A Letter to Me in 1963

Okay fourteen year old me, listen up.  I’m only going to tell you these things once, and some of them will hurt your feelings but they’re for your own good.  Of course you won’t believe that and you will never thank me for this, but that’s okay.

It’s just one of those pesky writing prompts which will show everyone I have a faulty memory and entirely too much time on my hands.  (As if you would listen to me anyway, unless I could make it all into song lyrics, and for some things I simply won’t live long enough.)

George Harrison

1.  You are never going to marry George Harrison.  You will never even get to meet him in real life.  Maybe set your sights just a tad lower.  You didn’t really want your children growing up saying things like tally ho and bloody hell, did you?

2.  The lyrics to “Louie Louie” are not as gross and disgusting as you have been lead to believe.  (Last night at ten, I laid her again, I f**k all girls all kinds of ways….) – not even remotely close.  Those idiots saying that’s what they get from all that moaning and mumbling are just yanking your chain.

3.  I know you love John Diefenbaker and you’re mildly annoyed when Pearson wins the election, but Lester B. does bring us a cool new national flag, so he turns out to be less than completely disappointing after all.

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

4.  It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World is not the funniest movie you will ever see.

5.  Knowing what is going to happen to JFK in November will not make it any easier to comprehend or any less shocking for you or anyone else in the world.  So I’m not going to warn you.  Although I wish I could.

Barbra Streisand

6.  Barbara Streisand is never going to get her nose altered.  So you can stop wondering what she’d look like with a different one.

7.  High School in Ontario in the sixties is five long years.  Right now, in grade nine, it feels like it will never end, but it does. Then in less than the amount of time it takes for you to live through it, you will have forgotten about 80% of the reasons you came up with for all that angst.

8. Panty hose is not the worst thing you’ll ever have to wear.  No, I take that back.  It is.

9.  Your mother says you can’t go out on a car date until you’re seventeen.  We both know that’s crazy shit.  But it’s not nice to laugh at your mother, so stop it.

Cover of "Surfer Girl"

10.  You are going to have the words to Surfer Girl by the Beach Boys in your head for the next fifty years.  Fifty!  I am not even kidding.  And the one by the Four Seasons where they tell you Big Girls Don’t Cry?  You’re right.  It’s a lie.

Last Letter From Rimbey

W will be heading home this week from his extended stay in Ontario.  I’m not kidding with the ‘extended’ part.  He’s been gone for almost six months.  My comfy, lazy, living alone days are about to come to an end.  The huge difference between 2012 and 1936 – when my dad left for his extended adventure in the wild west – is that we can phone and text daily if we feel like it.  For my mom and dad there were only a couple of letters back and forth in a month or so.  I think that must have made it feel like their time apart would go on forever as they lead their separate lives.

In this letter (the last one I have) dad seems to be winding down and wearing out from working hard and playing harder.  He’s sounding ready to head back home.

Rimbey, Alberta

October 1, 1936

Dear Marg,

I received your very welcome newsy letter last week and was I glad to hear from you, or was I?   Well I’ll say so.  I’m so glad you got a school.  What’s Marguerite doing now?  You didn’t say.  I suppose Newton is still at the same school.  There are so many questions I would like to ask it would take most of the night so I’ll quit.  I hope to see you before Santa Claus comes and when I do, Oh boy!  Won’t you see a happy boy.

I wouldn’t try to fool you by telling you I haven’t been enjoying myself here because I have really been having a whale of a time and am only half decided on whether I want to leave or not.  I told Alvin Boetger I’d call for him at Moosejaw on the way home, so I guess I’ll strike out anyway, although I haven’t any idea when. It will likely be some time yet because this job lasts for at least a month if I’ll stay.  I don’t know my own mind for any length of time.

The night I posted that last letter I broke the axle of the car and I rode to Springdale on horseback and what a night.  Twelve miles both ways.  I left here about ten and got there for three dances, then rode back again.  I let the horse walk and the sun was just coming over the edge of the hills when I arrived home.  I certainly felt great the next few days.  I was hobbling around like an old man.  It’s all worn off by now of course.

