Linda’s Retelling

Mom said that on these occasions, the adults ate first and the children ate after, whatever was left. It used to upset her when some of the adults would try to see who could eat the most, because it meant that the children may have to do without something. Mother, being the youngest of the family, was one of the children, but even if she hadn’t been, I think she would have been perturbed with the unfairness. Mother was always concerned with being fair to all. She would never take more than she needed if it meant someone else would miss out. In her seventies she adopted two little third world children, a boy and a wee girl, and looked upon them as more grandchildren.

One thing people used to have to be very careful of, and even being careful, would still get and spread: head lice. Mom remembered as a school girl with her long hair, getting the miserable things, and the war was on between Grandma Sklapsky and the head lice. Thelma was enlisted into the battle, and she would comb Mom’s long hair with a fine toothed comb and braid it. Mom said she made those braids so tight that she made her little sister look like an Oriental, and her mouth was pulled into a grimace resembling a smile. Mom wondered whether the tight hair was to keep the head lice out or to change her facial appearance. She said it seemed to her that Thelma was always reading, and she would be reading while braiding the hair. They did eventually beat the lice, and I believe that was the only time the family was ever troubled with those pests, but they were always on guard.

Another thing she spoke of was seldom spoken of by anyone, though everyone shared in being hosts to these unwelcome pests at one time or other in the early days. I am referring to bedbugs. Mom told me of her mother wiping down bed frames and baseboards with kerosene, putting mattresses outside in the sun and generally waging all out war against these pests until she rid their house of them. My own Mother had to wage the same war when the farmhouse we were raised in was purchased. She too won her war, but what a terrible effort it took. We do not realize today just how fortunate we are in so many respects.

The young women really had it rough during those particular times of the month. Now days we have a wide range of disposable products which have greatly changed the way of life for females. I wonder how the modern miss would like to use flannelette rags torn In strips, wash them out after use, then dry and store them for the next episode? They didn’t have automatic washing machines and driers either, but had to wash them out by hand and hang them outside to dry. It is in these everyday facets of life that the differences between their world and ours become staggering to our imaginations.

Mom made a list of the early crops and events that occurred before her birth. The railroad had reached Brock in 1910. In the winter of 1910-1911 the settlers started curling as a winter sport. Norman was born in Michigan in Dec. of 1911 and they left the States in March the following year, arriving in Stalwart, Saskatchewan in April of 1912. She recorded 1913 as a wet year, and the year there was a big fire In Brock. In 1914 there was a crop failure, and war in Europe, later called World War I, but the next year they had a bumper crop, which is what the farmers call a very successful crop year. In 1916 it was wet again. The telephones came in 1921.

Mom told us of playing tag outside in the evening with her Dad and the boys, when Grandma Sklapsky would call her in. Grandma would say that night air was damp and not good for her, and it bothered Mom that the boys arid her Dad were allowed to stay out. She could not understand. They slept with the windows open whenever lack of mosquitoes made it a possibility, and the night air could certainly get in then. She wondered why the damp night air was not good for her but it was all right for the boys.

She spoke of her dad playing with the little children and one game he played was horsey on his knee. He said a little rhyme and the ride matched the words which went like this: “’Long comes the Lady. Pacey, pacey, pacey. ‘Long comes the Gentleman. Trit-trot, trit-trot, trit-trot. ‘Long comes the clown. Hobbledee Gee! Hobbledee Gee! Hobbledee Gee!”

Mom told me a story her folks used to tell the children, and though they knew it by heart, they would get tense and frightened every time it was told to them, and beg each time for retelling. The story is called Who’s Going to Stay With Me This Long Cold Winter Night? Mom told it to us as adults and I have written it down in book form and hope one day to have it published.

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