. Landlords could do that if accommodation was furnished. After their second child, they bought a new house in Essex.

Never before or since have I seen such a house . There was an arch over the front door about the depth of a brick and a half. As a porch, it provided no shelter. Waiting there, a body would be half in and half out in the rain. The back door opened onto the door of the only kitchen cupboard. The kitchen was absolute utility. A deep white porcelain sink just hung there on the wall, all by itself. A bedroom opened straight off the sitting room.

They bought the house because they needed a home. A couple of years later they sold it and emigrated to Canada.

A particularly devastating tragedy happened. In Portsmouth, a bus ploughed into a company of marching cadets. I read the Daily Mirror on the bus going to work every morning. It was designed to read standing in a bus or train or waiting at a bus stop. Every day, we read another cadet had died of injuries. The sadness was overwhelming.

Thousands flocked to Toronto at the time we did. I would like to say, it was a well-planned decision. It wasn't. I used the same rationale I did for many life-changing decisions. I didn't know any reason why I shouldn't .

And so, on the occasion of my son's fiftieth birthday, surrounded by his family and friends of a lifetime, in the country of his birth, it occurred to me that a half-assed decison made when I wasn't old enough or wise enough to be afraid, turned out to be not half bad.