Monthly Archives: January 2011

Saturday January 1, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

Once both kids adjusted to the idea that mom and dad were really going to leave them, they settled in to Grandma’s house without much fuss. Two weeks would go by fast, and maybe we’d bring a few presents when we came home! Aaron took his teddy and Katie took her bunny. Both had been lovingly made by my mom and were washed so often, they had that floppy, misshapen look of a toy well loved.

Being the eldest child gave Aaron some confidence and I knew he’d accomplish something new while we were away. Ruth prided herself in setting goals for the children. “By this time, you’ll be reading at this level”- or, “by this date, you’ll be out of diapers”. Her years as an elementary school teacher had given her endless patience – at least where the grandkids were concerned. (Her own kids told a different story!)

So, while we chose the things we’d take on our holiday, Ruth found things for Katie and Aaron to do while we were away. We were so lucky. We were so privileged – and we knew it, too!

Sunday January 2, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

When I did this, Katie was well into the language learning curve and her baby talk was a lot of fun. For years, well after her move into adult vocabulary, we used her words ourselves, not wanting to lose the charm and the memory. “Blaffoon” was “bathroom”, “puffermink” was “peppermint” and “bleffus” was “breakfast”. These were all part of our vocabulary until she went to university!

It was hard not to perpetuate the errors. Talking baby talk to our offspring was not our style, and yet we loved the sounds and the new words they invented as they learned how to communicate. It was interesting to see how a newfound ability with language made for nonstop talking. You can’t wait for them to be able to tell you what they’re thinking … and, later – you’re wishing they’d be QUIET!!! The dialogue in this strip went exactly as written, except that I kept the punch line to myself!

Monday January 3, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

Our first real vacation was to Barbados. In order to get there, we had to take the Twin Otter to Thompson Manitoba, the jet from there to Winnipeg and then transfer to our flight south. For this reason alone, we were glad to be sans enfants. It would be a long trip and we were used to having our own plane and our own schedule.

I did feel guilty for leaving. Aaron especially was aware that we were going away. Katie was just confused. My parents-in-law looked forward to having the kids to themselves. Ruth always had a plan and this was her opportunity to work on reading habits, table manners and bathroom toilette. Rather than begrudge the interference, I adored her for her patience and practicality. If it was up to me, I’d have left a lot of this stuff ’til they were tweens!

Tuesday January 4, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

The Lynn Lake airport was a small building with no separation between the ticket counter and the door to the tarmac. There was a small office and a washroom, but nothing to separate the departing from the departed from! The kids always wanted to watch the plane take off. If it was cold enough (and it usually was!) the snow would be a fine, light powder and when the props got up to speed, they blew a swirling cloud of snow up and around the loading area, which was exciting to see.

I remember the kids’ faces pressed against the window as we prepared for takeoff and I wanted to hug them one more time! I knew, however that they would soon be at Ruth and Tom’s house, warm and safe, ready to chow down on homemade buns and hot oatmeal porridge.

Wednesday January 5, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

We were both exhausted. The thought of warm weather and a sandy beach was too far away to focus on. First we had to get there. Having no one to leave our outer clothing with, we took with us our parkas, gloves, scarves and big winter boots. We could have boarded the plane in lighter fare – (there was a heater on board) but living in the north teaches you to be prepared for survival. If anything caused our plane to set down in the bush, we’d be dead without winter gear.

The trip was a pleasure. We had forgotten what kid-free travelling was like. We didn’t have to warm up the plane or prepare a lunch or bring toys or the potty…we just had ourselves to think about. Even though we had to slug suitcases and wait in line and sit for hours, it all seemed like such a luxury!

Thursday January 6, 2010

Lynn’s Notes:

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Aaron and Katie were getting used to Grandma and Grandpa’s parenting style. Neither Ruth nor Tom would take any “guff” from the offspring. It was clear from the get-go that they had to toe the line, or else! As long as they kept the rules of the house, observed their manners and went to bed on time, life would be good. At least, that was the plan. Both Ruth and Tom were strict disciplinarians. Having been brought up with “spare the rod and spoil the child”, they had raised their children with strong rules and regulations. They planned to do the same with the grandkids, but times were different. Things had changed. They were more mellow now and the need for austerity… was perhaps not so strong. It didn’t take long for Aaron and Kate to find their weak spots; the proverbial “chinks in the armour”…and thus, their guardians soon found this arrangement to be more than they’d bargained for!

