Thursday, 16 April 2015
Five Things About Me . . .
This is a photo of me holding my two wee girls on my lap. I was probably taken in about 1980. We were living in Suffield, Alberta at the time. Eileen would have been a little over two years old and Amanda about six months old. I had a bubble hairdo . . . ie. perm all over. I was twenty five. WE moved to Suffield when Amanda was about six weeks old all the way from Stony Plain, Alberta where Amanda had been born.
Five things about me . . . the Alberta years.
We moved to Calgary, Alberta in the autumn of 1977 from Winnipeg, Manitoba. We lived in a motel for about a week but it was getting pretty expensive. Because we were not married yet (pending my divorce from my first husband) we were having to pay for everything ourselves. The Canadian Military was not very helpful to couples living together back then. Some friends invited us to move in with them until we could find an apartment, and so we did. We were poor, poor, poor. Calgary at that time was booming and there was about a 0% vacancy rate so it was really hard to find a place to rent that was affordable. We did find one eventually, but it took most of my partner's pay. My Divorce papers arrived in the post on the morning of December 5th and we were married at 6 PM that night in the living room of a Justice of the Peace. I wore a borrowed jumper and blouse because the movers had lost several of our boxes. I remember it was brown in colour. There were no flowers. There were no photographs taken and the couple we had been staying with were our witnesses. We celebrated afterwards by sharing a hundred thousand dollar candy bar purchased at a 7/11. We spent our wedding night on a mattress on the floor because the movers had also lost our bed.
The next day when my then husband went to work, he was given a PMQ for us to live in. (Permanent Married Quarters for Military Personnel) We moved in the next day. We were still poor, poor, poor, but we were pretty happy. We had a sofa which a friend had been throwing away, an old bed, an even older telly and a cheap kitchen table and chairs. Our Christmas tree stand was a tobacco tin. My oldest daughter, Eileen was born about 3 weeks after we moved into the PMQ. I learned how to make pierogi from a Ukrainian friend who also happened to be a Mormon when we lived there. We are still friends to this day. My ex and I only lived in that house for about 18 months before he decided he was getting out of the military and took a job with the Alberta Highway Patrol and we moved up to Stony Plain which was West of Edmonton on the way towards Jasper.
When we moved to Stony Plain, my sister was living with us with her eldest daughter who was about six months old. My husband drove a truck up that he had borrowed with all of our worldly goods on it and my sister and I followed in the car with the kids. We were so brave. I was about six months pregnant with my youngest daughter at the time. We had rented a quarter of a duplex, the upstairs part which had two bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchen and living room. We were even poorer. My husband didn't get paid until the end of the month there and they held back one months pay at the beginning so we had zip money at all, having used all we had to move ourselves up there. My sister got a job at a restaurant in Spruce Grove. We borrowed some money from his parents and my parents to get by, and his boss at work brought us in lots of vegetables from his garden. We somehow made it through. One thing I really liked about living there was that I could lay in my bed at night and watch the Northern Lights undulating across the sky through my bedroom window. We were not in Stony Plain for very long actually. My sister went back to her husband about two months after we moved there. I really, really missed her. I had nobody to talk to . . . had not had the chance to make any friends. We were even poorer than we had been in the Army. The streets were not paved with gold. I gave birth to my youngest daughter in the small Stony Plain hospital in early December. We were only in the hospital for about five days when they shipped her in to Edmonton as she was severely jaundiced and they didn't have the equipment to deal with it in Stony Plain. The hospital released her to us and we drove her into Edmonton in a snowstorm. The hardest thing I had to do was to leave her there and go home without her. She was only in there for about three days though, so that was good. I had only just gotten her home from the hospital when I began to haemorrage very badly. I ended up back in the hospital and lost ten pounds overnight. I almost died. Worst Christmas ever. My husband decided he had had enough and re-enlisted in the army. Six weeks later we were back in the Army and I was living in a hotel in Medicine Hat waiting for our furniture and belongings to arrive from Stony Plain.
