#55 - Winter
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
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 tree.
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