Imperfect Memories

If you knew you only had a few days or a few months to live, what would you do with that time?  This thought has been on my mind lately and I can’t figure out if it is something to seriously consider or if it is an excuse to not do other things that wait for my attention.  But by devoting time for this one can only hope that one thing will lead to another and I do like to multitask so…

I am a few months short of my sixty-fifth birthday and realize that just having outlived my parents I am not sure of my own longevity.  It’s hard to beat your genes.  Who would I like to read this story?  Certainly my children and the rest of my family but there is a danger in sharing with my brothers and sisters as I have discovered each of us has a different memory of a past event which just goes to prove the old idea of the truth being completely subjective and perhaps nonexistent in its purest form.  I know I have posted on this blog memories of events and my brother and sister have pointed out a different or corrected version (very kindly of course).  This is probably a good thing as they are younger than I so perhaps their minds are a little fresher.

Distant memory in particular is colored by what we think happened and our ensuing experiences and emotions.  And of course we choose to believe or remember a specific thing or occurrence according to our own mind.  One of my brothers believes my grandparents did not own their home because he remembers seeing a box with rent receipts after they died.  He may have forgotten that at least one offspring and family lived in that house with them continually for many years and yes they all paid rent.  That included my parents, two aunts and several others for shorter periods of time.  So he, my brother, would swear on a stack of bibles that they never owned that house even though the family sold it after Grandpa’s death.  Fortunately my one living paternal aunt can verify this and explains that she was fourteen when she had to quit school to stay home and look after her younger brother and sister so my grandmother could get a job to make money to buy the house which they purchased when my dad was overseas.

This is one of the reasons I tend to avoid reading famous people’s autobiographies – just too subjective.  So if you are reading this little story and share memories of the past with me, please understand this is my recollection and while I will strive to be accurate it just can’t be more than my own mind and heart will let it be.

My dad joined the army when he was seventeen, and yes he was underage, but it was 1941 and the Second World War was raging so a lot of youngsters were allowed to enlist as age wasn’t questioned much.  We have a couple of letters  that he sent home when he was posted overseas and one letter from his younger brother who I think was only fourteen at the time.  I will dig them out and scan them for the record and will tell you more about that at a later time.

I think now and then about the sort of things I want my children to know about such as old wood stoves that baked pies and cakes and wonderful homemade stews and soups, old dial black telephones and numbers that began with words or initials.  Our phone number was Sherwood 2—2 and the Sherwood was dialed as SH so the number in fact was 742—-2.  (Naturally I have the exact number in the family version but it would not be a good idea to publish it in the event someone else now has that number).  Everyone in those days was on a party line, so if you wanted to make a call you first picked up the receiver to be sure the line was clear.  Mind you at any time a neighbor could pick up their phone and listen in and if they were skilled at making the click very quiet you would never know.  I suppose if you were of the paraniod persuasion clicks were heard when no one was there.  People did not use the phone unless it was necessary.  There was no idle chatter.  There was also no such thing as cordless, caller ID, or speaker.  Oh, and no such thing as colors.  It was black and very heavy as I remember.

The one below is exactly like ours and everyone else’s for that matter.

 

There were no phone jacks that lines plugged into so if the cord was snapped from the wall you had to call the phone company to come in and repair it.  Now I must qualify the not using the phone unless it was necessary part.  I do recall vaguely the odd Saturday when our parents were out making prank calls that generally went, “Hello, is your refrigerator running? Well you better run after it!”  We just dialed numbers randomly and have no idea who we contacted and they sure could not trace us.

It is my intention not to reveal any family skeletons as such; at least I think I will not, as many of those old bones are not mine to share.  Neither will I necessarily whitewash things but the memories are pretty happy nostalgic ones.  I guess we will just have to wait and see as layers of the dusty past are removed.  I have also decided that I will not try to stay on a chronological path as memories seem to pop up in a rather irregular fashion and that is how they will be recorded.  I’ve tried the chronological thing in the last couple of years and it drives me bonkers.

