All materials copyright ÂŠ 2014 Reflections â€“ Scarborough Arts and its contributors For requests of reprints & permission to make copies of any part of the work, contact Scarborough Arts For more information on Scarborough Arts and our other projects, visit: www.scarborougharts.com ISBN: 978-0-9698858-5-6 Cover Art: Frozen Love, Kanson Lee Book Designer: Marianne Rellin __________________ Scarborough Arts 1859 Kingston Road Scarborough, Ontario, Canada M1N 1T3 www.scarborougharts.com Tel: 416.698.7322 Fax: 416.698.7972 Printed by: Asquith Press Toronto Public Library 789 Yonge Street Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4W 2G8
Other Publications by Scarborough Arts Moments, Scarborough Seniors Write, 2014 Back to Basics, Big Art Book, 2014 Future Human Digital Animal, Big Art Book, 2013 Big Art Book, 2012
REFLECTIONS Write On!
TABLE OF CONTENTS 1 5 9 15
Table of Contents Introduction Foreword Reflections
SHIRLEY AIRDRIE The Gift of Love - Pass It On
GILDA KATZ Love in the Time of Life
SUBHASHINI KHETARPAL Bibliophile
JOAN LITTLE Half My Life Ago
GERALD LOBO Doors of Desire Sibling Rivalry
HAZEL LOBO A Receipt Brings Back Memories of a Person Great Moment with an Animal One of Your Characters Burst into Song
SHEILA BELLO Detox Attendant Open Windows Unsettled Dust
CHARLOTTE BOWERING Trixie’s New Town
MARIO DIMAIN An Immigrant’s Dream Papo’s Angel
GLORIA ANN EASTON The Doorway to Desire
DAVID HENRY MAZUMDAR On Public Awareness
JOYCE HAYES Charlie’s New Year’s Resolution Life Stoppages Tribute to Nadira P. To Stephen L.
DARCY MILLER Dust to Dust, Ashes to Ashes Love, Lust and Loss
IRENE PLACHTINSKY Fifty-Five Years Ago Seems Like Yesterday Journey to the Unknown No Siblings, No Rivalry
GEORGE HEIGHINGTON Our Son, Ryan Jonathan Heighington
BILL RAY My First Job
JIM G. RICHARDSON The Duke
ANNE SMITH Those Damned Blue Lines
PATRICE STEPHENS BOURGEAULT The Path of the Past on to Futureâ€™s Road
MARK WALDRON Coming to Canada
ALAN C. WILLIS I Remember The Renewable Resource (As Leaders See It)
ABOUT Write On!
INTRODUCTION DANIA ANSARI, Scarborough Arts Write On! Program Coordinator
way to get the most out of life “ One is to look upon it as an adventure. “ WILLIAM FEATHER, American Publisher & Author
This quote perfectly sums up the atmosphere in the Write On! workshops. The level of enthusiasm, vigour and community that is felt during the workshops is truly unique. Participants in Write On! have treated their lives as an adventure, and continue to do so. This was exactly the reason why I was so excited when it was confirmed that Scarborough Arts would be facilitating another round of writing and storytelling workshops with Scarborough’s creative seniors. Just being in the room and hearing stories of survival, family drama, sibling rivalry and friendship was absolutely inspiring. Each week, the group would share stories to encourage and inspire each other to delve more into their passion for writing. I had no doubt that 5
the sessions would be enjoyable and when I heard the stories, I was just humbled by the wealth of life experience that surrounded me. Our facilitator, the seasoned local novelist Sarah Sheard, provided the perfect and inclusive environment in which the participants expressed themselves. Sarah came in every week with a new video that was a writing prompt for the session — topics ranged from the funniest haircut to fairy tales and sibling rivalry. Once the video was shown, it prompted endless anecdotes — the participants looked forward to the video every week. There were so many tales to share that the two-hour weekly summer sessions just was not enough. Write On! was very unique and allowed Scarborough’s senior residents to form new bonds, and articulate their memories, poems and stories to share with the rest of the world. The commitment and enthusiasm of the participants throughout the summer spoke to the thirst for similar programs across Scarborough and beyond. Write On! and its participants were definitely the highlight of my summer, and once you read Reflections, you will see why. 7
FOREWORD JEN D. FABICO, Scarborough Arts Program Director
When I see myself, when I truly see myself, I see the ones before me and all of those before them â€” the wide eyes of my father which crinkle at the corners with every scrunch of the nose; the brow of my mother that furrows and knits so tightly it could weave a basket, and the dimple on each cheek so deep in smiles and laughter which my father passed on to me. Yet, when others see me, when they truly see me, they see the morals instilled from family; the discipline born of teachers and mentors; the lessons of love and heartache, and the love of life born from every opportunity that has arisen. Reflections is a new and unique collection of written works by the Write On! participants who also truly see themselves and how they fit in the world around them. As the continuum to Moments, Reflections boasts stories that mirror and echo the different elements, people and events in our writersâ€™ lives. It is a reflection of the world and their experiences that is now to be shared with 9
you, truly a reflection without borders. Write On! was a reflection in itself — that it stemmed from many fabulous ideas, dedication and work from great people. First and foremost, I would like to acknowledge my colleague and the Write On! Program Coordinator, Dania Ansari, who spent countless hours working on this project behind the scenes. This program would not have been the same without her and the dedication she put into it. We were thrilled to welcome back novelist Sarah Sheard, forever charming and innovative. Additionally, Write On! would not be made possible without our partners, who continue to propel such great initiatives forward through their advice, resources and kindness: Andrea Raymond-Wong and Nadira Pattison from the City of Toronto through the city’s Cultural Hotspot East program, and Sandra Cox from the Toronto Public Library - Bendale branch. Last but certainly not least, I must acknowledge our talented Write On! storytellers and writers — whether they were part of our existing community of writers or this was their first time enrolled in Scarborough Arts’ programming for seniors, this program was by you and for you. Continue to enjoy 11
every moment, reflect on each item or instance, and share every detail. Write On! gratefully acknowledges the support of the City of Toronto through Cultural Hotspot East and the Ontario Arts Council.
REFLECTIONS is not a problem â€œtoLife be solved, but a reality to be experienced. â€œ SOREN KIERKEGAARD
Every single one of us has life experiences to share with the world. When these experiences are put down on paper, the rest of the world can join in on that journey of love, hate, loss and triumph. They lead us through the adventure that we call life. This anthology reflects upon these stories in life and will take its readers through the adventures which have inspired the authors in this project to write on!
The Gift of Love - Pass It On SHIRLEY AIRDRIE
When they put my baby boy into my arms, it was love at first sight. I was enthralled. I marveled at his tiny fingers, the colour of his eyes; it was all a miracle to me. Being an only child, I had a problem. I didn’t have a clue how to take care of him. However, motherly instinct took over and with a lot of love, he thrived. He was six years old when my daughter was born. I felt the same strong bond as I tenderly cuddled her. Also nurtured with love, she grew into a lovely, sweet little girl. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to tell you it was all wonderful and perfect; there were trying times too. The terrible two’s when it seemed the only words they knew was “no” or “mine”. Then there was constant drama of my “beautiful” daughter’s teenage years. Like the episode when I refused to let her go to her friend’s cottage for the weekend because it wasn’t supervised by an adult. Her response, with hands on her hips, was, “I never asked to be born.” 17
Or, how about the time my â€œperfectly behavedâ€? teenage son was caught drinking beer in the school yard. Oh yes, discipline was sometimes necessary but it was always tempered with love. Through all of our ups and downs, they knew in their hearts the assurance of unconditional love. That was many years ago, and now they are rearing children of their own using the same love philosophy. The good news is my grandchildren will continue to pass it along to the generation after them. This inheritance is far more valuable than money or land. It is the gift of giving and receiving love. Pass it on!
Detox Attendant SHEILA BELLO
June 1973. I am on the night shift at the Lewkin Detox Centre in Thunder Bay, Ontario. I am a Detox Attendant for the summer. It is the third week of my first job in Canada. I have just completed my first year of university studies. The job is challenging but it teaches me valuable lessons that are relevant to my studies, and more. During my orientation I was told, “You must be prepared for all kinds of emergencies. You must be alert, calm, and in control at all times. Nothing will happen that we can’t handle.” I am mindful of my skin tone and accent. I get curious glances from people. I presume it is because they are not used to seeing a brown person. There are just a handful of coloured persons living in Thunder Bay. My co-worker and mentor tonight is Keith Veitch. He is an experienced attendant. The Centre is an old house with six bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, a living room and an office. There are two single beds in each of the bedrooms. Eight of 19
the beds are occupied by men. Two women were admitted last week. They left earlier in the day. No one is forced to stay. Some alcoholics come to the Centre voluntarily; some are brought in by relatives, and others by the police if they are inebriated and found wandering on the streets. Many of them are from different cities across the country. The Centre is a safe and non-threatening place to sober up. Those admitted are encouraged to seek help through programs like Alcoholics Anonymous. Detox attendants encourage them to get help and make the arrangements if they agree. Ashtrays in the living room overflow with cigarette butts. I empty them and clean the tables. Someone is calling, “Miss, give me something to steady my nerves. I can’t sleep.” It is Mr. Urbanski. I know what he means by something but we do not keep drugs in the Centre. “All right. I’ll get you something.” I go to the office and open a locked cabinet. I take out a tablet from a bottle labelled X, fetch a glass of water from the kitchen and return to him. “Here, take this. It will help you to sleep.” I wait till he settles in bed, then I leave the room. 20
I check on him ten minutes later. He is fast asleep. I had given him a vitamin pill. I learned this routine from my co-worker during my first week. As I leave the room, I hear screams. Mr. Hakala is running frantically down the corridor. He looks back at his heels while running. His hands lash out as if brushing something off his leg. “Help... help. The dog is chasing me,” he keeps shouting, “The dog is chasing me. It will bite me.” Keith comes to his rescue. Keith tells him, “Why don’t you tie up the dog?” “Oh...okay.” “Let me help you.” Keith makes gestures as if tying up a dog, then leads Mr. Hakala to his bed. I follow. “The dog is tied up. You can sleep now,” Keith tells him. He nods and settles down. I go to the office. I have to update the log book. There is a knock on the open door. It is Mr. Gauthier. I am particularly vigilant with him. He was brought to the Centre by police two weeks earlier. He was drunk and belligerent. When he saw me, he started shouting and cursing in French. He lunged at me and yelled racial profanities. The police restrained him. His hostile attitude subsided after a couple of 21
days. I was not daunted. I have been in precarious situations before. I suppressed my fears and wore a stoic face. Passive but fearless resistance works better than belligerent confrontation in certain situations. I served him with the same compassion, care and dedication that I gave to others. “Come in,” I said. “I will be leaving tomorrow,” he says. “Okay. I wish you well. Have a safe trip.” He fidgets for a moment. Then he said, “I would like you to come with me to Quebec.” “Thanks, but I can’t.” He looks at me for a moment. Then he lowers his gaze and walks away. I continue to update my log book.