Friday January 7, 2010

Lynn’s Notes:

We arrived in Barbados at the same time as several other aircraft. The customs and immigration area was at a standstill. Long lines of visitors stood patiently waiting, but there seemed to be no movement at all. The heat was unbearable. Some of the older people felt faint. Others fanned themselves furiously with their passports and a few were ready to mutiny on the spot. Nothing had gone wrong until now and we wondered how such a busy airport could be in such an impossible mess!

When we came home I did this comic strip. A few days after it was published, I got a letter from the department of tourism in Barbados! They had seen the strip in the local paper and were embarrassed to see their airport problem broadcast to papers all over North America and beyond! I was assured that tourist entry control was being quickly reorganized and that I would never encounter this problem again! I don’t know if FBorFW can take credit for the modern, efficient and air conditioned space they have now – but I’ll say that it did and have fun with it!!

Saturday January 8, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

The room we had was 35A. This was one of the rare times that I really did a chronicle of our personal goings-on! The hotel was a lovely little retreat called “Tamarind Cove”. The beach was secluded and the water warm. I grew up next to the ocean, but had never seen this kind of blue before. Rich, pale turquoise ribbons stretched from left to right as far as we could see. Darker blends of greenish blue reflected the clearest sky. The deck chairs beckoned and the first drinks were free. We settled easily into this glorious retreat, wishing that time would stand still.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

As in any profession, there are days when everything is a hassle and nothing goes right. In the dental clinic, this was “one of those days”. With the job I had, the great thing about living with a dentist was the stories that came home. Cartoons about life in the clinic were often based on real events and real people. Fortunately for me, these folks never recognized themselves…which is where funny faces and funny names came in. Both Rod and I had stressful jobs and constant deadlines, which might have contributed to more stress at home, had we not had a good sense of humor and the refuge of his mother’s house nearby. We were also relieved from hour-long city commutes, traffic jams and circuitous trips to the daycare. The clinic was an easy walk away, which made storytelling easier. It was all too close to home to forget!

Monday January 10, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

I have never worn a bikini. Even in my 20s I was far too self conscious. In the strip, however, I could wear what I liked. Elly’s shape constantly fluctuated. Bulges grew, angles sharpened, postures slouched and straightened as the moods dictated.

On the beach, it did occur to me that folks didn’t much care what they wore – getting as much sun as possible was more important than esthetics. Some of our fellow guests, bleached and bulbous, lay happily out in the open, oblivious to those who smiled at the sight of them. But what difference did it make? We’d never see each other again, so why not enjoy? Maybe I should have tried on a bikini after all!

Tuesday January 11, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

Ever seen one of those conveyor-belt style toasters? The kind they have at breakfast buffets? You fire a slice of bread onto a moving belt, and by the time you’ve plopped a wad of scrambled eggs onto your plate, the bread has moved past a heating element and has reappeared as toast. This is an efficient and practical way to manage a hungry crowd of people, all bent on getting what they want, when they want it.

Going to Barbados rather reminded me of the conveyor belt toaster. White folks get off the planes, head for the beach and return to the airport tanned and toasted. Not much different than a breakfast buffet. Strange, isn’t it, that many of us (white folks) equate a tanned skin with health, style and attractiveness…and yet we’ve maligned and criticized for centuries folks who are born with a natural tan! Makes me wonder…. how can we be so stupid and so smug at the same time?!

Wednesday January 12, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

We had been living in northern Manitoba, where the winter sun rises around 10 in the morning and sets around 4 in the afternoon. We were all pale faces; the only colour being the inevitable frostbite which reddened our cheeks and made our noses peel. The thought of spending a day on a sandy beach under a warm tropical sun overrode my common sense and inevitably I spent the first few days in agony. What was to have been a second honeymoon became “Don’t touch me!” and this drawing was received by my spouse with little humour.

