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Memories Items from 2013:                                                 to enlarge a photo, click on it

Odd questions     Free range children   Hobos    Memories I didn't have   Dad's illness    My first letter    My only night in the wild     The other Janet    When the boat comes in   Mother's coat    MRDA        

Odd questions
Once at an OU summer school I was telling someone that I was dyslexic and it was probably because I was left handed and right eyed. This person who was a postgrad working on 'brains' said that was not right and that I should forget about that old theory. Then a weird thing happened; he asked me a bunch of questions that seemed off the subject. Amongst the questions was, “Do you have a cleft palate or do you have a close relative with a hare lip or cleft palate?” And so I told him my brother George had a cleft palate. After many more questions which I found an eerie experience because the question were both odd, disconnected but 'spot on', he announced that I was probably partially split brained. Since then, this has been a little question mark for me.
A while ago I ran across (while looking for something else) a group of articles relating learning disabilities, palate deformations, and lack of a corpus callosum, which is the large group of nerves that connect the two hemispheres. (Split brain = no corpus callosum) These and a number of other symptoms are connected. But the lack of all or part of the corpus callosum is rarely diagnosed because it is only seen in a brain scan. It is often mis-diagnosed as other conditions like Aspergers. Aspergers is what I have thought George had, ever since I read the symptoms of it years ago. But George was never offically diagnosed with anything (just like I was never officially diagnosed with dyslexia). Some of George's characteristics fit better with lack of a corpus callosum: difficulties with his nasal cavity, inability to discuss emotions with any clarity, poorly enunciated speech, late speech. In many ways the symptoms overlap with those of Aspergers.
My mother was always too quick to blame herself. A couple of days before she died, she apologized for not being a better mother. I reassured her that she had been a great mother. She was not willing to accept that because she thought she had at least failed George. She thought he might have been different if she had had more time to play and read to him when he was a toddler. Dad was sick so often and she was so busy. I hope I convinced her that reading to George would not have made any difference. George had a severe developmental fault and there was no way she could have mended it. It bothers me that mothers are blamed for things they could not possibly have caused.
I have a very high palate but I was unaware that it was different from most peoples until I had my false teeth made after my fall. The dentist had to take a mold of my top jaw before my teeth were removed. He could not find a form to hold the mold while it was setting in my mouth because all his forms were too shallow. I had to come back after he had made a new deep form. He said he had not seen anyone who had as high a roof to their mouth. So I think this is an inherited thing – I have a high palate and George had a cleft palate; I have dyslexia and George had more severe learning problems, Aspergers or something resembling it. It is likely we inherited these problems. 
I am going to write a article about the corpus callosum in the health section, but not this month.    

Free range children
I feel very sorry for today's children who live in cities, and that is now the majority of children. They can never just run around, cannot play at the edges of the adult world, and they are always under someone's supervision. They barely experience the natural world except in small, safe, sanitized pieces. For hours they are entertained by television with no real participation. They are kept as busy as the family budget will allow in useful, educational activities: clubs, lessons, games. Having anything less than this supervised world tailored for children is almost considered bad parenting.
My memory of being young was that my parents were way too busy just keeping farm and house functioning to worry about what I was doing. No doubt they kept an eye open for me but I was never aware of it and there were times that they could not possibly know where I was. Don't get me wrong they spent a fair amount of very high quality time with me but otherwise I was on my own in finding things to do. For example, I used to visit a neighbour, Mrs Hyer, who lived half a mile away. I sat by her range where the crickets lived and clicked; she carried on with her work and chatted with me. It turned out when I said something about the Hyer house that my mother had no idea that I had ever gone there. Marjorie and I visited a neighbour when we were at section 28. That lady let us bake a cake once. I believe I knew every inch of the world within three quarters of a mile from the house. I knew all the buildings of the farm, all the tools, everything in the boxes in the spare room, all the plants along the railway and in uncultivated corners here and there.
It wasn't just the extent that I could wander and play in, or the looseness of the supervision, but it is that I was a free agent. I made my own imaginary games. I made my own decisions. I made my own mistakes. And I was responsible for any glorious moments I enjoyed. I could enjoy hours and hours of solitude without any boredom. I was not always alone but often with cousins (they also were relatively free range children).
Until recently, from what I read, even city kids were fairly free to just play where and how they pleased. Older kids tended to protected younger ones from anything really dangerous, wandering too far and being bullied but otherwise let them get on with life.
This is a two edged sword. There were incidences. I knew of accidents with farm machines and kids, and with kids and guns. Horses kicked. Kids fell out of trees. No doubt if we were supervised, fewer of these accidents would have happened. I don't think that there was any problems with pedophiles where I lived – I was almost adult before I heard of such people. There was abuse I now know but that did not happen while children were playing in the great outdoors but in the secret places in the home buildings. Of course parents are right to worry about the safety of their children...but...I sometimes think it is a bad trade. The children are safer in exchange for being robbed of knowing the natural environment and a building strong sense of identity.
Of course, within wide limits, you can do a lot of different things with children and they all turn out to be reasonable adults. And also, perhaps today's children are being well prepared to live in today's world. That makes me just an old nostalgic women who loved her childhood freedom.

