My Blog Profile mentions that you will get to know me through my writings. Today I introduce myself as a child progressing to adulthood through the influence of female friends and “mothers”; from them I gleaned and captured insight into their character structure…learning how to pattern my life!
A few years ago, I read a 2002 American Comedy/Drama (Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood) about a Mother and daughter's challenges and tribulations (documented in a scrap book). Several years later, “Mother” met with a group of her selected girlhood friends who all shared their wild experiences and expectations from younger years. The interaction among these “now women” was amazing!
“Little Women”, written by Louisa May Alcott, has long been a classic novel. It is worthy to note that both these stories were developed into movies for both the theatre and television.
“Valley of the Horses”, by Jean Auel, fascinated me as I viewed the novel's title and cover picture. The synopsis read well. What a Story...a little white girl with blonde hair and blue eyes, wandering alone in an early mid-European country many years ago. An earthquake had totally demised her family. A clan of cave-like people befriended this “ugly little girl”. From an elderly Clan woman, she learned to become a “medicine woman”...studying, identifying plants, learning their attributes as natural healing mediums. A preceding novel in the series, “Clan of the Cave Bear”...fortunately I was able to locate. “The Mammoth Hunters” continued the saga of Ayla as she matured into a woman facing life-threatening challenges. It was so easy to relate with her character.
Throughout Life, like Ayla, our lives have been influenced by others. Mothers…are children’s best “mentor” providing security and strengthening their children’s self esteem each day with praise and unconditional love. It is the parents’ responsibility to prepare each child for adulthood (a principle and directive many overlook). From a young age to the present, we selected friends, admired those qualities we'd love to emulate...often becoming steadfast companions with whom we shared our deepest thoughts and experiences. But Life Moves On...frequently we drift apart. At specific stages, we “needed and enjoyed” friendships...significant to the development of our personal character.
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In the rural community of Burford, Sylvia was a neighbour...my age; she had long tight curly brunette hair and twinkling eyes. We walked to and from elementary school daily...occasionally spending an hour or more either at her home or mine. When my parents bought a used upright mahogany piano, it was from Sylvia's mother I studied music with weekly lessons...practise, practise, practise was a “must” for me. In a few years her family moved. Several years later I heard that Sylvia became the “practising pianist” for the National Ballet of Canada, located then in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Today its centre is Toronto, Ontario...recognized internationally as one of the world's best!
Throughout public and high school, Margaret became my best friend. She was from a family of four daughters. We were same age and classmates. She lived in the village...a 2-story yellow brick home...and I on a farm. Academically, we both excelled. She was pretty...dark straight hair and blue eyes. Occasionally we shared homework assignments at each others' homes. During High School days, we played together on the Burford Bluebirds softball team...much fun! At the end of Grade 13, she attended a University in London, Ontario...and I at a College in Toronto.
There I boarded in a Brunswick Avenue home with Grace and Olive. The landlady treated us as her daughters during the three years we called “home”. We shared classes and social activities, boosting our friendships. Olive became engaged to Hugh and was married the summer following graduation. Grace and I were elated to be her attending bridesmaids.
Two of the summers I spent working for the Canadian Sunday School Mission in British Columbia. With Jane, from Massachusetts, we taught children in 2-week sessions in rural communities of this western province. To reach Vancouver, we travelled “coach-class” by train under “clergy status”. Returning home, we “trained” to Montreal, staying overnight, sleeping on a station bench until “train time” the next day to her Springfield home for a week (whose Mother treated me as another daughter). Then to Toronto again to resume our studies. The second summer was with Eleanor from Preston, Ontario...again to a rural area in southern British Columbia. Weekends we arranged church services for adults and their families; naturally it was a requirement we be musically talented and be able to deliver a Christian message. These were not only worthwhile causes...for us it was character-building...a time to “discover who we were”. From these summer experiences, I could write a novel! During each of these 16 weeks, my Mother diligently wrote with news from home.
How now to afford the tuition for Teachers' College, was my quandary! Fortunately I was awarded a Bursary from a charitable organization (IODE) for academic achievement. I was thrilled to accept this...together with my summer job working in Spalding's Sport Factory…my expenses were covered.
Jean, whom I had met in Toronto, had similar ambitions to attend Teachers' College in Hamilton. Her home was east end of this city; with her mother's invitation for me to board there, we bus-travelled to Hamilton West for our classes. (Interesting to note...the previous year this College had burned to the ground...our classes were now held in three different nearby churches.) Jean was petite with a bubbly personality. A couple summers later, she married Jack from her home church, Delta Tabernacle. This was a most happy event and again, a Bridesmaid dress to wear. She and Jack dedicated their lives to Christian causes, becoming missionaries. Assigned to Buenos Aires in Argentina, they continually mailed newsletters of their activities and family. More about Jean, later.
The classes at Teachers' College were arranged alphabetically by the students' surnames. It was here I met Marilyn and Mary. Surprisingly, Marilyn was from Brantford (where my father, having sold his farm, now had his garage business). She and I were both scheduled to teach at Linden Park Elementary School on Hamilton Mountain...we were unable to locate the school that Labour Day weekend. The Board of Education informed us that this school was yet to be built in a newly developed community. Our Grade 2 and 3 classes were held in a church basement for two years. We were delighted to be teaching together! Our friendship bonded. As we travelled home together one weekends, I recall, that one Friday, Hurricane Hazel blew in with excessive flood damage through the Toronto areas. We became wonderful friends, frequently exchanging clothing outfits since our wardrobes were extremely limited...our first year of income! After a couple years teaching, Marilyn was married to Bob (her High School sweetheart) on a mild-weather Easter Saturday. At her wedding, I sang the romantic, Always. They had rented a house in Oakville near the Ford plant where he manned the computer department. Frequently I visited them and their eventual three children.
In the Westdale home where I boarded, Mary was my room mate. She was from Guelph and weekends also spent at home. Not only were we both teachers, but shared musical talents of piano and voice. At Teachers' College, she met Murray from Simcoe (near Lake Erie). On a warm summer day they married...and again I was a Bridesmaid, dressed in gorgeous lavender. Upon their invitation, I attended a newly built church on Hamilton Mountain. She was pianist for their Sunday services and suggested I join her with the new organ...I agreed temporarily, since I had never played an organ! By previous arrangement, Mary and I practised a gospel hymn we would play while the collection plates were passed by ushers along the pews. The congregation always enjoyed the music we created. Through Murray, we met a soprano soloist whose voice blended harmoniously with our alto and contralto voices. Our trio was soon singing at other local religious events...even cut a few records! Murray and Mary fathered three daughters...I suggested they “try again” for a boy and call him “Dwaine” (Murray's surname was “Pipe”).
This saga...to be continued...A Woman's Inspiration (Part II)
Philosophy from Carolyn
Do not ask the Lord to guide your footsteps
if you are not willing to move your feet.
Merle Baird-Kerr … written February, 2011
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