Memories

The summer of 2017 is passing by very quickly. One minute you are anticipating an event, and before you can blink, it is just a memory.

We celebrated our 51st wedding anniversary in the middle of July, and a week later, our daughter turned 50. We took her to High Tea at MacKenzie King’s Estate (he was Prime Minister during WWII), and then walked around the grounds enjoying the flowers and birds and the stone ruins, brought over here from many buildings in Europe which had been bombed.

Then, a few days ago, our whole family, eighteen of us,  got together for the first time in nine years. My husband and I, our 4 daughters, 4 sons-in-law, and 8 grandchildren! Our daughter who lives in Vancouver, was on her way back from a trip to Sweden, to visit her husband’s family.

Two of the sons-in-law had had birthdays in the previous week. Then there was our daughter’s 50th, and one of our grandsons had turned 18 a few days before. Lots to celebrate!

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At the top are our two oldest girls, followed by our two youngest. We had dinner together and our waiter kindly took the bottom photo.

Nine years is too long to go between these larger reunions. In 2008,  our girls were in their 30s and our grandchildren were aged 2 – 11. We were a sprightly 63 years old, but these people are keeping us young. In spirit if not in body!

No matter what the next nine years brings, I will treasure these moments in my heart forever!

Thanks for sharing in our celebrations. – Maureen

 

Being 20

In early February, 2015, I will be turning 70.

I’ve been thinking a great deal about this milestone. I’m pretty sure 70 is not considered young or even middle-aged by anyone under, well, 70!

I’ve been living the senior, retired life for a few years now and it’s been pretty good. Free bus Wednesdays, discounts once a month at local drugstores (and you’ve got to believe we frequent pharmacies a lot these days), special status on VIA rail, and senior coffees at various cafes and bistros.

But my mind has been turning back to my childhood, my youth, and my middle years.

1965

I turned 20. I was finally out of my teen-aged years but not quite, according to the law of the land in those days, an adult.

  • I was in my fourth year at university, studying arts and education.
  • I still lived at home with most of my brothers and sisters, and I used to run up the hill every day in my effort to get to class on time. Successful most of the time.
  • On weekends and in the summer, I had to be home by 10:30, and I was!
  • In May, I graduated with an education degree.
  • I was hired, by letter, to teach elementary school in Edmonton, Alberta, about 3,000 km (2,000 m) from my home in Nova Scotia.
  • I travelled by plane for the first time. Halifax – Edmonton.
  • I started teaching Grade 1.
  • I met my husband-to-be on September 19.
  • At Christmas time we drove from Edmonton to Fort Smith, NWT, to spend Christmas with John’s family.
  • On Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) John and I decided to get married and go to Zambia, in Africa, to work as volunteers. (Our next anniversary will be our 49th.)

There were many changes in my life the year I was 20. I left home, travelled, and fell in love.

What could be more exciting than that?

Thanks for reading. Enjoy your day.

– Maureen

A Tale of Two Cultures

“Do they speak English there?”  It was the first question I asked when my fiance and I decided in 1966, to go to Zambia in Central Africa as volunteers with CUSO.  I figured if I spoke the language it would easy to integrate into my new life in Africa.  Little did I know.

A few days after we arrived in Lusaka I was given my assignment for the next two years.  I was to teach mathematics to high school students.  I always loved math in school but I hadn’t had a course since first year university.  Yikes!  I’d have to really brush up on my skills.  However, nothing could have prepared me for my first lesson, “rapid calculations in pounds, shillings, and pence”.  I don’t know what the students thought of me.  I kept asking how many pence were in a shilling and how many shillings were in a pound.  I’ll tell you that the calculations were anything but “rapid” that day.

At the high-school I learned that I was the “form mistress”.  ???  Hey,at 21 and married only a few days, I had never been the mistress of anyone or anything.  There were no “grades” or “years”, but Forms 1 through 5, and I was the mistress of Form One C! 

 After a couple of days we were going to have an assembly in the gym.  No problem.  What could be different about that?  All of the teachers filed in and took our seats on the stage facing the unnaturally quiet students, waiting for the arrival of the principal.  I thought it must some kind of joke played on unsuspecting new teachers but the arrival of the principal in cap and gown followed quickly by all of us standing to attention soon put me in the picture.  This was to be the way all of our weekly assemblies were conducted.  I was in a different country!

The next few days and weeks were full of misunderstandings.  I was told to go to the Building Society to deposit my pay check  ($84 Canadian/per month).  I would have thought it was a hardware store or a building supply company but it is a sort of credit union!  Mince was hamburg.  A biro was a ball-point pen.  To spend a penny was to go to the bathroom. Petrol (which was rationed to 10 gallons a month) was gas. We even had to remember to drive on the left side of the road.

About a year after we arrived, Zambia switched over to the metric system.  Now there would be Kwatcha and Ngwee, instead of pounds, shillings, and pence. For the general population, there was very little access to radio, the use of telephones was extremely limited , and of course, TV was almost non-existent. So the  government encouraged “each one teach one” to get the message out about the currency change. It actually worked out quite well and everything went smoothly.

