Lest We Forget

Photos- snapshots, really. Black and white and small gradually fading. Disappearing into the mists of time. An awful cliche but cliches are so worn because they convey the truth. Snapshots fade and so do memories.

I debated writing about Remembrance Day this year. I fear repeating myself and boring people. But if it bores others, I’ve decided that is their problem. I will continue to remember and to share. The world wars are long ago when measured by human lives so it is up to those of us touched and haunted by those conflicts to bring them to the attention of others.

My memories are personal because the World War 11 was a background to my youth. My parents did not dwell on the hardship or talk much about the conflict. They did, in some ways, want to forget. My Dad was in North Africa and through Italy and Belgium. He seldom talked about what he experienced, and like so many other WW11 veterans he wouldn’t answer questions or he would brush them aside. The few anecdotes he shared were: that once he wandered through a field while inebriated. When he woke up, he saw he had staggered through a mine field. Another time, he was sleeping in a pile of hay when a German shell fell near him but didn’t explode. In Italy, he saw a boy running though the streets home, grasping a wriggling eel. Perhaps the first protein his family would have had in a very long time.

My Dad had a private airplane and he did love to fly. It wasn’t just an idle passion. He had the airplane so that should war ever touch Canadian shores, he would fly us somewhere safe. He never wanted his family to experience the horrors he had.

My mother lived through the Battle of Britain and the bombing. She lived with her sister and remembered a card table-like structure, they’d bring out and hide under when the bombers came. She remembered the rationing and the blackouts, the sounds of the doodle-bugs, V1 flying bombs, a bomb with wings. She remembered (she might have been a teenager) riding with “Jeffry” on his motorbike in the blackout. She remembered Churchill’s stirring speeches. The war was immediate and real.

I do remember and my adult kids do. For my grand kids, the world conflict is farther and farther away. It is hard for them to imagine. Yet, my granddaughter wants to read about Ann Frank and her betrayal. Perhaps the sacrifices won’t be forgotten. I hope.

The Korean War, Canadian Peacekeeping Missions, and the work of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan must be remembered, too. Their sacrifice is as important.

I will continue to remember and to try and keep others engaged in remembrance. Lest We Forget.

Remembrance Day

July 11, 1945- Mr. and Mrs. Aleck Trefiak

It’s Remembrance Day tomorrow and always a time to reflect about WW11 and the huge part it played in the lives of my parents. Even their planned wedding date of May 8th, had to be postponed due to VE Day.

How did they meet? My mother, Ethel Hooper, lived in Harrow in the Greater London area and my dad, Aleck, was the son of Ukrainian immigrants to Hope Valley, Alberta. Hope Valley is no metropolitan Mecca. My mother’s mum died of scarlet fever when she was born and there were older siblings. Her grandmother Curtis raised her until she was nine. My Uncle Henry was “farmed out” to relatives (Chestermans) in Hope Valley. When he heard Dad was going overseas, he said, “Here look my sister up.” Henry served in the Canadian Navy.

Introductions were by letter and I have forgotten (or didn’t properly listen) but they did meet, at a crowded London train station. My mother remembered Dad’s letter saying, “I’ll be the one with the bright red face.” He was shy and quiet. One thing led to another.

The picture above was, of course, in black and white but my mum loved colour. At one point in the 50’s “colourizing” these pictures was popular and mum had this one done. You can see the beautiful bouquets. It’s no wonder she always tried to grow roses on the prairies. Her dress was borrowed.

Dad said, when he saw the picture, “Why didn’t you tell me my hair was standing on end.”

Mum’s reply, “I didn’t know you that well.” And yet she married him and shipped out to the Canadian prairies, arriving in the middle of winter. Dad, in his winter attire of parka, felt boots, and hat with ear flaps, was not nearly so dashing as he’d been in uniform.

Life as a farm wife was totally foreign but the neighbours were kind. Mum and Dad raised me and my brother. It wasn’t easy but they made a life together.

Now Remembrance Day commemorates WW1, WW11, Korean, Afghanistan and other veterans. Those who made the ultimate sacrifice and those that returned, changed forever.

