Well this is a first. I am writing my Christmas letter from my family home near Lockeport, Nova Scotia. If I remember correctly, I have not been here for Christmas in over 25 years. I am awash in sights and sounds and smells from the past.
Danielle at Lockeport’s Lillian Benham Library invited me to share stories about what Christmas was like in West Head in the 1960s. Once again, tons of happy memories flooded my mind.
I remembered the many cakes Mom made only at Christmas: Pound Cake (Yummy), Marble Pound Cake (Yummy), Coconut Pound Cake (Yummiest), Applesauce Cake (Yummy), Tom & Jerry Cake (Yummy), Gumdrop Cake (Not Yummy), War Cake (Not Yummy), and Fruit Cake (Yucky).
One year, disaster struck. While Mom was running errands, Sookie, the dog ate all the Christmas cakes that were cooling on the counter. I can only imagine the despair Mom felt. The dog survived, but Mom never forgave him.
Mom also baked apple and mincemeat pies for Christmas. She bought lightly coloured, mild flavoured mincemeat from Laings’ General Store and later, the Town Market. Nothing went to waste. Mom used the scraps to make cinnamon rolls spread with generous layers of butter, brown sugar and cinnamon.
Enough about the long ago past. Let’s see if I can remember a few things from 2016.
In October 2015, I chose 20 of my favourite blog (Memories of Nova Scotia) stories and put them in a book. Since then I have been trying my hand at telling my stories to anyone who will listen. This has taken me to several libraries, retirement homes and community groups.
I have finessed a few of my stories including: Desperate Measures which chronicles the hoops I had to jump through to convince my mother that I really needed glasses. I reached the point of desperation, wrote a letter to Mom and signed my teacher’s name. Resourceful, don’t you think? By the time Mom found out I had written the note, I already had my glasses.
I love to tell the story Drivers’ Ed comes to Lockeport. I was in the first class of students. By the time I actually passed my test I had put the car in the ditch, almost killed a pedestrian in the crosswalk, missed a telephone pole by a hair, and that is just the beginning.
One of my favourites is How to Catch a Husband. I shamelessly admit, even boast, I chased my husband-to-be. After all, I had few opportunities to meet Mr. Right. Dad thought daughters shouldn’t date until they were at least 30. My handsome catch and I celebrated our 37th anniversary in July.
There are 27 more mostly true and funny stories in my book, LIFE MATTERS.
I have been writing a new story every week which I post on my “Memories of Nova Scotia” blog every Friday. You can subscribe to my blog at www.meldajeanclark.com. It’s free!
Over the past year, Glenn and I have spent a fair bit of time in West Head. We were here for May, June and July. We did a lot of landscaping and made plans to build a garage for storage, a workbench and a spot for our car in nasty weather. Workmen poured the 24’ x 24’ cement pad in July and it became the highlight of the summer for our grandchildren: Isaac, Greta and Maddie. They played on it for hours. It would have made a wonderful splash pad, but, unfortunately, the well went dry in July and stayed dry until November. You know what they say, “You never miss the water until the well goes dry.”
The town of Lockeport and the Municipality of Shelburne should be commended for their efforts to supply drinking water and offer showers to everyone. No one could remember a drought like it. It became a banner year for well drillers. They worked day and night crisscrossing Nova Scotia. We decided against drilling a well, hoping it was just an exception. Next summer will tell the tale.
Allison and her children spent most of July and August in West Head with NO WATER. Jeremy, Dana and Greta spent part of September here with NO WATER. The closest laundromat was in Shelburne and it was packed from morning to night. It would take more than a dry well to keep our children away from their Nova Scotia paradise.
It just so happened that Cindy came home from Edmonton to visit while both Jeremy and Allison were in West Head. Cousins, no matter how long they have been apart, seem to pick up where they left off. I would have loved to listen to their Nanny & Grampy stories.
Something strange happened to me this year: I got carried away with the American Presidential Election. I realize each of us has our political convictions. I campaigned on Twitter for my choice for months. I made a lot of American friends and enemies.
Our nephew Tim flew to Ontario in November for a visit and to watch the election with us. We finally gave up and went to bed with sore eyes from all the crying. Glenn and Tim are history and political junkies. A few days later, the two of them drove to Nova Scotia. I can just imagine the conversations.
We contracted an old high school friend, Richard Swansburg, to build our garage but he was booked up until November and Glenn wanted to be here to help build it. Would you like to shingle a roof atop a bald hill with the wind coming from every direction? They nearly froze to death. We are thrilled with the finished product and can’t wait to move things into it.
