So, as the snow continues to sift down around the house, I am often far away, at least in time. Mostly, it is Keeles whom I find, simply because I was there when the family home in Saskatchewan was closed. I see my grandfather’s dance card for the Bachelors’ Ball with my grandmother’s name on every space. There are houses which he built and in which together they raised a wonderful family. There is a lacrosse ribbon from 1901 and my grandmother’s teaching certificate in her maiden name. I still wonder why teacher training institutions took the name “normal schools” but here is her textbook with a letter from a friend tucked into it. And so very many photos. As it happens I have both the photo of the red apron and navy cap which my dear teenaged Aunt Hazel (Mom’s sister) was wearing to advertise war bonds and the 75-year-old items themselves. I wore them to a Canada 150 event, figuring I was half right
There is such a welter of bittersweet moments preserved in the blanket box — of births and deaths, of growth and decline, of victory and defeat, of opportunities seized and missed. As I sort through the memory trove, I frequently pause to ponder the human arc. Malraux too was half right but he discounted fond reminiscences of family love.
As always, my mother saved my day from too much solemnity by having saved scraps of my childhood, pieces which she and my father must have found particularly hilarious. There is the letter to Santa; written in pencil on a scribbler page, it opens with “The thing I have wanted since I was 6 is a watch. I am 7 now….” Apart from the lack of subtlety, according to the date I had been eight for almost a month. They seemed to love me anyway.
My personal favourite is the report on New France; by then I had graduated to pen and ink. I suspect Mom kept this one because I had unwittingly revealed a total lack of comprehension that any home could be unhappy, even if it was clear that I was simple:
After a while the men became lonesome because often it was ten o’clock at night when they got home. Then they would have to eat tasteless food because they never had time to learn to cook. They wanted to get married! There was a proclamation in Old France that girls of a certain age could go to New France and be married. There was a huge crowd waiting for the boat that would bring the girls. As each girl stepped off the boat she went with one of the men. It was a great day for the girls. Soon they would be caring for a man they never saw before. I’ll bet they were all very satisfied.
I stand by that implicit tribute to the wonderful home my parents created, but think we all should feel relief that the burden of inventing feminism didn’t fall on me.