I came to love and appreciate the African people. When we returned to Canada after two years, we had one large suitcase and a baby girl, our daughter Michelle who was born halfway through our sojourn there. But the memories of our time there will always be a part of me.

10 Things I Love About Montreal

I just visited Montreal for the gazillionth time and I still love so many things about that city.  Here are ten of them.  I could name at least a hundred.

  1. Three of my grandchildren live there.  They are almost 14, 12, and 10 years old.  They are great boys and their parents are amazing!
  2. There is always a party atmosphere and there is always some kind of celebration going on. When I visited on the weekend there was an Italian festival in Little Italy and my son-in-law, Vinny, took us to dinner there, at Pizza Napolitan.  We arrived at 6 pm and had to wait in line for about an hour and a half.  But it was fun!  The atmosphere both inside and outside the restaurant was amazing, with people speaking many different languages, kids running around and joking and laughing.  We didn’t leave there until 9 pm after the most delicious meal you could imagine.
  3. La Ronde is an amusement park on Ile Ste. Helene and has been operating since Expo 67 closed all those years ago.  We used to take our daughters there when we lived in Montreal in the 70s.  It is still a fabulous place to take a family for a day of fun.
  4. Mount Royal, or The Mountain as it is known , sits in the middle of the city and it has a park at the top, where people picnic, hike, and stroll around.  In the winter they skate on Beaver Lake.
  5. St. Joseph’s Oratory is a huge church, set on the side of Mount Royal.  It really is an experience to go there and you can see many devout people climbing all the steps to the top, some of them on their knees.
  6. The Metro!  Montreal’s subway system is one of the best in the world.  It is easy to get around the city and is bright and vibrant.
  7. Montreal has a whole underground city where you can get out of bed, go to work, do your shopping on the way home, go to a concert or movie or take in a hockey game, all without poking your head above ground, which you will certainly appreciate when it is -30 C in the winter.  There are kilometers of underground walkways many of which connect to stores, libraries, clinics, and shopping which are above ground.
  8. Old Montreal.  Montreal is one of the oldest cities in North America and the Old Town is quaint and alive and has beautiful historic sites, wonderful French restaurants, and trendy night clubs.  One church I love to visit is over four hundred years old.  The statue on top of the church faces out to the water where voyageurs canoeing the St. Laurence River would be able to see it when they were returning from their fur trading expeditions.
  9. Place Jacques Cartier.  This is a square in the heart of Old Montreal, where there are historic buildings, street performers, and artists willing to paint your portrait or do a caricature.
  10. The two cultures, English and French, living together side by side.  Montreal is China Town, Little Italy, the West Island, The South Shore. 

I know I’ve just scratched the surface of this busy historic city.  But I love it.  What do you love about Montreal?

VIA Train Trip

Yesterday morning I took an unexpected trip to Montreal on the VIA train.  My daughter Monica had to go to visit a  friend and wanted me to drive with her from Ottawa to Montreal.

In Canada we have a very good passenger train system called VIA Rail and I am certainly a frequent traveller.  I have met many interesting people on the train and yesterday was no exception. I was alone in my seat on the Kingston to Ottawa part of the journey and Anne was sitting across the aisle from me.  By the time I got to Ottawa Anne and I were sitting side by side and I can honestly say the journey flew by.  We had so much in common, both native Nova Scotians, both married for more than 45 years to the same man, both very fond and doting grandmothers, both travelling to visit children and grandchildren all over the country, and both pretty good talkers.  :  )

I belong to a points program called VIA Preference, which allows free train travel when a certain number of points are accumulated.  I now have enough points for at least two or three free trips along the Windsdor/Quebec City corridor. 

Occasionally I have treated myself to travel on VIA One, a business class trip.  Meals are included in the price and are served on china plates with real silverware.  You are given a menu when you first get on the train, are offered a glass of red or white wine, and are given a choice of two dinner times.  The meals consist of three courses and are beautifully cooked and  served piping hot.  I’ve enjoyed salmon, roast beef, and chicken.  Mmmmmm!

Once in a while there is a little glitch in a trip.  One time in the winter while travelling from Montreal to Toronto, the train whistle got stuck ON, and I can tell you when we got home we were glad to get back to a very quiet house!  This past March on a trip from Toronto to Ottawa, the freight train in front of us lost a wheel!!!  What do they do in a situation like that?  Get a spare wheel out of the caboose, jack the train up, change it, and get on their way???  Well, it took two hours to clear the tracks and we got a discount off our next trip.

One time they ran out of TEA!!!!!   How did Maureen make it to Montreal without a cup of tea to sustain her?  Well, in this case, tragedy was averted when a fellow-passenger shared his thermos of tea with me!  God bless him!

There have been drunk passengers, crying babies,  loud teenagers, and even a very loud-snoring young man.  But at the same time, I have seen passengers helping an old woman get access to her bags, even carrying them for her.  There have been cases of offering to lend a passenger the use of a cell phone, friendly chatter, laughing, and once I even got help with accessing the internet on VIA’s free wifi service, from a nice young man.

I love travelling by train in Canada.  I wonder if it is as good in other countries.  Anyone know???