The Christmas Gift December 26 2013

Over the Christmas holidays, I was reminiscing with my grandchildren about Christmas’s past. One story in particular involves aSweatern event that became a yearly ritual between my Dad and me.

It started out innocently, the first year I was old enough buy a gift for him with my own money. As the oldest child, I felt I had done something that reeked of specialness, of significance. That first Christmas sweater was grey. It had large buttons and a cable knit design that my mother loved to knit when she was not mothering eight children. Boxed and wrapped, I placed it under the tree in high anticipation of its appreciation. (Mom said so.)

Here I must point out that my Dad was taciturn in personality. Christmas was the one time of the year that he broke from that self-imposed formalness and actually seemed to be more jovial. He ate chocolates and played games, and joined in the fun. When someone squealed to him that there was a present for him under the tree from me, he made a huge production of it.  That long, drawn out week before Christmas morning, He would pick the present up as he sat in his favorite recliner chair by the tree and shake it gently…trying to guess the contents.

Was it a violin? I giggled and shook my head, no. A wallet then…boxed to fool him? I refused to answer. He would have to wait for Christmas like the rest of us. Then disaster struck. Christmas Eve had finally arrived and Mom was brewing up a batch of spiced hot cider in the kitchen. My younger siblings and I were stringing popcorn garlands for the tree. Dad reached down, picking up the package that had become a nightly ritual and looking at me intently in the eye said. “Does it have buttons?”

My face betrayed me. Viewing my crestfallen face, he crowed triumphantly. I was tearful but turned my face away. My surprise was spoiled. Another game he had won. That is another story.  He, on the other hand was quite happy with his gift that Christmas morning. For the next ten years, I bought him a Christmas sweater. I never put it under the tree until Christmas Eve.

Each time I would put it in his hands he would look me wickedly in the eye though with his Cheshire cat grin and still try to guess, “Does it have buttons?”  Sometimes it had a zipper.




Thank you Mr. Murray. November 23 2013

TheApprenticeshipOfDuddyKravitzI remember Mr. Murray well. Designated as our homeroom teacher, the grade 11 class regarded him warily. Perhaps it was the ascot knotted at his throat, unusual apparel for a Nova Scotia fishing town. Or it may have been his pasty skin, the unwell appearance of an unhealthy person, wearily moseying along the road of life.. nearer to the end than the beginning. Every movement he made was languid. I remember the class atmosphere as whispery, as if we were all in a hospital waiting room. It was instinctive that we felt compelled to best behavior.

He taught us English studies. I loved to listen to him speak about the characters in the stories we studied. He had a lovely way of shaping words. One instance, I cannot remember the name of the book, he stated how over dramatized and “gushy” it was, and that any minute we could expect violin music emerging from the bushes, highly unlikely in the circumstances. We were encouraged to envision it. The girls giggled, the boys rolled their eyes. His danced merrily.

My Father was a religious zealot. He was quite firm on what literature his children should have access to. It was with a sinking heart that I brought home the designated reading for the semester. Of course it had to be “The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz” by Canadian author Mordecai Richler, newly minted, off the presses and reallllly controversial. My Teacher was that kind of man. Controversial. My father was angry and impetuous. Pulling open the stove lid, he thrust the book into the flames, and slammed it shut. No child of his was going to read that garbage!

I was a nervous child. It was not easy living with a Father that talked directly to God. Unfortunately, neither he nor God accompanied me to school to explain the situation to my teacher. Approaching his desk, I gathered all of the little courage I had, and I told him my story.

I must explain here that I am an eye watcher. Eyes say everything, especially in unguarded moments. I can read even the faintest twitch of untruth. My children despise me for it. I remember his eyes that day as they changed from curiosity to interest in my story and then to pain. No anger, I was used to anger. Smiling sadly, he stated that he would give me another assignment. “I want you to write an essay “he said.” I want you to write about Success. Tell me all you can learn about Success.”

Then turning to the class, he called it to order. Pulling an armload of envelopes out of his satchel, he proceeded to hand them round to each student. “ I am going to teach you something that will be the most important information you will ever need to know as you venture out into the world. I am going to show you how to fill out Income Tax forms.” We spread them out on our desks, rolled up our sleeves and got to work.

I wrote my essay on Success. I do not remember much of what it said or the mark I received. I left for another school at the end of the term. I heard that Mr. Murray did not return the next year either. After a I graduated I got a job. I got married. I felt the most happy feeling each year as I got out those forms and filled them out because I had the knowledge my husband didn’t have yet. I felt needed. As the years past and the taxes became more intricate, I willingly passed them over to our tax man.

Oh yes…One quote I do remember is “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful. “~Albert Schweitzer

BTW I picked up the forbidden book later in life. Funny thing, it is a story about a young man desperately determined to be successful. And he wasn’t. Thank you Mr. Murray.


Why my Husband dislikes winter. November 16 2013

horses and sleigh


Each year my husband reminds me how much he dislikes winter.Each year he tells the story of how, even as a small babe, the weekly ritual of church attendance was never forsaken.

