the things I remember best about my hometown of Chatham, Ontario is
the weather. There were real Seasons back then – Spring Summer, Fall
and, of course, Winter. It could get pretty snowy. I can remember,
like “Good King Wenceslas” , walking in the footprints of other people
to avoid the deeper parts of the snow on the way to or back from school.
the most beautiful and deadly sights then was an ice storm. Cold rain
would turn to ice about the same time it hit the branches of the trees.
The trees would become a crystal wonderland. It was wonderful to see
but if a wind came along all the little frozen branches, sheathed
in ice, would break, causing some destruction to the parent tree.
I have other memories of cold. I moved up north to Atikameg, 200 miles
north of Edmonton and above High Prairie, Alberta . Atikameg was a
Cree Indian Reservation. Now, I was pregnant at the time and had had
the child by Caesarian. I was healing from that, having been released
by the hospital. Things weren’t going well and I didn’t know what
was wrong. I was isolated in a little log cabin up on a hill (The
Teacherage where my husband worked had burned down recently). We were
part of the Anglican Church and teaching facility on the Reservation.
were up on another hill were next door, if you call next door a considerable
tramping distance in snow. There were two Nuns there with some medical
training, so I thought I’d better go and see them.
there you had to go down a long road from our hilltop, along the main
road a bit and then up another long road to their hilltop. I thought
I’d take a shortcut from our hilltop to theirs.
where I’d come from, was a relatively mild affair but up there it
got pretty deep. I found myself trying to plough up that hill in waist
deep snow. I was using bushes and branches to pull myself along. It’s
a wonder I didn’t fall into a snow crevasse and get frozen. Finally,
I made it up there to the Catholic Station. Nothing they could do
for me really except to say that I’d better get into town pretty darn
gave me, and this was all they could do, an enormous gelatin vitamin
capsule. A lot of it was cod liver oil I found out from subsequent
burps. They weighed me and they gave me this enormous pill. I said,
“Why is it so big?”
said, “The locals think that if one pill is good, then the whole bottle
is best. They’ll take it all at once to save muss, fuss and bother.
So, we give them the biggest dose that they can take at one time and
send them away. When they come back, we’ll give them another dose.
that pill and struggled back down the hill and made arrangements to
come back into town. Turned out a had a Staph infection in my Caesarian
incision. Staphylococcus is no joke and it was rampant in that bush
hospital. I survived the infection but I didn’t eat for about a week,
the illness had stolen my appetite. I think the enormous vitamin pill
the good Sisters gave me saved my life and I’m thankful for that.
Another story involving cold was in New York City. I was using an
ice pick to get the ice out of the refrigerator freezer. There was
a gas in there called Freon. I accidentally punctured the part of
the freezer that held the Freon and gas started coming out. I thought
it was dangerous, so I grabbed up Cathy, my daughter. She wasn’t wearing
any clothes at the time, just little panties. She was so mortified
that I’d dragged her out into the hallway in her skivvies. Turned
out the Freon wasn’t all that dangerous and we repaired it so that
the refrigerator was okay again. My goodness. That was an adventure
with the cold!
My first husband, Bob Bates, may he rest in peace, had a little bit
of trouble keeping jobs. One time he managed to get a relief job in
a place the dealt in frozen foods. This was in August during the summer
holiday time which is why he was doing relief work. It was the best
job he’d had in a while. He’d get occasional free frozen food and
they supplied a snowman suit and the pay was good but all good things
must end. The other fellow was coming back from holidays. Bob was
upset to hear this. I guess he’d been telling himself that he might
keep the job. He was so dismayed that he ran out into the street in
his snowman suit in the hot New York August, and claiming he was going
to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge or some darn thing like that. I think
he ran about four blocks and then the heat got to him. He dragged
himself back to the place, gave them back their snowman suit and got
his final cheque and that was the end of that.
nowadays is chancy. There are some terrible storms out there. It’s
all very well to look back and laugh at winter but winter can be deadly.