I hope you have poured yourself a nice cuppa of your favourite tea as you delve into this post in Blogville.
When you are clearing things out following the loss of a loved one, it is a challenging task. People often trivialize the task by saying, ‘oh, they are just things’. Are they?
I am looking at a photograph of our son, wearing his grandfather’s sweater that was lovingly knit years ago by our son’s grandmother. In the picture, our son is sitting in a rocking chair holding his new infant son, who is also wearing a sweater knit by the same woman, the baby’s great-grandmother. My mother was a talented seamstress, could knit, and crochet, made beautiful quilts, and she could even tat lace (some of you will need to look that up).
I see my children and grandchildren wearing the ‘Newfoundland’ mitts my mother lovingly made for them; generations of children with warm little hands. Out in the world there are countless sweaters, hats, mitts, scarves, socks, and slippers that she knit to “pass the time”. I can still hear the rhythmic ‘tic-tic-ticking’ of the knitting needles. It is a sound I remember from my childhood when she would fit knitting in with all the other tasks and obligations a working mother of that time had. Later, when we no longer lived in the same community, I remember talking with mom on the phone and hearing the tic-tic-ticking in the background. My mother’s love for her immediate and extended family and friends was entwined with every knit and purl.
When I became an adoption worker many years ago my mother started knitting little outfits that were obviously too small for my children or my niece. She was knitting and storing these pink, blue, green, and yellow outfits in a special drawer. One day she took me upstairs, opened the special drawer and told me to take them, because the outfits were for the babies I was placing on adoption, or for babies in foster homes. She wanted them to have something nice. I was always proud to offer these outfits to families when I was placing a baby on Adoption Probation and would tell the new parents that it was knit with love by an adoptive mother.
After she passed, and as I was emptying mom’s dressers, I suddenly came across the little outfit I was wearing when I arrived to my new family. Now over 60 years old, the tiny, threadbare outfit was still carefully wrapped and tucked away in the bottom of that special drawer. I was flooded with memories. I remembered the first time I had accidentally found this outfit in a cedar chest in my parents’ home, many years ago. I fantasized that my birth mother had chosen this outfit carefully for me to look beautiful and cared about when I met my new family. I imagined, and searched for, her tear stains from the pain of having to let me go. I put the little outfit to my face, hoping to catch her scent. Oh, what that would have meant to me.
My mom had found me in the room that long-ago day, holding the tiny clothes in my hands. Somehow she read my mind and told me those were the clothes my foster mother had dressed me in for my special day. Even though I was already an adult at that time, I remember bursting into tears at how pitiful the outfit looked. It was especially sad-looking when compared to the beautiful outfits my mom had knit for each of my own babies to wear when we brought them home from the hospital. My mother tried to console me by reminding me how old the outfit was and that it had been sitting in the bottom of her cedar chest for many years. When that did not seem to console me, she tried saying that my foster parents knew I would have nice clothes in my new family and chose to send me in those clothes in order to keep the nicer outfits for their other foster children. I know mom meant well with her words, but all I took from that was, not only was I not good enough to keep, I did not even deserve to wear a nice outfit to meet my new parents.
So you can see why my mom knit all those baby outfits for me to give to families, so another adoptive mother would not have to wipe her child’s tears when they saw their coming home outfits, or even pictures of them. When I think of all the families receiving their child on Placement Day wearing something my mother had made with love and care, I feel such pride, however, the little one in me still feels some envy, some despair that I did not deserve a pretty outfit when I met my new family. Such a little thing wrapped up in the meaning of loss for me.
My mom had pretty much given up knitting by her mid-90s, but the yarn basket, patterns, wool and needles were waiting patiently beside her chair, until the day I had to box them up; that sad day, when their silence was profound. Knowing those needles are meant to ‘tic, tic, tick’ I have passed them on to some good people whom I know will keep the magic flowing out of those needles and ensure that another generation will be warm and loved.
Getting back to the photograph of my son and grandson each wearing a sweater knit by my mom, if you look closely, the baby’s hand hovers above a worn spot on the wood. This spot was worn out by years of his great-grandfather’s thumb rubbing consistently on the arm of that rocking chair. A rocking chair that had belonged to my dad’s mother-in-law, handmade by the baby’s great-great grandmother’s brother. It says so underneath the rocking chair’s seat. I value the rocking chair because of who made it, and because of the memories I have of my granny sitting in it, chatting and laughing.
Later my father would sit in that same rocking chair, in the same spot in the kitchen, whistling while lost in thought, and exchanging waves with his neighbours who were walking by on the sidewalk. I remember for a while after he passed noticing that many would still look up at the window and wave, perhaps forgetting he was gone, or in memory of him. When dad would sit in that rocking chair I can still picture his thumb wearing out that one spot on the arm with his habit of rubbing it back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, every time he sat there; and he sat in that rocking chair a lot. My dad created that little worn spot that my grandson’s tiny hand hovers over in present day, while he is being held in the loving arms of his father.
