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In the Spring of the Year

Our first winter in Canada was an intensely colourful crazy quilt of first experiences.

We spent it waiting for the cold to come, but with our tough British blood, we never did feel as cold as we expected. I mean, we had been sent out into school playing fields in shorts throughout our childhood in the damp, cold winters of England, and were brought up to tough it out when we felt sick--even apologizing to doctors for "bothering" them if we should have need to seek out their services, which we rarely did. I don't think that was necessarily a good thing, but it was the way we were conditioned.

The cold may not have arrived with the intensity we expected, but the snow came early and we slogged through it from our apartment to our places of work, on foot every day--me to the ski and clothing store, Ardills; and Paul to a factory on Edward Street in Aurora.

As Christmas approached we were amazed and impressed by the Christmas lights that Canadians hung on their houses and trees and Paul's dad picked us up in his car sometimes to take us out cruising the neighbourhood to marvel at the fantastic, dazzling displays of blue, pink, white and traditional red and green lights, that shone in the dark night.

Paul's dad discovered Dairy Queen and was in love with their soft icecream. He could never keep a delicious discovery of any sort to himself (this is probably why he was a preacher) and he took to dropping by our apartment on Sunday afternoons with icecream cones.

It was our first Christmas as a married couple and I wondered if we would make it that far at first. I always loved cooking, but had never mastered the art of making gravy. I actually remember one argument when I shouted at Paul that if he wanted gravy he had obviously married the wrong girl; I didn't come with gravy. These things seemed important! We were both getting to know each other as man and wife, and wondering if we had known each other at all before.

As March arrived, we were taken, again by Paul's dad, to Bruce's Mill, to observe the production of maple syrup. This annual Canadian wonder, passed on by the First Nations people to the European settlers, amazed us. We tasted the sweet and distinct flavour of the syrup and I loved it and the maple sugar candy made into the shape of maple leaves.

I had become pregnant right away, before we even arrived in Canada, and to all of the other new experiences, this one was added. I was 19, an ocean away from Mum and missing her sorely, with letters our only contact.

I never did show very much during the pregnancy until the very end, and was able to keep working at the clothing store. My doctor really emphasized not gaining very much weight during pregnancy and I did my best to not gain more than 20lb. Nowadays doctors seem much more relaxed about that, which seems much healthier.

The baby was due in the second week of June, and to my great joy, Mum had booked a flight to Canada to coincide with the baby's due date. She was coming for three months and I looked forward so very much to having her with us.

As it happened, the baby had other ideas, and one Friday night in May, after I had been on the bumpy Aurora town bus, my waters broke in my inlaw's bathroom.

I told Paul I thought I needed to get to the hospital, as I started to have labour pains, so he took me to Newmarket, where they checked me out and decided to keep me in overnight. They told Paul that probably nothing was going on, and that he could go home and call in the morning.

Paul took them at their word, went home, had a good night's sleep, and in the morning he busied himself, painting the trim on his parent's house. Eventually he thought he should call the hospital and see when he could pick me up.

I had been in labour since he left the night before and as soon as he knew that he headed right to the hospital. At 3.00 in the afternoon on May 23rd, I gave birth to a6lb 4oz baby boy. He was very tiny, being early and perhaps because of the doctor's focus on not gaining weight, but the nurses commented on his long feet and said that it looked like he'd be a police officer.

When they laid this tiny human being on my stomach, I was overwhelmed by the strength of the protective maternal instinct that seemed to have arrived along with him. Normally a peaceful person, I knew that I would do serious violence to anyone who tried to harm him.

It was exactly 9 months to the day from our wedding day when he was born. In less than a year I had become a wife, a mother and a landed immigrant. On June 1st, I turned 20.

After just four days in the hospital they gave the tiny, fragile, vulnerable baby, to two total greenhorn parents and let us take him home. Didn't they know that we really, really, knew nothing about being parents?

The first night with him in our apartment, I lay awake listening to make sure he kept breathing. Small baby noises came from across the room, and every time it went quiet, I got up to check that he was okay.

The two of us were now the three of us; Peter, a future Force to be Reckoned With, had arrived.


Our first lecture tour through the late fall and early winter in England was brutal. I find their damp cold much colder than our dry cold here. It gets into your bones. Gotta say you look great there for a new mom!
Marilyn said…
Thoroughly enjoyed this, especially the part where you wondered if you'd known each other at all before the marriage. Hahahaa. So familiar! So true!

You mean to tell me that in England they didn't put lights on houses and trees? Interesting.
Belinda said…
Hi Marilyn,
In the sixties they didn't do so outside. We had modest decorations inside only, and in our house that was a little tree that was decorated on Christmas Eve, with angel hair and lights we had had forever, and tinsel that also had been around for centuries it seemed, but it was beloved tinsel. I fancy that if I rummaged around long enough in Mum's boxes, that tinsel is still there. Well, not really, but I kind of wish it was.
Suz said…
I am enjoying your stories very much. I assume your monther finally arrived and made you feel more secure.

Can't wait for the next installment!!
Anonymous said…
Hi Belinda. Thanks for that story and the photos. Your baby boy looks as so precious and tiny.

Keep the story going. I want to hear more.


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