Open Windows SHEILA BELLO
Open windows what views you exposed, what scents and sounds you allowed to enter my childhood room. Interests they fostered and tendencies they shaped still persist in me. Warped by the passage of time and ravages of alternating seasons which brought months of dryness followed by equivalent periods of rain, your wooden rectangular frames creaked when opened or closed. You made it easy to see mango, jamun and immortelle trees, and sunset in the shifting horizon. You let in sunshine and breezes infused with scents of various tropical flowers. 23
You let in bird songs and soothing music in the night from the neighbourâ€™s gramophone. I always kept you open even when dark clouds banged and bolts of lightening streaked across the night sky, or when stories about ghosts that haunted the country side were still fresh in my mind. I still remember those Saturday nights when music from country wedding celebrations flowed across undulating planes and into my room, filling it with lyrics accompanied by sitar, flutes, drums and harmonium, in languages I did not fully comprehend but liked and intuitively understood. Last night, while I watched stars I listened to some of those same songs on my CDs!
Unsettled Dust SHEILA BELLO
Exposed in a shaft of light unsettled dust. What is hidden in darkness and dim shadows? In the absence of light how many thoughts and wants remain unseen, how many minds are clouded with unresolved issues. Moving within me, a clutter of ups and downs like unsettled dust. If light can expose them what then, what then?
Trixie’s New Town CHARLOTTE BOWERING
Once upon a time there was a beautiful yellow pixie named Trixie. Her perfectly oval face and radiant smile shone like the sun, and her perky personality spread joy and happiness wherever she went. She lived with her family and friends in old tree trunks in High Park in Toronto. The name of their town was Mirthful City. The pixies and their town were only visible to children under ten years of age. Now and then older people could see them, but only if they were radiantly happy. People who happened to glimpse the pixies and their town during their joyous time were captivated and fascinated by such an incredible experience. Usually they didn’t believe what was happening, thinking they had imagined it, and soon forgot about it. However, the pixies and their town were very real, any four year old could tell you that! Four year old Jordan had often chatted to his mom about the pixies when they had gone to High Park to play. She would smile and say, “oh Jordan, you have such a vivid imagination.” 26
And he would reply, “No mom, it’s true, I can see them, honest.” He often told her about the many tiny green doors with numbers on them, and how playful and happy the pixies were. That was the problem. There were far too many little green doors because Mirthful City was getting overpopulated. Elves and fairies were also moving into their neighbourhood and that didn’t help the situation. It only made it congested. It was so crowded that the pixies were getting sick from germs being spread around their cramped quarters. Even Trixie was finding it harder to be the peppy, chipper pixie that she once was. Trixie and her friends wanted to move to a less crowded neighbourhood. However, real estate for pixie houses was very expensive in Toronto. They had heard of a treasure in gold coins in Dunham Forest in the Kawarthas. Trixie had longed for five hundred years (for pixies lived to be extremely old) to find that treasure and help her family and her village of Mirthful City. The treasure was hidden under a two-pronged burnt out tree on a little green hill. Some of her friends, and even her great-great-great Uncle Shalamus, had tried to find 27
the treasure, but had been eaten by the vicious bears which lived in the forest. No one in Trixieâ€™s family had tried to find the treasure since the unfortunate demise of her poor uncle. Finally, in desperation, Trixie gathered up her courage, bid farewell to everyone she knew and left to find the treasure. She hopped on the back of a crow, and after several days, found her way to Dunham Forest. She spotted a sturdy, brown cottage below them and she lived there as she sought the treasure of gold coins. She had been told that in order to find the treasure, she would have to follow a white wolf. She peered out her window day after day hoping to see the wolf. After being at the cottage for two years (which is a very short time in pixie years), she spotted the wolf. Excitedly, Trixie started to follow it, looking around carefully to spot the horrid bears who might try to catch her. She met a loon in the forest and he agreed to help her search and guard her against the bears. As she followed the wolf, she had many close calls, but she was able to avoid the bears with the help of the loon. The animals of the forest were fascinated by Trixie for they had never seen a yellow pixie before. They were happy to warn her when the 28
bears were coming. Trixie and the animals searched and searched. Eventually their persistence paid off for there, in the distance, was the little green hill with the twopronged burnt out tree on top of it. They danced around and sang with happiness, but not loud enough to attract the bears, of course. They were busy loading the gold coins on the backs of several crows when suddenly they were surrounded by enormous, frightening bears. The bears tried to attack, but something seemed to be holding them back. Trixie thought and thought and finally realized why they couldn’t attack. Since finding the tree and the treasure, she had become invincible! The crow and Trixie were happy to fly back to High Park with the treasure. The pixies of Mirthful City celebrated for many days with feasts and parades. Everyone thanked Trixie wherever she went. She was their hero! One day Jordan and his mom were at Kew Beach at the park. Jordan said to her, “Mom look at those trees, there’s the pixies I used to see at High Park.” His mom said, “Jordan, it’s incredible, but you’re absolutely right, I can see them too.” 29
For you see, his mom was radiantly happy because Jordan was soon to have a little sister named Abigail. Kew Beach was where they lived. It was Trixieâ€™s new town and they named it Blissful Town.
An Immigrant’s Dream MARIO DIMAIN
Whether we dream big or small, it doesn’t cost anything. But when followed through, the fulfillment can bring its ultimate glory. With his dream, the great explorer, John Cabot, sailed across the big seas and discovered a vast land filled with many opportunities. It was the ground that embraced the flow of the early settlers from the United Kingdom, Europe and Asia. They were the hardworking groups of people who built the land into a strong nation. They opened the doors to the flocks of immigrants, so they too, can fulfill their lifelong dreams — the dream to be free and the dream to build better lives. This beautiful land where dreams are bountiful, is known to the rest of the globe as Canada, one of the leading countries of the world today. Just like other immigrants, I also had a dream. When I was a child, I would sit down by the sandy coastline of my hometown, and look as far as my eyes could see across the Philippine Sea. Then, I would imagine the good life beyond the horizon. 31
I fantasized a place where all poor children could have toys to play with and be able to eat proper meals three times a day. I imagined a nation where the poor and the rich were treated equally. I dreamed of a country where authority was respected rather than feared. These lively thoughts amused me for hours; but it also made me wonder if there was really such a place. My children have lived my childhood dream. It is Canada that made it happen. Although they were raised with Filipino values and have South East Asian features, make no mistake, they are Canadians! They were born in this country. They are part of Canadaâ€™s diverse multicultural society, that is interwoven with mutual desire to protect and preserve the greatness of this nation. Unlike my children, I am not Canadian born. But in my thirty-eight years in Canada, my heart grew to love this country which had adopted me. It is not far from the truth to say that I am Canadian grown. I feel I am just as Canadian as my children. We all share the same loyalty to the flag of this land. I love Canada. This is where I belong - the country of all nations. This is the place where there is no room for discrimination. It is also the place where 32
freedom and equality are strongly upheld. My love for this country is better expressed in my photo journal of its mixed cultures and its breathtaking scenery. It is my ardent wish that on my final day, my family would bury me in this land, the land that has been my home for more than half of my lifetime. I hope and pray that on my resting ground, wild flowers will bloom to silently tell the clouds in the sky, â€œHere lies a man who fulfilled his dream and is forever grateful to Canada.â€?
Papo’s Angel MARIO DIMAIN
Now that I have grandchildren of my own, I have a deeper appreciation of the times my grandfather spent with me when I was little. Although he was deprived of formal education and could barely write his name, my grandfather never ran out of explanations that satisfied my hunger for answers. He amazed me. I thought of him as the wisest of all grandfathers. This respectable man, who I affectionately called Papo, was a great storyteller. He had a way with words that stirred my imagination. I enjoyed every anecdote he told me, especially the one about an angel-warrior. I loved the character so much that I made him repeat the story over and over again. I was only six years old when I first heard the story. I will never forget Papo’s opening line, “There was a brave angel who was sent by God to fight the Devil.” Then after a short pause, he would point to the easterly direction, “At sunrise, this brave angel named Michael drew his mighty sword and challenged the Devil who was turning good little 34
boys into demons. It was a long battle. They fought all day. By nightfall, Michael was stood victoriously over the fallen Devil.” Papo’s descriptive details of the Devil frightened me but his calm reassuring words were more overpowering: “Don’t be afraid. God’s angel, Michael, will always protect you.” In the barrio of San Miguel, where Papo lived, there was a small old church across from his house. The rusty galvanized iron doors were never locked. They were open for everyone who wished to visit St. Michael, the angel-warrior and the patron saint of the barrio. One day, I crossed the road and reluctantly entered the empty church. It was dim and spooky. I remember the mound of candle offerings. The light emitting from the flickering flames dramatically illuminated the triumphant figure of the angelwarrior. His powerful wings were fully spread out. The mighty sword, tightly gripped by his right hand, accentuated his heavenly power. He looked victorious as he stood over the fallen Devil. It was a dramatic sculpture depicting the great battle between good and evil, well described in my grandfather’s story. 35
St. Michael was my super hero. I wanted to be as brave as him. With a bamboo stick I simulated the great battle by fighting a banana tree. After striking it numerous times, I would raise my make-believe sword to assume the angel-warriorâ€™s victorious stance. Today, the role-playing still continues. We all have angels within us. When we protect others, help others, feel the pain in others, we become Michaels. I feel the presence of angels everywhere. I see angels in everyone doing good deeds for others. Whenever I see an image of St. Michael, I remember my dear Papo who taught me the courage to resist the power of evil. From him, I also learned my first lesson in the art of storytelling. In his loving memory, I dedicate this piece.
