Sunday, November 23, 2014

Connections

There are times imprinted in memory because of the seasons in our lives in which they occurred, although memory can also be a fragile faculty.

At the monthly meeting of the writers group that meets in our home, November's topic was Memories/Remembrance. Everyone came at the topic uniquely. We met on November 11, Remembrance Day, and one person, instead of writing, brought memorabilia of generations of her family at war and spoke of her hopes and fears now that a son-in-law has enlisted. We passed around her fascinating items and photos. 

I shared the story of my father's two months overseas during the war, right at the end, and I brought out one of my own treasures, a rifle oiler from World War 1, a gift from my nephew John in 2011. You can link to my post about the rifle oiler, with photos of it, here.

Magda shared a story about her family's history, starting in Holland during World War 11 and then continuing into their first decade or so in Ontario after emigrating in the 1950's. They were hard years fraught with disappointments and losses. Her memories of childhood were of the difficulty of adjusting to a new country and culture under harsh conditions. It was as she read with pride of her father and recounted his many jobs, that I listened even more intently. One of them was as the janitor at Ardills Department Store and Ski Shop in Aurora. 

"I worked at Ardills!" I said.

"When?" asked Magda.

"1969," I said.

Magda nodded with a smile, "He would have been there then."

I couldn't remember ever meeting the janitor, which wasn't surprising since he would have most likely been there after closing time, but I wrote a blog post about the women I worked with there after arriving in Canada from England; a homesick 19 year old newlywed; in 1969. The post was entitled, The Ladies of Ardills, and you can read it here.

The women I worked with were each distinct in their personalities. Four of them had grey hair and I thought of them as so much older than myself, which they were by at least 40 years. And now I am at least as old as they must have been!

And then a strange thing happened, a resurrection from the vault of memory! I suddenly "saw" a man in dark blue overalls with a head of abundant fuzzy white hair, that I had completely forgotten until that moment. "I do remember Herman!" I said,  hoping that I hadn't manufactured a man from my imagination. But Madga said that her dad's hair was curly, so I am sure that it really was him I saw in my mind's eye.

Stocking Cap With Long Tail Knitting PatternAnd then in Magda's story, a man named Billy was mentioned; a young man with disabilities who would come by the store to pick up the flyers for the newspaper. Out of my mental archives, a long forgotten short, dark haired man, sprang; wearing a scarf and an over sized black winter coat, unzipped. A long stocking cap with a tail that swung from side to side behind him with every step of his unsteady gait. It was pulled down above a sharp featured but cheerful face. 

"I remember Billy!" I said, amazed at the  emergence of memories that had been lost until that moment.


That year I went through the rite of passage, from girlhood to womanhood, and then to motherhood. I was homesick and lonely and the women of Ardills filled a little of my need for family. I had somehow lost Herman and Billy in my memory bank but thanks to Magda's story they are back.

And I can't help but be amazed at the silken threads of connectivity that so many decades later, brought Herman's daughter Magda and I together, through our mutual love of writing.

Post Script: A photo sent by Magda, of her father.

6 comments:

Susan said...

Awesome story that tugged hard at my emotions.

Belinda Burston said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed it! And also that you were there for the unfolding story. :)

Dave Hingsburger said...

Just wonderful!

Belinda Burston said...

Thank you Dave!

Cindy said...

The old adage of 6 degrees of separation is so true. Out of the blue you find you have long lost or forgotten connections with people and with whom you would have sworn there was nothing. The Lord moves in mysterious ways.

Belinda Burston said...

Yes Cindy, how true. And this was 45 years ago! Magda sent me a photo of her dad tonight. There he was, fleshing out the imperfect memory. So cool