I don’t know if I’ll attend a formal ceremony tomorrow. For sure, I’ll be thinking of my Dad, who like many others, seldom talked about his experiences overseas. I’m not sure what our town is doing. The recognition at the Cenotaph had been moved indoors before the pandemic so I think I’ll just have some quiet times and think of all veterans.

Sunday Quest

During the last few months, the bar for fun has been drastically lowered. Today was a good day and passed the mark. The dog walk is routine and the route seldom varies but today, this cheeky little guy caught my eye. Not the dogs, though. Good thing they don’t have to hunt for food.

Cheeky squirrel.

Then there was the weather. It got to maybe -8 today and when we started out, it was pretty dull. Halfway home the sun came out. And so did the sun dogs.

It’s not the greatest photo but you can see that there’s a whole circle around the sun…And then we were home.

But the fun didn’t stop there. Gary wanted to look for the first school he attended in Ribstone (now practically a ghost town.) It’s about an hour drive and with the sun out, it was beautiful. The pictures don’t do the hoar frost justice and the driver didn’t plan to stop for photo ops so this is the best I could do.

Winter can be beautiful.

And lastly, we did have success and found the rather humble building where Gary started his education. It’s boarded up, weather beaten, and abandoned. It suffered the fate of many such schools on the prairie. This one was moved to a nearby town, Chauvin, and may have served as a meeting centre or residence. If you look at the front, you can see the address, 320 Main Street.

By the time we got home, the sun was starting to set. It was a simple day of “fun” but the quest was a success. And simple outings make a welcome winter break. Happy Sunday.

2021- More of the same and worse…

This morning I noticed that the 2020 calendar was still hanging on my wall. I am old, and old school. I still mark appointments, coffee dates, and meetings on the wall calendar. That way, I keep reminded of what’s coming up every time I glance at it.

I didn’t celebrate the debut of the New Year because my dogs got too tired to stay awake until midnight to ring it in. COVID rules meant no gatherings. Provincial members of Parliament, even one minister, thought a Hawaiian vacation, or a trip to Mexico was a fine idea. It is- except for the new COVID mutations which they could bring back. We, the little people, had been advised not to travel. Hell, we weren’t even to gather with family. Many of us followed the rules because we’d like to see the end of the pandemic.

All this means I have no “events” to mark on the calendar and I forgot to hang it. I wish I could say the same for the United States. Home grown terrorists stormed the Capitol and made it right into the Senate Chamber where they interrupted the vote to certify Joe Biden as the 46th president. To date, 5 people have died, two from gunshots and three from “medical events.”

I celebrated the advent of 2020 and it didn’t turn out so well. Here’s hoping this very rocky start to 2021 means we’ll end on a high note. Everyone will have been vaccinated and it’ll be safe to see family and friends, to gather, to have public entertainments. Time will tell. Hang in and stay safe.

Sheltering- Belated Birthdays

Ha! I missed my birthday but I’m still a year older. I missed my grandson’s and granddaughter’s but today we got together for the first time since March. We golfed and ordered pizza and visited. The kids play with the Jack Russell and now she’s pooped.

My birthday surprises? Two, one from each of my grandkids and each one a unique creation. First, my bouquet of pastel tulips in a silver and green vase. My ten-year-old granddaughter made it for me and has kept it until now. It will be displayed in a place of honour.

My grandson, who turned 13 in April, created a model of our house and yard. It is to scale and includes every detail. He measured angles and figured out how to replicate our ‘cottage’ roof. The trees, shrubs and flowers are all there. The dog house and basketball hoop are in the right place. There’s even a truck parked between the house and garage.

Sasha used materials at hand and adapted them for his model. The only purchased things are a couple of the deciduous trees. The fir trees are made from cones and sponges became the hedge. Our backyard swing and table are all there.

These are gifts I will always treasure. Hours and hours of thought and work went into the model of our home. My pictures don’t do it justice; it is so true to life.

The bouquet is set in a vase decorated by my granddaughter.

I was disappointed not to celebrate birthdays in April, and then in July but this visit and my gifts make up for it. Both have found spots in my front room. Take that COVID. Thank you, grands and my son.