Vintage Books and Glasses

When I visited my sister recently, I had forgotten that she has been the guardian of some of the old family treasures from long ago. It was a pleasant surprise to see the items being kept safe behind the glass doors of a china cabinet.

The small blue liqueur glasses and decanter were perhaps bought in our first few years in Canada, more than half a century ago. The small wine or martini glass with the yellow swirls and the spiral stem is from a set that came to Canada with my parents back in 1953. This one is probably all that is left of the set.

When I saw it, I thought of my tongue. Odd, you might think, but memories that involve the senses can be very strong and long lasting.

My parents used to bring out these special yellow swirly glasses at Christmastime and pour a little egg liqueur from a bottle of Bols advocaat. We children were too young to be allowed alcohol, but once in a while, and because it was a festive season, we were allowed to lick out the last bit of advocaat from the yellow swirly glasses. Kind of gross, in hindsight, but as kids, we were thrilled.

So you can see that the yellow swirly glass holds special memories for me — not only the taste of the advocaat, but the smell of Christmas baking, the beautiful Christmas music, the coziness of the house and the love given to us by our parents.

Some might say these glasses are just inanimate objects, but they hold the key to a gold mine of memories.

Under the shelf with the glasses, two books leaned against the back of the cabinet. The old copy of Forever Amber, which I read when I was 16 (and that wasn’t yesterday), and another of my favourite stories, Little Black Sambo. The bigwigs now say that this book is racist, and have banned it, but I loved reading it and never once felt anything negative towards people of another race from that experience. My family and I simply loved that story.

Thanks to Luanne Castle https://writersite.org/2017/11/02/magical-bowls/

for the nudge to trot out old memories.

The Happy Couple

Today’s post is probably going to be the last of the “doll series,” mainly because I don’t have any more dolls. This last pair is the oldest and came to our household about 1975 as a wedding gift brought back from Mexico by one of my sisters.

They both look a little bit in shock. The impact of the meaning of the word “lifetime” has just hit them.

After 42 years, her hands are swollen from all the hard work and her feet look sore. He has obviously been tearing his hair out, putting up with her, and his hands and feet are pretty clumpy too.

But they’re still together. They must have something good going on to make them stay.

Being Thankful

Susie Lindau has invited fellow bloggers to a hashtag party called the #Blessed Project.

Click on this link to join Susie at her party! https://susielindau.com/2016/11/22/join-the-blessed-project-and-link-up-your-blog/.

My contribution to this blog party is probably much like many other people’s, but it never hurts to say it out loud how thankful we are for our blessings.

I am thankful for:

  1. my husband and our relatively good health. Without it, all the money in the world is worthless.

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2. my wonderful family – both on my side and the Captain’s.

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3. my dogs, Emma and Ruby, who are as much a part of the family as the people are.

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4. readers of my novels. I love writing and it’s great to be able to share my stories.

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5. having enough food to eat and clean water to drink.

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6. The list could go on for miles. Besides the usual family, health, and food and shelter blessings, I am lucky to live near the ocean and yet travel to inland places I love.

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7. I am lucky to be able to see wildlife close to home, especially birds, raccoons, and squirrels. Bears, not so much, although it’s a thrill to see them occasionally.

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8. I feel blessed to have good personal friends and blogging friends.

9. I love living in Canada and visiting the United States.

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10. I should round it off at ten things, but there is too much competition for which blessing should be the last one I’ll mention.

Thank you, Susie, for this great idea. It makes us think of positive things at a time when most of us are getting stressed over the pressures of the upcoming holiday season. It should be a holiday, but someone has to make those cookies, cook those meals, buy those gifts, decorate the house, etc. So when the crush of “have to’s” is getting us down, let’s remember how truly blessed we are.

Playing Annie Oakley

When my sister was small enough to fit into a suitcase, we were all playing with guns. Not real guns, of course, but guns just the same. My hero at the time, because we lived in what we thought of as the Wild West, was Annie Oakley.

