Today I am thinking of Canada ... and remembering how it all started for me.
My family was poor. My father worked at two jobs saving and saving and saving. My mother worked hard too. We lived in a 'skid' shack. It was one room with a divider - a living area and sleeping area. I remember it was a very small room. You had to be careful not to stub a toe or whack a shin.
We had lots of food because my mother's family had farms. We had lots of warm clothes for the winter and light clothes for the summer because our relatives gave us "hand me downs." We had twelve close neighbours in a circle. We all lived in the same small one room shacks. We shared two pit toilets with our neighbours. We shared one water well with everyone... moms and dads pumping water as needed.
I was very young. I didn't think anyone else lived any differently. I took a school bus to a one room country school. An older girl taught me to print by making letters in the frosty condensation on my black lunchbox. It was fun.
When I look back at precious photographs that were only taken at family gatherings, on holidays, on our 'first day of school' or on our birthdays, I see happy, smiling faces with everyone wearing starched, ironed clothes and polished shoes. My mother used a washboard. Monday was laundry day. I remember frozen sheets coming in off of the clothes line, sheets that smelled like heaven to me ... although we were not church people.
In the backgrounds of the photographs, I see the grinding poverty. I see clapboard covered here and there with peeling, faded wall paper. I see lovingly crocheted doileys covering threadbare second hand sofas and chairs. I see jack frost gloriously painting the leaky windows. I remember my father scraping all of the bubbled and peeling paint off of the clapboard outside of the house every summer... right down to wood. And I remember him repainting our little house. Every year.
In my mind, I remember Saturday night baths. I see my mother putting the galvanized square tub in the centre of the living area. I see my father going out and coming in, going out and coming in, going out and coming in... bringing buckets of water for my mother to warm on the stove. I see the steam pouring from the tub as 'pickling pot' after 'pickling pot' (the largest pot we had) of boiling water was dumped into the tub until it was full. I remember immersing myself in the warm (not too hot) water and being soaped and rubbed. I remember being dried and kissed and hugged. And I remember my mother putting fresh pajamas on me. And I remember sitting on my father's knee for a bed time story - he told wonderful stories. And I remember my mother tucking me into my cosy bunk bed.
Once when my baby sister rolled out of her bunk and fell onto the floor, I pretended I was asleep. My mother picked her up and comforted her and tucked her back into bed. The lower bunk used to be mine until she came along.
I think people ask for and expect too much today. All of that stuff is so hard to keep track of. The insurance alone will kill you."We collect things because our hearts are empty."
- The Heart of the Enlightened by Thomas Merton
The best colour for today - for Canada Day 2012 - is Red!