Saturday, March 10, 2007

March 3rd

As we flew into the Montreal airport, the woman in the next seat noticed fireworks. “I wonder what they are for? March 3rd isn't a holiday.” It may not be a holiday but it is a significant day for me. March 3rd, 2007 is the one hundredth anniversary of my mother’s birth. One hundred years ago Ella Rose and Everett Reed, her womb mate, were born. Reed and Rose were the youngest children of Austin Robert and Alice Emily Bennett.

Mother died in Edmonton in 1988 at the age of 81. My mother’s best friend growing up in Magrath, Alberta was Mae Harris who later married Frank Sabey. Her grandson and his family live in our ward in Calgary. A little over a year ago we attended her 100th birthday party at the Bow Valley Chapel and shared her memories of her friend, my mother. She lamented that one of the consequences of living a century is that your friends all leave you behind.

I’m pretty sure that it was on Mother's 65th birthday that I took Esther to Magrath to meet my parents for the first time. Three things stand out from that visit; one a little more than the others.

Esther didn’t know me well, we had only been on 10 dates, but she did know that when I got nervous I was more loud than usual. When I greeted my father I was practically yelling. If I was nervous about this meeting, she was really nervous. She soon found out that everyone had to yell at Dad. He was deaf in one ear and couldn’t hear out of the other.

The meeting went well and the second thing that stands out in my memory is my Dad’s assessment of Esther. “She’s a really nice little girl . . . well . . . I guess not so little.” If you’ve seen our wedding pictures you know that Dad was quite a bit shorter than Esther.

The third is the most significant. It was a conversation we had the night that we drove back to Calgary after the visit. (I have been accused of misrepresenting this conversation, so you may want to get verification from the other source.) I was driving; we were talking.

Somewhere between Fort McLeod and Claresholm I told her that I loved her. I had said that before. It wasn’t anything new. For some reason, instead of saying that she loved me back, which was all that I expected, she said “What are your intentions?” That took me off guard. “You’re a returned missionary and you say that you love me. What are your intentions?”

After a pause, I romantically blurted out, “Oh, what the heck, will you marry me?” Pause . . . Pause . . . then the response. “Yes.” Another pause . . . then she said, “Can we stop?” We did and a little over three months later we were married in the Alberta Temple in Cardston. As you can see there is no truth to my often repeated story that Esther asked me to marry her.

Just before the wedding Mother said to me "Andy, if you and Esther ever have a fight, I want you to know that we will take Esther's side." Fortunately we didn't fight very often and I never told my mother if we did. I do know that if I would have taken Esther's side every time I would have been happier. That is not because she was always right or that she had to have her way. It is because what ever we were fighting about was not worth it.

Thinking about my mother’s birthday raises a supposed memory. It isn’t my memory since it was before I was born. On Mother’s birthday, 3 March 1948, she must have wondered what she was doing turning 42 and pregnant. Less than 3 months later I was born. Esther understands that memory more than anyone. She has a similar one from her 42nd birthday.

My sister, Norma, was six years old when I was born. Her reaction to my birth is a story that Mother told my children over and over in the months that she lived in Edmonton before she died. Norma cried when I was born because she wanted a baby sister. When she got to see me in the hospital she said "If I'd have know he was so cute, I wouldn't have cried."

My mother lived through hard times during the depression, lonely times living in Winnifred Alberta, happy times with close friends in Claresholm, nervous times everytime she had to move and contented times with her family. She was a private person with a good sense of humour. I used to love it when my brothers and sister came home from university or with their families. Discussions in the kitchen would often end up with all of us getting the giggles about some joke or another.

She, and my memories of her, are worth fireworks.

Sunday, February 11, 2007


Great things to come. Please check back soon.

Mr. Timko

I grew up in Raymond, Alberta and lived in a house two blocks from the Alberta Pacific elevator where my father bought grain. Our company house was on a corner lot. Across the street to the south lived the Mr and Mrs.Pajkowski and their two children. The Salada family were kitty corner to us and Mr. Timko was across the other street.

All of them were immigrants and none were ,members of our Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or Mormons. This is unusual since Raymond was settled by Mormons from Utah. Their descendants made up the majority of the citizens of Raymond. I have heard that some of the Pajkowski children later joined the Church. When we were neighbours, they were not. As I think about it now, we probably lived on the wrong side of town.

Mr. Timko lived in a small house on a large lot. The house needed paint and did not seem to have electricity; the glow from the window was pretty faint. Mr. Timko had left is family in Poland and moved to Canada and now lived alone in the mostly dark house hidden behind rows of poplar trees.

Mr. Timko sometimes did odd jobs for my mother. He was a small, almost elderly, man with a very thick Polish accent. He had trouble understanding us and we had trouble understanding him. However he worked hard in our vegetable and flower gardens for the money and food that my Mother gave him.

One day Mom told me to go ask Mr. Timko if he could come over and transplant a peony. He said he would. He came over a little later and asked where the piano was that we wanted him to carry. To me he was the original 'small man mover with a big heart.'

I remember when I was quite young climbing the poplar trees in Mr. Timko's yard. There were other kids there but the only one that I remember was Johnny Salada. He was a few years older then I was: maybe ten to my eight or nine. Somehow we started discussing the origin of the species - not Darwin - sex.

I was pretty shy about things like that. I had learned that you don't talk about those things when I asked my mother when my baby niece's penis would grow in. I thought it was like teeth. In any even, I suspect that Johnny Salada was doing more talking than I was. Whatever the give and take he told me what people did that brought children. I was appalled. I told him that he had to be wrong and I had two solid arguments that proved it. Firstly, no one could withstand the extreme embarrassment that 'doing it' would cause. But more convincingly, I had recently seen the movie "Giant" staring Rock Hudson. In one scene, his wife told him that she was pregnant. His reaction was one of shock and surprise. As I figured it, if you'd have 'done it' you would certainly have remembered. Ergo, he hadn't.

At first Johnny didn't really argue with my logic; it was pretty solid. After some thought he came up with an alternate hypothesis. He was pretty sure that the mechanics that he described were accurate since they seemed to have come from a reliable source. But, drawing on his logic, he reminded me that 'doing it' was often referred to as 'sleeping together.' As he figured it, that countered both of my arguments. If you did it while you were asleep, you wouldn't be embarassed because you didn't know that you had done it and you would be surprised to find out the result.

He had me. It was plausible.

Years later there was a lot of discussion around sex education for children. Was it better to get it at school where the facts would be sure and the teachers trained or at home where values could be taught along with the facts. I didn't have either. Just Johnny Salada in Mr. Timko's tree.