Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Journey of the Heart


According to Noah Webster, the Heart is a “body organ that pumps blood”. It is also, “the essence or core of anything”. If “heartless” is insensitive, then anything accomplished or given “with heart” must certainly be the opposite! “Sensitive” is “being acutely responsive to certain sensations; it is “being appreciative of aesthetic or intellectual qualities”, but can also be interpreted as “being easily irritated or offended.”

Throughout Life, we experience longings, yearnings, desires. Reflecting on these, I recall numerous situations which I share with you....when compelled to action by firstly “thought or idea, impulse of the heart” or “the mind's rightful and logical decision".
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My parents were of strong religious convictions, whereby certain activities were “taboo”. My father had been musically talented, playing Jews harp, the mouth organ, guitar...often singing in groups or solo. At a stage performance our family attended, a girl about my age tap-danced. I was Mesmerized and Moon-struck! Her royal blue dress was star-studded; the tiara, set upon her brunette curls sparkled; the star-tipped wand in her right hand moved rhythmically with the music; her black patent-shoed feet danced brilliantly. Such longing and desire enveloped me; I aspired to be like her on this stage. My dream was never realized! As a child...living in a rural community, dance lessons were unavailable. Dancing was unacceptable in my parents' eyes. However, one learns throughout Life that a dream often remaining dormant (yet still alive) should never be crushed...and may in a few years “down the road of life" come true.

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My Aunt Inez was “most special”! She never married, although engaged at one time. Living in Hamilton, her only access to visit us in our white clapboard country home was the TH&B (Toronto, Hamilton and Buffalo) train which had a brief local stop in Oakland, a few miles from our farm. She always brought “treats”: for my year-older sister and me; she always came to celebrate our birthdays... we were the children she never had! I adored her...a lady, gracious as a Queen, refined in cultured manners. She knitted colourful scarves, hats and mittens for us. She gave us each Music boxes...mine had a miniature princess on top who danced! When my sister and I teen-aged she gave us each a 5-year diary which I still have today. Even until her death several years ago, she would bring for My Children, boxes of chocolate maple buds and gift certificates from McDonald's.

Telephone calls in the 30's and 40's were answered by an “operator” who placed the necessary connection. It was always important, when one picked up the receiver, to ensure no one was “on the line”. Naturally, on this “party line” “eaves-dropping” on conversations would be easy...politeness dictated that one “hang up” and try later. Occasionally, my sister and I (in our early teens) would telephone Aunt Inez and chat with her for several minutes. We were unaware this was “long-distance" and also unknowing that our parents would discover what we had done. For many years, it was“automatic” with me, to first listen (checking the line) prior to dialing the intended number.

A summer holiday with her was So Extra Special. Our parents drove us to a Bus Depot in Brantford; a bus travelling east to Toronto, stopped in downtown Hamilton. As a secretary for Office Specialty, the station was only a few minutes walk. At her apartment, she entertained us with “city-cooked-meals, with pink-bubble-baths, with riding the street cars' Belt Line which was a several-blocks-square, with the option of getting Off and On with a Pass to later continue the ride. This was fun...hearing the clanging of the bells, the collection of fares by the conductor, the observance of people on-ing and off-ing the Belt Line...how fascinating! She introduced us to Gage Park, an immense attraction east of her apartment....flower gardens, a greenhouse, a children's play area, a magnificent water fountain. She showed us her box camera....a Brownie?....permitting us to “snap pictures” on it. Once, she took us the full distance to Niagara Falls by bus. For me, visiting Aunt Inez on these occasions were exciting city experiences. Being endeared to her taught me lessons about the Finer Things in Life...even how to “play cards” (while I was attending Teachers' College) Any card game would never have been on my parents' agenda. She was the Greatest Aunt I ever had! And my son, Andrew, became her Greatest Grandchild!

