The Old and the Older

This photo of our 1946 Willys Jeep CJ2A was posted here a couple years ago. We’ve had it since the late-1970s. Before we acquired it from a family friend in BC’s backwoods, it sat unused for years in an old log garage.

For years my husband and another friend tinkered with it. One semester it was driven to school by our son, who worked on it as a project in his Auto Tech class. Another year it was driven to the same school by our eldest daughter who used it in the same Auto Tech class to learn how to fix brakes and do other such jobs. Several of our grandchildren have used it to drive to their graduations, too. The Jeep has become something of a Family Treasure.

But nothing can quite equal the treasure that arrived in our driveway last Sunday evening. A blaring Klaxton horn drew us from the house, and we assumed our son had added the novelty noise-maker to his pickup truck. But no, when we went to investigate, we found it was an original horn attached to an old Ford Model A.

This wasn’t just any old Model A. It was our brother Murray’s, and until a few days before, had been stored in his garage in rural Ontario.

For the past eight years Murray worked nine months of the year teaching at YuShan Theological Seminary in Taiwan, and would come back to Canada each summer to his cottage in Ontario’s Muskokas. During the summer he enjoyed tinkering with the Model A and would occasionally drive it to church. But, as I mentioned in an earlier post, Murray died suddenly last January.

Sometime during this spring, unknown to us, arrangements were made with his family for my hubby to have the car. Last week, while we erroneously assumed our son was away on a business trip, he and our grandson borrowed a trailer and drove a round trip of 8,000 km in less than seven days to pick up the Model A and bring it to BC.

There are no words to express what this has meant to my husband, not just because of what the vehicle is — and as a 1930 Model A it is very special — but because of whose it was, and the love that brought it here. As one of Murray’s daughters said, “I’ve got some pretty amazing cousins.”

Amazing hardly covers it.

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No writing analogy today, just a question. Have you ever received a gift that left you truly speechless?

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A Unique Form of Memoir

 

It began with a book received from her son last Christmas… “Blank, recycled paper that is truly beautiful, with a wonderful leather cover and a tie to close it up. I intend to turn it into a treasure, with sketches and words of wisdom.”

Those were the words of my Aunt, recorded on her Nonie Vogue’ Flickr webpage on January 1, 2010, along with a photo of the first page of the book that has become one of three such treasures. Every page is filled with carefully selected quotations, illustrated with her own sketches and watercolours. Once she filled its pages she went in search of a second book. Within two months she had filled it and moved on to a third. From January to October she posted 227 photos from three full books (not just 227 pages, because some photos display two pages at a time). That in itself is a remarkable achievement. These books are indeed treasures.

But she isn’t done yet. Having run short of quotations to showcase, and in between knitting dozens of toques and mittens for the homeless, and tiny baby toques for the hospital’s nursery, she has started a fourth treasure book, this time sharing glimpses of her family history. The unexpected interruption of a three-week hospital stay delayed but hasn’t deterred her progress. She is producing a beautiful and uniquely personal memoir with handwritten anecdotes accompanied by her original art, photographing the pages as she goes, and posting them to share with friends and family on Flickr.

 

Page about Family Home in Vogler's Cove*

She would probably tell you she isn’t “a real writer”, but memoir is a recognized genre and in my books she is both artist and author. Her determination and commitment to the task set an example for me, and for all writers who all too often procrastinate about recording family information that could be a legacy for future generations.

Oh, and did I mention that she’s well past her 87th birthday? She knows that it’s never too late to start. So what are you waiting for? It can be as detailed as collecting family names, dates and occupations in a notebook, or as simple as recording random memories. Or it could be a beautiful “treasure book”, although I think you’d have to go some to match this one.

Are you interested in genealogy? Have you written a memoir? As my Aunt might say, “If not, why not?”

 

2008 Birthday Photo*

* All photos “borrowed” from Norma McGuire’s Flickr pages


What’s the Point?

As I clipped the quaint silver cross onto a fir branch I took a good look at it. A little shabby, bare on the edges, bits of broken wire on some of the corners.  Years ago we spray painted it and sprinkled on fresh glitter to spiffy it up, but it’s still looking a little dilapidated. I suppose it has a right to be. It’s as old as I am, and I’m a little worn around the edges myself.

 

My parents bought this ornament the year I was born and it has been on every one of my Christmas trees. We have a half dozen other old fashioned ornaments that were on my grandparents’ trees and have been passed through the family ranks, too. None of them are really beautiful anymore, and look a little out of place among the newer baubles, but we treasure them anyway.

 

We have a delicate white baptismal dress and underslip that has been worn by three generations of babies in our family over a period of almost seventy-five years… all but two of the babies also cuddled into a handmade white shawl that is fifty years old.

 

Ask any of my family about Christmas fruitcakes and you’ll hear that they have to be made on November 11th as they have been every year since I started making them back in the 1960s, and every family member present must take a turn stirring the batter, regardless of their age. (We won’t mention the ongoing argument about whether dark or light cakes are better tasting!)

Traditions. How do they get started? What makes them endure? And do traditions find their way into your writing? What do they tell readers about your characters?


There’s Life, and Then There’s Real Life

Last week I ‘gallivanted’ my way to a granddaughter’s wedding, a wonderful family visit and back to my own home again. Did I write during my absence? Of course. Did I write much? Of course not! Life got in the way.