Born to a Mennonite prairie farm family, not even bad weather could allow you to feel free to worship God under the covers of your cozy homemade feather tick comforter… and there was a dinner invitation to honor. Prairie women laid fantastic tables.

This particular Sunday morning, snow was piled along the lane like fat marshmallows. His Dad realized that the car would not make it through the drifts,so the team of horses were pressed into service and hitched to the sleigh stored in the barn for such occasions as this.

Wrapped in horse blankets with only noses peaking out, they glided the two miles to the small village church accompanied by the jingle of harnesses and horse nose blowing sounds.  My husband was only a small infant, wrapped in his mother’s arms, warmed by her body. Dad ‘s voice prodded the horses to pick up the pace as they were late for service.


Church was in full swing when the sleigh drew up along a side drift, causing it to slide sideways. When the runner hit the bottom, the sleigh tipped on its side pitching all the family, two sisters, Mom and Dad out into the snow in front of the church. According to his sister’s recount , my husband fell out of mother’s arms and rolled a bit in the snow, much to everyone’s mortification. He has always wondered what his father said at that moment. He was not one for bad language, at least not outwardly.  

To add to their embarrassment the congregation had chosen to rise, probably for singing, and were watching from the windows.  If it had been prayer everyone’s would eyes would have been shut and they would have missed the entertainment. Fortunately concerned members ran to their aid and righted the sleigh, dusting off everyone, no damage done, except a few jokes about Dad’s driving. This, my husband says was the beginning of his dislike of winter.


I Love Halloween October 31 2013

I love Halloween. I know, I know,Halloween etc 2013 029 my besties know that I observe a conservative , no ghosts or goulies lifestyle, but I have always enjoyed the holiday. Perhaps my Scots (with a smattering of Irish we don’t talk about often lol) heritage makes me reluctant to let go of the social event that sets us apart from the other cultures, namely the desire for childish fun and a recognition of the “other” world that people ignore in real time. In Scottish culture children are only supposed to receive treats if they performed for the households they went to. This normally took the form of singing a song or reciting a joke or a funny poem which we memorized before setting out.

Of course I don’t have any digital pics of my childhood shenanigans…like the time my brother and I covered the neighborhood, returned home and changed costumes and went through the neighborhood again. The only suspicious person was the Dentist’s wife…and we only got a toothbrush and a quarter from her. I think she got egged later that evening…that was the rumor.

My most precious memory is of my Paternal grandfather. He reveled in the occasion.  Waiting until we had returned from Trick or Treating ..pillowcases in tow, he crept outside the house.  As we gleefully counted the spoils, bags of chips in one pile, candy bars in another, molasses candy, homemade fudge, all accounted for, we failed to notice that the living room curtains were still open in the darkened room, now lit only by Jack O’ lanterns ,lovingly carved and filled with fat candles that now casted  long shadows. Picture three little heads all engrossed in their tallies, discussing their haul, when suddenly there was a loud tap on  the living room window pane. To this day we all agree that the face staring at us through that window was the scariest most horrific person  we have ever seen and the screech that went up as we ran for mama, was according to her, a sight to behold.

Papa had taken Nana’s new mop and had used it as a wig with a hand towel as a scarf. He had taken his false teeth out , (This was a usual request from us, and constant entertainment, which caused fits of giggling when he obliged. Nana was not amused.) He put them in upside down. He then pressed his face against the window, and knocked. Our panic was exactly what he had hoped for, and he came through the door laughing and defending himself with the mop as we tackled him, in relief.

After our heart attacks were over we bobbed apples, and stuffed down warm caramel fudge, made by Papa’s hands. All was bliss. Thus ended a perfect Halloween.

This Halloween I will join my grand children. We have been carving, and planning costumes. Danika will be Dorothy with her ruby slippers, Nevaeh , the wicked witch of the West and I will be the cowardly lion. The outfit is a bit snug for a Nana…I was thinking it may require a bit of bravery to put it on…but what the heck…at least I have a heart 🙂


Monday…best day Never.

The sun has set on another day. Monday…the best day Never!  If you ask someone “How’s your Monday?” It is rarely a cheerful response, usually one of woe and wishing for the weekend.

I have a busy office…people are always coming and going.  Conversations flow..I made a rule that I never open till 9:00. or they would descend earlier. .Can we have a cat? Who towed my car? Did you see the mess on 1st floor ? Do we qualify for an apartment? Can you watch my building on the weekend so that I can celebrate our son’s birthday?….on and on. If you tell me your problem…I must fix it.

Sometimes though it all gets to be a big burden….like the scene on the Amazing Race…my most favorite reality show. One of the challenges included carrying huge pieces of dried fish draped over their neck and shoulders which they then carried up the street and then pounded into a kilo of dried fish chips…before they got their next clue. It looked grueling…and fortunately you can’t smell fishy odors through the TV screen!

Some couples soared through the challenge, while others were tested to the end of their endurance…it would be easy to walk away, but no one quit. It is amazing what people would do for a million dollars. I work hard every day for a lot less.  Sometimes I wonder why. Then I remember all the people who have depended on me today.

“Happiness doesn’t result from what we get, but from what we give.” ― Ben Carson