My folks were married in Scotland and she being a war bride followed him here to Kitchener Ontario a few months after his return.  I have spoken with my aunt who is my mom’s younger sister and the last of that family of siblings and my aunt who is the last remaining member of my dad’s siblings and have asked as many questions as I could about their youth and what they remember.  As both are well into their eighties the memories are very subjective but amazingly detailed.  Besides what are memories if they have to be objective?  The full flavor of life is in the personal bias of it all.  That’s where the fun comes in!

Well now that I have that all straightened out I shall ponder a little more and then get down to some real work.  I won’t share every record of history with you but when the little oddities such as telephones pop up I will keep you in mind.

 

The Woman in the Cowl

The Woman in the Cowl

 Some folks tell a tale that is just a tale to entertain; a story that may or may not have bits of truth.  Some folks tell a tale and do not know for certain if it was a memory or something cooked up by imagination or need but is triggered by a passing comment, a situation caught in the frame of time.  A trigger.

 I know a lady who swears this story is true.

 Almost forty years ago in the month of March she and her husband planned to paint their small apartment to welcome the new season.  It was an early spring, no sign of snow or even March winds, and a hint of a hot summer approaching.  Gathering together all they needed they took brushes and rollers in hand and began their task.

 Within a very short time their young son, only a few weeks old began to cry and spiked a fever.  The woman told her husband the baby must be allergic to fresh paint.  They could not stop what they were doing and the only answer was for the mother to take the baby somewhere for a couple of days.  The young woman phoned her grandmother and asked if they might stay with them.  The grandmother agreed and said one of the two guest bedrooms had a crib in it and they were more than welcome and that she would not be home but the grandfather would be.

 

The husband drove his wife to her grandmothers promising to finish the painting that day and would join her later in the evening.

 

The grandfather eagerly greeted them and served the lunch he had prepared.  Mid afternoon the mother put the baby in the crib for a nap in the upstairs bedroom of the ancient house.  It was evident to her that the old man was also ready for a nap as his eyes grew heavy, so she excused herself saying she would like a nap herself and climbed the old wood staircase to the second floor planning to read while baby and grandfather slept.

 Checking on the infant who was sound asleep she closed the door to the room and lay on the bed to read.  Within minutes she could hear the tell tale sound of someone pacing back and forth across the linoleum floor outside the door.  She thought it strange, if it had been her grandfather coming up stairs she would have heard the creaking of the old staircase.  She opened the door but no one was there.  Closing the door again she lay down on the bed just to hear the pacing more frantic now.

 Perhaps she had just not heard her grandfather coming upstairs.  Checking the other bedrooms and the bathroom on the second floor she realized she was alone and decided to check the main floor.  Her grandfather was sound asleep in his chair.

 Returning to the bedroom she lay down again.  This time she left the door open.

 The afternoon progressed quietly and in due time the grandmother came home and preparation began for dinner.  The young mother forgot about the strange events of the afternoon.  When her husband arrived late evening and following more visiting and catching up the couple retired for the night.

 About midnight the young woman awoke and sat up in bed.  It wasn’t pitch dark as moonlight shone through the old lace curtains illuminating shadows.  As she looked toward the crib at the foot of the bed to see if perhaps her son had stirred waking her she saw a dark form cross from the doorway to the crib. It appeared to be a woman shrouded in a long gray cloak with a cowl preventing sight of her face. She was small, perhaps about five feet in height and slim in spite of the cloak.

 

The woman went to the crib silently and leaned over the side. The mother realizing she was awake became frightened and screamed out.  The dark woman’s head snapped up towards the sound and she disappeared.

 

Taking the baby into bed with them the couple slept till morning.  When she told her grandmother about the strange occurrence during the night the grandmother gave reassurances that nothing in the house would ever hurt them.

 Over the years the family related stories about their experiences with the woman in the cowl but no one expressed on going fear once they realized there was no threat to themselves, and while the woman continued to visit her grandparents regularly she never again stayed overnight.

