Category Archives: Flashback Fridays

Hair Today Gone Tomorrow

This morning I cut my hair myself, something I’ve been messing about doing half my life it seems.  And I’ve spent the other half being upset with, happy with, or puzzled by the results of professional haircuts.  At least when I do it myself I save time, learn something, and am always delighted to use the money and time I would have spent with a hairdresser on something more fun.  And less traumatizing.

When we first moved to the Arctic with our one year old daughter my hair was long and straight.  I wore it pulled back at the neck, braided, up in a pony tail and even in pig tails sometimes.   We lived in an isolated community with few amenities, accessible only by air, and I was pregnant and bored.  There’s a deadly combination.  After weeks of conversing with a toddler because my husband was always working or away, using up all my yarn and craft supplies and watching it snow,  I decided to hack off my hair.  Hey, it passed some time.  I took off only a few inches that first time, but then my mother in law sent me the first curling iron I ever owned and the real experimenting began.

image
This is me with my two babies (February 1976) after six months in Cambridge Bay and who knows how many self-inflicted hair cuts.  Once my son arrived I had much less time to be bored so the frequency of hair cuts slowed down considerably.

Fast forward to Christmas that same year when we flew to Ontario.  Our son was almost eleven months old and our daughter was two and a half.  I was long overdue for a visit to a salon.  Mothers of young children generally aren’t known for their astute sense of fashion and style, which might explain why I decided to get my hair cut in a “shag”‘ made popular by people like Jane Fonda in the movie Klute.

When I returned with my newly shorn “do” my daughter stopped in her tracks and stared at me.  Not much ever made that kid slow down, so that’s why I remember it.  I picked her up and she grabbed a little fist full of what was left of the hair at my forehead and said “MOMMY ARE YOU IN THERE?”  Yes, my daughter always spoke in caps lock.

image image
And yes, those are bangs. The shortest bangs in history, except maybe for the ones little kids cut by accident on themselves.  I thought you also might enjoy seeing W in a pink paper party hat, and a messy gift opening Christmas Eve.  And my classy shoes?  Don’t miss those.

The great thing about hair is it keeps on growing and after a couple of months I finally made peace with this hair cut.

image
image
Jane Fonda, eat your heart out.

A Day Without Needles

Hey, what happened to my flashback Fridays?

When I have an upcoming appointment scheduled (and the latest one was this morning at the university hospital) my whole self goes in to a semi catatonic state of mild dread. I don’t function well, unless you consider worrying to be a skill.

The funny thing is I don’t realize I’m doing it until there’s this rush of relief flooding over me when it’s all done and I’m driving home and the sun is shining and it’s Friday and the weekend and FRIDAY!  Oh yeah!  The flashback thing I started.

But first, finally I talked to a doctor who would like to try something different instead of repeating the same procedures in what has seemed to be a random fashion, always giving the same negative results.  So instead of doing yet another needle biopsy less than four months after the last double one, he did only an ultrasound this morning.  He is going to schedule me for a core biopsy instead because it removes a larger tissue sample on which they can do more tests.  And it involves a local anesthetic, and thus a needle but there were no needles today!

So until that’s arranged and the cycle of dread begins again, I feel light-hearted and anxiety free and in a mood to make fun of my hair styles over the years.

image image image
From age six to grade six to Teachers College graduation, the Dutch boy cut morphed to a bob with a Hollywood wave and then to a sleek whatever that is. Easy to look after mostly, and in the process of growing to acceptable hippy length standards.

In between somewhere there was this.

imageThe original cone head?  I can’t even.  But look at that swanky screen door with the big M.  I remember when we got that, thinking it was pretty nice, and a good backdrop for a photo I guess.  Who knows what all was going on in my pointy little head.

Hope you’re having a no needle Friday wherever you are, and whatever the state of your hair.  Don’t worry, one day you will get to the point where it’s just hilariously funny and doesn’t really matter that much anymore.  Except maybe to the people who have to be seen with you in public.  But that’s their problem.

