Tag Archives: Ontario

Places I’ve Called Home

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Way back in the day before color when farms were in black and white and sepia.

I almost called this list ‘Places I’ve Slept’ but thankfully saw the problems with that almost immediately.  Titles are hard.  Unless you don’t give a hoot about accuracy.  Anyway, here we go, a list of the various locations I’ve been referring to whenever I’ve said “let’s go home”.

    1. From birth to about age six I lived on a little farm in Ontario down the hill from my maternal grandparents farm, close to Lake Huron, beside a stone and cement bridge which spanned a raging creek.  I was little.  It looked raging to me.
    2. More permanent farm number two, about 8 miles from Port Elgin, the town I decided to call my hometown because I went to high school there.  This is the home I kept coming back to for most of my adult life, the place where my parents lived most of theirs.
    3. The Orchards house in Stratford where I boarded (a shared bedroom with a tiny little balcony) while attending Teachers College.
    4. A two bedroom apartment in St. Catharines shared with 3 other working girls.  I was a substitute teacher, on call to fill in anywhere in the city.  (This is when I met W at a residence party at the university) (it wasn’t all about work)
    5. The Wilkes house in St. Catharines where I boarded in a little smoke-filled bedroom while attending Brock University.  I was the one supplying the smoke,  convinced it helped me concentrate while writing boring English and Philosophy papers.
    6. A tiny little garage sized house in a backyard in Kenora, our first home as a married couple, close to one of W’s aunts who liked to feed us.
    7. Basement apartment in Dryden on Charles Street,  close to one of MY aunts who also liked to feed us.
    8. High rise apartment in Guelph where W went back to University and I worked at the campus bookstore, all in the interests of one day being able to feed ourselves.
    9. Basement apartment in Guelph for married University students.  Our daughters first home.
    10. Government house in Cambridge Bay, N.W.T.  Our sons first home.
    11. Row housing in Inuvik, N.W.T. The old ones close to the hospital, not the new ones on the other side of town.  We had utilidors and board walks.  And dust and mud and the scrawniest Christmas trees in the history of the world.
    12. Government house in Pond Inlet, N.W.T., right beside the Arctic Ocean.  The view from our front window was of the mountains on Bylot Island and random icebergs floating by or trapped in the ocean ice.
    13. Government house in Yellowknife on Bromley Drive, a paved street!  We were on our way back to civilization.
    14. And here we are, (and have been since the late 1980’s) in our very own mortgage free abode in sunny Alberta, the province my kids call home.

I’m glad we stopped our wandering ways.  I always worried that our kids would turn into little nomads with no roots.  Both of us had parents who stayed put even after we moved away and I wanted that stability for our kids too.

After all these years and all these places I still consider Ontario home and have vague dreams about one day going back there to end up somewhere close to the place I started.  I don’t know if it will ever happen, and really it doesn’t matter.  Home is just a thing you take with you wherever you go, leaving little pieces of your heart behind in every place you’ve ever been settled and happy. Nothing is forever, and we got good at packing up our memories and moving on.  I expect that skill will come in handy again one fine day.

 

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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.
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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.

Books About Girls, Boys, and Dinner

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The Dinner by Herman Koch.  This was a book in which I did not like one single character.  They are all nuts.  Two brothers and their wives go out for dinner in some city in the Netherlands to discuss what to do about their sons who have committed a crime but have not yet been found out by the police.  It takes pages and pages to get to this point.  Dinner goes on forever with every course described in endless detail.  There are many, many flashbacks, each helping to reveal the various relationships in each family, and how the different family members relate to each other, and how incredibly screwed up they all are.  To what lengths will they go to protect their sons and this family secret?  You will reach the end of  ‘the dinner’  still hungry, and maybe even a bit nauseous.

the burgess boys

The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout.  There are some hard to like characters in this book too, but most of them get more likable as the story goes on.  Jim and Bob Burgess are attorneys working in New York, called home to Shirley Falls, Maine, when their sister Susan’s teenage son gets himself in trouble.  There is a lot of family history to be revealed which explains the siblings character traits and strained relationships with each other.  It’s not just a story about personal, marital and family issues, it is also a story of cultural clashes, with some interesting revelations and some surprising life changes thrown in.

lost girls
Lost Girls by Andrew Pyper  I would not describe this as a terrifying thriller, but compulsively readable sounds about right.  A cocaine addicted lawyer of questionable morals defends a teacher accused of being responsible for the disappearance of two high school girls in a small town north of Toronto.  The lawyer doesn’t care about the truth, only about getting his client acquitted as quickly as possible.  The town has a crazy Lady of the Lake legend, and the lawyer has a dark episode in his own temporarily forgotten past.  Strange visions and bizarre middle of the night incidents could be drug induced dreams – or they could be real.  The characters are real enough.  The atmosphere goes from disturbing to downright creepy.  The only thing truly terrifying about the story is how ‘evil’ can appear to be so normal and how hard it can be to tell the difference.