After my dad passed, and when my family and I were visiting, if my mom was not sitting in that rocking chair, usually because she was playing cards or napping while ‘watching’ Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, whoever was in the kitchen would immediately race for the coveted rocking chair. No matter who sat there, you would see their thumb gently rubbing the worn spot on the arm of that chair, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth; you honestly cannot help yourself!
In addition to remembering my father in the rocking chair are the memories; first of my grandmother, and then my mother holding their grandchildren, and later, their great-grandchildren while seated in that chair. I look up at my fridge and see the photo of my mother holding her twin great-grandsons smiling proudly in her rocking chair. That chair, and its occupants who rocked so many babies to comfort them or put them rhythmically to sleep, meant so much to generations of children. Now in my home, I hope it will continue to bring comfort while I am rocking the next generation.
Daily, I will miss my slippers that my mother constantly knit for me, and that I wear every day. My mother always made sure I had a stockpile of them so my feet would always be warm, and protected. The pair I am wearing (light blue and burgundy) while I write this are wearing out on the bottom. If I would have known that these would be the last pair she would ever knit for me, I likely would never have worn them. Though mom would have thought that was a great waste of her time. That is the true meaning of my slippers, the time mom spent knitting them, thinking of me.
Thank you for reading, I always enjoy thinking of our ‘visits’ as I am writing my thoughts to share with you. Thinking about the theme of this blog, I am sure that there are many things that mean so much to you too. Feel free to post about them in the comments section, or email me at email@example.com I would love to read about them. (Remember, if you follow me on Goodreads, you will get notices when I post new blogs.)
Welcome back to Blogville, thanks for joining me. Today I am enjoying a Hibiscus tea as I remember my childhood in the 1960s. I am wondering if the Children’s Aid Society knew the safety risks when they placed me with a family in Cochrane, Ontario lol? Let’s find out.
So, I am sure my social worker talked with my parents about the adoptive family’s pledge to keep children placed with them safe. I am also sure the worker heard their assurances about always keeping me safe from harm while raising me ‘as if I was born to them’. Obviously my parents gave all the right answers, for that era. Their idea of keeping kids safe was, of course, relevant to the standards and practices of families in the 1960s.
Please note, I was raised when there were 70 mph (115 km/h) posted speed limits on highways and there were no laws about seatbelts in vehicles. Kids would lay across the top of the back seat, just under the rear window, and sleep. Especially if the family didn’t have a station wagon where a kid could sleep in the back, while on the highway, with their 5 siblings and 4 cousins sleeping alongside them. Families were often on their way to the cottage where the kids could swim freely, or canoe, or drive speedboats, all unencumbered by those silly life jackets. Once tired of that, the kids would hop in the bed of a neighbour’s truck for a ride, all the while trying to push each other out onto the dirt road. A kind of moving ‘King of the Castle’.
People of my generation reading this are saying, ‘OMG I remember that, how did we ever survive?’ But survive we did. The thrill of screaming while seated on our bikes, or standing up on the pedals, flying down paved streets with the highest grade slope (in my case 6th Avenue), with no hands, and a blurry side view unencumbered by helmets! We had little regard for the stop sign at the bottom of the hill as we wanted only to be slowed down by the street’s uphill grade once we blew through the intersection.
On long summer days our parents would collectively shoo us out the door, often with the responsibility of a younger sibling in tow; much to our dismay. But at least we had each other. Groups of us would spend our days wandering around, or playing pick up games of baseball, or tag, or hide and seek. We were known to play a few rounds of ‘rap, rap, ginger’ where we would hide, and the kid who drew the short straw would have to run up to a home’s door, rap real hard and loud, and RUN! The rest of us, our hearts in our throats, watched to see if the kid would get caught, and if caught, what the grown up would do about it.
If we got thirsty on those hot summer days every home usually had a water hose laying in the yard that we could grab a drink from. If we were hungry there were crab apple trees and vegetable gardens to raid. Oh how I miss grabbing a fresh carrot from a garden, washing it using the nearest garden hose, or in worst case scenarios, wiping the garden dirt off on my shorts and taking that first bite of the carrot, tasting both the carrot, and the ground it came out of. As well, people often had raspberry bushes in their yards that we called, ‘dessert’.