I once talked to my mother about hobos. When she was married, she and Dad lived on the Barmby family farm. It was about, well I think almost exactly, a mile from the station in Lang along the railway track. The freight trains were often longer than a half mile and as they slowed for the village or stopped at the station, it was a good place to jump off or on. Hobos would leave the train and it would not be a long walk to our house. They would very often ask for water and to fill a water canteen. Sometimes they would ask for food or even something more specific like a bandage. They came often in the couple of years of the end of the depression and the start of the war. Mom said they were always well behaved and she was never afraid of them. Grandma also gave them water and sometimes food when she lived there. Mom said that they never brother her either.
Now there was a station about every 8 miles along that railway and there were other farms along the tracks. There is no real reason why so many came for water to my mother and grandmother. But maybe others were not as hospitable. Granddad and dad were very likely to be hospitable too – they had a bit of socialist leaning.
hobo signs
Recently a Facebook friend had a picture of hobo signs. That started me thinking and now I suspect that there was some sort of sign on our farm that could be seen from a train. Here is the picture that was on Facebook.

Memories I didn't have
In the winter of 1941-42 my father was in Ontario and mother in Sask. They wrote a number of letters which Laura Hoffman found when the house was being cleared and saved them for me. Of course, I was too young to remember this time – but here are my mother's references to me (not in order or in context).
Dad's illness
I have been reading some old letters (see family section) and I have been reminded of life with diabetes. I never connected some things with diabetes. For example I remember how much water my father could drink at one go.
We had a dugout for the animals and garden and a rainwater cistern for washing clothes, bathing and the like and we had a large crock in the kitchen of drinking water that was delivered daily by a truck to all the farms around from a deep bore well. My father would come in from working and drink one or two dippers full of water with hardly taking breathes. I was amazing to watch somewhere between a pint and a quart of water being glugged down. I now know that diabetics are often thirsty and can drink a large amount of water in a day.
My father had chocolate bars in the truck, in the workshop, and in the house. I was told as a child that if Dad got dizzy or started to act funny (stagger, not make sense), I should find him a candy bar and then get help. The chocolate would get old and when it did, Dad would replace it and I got the old stuff. This would especially happen with the chocolate bar in the truck as it got hot often.
Desserts were not served with every meal. We had desserts when it was Sunday, we had visitors, special occasions like birthdays or when there was something that needed to be used up like over ripe fruit. To this day, I don't really expect a dessert to always end a meal – there needs to be some reason for it.
Until the early 20s, diabetes was a death sentence. Dad was diagnosed in '38. But even with insulin it was still a terrible disease in those early days. Later insulin had fewer long-term side effect and was easier to use with correct dosages. My Mother said that Dad went to Rochester to get treatment soon after he was diagnosed. When he came back, he knew more about how to control diabetes than any of the doctors in Regina. That may well be. People died of diabetes so quickly before insulin that the doctors never saw the other effects of the disease and of the insulin. Dad lived for 13 years on insulin before he died at 39. When he died he was blind, had Bright's disease in his kidneys, all his muscle was gone and he looked like a skeleton covered with skin. He could not walk. Mom had to inject him, feed him, turn him - he was helpless as a baby. A few months before he could sit up and listen to the radio in the afternoon. By the time he died, any noise was painful.
His brother Bert lived longer with the disease, but still died fairly young. He was diagnosed quicker because he had a brother with the disease. He also had more control over his life especially the pace and continuity of exercise. There is a big difference between teaching and farming; teaching is continuous but mild activity but farming is running-and-waiting. Every summer when I was a kid, Bert would go to Regina Beach for the whole summer break. He would cook for himself an unchanging diet that suited him and he walked the same amount everyday so he got his insulin just right in amount and timing. When we visited, he was always tanned and healthy. Dad would ask him how he was and he would say with a big grin that he was as blue as the sky. This referred to the test for sugar in urine that was blue if there was no sugar. I don't think Dad every managed to have that much control – he was not blue as the sky every day for two months at a time.
For years I was afraid that I would get diabetes. But now I have to worry about type2 diabetes which is a different disease. I don't have it but I could have if I don't watch out.