My brother and two sisters and I spent hours playing “Cowboys and Indians” out in our backyard and in the backyard of our neighbours who were real Indians. They were Cree and were our best friends in our elementary school days.

We rode our pretend horses around the trails that surrounded our houses. We were on the outskirts of town, a new subdivision going in, developing very, very slowly in our northern town. The hills of excavated soil to be backfilled the next spring provided lookout points and we slapped our thighs  and made clicking noises to spur on our horses, galloping up the hills of dirt, down the gullies of the back alley, and around the sheds and our houses. We stopped behind shrubs to spy on each other, ambushing a careless rider, and killing them with our sixguns.

The irony of our Cowboys and Indians game was that we white folks always wanted to be the Indians and they wanted to be us. Sometimes we took turns. No one ever got hurt, as we were the best of friends, but the goal was to see which team would have “the last man standing” and for the rest of us, who could die the most dramatically. In those days I thought that when you died, no matter what you were doing when you got shot, you had to lie down on your back and spread your arms out (like Jesus on the cross), and close your eyes.

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After all that play with guns, none of us ever had the idea of really shooting someone. We knew it was just a game and that you didn’t play with real guns. We had a healthy respect for guns and never confused pretending to shoot our “Cowboy and Indian” friends in the backyard with shooting anyone with a real gun.

In this picture, my sister was probably about 3 or 4 years old. She was very well adjusted even then, and so she is to this day.

So what has changed in this world that people don’t understand the difference between play and reality anymore?

Walk Across Canada

Who would think that a 94-year-old woman could walk across Canada? Not only did she do it, but she’s on her way back.Of course it’s not as if she’s really out there on the Trans-Canada Highway in the elements and the traffic, but she did actually put the miles in, locally.

My mother-in-law, Myrtle, is living in the Berwick independent living retirement home in Comox. Berwick has an excellent recreation program which Myrtle just loves. They offer osteo-exercise classes and strength and balance classes and they encourage the residents to get out walking as much as possible. As we all know, the sedentary lifestyle is not good for our health.

In Berwick’s lobby is a map of Canada where participants’ names are pinned as they clock miles on their regular walks around the Comox neighbourhoods. The goal is to virtually walk across Canada. It is not a race, but an incentive to get out walking, and to have fun.

002a Myrtle loves to walk and always has. For her 94th birthday she got a pedometer so she could know exactly how far she walked each day. When she walked two miles, we told her not to overdo it, but she’s quite stubborn when she sets her mind to something, and the daily distance increased along with our fears that she would keel over one day, as she constantly tried to improve on her personal best. We’ve nagged her to slow down and she insists that she feels fine doing  sometimes five miles a day. We’ve given up now and will have to trust that she knows her own limits.

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For the “Walk Across Canada,” everyone starts in Comox, on Vancouver Island. Each day someone on the recreation staff at Berwick calculates the distance each participant has walked and marks their progress on the map. The red arrows show the direction of the walkers. Congratulations to Lorna, Ruth, Marg, and Bill who are almost there, on the east coast. Special congratulations to Myrtle who is already on her way back.

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My amazing mother-in-law.

 

 

 

 

Oh Canada!

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“I love this country.”

I’ve said that many times and sometimes people ask me, “What do you mean? You love the country? The land? The government? What?”

“Everything!” I say. “It was a struggle to adjust at first, but I would never wish to live anywhere else.”

When I was six years old, my parents immigrated to Canada from Germany. I was just starting grade one. I was still pretty naive and thought everyone in the world spoke the same language, so at school, when I babbled away in German, the kids laughed and the teacher rolled her eyes discreetly. I tried again, but they didn’t understand me. I didn’t understand them either, so you’d think that made us even, but the thing is they understood each other. I had a few tough days ahead, but my parents were very supportive and encouraging.

