Christmas Letter 2003

Over the past decades, I’ve always tried to write an annual Christmas letter to family and friends summarizing our family activities and highlighting our proudest moments. TODAY’S CHRISTMAS LETTER IS FROM DECEMBER 2003, word for word.

Hello and Merry Christmas!

This year I decided to try a different strategy – get all my shopping done (almost), the Christmas tree cut -put up- and decorated, all my baking done (except the cherry cheesecake on Christmas Eve) and the parcels mailed to B.C. BEFORE I wrote my annual Christmas letter. So here are the highlights of this past year….

After my last year’s letter, I DID get the baking done and the parcels mailed to B.C. before everyone began to get sick.  On Christmas day, we ended up in the Emergency department of the Kemptville Hospital with Melvin who ended up in the Childrens’ Hospital in Ottawa for 5 days in January.  At one point, both he and Marty had pneumonia; Doctors thought Melvin had leukemia (he didn’t – just double pneumonia and whooping cough); then the next week they thought Marty had a tumor (the lesion on his lung was the size of a quarter and was a scar from Histoplasmosis, which we never knew he had years ago!).  So that’s how our new year began!!  By the end of January they were all back at school!!!!!!

Nellie turned 11 in January – she’s almost as tall as me now with beautiful long hair. She’s now in grade 6 at the same school in the little town of Kars that all her siblings attended. Darin turned 26 in January and he and Amanda still live in Ottawa.  Of course, you’ve probably heard of their new daughter, Kalia Emily, who was born November 15th.  She’s the cutest baby in the world – honest, I’m not biased just because I’m her Gramma!

Taylor turned 23 in February and he still lives in Vancouver – we are hoping that someday soon he’ll come home to visit.  He still works at the same restaurant/bar, ‘Avantes’.  Marty is now 17 and towers over me!  A few months ago he picked up a guitar and hasn’t stopped since!  He’s a natural!!  He’s in grade 11 and doing very well.
Kristi is 21 now and in her third year at Carleton University.  She still works in the ER at the Ottawa General Hospital and also for Foreign Affairs Canada on her days ‘off’.  Her and Mike are still engaged and hoping to get married in 2005.

Robin (now 28) and Natasha (29) still live in Victoria, B.C. where Robin is still in school pursuing a Masters degree.  I will never forget his first day of kindergarten – he refused to go and get on the schoolbus: he actually grabbed onto the fence and clung for dear life – honestly, I couldn’t unhook his little fingers, until the bus left!!  Now we can’t get him out of school!  Ha! Ha!  We are very proud of him – actually of all of our children.

Our little Melvin turns 9 tomorrow!  He’s in grade 4 at the little school in North Gower where all the kids have gone for the past 22 years.  guess I’m the most veteran parent in that school.

During the winter, we still enjoy hockey games with our friends on Saturday nights in our garage/party room and skating on our backyard rink on the river.  Spring, summer, and fall find us working in the yard.  The pond is nearing completion with the stream/waterfall which we accomplished this year.  Chris built a little arched bridge over the stream and several arbors/trellises for around the yard.  I’m forever planting and dividing/moving plants.  Our vegetable garden is being taken over with more perennial flowers which I’m trying to start from seed or find in a heap.

Well, I sure hope that you will come and see us sometime. If not, just write and keep in touch. Have a Merry Christmas and a wonderful New year.

Christmas Letters

Over the past decades, I’ve always tried to write an annual Christmas letter to family and friends. These yearly letters summarized our family activities and highlighted our proudest moments. A few decades ago, I mailed each one in a Christmas card via Canada Post (also known as snail mail) to all our family and friends. That was the only way to go back in the day. I managed to save a few copies in with my Christmas decorations and I’d like to share them with you over the next few days.
TODAY’S CHRISTMAS LETTER WAS WRITTEN 31 YEARS AGO – DECEMBER 1987, including Original pictures. Here it is, word for word, which was typed on a Commodore 64 computer and printed with our dot-matrix printer.

 

Greetings from the Mellways-on-the-Rideau! Has it been a year already since we sent our best wishes for the season? We’ve been so busy this year that we’ve hardly noticed it go by!