The Doorway to Desire GLORIA ANN EASTON
Dedicated to the memory of Mr. Gilbert “Short” Malkin and Mrs. Elizabeth “Bess” Malkin What is a turning point in one’s life? At what age does this happen? If one is lucky, it happens in childhood. Grade 6 was my turning point. I found a new friend — art. Although reading was my constant companion, art was edging in. I was enjoying art period more and more and raced through my homework so that I could draw. What fun it was to draw faces, animals and buildings. There were books on art among my Nancy Drew mysteries and Cherry Ames nurse novels. I became acquainted with the paintings of Degas, Rembrandt, Renoir and the Group of Seven. My teacher, Miss Florence McInnes, urged me to enter a poster contest for Fire Prevention Week. My fireman drawing won me the second prize; I enjoyed drawing a figure in a particular uniform — that of a fireman extinguishing a fire with a long hose. 37
During art period in Grade 7, my teacher, Miss Laura Belle Smale, introduced charcoal for drawing. I was fascinated by its “scritch, scritch” sound as I passed the crayon on paper. How fragile it was! That year, the Northern Ontario Exhibition in my hometown, Schumacher, was featuring an art contest. Miss Smale encouraged me to submit a drawing. I drew the black Aberdeen terrier from the label of my father’s favourite Black & White Scotch whisky. I won first prize in the Junior Division. The juror was A.J. Casson of the Group of Seven. My father said that I brought honour to the family. I was ecstatic. My last year of elementary school was important for two events. The first event occurred in the first week of Grade 8 classes. Library period was Friday morning and it was my favourite time. The first event was sparked by my finding a new magazine in the library. Children’s Playmate magazine was full of games, recipes, stories and art submitted by children of all ages. Mrs. Jaksic, the librarian, suggested that I send in a drawing to the magazine’s editor. If my drawing gets published, I would win a year’s subscription for free. My pen and ink drawing of a ballerina dressed in a costume 38
from The Firebird ballet was published. I recalled my ballet lessons as I drew the pose, facial expression and ballet shoes. It was great to get the magazine each month; I had something that was truly mine. The second event was a real surprise. Among the letters I fetched from the post office one day, one letter peeked out for me, it was from the school board. What did I do? Anything bad? My heart raced. I opened the letter and found a pink registration form stating that I was enrolled in an oil painting class! Who did this? I wondered. I hid my letter in a textbook. On a Saturday morning soon after, I heard a knock on the door. “Hello, Kay, is Gloria home?” said a voice I recognized — Mrs. Malkin. “Come in, Bess, and have some coffee. Gloria’s here,” said my mom. “Short and I enrolled Gloria in an oil painting class. Did you get the letter, Gloria? The registration form?” asked Mrs. Malkin. “Yes, I did,” I replied. “She didn’t tell us,” answered my mother. 39
“I really didn’t understand it,” I said. “Well, do go, Gloria. Short and I feel you have a lot of talent in art. Here is ten dollars for art supplies. Go to that art store in Timmins,” said Mrs. Malkin. We all thanked Mrs. Malkin. I felt truly cherished, and by some people outside of my family. My father walked me to the classes and fetched me home. I enjoyed the instructor, Mrs. Florence Hamilton, who taught me how to mix and blend colours and the uses of mineral oil and turpentine. I loved being with adults as I was just twelve years old. In high school, I volunteered as the fashion editor for the quarterly newsletter. Gleaning suitable adaptations from fashion trends for this teenage set was challenging and rewarding. A copy was enhanced with my drawings. My sources were Ladies’ Home Journal, McCall’s, Life and Look magazines, even movie magazines. I had a taste for journalism. It was a great experience. Near the end of Grade 13, my father asked me what I intended to do after I graduate. I said that I would like to go to art college or go to university and study to be a teacher of French. He took my hand and in a heartfelt voice said that he could not afford either. His eyes glittered with tears. 40
I replied that it was alright. I said I was thinking of going into nursing to learn more anatomy and physiology. If I go to train with the Grey Nuns in Sudbury, I will hear a lot of French and maybe even pick up some French conversation with my colleagues and patients. In my spare time, I could draw and paint; I will take my supplies. We both agreed on that. Training to be a nurse was difficult but I enjoyed drawing whenever I could explain myself on exams and tests. My marks improved. At Christmas, the Sisters decorated the hospital. Sister Marguerite asked me if I could paint a five feet by seven feet mural. The scene depicted a deer on the brow of a snowy hill as it gazed down on a babbling brook. I painted from one to two p.m. as I did not want to compromise my training. While painting the snow, I felt at one with nature. The deer inspired a bravery in me as it endured the cold. Sisters from the other wing asked me to paint the glass double doors separating the wing where I worked. She wanted reverse images of the Holy Mother and Christ child. When I was done, the doors looked like stained glass windows. I experienced a calmness and peace while I painted. 41
Sister was pleased. She said she felt the need to pray when she looked at the doors. It was hard to say no to the sisters. When my fiancé proposed, I offered the condition that I have an art night weekly. He agreed; I said yes. Over the years, with very few exceptions, I have kept my promise to myself — to paint. I have taken many art courses, to include cartooning, Chinese brush painting, acrylics and many oil and watercolour courses. I can now draw with my brush in watercolour class, eschewing the pencil. I continue to take watercolour courses to leave the doorway to desire ever open – my desire to paint to my heart’s passion.
Charlie’s New Year’s Resolution JOYCE HAYES
Charlie’s family was worried that he drank too much. So he made the year-end resolution to try and give it up. Well, things went pretty well until midJanuary. He lived in a large house that had separate apartments. One day, at midday, there was a knock at his door. It was Annie, the lady upstairs. She wanted a favour and he said sure. A favour asked and granted. She was Scottish and in her hand was a cup which she handed to him. She walked back upstairs and he closed the door. He looked at the liquid in the cup and smiled. He held the cup to his nose and his whole face lit up. He closed his eyes and lifted the cup to his 43
mouth. Oh, those canny Scots sure did a wonderful thing a long time ago. He smiled and sipped and his heart sang. His resolution could wait for another day.
Life Stoppages JOYCE HAYES
You say to me, “Oh you can’t let the seasons and these things in life stop you from doing and enjoying life.” “Oh yes you can,” I reply, “You just don’t know.” You don’t have legs that no longer dance and eyes that can no longer see clearly. My energy is low and everything I do takes so much time and is carefully measured by me. Nothing is quickly readied, on time or organized. That is my life now. Inside — dishes to do and floors to be swept. I look and think, “They’re not too bad yet, they can wait another day.” Outside — are the stairs too slippery and snowy, and the sidewalks not cleared? Not so good today. I have food, so the stores can wait. I have no cleaning lady or driver, so things will just have to wait. But try to understand, I am not complaining or raging against my plight. I only endlessly search for ways to mend this aging body. When I was mobile and had eyes like yours, I never really considered the misfortune of others. I simply mouthed, “Oh that’s awful,” and went 45
on my merry way. My eyes are now wide open and I now know what others have suffered for years to whom I only paid lip service. I’ve now walked a few miles in their shoes. But please know that my mind and spirit walk alongside you everywhere you go, enjoying the freedom which I no longer have. I don’t despair but search for answers back to health. I just ask you to think, “If your legs and eyes don’t work anymore, what would you do?”
Tribute to Nadira P. JOYCE HAYES
I laugh with joy as I write this and think of the fluke that brought us together. Me, being testy at the thought that something called “Cultural Hotspot” would bring hordes of noisy people to the serene Rosetta McClain Park! In our first conversation, you calmed my fears in your own special way and then delighted me immensely when we finally met with your generosity and joyful spirit. You then invited Jim and I to a Cultural Hotspot youth event. Again, you showed your amazing talent in gathering the best speakers and entertainment for the right event! To me, it was fabulous from start to finish. Then again in conversation, you affected Jim, my friends and I in such a generosity of spirit that it took my breath away. I now simply say, “Thank you, Nadira.” But I also thank the Divine for allowing our paths to cross and having the privilege of calling you “friend.” I now ask the Divine to bless you in multifold ways as you do daily with others with the bubbly and sparkling spirit called “Nadira”.
To Stephen L. JOYCE HAYES
My first memory of you was as a baby burbling away, propped up with cushions on the chesterfield in the front room of Park Street. Even then, you saw a lot and wanted to comment on the inequities of life. I’m sorry to say, things haven’t gotten much better since. I remember you always wanted to share with your brother and sisters. You had a dollar and told me each kid would have their own wagon wheel — twenty-five cents each. I suggested cutting two in half and you’d still have fifty cents left over. You gave me the look and said, “No, Auntie Joyce.” So we traipsed down to Jimmy’s Smoke Shop on Kingston Road for the booty. I guess I was riding shotgun to protect you and the dollar. Fat times! Life went on for you and me. I went away for a few years and you struggled on. Life gave us both our share of good and bad and I tried to help whenever I could. We survived somehow with a few tatters and tears along the way. I tried to pass on my hard-earned life experiences. Some 48
advice you took, and others, maybe not useful at the time, you learned in your own way. To this day, your strength, courage and doggedness always amazes me, as well as your never-ending lack of understanding me. I laugh at that too, as sometimes I don’t even understand myself. But that’s okay. I just love and accept who you are, warts and all. I love to see your endless goodness and generosity to strangers. That deeply pleases me. There is no perfection in either of us, just a work in progress. I’m not sure when or where our story will end, but I am positive and hopeful. Even when sad and unexpected curves are thrown our way, you say, “We’ll figure something out.” One more thing, just to let you know: I thank you immensely for all you do for me and that I love you very much.
