Venturing forward towards the back of the old barn, it felt like I was in the scene with Lucy from the, “The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe”.
Such a favorite C.S Lewis fantasy novel. I shall forever be intrigued by these stories, and his ability to take you directly into the snow covered forest instantaneously…
I was parting through the old fur that hung in the wardrobe , expectant to encounter the magical world that lay beyond.
I was unsure, but tantalized, and through the window shone a ray of sunlight. The dust particles hung in the air, creating a lengthy shaft of light …… I knew I had to go there.
Imagination was never in short supply in my young mind, and creating a mystical world of my own that I indulged in, was a daily journey, if not hourly.
It could be termed “ daydreaming,” and even this combination of words makes me give a sigh of satisfaction, and releases endorphins flowing through my brain cells.
The old combines that were parked in the barn reminded me of mythological metal creatures, that could potentially start moving their various parts, and could come alive at any moment.. Picture the early inception of the movie, “ Transformers.”
Hiding underneath the hull of the massive beast, I waited as the game of “ hide and seek” commenced. What better place to initiate a youthful favorite game then in this particular barn.
Part of the intrigue lay in the fact that my Uncle would give us heck for climbing about on the old relics, telling us that if we fell, we could very easily get seriously hurt.
As a kid, if there wasn’t risk invololved, then I suppose we would have been indifferent to the challenge of the playing area. For whatever reason, the immediate thrill of the moment far outweighs the dangers. This is immaturity, and the consequences did matter of course, but the draw to indulge your senses in the bliss of the glorious play was to intoxicating to result..Imaginative play was the ultimate girl, and adventures and fun drew us onward.
Our often daily rituals would include picking a stalk or two of wheat , and sticking it out from a missing front tooth, or back one, and then depending on who was getting into mischief at that time, we wandered from one piece of farm equipment to the next lost in the make believe world of our own .
Wandering about the fields, the scratchy stalks of wheat brushing our legs, and the smell of dried dirt under our feet, we were urchins that lived among the grasses, foraging in the wide open spaces for grasshoppers, and other creatures to befriend. We were explorers and conquers of the tractors and combines, we were settlers on the prairies… we were invincible.
In my mind, I always named them, these mechanical creatures, and created personalities for them, and then their stories would unravel before me, and I was again in my day dreaming other world.
There was always excitement if our visits coincided with harvest time. Riding up in the big cab of the combines, I felt like I was so important, and queen of my surroundings. My Pappa would talk away on the CB radio, and there was a special bonding time, as time stood wonderfully still, and few words were spoken. There was a quiet understanding that the Farmer needed to concentrate on the task before him, and I was fortunate enough to get a seat “ shotgun,” so I needed to remain quiet and respectful, and learn from this process.
My Papa seemed to immerse himself fully in this secure world high above the earth, and the monolithic metal machine would do its work, and wheat would be harvested.
The sense of providing something tangible that could be made into food still seems such a primitively beautiful and human response, that I could see was profoundly satisfying to him. Pride in ones’ work, and providing for his family was uppermost in his day, and he “ walked the walk,” even when his legs became more lame, and the ravages of disease took hold, and weakened his lower extremities.
My Mother recounts that my Uncle would lift my Pappa, his father, up into the cab in later years when he could not climb up any longer. Such an act of love, and dignity. I was to bear witness to this act of providing honor to the man who fathered you, in a practical and tangible way.
Dignity became something that my Nanny would also model to my youthful, watchful eyes.
She was ever busy, but so efficient in all of her ways. The master, and only bedroom in the cottage was where she would perform the daily bathing tasks for my grandfather, when he could no longer care for himself, and his activities of daily living became more bothersome, and he became unable to complete them without the gentle healing touch of his wife, and life partner in love.
She would always preserve his dignity, by closing the bedroom door, as she flittered here and there balancing fine bone china in one hand, and a wet wash cloth in the other , as she, with multiple tasks in front of her, would model the height of efficient “ caregiving.”
Often, I would hear my dear Papa groaning as she gently bathed him, and administered the morning ritual, and as she washed the sleep from his tender and beautiful eyes. Then there would be the unmistakable buzzing of the electric razor as she shaved his beard.
There was a slight scent of clean soap that flowed out the door of the bedroom. This smell is so comforting.
My Papa was a very sentimental soul, and I was so impressed as a young gal, that to witness a man being emotional and sentimental was normal, and acceptable, if not a deeply brave characteristic to witness.
He was strong, and yet weak because his body was betraying him, and yet my Nan was deeply proud of him, and her gently coaxing him to turn his head this way, and that, so that she could gain the best access to his whiskered cheeks was endearing to overhear.
He seemed so patient to me. She would gather her bowl, filled with warm water, and bar of soap , and look after things for him, keeping him clean and free from bed sores.
When he was ready to greet the day, she somehow maneuvered him into his wheelchair, and she would gently push him forward into the little sitting room, as if he were her prized trophy. I don’t know how she even managed to assist him from bed to chair, but I do recall my uncle and cousins helping in the process.
Nan would wind up the old antique phone that hung on the wall, put the black handle to her ear, and say “ yo- hoo, “ into the speaker… and assistance from the main farmhouse would arrive pretty quickly.
My uncles’ bold presence would enter into in her front hall, and he would be ready to do the heavy lifting for her.