I soon clued in that I had to figure out this new language. “Yes,” “no,” and “thank you,” became the first words I learned. I remember that in my first report card I had a “U” in Language. “U” stood for “unsatisfactory” in those days. My parents were not pleased but they were understanding. By June of that grade one year I had made my parents proud with an “O” for “outstanding.”  Kids learn quickly and much of it is learned on the playground.

I was so lucky to have had the opportunity to grow up in Canada. Germany has an excellent school system, but in Canada, it seems that the spirit of education is freer. “You can achieve whatever you put your mind to.” If I had stayed in Germany, I would have had an excellent education too, but the mindset would have been different. In those days it would have been more like, “This is what you are suited for, so this is what you should do.” Subtle differences, but the freedom to think and create and choose are fundamental here.

I love this country, not only for its nature that seems to be everywhere because of the vastness of the land and the relative sparseness of population, but for the kind of people who live here. When you live in a harsh environment such as Dawson Creek was with its clay gumbo mud and its bitter cold -40 winters, you are thankful for the help of neighbours, friends, and even strangers.

The first time our car got stuck in that deep gumbo, everyone got out and pushed, but it wasn’t enough. The next car that came along, stopped and the people jumped out to help push us out of the mud.  Most of us were splattered in mud, but everyone was smiling. After we thanked our rescuers, my mother said, “This would never have happened in Germany,” and she didn’t mean that they would have had the roads plastered instead of leaving them to get so muddy. “People would have driven past and not helped.” It’s not that German people are unkind or unsympathetic. Far from it. But in a small country with a large population, you become wary of strangers. She might just as well have said, “This would never have happened in New York, or Chicago, or LA.”  But in a pioneer situation, and in harsh conditions, people help each other.

I may not always agree with what our government is doing, but I love that freedom to disagree without persecution. It’s having the freedom to think and speak for myself (while abiding by the laws of the country) that makes this a wonderful place to live.

If I had one thing to say to young Canadians of today it would be, “Be proud of your country and grateful for the privilege of being a Canadian.”

Gift Giving

Oh goodie!  A present!

But wait. Is it freely given, or does it come with strings attached? And will I now be expected to reciprocate?

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For some people, gift giving is easy. They have a knack for choosing just the right thing and the right time to give the gift.They seem to know all the etiquette involved and do everything right.

With various celebrations, including Mother’s Day, coming up, I’ve been pondering the idea of gift giving. “What? When? Whether? Why?” and many other questions roiled around in my head.

I found myself thinking about why people give gifts. Sometimes the giving is done from sheer love and generosity; other times under duress and necessity. It’s a complicated custom, this gift giving. To make it even more complicated, not all gifts are tangible items. They could take the form of favours, time, free labour, or many other non-material things.

Here are a few of the reasons people give gifts:

  • to make someone happy
  • to even a perceived score
  • to ingratiate themselves with the receiver
  • to get something from the receiver
  • because duty demands that they give a gift on this occasion
  • to get rid of something they didn’t want anyway
  • to win someone’s love
  • to gain influence
  • to stay in the receiver’s good graces

I’m beginning to wonder if I like the idea of gift giving so much anymore. To my mind, the only worthwhile reason for giving a gift  is the first one – to make someone happy.

Have you ever received a gift that is obviously of no value to the giver? Does it make you wonder what they were thinking? It could be a case of “This item is no good to me but I know who would like to have it.” Or it could be, “Duty says I have to give a gift. I know, I’ll get rid of this ugly thing I’ve never liked anyway.”

The first seems acceptable to me, but the second makes me wonder what the giver thinks of the person to whom they are giving the “ugly thing.”

Have you ever received a gift that is shabby and conveys that the person thinks it’s good enough for you?

Have you ever received a gift of such value that you feel you’ll never be able to reciprocate and so you will always be beholden to the giver if you accept?

Have you ever received a gift that shows that the giver gave no thought at all to whether or not it might please you?

Gift giving can be complicated. Do you have a gift story to share with us?