Even way back then our parents had warned us about ‘stranger danger’. We were equipped with the knowledge of how to scream, kick, or bite anyone trying to get us into a car. In my case, fully street-proofed, I once stepped out of school into intense rain, a Cochrane tsunami! This car pulled up and a woman said, “Lynn, come on, I’ll drive you home.” Did I tell you how hard it was raining? Well, I hopped in the car and said, ‘I’m not supposed to take rides with strangers.’ She said, “I’m not a stranger, I know your mom and dad and where they work.” For a second, as is the life of an adoptee I held my breath and thought, ‘could this be my birth mother?’ So I started asking her questions, all of which she patiently answered while driving me the 4 or 5 blocks to my house. ‘Where does my mother work? What is her name? Do I have a brother? What is his name?’ All of which she knew the answer to. No, I didn’t ask if she was my birth mother, strangely, I always regretted that. We arrived at my house and I practically leapt out of her car saying politely, “thanks for the ride” before slamming the car door shut. I ran in the house and told my mom immediately of my error in taking a ride with a stranger. I explained that she knew her and she knew dad and she could answer all my questions. Rather unconcerned, my mom said, “Oh, who was she?” My mom could barely contain her smile when I realized, and admitted, that I hadn’t asked her that! Obviously, I never accepted a ride with a stranger again.
Oh, but nothing beats winter in Northern Ontario. So much to do. We were fearless. We would toboggan down steep laneways, often not stopping until we were in the middle of the street at the bottom of the lane. There would be as many kids as could hold on to the toboggan screaming and laughing all the way down, or at least until they fell off. Then there would always be that brave kid who would stand mid-toboggan, pull the rope as taught as possible in their mitt-covered hands, and see if they could make it to the bottom of the lane still standing! Some made it, while some left blood in the snow. I mean, when you are 10 years old, blood in the snow is pretty awesome.
One of our neighbours had a huge St. Bernard dog and we would put on our slipperiest boots and ask to walk him. You see they lived in the middle of a steep hill and at the end of our walk we would aim him down the hill toward his home. Oh, how that dog would run! We would be flying behind him holding tight to his leash and suddenly he would turn and bee-line it to his house. We would release the leash and, propelled by the dog’s speed, we would almost fly, screaming, the rest of the way down that hill!
During the Cochrane winter carnival there would be a fishing derby on the lake in the middle of town. Hundreds of holes were made with ice augers by fishermen hoping their catches would win some carnival prizes. But after the derby was over, those abandoned holes in the ice surface became our challenge. We waited for the first post-carnival snowfall. Then, like a reverse Whac-A-Mole game, we would challenge each other to run blindly across the lake’s frozen surface hoping not to step in one of those boot-eating holes in the ice’s surface. Yes, we were worried about losing our boots, but innocently, we never really thought about breaking a leg or ankle. Magically, to the best of my knowledge not one of us ever broke a bone during this challenge. However, I’d bet there are more kids’ boots at the bottom of that lake than there are cars from the carnival’s annual car-plunge contest!
So my friends, we made it. With a little skill and a lot of luck, we survived all those 1960s childhood shenanigans. Here is a challenge, let’s work very hard at getting our grandchildren away from their screens and outside to enjoy some terrifying fun, like we did. There must be a big hill to slide down, or a field for some pick up baseball still left on this planet. But, don’t forget to go home before the sun starts to set. Supper will be on the table.
As always my friends your comments or questions are always welcome, here, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org I look forward to hearing from you.
Welcome back to Blogville. Have you ever had multiple hotel room stays in a short time? Let’s pour ourselves a cup of tea and discuss my experience.
Recently I’ve taken a couple of short trips that involved brief hotel stays. One 5 night trip staying at 4 different hotels, and one 3 day trip staying in 2 different hotels.
I’ll tell you, it’s a lot of work remembering where the elevator is and which way to turn when you exit onto your floor when you change hotels a lot in a short time. Turn left? No, left was yesterday’s hotel, turn right at this one. Oddly, when I got to room 310 my darn key would not work despite 3 or 4 attempts. Before storming down to the front desk to complain and have my ‘key powers’ restored, I checked the paper key holder and sheepishly tip-toed to the nearest stairwell. After all, I did not want to be standing helplessly in front of the bank of elevators when the (I’m sure irate) guest from room 310 came out into the hallway to see who was trying to get in their room! I made my way quietly up the stairs to the correct floor and down the hallway quickly, but casually, to room 410 where my key card easily unlocked the door.
When I’m finally in the correct room there are so many decisions to make? Decisions like, which side of the bed do I take? If I take the wrong side, I’ll just keep waking up wondering where I am. At home I sleep on the side away from the window. But what if the best side turns out to be the side near the window? By the best side, I mean the side with the most direct path to the bathroom!
On a side note, pardon the pun, my side of the bed at home has a bedside clock with the illuminated time. What if I take the wrong side of the bed and keep waking up not only wondering where I am, but what time it is? No, no, that cannot happen. It’s bad enough I cannot figure out how to stop the room telephone’s flashing ‘message’ light, I must be able to see the clock.