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When I was 5, my father bought a larger farm along Hwy. 53, west of Brantford. He moved all our furnishings and farm equipment by “horse and wagon”....today, this seems very “pioneer-like”; yet realizing my parents were married in 1929 and survived The Depression Years, this mode of travel was the most economical. Yes, he had a Model T Ford, and later a bigger navy sedan ( a Peerless ?). His pair of horses, Whistler and Maude, pulled the hay wagon, making 2 trips to complete the move over these several miles. Dad's brother, Jim who farmed across the road, assisted him. I recall going to a funeral prior to this move. The casket at the front of the church was “open”. At the service end, mourners could “visit the casket”, quietly waiting in line. When my Dad approached, he seemingly kissed the pale ashen face of the woman within, I have always silently questioned this action. Secretly, I believed she may have been the previous owner of our current Burford farm.
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PARENTS give their CHILDREN the FORMULA for LIFE through their Actions, their Teachings and their Directions. Sons and Daughters rarely understand these Standards and Principles as viewed until possibly much later in “their lives”.

Our family was strongly affiliated with a church in the village. Each summer, the minister arranged a 2-week session of DVBS (Daily Vacation Bible School) for children of all ages. This gave my sister and me an interesting and enjoyable summer activity. Usually, it was 2 females who conducted this 10-day “vacation”; said ladies were billeted with a church family for one, maybe both weeks. My father showed some kind of “special interest” in one of these women. When the 2nd week ended, Dad drove us with these women to their next assignment near Wallaceburg (about 2 1/2hour drive). There was a park near The Blue Water Highway (adjacent to Lake Huron) where we lunched ....a deliciously prepared picnic by my mother. Here, in view of her and us, he walked “arm in arm” with Amy...as though finding it difficult to “part ways”. No explanation was ever given.

In a farm home, the Kitchen was the Family Gathering Place whether a family of 3 or 4, a dozen or more. The stove was wood- fire-heated for cooking and boiling water.....especially for piping heat upstairs to the cold bedrooms in winter. Mother was an excellent cook, frequently creating new recipes...always, each fall, preserving vegetables and fruits from her gardens and orchard.
Occasionally I noticed her crying while cooking over a hot stove; in asking what was wrong, her reply was , “I'll be alright...don't worry.” She never complained.

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Each August, we spent a day at the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition) in Toronto along its Lake Ontario waterfront. In our teen ages, this was a wonderfully exciting Day Excursion. Driving to Hamilton, then entering the QEW (Queen Elizabeth Highway) was a beautiful drive. The Highway was 2 lanes eastbound and 2 lanes westbound running from Toronto to Niagara Falls. Between these pairings of lanes was a wide grassy boulevard with trees, shrubs and tall light standards on each side. From Dad I learned my first driving technique. On one of these days, he was passing a vehicle on his right; just as he was entering the left lane, the ahead-car proceeded into his lane. (Understand please, the only signalling device for changing lanes was the driver lowering his window to extend his left arm outside, then hand-signal his intention). Dad, when passing any vehicle, ritually observed the left front wheel. He saw that this wheel began to cross into his lane. He had no choice except to veer onto the boulevard, fortunately missing any tree, shrub or light standard. My mother's heart was “almost in her mouth”....an action I shall never forget.

When at the Ex, we visited and toured several buildings to enjoy the displays. We were well aware that should we become lost, to go to the Fountain in a central courtyard. En route to the Horticulture Exhibit, Dad stopped to chat with a young boy (probably 8 or 9) who was totally wet from hair to runners with a dog-on-leash beside him, shaking off the excess water from his coat. The lad explained that he'd been in the “Dog-Child-Boat” contest at the waterfront (the child has a rowboat, then upon the “start whistle”, he calls his dog to jump into the water from a platform, then “dog-paddle “ the distance following his master to the finish line. “Did you win?”, asked my Dad. “No, but we came in Third”, he replied. “How many in the Race?”....and proudly the lad replied, “Three..Rufus and I won a Ribbon!” “Good for you” congratulated my Dad as he tousled the boys hair.