There’s another dance tomorrow night at the same place, so I’ll say goodbye to everybody just in case I take a notion.  The way I did when leaving home.  I don’t know whether it would be safe for me to land in home now or not.  I might have some difficult questions to answer.  Oh well, I’ve had lots of things to figure out for myself all summer.  Harold tells me I’ve changed a hell of a lot this summer – what do you think of that?  I hope it’s for the better.  I sort of have my doubts though.  I’ll ask you when I see you.  (next spring??)

Threshing Scene

Threshing Scene (Photo credit: Galt Museum & Archives on The Commons)

I hear nearly everybody is getting married up there.  I hope you haven’t any such foolish notion!?  I think it’s too much fun this way myself.  I’ve been disking the last few days with six horses abreast and is it dusty.  I got in seven days of threshing – wasn’t that a lot?  Oh well, I’m still living.  We certainly had a whale of a time threshing.  Harold was the life of the gang.  He sure was foolish.  Well I’ve been talking here for a long time and forgot anything I was going to say, so I’ll sign off for now.


Another night.  How are you doing, etc.  Saturday in fact.  I’m waiting for my boss to bring back my car from town and then I’m going places, to post this letter, etc.  The dance last night was a howling success.  A big time, but not so much fun today.  They tell me I’m getting thin, but I don’t believe it.  I haven’t had a good appetite for the last three weeks but I’m still feeling not too bad.  They tell me I’m  homesick.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re right.  You’ll have to try like a school teacher to make connections in this letter.

Smithson Museum in Rimbey

Smithson Museum in Rimbey (Photo credit: Sherlock77 (James))

There really hasn’t been anything overly exciting happen and I don’t know what to write being you don’t know the people here.  There’s a girl here wants to go back east with us.  She’s taken a shine to Harold I think.  I told her we had a load, sorry, etc.  I’m getting good at saying things I don’t mean – I guess that’s bad, what?

Well kid, I’ll have to call this a letter.  Anyway, I made a stab at it, which is more than I did during the summer.  The car is coming, so toodeloo.

With loads of love and kisses,


My Mother Was A Dreamer (Part Two)

The second letter my mother wrote to herself was on her twenty-fifth birthday, to her thirty-year-old self.  She’s a bit deleriously in love I think.

R.R. 4 Port Elgin

Feb. 17, 1942

Happy Birthday Margaret.

And how does it feel to be thirty?  Today as I sit in S.S. # 4 Saugeen on my twenty-fifth birthday evening, I do indeed wish you the very best in health and contentment as you leave your twenties.  But on this, my birthday, let’s look back a few years.  Yes, carefree Marnie of twenty, I have had a lot of dreams come true.  By June I will have finished six years of teaching.  Marnie never dreamed of a No. 9 Bruce with Mr. and Mrs. White and Helen, all the swell children there at school, and the Christmas Cake and other ways they showed their kindness.  The crocinole games and hockey matches and baseball games and even a high (or was it low?) dash cutter.  But it too is past and it’s funny that I should really be teaching in No. 4 after sort of wishing for that all along.  That’s one dream come true.

But far above them all is the one of really having the love of the only one for me in all I’ve known.  Through the years we’ve known eachother, our lives have in many ways been linked together even though at times we’ve seemed far apart.  For two years now we’ve shared a secret too precious for others to know and so real, we hope this year our dreams may come true.  That is why his Margie is so very happy on her 25th birthday.  And may it be the very special year for us if God wills.

And as I look into the future and see you in 1947 – if you are still Margie – if you still deserve his care and kindness – if you remember always the little things that help life for others – if you have not forgotten the place your Church should play in your life – if you can smile though life has not given you all you hoped for, then you have not disappointed me.

At twenty five you hoped for someone to call you Marnie now,  and though no one does, well you don’t seem to mind.  Even if your castles in the air have not all come true, I’m sure my dear you’ve had your share of life’s treasures too.  But if you can touch his hand and hold close his curly head, you have a priceless treasure, and that is my true wish for you, my dream girl of 1947.