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As writers we’re led to believe that we should be able to write “no matter what” – that if writing is our passion we’ll always find the time. That’s idealistic. Reality says that times of unexpectedness are bound to interrupt our routines, and unless we’re impossibly addicted to our work, we’ll know when family needs, personal health, work responsibilities, church commitments — other priorities — require our attention.

We’ll always have to contend with the complexities of our daily lives. But how do we know when those other activities and apparent demands are priorities or simply excuses?

If it prevents us from making a start, I’d say it’s probably an excuse. “I’ll wait until my children are in school.” “Once I’m finished this course I’ll have more time.” “I can’t focus on anything while home renovation has the household in chaos.” “I’m feeling overwhelmed by life; I can’t write when I’m this depressed.” I’d say those are all excuses. Temporary, relatively brief interruptions are more likely to be valid priorities.

Am I wrong? What do you consider valid interruptions in your writing process?


Photo Memories of a Special Companion

In Thursday’s comments I promised a few more pictures of Ebby.

Now that I am better able to look through her photos without teary eyes, I notice something. From the very beginning she was a “people dog”.  There are very few pictures of her alone, except when the person accompanying her took the photo. Ebby was devoted to our daughter, Heather, and went with her everywhere. In later years she adopted Heather’s husband, and as each of their children arrived Ebby’s devotion didn’t shift, it just expanded to include them. No matter where they were, Ebby was always within arm’s reach.

If she wasn’t giving the tiniest of permissible kisses,

she was receiving them.

If she wasn’t snuggled up to them,

they were cuddling her.

I suppose that’s part of why we miss her so much. She wasn’t just a dog, she was a constant companion. She loved as only a special friend can… unconditionally… and asked nothing in return except the joy of being near her family.

Where did those twelve precious years go?

Nine weeks old

Twelve years old

Anticipating a Fresh Start

Pushed by a bitter breeze, tiny whitecaps scuttled over the waves while layers of winter-tinted cotton batting clouds stretched across the sapphire sky mimicking the mountainous shoreline. From inside the ferry’s forward lounge we admired the view. Maybe if we hadn’t known it was the first full day of winter we might have been lulled into taking a walk on the deck. Watching other more venturesome passengers with chins burrowed into their jackets, bent into the wind and clutching at hats, however, I was less inclined to be enticed outside.

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It was a beautiful day, full of anticipation as we travelled to Vancouver Island for Christmas week with some of our family. There were grandchildren to see, special worship services to attend, Christmas gifts to share, family doings to catch up on, turkey and trimmings to consume (and consume it we did; you can never have too much turkey).

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It’s been a wonderful week, but now suddenly it’s time to head homeward again. We’re into the last week of December. I don’t relish leaving our family, but there are different things to anticipate at the other end of our return ferry trip… new beginnings to accompany the coming New Year.

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What are you looking forward to in the New Year? Have your writing goals changed?

Remembrance Day

World War I ended 91 years ago at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. In the ensuing years we have gathered at that moment to remember and honour those who, in all wars, have served in the pursuit of freedom.

Poppies

One troop commander in Kandahār, Afghanistan commented this morning, “We remember our fallen every day,” and for the families of those who have died this is undoubtedly true for them, too.

Edison Garvin

Edison Garvin

Harry

Harry McGuire

In my family I think of my father-in-law, Edison Garvin, who fought in WWI at Vimy Ridge, and of my father, Jack McGuire, and an uncle, Harry McGuire, whose service was during WWII in Canada. I have little knowledge of their military memories because they seldom mentioned their war experiences. None lost their lives in war but they are gone now. On Remembrance Day I simply remember them… the people they were and how we loved them.

Jack

Jack McGuire

Obstacles or Opportunities

 

Boulders litter the area in front of our lakeside cabin. Someone once bemoaned their untidy presence and voiced the wish that they could be removed. Like icebergs however, what is visible above the layer of mulched needles, bark and leaves is only a miniscule portion. Moving them would be an impossible task and so they remain in place. Our front yard will always be au naturel.

 

Finding a level spot between the rocks to balance a lawnchair can be an inconvenient challenge but scaling their height or using them as stepping stones in a game of ‘Tag’ or ‘Follow the Leader’ — that can be a lot of fun.

 

Life is full of obstacles and opportunities. Sometimes knowing “which is which” is just a matter of perspective. 

 

Taken For Granted

There are words that writers are encouraged to avoid, notably time-worn clichés that suggest a lack of verbal originality. ‘Taken for granted’ is a phrase that is terribly overused, but I suspect one of the reasons may be that no other words convey its meaning as aptly. It’s the phrase that leapt into my mind while I was browsing a cousin’s website this afternoon.

Ra McGuire is an extraordinary talent in a family with an abundance of talent. As I listened to a 1983 video clip of his that I’d never heard before it occurred to me that our families are probably taken for granted more than anything else in our lives.

We become accustomed to the presence of each other, and to everyone’s pursuits and accomplishments. In our household there has always been the expectation that we will all do the best we can with whatever abilities God has given us, and while any resulting achievements are acknowledged, it’s without a lot of fanfare.

It is only as I focus on the individuals in the various branches of our family and begin to enumerate their many gifts that I am struck by how remarkable our entire family is. It’s truly humbling — something not to be taken for granted — so I ‘count my many blessings’ and give thanks.