Our Son, Ryan Jonathan Heighington GEORGE HEIGHINGTON
Ryan Jonathan George Heighington was the fifth son of Judy and George. He was born on June 2, 1980. Ryan was a bouncing baby. He was nicknamed “Tank” for his robust behaviour. To him, everything was a game, a ball for catching and a stick for hockey. He loved sports and for a while, he earned the nickname “Gary Carter”. Ryan entered a French immersion program in his early years. When his parents worried about the French Immersion Math Program around Grade 4, Ryan was moved to Highcastle School. Math ought naught to have been a worry as he led the class that year in mathematics. He played trombone in the school band, and starred in the school play, Way Out West. His teacher, Mr. Brumwell (Mr. B.) took a liking towards Ryan. On the playing field he was a play-maker. At school it was cross country, baseball and soccer. Ryan loved sports. He skated, and as one coach noted, Ryan 50
was a ten year old hockey sensation. High school was a new phenomenon for Ryan. He was very driven and a collegial player of sports. When he played in the Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL), he could see the play and was very much a play-maker and scorer. One parent used to pick up Ryan on the way to school, realizing that her only child wouldnâ€™t be bullied by other students if he was associated with Ryan. Ryan had a strong social conscience for the fellow person. He befriended many of the students not found in the physical education classes at school. Being bright had its down side. Ryan had found it challenging to complete the mundane paper driven activities in school. In Grade 12, he floundered around. He was attending Northview Collegiate Institute when a student had been murdered there. He was singled out as a narc (undercover cop). He did graduate with a bona fide Grade 12 diploma. Ryan toured Holland with one of his girlfriends. He had close friends at Queenâ€™s University. In one instance of partying, he elected to walk across the roof of a line of taxis. Unfortunately, the last car was not a taxi and it was suggested that the 51
officers were doubly excited as they spilled their coffees, exiting the car. Ryan then tried his hand at being a trades guy. He was off to the Vaughan Trades School to learn cement work and basement parging. Next, his parents found Ryan at the dining room table with a pile of senior math books. He declared that he was going to become a pilot. His parents said nothing. He did math and successfully entered the Seneca College Air Program. He was one of the one hundred and fifty students in a four-year program. For the first time in his life, Ryan did math and physics homework on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. At Christmas, the Seneca Air Program rid itself of sixty students. Ryan’s weekend homework continued. He did note how intolerant the instructors were regarding talking, food, lateness and a number of other items, all seen as excuses to kick a student out of class. In May, due to a low physics grade, Ryan was expelled along with forty-four other students in this program. With his Metis status, Ryan applied to the First Nations Flying School at Tyendinaga. He was accepted and their premise was “FLY”. Once 52
they had your interest and attention, only then could you learn more. Ryan did gain his pilot’s licence eventually. On a Saturday, he flew his two younger brothers in a series of bumps at different airfields in the area of Orillia. The next day, his parents had to wake him up for their flight to Ottawa. They had filled out their wills. Ryan was a good pilot as he followed Highway 7 to Gatineau. Once one got past Peterborough, one could look down to see a house in the middle of the fields, and could be reminded of the movie Deliverance. A new pilot is paid very poorly and Ryan had some debts. His flying buddy, Josh, from western Canada, urged Ryan to come out to the oil fields. And so, Ryan landed in Red Deer and soon found work. Often his parents received a phone call to pick up Ryan from the airport. He would still have on his rig clothes. Ryan’s younger brother, Matthew, left to find his fortune in the west also. In 2007, George and Judy’s seventh son, Jordan, did not quite make the right fight or porn film in the Seneca media course. Jordan was dropped off in Red Deer by George’s friend, Wayne. Ryan phoned home in 53
disgust, what a whiner, he had to send him out to find a job. On April 11, Judy entered the hospital for a minor operation. George was home alone on the morning of April 12 and was awakened by a phone call from Foot Hills Hospital in Calgary. George and his three sons flew into Calgary. One son stayed back to be with his mother. The news at the hospital was not good. April 12 was Matthewâ€™s birthday and Ryan had met him near Sundre to celebrate. On their drive back to the camp, they crossed a Texas gate and Ryan lost control of the car. Ryan was thrown from the vehicle through the sunroof. He never wanted to wear a seat belt. His brother, Matthew, though dazed, managed to make the phone call to emergency crews. In the dark he had to find his brother and then find a cell phone signal. A STARS Helicopter landed and air-lifted Ryan to Foot Hills Hospital. His family gathered at the Foot Hills Hospital. The prognosis was not good. On the Sunday morning, his father and five brothers signed the form for organ and tissue removal. His father flew home in despair. On the following Friday, Ryan Jonathan George Heighington was buried 54
at Pine Hills. His friends made one of the first Facebook memorial pages. Since that time, each year on April 12 and June 2, his friends gather together in his remembrance.
Love in the Time of Life GILDA KATZ
None of the names used in this story are true. For as long as I can remember, I was always interested in love. In Grade 1, I loved Michael. In Grade 6, I loved my teacher Mr. Brown. As I reached high school, my raging hormones increased my desires. There was Marvin, two Marvins in fact, Ronald, Joe, and more, but it was always from afar. Finally, I met Milton who made the first move and I liked him for a while, but soon tired of him. There followed a number of boyfriends such as Andrew, whose mother phoned our house late at night to tell him to come home. I answered the phone. Mrs. Black: “This is Mrs. Black. Let me talk to Andrew.” Me (seeing my father emerge from upstairs looking angry at being awakened by the phone): “This is too late to call.” Mrs. Black: “You will kill him.” 56
Andrew had Type 1 diabetes and she thought he needed sleep more than he needed me. He was in university at the time. I thought he should decide for himself what sleep he needed. I turned the phone over to Andrew and he left soon after. The next week he told me that his parents told him to break it off with me or they would stop supporting his education, and he would have to move out of the house. His mother was enraged at what I said to her. Me: “And will you stop seeing me?” Andrew: “Yes, my education is very important.” I was incredulous. Just two weeks ago this guy had professed his undying love for me. He also expressed joy that I said his diabetes did not affect my strong feelings for him. I said, “Goodbye, go back to your mother.” I did not try to fight it. Another man I really loved was Bob, who liked me platonically. My feelings lasted many years unrequited. I had a girlfriend who liked a friend of Bob’s. Her mother wanted her to marry a doctor, which she eventually did. Somehow this friend of Bob’s and I started to date. I could not believe how lucky I was. Here was a man who liked the same things I did: music, 57
Judaism, education, art, marriage, and he wanted children. We met by accident once on the streetcar and that evening he sent me flowers. He said he loved me and I believed him. He proposed. His mother approved of me. His father had died a few years before that, but they thought he would have approved as well. I left for New York City shortly after our engagement. I had landed a job as a social investigator for the Department of Welfare in Spanish Harlem. I could not find work in Toronto. I took two evening courses in social work at Columbia University to explore it as a vocation and to boost my application for a master’s degree. Our engagement endured the separation with phone calls, letters, and a few visits from him. My New York cousin said that I was making a mistake leaving him for a year and asked me if he always gave me my way and inquired whether he said, “Yes dear, anything you want.” I was so insulted that I did not invite her to our wedding. The day after our wedding we left for Baltimore where he began a master’s degree at Johns Hopkins and I started my Masters in Social Work at the University of Maryland School of 58
Social Work. He researched the school and found out that although only in its second year of operation, it was accredited. I never would have thought to ask. He always looks out for my best interests. Although I sometimes do not take his advice, I usually regret afterwards. I love him very much and know that my previous boyfriends would not have been as suitable as he is. Even now, after forty nine years, I want to be with him more than anyone else. We have three children. He took prenatal classes with me. He was always in the delivery room when I gave birth. I said I could not have done it without him. My daughterin-law said the same thing after her delivery which I think was a skill passed on from father to son. When I had my third child, the doctor was unfamiliar with husbands present at the delivery and when the time came said, “She’s ready. Bring him too. Look at the control he has over her.” We agree on most things. We do not argue about money. My son is the same with his wife. I see this as a product of our love. Our relationship means a great deal to me. We are both seventy-five; he is six months younger. 59
I hope I die first because I do not want to mourn him. But maybe this is a selfish desire.
Bibliophile SUBHASHINI KHETARPAL
Books have spoiled me. Since my schooldays I have been addicted to books. I would find refuge in books. Instead of toys and dresses, I bought books. A mobile library van used to come to our area twice a month. It was the most awaited day. The sight of the mobile van thrilled me. It stayed for two hours. I would spend those two hours in the van, skimming and scanning the books. I would browse through them and pick up whichever one I found interesting. I would then sit on the steps of the van and would finish reading it right there. I still remember a book which I read in those days: it was about a tree that grew upside down. A boy climbed the tree and went down. The branches then sucked his blood. I do not remember rest of the story but I do remember that the story haunted me for a long time. Then, I happened to read another funny story about a girl who had swallowed seeds while eating an orange. As a result, a tree had grown inside of her. Right from my schooldays up until today, my 61
bed has had books, magazines and newspapers scattered all around. There is hardly any place for me to lie down. Books have taken me to different places. I have travelled with them to witness world wars. The autobiography of Benjamin Franklin inspired me to emulate his principles. Whatever I have learned, I learnt from books. I often go back to Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth and reminisce how people in dire circumstances, like poverty and natural calamities, suffer and survive. It reinforces my belief that when the going gets tough, the tough gets going. I would beg for, borrow and buy books to satiate my humongous appetite for the written words’ world. I am a true bibliophile. After a certain age you lose interest in toys, clothes, bags, shoes, and jewelry, but one never loses interest in books. There is a vast ocean of knowledge in books out there and I happened to land in a gold mine. Yes, the Toronto Public Library is a gold mine of books. Its library branches are so enticing and inviting. There was a time when I was so absorbed in reading that I would forget to eat at school. Even 62
now, in order to finish the book, I forget to cook for my family. Once, I picked up a bestseller, Gone with the Wind, as a parting gift from my brother. At our new place, I had nothing much to do so I picked up the book and started to read it. When my husband came in that evening, I was so engrossed in the book that I didnâ€™t even notice that he had come home. That irritated him. At the first available opportunity, he hid my book. I had to beg and bribe my son to tell me where my husband had hidden it. The character of hard-headed Scarlett Oâ€™Hara was amazing. I salute these writers for their vision and ability to create such masterpieces. These days, there is a rush for branded clothes, diamonds and jewelry; on the other hand, bookstores are closing down. The rat race to accumulate material wealth wears people down. I am richer than them; I have books. They make me laugh; they make me cry; they make me think and ponder. After reading a book I feel a little fuller, a little more sober, and a little more satiated. They have helped me evolve into a better human being. At times, after reading a good book I am not able to describe it in words. I feel like a person who is asked to describe the taste of sugar. When there 63
was talk that a number of libraries would be cut in Toronto, I became scared. There was a lot of heated debates in the newspapers. Margaret Atwood along with other like-minded individuals raised their voices. Then, one day I dreamt that there were no libraries in the town. A voice whispered in my ears, “It’s a dead town.” I woke up with a terrible feeling about how I would survive without books. But thank God, it was only a dream. I remember in our school, we had a library which was like any other classroom but with wooden cupboards stuffed with books. They had locked glass doors. Our librarian would say, “Let me know which book you want. I will take out only that one.” She would not let us browse the library. I hated her for that. I wanted to take time out to browse, to feel and touch the books with my hands, to turn their pages and then decide which book I wanted. But who cared? As the times went by, we later got a library in a nearby community centre. My siblings, friends and I devoured the books available in the library for years. Eventually, the library was closed down to pave the way for a guest house; a lucrative project! Nobody raised a voice. Then one day, I saw a billboard on the corner 64
of a busy intersection on a ring road: SITE FOR LIBRARY. I was thrilled! It made me daydream how nice it would be: a new big library would be available in the near future. For years, that billboard kept my hope alive. Before I could see the library there, I immigrated to Canada. The lavish welcoming of the Toronto Public Library made me forget the library of my dreams. Recently, I visited my home country to find an affluent mall had come up on the proposed library site. The billboard too had disappeared. I was too anguished to vent my anger. Was it a glass castle I had envisioned? Why had nobody objected, “No, we don’t want a mall. We want a library.” It made me appreciate the Toronto Public Library all the more. This keeps the spirits of readers like me up. It keeps the flame of learning alive!
