Sunday, March 8, 2015

Words from the Past

Today is my mother's birthday.  She was born in 1914.  Wanting to celebrate her life in some way, I went to a copy of her life story that I own -- the pages now yellowing and the gestetner ink now fading.  I wanted to find some excerpt to share ... something in her words about her life.

Unable to choose one segment to type, I got trapped page after page, trying to read between the lines, trying to make the paragraphs into essays.

Ultimately having to choose something, here are her words about when Elsworth was born and about her life on the southern Alberta prairie.
In 1919 I remember Elsworth was born.   We must have been living out at Delbonita but Mama had come into Raymond to have the baby, because the baby was born at Grandma Scoville's house.  The Dr. delivered the baby but mother got blood poisoning and milk leg.  At one point she stopped breathing and Papa jumped up on the ged and pounded on her chest, and she started breathing again.  Elsworth was born April 21 and for weeks Mama lay in that room before she was well enough to come out.   
While Mama was laying there ill there were only a few times that they would let us in to see her....  I remember Mama got up and came out on the lawn on the first of July.  I remember her sitting out in a chair ....  At Grandma Scoville's there was a most beautiful silver maple tree.  The back of the leaves were all silver and the fronts were all green. Mama and Pap didn't want to have more children right away but they thought that the time they wouldn't get caught was the time when they would. 
We learned to play in the ditches when Mama was sick.  The ditch was a narrow one and the water only about up to our knees.  We made mud pies and got our dresses  muddy. We would be dirty and have our feet cut on the glass but it was fun because it was so hot and we would get cool.
It wasn't long before we piled in the wagon and started for Delbonita.  The night we went out ot the farm something broke down, so Papa walked with Lenore and me and the baby to the two-roomed house that we lived in.  The Wiley's lived over one mile away and they had seen the light.  Mrs. Wiley came that mile and said, "Where is your mother." Lenore told her that Mama was back in the wagon because she couldn't walk and that Papa had left us and gone back to get mother.  Lenore said to come in and see the baby. Sister Wiley just went on to see mother and Lenore was hurt to think that she didn't want to see the baby. 
When I as about four and a half we moved from Delbonita to Wrentham and it was here that I started to go to school.   
We used to look for birds' nests on the way to school and they could be found about every ten feet.  The country was wild then. It wasn't even ploughed.  We would look at them and run on.  We would find about ten every night and we wouldn't touch the eggs. Mother would say, "Look at them, but never touch them."  We used to sit down on our dinner buckets and rest.  When we got home we were so tired we had to lay down or sit down.  In that house, there was just one room and it had a folding bed.  Every night we pulled it down and slept on it. (p2-3)
Happpy Birthday, Wyora.

Thank you for leaving us some words that let me imagine your childhood.



  1. I too remembered Mother on this day. However, I could not have written a post as eloquent as you Arta and Wyora. What a treasure to read. Thank you.

  2. I haven't read Wyora's words for a long time. When she was dying, I would go into her room and type for her and she would tell story after story. It would be lovely if we had edited it. On the other hand, just catching what she had to say was a treasure. Imagine having the memory of playing in ditches and the broken glass in them would cut your feet Of course, I have been thinking about Blanche and her staying in a room for 3 months, trying to recover from the birth of a baby. The letters go on to say that a private nurse was hired and stayed with her all of that time. Now, if I was sitting there typing, I would be asking Wyora to tell me more. What kind of private nursing services would have been available then? And we get the piece that the children were only allowed in the room a few times in 3 months.

    Maybe the next time I see children making mud pies, I will be less worried about the mud on their dresses and I will also be hopeful that the mud pies will be memories they will cherish, as is the case in that little vignette.

  3. thanks for both her words and the followup comments

  4. You are welcome.

    And how did you like that cryptic little sentence about family planning. They didn't want to have any more children right away, but they got the timing wrong when it came to good information about birth control. So sad. And Wyora using the word ... "they got caught". So painful to observe sexuality in those terms. Ouch to living in those times when information came in such a way as to be useless.

    Well, lucky us. All of that caught in just a few paragraphs.