New friends are probably near, but still there is, now and always,  Blanche, Lena, Vera (who I hope may soon be someone I’ve really seen) and Nina too though she now lives in Manatoulin Island as Mrs. May and Blanche is Mrs. Delbert Wheatley and Ettie is Mrs. Carmen Currie.  And Marguerite will always be someone very special.

Our family too is scattering and I’m wondering where we will all be in 1947.  Mabel is now in Toronto and Gomer in the R.C.A.F. in Toronto, and Edna at high school and Mother and Dad at home.  Many changes have taken place too.  Grandpa and Aunt Abbie both gone and Grandma still with us and very much her old self.

Can you remember the stormy 17th, dusk gathering as you sat writing by the fire at the back of the school, and now home to Jamiesons and maybe a word or two more from there.  There always seems to be things we regret and one of them is the 2 lb. box of chocolates that came yesterday.  But tonight, nothing can mar the happiness – a letter and card from Hank “Looking Ahead” and a telephone call from Dad and home.  Tonight what I wear or what I’m doing seems so very unimportant because life seems all bound up in a certain someone who is in Nobel and still says he does so love his Margie.  And though we are separated by miles tonight we seem nearer than ever, and if that love grows richer with life’s experiences you will, Margie, be very very happy on this, your thirtieth birthday.

Bye from Margie, on her twenty-fifth Birthday.

I don’t know why I know this, but the disappointing regretful box of chocolates was from another man who very much wanted to be in my mother’s life.  She was such a lovely and kind person I don’t think she knew how to get rid of him. Especially without giving away her special secret.

Five months after this letter was written, the “secret” was finally revealed to all and my parents got married.  They had at last saved enough money to buy their first home together.  It was the last year that mom would teach school.  And my brother was born in April of 1946, so I hope you will forgive my mother for not having time for something as silly as writing yet another letter to her future self  in 1947, when he wasn’t yet a year old.

Sisters For Life

The year is perhaps 1921 (does my mother look to be about four years old and my aunt perhaps two?)

Yesterday I got a beautiful hand written letter from my Aunt M who is in her 90’s.  She is the last sibling of four and she told me how much she misses my mom, and their brother and baby sister.  Aunt M. was the one who supposedly had a weak heart and a delicate constitution and had to carefully monitor her acivities and never over do things.  She married late in life, allowed herself one pregnancy, adopted a baby girl, and opened her home to countless foster children over the years while her own children were growing up. She is a widow who still lives on the same farm (52 years and counting) now with her son and daughter-in-law and 15 year old grandaughter (who incidently shares my mother’s name.)  She has outlived a lot of people, surprising no one more than herself.  She is a thirteen year survivor of breast cancer, walks with a cane, forgets to turn on her hearing aids, does the crossword puzzle and jumble words in the newspaper every night and never turns down a scrabble game challenge.  I remember her as a most serene and calm and loving woman, always smiling and humming, and sweetly, softly, vibrantly alive.  Her gorgeous red hair has been snowy white for years and her creamy skin is wrinkled, but anyone who looks can still see how beautiful she is.

In the letter she thanked me for all my Christmas cards over the years, and for the last one which included a picture of my five grandchildren and a little note about each one.  She asked me if I remembered the picture she took of me feeding the goose, because she still has it, and still remembers me saying “He likes me!”


In this picture I’m four and my sister is one.  I have the same dark hair and no nonsense dutch boy cut that my mother had, and my little sister, being no less gorgeous than Aunt M was so many years ago, has blonde curls that I will covet and envy for a lifetime. I look a little dubious in this shot, but she did become my best friend, even though I’ve admired and envied way more things about her than just her hair over the years.

I regret that my own daughter didn’t grow up with a sister – there is something magical about sisters – but she has an amazing brother and a beautiful (and no less amazing) sister-in-law that she loves more than she likely ever would have loved an actual sibling.  It’s a joy to see them together and I hope they both treasure their friendship and their sisterhood for the rest of their lives.  You never know who will be left behind with all the memories.