Half My Life Ago JOAN LITTLE
Half my life ago, I was volunteering as a registered nurse in Vietnam during the war. We landed via helicopter on the ground in front of a hamlet in the middle of jungle. There was a crowd of people packed in a small square by the hut where the helicopter barely landed and then lifted off very carefully trying not to hurt the people. We were part of the medical team of volunteers from South Korea. There were four medical teams. Each team consisted of four doctors, seven nurses, two orderlies, one lab and one x-ray technician, and one administrator and his assistant. We were placed throughout South Vietnam in 1966. Our team was stationed in the northern part of a provincial medical facility in Vietnam. Every week, we visited a hamlet in the jungle. Our group of six took turns visiting the hamlet. I was one of the frequent visitors to the jungle since I felt deep compassion toward the natives. At first, I could not believe what I saw. The women only wore skirts with small children on their 66
backs and equally naked and bare-footed toddlers beside them. The men only had on loincloths. They were the natives of the mountain in the jungle, called mountaineers. We were not able to communicate with them in speaking terms but we were able to treat whatever was obvious to us: burn wounds, cuts, inflamed skin and abscesses. Some of them had swollen ankles, elbows and abdomen. We even had to accommodate for special procedures such as taking blood samples and conducting small surgeries with local anaesthetics. As a result, we were often surprised at how they tolerated the pain with stoicism. Of course, they screamed but it lasted only short moments and at the end they all smiled. All we needed to know was that they were relieved from the pain. The people lined up in a few circles around the hut in the square, waiting patiently under the hot sun; sweating, and not complaining until it was their turn to be treated. It was amazing to see their orderly manner in such a primitive society; perhaps we needed to learn from them. In spite of working all day long without proper breaks (we were eating on the go from morning to 67
dusk), we did not feel tired until we were back in our residence and in bed. Sometimes, we had to leave the people who waited all day without seeing them when the helicopter arrived to pick us up. It was heart-breaking for us to leave them behind. We hoped they would survive until we came back the next week. Thinking about how those people coped with their infected wounds or their untreated injuries kept me awake at night. By the time we returned to the same hamlet the following week, we looked around for the untreated patients from the previous visit so we could treat them first, but we could not find them and wondered what had happened to them. On a few occasions, we came across the patients we treated before and were very happy to see them doing well. While stationed in a provincial hospital, we treated civilians, Vietnam army personnel and disguised Viet Congs alike. We also trained Vietnamese staff in the hospital. There were so many casualties from the use of the Napalm explosive that we could not treat them properly. We requested to build a burn unit to treat the burn patients separately. While the building was being built, I was 68
responsible for ordering the necessary equipment for the unit. The unit was to treat the burn patients properly until the building was ready. Meanwhile, T t (Vietnamese New Year) arrived with the Viet Cong attacks in South Vietnam in 1968. We had drills so often in case of emergencies, that we knew which car we were supposed to be in and drivers were already designated. The car looked like a Jeep but was much bigger and was able to accommodate seven to eight passengers. But when we heard gun shots in the middle of the night, somehow, all fifteen of us clamoured into the one car. We drove on dark roads aimlessly with no headlights while the gun shots passed between our ears and shoulders; we did not know where to go to be safe. By daylight, we got our bearings straight and we stayed in the woods until the gun shots ceased. It was a miracle that none of us was shot and the car tires were intact. We discovered that one shot had hit the windshield of our car; we did not even know when it had happened. It was a surreal experience for all of us. About six months later, the opening ceremony for the burn unit was attended by local dignitaries and military personnel. We treated the burn 69
patients with modern equipment and procedures, sterilizing sheets, patientsâ€™ gowns etc., and we started to see improved results; the patients were healing faster and were more comfortable during their stay in the hospital. They were very appreciative, always smiling when we treated them, but sometimes grimacing when in pain. It was a privilege that I served the people who suffered in the war. I would not have changed my actions. That was some of the highlights of my career as a nurse volunteer in the Vietnam War.
Doors of Desire GERALD LOBO
My retirement was fast approaching. It was almost eight years since my children were married and our nest was empty. This was the time when I made a suggestion to my wife about fostering kids so that we could give back something to society. After a few weeks of discussion about the pros and cons, we eventually agreed to go ahead with our plan. We approached Foster Care in Toronto to enquire how we should go about this. The whole procedure of background checks, home visits and orientation classes took a very long time. Our door was finally open to many needy but beautiful children in Toronto. In the end, I think it was not only their gain but ours as well. We are richer today from the love and experiences we have gained from all these beautiful children.
Sibling Rivalry GERALD LOBO
I had one brother and six sisters, one of whom was very much younger than me. As a result, she was spoiled by the family and always got what she wanted. Sometimes she would have a craving for crĂ¨me biscuits and would whine until she got them. This meant that she would have to interrupt whatever I was doing to satisfy her needs, as the transportation system in our small town was not very regular. Once she had to go to a Girl Guides meeting and insisted that I took her. As I was busy, I very reluctantly decided to give her a ride. Before we reached our destination, her scarf got entangled in the back wheel causing the scooter to stop, suddenly throwing her onto the road. Fortunately, she escaped without a scratch. Instead of the accident deterring her, she took a few lessons and learned to ride the scooter so that she would not have to rely on anyone to run her errands or take her around. I am proud of her independence. 72
A Receipt Brings Back Memories of a Person HAZEL LOBO
I glanced at the receipt with a puzzled look on my face. Among the items mentioned, it listed a cup of coffee. I know I had not purchased that coffee for myself. I enjoyed my own home brew. Then I remembered the man in the huge cardboard box on the sidewalk outside the subway. It was very cold and he was all bundled up in old newspapers to keep the biting wind away. Looking at the receipt, I hoped that the coffee had warmed up not just his body but his heart as well on that bitterly cold day.
Great Moment with an Animal HAZEL LOBO
He was so skinny, he looked like he had not eaten well in a long time. I silently wondered if I had the heart to leave him behind. That’s how he became my constant companion. Barney always sat next to me when I painted and watched me keenly at my trade. One day I had to leave the room for a cup of tea. When I returned, there was a big splash of paint across my creation. Barney was the only other occupant of the room. I couldn’t believe he was capable of doing it. I put a fresh sheet on the easel and casually exited the room. I took my time returning. My suspicions were quickly confirmed. There were several strokes splashed randomly on the white background and the outcome was spectacular. I couldn’t believe my eyes! That evening, I shared Barney’s artwork with my friends who had dropped in for their weekly bridge game. They were amazed with the painting and were actually willing to pay for it. They had a ball bidding
for it among themselves. I really thought they were just joking, but they werenâ€™t. His first painting was sold right there for a significant amount. Today, Barney has sold many abstract art pieces and I am his proud manager.
One of Your Characters Burst into Song HAZEL LOBO
When we met at house parties, my friendâ€™s sons always arranged exciting games and shared some hilarious jokes with us. They would also burst into crowd-pleasing catchy songs which encouraged all of us to participate. The memory of these young lads has always remained with me. When my children were growing up and reluctant to participate at parties, I reminded them of this friendâ€™s sons and how dull our gatherings would have been if everyone stayed quiet like them. They took my advice to heart. Now, their parties are the best ever and they have passed on this legacy to their children.
On Public Awareness DAVID HENRY MAZUMDAR
I have been very busy lately proofreading my forthcoming book of short stories. The publisher once again reminded me of the deadline. As I just stopped proofreading to clean my eye glasses today, my nephew, Anoop, knocked on the door. Anoop studies sociology at a local college and is very much interested in anthropology and social development. He is involved with various literary and cultural groups in and outside his college. Upon entering the room he said, “I’m lucky that I found you today, Uncle, otherwise I’d have to come again another day.” He seemed to be in a rush which was quite usual for him. With an assenting gesture, I motioned him to take a seat. He sat down and said, “Uncle, you have to write a story.” I looked at him and asked, “When is your magazine coming out?” (He had recently mentioned to me that he and his friends were planning to publish a literary magazine. He was certain that he would be made editor. He also asked me for a story 77
for the opening issue.) Anoop promptly responded, “It is not that story I’m talking about. I know that you promised to write a story for our magazine but I need to get another story from you for now.” I answered perplexedly, “I don’t think I understand what you’re saying.” He leaned forward and said, “Our college is celebrating Education Week next month.” “Yes,” and I gestured with my hand for him to elaborate. “There will be a story-writing competition on this occasion.” “I see!” I tried to grasp his connotation and asked, “Who else is taking part in this competition?” “What do you mean?” he asked. I said, “Do you know the names of the writers or authors who are taking part in this competition?” Anoop laughed. “Oh, Uncle!” he exclaimed, “this competition is only for college students.” “Ah, I see.” I nodded my head. Still perplexed, I asked him further, “what is the point of me writing the story, then? I’m not a college student anymore.” 78
He seemed to be hurt hearing what I just said. He bent over the table, held my hands and said in a frustrated voice, “Uncle, don’t you ever wish to see your nephew win a prize?” At this point, everything became clear to me. It made me smile. I remained silent for a moment and took a deep breath. Then I asked him, “What type of story should it be?” He enthusiastically answered, “A short story.” I said, “Of course! Of course! But, what should be the motto? Did the organizers set any theme or moral for the stories?” He said, “Yes, they did.” He paused then said, “The story should promote public awareness. It should awaken the public against all sorts of malpractice and corruption in society.” The field of my vision narrowed down. I stared at his eyes. From a new perspective, I realized the substantiality of the comment that my wife often passes to me, “You need to change your glasses, Ravi.”
Dust to Dust, Ashes to Ashes DARCY MILLER
I remember 1963 as if it were yesterday. We still had a coal furnace in the basement and a wood stove in the kitchen. It was always too warm in the winter, especially right after my father had freshly stoked the furnace. I used to worry about our hardwood floors overheating and I was terrified that the place would go up in flames like a tinder box. Sometimes I wouldnâ€™t be able to get to sleep for fear of impending fire. By the time I was fifteen my fears had somewhat subsided although I did have a serious cough from all the soot. As it happened, we never had a separate coal shed and therefore, the lumps were dumped directly through our front basement window. Any talk of pollution was unheard of in those days. Every time the delivery truck pulled up with those bags, I welled up with angst and embarrassment. We must have been the only ones on the street with such an old furnace, not to mention, the coal man himself being so intimidating covered in all that dust. 80
On one occasion I recall walking home from school with a new friend and spotted the old coal man carrying the black brin bags toward our house. I was mortified. I didn’t want anyone to know that my family was too poor to have gas heat installed, so I kept on walking right by as if I didn’t live there. I guess you could say I had a bad case of keeping up with the Jonses. Luckily, I outgrew this stage by the time I was eighteen. Thank goodness I never expressed any of this foolishness to my parents. It wasn’t until 2011, nearly fifty years later that I gave any thought at all to that old furnace. My mother had just passed away and the old homestead was sold. I was making a last minute inspection before the new owners took over. A wave of nostalgia coursed right through me as I stood in the basement for the last time. I gazed around remembering with fondness that old coal furnace and all the warmth we were swaddled in for all those years. In hind sight, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. To my parents, in loving memory, I dedicate this poem...