These are all good authors, and well written books.  I’m glad I read them.  I can’t say that they made me any smarter or better informed or interesting, but it was worth a shot.

Sunday Morning, Praise the Dawning

My morning has been spent catching up on stuff.  I don’t feel like being any more specific than that because it’s Sunday morning and Sundays are made for being vague and brain-dead.  It’s a new rule I made up just now.  My best rules are spur of the moment nonsense meant to rationalize whatever I’m up to.  Or not up to.  So feel free to borrow them, break them, forget them, or adhere to them strictly.  I’m pretty open on that.

Yesterday morning I drove W to the airport (five o’clock in the morning…here am I…driving out to the airport, wishing I could fly….) (apologies to Leann Rimes and the song Blue). I have discovered that making up my own song lyrics is a great way to stay awake while driving.  But only when there’s no passengers involved in the creative process.

W is off to Ontario once again, this time on a rather sad mission, to wrap up his responsibilities for his brother who left this world quietly on January 3rd.   He fought the good fight, but it was a long and tiring one and I’m sad but thankful he was able to give it up at last. I truly believe he is in a better place now.

We were talking on the way out there about how you get to an age where the people you know and love start leaving this world on a rather regular basis.  I guess we’ve reached that age.  I don’t mean to sound callous or uncaring, but I remember whenever I talked to my mom and she’d rhyme off a list of all the people she knew who had passed away recently I’d get annoyed.  I suppose it’s a necessary evil of living so long yourself, but I found it an uncomfortable subject.  Maybe I need to get used to it.  The alternative I suppose is to not be around myself to witness these sad events.

So I’m on my own again for a couple of weeks, and the first thing I did to celebrate that was to blow up the microwave.  There is something about me and microwaves that defies compatibility.  I really thought this one was a keeper, but there you go.  It did last longer than its predecessors so that’s something.  Although not much to brag about I suppose.

There are still things to be grateful for, although having to buy yet another appliance of indeterminate life span is maybe not one of them.  The weather is mild, it is gently snowing, the house is warm and quiet.  My neighbor is shovelling our driveway.  How incredibly thoughtful and kind that is.  This insane cold bug I caught days and days ago seems to finally be loosening its grip on me.  I must say I will miss the sexy deep singing voice that came with it, but not the breathy nasal part or the part where I cough up my lungs between verses.

Here’s a Sunday morning song and a virtual drive in the snow.  I don’t really get the lyrics to this one, but then nobody really gets mine either.  So, watch out, the world’s behind you.  Maybe that means nothing at all.

Sunday morning
praise the dawning
It’s just a restless feeling by my side
Early dawning
Sunday morning
It’s just the wasted years so close behind
Watch out the world’s behind you
There’s always someone around you who will call
It’s nothing at all

Sunday morning
And I’m falling
I’ve got a feeling I don’t want to know
Early dawning
Sunday morning
It’s all the streets you crossed, not so long ago
Watch out the world’s behind you
There’s always someone around you who will call
It’s nothing at all

Home From Home

 

Your intuition will be sharper than normal today. You could actually have one of those strange psychic experiences people sometimes report, where they “just know” something good will happen to a loved one or relative, and it later turns out to be true.

Huh.  I thought the tarot cards might have come up with something a little more profound today for sleep deprived me.  I’ve had intuitive bursts of insight before, but after the fact when I’m telling people I had a feeling about whatever has just happened, I’m sure they’re sceptical.  Either way, life unfolds as it should, whether we’re ready for it or not.

It’s never happened to me before, (although W tells me it happens to him all the time) but this trip every West Jet flight was delayed.  We were late getting to Calgary, late arriving in London, and then our return 1:30 London to Winnipeg flight was cancelled and we had to wait until eight o’clock to leave for home, taking a different route.  This plane was also delayed by about twenty minutes.  Another stop in Calgary (but no plane change) and finally we landed in Edmonton close to midnight local time.  Wait for luggage, catch shuttle bus to parking lot, drive home, fall into bed around 3 a.m. Ontario time.  It was only 1 a.m. here, so we should have been able to trick our heads into thinking it wasn’t that bad.  I was too tired to think at all.

The physical tired is easy enough to deal with.  It’s the emotional exhaustion that will be a little harder to shake.  But all things considered it was a good trip.  Good-byes are hard.  Leaving is never easy.

Rainy Sunday

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This was taken from a country road close to the farm where we grew up. The colors are gorgeous here this time of year. Today we’ve had nothing but rain which has continued on from yesterday but a rainy Sunday fits our mood for the moment I guess. Not that it can stop the smiles and the laughter when we remember all the good times.
One more day with my Ontario family and tomorrow we head home to carry on as if we’re normal.
Happy October Sunday – I know the sun is shining somewhere. Thanks to everyone for their lovely comments.

W’s Return

W arrived home yesterday from his long sojourn in Ontario.  He was gone for almost six months!  We have a lot to catch up on.  You forget how different communication can be when it’s face to face, as compared to flat words on a screen when you’re texting.  Even talking on the phone, although better, can be hit and miss.  There’s all those facial expressions and hand gestures and subtle body language clues you can’t see that fill in a lot of blanks and missing parts.