 
Marty has been a full-time delight. Already 16 months old with curly auburn hair and blue eyes, he keeps us hopping and literally on our toes continually. He loves to look at all the colourful Christmas lights and the many birds who visit our window feeder. Christmas ’87 will require some ‘creative decorating’ to say the least!

 
Kristi is five already and just loving Kindergarten! She is full of confidence and energy and more than holds her own with her big brothers. Ballet classes are her latest joy (our little angel in pink tights!!).

 
Taylor still astounds us with his enthusiasm for learning (anything!). Now 7 years old, he participates in Beavers and plays the recorder. He and Kristi are in our community Christmas choir and will perform on December 20th.

 
Darin is almost 11 now and since the beginning of the year has made a conscious decision to become a vegetarian. He’s active in team sports and will be joining the ski club at school in the new year. Finally, Linda will have someone to ski with again!

 
Well, Robin finally surpassed his parents in height hitting 5’5″ at 12 years old! He’s in grade 7 now and still plays the Saxophone in the Intermediate Band. His biggest thrill of the year was flying Air Canada to Chicago with Linda and Marty.

 
Most of Linda’s time is spent Home Making – she even took a 2 month hands-on house building course last winter with baby Marty in tow. It’s been a tremendous help as we finish our home and plan the upcoming renovations to the kitchen and outside veranda addition. In her spare time she continues to practice Midwifery and has recently opened a Breastfeeding Clinic to help mothers and babies.

 
Dean remains active in many aspects of wheelchair sports. He’s still Executive Director of the Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association and plays tennis in the summer and sledge hockey in the winter. Look for him at Ottawa’s Winterlude again in February ’88!

 
We’ll be home for Christmas this year with both Linda’s two sisters and their families joining us on Boxing Day for a traditional Christmas get-together ~ turkey with ALL the trimmings, skating on the river, and good times.

 
May you all have a safe and happy Christmas and 1988.

1987 kidswm

L-R: Darin, Robin, baby Marty, Taylor, Kristi

BackyardHousewm

Backyard 1987

 

Front Housewm

Front of our house 1987

 

Growing Up in the 1950s

 

I’m living in my 7th decade of life: the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, and now 2010s. I was born in the early 1950s and I’d like to share what it was like living in each of these decades.

 
The 1950s were an amazing time to be born – they call us ‘baby boomers’ now. Children born in the decade following World War ll were born into a world which was changing at a dizzying rate. Before this World War, my parents lived through the Great Depression which was a time of depravity and challenge. Then after WWll, life seemed less of a struggle and even richer for my parent’s generation. Many of our parents wanted to give their children everything they didn’t have themselves when they were growing up:  a decent home, a family car, a job, and enough food. My parents chose to move from their small home town on the east coast to the big city in Ontario after my oldest sister Faye was born. I was born in the city of Hamilton in 1953. Soon afterwards, we moved to our first home on Eaton Place where all my memories begin…. My very first memory is of someone taking a picture of me when I was two years old and the sun was shining in my face.

1.1955LindaWM

First Picture Grammom 1955

 

Ahhh, the 50’s. The very thought brings a feeling of joy, simplicity, peace, and ….. ROCK ‘N ROLL! After a generation of waltzes during the 1930s and 40s, MY generation was ready to shake things up! My memories only take me back to the late 1950s – Elvis Presley, the King of Rock ‘n Roll; Buddy Holly’s “Great Balls of Fire”; Bill Haley and the Comets “Rock Around the Clock” ; Chuck Berry (who performed at our high school in 1971 ~ I’ll never forget how we all roared when he sang “My Ding-a-ling”!). Back in the 50s, music was recorded on vinyl records in speeds (RPM = rotations per minute) of 45 and 33 (78s were old school from the ‘olden days’ of our parents). 45s were the small, 7″ singles with one song per side and 33s were the record albums. Cassette tapes, CDs, and MP3 hadn’t even been thought of back then! We collected LOTS of records and albums over the years.