THE COAL MAN COMETH The wheels thunder down on the cobblestone road Coming to halt afront my abode Scrambling to gather my few meagre coppers As the coal man cometh lumbering down from the hopper With payment in hand I rush to the chute And the coal man cometh all laden in soot Counting the bags with a careful eye I cannot afford even one lump shy So the burly man, he fills the hold And with grimy fingers tries to snatch my gold “Not so fast,” I say, with false bravado As he coughs and advances casting an ominous shadow “You’re one bag amiss,” I croak in the cold He peers through black eyes that seem beady yet bold The coal man loomed over me making nary a sound I forced down the fear barely standing my ground Finally turning about to the lorry he ambled Bringing me the last bag of coal and some candles “This winter be cold,” he uttered without expression I placed my coins in his fist with wary discretion Behold the coal man cometh
Love, Lust and Loss DARCY MILLER
The loneliness runs deep into the bowels of my loins A hopelessness engulfs the very being of my soul It seems the spell was cast and the devil tossed the coins And forever I must live my days in the darkest kind of hole A fool’s romantic notion of the most erotic idea of love And just like that it’s gone, with but a tiny little shove Poof, what’s left is only dust clinging to the by and by There is nothing that remains of any passion or arousal Only stark evaluation of the life that I lead now The look, the touch, the urges, bear no trace of what once was So I must linger in the lurch of a void that nature caused I dig my heels in for a time rebelling against my loss My partner chose another and I’m bitter with regret For the sands of time have robbed me of my once protective net You need to capture every moment Etch it deep inside your mind As the years go by there’s no free lunch And mother nature may not always be so kind
Fifty-Five Years Ago Seems Like Yesterday IRENE PLACHTINSKY
The early arrival happened on August 1, 1959. We were on a long weekend camping trip with our family friends. After a long drive, we reached our destination. My husband removed the car seats to make our two year old daughter and I comfortable for the night. I was eight months pregnant at the time. As the sun set, we made a big camp fire, sitting around having our usual barbeque and telling stories. Jokes and laughter followed around the campfire. Suddenly I felt wetness underneath me. When I told my husband my water broke, he got excited. On the campsite, they found a doctor and nurse to come to my aid. Because I was eight months pregnant, the doctor insisted I go to a hospital. The nearest one was forty-five miles away. Someone notified the police. Apparently they were on a murder call, but they notified the hospital about my arrival. By this time, it was pouring rain. My husband drove to the hospital at a high speed on a serpentine road (accompanied 84
by the doctor and nurse). At each turn I yelled to my husband, “Stop!” The doctor, on the other hand, kept yelling, go as fast as you can!” A doctor and two nurses waited for us on the hospital porch. When they got me into the operating room, they had no time to put on their rubber gloves properly. When they wanted to transfer me to the stretcher, I said, “No time.” I was thinking if I could give a good push with all my might, the baby would come. And so it happened. The funny part of it was, when the doctor lifted up the baby, he said, “You have a beautiful baby girl.” I yelled back, “I see a little ‘tingling’. It is a boy.” The doctor yelled back, “It is my rubber glove that you see.” So I ended up with a beautiful baby girl who still looks, thinks and loves the same way to this day. Her fifty-fifth birthday was on August 2, 2014. She is exactly like me, even my husband says so.
Journey to the Unknown IRENE PLACHTINSKY
The uprising was taking place in Budapest, Hungary in 1956. As a registered nurse on duty in the hospital, we got an order that we could not leave the premises until things settled down because our hospital was on a main highway, crossing the city. The staff had little time to discuss how to get out of this political mess to leave the country. We had been taking in all the injured from the streets. We had patients wall to wall, all through the corridors and even on the floor. If we wanted to leave the country, we had to escape, taking all the chances to be captured, tortured, or even killed. We had been captured once by Russian soldiers and once by the Hungarians. When we tried to escape from the Russians, border patrol officers were watching us from the towers, crawling in muddy fields, for about two and a half kilometers, throughout the night. When they let us go, we were determined to try again. This time we made it out by December 3. In Austria, they put us on a German train; we 86
ended up in France because the refugee camp in Austria was crowded. We were stranded in France for six months in the barracks until we created an uprise about the delay of our request to immigrate to Canada. Then, we found out what happened. The Austrian authorities told us that France would help us get to Canada faster. But originally, France dealt with those who wanted to immigrate and stay in France. After the misunderstanding was straightened out, we reached Winnipeg on July 17, 1957. We even dreamed of our baby being born here as a Canadian citizen; that would help us straighten things out.
No Siblings, No Rivalry IRENE PLACHTINSKY
My older daughter asked me one day, on our way home from kindergarten, “Mommy, are we so poor that we have no grandmas, grandpas, cousins, aunts or uncles?” I explained how far our very own are, “But I will go out of my way to arrange some relatives for you.” So I did. I went to my neighbours, who had three generations living in their household. I asked them if my children could call them as their own grandmother, grandfather, aunt, uncle and cousins. They had twins — a boy and a girl. And immediately, we had a big family. I had a sister; she was more than real until the day she died. And I have only two cousins, one in Chelovak, British Columbia and the other in Calgary, Alberta. We call each other on the phone sometimes. But we don’t visit often. I must mention that over the fifty-five years with my sister, we never once had a misunderstanding or were ever upset with each other. We just loved and respected our long lasting sisterhood. 88
My First Job BILL RAY
During the depression of the thirties, my family went to Winnipeg as my father had gotten a job as a floor manager at the Hudsonâ€™s Bay Company. A year later, we found ourselves heading back to Toronto and Dad was unemployed again. We had nowhere to live and no money. There were six of us then and a dog; Mom, Dad, three girls and myself. My oldest brother was married and lived by Rosedale Ravine. He had a small lower section of a narrow two-storey house. At the bottom of the hill on which it stood, was a park running along the ravine. A road ran along the ravine. Along the road there was a bridle path on the side near my brotherâ€™s house. As children we loved this location because we could go and play in the park. There was little more we could do to amuse ourselves. The house was small with only two bedrooms, a kitchen and a sitting room. My brother let us stay with him and his wife. The adults had the two bedrooms while my sisters and I had to sleep on the floor. My sisters shared a mattress while I slept on a 89
rug in the living room. As a child I thought this was fun, like camping. The backyard was medium-sized, but barren and uninviting. No one used it for this reason. My brotherâ€™s wife liked me and we got along well. I was nine years old, I believe. One day, she asked me if I would like to plant a garden for her. She would give me fifty cents if I would. This was an enormous amount of money in my eyes. I looked at the yard, and in my childish wisdom decided I would. But I thought I would need some fertilizer. The bridle path came to mind; I had the problem solved. I knew that going down to get some manure in the daytime would be embarrassing so I came up with a plan that I figured would work: I would go down to the park after dark. No one would be there then. When I got the chance, I took a brown paper grocery bag and a garden trowel that was in the house and set off on my mission. I was nervous and tried to get done as quickly as I could. When the bag got nearly full, it was then that I heard a motorcycle coming towards me in the distance. I had little time to conceal myself, so I went back into the shadows of the trees. It was difficult, as there were street lights all along the road. I stood still in the shadows and hoped 90
whoever came wouldn’t see me. I was terrified when a policeman on the motorcycle came in sight. I thought that by not seeing me he would go by. But he stopped, “Hey kid, come over here!” I trembled, wondering if I would get into trouble. “What’s in the bag?” “Some groceries,” I lied, hoping that would work. It didn’t. “Let me see,” he said, “Give it here.” Even as I handed it to him I started to tell him what it really was. As he went to open the bag he caught onto what I was trying to say. I think he also smelled it. By this time I had blurted out enough of my story that he handed the bag back to me. “Ok kid, if you need more, come over to station number five, there are lots of horses there.” My efforts to make a garden ended when I found the ground too hard for me to dig, but it was an experience I would remember forever.
