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Category Archives: An Older Person’s Early Years
I am lying on the bed that I share with my sisters. June is on one side, and April is on the other. We are lying sideways in a row, on our stomachs, with our feet hanging over the side. We each have a book on the bed in front of us, turning the pages with a “whumph” as we read. I am reading ‘Anne of Green Gables’, and I’m just coming to an exciting part about the day Anne dyes her hair and it comes out green. I know it is coming, because June has already talked about it.
Today marks the three week deadline to Christmas, stores have been clamoring about it for weeks, emotional pressure is building up, and once again, I wonder what I can change to make preparations easier. Two years ago, I edited my Christmas card list, last year I halved my gift buying, this year I’m thinking about not sending parcels—sending money instead. Each adjustment comes with its own brand of guilt and regret.
But change is a constant in the lives of humans, and being adaptable is what keeps us going. This week I heard about an event that makes my minor Christmas adjustments pale in comparison—an announcement about a pilot project bringing driverless cars to Ontario, a province in our country. This is a significant event for me, since I’ve only recently become aware of driverless cars.
My sisters, June and April, are walking with me to school. We love school, so every day is exciting. But today is more exciting than ever. Every day, when we get to school, there is a new date on the chalkboard, up high up at the very top. Yesterday, Mrs. Brick printed it in coloured chalk! She wrote out October 29, 1947. It was in orange and yellow and purple. Us kids never saw coloured chalk before, so the whole school was watching her do this, (except for Eddie and Johnny, who were playing marbles under their desks).
I am entering the dining room at June’s invitation, along with my four sisters and brother, expecting to have lunch as part of the family reunion.
“We’ll seat all of the siblings first,”, she says, and we follow along, like we always did, after all, she is the eldest sister. What I don’t notice at first, but what dawns on me moments later, is that there are only seven plates set out, at an event that should host 22.
“This is just for us, the others are eating on the patio.” she tells us, ladling out the borscht, a soup our mother served us in our farm kitchen, some 55 years ago.
I’m walking on the road to our house. I’m all alone, but I’m not scared. Besides, I can see all around me. I can see the farm where the Burmeys live—it’s on the right side of me. I can see the little bushes on the left side, and a little further I can see the big white church that belongs to our family. Way down the road, where it almost stops, I can see the flat roof of our barn, and beside it, our house. I twirl round and round with my eyes closed, wondering where I’ll end up when I open them. Everything looks in the wrong place for a minute, but soon it all goes back to where it should be—everything so pretty and in the right place. It’s not like the story Teacher read once, about someone who came here for the first time.
Even before I open my eyes, I can hear my mother humming. She is singing softly, so she won’t wake us up,
“You are my Sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are grey.”
And not only that. I can hear birds outside, chirping.
Right away I know it is going to be an exciting day.
I wake up quickly and slip out of bed. When I pass the open window, I can feel the air coming in, so soft and warm. It fluffs up against my cheeks as I peek out and hold my face up to the screen.
I am halfway down the stairs, feeling each step with my foot before I go down further, since the flashlight beam doesn’t go very far. Suddenly it goes out, and I am in complete blackness! I look up quickly. The kitchen lamp sends a wash of light over a few of the top stairs, but the middle stairs are dark. I strain to see April’s face. Where is she? Mum told her to stay there, at the entrance to the cellar, until I was finished getting the potatoes.
“April!” I yell. I don’t know how long I can stay here, with the dark around me, and the creatures who are probably hiding behind the shelves. “Apriiiiil!” I yell louder, and her head pops up from the edge.
We got a parcel from Eaton’s once. We all helped Mumma pick what we needed and then we helped her write the order. She didn’t need help doing the writing. She just needed us to help her decide. We all had something to say when she showed us the pages of blankets and stuff for cooking. Then we looked at the pictures of the rolls of cloth for sewing. We each could pick one we liked best for the new summer dresses Mumma would make. I picked a light mauve one, which looked like the sky just before the sun went down. It had pictures of little flowers going all across it in lines. I cut the picture out, and kept it in a dresser drawer so I could look at it and imagine the dress Mumma would make for me.
We had Christmas at our grandmother’s once. It was almost dark when we started out. Fanny and Baldy were stomping their feet and snorting in front of the house, wondering, “Where are they?” They always wanted to get going as soon as their harnesses were on, but today Mumma was getting us all ready in our best clothes, so it took a long time. “Here, Dinah”, she said, and handed me my blanket for the sled, “And be really careful going up that step. It’s icy!” We needed lots of blankets and warmed up bricks for our feet, so we could be warm all the way to Grandmother’s.
All I could think about all day was the stage. It was there, filling up the whole front of the room, with big planks of wood going right across, and stairs going up one side and down the other. We all took turns walking on it at recess. The boys bounced on it when Teacher wasn’t looking, but when I went across, it didn’t move at all. There was a wire hanging from the ceiling, with a long curtain pinned to it, and it could be pulled right across to hide us. The curtain smelled dusty, but the stage smelled like the sap that came out of the trees on our farm.