My first letter
envelop This is something found, not remembered. I guess that I would have been in Grade 3. This is because I would have lived at Grandpa and Grandma's house in grade 2 and the summer before grade 3. So in grade 3 I would have been motivated to write them. I would have been about 8 years old. I notice that my mother's handwriting is showing through. I was copying her having written the words out for me. For the first three lines, she seems to have written them out on another piece of paper for me to copy. For the rest, until my name, she seems to have written them on the page and I wrote over them. It looks like my very own JANET.
first letter The envelop does not show any tracing but it is too straight lines for me and to badly done for Mom. So I guess it was also traced. The 'Janet's first letter' looks like Grandpa's note.
So it is my first letter, sort of. At least what I said was probably my words.
Click on pictures to enlarge.

My only night in the wild
The other day Harry said something about when we went to the Aberdares and camped in a bamboo forest at a very high altitude. We drove up with a America professor and his English wife. We didn't see many animals (some monkeys and birds) but we heard plenty and saw the traces of some. The animals sure saw us.
The camp we made was OK in the daylight but when it became night, we did not feel as safe. I think Harry slept very little. We had picked, we realized, a spot on an elephant path. It had been OK the way we parked the car but then Lloyd wanted the car moved so he could tie his hammock to it. We moved the car and then noticed much later that we were no longer sheltered from the elephant walkway. Nothing bad happened in the night.
Sitting at the camp fire was interesting. We were talking and not noticing the background. When we did we saw lots of eyes glowing in the dark. We decided (hoped) they were all small deer, some were. They were sure interested in us.
I had to pee and I went into the darkness and was crouching down when I saw that I was about to urinate on a snake and not a tiny one either. I moved to another spot closer to the light very quick.
We could hear larger animals in a particular direction, but Lloyd had walked in that direction shortly after we stopped and had described another clearing on the other side of a ravine. The Nancy, Harry and I thought (hoped) this meant that we did not need to worry about the animals we heard coming towards us because there was a ravine. In the morning we were shocked at how shallow and easy to cross this 'ravine' was.
It was a lovely two days, good company and great sights. But I never again wanted to camp in a really wild place. I was quite satisfied with day trips to game parks. On rare occasions staying in park lodges, but not camping in the wild. I guess I'm a scaredy-cat.