The Duke JIM G. RICHARDSON
This Write On! writing course got me thinking that I would like to become a better writer. Thinking of ways to improve, I thought I would try the Ernest Hemingway method of story development. He always had a special seat strategically placed at the bar to observe the characters he would later use in his novels. Ernest would observe the characters around him, making mental notes and then fitting them into his new work. I started by walking into The Duke, at Queen Street and Leslie Street. Inside was a large room painted black and red. The black was black, and the red was almost a Chinese red, but seemed to be softened with a touch of pink. A black and white eight ball was painted on the wall next to the pool cue rack at the side of a green felt covered table. I took the middle seat at the front row of empty bar stools. At the end of this row of stools sat a little man. He was about average height, with a pint of draft, a beige ball cap, a gray shirt above beige pants. He started to look my way. I turned away before 92
making eye contact. The waitress welcomed me in and asked what I would like. “Steam Whistle,” I replied. She placed the tall cold glass on a coaster that read, “Drink craft beer here, Steam Whistle Pilsner draft.” Her chest had a black inked tattoo designed artistically with green, red, and blue inks that gave a pleasing look of flowers. She had an orange bow holding her hair. I thanked her, then took a cold mouthful of draft, as Hemingway must have observed from his bar perch, finding real life scenes to be worked into his current written work. I would hone this valuable technique between sips of draft. The waitress had a black dress cut at the front above the knees which tapered longer to a tail at the back. The dress blended into the black ink of the tattoo. To my right, sat one person at a six-person table, with his pint of draft. He wore a militarygreen toque, a blue shirt with three buttons open. Underneath, I thought he wore an orange Prince Edward Island dirt-dyed t-shirt. He had welltanned skin that gave a leathery look. He walked my way, rounded the bar corner to throw away some scraps of paper in a garbage can. I noticed his black pants were quite short, they were not 93
shorts but just left a few too many inches of leg above his white running shoes. Floods! I thought was the correct term for trousers a little too short, at least they were cooler. I estimated his height to be six feet. He was thin as a rail, which gave his legs a stick-man look as they entered the shoes below. The forty-eight inch circular fan that stood on its stand beside the open front door, provided a nice cool breeze, no air-conditioning needed here. It reminded me of an old Far Eastern movie scene in an old hotel, with slow moving ceiling fans above. The blades hardly stirring the humidity laden air out of the room as the characters dressed in white suits sipped Singapore slings and discussed ship trade business or some war conflict raging in the country next door. In contrast, this fan ran faster, at 1750 rpm, blowing the black tail of the waitressâ€™ dress when she walked through the air flowing in front of the fan. She was heading for the open side door to the patio. Her shape was outlined through the dress as she walked into the sunlight brightly entering the dark black space through the open patio door. I didnâ€™t observe anyone through that door but as time went on, they revealed themselves as they came inside for 94
the washroom. I paid with a twenty dollar bill and threw a loonie for the tip, the draft was six and a half dollars. She thanked me for the tip. As I was ready to leave, she said, “The chef has come in now.” I placed my original order again: peameal bacon on a bun. The Duke, John Wayne, used to be a painted mural fastened on the wall outside. A shoot out, a dead person, a repaint outside to refurbish the image of the place, the mural with the rifle was gone. I came for bacon on a bun and settled for chicken breast sandwich. The waitress said, “They could do it now.” I replied, “Ok.” The chef didn’t hear sandwich and brought chicken breast thinly sliced on a salad of yellow, red peppers, sliced purple onion rings, tomatoes quartered, lettuce chunks with cucumbers, garnished with a drizzle of olive oil with some fresh ground pepper. I sat back on my bar stool with my foot on the black pipe rung of the stool. Iago sat in a pale yellow sleeveless shirt, black pants with black felt shoes trimmed with cobalt blue around the top. The customer in the ball cap slipped an iPad out 95
of his bag, turned it on, and dragged a finger over the screen looking for wireless internet access. He tapped the screen, nothing much of interest appeared, so he finished his draft, bagged the iPad and left. The person slipped away from his table without being noticed by the crowd. I worked on my large salad plate, watched the patio people come in to re-order drinks, some chatted with the waitress. While working on the delicious salad, a bayou man must have slipped in after the chef delivered my food. He started to play the delta-blues on a CD player. Itâ€™s not heard much anymore, only a few places play it now. It reminded me of Katrina where the levees broke in the Lower Ninth Ward. I worked there after the flood, restoring a home for a lady evacuated to Texas. Thatâ€™s a story for another time. I heard that music before, it was still being played in some of the bars south of New Orleans along the one hundred mile stretch of the Mississippi where the river winds through the Delta to the Gulf. I paid for the chicken, salad and a half pint of Whistle. It looked small like a kidâ€™s glass with white froth on top. I might have been able to make a white milk moustache. I got off the stool, walked 96
past the blues player to the open patio door. I looked out to see the late afternoon breeze barely move the green ferns beside the tables. I saw four patrons on the patio sweltering in the humid air. Iago was glad he had stayed inside in the breeze from the front door fan. I walked through the breeze of the fan, out the front door and along the shaded sidewalk. This must have been the way â€˜el papaâ€™, Ernest Hemingway did it. At the corner, the red light changed to green. I crossed the street and walked west into the sunset.
Those Damned Blue Lines ANNE SMITH
It was just before midnight when the crisis occurred. I had gone to my attic retreat as I called my bedroom at the very top of the house to read another chapter of the forbidden book, Lady Chatterly’s Lover. Being so high up in my parents’ old Victorian house afforded me the privacy I needed. That night, before I picked up the book, I had come across a magazine about fashion and other things, so I decided to browse through it when my eyes came in contact with a big bold statement, “How to tell if you are pregnant”. Why I chose to read on, I’ll never know, considering the fact that my best friend and I had made a pact: We wouldn’t sleep with any fellows, especially if they were Irish because they only wanted one thing from women. They were also such mommy’s boys and would kick you to the curb is something happened! About the second line down it read, “If you have blue lines protruding in your breast.” I read no further as fear gripped me. I jumped out of bed, tore off my baby doll pajamas and stared in horror; there they 98
were: the blue veins! I didn’t notice if they were protruding. The very existence of such things was enough. I immediately thought of my best friend, “Oh my God, I have to talk to Celia. She’ll know what to do.” With no thought of the hour of the night, I pulled on my jeans and a big shirt in case I met anyone. I ask you at that time of night! I crept down the stairs carefully avoiding the creaky ones. My father was like the proverbial watchdog when I would come in at five in the morning. I would creep up the stairs but due to my drunken state from cheap wine I had at the dance, I would always hit at least one of the creaky ones. A voice would erupt from out of the darkness, “Is that you, Anne?” he would say. I would think to myself, I should say, “No, it’s a drunken intruder come to murder your wife, my wicked stepmother,” which would have been great, but of course I would always respond, “It’s just me daddy.” Thank God, he never came out to check on me and see how I looked. But on this particular night they hadn’t gone to bed so I had to creep past the parlour door hoping they suddenly wouldn’t pop out. I opened the huge hall door and found some way to close it quietly and run 99
like hell down the dark side streets to Celia’s house. I thought staying on the main road could result in someone seeing me, especially one of the lads I knew coming out of the corner pub. As I ran along the dark street, my mind was racing, “What will I do; what will my parents say?” The wicked stepmother will gloat but my daddy will be devastated. Where will I go? No time to waste. Good, I had reached Celia’s house. I raced up the path and without thinking about the late hour, I rattled the knocker on the door as hard as I could, following that up with the door bell that chimed like Big Ben. Suddenly the window opened above me and Mr. Patterson, Celia’s father, shouted out, “Who’s there?” Oh God, he’s mad. What did I expect? “Is that you Anne dear? Fancy a cup of tea and a cake?” In a trembling voice I answered, “It’s me Mr. Patterson. Can I speak to Celia?” “Do you know what time it is, Anne dear? Do your parents know you’re out at this time of night? Celia’s in bed sleeping. Can I help?” “Oh God, imagine sharing my story with my friend’s father through a bedroom window at one 100
in the morning,” I thought, “I don’t think so.” “Mr. Patterson, I’m sorry to be such a nuisance and to have woken you up but it’s really important I speak to her. It won’t take long.” I guess I sounded frantic and he was a kind man and maybe sensed my desperation. “Ok, I’ll get her.” I breathed a sigh of relief and suddenly the door opened and there she was, bleary-eyed with a look of utter confusion on her face. “Come in girl, what the heck is going on? Did something happen at home?” All the questions flew out of her mouth. It seemed I had no breath left so I just belted it out, “I’m pregnant.” We had reached the parlour by this time and her father was out of earshot. She fell on the sofa, staring at me in disbelief. Finally finding words, “What the hell have you done, did you do it and not tell me? What about our pact?” I stared at her with such disgust and replied, “Of course I didn’t, what do you think I am, a trollop? Why would I break my word?” I was so devastated she would think this of me. 101
“I don’t even have a steady boyfriend,” I mumbled on and on. She looked relieved then calmly said, “What makes you think you’re pregnant?” Still very wound up, I said, “I was reading a magazine in bed...” and proceeded to explain to her about the blue veins and that I had checked myself in the mirror and there they were. She started to howl laughing. I stared at her in shock. My best friend, and this was her reaction to my dilemma. This was a very serious situation I had found myself in and how could she react this way? Words just wouldn’t come to me. After she composed herself, she said, “What else did it say?” Agitated by her blasé attitude, I said, “I don’t know, I didn’t go any further once I discovered the blue veins. What does it matter, I have the symptoms!” She stood up and grabbed me by the shoulders, “Anne, you haven’t had sex with anyone, so it’s impossible for you to be pregnant.” I stared with relief and fell on the sofa beside her laughing hysterically at my stupidity. We sat there laughing for what seemed like ages and she made us a cup of tea, which in Ireland fixes everything, and with a reassuring hug, we said goodbye at the door. As I was 102
walking down the path again, the window opened and her father’s caring voice said, “Goodnight Anne, be careful going home. I hope everything worked out.” “Thank you Mr. Patterson, I’m fine now.” For a moment I wondered if he heard anything and would tell my parents about my late nigth visit. “Oh never mind,” I thought, “it’s great that I’m not pregnant and ever greater that I had not broken the pact with my friend.” On a more cocky note as I reached my house, I thought, “I was almost the immaculate conception!”
The Path of the Past on to Future’s Road PATRICE STEPHENS - BOURGEAULT
It was a dry, dusty, drought-smitten path — the width of two cows travelling side by side; the springs of Mount Kilimanjaro with the watering he rds of elephants behind us. But, now we found ourselves in a silver SUV, somewhere out in the middle of a thirsty desert of small stunted trees and thousands of stalagmite-ish termite hills stretching out to the far horizon of purple mountains. “Mom! Remember ‘that’ tree and ‘that’ termite hill, so we can find our way back to where we were before we go off the track,” my daughter challenged me. Looking up at the steel blue sky with the sun beating down hot with a Maasai tribal dance rhythm, I thought, “How will I remember ‘that’ tree and ‘that’ termite hill among the thousands?” I could see in the backseat, my six year old granddaughter testing her mathematics skills, as she silently tried counting the trees and termite hills. 104
The Maasai grandmother we had picked up to give a lift home, who spoke perfect Maasai, but no English, pointed with hand motions in ‘this’ direction and then in ‘that’ direction. Following her compass-like finger, we impulsively drove across the hard dusty surface towards her corral home made of thorns and thickets to keep the lions out. When her dark eyes went wide in excitement, they indicated we’d arrived. Thrilled by her ride into the twenty-first century of chrome, plastic and steel, she stepped out into her reality. It was at this time, my granddaughter surveyed her surroundings with intense observation and then suddenly blurted out, “Look at all the different types of poo!” True! Scattered around, there was an assortment of domestic dung from herds of cows, goats and dogs. With tribal pride the Maasai woman had invited us into her home. And soon after, she pointed again with her finger in the opposite direction from whence we had come. My throat tightened as I thought in my heart, “Had I memorized all those special stunted trees and termite hills for nothing, trying so hard to find ones, which were unique, from among the thousands of others?” 105
But, our Maasai grandmother kept pointing in ‘that’ direction, a 180 degrees from the direction in which we’d come. Our heads turned towards each other in silence. Mother and daughter’s eyes met, and in mute mode we read each other’s mind and simultaneously turned our heads back again to look in the finger-pointed direction, which was the continuation of the path the width of two cows travelling side by side. Both together with a nod, we thought, “Let’s go for it!” We were travelling for about an hour, but we didn’t seem to get very far. Of course, we couldn’t judge how far we had gone, because all the small trees and the termite hills looked just like the ones we had just passed. We could have been driving on a treadmill for all we knew. Then suddenly our path, the width of two cows, spread out like a fan into nine narrow single cow paths. “You choose!” my daughter exclaimed. I did. The realization was that we didn’t know where we were. A map was useless out in the wilderness. A brilliant idea came to mind. “Try your Blackberry GPS!” my daughter said. 106
We did! The screen showed us our numerical coordinates with a green arrow in the middle of nowhere; no landmarks, no rivers, no roads, no villages marked — just a green arrow with our numerical coordinates in the middle of a blank screen. Our greatest fear was going off an unmarked cliff. “There! Over there! There’s our GPS!” I uttered with a strong soft voice of disbelief. We had become so accustomed to driving through the monochromatic tones of our dusty grey brown surroundings against the dry blue sky; so when suddenly, without any indication, two females in dazzling red dresses appeared, walking a short distance in front of us, we felt refreshed by their vibrant clothing. But we really felt relief that we were not alone out in this drought smitten land. If one could read their minds, they too felt relief as they realized the twenty-first century had caught up to them. The women had been walking for days to get to the Meshanani West Gate to sell their ethnic jewelry to tourists. And before we got side-tracked, this too was the same gate we had been heading for to ‘leave’ the Amboseli Game 107
Reserve. They knew the way. They both giggled and chattered together in fluent Maasai, as they got into our vehicle’s back seat next to my granddaughter, who was again silent, that is, until she whispered out in a strong hush, “A tiny baby!” There was! There was a very tiny baby barely a month old who was snuggled among the brilliant hues of red material. For sure, the twenty-first century drove the three generations of daughters very quickly to their destination. But the delivery could only have been done with the agrarian age escorts from the past. But something was not right with our orientation when we encountered the main paved road. We must have unintentionally gone through the desert across the park’s borderless boundaries. Now we were on the wrong side of the park’s West Gate, heading into the game reserve, not out. Smiling with authority, the guard unlocked the metal rail gate to let us in. “Not necessary, we’re leaving!” we stated politely. “No! You are entering,” the guard proclaimed. “No! We are leaving!” we asserted with emphasis 108
to the very puzzled guard. We had found our way out, (even if it wasn’t the conventional way,) and we had no intention of going back in. And, we definitely were not going to let anyone coerce us into going back where we had just been. The one thing I’ve realized, “We need the path of the past to guide us onto the road to the future,” but absolutely never let anyone persuade you into going back.