What Makes Things Go

imageMy big brother was always interested in things that ran, things with wheels, mechanical and motorized and intricately put together devices and how they functioned.  He loved mechanical sets and model airplanes and taking things apart to discover how they were assembled in the first place.  My dad often said if anybody could figure out how something worked it was him.

He wasn’t always a hundred percent successful.  I had an alarm clock with a face painted in a woodsy scene with two little elves moving up and down on a teeter- totter with each tick-tock.  I begged him to leave it alone.  And then one day, there it was, in a million pieces with my brother poring over the parts, happily working away on something that wasn’t broken until he decided to fix it.  The little elves never played on that see-saw again.

Not surprisingly, with all that practice, he became an amazing mechanic.  We learned to never ask him anything about our vehicles unless we wanted to listen to an hours worth of baffling diagnostic mechanical information.  Once he warmed to his subject there was no shutting him down.  Might as well grab a coffee and try to keep up with your eyes open.

There are a few of photos of me as a child with a cat draped over my shoulder.  It’s a mystery to me why a kid thinks a cat needs to be picked up and carted about, or why a cat allows it.  We always had outside barn cats, never house cats until we were adults.  I was afraid of dogs for a long time with a recurring nightmare of a big black dog chasing me.  No idea where that came from.  Anyway, there I am, confused by how happy my brother is to be making a little wooden tricycle go when there are cats to be lugged around.

Often we had cats of unknown origin on the farm.  They may have migrated from other farms close by or been dropped off in the country as discarded city pets.  They kept the rodent population in check and more or less looked after themselves.  Once we had a litter of all white kittens which we happily named Snow, Snowflake, Snowball, Sugar, Winter…every white thing we could think of.  They all ended up being called “one of those white cats” because we couldn’t tell them apart.  Later we progressed to more sophisticated cat names such as Spooky, Pooky, Donovan and Trigere.

In his last years on the farm dad had two almost identically marked cats he called Daryl and Other Brother Daryl.  He claimed to know one from the other, but I’m skeptical about that.

Despite all the cats, or maybe because of them, I never became a cat lady.  Although I suppose there’s still time for that to happen, if I ever get to missing a big furry body purring in my face.  My brother had dogs as pets his whole life.  Could be, compared to cats, it’s just much more interesting to figure out what makes a dog tick.

Smile

imageNo, this is not a poster for toothpaste.  Or one for striped shirts or vintage wallpaper, although it could be all of those things.  It’s a Friday flashback to the 1950’s.

In which my mothers face says….

  • OMG I have two children, both dressed and with their hair combed!
  • Did I comb my own hair?  I can’t remember. I will smile BIG and no one will notice!
  • Please hurry up and press the shutter button so I can blink my burning eyes!

Of course I don’t know if she was thinking any of those things.  But she does look like a typical slightly frazzled mom, ready to jump up and get back to the million things she’s in the middle of doing.

The room was in our house, or my grandmas, or my aunts, or some other relatives;  I’m too small to remember any of it, or what is so fascinating somewhere up there on the ceiling.

I do remember how popular wainscotting was though.  Beautiful dark wood paneling half way up the walls.  I’m sure my grandma had it in her kitchen, so maybe that’s where we were.  But it was everywhere.  Perfect for banging your kitchen chairs or other furniture against without damaging the walls or wallpaper.  Not a great drawing surface for kids.

One of my mothers favourite qualities in any household item was its ability to “not show the dirt”.  Her choices for walls and floors and upholstery were firmly based on that.  She was aghast when my sister put champagne coloured carpet in her living/dining room.  It didn’t last long after their kids came along, but it was gorgeous when it was new.

And where has the house dress gone?  All the ladies I knew when I was growing up wore nothing but dresses for every occasion, covered up with an apron if they were doing something messy, to keep them nice.  They also covered up the good furniture with slip covers.  And put their out of season clothes in zipped up garment bags with moth balls.

We are influenced by the past, although I never once felt the urge to do housework in a dress.  I have a sort of faux wainscotting in my kitchen with dark paint on the bottom, light on the top, and a wallpaper border to separate them.  The spare room in the last house my parents owned was done up in green and white ivy wallpaper.  Maybe some things just never get old.  Although maybe they should.