Dona Paula Los Cardos Malbec, 2007
Dona Paula Los Cardos Malbec, 2007 (Photo credit: mmwm)

We went out for dinner because we’re both sick of cooking for ourselves.  (Has it really been months and months since I went out to eat?  I think it has!)  Then we shared some Dona Paula Malbec when we got home. Stayed up way too late.  I’m not used to the satellite radio being on 24/7 but something tells me I’m going to have to incorporate that into my previously quiet life alone.  As long as I can sneak in a lot of jazz stations, we should be okay.

Encyclopaedia Britannica
Encyclopaedia Britannica (Photo credit: septuagesima)

We are ‘inheriting’ the Encyclopaedia Britannica that W’s parents have had for 50 odd years – I am SO excited, although all he was able to bring back with him this time were the Book of the Year volumes from 1962 through to 1978.  Seventeen volumes of the back drop history of our lives.  Since I didn’t pay much attention to it while it was happening, I expect to learn a lot of new and amazing things.

But before I can get to that, there’s work.  I’ve been joking that now it’s MY turn to take a six-month leave of absence.  Maybe I’m not really kidding about that – the idea has a lot of appeal.

Anyway, it’s nice to have my main source of inspiration for sarcastic complaining back home safe and sound.

A Seventies Moment in Time

You never know when or where a scene from your past might suddenly surface.  My cousin Darren scanned this ancient slide and posted it on Facebook.  It’s me and W,  my bearded biologist husband, married for about a year, living in Dryden, Ontario, probably taken at my Aunt Marguerite’s (Darrens grandma’s) house.  She was so incredibly good to us when we lived there in the early 1970’s.  We were both working, but young and stupid with our money.  Thank God she liked to invite us over occasionally and feed us.

Sorry I can’t remember why we were in a hallway, posing in front of the thermostat, and I have no idea what that silvery thing is on the wall behind us.  W is wearing his Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources uniform, jacket in hand.  I’m just standing around looking happy.  I think maybe I did a lot of that in those days.

Ontari-ari-ario

No matter how long I’ve lived away from this province, coming back always feels like coming home.  We had one of those early early mornings again, getting to the airport before 5:30 a.m. for a 6:30 departure. I’m always amazed when the plane is full at that ungodly hour.

The new and improved Winnipeg Airport is a lovely change but finding my gate for the next leg of the flight was a bit of a challenge since they didn’t bother to fill in that little detail on my boarding pass.  That’s why they have big monstrous signs so you can figure these things out.  By the time I got to the gate they were already pre-boarding.  Beautiful sunny weather everywhere except in London where it was windy and overcast on landing, but the sun came out in the afternoon.

We met my brother and went out for a couple of drinks and a nice lunch.  He’s doing amazingly well, and looks so good for everything he’s been through.  He’s on his third week of treatments and is able to come home on the weekends.  One of our cousins who lives in the city joined us for lunch.  We all have crazy happy memories of summer visits to the farm and it was great to catch up on where our lives have taken us.  It really doesn’t seem that long ago that we were kids but when you’re talking about your grandchildren that should be your first clue that you’re the old people in the family tree now.

A frozen mango bellini and a glass of wine later it was time to go.  And here I am – all set up in my bedroom connected to the internet via my phone and getting in my daily post before I turn into a pumpkin.

I love my family.  It’s going to be a fun couple of weeks.

Living in Other Countries

Since W refuses to get himself even such a simple thing as a passport, I think it’s highly unlikely that we’ll ever leave Canada for a holiday, never mind actually move away and live in a different country.

My one experience going across the ocean and travelling for a couple of weeks in England and Scotland doesn’t make me much of an expert on what it’s like to live there year round. Scotland in the fall was beautiful, but I expect their winters might be just as drab as the ones we have here. Good thing our other three seasons are delightful.

Even living in another part of this country is a stretch, although both of us are from Ontario and our siblings are there. Now our kids and grandkids are Albertans and it would be very hard to go off and leave them behind. Living two or three days drive away from them makes 6 hours sound like nothing.

And if we moved away I would miss the jackrabbits. Tonight on the way home I was stopped at a red light and watched one of them dart up the lane to my right and then zip left across to the far sidewalk (with the green light) in front of six lanes of traffic. Crazy rabbit.

I have no idea why there are so many of them around, but there’s one that periodically visits our backyard. He’s no cute little bunny. Kind of homely actually, with his long face and long legs and mottled grey-brown fur. He’ll look a bit better in the winter when he turns white, but then he’s harder to see. Which is the whole point of course.

Too bad I don’t seem to have any real point for even bringing up the subject of hares in the discussion of living in another country. I was just kidding about missing them. But I felt like posting a white-tailed jack-rabbit picture, so I did and there it is.

These topics are just suggestions to get us talking, right? Tomorrow maybe I’ll work cloudberries into whatever we’re supposed to be going on about. I’d sure hate to move somewhere and never see another one of those.

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