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Category Archives: An Older Person Remembers
It was another perfect day on the farm. My husband Jim, and my children, Andy and Janie, were gone for the day, and I was planning to wallpaper one of the back bedrooms in our 100 year old house.
But just then, I remembered that Lorne, our carpenter, was coming by to finish some plastering downstairs. And Oh, yes, someone called about picking some apples, from the two overladen trees in our front orchard. Hopefully, they would bring their own containers—I didn’t want to be disturbed, no matter what.
It was just another day on the farm. Well, it wasn’t really a farm, we were just pretending it was. The chickens were safely in their yard, the dog was with the kids, and the air was filled with the sound of rustling leaves. So far, everything was going fine. My husband left early this morning, he had a staff meeting, Andy was back from Kindergarten, and now he and Janie were playing outside.
It was October, and our fourth month here. But I wasn’t really counting—only once in a while, when things went wrong. Here, it seemed, it was always one step forward and two steps back.
I decided to be a blonde once. Well, actually. It wasn’t me who decided. It was my hairdresser Maggie’s idea, and I went along.
“Wish I was born with lighter hair,” I complained to her, as she was cutting away, “This dark hair is so harsh.”
“But it’s your natural color”, she said, “It was the way God meant it to be.”
“It doesn’t look like my natural color. Look at my skin. It’s light, like my mothers’. Her hair is lighter, and it looks great on her.”
My big sister and her family came for a visit once. I always called her my big sister, even though she was only two inches taller than me. But June was three years older than I was, and as long as I can remember she knew a lot of things I didn’t know. Like how to clean windows, and how to cook from a recipe.
She and her husband Matt are in their trailer right now sleeping, tired from the long day we had yesterday. Their two children, Jayne and Mark, are already in the big house, playing with my two children, Andy and Chrissy-Jane.
We had a flock of chickens once. I grew up on a farm, so I thought I knew all about chickens. I remember my mother ordering them and having them shipped special delivery to our general store. She thought about her order carefully; Rhode Island Reds were the hardiest, Leghorns laid the most eggs, Plymouth Rock were the most dependable. They had to be balanced, so that we would have eggs all year. When my father brought them home, there were at least one hundred chicks crowded together in a box with holes in the sides. My sisters and I were allowed to gently pick some of them up and stroke them for a few seconds.
We bought a 100 year-old French Canadian farmhouse once. It wasn’t a wise thing to do. We knew that right away. But we had two small children, all of our belongings in a van, and no where to live. It was 1967 and Vancouver Island, where my husband had just accepted a job, was suddenly overwhelmed with new residents.
We talked to the owner of the coffee shop, as we were having lunch.
“Happened overnight,” he said, “Hardly anyone living here for years, then suddenly, people all over the place, looking to settle down. Must be the Centennial. Never should have printed all those damned brochures.”
I owned a Volkswagen van once. We needed one for hauling seaweed for our organic garden, and carrying stuff around for our hobby farm. We knew there would be lots of them available—this was 1973, and many of the hippies who owned them were back now, from their travels in Mexico, where they could smoke marijuana without being arrested. So we checked every week in the want ads, and sure enough, we found one at the right price and in the right color, blue. It was a few miles away, in another town, so we packed a lunch, and my husband and I and our two small children took off for the day. If we liked it, we decided, I would drive the Renault back, and he would drive the van.
I tiled a hallway floor once. It was the 1960s, so there was no internet or YouTube to tell me what to do. I had to go to the hardware store and talk to the guy who sold paint. He didn’t know anything about tiling floors, but he knew a lot about paint. He wanted to know what the flooring was in the hallway. I told him it was old linoleum, over old hardwood. “Why don’t you just paint over the whole shebang?” he asked.
So I went to the library and read a manual on tiling. It told me what tiles to buy, how to glue them down and what to put between the spaces. I measured the floor and tried to figure out how many tiles I would need, exactly like the manual said. It was complicated. I wasn’t very good at math, so I took out my old math book from grade 8, and turned to “Solving Problems”. But I couldn’t find anything about tiling. Instead I learned about ball caps:
I cooked a perfect turkey once. It was the 1950s, so I was trying hard to be perfect, like Margaret Anderson. Or June Cleaver. I prepared carefully for this, reading several cookbooks, clipping out recipes from magazines and newspapers, calling up my mother and big sister so I knew what advice to ignore.
All of the recipes I read were for a large, frozen turkey. Good. That was what was available in the Safeway where I shopped. A small turkey would be too much like chicken, and a fresh turkey, even if I wanted one, was nowhere to be found. Besides, it looked like fresh turkeys were more likely to get salmonella, the dread disease we were all warned about. So I went for frozen. And large.