Showing posts from May, 2013

Music and Memories

Just like stones in a farmers field things in my house work their way to the ground every now and then. An old CD that I hadn't played for while surfaced recently. At the time that I bought it I played it over and over again, but it has been seven years, so when I popped it into the CD player in my car, it came back as fresh and beautiful as when I first heard it.  It was Rob who asked me if I had heard the song  Nine Million Bicycles  by Katie Melua. I hadn't, but I bought the CD, Piece by Piece, after he described her voice, just to hear it. Playing the CD, I was struck again by how tied in certain memories are to music. I listen to that CD and I am in Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. The music takes me back to 2006. I have taken time out from a visit to Mum and Rob in Alvechurch, to spend a week in Holland with Dutch cousins whom I have not seen for forty years. After flying to Amsterdam from Birmingham, I am waiting for my cousin Deborah who is flying in from Geneva


By Belinda (My final story with a connection to Maplewood Lodge--for now, a story from 2010.) I was a few minutes late but I arrived to smiles and a whispered, "He's ready," which turned out to be an understatement. "He" sat on a couch and I noticed right away that he was wearing a suit. The staff told me that he had been there since first thing that morning and that he had talked of nothing else but this day for the past two weeks. On the couch beside him, wrapped in pretty pastel paper were flowers, which he said were for ME! I felt appreciated; a special guest--but I was here for him --to celebrate his birthday. He got up to get his coat, watched benignly by the silver gray cat sitting in the middle of the room. In the car I gave him a birthday gift, a CD, which he studied and thanked me for quickly before opening the card. A bill fluttered from it, and he caught it quickly, "Ten dollars!" he said, "Thank you," while pulling

Gifts in Strange Packages

By Belinda God had been all over our coming to Maplewood Lodge in the beginning. Certain circumstances of our life at the time made me open to doing something radically different. We had made a rash decision to buy a house that we had only seen in the dark and when we saw it in the daylight on the day we moved from the house we were leaving behind, I hated (no that's not too strong a word) it on sight. My excuse is our extreme youth at the time. :) So we rented out the house we had bought and moved into a farmhouse on two acres of land that was home to ten, and later twelve, men with disabilities. I  did  stay at home, which was always what I wanted to do when we had children, but it was "home" with a difference that meant it included a few extra people! Sometimes God gives gifts in strange packages. I have found that to be the case. Often when I have been disappointed by a turn of events I wonder if God is secretly trying to give me a gift (if only I would stop wall

Winds of Change

By Belinda (Another Maplewood memory first posted in 2009) From one Christmas to another, those happy years went by at Maplewood Lodge, shaping us all in ways we were hardly aware of. Paul continued his work at Pine Ridge; always in a battle for some improvement or another. He petitioned for a "village area" on the institution property, where several portables gave some people an opportunity to live in a more homelike environment and get ready for the next step--living in the outside world--"the community." He fought for breakfast to be cooked "on the ward" on the weekends, so that the residents could have the pleasure of smelling bacon and eggs cooking. It also meant that they could sleep in later on those days and not miss breakfast--simple things most people take for granted. Before this, some people did stay up later on Fridays and Saturdays and were tired, but the night shift would get everyone up early in order to change the bed linens as th

Rob's Days at Maplewood

By Belinda In 1978 our family of 16 at Maplewood Lodge grew by one as my brother Rob, came over from England, intending to make Canada his home too. His decision was helped by the fact that during a visit the year before, he had fallen in love with one of my friends. It was fall when Rob arrived. The children had made welcome banners out of construction paper, which I found while cleaning up in the loft room recently.  "Welcome to Canada, Uncle Bob. We love you," the words danced over the paper in childishly scrawled letters. Rob was a champion shot putter and also into weight training. Paul was the brother he never had and together they lifted weights and trained in a shed that was baking hot in summer and frigid in winter and which stood about 20 feet from the house. At school Rob had been the victim of cruel bullying and for him, building a body that was big and strong was a way of ensuring that no one wanted to pick a fight with him. The men we supported at the