Thursday January 13, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

Sunburns were part of the summer experience when I was young. North Vancouver rarely became too hot for comfort so a clear, cloudless day when you could lie on a blanket on a dry back yard lawn was heaven. A tan at that time was important. People buttered themselves up; they glistened with oil and worked hard to move straps and waistbands so as to cover every exposable inch possible. We spent hours forcing colour to rise to the surface of our melanin challenged hides.

On the beach at English Bay, we all listened to the same radio station and every 15 minutes, the DJ’s on CFUN would tell us to roll over. You would then see everyone down the whole length of the beach, like frying sausages, roll at the same time. This was supposed to prevent sunburn – but it never did. Many a night I went to bed after a cool bath, with cold cream covering my seared and sorry skin. Afterwards, I’d peel like a banana and vow never to do it again. HAH! I’m older and wiser now and my pallor is preferable. It’s interesting, isn’t it. Despite warnings and proof that the sun can do more damage that we ever imagined, folks willingly… still get burned.

Friday January 14, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

During our first few days alone – sans the kids – we were surprisingly quiet. We were so used to our conversations being about children that when it came to other subjects, we hardly knew where to begin. Talking about “ME” and “YOU” feels almost selfish when so much of what parents do is for others. It took a few days to get past the need to talk about the kids, and even then it was hard.

Saturday January 15, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

On the beach just outside the gate to our hotel, a young woman and her mother had set up a dress stand. They made and sold all kinds of dresses, many of which were baby-sized and beautiful. The young woman had a little daughter whose name was Samantha. It wasn’t a common name at the time, and I thought it was so pretty.
She was about the same age as Katie. I’d watch her and compare the two. I bought two dresses – one for me and one for Katie. It was an opportunity to talk to another mother and to play with her daughter who had the sweetest smile. Her hair was full of barrettes and her eyes sparkled with mischief. I wondered how the two little girls would get along. For months I had looked forward to being without my children, but it only took a couple of days to make me miss them more than I could say.

Sunday January 16, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

Katie was an attractive little kid and I fell into the “momtrap” of wanting her to look as cute as possible at all times. I had the adorable outfits, the velvet dresses, hats, scarves and mittens that matched her “girlie” snowsuits. I combed her hair just so and awaited the gooey compliments that come while showing off a preened and perfect princess.

Kate, however wanted nothing to do with looking cute. Being comfortable was far more important. So was wearing what she darned well wanted to wear! She was determined and stubborn and it was abundantly clear by the time she was three, that what she wore would be a compromise. The red hat was actually a patterned toque and I would have drawn it that way, except that the pattern was too hard to draw and too hard to colour!

Monday January 17, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

When I go somewhere new, I want to see as much as I can. I want to take tours, ride the local buses, check out the markets and explore. Rod was content to relax on the beach and didn’t mind if I went off on my own.

The Tamarind Cove was an intimate little hotel. We had met some interesting folks on the beach and in the dining room – which often required that we share a table with other guests. I soon connected with a couple of eager shoppers wanting to go to adventuring. We collected our hats, strapped on our sandals and set out for Bridgetown.

Tuesday January 18, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

Just outside the hotel entrance, there was a bus stop. I was told that I could either wait for the city bus or jump on one of the local transports. The local transportation was not much more than a half-ton truck with an open back into which people literally ran after and jumped into. Since it was a sort of private arrangement, the
“bus” was not allowed to stop. When it did come barreling down the road, the other would-be passengers already knew to start running. Needless to say I was not ready to attempt this new and challenging style of travel and waited for the city bus, which was full of school children. I enjoyed standing at the back, admiring their uniforms and the many colourful ways in which the girls had their hair done: so many barrettes, so many different kinds of braids. It was worth the wait, for sure.

Wednesday January 19, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

The markets in Bridgetown are a complex jumble of colourful stalls, filled to the brim with baskets and clothing and goods of all kinds. The problem is that the vendors all seem to carry the same things and so it becomes a choice of who to buy from, based on the friendliness of the vendor and the appearance of the stall. The vendors are all friendly, so your time in the market is spent wandering up and down the busy, narrow passageways just looking and enjoying everything.

