By Bonnie Hutchenson
Zooming on with it
Zooming on with it
It’s almost a week since Canada Day, but I’m still smiling about one of my highlights of that day. I got to see and speak with four generations of family members from four time zones and three continents.
Through the magic of Zoom, we got to hear “Happy Canada Day” (sung to the tune of “Happy Birthday”) by the youngest grandson who lives in Singapore. We got to chat with family members in Brisbane, Australia. (For our Singapore and Brisbane family, it was July 2.) We got to visit with another grandson in New Brunswick. And we had our Alberta folks in Camrose, Calgary, Edgerton and Edmonton.
We even had a slide show of photos we’d all sent ahead of time to my sister and her husband who orchestrated all of it.
I was feeling so fortunate. It was a treat to see and speak with nieces and nephews I haven’t seen for several years. And I thought how different our lives are, compared to our grandparents.
Contrast.In about 1918, my English grandmother travelled across the Atlantic Ocean with her infant son, my dad. She’d married a Canadian soldier during the First World War. He had not yet been released from service, but she was travelling ahead to Canada to await him.
From Halifax, she travelled by train across Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan to Edmonton where her mother-in-law lived. Quite a contrast from her tiny British Island home.
When she left England, she knew she would never see her father or brothers or sisters again (her mother had died). When she left, she knew she was seeing them for the last time.
I remember that when I was a little girl, my grandma would be really happy on the days when she got a letter from her sister Em. The letters would take weeks or even months to arrive, so by the time she read them, the news would be old. And she would write back knowing her letters would take weeks before her sister would see them.
I’ve been told that her mother-in-law was not a pleasant person. In fact, her mother-in-law suggested that she should go back to England, but leave the baby behind.
When her husband arrived, they moved to a homestead in the Duhamel area, where they were far from the nearest neighbour and could hear the coyotes howling at night. Not exactly like London, England, where my grandmother had been the head of a department in a large store.
***I’ve heard the story of someone else’s grandmother who came from Wales. Her husband had come ahead to East Central Alberta near Provost. She followed later with their two small children.
She arrived at the train station in Wetaskiwin. He was there to meet her with an ox cart. He’d nailed a chair on the wagon for her to sit. It took two days for them to get to where he’d built a rough cabin on a quarter section.
When she told the story to one of her grandchildren, he asked, “What did you do?” She said, “I cried for three days. Then I got on with it.”
***Here on the prairies, that’s the story of most of our ancestors. They came, in those days mostly from Europe, and they left behind families and friends they would never see again.
Many, like my English grandmother, had not lived outside of a city in their lives. They came to a wilderness. They lived on quarter sections of cheap land, far from neighbours. They looked out at a barren landscape and listened to coyotes howling at night. And they got on with it.
These are tough times in Alberta. We’re not the first and we won’t be the last. And we’ll get on with it. Possibly helped by Zoom visits with faraway people we cherish.
***I’d love to hear from you! If you have comments about this column or suggestions for future topics, send a note to Bonnie@BonnieHutchinson.com. I’ll happily reply within one business day. read more