 I was that young mother.  Whenever the memory surfaces I find myself feeling badly because I soon realized too late that the ghost, if that was what it was, just wanted to see the new baby.

 

Caleb’s Adventure with Grandma Fiction Friday

Caleb woke up early.  When he opened his eyes he could see it was still dark outside his window.  It took a few moments for him to realize why today was special, and then he remembered!  Grandma was coming to visit and she was bringing her pajamas!

It was always fun when Grandma stayed overnight. Mommy had painted the guest bedroom bright yellow and there was a new bed in the room.  Well it was really an old new bed that Mommy had when she was a little girl.

Caleb got out of bed and put his clothes on and went to the kitchen where Mommy and Daddy were making breakfast.

“Is grandma coming soon?” he asked, as he ate his favorite breakfast.

“Yes Caleb,” said Daddy, “She should be here very soon.”

Just then a car pulled up in the driveway and Caleb ran to the door when he heard the sound of her car door closing.

“Grandma, I am glad you are here!” he shouted as he ran to the car.

Grandma scooped Caleb up in her arms and there were lots of hugs, kisses, and giggles.  Caleb helped Grandma carry her bags into the house.

“Will you play dinosaurs with me Grandma?” Grandma always liked to play with Caleb.

“Well Caleb, I thought today we would go on an adventure,” smiled Grandma.

“What kind of adventure?”  He wasn’t too sure what an adventure was but if Grandma liked it he knew he would too.

“I am not sure,” said Grandma, “But I thought we would go to the park and perhaps find an adventure.”

Mommy said, “That sounds like fun and be sure to dress warm and wear your mittens.”

As they walked down the tree lined street they turned right towards the park and saw an old lady standing on the sidewalk crying.

“That’s Mrs. Parsons,” Caleb said.

“I am Caleb’s Grandma.  What has happened to make you cry?”

Mrs. Parsons stopped sobbing long enough to say, “My kitty, Whiskers is missing!  She never goes outside but today when I openend the front door she saw a squirrel and she dashed rightou out the door chasing it.”

“Well, said Grandma, “Caleb and I were looking for and adventure and this will do nicely.  We will help you look for Whiskers.”

Mrs. Parsons gave Grandma and Caleb some of Whisker’s special treats.  If they found him and offered the treats he would come to them.  The three of them set off down the street calling for Whiskers.

“WHISKERS!”

“WHISKERS!”  “WHISKERS”

As they walked Caleb said, “Whiskers was very bad for running away and making Mrs. Parson cry.”

“Oh no Caleb,” said Grandma, “Whisker’s behavior was bad, but I am sure he is a good cat. Cats are like people sometimes.  We behave badly by doing naughty things but we are still good people.”

When they got to the park they began to walk around the bushes and trees calling for Whiskers.  Grandma thought the squirrel would have run up a tree somewhere.  And cats can climb trees….

Mrs. Parsons walked to one side of the park and Grandma and Caleb went to the other side, each calling out Whisker’s name.  They called and walked for a long time but could not find Whisker’s.

Mrs. Parsons was crying again and Caleb was beginning to get tired.  They knew they would have to go home soon because it was almost lunch time.  Grandma could see Caleb needed to rest so she suggested he sit on the swing while she looked for Whiskers a little bit longer before going home.

Caleb sat on the swing and looked around the park and wondered where Whiskers could be.  Suddenly something fell on the groungd next to him.  Curious, her walked over to see what had fallen.  It was shiny and gold in the shape of a heart.  That is strange he thought, how would this get in a tree?

Then he heard a soft mewing and looking up in the branches he spied something furry.  I bet that is Whiskers, he said to himself. 

“Grandma! Come here!  I found Whiskers!”

Grandma and Mrs. Parsons hurried over and Caleb pointed to the spot where the cat was clinging to a branch.

TO BE CONTINUED

The Adventure will continue next week. The actual book I did was of course filled with pictures of parks and cars and cats etc at every paragraph as it is a book for a young child (3-4 yrs).  Some sentences have also been changed or deleted from this just for the sake of length.

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