The Best Uncles

By Belinda Some people woven into the fabric of our lives enrich it with their depth of character and the beauty of who they are. Our children's lives were touched by the many people they grew up with at Maplewood Lodge, our home for ten years; where we lived alongside 12 men at a time who had intellectual disabilities. At our family Christmas this year, Brenda and Peter spoke of them fondly while looking at some photographs from those happy days. Thirty years later they remember them through the eyes of the children they were then. They didn't understand, or see, disability, but they understood qualities of the heart,and in that department they lived among some giants. Stanley was 57 when we moved into the home where he had already lived for two years. We had no idea then that he would be part of our lives for the next 29 years, until he died in 2003 at 86. Everyone who knew him loved him, and no wonder. He was the kindest, most selfless person in the world. Having grown

More Maplewood Memories

By Belinda (Another "re-post" from 2009.) The years that we spent living at Maplewood Lodge, from August 1974 to January 1984 were so happy; we all feel that way. And if you were to ask any of the men that lived with us through those years, they would mostly say the same. I know that because some of them are still in my life. Oma came over from England with Mum to visit twice during those years. She was 80 the first time, in this photo. When we took over the running of the home from the people who were there before us, I followed the routine that was in place already. On weekdays the men would be picked up at 8.00 a.m by a van that would take them to work at locations in Newmarket, Brampton and Aurora. They would come home again in the afternoon at about 4.00. In between I would be busy shopping, cooking and cleaning. On Monday mornings the men would bring their sheets and towels downstairs and I would launder them. In summer, I hung them to blow in the wind on the

A Life of Celebration

By Belinda Here is another re-post from 2009, in honour of our days at Maplewood Lodge. Having walked on the land where the house once stood this past Saturday, I enjoyed reading this again and remembering... I'm thankful the readers of this blog who encouraged me to keep writing these memoir posts a few years ago. Because of your encouragement, we have the treasure of these memories in writing: Brenda and I sipped our Saturday morning coffee recently, sitting back in comfortable armchairs in the sunshine that streamed through the windows of our spacious back room. She was thinking back to her childhood and the impact it had on her, her ten years of growing up at Maplewood Lodge. She said, "I was always surrounded by adults who listened to me and made me feel as if what I had to say was actually interesting." "And we celebrated  everything!"  she went on. Yes, we did celebrate. We celebrated St. Patrick's day by giving prizes to the person

There is No Place Like Home

By Belinda After sharing the story of my "One Perfect Day," a friend who read it shared the fact that she is a descendant of the family who once owned the land on which we lived for almost ten years, and which Brenda and I visited on my perfect day, Saturday. She was interested in any information I had about the Stephens family and also curious about our history on the farm, so I thought that I would share again this blog post that I wrote in July of 2009.  I may post some more of the posts I have written about that place where we were very happy. This is the house on Second Street; now Bayview Avenue, between Newmarket and Aurora, to which we moved on July 31, 1974, when I was just 24. The drawing was done by Al Calverly, a social worker at Pine Ridge, for an article I wrote about the home in 1981 for the Pine Ridge News. By then it was known as Maplewood Lodge, a name chosen by the men with developmental disabilities who lived there. I spent the month before w

One Perfect Day

I left the salon on Saturday and began to drive towards Highway 400 to head back home. On my way I caught a glimpse of Kempenfelt Bay  on my left, and made a split second decision to turn towards the lake. I had my packed lunch and thermos of coffee--and there was no rush to get home. I parked my car, refilled my coffee cup and headed for a park bench. While I ate, people passed on bikes, on foot, in a wheelchair and on skateboards. I just enjoyed being still, enjoying the view, breathing in the fresh air and feeling the warmth of the sun. Only 6 days before, Brenda had run that 10 k race in a snowstorm! In Canada we go directly from winter to summer. :) It wasn't long before I was back on the road home, with lots of day still ahead. Brenda had made reservations for the two of us at 5.30 an Italian restaurant in Newmarket, called  Spero ; which means, "I hope."  Brenda's husband Kevin was at his family's cottage, helping them to get the dock ready for t

Road Trip to Barrie

It felt like a road trip even though it is usually just a half hour trip north. On Friday evening I suddenly realized that my 9.00 a.m. appointment with Jamie, my hairdresser, in Barrie, the next day; would mean driving north on the first holiday weekend at the start of the summer. Even on Thursday, driving south with co-workers from a meeting in Huntsville; as we approached Barrie, the highway going north was packed with cars that were moving as slowly as the last dregs of ketchup on their way out of the bottle.  So I set my alarm extra early for Saturday morning and left the house an hour before my appointment.  Maybe it was because it was a holiday weekend that I packed as though I was going on a road trip. I had a packed lunch; extra coffee in a thermos; my camera (who knew what photo opportunities might present themselves,) and a great book to read. And just in case I finished the first one; a back up book. Any road trip needs music, and in my CD player I had music given

