Monday, October 19, 2009

First Quarter

By Belinda

I left our family story last week at the end of 1967, happily connected at last with my true love and soul mate, Paul.

I have written already about our engagement, in June of 1968, and marriage in August 1969, so I will continue the story now, by remembering the quarter year of our life in Canada.

The photo below was taken on our honeymoon in Holland. I was just 19 and Paul 22 and we had only just begun.

We arrived in Canada with our wedding presents and the modest contest of my "bottom drawer" (which is what we used in England instead of a Hope Chest) in an orange crate. We had less than two hundred dollars to keep us going until we found work.

The second photo was taken a couple of months after our arrival in Canada, when some distant relatives of Paul's who had emigrated decades earlier, threw a wedding shower for us. The concept of a shower of gifts was foreign to us, but we felt truly lavished upon. I had discovered that I was pregnant within our first week in Canada, just as it was dawning on us that it might be a good idea to wait and get established first. Although it was hopelessly impractical the way we plunged into life together, what we would have missed had we been more circumspect. We were grateful for the help we received from many kind people.


We made our first home in a one bedroom basement apartment in Aurora, Ontario. We had not a stick of furniture, except the orange box, but we the apartment superintendent gave us a coffee table left behind by a previous tenant, and they sold us a table and chairs and a bed that they had in storage, telling us that we could pay as soon as we could afford to.

Paul soon found a job in a factory. He wasn't happy there but we managed to scrape by with the money he earned, and I too, started work in a clothing store.

We had landed in Canada in October. We came equipped with sweaters I had knitted and warm underwear. We knew that the winter ahead would be much colder than an English winter. We didn't expect that we would be far too warm to wear all of this heavy equipment but that was what happened. We were used to the damp cold and draughty houses of England. In Canada our apartment had central heating and double glazed windows. We sweltered through our first winter!

The snow came early that year, and one morning before the end of October we woke up to find snow several inches deep outside our basement windows. We couldn't afford a telephone or car, and walked everywhere. Paul's parents, sisters and brother, who had emigrated with us, rented a house a couple of miles away in the same town. They had a car and would pick us up for church on Sunday.

To ease her loneliness, Mum wrote to me every single night, recounting the events of her day. It helped her to "talk" to me in writing. She mailed the letters faithfully, twice a week and also sent English magazines each week. Those letters, full of the small details of life, kept me connected with home, but I was still intensely homesick.

As Christmas approached, we bought our first turkey. I had no idea how to cook it. Someone told me to rub it with salt before cooking. I didn't understand that they meant inside the bird and so I rubbed it all over outside with salt. In spite of that it turned out to be quite tasty. I hosted Christmas dinner that year for ourselves and Paul's family, seven of us, all missing friends and family back home very acutely.

Of course, being English, I had an umbrella, which I used when it snowed at first, until I realized that people were laughing at me.

Each week we would walk to the IGA to buy our groceries and treat ourselves to a new delicacy--a toasted bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich. We had never had these at home and loved them.

Everything tasted different, even foods that were the same brand that we could buy in England, and we missed many familiar things, but there were other things that we embraced, such as donut shops.

My heart was still at home in England, and being pregnant for the first time and so far from Mum was not easy, but the ladies at the store where I worked were kind and eased the ache of homesickness.

1970 and a whole new decade started. What lay ahead we didn't know, but we knew the one who did.

3 comments:

Julie said...

I recall many a Sunday sitting at the table with my mom who was writing to my grandparents in England. She did this every Sunday without fail. Happy memories. Welcome back home

Marilyn said...

So many rich details here, as usual. Beautiful!

I especially love the part about your Mum writing the little daily details. So important. Her letters didn't keep you from being homesick or her from missing you, but she was doing her best to send a part of herself and it was good for both of you, from one heart to another.

Another wonderful chapter!

Suz said...

I love your story. Can't wait for the next chapter.

When I moved away, my mother wrote me weekly with the same type of information. I cherished each letter.