I was surprised to find a woodworker who had taken a number of discarded planks and had carved intricate local scenes on them. His was the only booth in which there was something original and new, so I started a conversation with him. He told me about his home and his family and he asked about mine. After awhile, I felt rather obligated to support him and his work so I decided to buy a carving. The one I liked best was about 1.5 feet wide and 3 feet high. He wrapped it in newspaper, we shook hands like old chums and I lugged it back to the hotel.

Thursday January 20, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

Needless to say, my spouse did not see the artistic merit in the work I presented to him and asked that it be put somewhere “reasonable”. The carving remained in our basement until we moved from Manitoba to Ontario – and I remember the lady who bought it at my mom-in-law’s yard sale saying “how can you get rid of this – it’s beautiful!” Goes to show you… that art is in the eye of the beholder.

Friday January 21, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

Sunsets here in Canada have incredible charm – but when you’re on a beach in the tropics, preferably after a couple of coconut coolers, the early evening sky can inspire love songs, paintings and poetry. The sound of tiny green frogs tweeting in the trees, the sway of the palm trees, the shushhhh of the waves…fine, soft sand cushioning your toes…. (you can tell I’m writing this in January) make the Caribbean a place like none other.

We honestly couldn’t believe we were there. At home, it was -20 degrees and here it was perfect body temperature. We had brought our parkas down to Barbados – having no one to store them for us in Winnipeg – and one day, just for fun, we decided to wear them on the beach. Standing on the hot sand in our boots and winter parkas, with the fur hoods low over our faces, we were quite a sight. Even the hotel staff took pictures! They had never before seen such clothing and it gave them an idea of the weather we lived in and why we were so glad to be there!

Saturday January 22, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

This really was part of a conversation we had with one of the hotel staff. Rudy had been particularly sweet and we looked forward to seeing him every day. It was as if we had been staying at his house, so naturally we wanted to reciprocate. We asked him if he’d ever been to Canada, thinking we could give him a great tour should he decide to explore our turf, but after seeing us in our parkas and hearing about the weather back home…this was his response. It was interesting to me to find out that few people leave the island for a holiday. Seems that travel is too expensive and besides…if you’re living in paradise – what’s the point?!

Sunday January 23, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

Our family home in North Vancouver was designed so that a kid could run from the kitchen to the hall, around to the living room and back into the kitchen again. This made for an excellent track and field event, should it be raining, and it usually was. Mom was long suffering, stoic and understanding. She let my brother and me blow off steam while she stewed silently, knowing that kids need the exercise. She drew the line at our jumping on the furniture though and her admonishments were almost always the same: “This is a house, not a playground!”, “I am sick, sore, fed up and tired!” and of course, Dad’s fave: “Are you cruising for a bruising?” Alan and I could almost mouth the words as they were spoken – but heaven help you if you were caught!

When my own kids took to racing around the house, I heard myself saying the same things my mom said to us – and a new understanding between my mom and I erased some of the wall that had separated us for so long. I knew that my kids had memorized my litany of commands and I knew how she felt. At long last, my mom was vindicated! Some day… it will be MY turn!

Tuesday January 25, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

The trip home was a tense one. Our flight was delayed and foggy January conditions made me nervous. I was often more comfortable in our own plane. We could choose not to fly if the weather was bad. Our charter took us back to Winnipeg, but we now had to wait for two more scheduled flights: a small jet to Thompson and the Twin Otter to Lynn Lake.

I was never able to show in the strip the reality of our northern lifestyle. I imagined the Pattersons living outside the city of Toronto with all the luxuries of big city living – while Rod and I managed the intricacies of getting into and out of an isolated community of 2000 people. In our plane, a Cessna 185, I often flew part of the way. It felt good to be in control. In a commercial aircraft, I had the feeling that I was helping – even if I was just staring at the wing!

Wednesday January 26, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

In this part of the north, the temperature often went below -40 degrees Celsius (same as -40 Fahrenheit!) With a wind chill, it was even colder. Your face would freeze within minutes and breathing was difficult. A hooded parka was a must – the fur trim essential. It was dangerous to fly on these days, as metal stress was a factor to consider and any mechanical problems were exacerbated by the cold. The fog assured us that the air had warmed enough for takeoff, but the ceiling had to be within landing specs or we’d be returned to Winnipeg.