Anyone who has renovated or built anything knows that one thing leads to another. Glenn thought the garage should have electricity for his electrical tools. Years ago, Dad simply ran a big extension cord from the house to the barn. That way he could run two freezers, a fridge, a coffee pot, a radio, a toaster, all manner of tools and goodness knows what else. We decided against that method. That meant bringing in equipment to dig a trench. It would have been impossible to dig it by hand because there are millions of rocks.
Richard and Glenn also built our lower kitchen cabinets. I may be slightly biased, but I find them breathtaking.
That task is almost done, but I know it ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings. I sure hope she shows up soon! Otherwise we are going to be flat, busted broke and will have to move in with our children. They would LOVE that! Bahahahaha!
Allison, Ed, Isaac and Maddie still live about 15 minutes away from us. Isaac started Senior Kindergarten in September. He loves school and is eager to learn. It’s exciting to see how quickly he picks up things—just like a big sponge. He loves to talk about infinity and uses words like proactive. He has lots of energy so he plays hockey and goes to Scouts (Otters for his age.)
Maddie is 2 and has personality galore. She loves to help Mommy and Daddy with everything. She talks and talks and talks. We are amazed at how much she is like Mom, Maddie’s great-grandmother. She eats all of her food and then bums food from other people. She is super inquisitive. Her neck swivels in a full circle. Maddie is holding a grudge against the doctor for giving her a needle and I believe she kicked the Mall Santa Claus. She is kind of loud and before you finish saying something she butts in with, “What????” – just like Mom used to do.
Jeremy, Dana and Greta moved to Guelph because Dana got a new job with “Ontario Pork.” Need a pork recipe? Dana is your girl. We were sad they moved farther away from us. Jeremy has been able to stay at home with Greta until very recently when he began a librarian job with a community group. Now Greta goes to daycare. She is also a talker. I can’t imagine where that gene came from. She loves to call us and has figured out Glenn already. She calls him “Silly Grampy.”
Allison & Ed and Jeremy & Dana are wonderful parents. It is a joy to watch them raise their children.
Glenn’s Mom, Annie, turned 90 this year. She is a remarkable woman. She has an apartment in a beautiful retirement home in Peterborough. Family means everything to Annie. She now has 5 great-grandchildren and they are her pride and joy.
I had a scary incident while we were in Nova Scotia in June. It could have been fatal. We have a bin for recycling and garbage at the end of the driveway. On my way out for coffee one morning, I took a blue recycling bag to put in the bin. I got out of my vehicle and left it in drive. It kept moving towards the road. Instinctively, I tried to climb back in to stop it. I managed to get my right side back in enough to crank the wheel so it wouldn’t go down in the ditch. My left leg and foot dragged along the gravel and then the pavement. I am cringing just thinking about it. I went to Liverpool Hospital ER and had to go back every few days to have the dressing changed. Most of the time, I sat with my foot elevated. It took forever to heal and I still have nasty scars on the top of my foot. If I were 19 instead of 59, I would see a plastic surgeon to get rid of the nastiest scars.
The ER doctor, Dr. Garry Morash, made an interesting comment. He said I was lucky the car was in drive and not in reverse. Most people who try to get in a car moving in reverse, get knocked over by the open door and then run over. I am grateful to be alive. Now I check to make sure I have put my car in Park before I get out, but it is like closing the barn door after the horse has run away. Too little, too late!
Since we are away from our children this Christmas, we celebrated Christmas with them in November. It is always a treat to have everyone together. I just sit on my Lazyboy Throne and our adult children take over. The grandkids have a great time playing with Nanny’s toys. Once again, we observed the boxes gifts come in provide more entertainment than the toys. Each child has a stuffed wolf because they are going to Great Wolf Lodge Niagara Falls for a good time.
Only a week until Christmas. It can be a tough time a year for the lonely, the poor, the ill and those who have experienced loss. Please do something, no matter how small, to make a difference. Our little town of Lockeport is hurting. Our hearts go out to the families of Mac and Vicki Huskilson, a husband and wife killed in a tragic car accident on December 15th.
Savour each day. Hold your loved ones close. Phone a cranky parent. Apologize, even if it was not your fault. Everything can change in the blink of an eye.
Glenn and I wish you and those you love a wonderful Christmas season. We hope you have time to visit friends and family between now and the new year. If you are facing a difficult Christmas, may you find yourself surrounded and supported by friends and family.
We send you our love and best wishes for a brand new 2017.