Little kids in striped shirts with big smiles and a doting mom – that’s timeless.

Grandmas Were Not Always Grandmas

imageThis is my maternal grandmother, born in 1887.  Isn’t she gorgeous?  I’m guessing this picture was taken in her late teens or early twenties before she was married.  In the right lower corner there is a ghost hand about which she doesn’t appear to be overly concerned.  We believe the original photo was cut in half , so whoever was sitting opposite her remains a mystery.

I love her tidy dark hair, the high collared blouse and her high-waisted skirt.  That pensive gaze rivals the Mona Lisa.

And here she is, some seventy years later.

image

Still gorgeous, still smiling, but with a little less hair to pull back with pins.  She is posing with my brother, my sisters and me (on the right), four of her twelve grandchildren.  After this fleeting moment in time she had a lot more years of her life left to live.  An unforgettable lady.

“The more we love the more we lose. The more we lose the more we learn. The more we learn the more we love. It comes full circle. Life is the school, love is the lesson. We cannot lose.”
― Kate McGahan

Someone Left the Cake Out

imageOn my first birthday I had already been walking for 3 months.  My sturdy bowed legs were something I always blamed on my mother but she said there was no stopping me.  Obviously the droopy drawers didn’t slow me down either.  Does anyone even remember pinned cloth diapers covered with plastic elasticized bloomer type pants?  No wonder kids were easier to toilet train before disposables became so dry and comfy.  There’s no motivation to get out of them like there was for this bulky chafing paraphernalia.

The old Kodak box camera had no flash, so photos were taken in bright sunlight streaming through a window, or the subject and the props were simply moved outside.  I remember this little three-legged table, one of a pair and eventually used by my grandma shoved up flat against a wall in the sunlight holding potted plants.

image
This is quite possibly the least attention I ever paid to a cake in my life.
image
That’s it.  Totally done with standing still.  My turn to play with the camera.

Bedtime Cookbook

image

How far shall we flash back this fine Friday?  More than a lifetime for some of you, and just a drop in the time bucket for the rest of us.

What is more delightful than two recently bathed children with shiny clean hair all ready for bed?  Sitting together, sharing, being super good so bedtime will be delayed.

This was not a rare moment.  My mom often remarked on how well my kids got along with each other.  That changed for a while in their teens, but really, underneath the growing pains, they have always remained good friends.

I know it looks like the reflection of a halo on my daughters head, but don’t let it fool you.  She had her un-angelic moments.  And I never realized my son had such expressive toes.  I think that might be our polar bear hide on the wall in the background.  Hard to believe now we ever had such a thing.  But this is the NWT in the late 1970’s.  We didn’t know any better.  And that awful brown colonial furniture was in every government house.

One other thing I noticed in this faded photo is that the book they’re reading is not a kids book (although they had lots of those I swear). It appears to be a cookbook.  My poor children.  Is this what I gave them instead of reading them a bedtime story?  I can imagine the two of them pointing at the pictures saying – what is this yummy dish called?Mom has never made anything this awesome for us!  Maybe she doesn’t know how!  Maybe she doesn’t really love us!

Hey, they’re alive and clean.  Looks like it was a good parenting day to me.

Farming for a Living

There’s no such thing as a slow news day in a small town.  Not when you have long-term residents willing to tell you their story and dig up a couple of old photos to go with it.

This “news” article was published in the People section of the Port Elgin Beacon Times on July 28, 1999 when my dad was 85.  There are a few mistakes in it, the funniest one being where they say our youngest sister is “Barbara” which isn’t even close to her real name.  That’s okay, she likes to remain anonymous.

Dad was the 8th of 10 children, not 9, but his youngest brother died in a bicycle accident when he was just a boy.  Maybe dad chose to skip over that part.

Hope you enjoy this little slice of history.
image
image
image
image
image
I lived here until I was 5 or 6 so my memories of it are vague. There was a hand pump in the kitchen for water, and we had baths in a big wash tub on the kitchen floor. The next farm-house we lived in had hot and cold running water and a bath tub upstairs. Now if people have fewer than four bathrooms in a house they are likely to complain. How times change.