I was a sponge, observing, and cataloging how to care for someone who couldn’t care for themselves, very specifically in my young mind. I had no idea why at the time, but I did know that seeing this “ love in action” was of vital importance.
I think about this a great deal now, and in previous years, how so much of the training that I needed, and would require later on in my life, was being imparted to me first hand by my Nan. She was a good teacher. This was caregiving 101, and I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor.
Modeling caring behavior is so significant to me. She didn’t speak it, she just did it, and it is carved in my mind with such clarity, like it was the Ten Commandments etched in stone tablets, and brought down by Moses himself.
This was the way to do things. I was so impressed by her cheerful and spunky demeanor. She had a way of light stepping, and making things that would most definitely have been cumbersome to bear, easier… “ her burden was light,” at least this is how she chose to embrace it. Joy clung to her like bees to the honeycomb. Her choice to proceed with love and care was something that I saw as a daily decision.
She would be humming hymns under her breath , and I find, that when I am generally content, seemingly of their own accord, these same songs escape my lips.
Us grandchildren knew that we were loved and adored by my Nan, and Papa, and the legacy of their love and influence in my life brings great appreciation and solace to me then, and now.
I developed migraine headaches at the age of 11, and they were horrible. I would be nauseous, my head throbbing with pain, and crying out, and my Nan would lead me into her master bedroom, where I lay on the white chenille like cotton quilt, trying to survive.
She would hold my hand, and gently sing to me, and say , “ don’t cry dear, this will only make it worse.”
She taught me how to meditate, and relax myself to help deal with the excruciating pain. She would have me lay very still and quiet, then she would start at the tips of my toes, and talk soothingly, helping me literally relax from toes , all the way up until I reached my head.
Somewhere along this audible journey, I would cease with my tears, my fists would unclench, my breathing would calm, and my eyelids would flutter shut. I fell into a restful slumber, and when I woke up, sometimes hours later… I would be ravenous.
I recall eating almost an entire loaf of bread, complete with peanut butter and jam, and maybe even more sharp cheddar cheese add to that carb ensemble.It was as if I had been adrift at sea in her bed, and had not eaten in 30 days. Had there been a stack of cheeseburgers at the ready, I most probably would have made short work of them too.
My Papa used to have an old pick up truck that he would drive about when he still could. I think it was red, but then my mind plays tricks on me, and I think, no, it was turquoise. Either way, the old chrome gas cap that sat behind the driver’s seat still is remincient of him twisting it off with a squeak, and pouring fresh gasoline in from the storage gas tank from our back of the farmstead house.
The broad front bench front seat, him driving, me bouncing along beside him, as we tumbled along kicking up a cyclone of dust along the straight roads, grain ripening, and swaying gently in the breezes, as they flowed over the plains, was hypnotic to me as a young girl.
Living in Colorado for 20 years, I think I was always very connected there in my senses, because of the stark similarities between these places. Of course there are no Rocky Mountains in Saskatchewan, but there are an expanse of open fields, and alluring blue skies.
It’s in the air though, it’s light, easy to inhale, and with that…easier to exhale.
When in Colorado there were morning doves that nested on our back roof, and the gentle voice of their cooing transported me back in a millisecond, and I had time travelled back to Nan and Papa’s cottage, and was a child again out on the Canadian prairies.
Even the scent of grain, and grass reminded me of carefree, youthful days spent surrounded by love, good homemade delicacies, and the warmth of family.
It was like we were in our own cocoon out on the farm, and my home in Colorado felt like that too.
Deciding to roll a tire at my cousin Cory while she rode the mini bike down the travelled road past Nan’s house, was not the right choice.
We were literally “ bowling for Cory,” and this just couldn’t possibly end well.. which it didn’t. Even as the old rubber tire was released from the hands of the perpetrator, who shall remain nameless, her brother “T,” the continuum of time should have been reversed. He was a good aim so it would turn out. I’m not sure of all of the proper terminology of bowling, but I think it’s called a “strike” when all the pins are knocked down. Well… this was indeed… a human strike.
He hit her right on the side of the bike, against her leg, sending her sprawling and tumbling over the rough terrain. As soon as that occurred, we ran like we were on fire towards her with great concern.
She was bawling, and her legs were covered in road rash, with bits of pebbles embedded in her bloodied limbs.
I’m sure the screaming brought my Mum and Nan running out from the cottage too.
We were gonna all be in trouble over this accident. My Mum and Nan got Cory inside the cottage, and got her cleaned up, with warm washcloths, and another bowl of warm water. At first she sobbed, and seemed inconsolable when she looked down at her cut up legs, and the hurt feelings that ensued with the knowledge that her brother had done such a thing to have her land in this predicament .
Gradually the sobbing turned into sniffles, and I’m sure that Nan gave her granddaughter some baked goodies of one type or another, maybe a raspberry jam turnover, and a glass of milk, to quiet her memory of “ the bowling incident.”
I’m not sure specifically of the repercussions and consequences that my other cousin suffered, but I do know that all the rest of us kids, my brothers included, were in deep trouble for being a part of this fiasco that couldn’t possible have gone so wrong.
We received a talking to, and there may or may not have been some kids that were grounded from that event. It was one of those deep eye contact moments, when your grandmother stares you down, along with your Mother, and you feel like an ant with a human holding a magnifying glass above you, and the burning glare of disapproval is aimed in your general direction. You want to squirm and get away, but you cannot escape.