One of 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.
One of 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 much destruction to the parent
I have other memories of cold. I moved up north to Atikameg Alberta
– 200 miles north of Edmonton and above High Prairie. Atikameg was
a Cree Indian Reservation. Now, I was expecting at the time and, in
fact, I'd 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 teaching facility on the Reservation.
The Catholics were on another hill were next door, if you call next
door a considerable tramping distance in snow. There were two Sisters
there, by Sisters I mean Nuns. They had some medical training, so
I thought I'd better go and see them.
To get 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. Straight from our hilltop to theirs.
Snow, where I''d come from, was a relatively mild affair but up
there it got pretty deep. I found myself trying to plough up the 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 crevace and get frozen
or something. Finally, I made it up therel to the Station. Nothing
they could do for me really except to say that I'd better get into
town pretty darn quick.
They 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. So, they weighed me and they gave me this enormous pill. I
said, “Why is it so big?”
They said, “They 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. Then, when they come back, we'll give them
another dose. ”
I took 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 that but I didn't eat for about a week, due to
the nature of the illness. I think the enormous vitamin pill the good
Sisters gave me saved my life. There you go. You never know.
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 the 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 it was okay. My goodness. That was an adventure in 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 August, and August in New York City is hot, in his snowman
suit, 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.
The weather 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.