For No One's Sake But Ours

It has been a busier week than usual; one in which I longed to sit down and capture my thoughts in this small corner. I have glanced at my laptop in passing by, but the luxury of time to write eluded me! And although I would be tucked up in bed by now if I had a sensible bone in my body, I can't let another day to go by without putting fingers to keyboard: I wanted to talk to Rob on Saturday...I needed to debrief the emotion that unexpectedly inflamed my heart through reading Mum's letters and my journals of late 2002.  Throughout the day I looked at the clock many times, thinking of where he would be in his Saturday, over 3,000 miles away and in a different time zone. I know his routine by heart. At 5.00 p.m. here, I know that he will be putting on Bruce's lead and heading down the stairs of his flat, and out into the village for Bruce's nightly last walk. When he comes back, about 15 minutes later, he will take off the lead inside the front door and Bruce will

Using my Mother's Day Ticket...:)

This Mother's Day we woke up in Ontario, to a joke being played by Mother Nature! It was snowing. In May. After being over 70  degrees in Toronto last week! Not only that, but as the snow swept down from the leaden sky, a blustery wind blew full force. As I drove to church, I thought of the 10 K run that Brenda had signed up for. Surely she wouldn't be doing it in this weather, I thought, especially since she hadn't been running for the past three months after her training schedule was interrupted by some health issues. I couldn't imagine anyone running in the freezing cold of this morning. But I was wrong! To my daughter, a promise is a promise. Pardon me for using the Mother's Day Ticket, to be proud. It was the  Toronto Sporting Life 10 K  for children with cancer, and she managed to run 5 kilometers without stopping, and walked and ran the rest of the way. Brenda is cold at the best of times, and she said that parts of her were completely numb as she ran

Can't Do It!

It seemed like a good idea to share them when I found Mum's letters, but I had forgotten the sadness of that time. Tonight I dug out my journal for those months in 2002. My trip to England in October was both painful and healing. I was reading Philip Yancey's book,  What is So Amazing About Grace?  during my weeks there, and it helped set me free from anger and unforgiveness. I will be forever grateful for that. I don't think I can write about the back story to all of that as it is so very personal and hard to expose; it doesn't feel right. Maybe I will find a way sometime in the future to put it into words in a way that will add value to whomever reads it, but at this point I think it would just be depressing and I don't want to do that to people! I would rather that  you came here and got cheered up. But I do want to share what Mum wrote on her 76th birthday, on December 15th, 2002, because in it she wrote about my friend Susan, who you all know. Mum had met

The Gift of a Day

I booked this day off months ago and suddenly it was here, a day off which I had put on my calendar for today. I had plans. There are so many things when you work full time, that just don't fit into the time left at the end of the day, or squeeze into a Saturday, what with the laundry, shopping and cleaning (like I even really do cleaning as it should be done! :)) I'm not complaining though. I wrote a while back about the routine my mum had, without the help of a dishwasher, washing machine or dryer. And I love my job. No complaints. But gratitude? Oh yes!! For a day at home; "extra!" In a week that has been glorious; unseasonably warm and sunny--like a sudden outbreak of summer; today, Friday, dawned gray and cool and drizzly. It didn't matter! I woke up without a deadline for getting up, but got up because I didn't want to waste a precious minute.  Paul was away, on his way home from a conference in Ottawa, so I relished solitude and listened to the

Just a Few Lines to Say

Just a few lines to say that I read further in Mum's letters tonight and am trying to decide how to share them.  Since Dad died in late January of 2003, the months that I have to share are his last days, and they were difficult ones, even though Mum continued to write about the everyday things and mentioned only hints at the background against which they unfolded. I noticed that she suddenly began to simply start her writing with the day of the week as a heading and no date. I dated them with the help of an online calendar, but it is indicative of the stress that she was under without writing about it. How I wish I could go back to those months and be with her in them, but I can't, and couldn't then, but in her late seventies, and in frail health herself, she carried a heavy load. I will continue if I can think of how to do this well, in a way that honours them both. Maybe I will share snippets of the journey--we'll see! Thank you for caring to read here. Bel