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After College graduation and 1st year of Teaching, I embarked on a summer tour of Europe. My parents, so delighted with this anticipated experience of mine, drove me to Montreal, being able to board the ship prior to sailing. Reflecting now, I realized that I was “living their dreams”. Taking this tour “on a shoe-string” of affordability, my spending money was limited. In each country I bought a souvenir coffee spoon. When we arrived in Holland, the decision and opportunity to send cheeses to my parents, seemed “an automatic”! (I recalled that each year at home, we'd drive several miles to a cheese factory to buy large rounds of cheese in circular wooden boxes, which later, my sister and I would pad and attach material, gathered and draped around the sides; these “boxes” became our “seats” or vanity stools for our dresser....also providing storage within “for our treasures”). My father, especially, was truly thrilled to receive these cheeses directly from Holland. NO GREATER GIFT COULD I HAVE GIVEN THEM!....except to have taken them with me on this "across the ocean trek!"

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Earlier this week on Tuesday Dec. 14th following my evening  Online Bridge Game,  my computer “crashed”! NO ACCESS on Wednesday! NO ACCESS on Thursday! Dealing with this dilemma today, December 16th reminds me of a significant and memorable event in 1967...my sister Eileen's wedding! I created gowns for her 3 attendants ...Empire-styled of emerald green velvet; the bodices of matching peau-d-soie...the bejewelled narrow braid of hematite and aurora borealis crystals separated the bodices from the floor-length velvet skirts. Matching head-piece bands trimmed with the same beading completed the ensemble. The men of her wedding party wore dark charcoal tuxedos. The flowers were red poinsettias with trailing green ivy. Lee's bouquet was a white poinsettia encircled with green holly and red berries..dramatically accenting her long sleeved white gown of satin-embroidered daisies on Swiss cotton (this was my custom-designed wedding dress, fitting her well). 

The day was most frigid with gently falling snowflakes...a picture postcard of Christmas and winter beauty. To our surprise, Lee provided us with white fox fur cape-styled stoles to wear with our gowns Truly exquisite! The only sad feature was that Andrew, my son (only 3 years old in November) was to have been the “ring-bearer”. He came with us to the rehearsal, well-performing his duty. On the wedding day, he would be attired in a forest green velvet short-pants suit (I was so fortunate in locating this outfit for him), black patent shoes and dark green knee socks, a white shirt with green bow tie. So adorable he was! And so handsome! Next morning he awakened with a sore throat, fever and infection....a yearly occurrence at the onset of winter. Consequently, he could not attend. Lee was extremely disappointed.

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Recently, I viewed a  TV movie, ”Stand by Me” based on a novel, “The Body” written by Stephen King. It depicted the journey of four 12-year old boys....long time buddy friends who discovered much about themselves. As viewers, we are involved with their tree house, their joking and their pranking, their boyhood exploits. One of the boys had recently discovered the dead body of a teen partially buried in woodland bush. The four set off on a 2-day trek to locate this body near a river. Unknown to them, “each IS on a Journey" toward adulthood (for which we as parents are responsible). Decisions along this travel deal with several issues....to act on immediate impulse? To listen to the heart? Or lastly the mind?. This stage from boys...to men...is contingent upon growth and development of character and experience. In viewing the movie, an immediate caption sprang from my mind, “Journey of the Heart”.

For many years, the human heart is continually on a journey ...
to seek something unique,  a goal to achieve or meet someone special .
When the latter becomes Reality...it is a Magical Acceptance 
of each other and may develop into a  beautifully orchestrated relationship. 
Life is Truly a Gift!

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A Guide from the 2011 Calendar, Flowers and Gardens 
is so significant:

May no Gift be too small to Give,
nor too Simple to Receive
which is wrapped in Thoughtfulness
and tied with  Love.
(L.O.Baird)

Merle Baird-Kerr . . . written December 16, 2010

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2 comments:

  1. How wonderful to read this beautiful Essay about your Family Yesteryear's.
    Truly, you capture the feeling and spirit of youth and the measured growth to maturity.
    Can't wait for the next posting to appear.
    Never know where you will be, next time.
    Solomon

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  2. Thank you Solomon...it is definitely my pleasure to share these experiences with readers, knowing that they will relate to incidents in their lives. One of my readers, Carolyn, commented that through my writings, she has "come to know me personally" and appreciates my writings comparing them to her life. Wonderful!

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