Move the clock you suggest? Ha! First problem with that is losing the correct time and trying to figure out how to set the time while NOT accidentally setting the alarm for say, 2:00 a.m. Eventually I decide it is worth the risk and unplug the clock.
Second problem? Unplugging the clock and getting to the other side of the bed only to discover there is NO actual plug-in socket! I mean, it turned out to be some sort of Ethernet port or LAN port or some other computer b.s. that just looked like a plug-in socket. So now the clock is unplugged, repeatedly flashing 12:00, and likely programmed with some random middle of the night alarm setting. Now I’ll never know how much time I have until morning so I don’t miss the check out time!
Well, I can always keep checking the time on my watch, which is currently laying on the dresser. I mean, as I’m in my sixties, I do get up rather frequently through the night because Mother Nature hates me. Therefore, as I make my way frequently to the bathroom throughout the night, I can simply check my watch to keep an eye on the time. That’s a good alternate plan!
In the first night’s hotel I had to walk to the left to get into the bathroom, my way led by the dim night light. The next night I walked to the left and still have a small bruise where my face hit the wall. Apparently I needed to go to the right in this hotel room to find the bathroom. Once there, I disrupted the carefully triangle-folded toilet paper.
Do you think there is special toilet paper folding training session for housekeeping staff members? It’s a skill, folding those perfect little triangles, just like making those foil swans fancy restaurants on television use to package up leftovers.
Another skill they have is being able to work those privacy blinds with beaded chains that I can never open. You know the ones where you end up pulling the side of the blind away from the window frame enough so that you can just manage to see outside and determine what the weather looks like. Then the side of the blind never fits back into the window frame properly. I’m pretty sure there is a special course for the housekeeping staff on opening and closing those blinds quickly and efficiently. But I digress, let me get back to Mother Nature, night lights, and hotel bathroom challenges.
So, not wanting to go blind using the fluorescent lights, I negotiate my bathroom duties using only the dim glow of the hotel night light. Now, where is the toilet handle? I swipe uselessly down the front of the tank, feeling for the handle where it was on last night’s toilet. It’s GONE, Oh, wait, tonight’s toilet has the dual flush button system on the tank lid. Left or right for low flush? I apologize to the environment, pick one at random and push down to flush.
Still using only the dim night light, I feel around for the teensy bar of soap that I’m sure I left on the right side of the sink. Oh yeah, I suddenly remember, this bathroom has the pump soap dispenser, so I proceed to pump a spray of foam soap straight onto my left wrist, past my elbow and onto the floor. Now I’m a little upset. There I stand, in the dim night light glow with soap up my arm and also coating the floor like a senior citizen’s booby trap. I reach for the wire towel rack on the wall, but it’s gone. Oh wait, this hotel stores the towels on a shelf under the sink. Without ever having to turn on that bright overhead light, I finally got that mess cleaned up and my hands washed. Back to bed I go.
Naturally as I make my way back to bed, I bang my hip on the edge of the dresser making the television wobble precariously. I steady it quickly and avoid catastrophe while immediately stubbing my toe on the office chair to my left. That was unexpected, given that in last night’s room, the office chair was located to my right. Oh and can anyone tell me why coffee tables in hotels always seem to match the colour of the flooring underneath them? I call them camouflage tables because though my eyes don’t see them my shins always seem to find them!
All these bathroom excursion challenges have created a thirst so I try to grab a bottle of water from the tiny fridge, but the door will not open. ‘Do fridges lock?’ I ask myself. Did you know the little in-room fridges open left handed or right handed depending on the hotel you stay at? Sigh. I mean, all hotels should have to purchase fridges that open consistently either on the left or the right, or with handles on the front of the doors, so one can easily find them in the dark. Finally back in the bed I realized I forgot to check the time on my watch on the dresser. Call me a risk taker, I rolled over and went to sleep without knowing the time.
Finally, at one of my last hotel stays, (there were too many to be specific about) I had figured out how to work both the blinds and the clock and was awake in plenty of time to get ready. I quickly hopped in the shower so I would have plenty of time to get dressed and pop by the breakfast room to grab a bite before checking out. Pleased with my brilliant idea, I was just towelling off when I heard a knock at the door, and the dreaded word, “Housekeeping”! Oh no, it was the voice of the only person other than me with a key to my room. My heart started to pound and I yelled “I haven’t checked out yet!!” just as the door started to open. To my relief, as quickly as it began to open, it slammed shut. Apparently at this hotel, checkout was an hour earlier than at the last one. Sigh . . .
Happy travels to you!
As ever, I welcome your comments here or via email at email@example.com. Thanks for reading.