It took twenty one days. Twenty one days in a motel room in January/February in Medicine Hat, Alberta . . . with three children and a cat. Twenty one of the longest days of my life. My oldest son was four years old, my oldest daughter two years old and my youngest daughter only six weeks old. It was hell on earth. My husband had to drive to Suffield each morning or evening (depending on which shift he was on) to go to work. It was the depths of winter. There was no restaurant attached to the motel. I spent my days in that motel room, mixing up formula in the bathroom, washing diapers in the bathroom, trying to keep a two year and four year old occupied and quiet enough for a newborn to sleep . . . and trying not to go insane myself, lol I don't know how I did it now, but somehow I got through it. I think when you are young you can get yourself through just about anything. You seem to have more tenacity or something. I was never so happy to see a PMQ in my life or to see the back end of a motel.
Suffield, Alberta is in the middle of nowhere, about thirty miles or so West of Medicine Hat down in the Eastern corner of Alberta. It's Canada's largest Military Base as well as being the largest Military training base in the Commonwealth. The British military does a lot of their training in Suffield, and there was a large number of British Soldiers and their families permanently based there. Not only was it a British Army Training Unit, but there was also a lot of Chemical Warfare training done there as well as a huge research facility. The area of PMQ's where we lived was called Ralston.
This was our house in Ralston. Ralston was like an oasis in the middle of a desert. Seriously. There was nothing around for hundreds of miles and this small area of trees and houses plunked right in the middle of it. We had a nice little house, with a fenced in yard, three bedrooms, a big kitchen and a huge dining/living room plus bath. After living in a motel for three weeks it was like heaven on earth to me. I thought to myself finally a place where we can stay put for a while. I joined the art club on the base and used to do ceramics. We played Darts with the British one night a week. I had a lot of British friends. I got a job cleaning PMQ's for people when they were moving out. For anyone not familiar with the military way of doing things, you have to be marched out of a PMQ, which means you have to pass a white glove inspection of your quarters before you are given leave to move on to your next posting. Most people really just want to get on the road and going, so quite often they will hire someone who agrees to clean the house for them, ready for inspection, at an agreed upon price. It was hard work, but it was something which I could do and work around my husband's working hours so he could be home with the kids. I also cleaned offices on the base and the village elementary/high school, nights and weekends. That was really hard work also.
We had about 18 months of peace there before my ex decided to turn in his Sargent for theft. He (The Sargent) had been running a catering business from the base kitchens using DND vehicles, food, etc. and pocketing all the money. My ex was ostrasized at work, threatened with bodily harm, etc. He ended up putting in his release again from the Army and taking a job with the Alberta Prison service. It would take him six months to get out of the military. In the meantime we got thrown out of our PMQ, and the children and I ended up with no place to live. At all. I was by then pregnant for my middle son. My husband managed to get us on a Military Flight out of Calgary, hopefully to the East coast with the plan in mind I would live with my parents until he could find us a place to live in Drumheller, Alberta where the prison was.
I got bumped off the flight in Trenton, Ontario. So there I was in Trenton, Ontario, six months pregnant . . . with a five year old, a three and a half year old and a one and a half year old . . . sitting in a military airport wondering what to do next. I managed to get on another flight (this one to Chatam, NB) about 1 o'clock in the morning and my ex FIL in law met us there and took us to PEI where we stayed for a couple of weeks before my brother drove over to bring us to my mom's and dad's.
There ended my Alberta journey. A bit long winded I know, but I think, or at least I hope you learned a few things about me from this. One . . . I am tenacious, loyal and long suffering. Two . . . I love my family and always tried to do my best for them. Three . . . I am strong. Four . . . I am adaptable. Five . . . when I get knocked down I always get back up again and wade in for more.
They say that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I am proof of that.
A thought to carry with you through today . . .
Be glad of life
because it gives you the chance
to love, and to work
and to play and . . .
to look up at the stars.
~Henry Van Dyke
Baking in The English Kitchen Today . . . Jam Filled Scones.
Have a wonderful Thursday . . . I hope the sun shines for you.
Don't forget . . .
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And I do too!