The other Janet
When I was young, there was another Janet in my high school. We were not friends and really had practically no overlap in friends, not one mutual friend. I would not remember her at all except for the fact that my Aunt Marjorie, with whom I lived at the time, and her mother were close friends. Every few weeks they would spend an afternoon together and Marjorie would come home and tell me all the great things that the-other-Janet did, could do, said, was going to do, have etc. She would ask why I didn't get to know her and she would say that I would benefit from being more like her. Over time I grew to dislike the-other-Janet for no good reason except that I kept hearing how great she was.
Eventually we found ourselves in the same class room but we still had next to no contact. In a Psychology class we drew names and had to write a description of the person we drew. And I drew the-other-Janet. I tried to be fair but I knew deep down that I was being unfair, not cruel, but not fair. I realized how unfair when I got my own description from an unknown classmate. It was not cruel either but not fair. Very few of us had broad smiles so I think there were quite a few unflattering portraits.
A few years later, when I met Harry, he was about to go out with the-other-Janet that night. I could not believe it. I was out of school and I had many new friends and only a few old ones. Why was the-other-Janet still crossing my path? That is when the whole thing became amusing rather than irritating. Suddenly I saw this in perspective. I heard in my memory Marjorie's descriptions and they were funny – a second-hand version of a mother's exaggerations. The Psyc teacher's great idea was ridiculous – he should have known how teenagers act. That I worried over what one unknown person thought of me was silly – I could be loud if I felt like it. And that I had some sort of connection to someone I had never had a real conversation with was ludicrous. The whole thing was laughable.

When the boat comes in
How I wish that the BBC was as good now as it used to be – before reality TV was invented. Many years ago we watched a drama series on BBC called When the Boat Comes In. The program always started with a little song. Now, I had not thought of the song for a great many years – 30 maybe. But we were eating fish with company (and with good wine); I went to put a bit of fish in the dog's bowl along with her regular food. Out of my mouth came the little tune, “You shall have a fishie in your little dishie, you shall have a fishie when the boat comes in.” That little song that seemed to come from nowhere became a little ear-worm for several weeks, going round and round in my head. Along with the song came the memory of the TV series and how good it was.
Being an old folk song, there are many versions. Some are like drinking songs, some are like a teaching aid for naming fish, some are just a little child's entertainment. Here is the chorus:
Dance ti' thy daddy, sing ti' thy mammy,
Dance ti' thy daddy, ti' thy mammy sing;
Thou shall hev a fishy on a little dishy,
Thou shall hev a fishy when the boat comes in.
The song appears to be a Northumberland fisherman returning home and having funny with his little boy. The series was set in Newcastle and the song was sung with a Geordie accent.

Mother's coat
People don't wear fur coats the way they used to. When I was young (I can't find anything to pin my age to.) I was in a big store in Regina with my mother. It was probably the old Simpsons. It was the Christmas season with decorations and carols. It was very busy and crowded. I was having trouble staying in contact with Mom, so I got behind her and got hold of her fur coat near the hem. I put my head in the fur and just hung on. After a few minutes (or maybe a much shorter time), Mom stopped, turned her head and look to the side. IT WAS NOT MY MOTHER. I looked around and I was surrounded by fur coats – sea of moving fur coats – but I could not see Mom. I screamed! All the people turned to look at me and through the crowd Mom appeared. She had been looking for me and she said something about staying close and not wandering. All I could say was that I had a-hold of the wrong coat.

50 years ago there was the Profumo Affair – it seems so quaint now. The very best part of the whole affair was the testimony in court of Mandy Rice-Davies. She had given evidence about the involvement of Lord Astor and was being questioned about that evidence. The prosecutor went on for a long time about what Lord Astor denied and end with Lord Astor denied an affair or having even met her. She replied, "He would, wouldn't he?" It was such a perfect answer that it caught the public imagination. For weeks people said, “Well, he would, wouldn't he?”, at every opportunity and people who chuckle. It got abreviated to MRDA.
Lately, she worked on the Lloyd Webber musical, 'Stephen Ward', about the case, as an advicer. At the launch there was a press conference and she said a few words. Asked if she thought there had been a miscarriage of justice - "He was certainly part of the vanguard movement of free love and free sex and being at the vanguard, he got shot down first. Of course he was a scapegoat. The government was trying to control public morals." She has not lost her touch. Asked if she worried about how she might be perceived, she said: "I'm 70 next year. Who gives a damn?". I laughed out loud when I read that.
I have heard her name mentioned from time to time over the years and I always smile inside. Harry and I still exchange the odd 'well he would wouldn't he?' when appropriate and chuckle.