Coming to Canada MARK WALDRON
Perhaps it was destiny; or it could have been something ancestral, (given the history of the Caribbean people), but there was something about Canada that fascinated and seemed to beckon me. I was exploring my father’s old Phillips radio for far away stations late at night, and came upon the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s shortwave station ICI Radio Canada. They were loud and clear and I kept hearing the likes of Hank Snow and his song I’ve been Everywhere and Johnny Horton’s North to Alaska. The urge to travel to the Far North was further fuelled by movies like The Savage Innocents with Anthony Quinn, about life in Eskimo land, and another movie North to Alaska with Ernie Kovacs. Of course, one prime reading at high school was of explorers like Henry Hudson as they tried to find the Northwest Passage. Call it fate, or whatever, I joined the local Radio Amateurs Club run by a resident Canadian to whom I confessed my interest in the radio and his home 110
country Canada. He urged me to pursue my dream and gave me the name of a few radio institutions in Canada to which I applied to. I receieved prompt replies from a few and decided on one in Toronto whose fees were reasonable and promised boarding and lodging within in the area. By then I had approached my parents on the matter and they were quite thrilled at my ambitions. Pretty soon arrangements were falling into place (advance fees sent, acknowledgments received, etc.). A son going away to foreign lands to study was a big feather in my parents cap, for not many sons of the soil were so privileged. There were kudos all around and well-wishers everywhere. I even got a prayerful send off at the Lord Anglican Church, of which my mother was a staunch member. Things started to move along swiftly, I resigned my job as a schoolteacher at the end of the school year in July, and got prepared for a September start at the radio institution. My buddy, a radio amateur, advised me that I should arrive just as fall was coming up but to arrive well suited up so that I could purchase winter items on arrival. The final week before leaving was hectic; my mother was baking two cakes (a sponge and a 111
fruit laden rum cake) plus homemade bread. I got measured for a brand new suit and got packing. My good friend “Bongo” Charles came over the night before to join us in a final family dinner and family prayers for my safe journey. We were also joined by other family members from the various residences throughout the island. After a sleepless night, (wherein my family was all anticipating the occasion) and a light breakfast, I heard the honk of the horn of my buddy Kenny, a taxi driver, with whom I had grown up. His family had a fleet of Cadillac and Plymouth taxis, especially for weddings, funerals, and airport departures and arrivals. We loaded up the taxi and were on the way to the airport which was about forty-five minutes away. Bongo drove the family car with other friends and family. On arrival at the international airport, pictures were taken as I waved goodbye after hugs and kisses all around and promised to write soon. My mother was a bit tearful and was consoled by my dad who seemed quite relaxed and proud of the occasion. He whispered in my ear, “Go brave, son. Go brave.” After the preliminary check in, I joined the other passengers heading up the steps to the big 112
Trans Canada Airways DC7 aircraft and was greeted warmly by the stewardesses. “Welcome aboard Trans Canada Airways,” they said with a smile. They were very accommodating and I got to see a white person up close. Their eye color was fascinating and new to me; shades of blue, and grey and even green. I tried to appear like a seasoned traveler and was guided to a window seat just behind the wing. Having read all those flying stories, featuring Captain Bigglesworth of the RAF (Royal Air Force Intelligence) written by Captain W.E. Johns (which was prime reading at high school), I had a brief knowledge of aircraft terminology and had the chance to see the movements of things like flaps, ailerons on takeoff and landing, and had a brief look at the instrument panel with all its lights and buttons before they closed off that area. After about five to six hours of flying, we landed and as I exited, a cold wind blew right through my tropical gabardine suit. By Canadian standards however, this was nothing as I would come to know and eventually feel. As I entered the terminal I heard my name called over the PA system to report to the airline ticket counter, “Will Mark Waldron report to the TCA ticket counter desk.” I wondered 113
where I had gone wrong. But it was not so. There I was greeted by another smiling hostess, a ground hostess. She put me in a big cab. The driver took my bags and put them in the trunk with a flourish and did the same on arrival. I learnt my first Canadian lesson which was, taxi drivers call you “sir” and put bags in trunks and take them out for you. In fact, a lot of service people called you “sir” and I had to get use to that. The landlady, Shirley, and her husband, Hugh, gave me a warm welcome complete with a light dinner, and after much conversation, showed me to my room with clean new white sheets. It was the beginning of a fine stay, new friends, and a successful period of study, leading up to more adventurous travels both across and beyond Canada.
I Remember ALAN C. WILLIS
I remember it was the year 2000. My retirement was greeted with greater fanfare than the Millennium celebrations, but not by everybody. I remember my wife saying, “What am I going to do with twice the man and half the income?” The question had to be answered. I wondered, “Now what do I do?” I remember thinking, “First, I have to clear up thirty years of unfinished jobs about the house.” And so I began. As I removed each one of those ageold burdens from her lovely shoulders, her delight became more and more evident; she sang like never before. It took me two years. Then I remember saying to myself, “Now what do I do?” I remember considering the suggestions of each of my leisure buddies: travel, play golf, go fishing, coffee at Tim Hortons in the morning, cribbage in the afternoon, and take naps. I rejected each suggestion in turn because it provided no sense of achievement — no satisfaction. I was at a loss. 115
I remember moaning about my lack of purpose to my neighbour, Anne, on the front lawn of my now ‘complete’ home. My wife listened intently. Anne called my bluff. She asked, “Why don’t you teach English to mature new Canadians, as I do?” I answered, “Errr! Maybe.” But Anne persisted, so I said, “Ok.” My wife pumped her fist into the air as she uttered an uncontrollable, “Yes!” I remember, on my first day at the school, wondering how I would fit in. The school’s administrator, Peter, monitored my first lesson. I delivered it ad lib, to a class of beginners. He approved. As I wandered amongst the students, I wasn’t so sure. I remember asking an elderly lady from China, “At your age, why are you learning English?” She understood me and answered, “Because I want to be able to talk to my grandchildren.” Her words spoke volumes; language isolated her from those she loved. Can you imagine how that must feel? I can. I have grandchildren too. I remember my reaction. “Peter,” I called across the room, “count me in.” And he did. This, I will always remember.
The Renewable Resource (As Leaders See It) ALAN C. WILLIS
He says, at twenty years, “Oh sure, I’ll go to war.” Because he knows no better. at thirty years, “No, I cannot go. My children are my fetter.” at forty years, “I’m in my prime. Myself before the Nation.” at fifty years, “I would be mad To opt for confrontation.”
at sixty years, “No, I’m too old. 117
Send those who set this course.” But the leaders say, “No! We’ll send our youth; It’s a renewable resource.” To which, a mother’s cry, “No! No, you won’t. You’ll send no child of mine, Until you leaders sacrifice Each child you claim as thine, And then perhaps I will believe The truth behind your cause Which justifies such loss of life In far off foreign wars.”
ABOUT Write On! Scarborough Arts has been serving Scarborough communities by developing, delivering and promoting arts programming and cultural initiatives for over 35 years. We bring artists to the community and community to the arts. From May through October 2014, the Cultural Hotspot program shone a spotlight on arts, culture and the community in south Scarborough, inspiring new ideas about where culture thrives in Toronto. This City of Toronto and partnerproduced initiative featured a series of signature projects that included art in storefronts, streetscape art, gateways murals, youth mentorship and employment, local festivals and more. This project, and the legacy Cultural Loops Guide, enabled the local community and its visitors alike to discover Hotspot neighbourhoods and the wonderful places within to experience arts, culture, fantastic food, heritage and parkland. For more information visit www.culturalhotspot.ca. Write On! was a summer-long creative writing 121
program presented by Scarborough Arts, in collaboration with the City of Toronto Arts & Cultureâ€™s Cultural Hotspot and the Toronto Public Library. We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and City of Toronto through Arts Services. Write On! was based on its widely successful Scarborough Arts seniorsâ€™ creative writing program, Scarborough Seniors Write. The Write On! program has engaged seniors through creative writing workshops that focused on memoir writing and fiction to chronicle their lives, and introduced participants to different writing prompts and interactive exercises. Through free weekly workshops and seminars, the program has created a safe and creative space for sharing stories and meeting others with similar interest. Write On! also included the highly anticipated seminar on self-publishing. Open to the public, this seminar provided participants with advice, techniques and resources needed for writers to self-publish their works. The anthology within Reflections is a collection of stories from the efforts of the 2014 Write On! participants.
This project engaged seniors in the literary arts through weekly writing workshops, which provided opportunities for participants to uncover...
Published on Mar 1, 2017
This project engaged seniors in the literary arts through weekly writing workshops, which provided opportunities for participants to uncover...