Thursday, 13 June 2013

Thoughts on family

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 I had so much fun at the chapel last night with the Young Women, talking to them about the art of illustration.  I'm not sure they weren't bored and lost interest off and on . . . but that is teenage girls.  For the most part they seemed to be enjoying it and I hope that they learned at least some of the principles of what drawing is all about.  I hope that I was able to convey to them that there is no such thing as a bad drawing, that art is subjective and that it comes from the heart . . . and that even a stick man can be a beautiful thing.

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That everything is composed from an assortment of different shapes . . . put together . . . and that even the simplest of drawings can convey deep meaning and thought . . .

In any case I had fun!

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When I got home from the church I decided to fix myself a bowl of cereal as I was feeling a bit peckish.  I love a bowl of cereal in the evening.   I don't do it very often, but it is something that I enjoy from time to time . . .

As I sat there eating it all of a sudden I had this vivid memory of an occasion from when I was a small child.  I would only have been five or six years old.   My brother and sister had already been put to bed.  Because I was three years older than my sister, and five years older than my brother, I was allowed to go to bed later than them.  I often stayed up for an extra hour or so watching television . . .

When we first moved to Gimli, Manitoba we lived in a small two bedroom house.  The three of us children shared one bedroom.   I was four years old when we moved into it and about seven when we moved to a three bedroom house, so I know I had to have been only five or six when this happened.

I was sitting in a high chair in the living room, watching television and eating a bowl of cereal whilst my mother scrubbed the floors and polished them.   The floors of our house were black tiles and which needed to be waxed and polished.  We had a green leaf patterned carpet in the living room, which was quite pretty really.   My mother had it rolled up at one end of the room, and I can remember watching her down on her hands and knees scrubbing the floor.  I was eating cheerios, which is funny, because to this day my favourite cereal is still cheerios.  I can remember the taste of the cereal, and the television program that was playing (Dickens and Fenster) and looking at my mother's solid back bent to the work, and her arms and hands hard at labor.

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It was no easy feat to scrub and polish that floor.  I'm not sure we appreciated all the hard work that went into the keeping of our home clean at the time.   My mother didn't have a lot of labor saving devices.  She had an old wringer washing machine which was very hands on when it came to doing the wash.  We did not have a clothes drier.   We didn't get one of those until I was in my early teens, and even then my mother didn't use it because of the expense, and my mother was always thrifty.   She used to hang the clothes out on the line to dry, even in the winter . . .

Our home was spotless . . . the floors always shone, the bath was always impeccable, the house always dusted and swept.  Our beds were changed every Friday, likewise the towels, of which we each had two . . . a bath towel and a hand towel, and a facecloth . . . our clothes were always clean and ironed, and we had a cooked dinner every day at noon, which often included dessert.

My mother always had time to help us with our homework, which I often did not appreciate, but she instilled good study habits in us and between she and my father, they both instilled us with good values which would help to stand us in good stead in our lives as adults.

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(You can just see the edge of the carpet in the lower left hand side of this photograph, with the leaves  . . . That is me on the left, my brother in the middle and of course my sister on the right.  )

We were happy, well fed, well cared for and loved.   You could not ask for any more than that.  Quite simply I had a wonderful childhood and I am so grateful for my parents and their care for us.

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They both came from relatively poor backgrounds.   My mother's father was a house painter/decorator in the winter months and a laborer in the summer months.  My father's father was much the same.   There was not a lot of money to go around in either family.  But they both had drive and the desire to better themselves beyond that which they had been brought up in, and they had the determination top lift themselves above their humble beginnings.  I am so very proud of each of them in very special ways.

I love them both so very much.

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This is their wedding picture.   I snapped a copy of it when I was home this last time.  I quite simply took a photograph of a photograph and it didn't turn out half bad.   My mom still has that dress and those shoes.  The shoes are on the shelf in the closet in the downstairs bedroom which I always sleep in when I am home.  I always take them down and look at them, hold them in my hands . . . they are black suede and so tiny . . . I never fail to marvel at how small my mother's feet were.  They and the dress still look brand new.  The dress was a grey blue, of a knitted material, with a pleated skirt and a narrow belt around the waist . . . my mother never seemed to regret that she wasn't married in a beautiful wedding gown, or that she didn't have a big formal wedding.  She loved my father very much . . . and was just really happy to be married to him.

My sister looks a lot like her.   I look a lot like my father . . . and my brother . . . well, I think he is a combination of the two.

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I think my mother was stunningly beautiful when she was younger.  I know everyone probably thinks the same thing of their mothers, and that's how it should be.  I don't think she ever thought she was beautiful though.   She always felt she had a big nose . . . she had the Simpson nose as it was called . . . which meant that it had a bump in it, or a hook up near the top . . . I think it's also called a Roman nose . . . but in any case she always obsessed on it.   She had it fixed when I was a teenager, and the bump removed.  I think Nova Scotia Medical care paid for it too, because it was something that caused her great anguish . . . this supposedly big nose.  It looked the same afterwards . . . except that the bump was missing.   

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Only my brother, David,  inherited the nose.  My sister Cindy and I have different noses . . . He doesn't mind having the Simpson nose . . . it's rather dapper in a man I think.

Today he is driving to London, Ontario where Cindy lives . . .  from Ottawa, where he lives with his family.  The movers are coming in this morning and picking up my sister and her partner's things and loading them onto a truck.  Then tomorrow David, Cindy,  Dan and their two cats will begin the journey down to Nova Scotia.   Cindy and Dan have quit their jobs so that my sister can move back home to care for our mother.

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I am so very grateful for this gift that they are giving to our family.   I know that it comes with a great sacrifice on both Cindy and Dan's parts.  She is leaving her children and grandson to do this.  They have both quit their jobs and will have nothing to live on until Dan is able to find work.  Our father has paid for the move.   My brother is taking time off of his work to drive them, and time away from his family.  (His second eldest daughter is graduating from High School next week, and his mother in law is suffering from terminal cancer at the moment.)  When they get to Fredericton, my eldest son Anthony will take over and bring them the rest of the way and my brother will return to Ottawa.

As I sit here this morning and I read back on all of these words, I realize that the family is the most precious gift which we have been given here on earth.  My eyes are wet with tears as I feel the impact of this truth.   Oh, I have always known it . . . but this morning that knowledge has really struck my heart in a profound way.  Families are built from blood and sweat, toil and sacrifice . . .  they expand and mature through the years, but despite all of the change and the growth, they are strongly  knit and bound together with the cords of love, which underpin everything.

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And so . . . what started off as simply the memory of me eating a bowl of cereal in a high chair and watching my mother's back bent and at work . . . has become something so much more.  I love my family and whilst I didn't always appreciate it when I was growing up, I have come to realize in my later years that they are everything to me.  We share a history with each other that we share with nobody else on this earth, and a love which is deep and strong . . .  I wouldn't trade it or them for anything.

Please keep David, Cindy, Dan, Anthony and the two cats, Gary and Link, in your prayers over these next few days.  And my mother too.   May they be held in our Heavenly Father's hands as, what is a big change for all of us . . . takes place.  Change often comes hard . . . but I have learned that if it comes from a good place . . . and is garnered with love . . . it is always worth it.

God bless you all.

"There are moments in life when the only possible option is to lose control."
~Paulo Coelho

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Cooking in The English Kitchen today . . . Creamy Macaroni Salad.

Have a great Thursday!


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