"I could write a book !"
How often have you said, or heard that statement "I could write a book." ?
Why don't you ? Only you know the adventure, trials and tribulations in your life. You may have wisdom that you want to impart to your children or grand-children.
I believe that someone, someday, will ask " Who was Andre Hugo, my grand-father?" What did he do?. I know that in researching the family genealogy I was frequently asking that question and discovering interesting things such as my great grandfather, a carpenter cabinet maker, working with family specialists putting domes on cathedrals. He did some of the fancy work in Westminster Cathedral. An uncle then moved to the USA where he put the dome on the Chapel at the US Naval Academy Annapolis. Another, was the top amateur golfer in Scotland and later moved to the USA where he helped design and build some of that countries great golf courses.
In this and subsequent posts, over time, Andre tells his story. Where is yours ?
Pine Lawn Avenue
"Watch out ! "
About as new is new could be; I was lying on the table while my mother changed my diaper. Curious, my three-year-old sister couldn't get her eyes close enough to see what was happening.
Squirt ! She got it right in the face.
Mum was an English war bride who discovered that life was impossible living with mother-in-law. My first home, therefore, was with my aunt Daisy where my parents had fled. Grandma lived just down the street on Pine Lawn Ave, in London, Ontario, Canada. We were there for only a short time before moving to another temporary local address on East Street.
It wasn’t long before mum decided that I was to be bottle fed. This decision was provoked by two main factors. The first – In England there had been food rationing during the war. As a result, she did not have sugar to eat for several years. Once in Canada, she loaded up on it and her milk became too sweet. All my Iife, I blamed her for my own craving sweet things. The second was that I frequently exercised cannibal tendencies, champing hard (biting) her nipples. “Ouch!”
Grandma was a tiny woman, Four feet, nine inches tall. Mum never said much good about her and dad rarely spoke about his parents at all. As we have researched our family history, my brother, Rick, learned nothing but good about her caring nature, helping others in need.
Grandma’s house was near the quarry where my father used to swim. A Boulevard
ran down the center of the street. Her house was an old one-story, three-bedroom wood and stucco one with an enclosed veranda, an attic and basement. To go down the steep stairs to
the dark, damp, basement could be a fearful event. The basement walls were made of large rocks and cement, typical of the era and locale. A large tree shaded the front yard and the grassy backyard contained an apple and a pear tree. It was in that yard where my father gave me my first haircut, cutting the top of my ear and getting blood all over his Sunday best white shirt.
The tree in the front yard served me well as a young man. I had been in northern Ontario camping with my uncles Walt and Hugh. About 11 years old, I had entered the bush to do what came naturally and bees flew up into my shirt and stung me. It was against that tree that I leaned on as a friend that night, and vomited my guts out.
The kitchen was small, and I recall grandma making toast. There was no toaster; just grandma standing at the stove, a slice of bread lanced by a long, wire fork in her hand, held over an
It was also in that house that my father, as a young boy, described a room to his mother. Startled, she declared that he could not possibly have remembered that place because they had moved from there before he was a year old. My father remembered. As a relatively newborn lying in his
crib, he could not breathe; and, opening his eyes, saw a large rat sitting on his chest. The imprint of that event and space in the background stayed forever in his mind.
I did not know my grandfather, a retired military guy who married late after retiring from the British Army. He worked at the electric power plant by the quarry. He was tough and demanding. Dad was tough too; though family life revealed a heart of gold. He fought with his father; and, after completing public school, grade 8, he ran away and joined the circus as a laborer. When World War II came, he enlisted in the military, served in Western Europe and Italy. It was, eventually, to be his long-term career and I was to be raised as " an army brat."
On the bookshelf of that old house, I found a wonderful book titled "Boys Book of Indian Warriors". It was captivating and represented a view of Canada's indigenous peoples that is quite different from that of our American neighbours. For the most part the relationship was harmonious. However, there were conflicts and the book, to my recollection, provided insight into the Indian side of the history. Real photos of some of the famous Indian warrior chiefs and tribal members captivated me. I kept that book well into adult life and passed it to my son, Sean. Interest tweaked, I also read and reread a book called "Brothers of the Seneca’s ". I dreamed of living in roaming the forests with them, bow and arrows in hand.
“Junk Man!” “Junk Man”.
I heard a man shouting in the street. From the window, I saw an old, raggedly dressed man driving a horse drawn, flat wagon past the front yard. The Junk Man was collecting junk that people wanted to get rid of. Junk, not garbage. Things that he could fix or sell for parts. Recycling may be a current topic in today’s societies; but, the poor have always led the way.
It is hard to recognize grandma's house today. There have been renovations to the façade. Like for many older homes, the current residents have no idea of the love, life and history that has gone before. If only old houses could tell their stories…
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