Watching the footage of the catastrophic storm in Calgary last evening, I was taken back in memory to the spectacular summer storms of my childhood in that same country.
From there I reminisced about other fond memories of those summers that I spent in Calgary with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, and I recalled a small essay I had written about them thirty-five years ago, when I was taking a workshop in creative writing.
...........Sometimes at night when I cannot sleep I move in memory through my Grandmothers' houses. Between the two I divided each long summer of my middle childhood. I linger at each room, each corner, each shrine of memory, and gradually the aura of those days secures me as a child in childhood's safe, warm bed. The nasturtiums that grew along the paths at my Town House Grandmother's; the cool damp refuge from the heat of a summer's afternoon under the small back porch where the chickweed grew; the hallowed spot where the beloved cocker spaniel found eternal rest under a constant bed of cosmos. Surely those cosmos lay fresh and sweet even under winter's frosty blanket, which I never saw. To me it was a place of summer; of love and tenderness, among loving, tender, sentimental kin.
I remember the joy of meeting my gentle, white-haired grandfather on his way home, laden with treasures from the ice cream department of the dairy where he worked. It was childhood's enchantment to wait eagerly through the day for his nightly treat, and childhood's awe and delight at the amazing butter sculptures my uncle carved for exhibit at the summer fairs; the three bears in golden, buttery indignation; Cinderella in a shimmering yellow coach.
I remember the mysteries of my maiden auntie's dresser - the creams and perfumes and the lovely oaken chest that held her hopes. And I wonder what became of the filmy pink negligee my mother knitted for her to beguile an errant sweetheart, alas turned fickle.
At my Country Grandmother's I travel through the upstairs bedrooms where all the aunts and uncles grew up in friendly confusion. I remember tea beneath the covers, between the grandparents, early in the morning. And I wonder how many people start the day so delightfully now. And if they do, who brings them their fragrant cup?
I remember the orderly stacks of wood, the pails of cool sweet well water which stood together upon the table in the corner, my grandmother's treacle pudding, the feeling of the prairies in the thirties. Frightening dust storms and gorgeous, splendid displays of lightening such as I have never seen since. I remember catching the enormous, great grasshoppers to milk them of their tobacco; waiting patiently for a curious groundhog to pop up between the noose so carefully laid around his entrance. And I remember turning cartwheels for incredible distances across the prairies, with my cousins.
The memories crowd warmly one upon another, pressing me gently into sleep and sweet forgetfulness of present problems. They lie there, a background to my life, until I once again recall them to mind with pleasure, or until a sudden flash of memory is triggered by a fragment of music, or scent of flowers. The Skaters' Waltz brings a tear, inevitably, - the hundreds of frosty, Sunday afternoons that the band played, the skaters twirled and glided, and the memories gathered softly in the corners of the soul.....................
I think I warned you that this was sentimental kin, and I have inherited the gene! Also, these are memories written thirty five years ago, when I was Mid-life and Menopausal with three teen agers. Life was much more complicated than it is now.
P.S. Here is the House on the Prairie ca 2000.
My Grandfather built this house almost a hundred years ago, and when it was ready to be lived in he sent for my Grandmother and their seven children, who had stayed behind in England. My mind boggles at an ocean voyage at the beginning of the last century, with a family of seven, - and then a long and arduous train trip across Canada to Calgary.
My Town Grandmother followed Grandfather from Ontario with a family of five. Grandfather had taken the oldest son with him to help establish a home in the west.
What brave and sturdy creatures these pioneer Grandmothers were!