Thursday, June 30, 2011

How I Came to Be Here

By Belinda 
(This is a reworking of a post first published a few years ago and I submitted it to Postmedia.com for Canada Day. I'm not sure if it will be published there but thought I would post it here anyway! Stay tuned for part 2 tomorrow--Canada Day.)

A couple of years ago on Canada Day weekend, when our youngest grandson was just five, he sat between Paul and me in a church pew one Sunday morning.

He was scribbling on an offering envelope when he suddenly looked up with wide eyes and said, "Omie, when you used to live in England, did you just get on a plane and fly over here?"

I smiled and said, "No, Sweetie, we came on a boat."

"You came on a boat?" he echoed, eyes growing wider.

"Yes, and a cat named Tibby and a Myna bird named Jasper came with us."

"They did? Where are they now?" he wanted to know.

"Oh, it was a very long time ago and they grew old and died," I said.

"Oh," he said, going back to scribbling; his questions satisfied.

But I was remembering how it all began...

After a false start when I was 16 and turned Paul down because I was going out with someone else, he finally gave me another chance and asked again a year later.

I was 17 and he was 20 and I was head over heels in love by this time. I had a hunch that I was hitching myself to a man that was not going to stay put. And, like my mother before me, I was ready to follow the man I loved anywhere.

I don't think he ever really proposed but I do remember him saying, "So, how would you feel about coming to Canada with me?" and having to read between the lines that he had marriage in mind.

We got engaged on my 18th birthday, and just over a year later, we were married, on August 23rd, 1969.

By this time we had applied to immigrate to Canada and were accepted. We had absolutely no assets to our name but a few wedding gifts, and a very little cash.

I remember on our honeymoon in Rotterdam, my aunts and uncles asking about where we would live and did we have jobs. They all seemed so surprisingly cautious, practical and conservative to us.

"Hadn't God opened the door?" we thought, and we were sure he knew the next step!

Paul's older brother had married an American girl and emigrated the year before, and his parents had also applied to emigrate and were accepted.

And so, on Saturday, September 27th, 1969, Paul's parents and his younger brother John; sisters Sheila and Judith; their cat, Tibby, and Myna bird, Jasper, arrived in a rental van, at my parent's house in Alvechurch, Worcestershire, where they picked up Paul and me for the drive to Liverpool. From there we would set sail on the C.P. liner, The Empress of England.

It was only five weeks after our wedding and we were just 19 and 22 respectively.

In my mind’s eye I can s see Mum, Dad and my 16 year old brother Robert, framed in their front doorway, waving goodbye to us. I don't think they ever really got over the pain of it, but with the self absorption of youth, I had no idea at the time of the cost to them. Mum, whose love was always such an unconditional and unselfish love, only said, "As long as you are happy, darling, I am happy." But her heart broke.

At 19, I had no real concept that the rest of my life was going to be so far away. That dawned on me slowly and with an aching heart of my own, over the subsequent months.

There was a terrible storm as we crossed the Irish Sea. I woke up on Sunday, the day after we set sail and thought of Mum cooking the traditional Sunday roast as she always did, and I longed to be back at home, but every moment took me further away, and I was wretchedly sea sick as were most of the other passengers.

I didn’t yet know it but I was already pregnant with our son, Peter, having romantically and impractically wanted to bear children with this man I married, right away.

By the time we realized that waiting might be wise, it was too late. Peter was born 9 months to the day after our wedding--May 23rd, 1970. While as hopelessly impractical as the rest of our lives at that time, we never regretted Peter's joining us so soon.

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