Prologue to "Stories From My Prairie Childhood" - Why I'm Here
From retirement on I began to receive and amass a considerable amount of family memorabilia. In 2017 I had become totally overwhelmed by the mountain of disorganized information and didn’t know where to begin. Then I discovered Learning in Retirement at Carlton University. Courses on writing memoirs were available and I jumped at the chance that I might be able to climb that mountain. I’ve been scaling it ever since, at times still overwhelmed, but determined to at least reach the age of 20 on this wondrous and revealing trip into the past. I am assisted by what I learned on the courses and by the informal group that has persisted since my first class with our excellent instructor, Dr. Anna Rumin.
The series "Stories From My Prairie Childhood" focuses on a period that span years of depression and WW ll from the perspective of a pre-teen with two exceptions – "Tough Love" (still to be published) and "Rubella or Rubeola?" (where I was at the ages of 13 and 14). The stories are relatively ordered but may dissolve into disorder from time to time. Memories are like that.
The first story in this series is 1. The Pasture.
How did I end up spending four weeks in the Mrs. Rendtstead’s Nursing Home in Spalding, Saskatchewan at the age 11? Before being hospitalized I had already missed almost a month of school. When I was allowed to go home I needed another month for recuperation before I could I reclaim my graffiti adorned desk at Rosebush. Homework had been provided and I kept up with my lessons. That is not the same as being in a classroom on a day to day basis. It is not as much fun. I couldn’t wait to get back to normal as a Grade 6 student in our “one room fits all” country school.
The unexpected change in my plans was truly disappointing. I had revelled in the opportunity to represent my school in a spelling competition and my ego had definitely been swollen by the prospect of skipping a grade. As for skipping, my feelings had been mixed. At 11 years of age I knew I could pass for much older so physically I was a good fit. However, there are other benchmarks for maturity. I could have ended up being the youngest to enter college, but without that extra year of social experience that my peer group had enjoyed. Acceleration is frowned upon these days except in special cases. If your teachers think you’re extra smart you’re supposed to be “enriched”. Today that too can be controversial, especially if it means placement in a segregated enrichment class.
My medical adventure had begun with the loosening of a toe nail – the nail on the big toe of my right foot. Actually it was a little more than loosened. It was almost off. One of the outdoor activities at our school was soccer. We had two teams that included boys and girls and a mix of grades. None of us had suitable shoes for this sport. In the course of one of our energetic forays another player, Jimmy, tromped on my big toe. My brother, two years my junior, claims that Jimmy did this on purpose. I don’t think he was that mean, or even capable of being that deliberately accurate.
My parents didn’t seek medical treatment. There was no medical insurance available in the 1940’s. Dad dealt with the daily foot bath using a solution of Lysol. He also did the bandaging. The toe refused to heal and I began to have difficulty walking. An ominous red streak began to make its way up my leg. Later we learned that this is sometimes a sign of blood poisoning. I could not walk to school, even though the distance was minimal. School assignments were sent home. Mother hadn’t gone back to teaching at this point so, to some extent, I was being home schooled. Dad persisted with the Lysol and probably Epsom salts as well. He used the same ingredients with his animals when he was acting as farmer/veterinarian. These two favorites were always available in our family pharmacy. When a lump began to form in the upper part of my leg my parents realized that something was seriously wrong.