With a good landing system in Lynn Lake and pilots well on the ball, we arrived in one piece, glad to be home, anxious to see the kids and dying for Ruth’s coffee and fresh baking.

Thursday January 27, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

No matter how open-minded you are, no matter how cooperative the relationship, there is always a sort of competition between mom and caregiver. Ruth’s parenting style was something I admired and respected, but it was different! When I came home, I wanted to resume my role as the alpha female!

After two weeks in her care, Aaron and Katie were now doing things Ruth’s way and it took some time before they returned to the nest I had built. Ruth had given them a new routine and some new rules. I felt as though I could be replaced and I voiced this thought in FBorFW. Seeing this in pen and ink was like writing a letter to myself. It cleared my head. It made things better. Sometimes the strip provided an outlet that was healing and healthy for all of us!

Friday January 28, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

I did bring home a seashell from Barbados. It sits on my bathroom windowsill today as a reminder of the several trips we made to the same pretty hotel. I know it’s a good shell because the edge is fine, transparent and slightly wavy. The man who sold it to me explained that conch shells are often too delicate to survive the recovery. They chip easily and the locals remove the roughness by filing away the edge of the shell, making it smooth and even. This one is perfect!

I have several shells – and all of them have a story. Some are from Florida, some belonged to my grandmother and one of them I found when I was in my teens while walking along the beach at Deep Cove. Each one has a different sound when you listen and I’ve often thought it was a meaningful coincidence that shells are shaped like the human ear.

Saturday January 29, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

I think I told you that Ruth and Tom lived just a few blocks away from us. We were constantly going from house to house – but we were always aware of each other’s need for privacy. We rarely entered without knocking. We respected each other’s possessions, refrigerators and personal space. Because of this, we remained loving relatives and great friends until they passed away – long after we moved from northern Manitoba. I was very lucky to have had them in my life and for this I’ll always be grateful.

Sunday January 30, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

Sobie’s Bakery in Lynn Lake was one of the highlights of the town. Mr. and Mrs. Sobie would be up long before sunrise to get the bread out for the day and you could pick up the scent all the way from the post office. Spice cake was my personal favorite, but their doughnuts came in an easy second. Sobie’s was the only bakery for hundreds of miles around. Folks from Leaf Rapids (a 60 mile wilderness drive south) would come all the way to LL just to shop at Sobie’s. We didn’t realize what a gem we had until we moved away. Nobody could decorate with icing like Mrs Sobie. Nobody except perhaps grandma Ruth made better buns.

For every occasion, it seemed, people would order a spice cake. I looked forward to these huge, moist desserts covered with cream cheese icing, decorated with colored artwork – ornate dedications and piped with flowers around the edge. Some, however, got tired of them and when my friend Nancy Lawn moved to Edmonton she said “At least I don’t ever have to eat another Sobie’s spice cake!”

A year or so later, we decided to fly out west to visit the Lawns in their new home. As a joke, I had Mrs. Sobie make up a big spice cake with double the icing and as ornate as possible. When we arrived at the airport, Nancy spied the Sobie’s box right away. “That’s not a spice cake!” she shouted. “Ahhh!”

I said “I thought you might need one”.

“Have you any idea how much I’ve MISSED those things?” she cried, opening the box and nicking a fingerfull of icing. When we got to her house, she immediately put the cake out of sight telling us we couldn’t have any. “It’s OURS,” she said. “You can have Sobie’s spice cake any time…you live right there!”

I think I gave the Sobie family the original of this cartoon. I don’t think I ever told them how much I missed their bakery, but I hope they remember me as fondly as I remember them.

Monday January 31, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

We moved to northern Manitoba shortly after Rod graduated from University. He had degrees in broadcast technology, science and dentistry and the folks there who had known him since he was a toddler called him “Roddy”. His mom would put a scarf around his neck if he was going out without one, or would tell him to put on warmer socks. He wondered aloud when they were going to consider him an adult, even though “Dr. J. R. Johnston” was on the door of his clinic, and he was married and had two kids. I found the familiarity endearing, but I was many miles away from North Vancouver, where I was still “The Ridgway girl” and Merv and Ursie’s daughter.