Getting It Done in ’71

imageSet your time machines to November 20th, 1971 and let’s talk about going away outfits.  I’ve heard they’re supposed to be stylish and sophisticated and perfect, carefully chosen ensembles you wear for the last dance at your wedding reception before embarking on your romantic honeymoon and the beginning of your new life.

Does anyone even do those anymore?  I’m so out of touch with what goes on at weddings.  I was completely out of touch at my own.  It would have made me so happy to get married barefoot on the beach or to simply elope.  W was all for that too, but our  families were both big on tradition and we got swept up in the kerfluffle.  I’m pretty sure my mother and my mother-in-law did more sighing and eye rolling at my lack of interest than I noticed at the time.  They kept asking me questions even though they hardly ever liked my answers.

Things we didn’t get quite right –

  1. There was no engagement ring.  We couldn’t afford one and picked out inexpensive gold wedding bands instead.  I would have lost a diamond.  I lost my wedding band three times.
  2. There was no veil.  I made a hooded dress with braided silver trim.  It cost about twenty five dollars.  I wanted my sisters hooded dress to be deep purple, but they couldn’t find suitable material in that colour, so it was royal blue.  Close enough.
  3. There was no hairdresser.  By the time this picture was taken my self inflicted bouncy curls had bounced their last and I looked more or less back to normal.
  4. The best man (W’s brother) and the ushers (my brother and a friend) all had different coloured suits and shirts and ties and probably socks, for all I know, because we told them just to wear whatever they had.
  5. The flowers were artificial.  It was November.  There was freezing rain. We had a church ceremony, a church basement supper, and a get together at my family farm house after that.  The dance was a week later a thousand miles away with the grooms side of the family.
  6. We forgot to book a room somewhere, so spent our wedding night at my girlfriend and her husbands house after banging on their door and waking them up.  Good thing they both had a sense of humour.
  7.  We had no honeymoon, unless you count a two day drive from         my home town to his.

Oh, let’s just stop at lucky number seven, shall see? There’s lots more but this is getting depressing, and besides, I want you to look at those going away outfits!  I must have pulled some random thing out of my closet because my face is saying “I’m married!  I don’t care!”  And W is wearing his university blazer (that’s confetti, not dandruff) but it’s hard to focus on his clothes because of those sideburns!  I can’t even.  I’m sure you can’t either.  Proof that love is blind is all I can say about that.

image
Weddings make me hungry.  Handbag under my arm, mouth full of cake, ready to blow this pop stand and set the world on fire.  Maybe starting with that brown and beige thing I’m wearing….

The Other Three Bears

image
Cousin “Baby Elaine”, Little Sister Ann, and me… Child of the Three Bears Skirt

I may not remember this moment (circa 1954) or why we called our cousin Baby but never referred to the littler sister that way, or posing with them all dressed up in skirts with straps, holding hands and no doubt being cajoled into saying cheese…but I will never forget that three-bears skirt of mine.

Just by looking at us you will understand how hard it was to compete for attention with these two gorgeous little Shirley Temples in my life, but I wonder if that day it didn’t bother me so much.  Because I was wearing the best skirt in the universe.  It was red corduroy with brown and white fuzzy appliquéd teddy bears, a birthday gift from a maiden aunt who always gave us birthday gifts to remember. Then she got married and had kids of her own and after that didn’t spoil us quite so much. She’s the one who cemented my love of all things red. There was also a shiny red faux leather purse another year.  But that fabulous skirt was still the best.  It was brand new, not a hand-me-down, mine first!  I put it on and wanted never to take it off again.

It was probably a very sad day when I outgrew it.  I expect it got passed  on several times to other little girls who loved it too.  That’s what we did with clothes, there was always someone else who could use them and when they were worn beyond repair the good bits got cut up for quilt blocks.  A favourite game was to sit with a quilt over your legs and  find grandmas Sunday dress or your brothers old plaid shirt.

Just so no one gets an overdose of nostalgia or cute I am going to try to limit my maudlin flashbacks to Fridays.  Once a week seems about right.

Here’s to a great weekend, and patchwork quilts full of memories,  and teddy bears,  and all things red.