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First house – Eaton Place 1955

 

Our parents were great! Every year we went on vacation somewhere – Timmins to see the gold mine and my Auntie Marlene and Uncle Jim; Ottawa to see the Parliament Buildings and camp in Gatineau Park; local camping at Lambert Park; Santa’s Village in Bracebridge; and my favourite place of all, New Carlisle, Quebec lovingly known as down home where most of my relatives lived. It took us 3 days to drive the 1000 miles (1650 kms) on two lane highways in our ’50s Ford sedan, packed to the hilt with everything from baskets of fruit to bathroom sink/toilet and always a neighbour along for the holiday! We always stayed at my grandparents farm. We went in July, just in time for haying too. In the 1950s, my grandparents didn’t own any machinery to help with the farming, just Queen and Gyp, huge draft horses. They did the haying all by hand, pitching it up onto horse-drawn wooden wagons where us kids would ‘help’ by sitting on the top of the pile as we went around the field. Then back at the barn, the loose hay would be pitched up into the hay loft. We spent many fun days playing in that hayloft, hiding in the hay or just daydreaming. Other days were spent at the beach on Chaleur Bay on the Atlantic Ocean playing with our cousins in the freezing cold salt water.

3.U.Lloyd,Queen,GypEarly50sWM

Uncle Lloyd farming 1950s

 

When we were at home, we’d spend the summer outdoors all the time. Our neighbourhood was void of backyard fences so we had a huge yard where we’d play baseball, football, tag, kick-the-can, or hide and seek. One street over was an undeveloped area where we’d explore and play using our imaginations (called “the Field” and “the Creek”). My favourite was to pretend I was riding a horse, either on my bike or running while slapping my leg to make the sound of galloping. I’d even tie up my pretend horse at the back porch when I came in for lunch. In the 1950s, there were no video games – heck many folks didn’t even have televisions! Us kids PLAYED! We used our IMAGINATION! TV shows I DID watch included Hockey Night in Canada (we were staunch Toronto Maple Leaf fans) on Saturday nights (I laid on my mother’s lap until I fell asleep), Roy Rogers Show and Lassie on Saturday morning. We got 6 channels, mostly from the U.S. During the summer, all the neighbours flocked to our front porch after supper. The adults would sit on the cement steps and talk while the kids played until dark.

4.EatonPlaceGang

Eaton Place families on our front porch

 

In the winter, my Dad made us a skating rink beside the house and a sliding hill out back on our slightly inclining backyard hill. The whole neighbourhood came over to skate and slide after school and on weekends! It was the best childhood a kid could dream of.

Winter Fun

Winter fun

 

We didn’t use plastics for everything like today. I recall that our first refrigerator was an ice box – the ice man came around the neighbourhood with blocks of ice to sell to people. The ‘bread man’ came around weekdays to deliver bread and other goods right to your door – all our mother had to do was pick out what she wanted. And the milkman came daily with glass quart jars of milk – mothers simply left the washed empties out on the porch and the milkman would exchange them for full bottles of milk, leaving them outside, unrefrigerated. Nobody ever got sick either. All these businessmen (yes it was always men) were paid by their customers once a week – the honour system was alive and well in the 1950s.

6.1957 L&Ricky PloemWM

Grammom 4 yrs old with friend Ricky, 1957

 

In the 1950s, 99.9% of Mothers stayed home to raise the children and the Dads worked outside the home, sometimes two or three jobs like my Dad. That’s just the way it was. Many women were expected to quit their jobs when they married, anticipating a family would soon follow. When I was around ten years old, my mother got a job with some other neighbourhood ladies, cleaning offices for Ernie. My oldest sister Faye, babysat us for the few hours in the evening. I will always cherish my mother’s presence during the day in the summertime, during lunchtime, and before/after school. Moms back then cooked all the meals and did all the laundry. There were no ‘fast food’ places in the 1950s that I can recall ~ we did go to Stoney Creek Dairy for ice cream cones a couple of times in the summer. But I don’t EVER remember going out to eat hamburgers at a restaurant.

7.1959SantasVillageWM

Santa’s Village 1959

 

My first school was Parkdale Public School where I went from Kindergarten to grade 5. We walked to school with all the neighbourhood kids in those days, skipping, talking, and singing along the way. At lunchtime, we walked back home where our mothers had lunch waiting for us. Then back to school. I vividly recall kindergarten – fingerpainting, playing instruments, and afternoon napping. We went to Kindergarten either in the morning OR the afternoon. Not all day like today. There was no Junior Kindergarten either. When we turned 5 years old, we were eligible for kindergarten.

8.1958LindaWM

Grammom 5 years old 1958

 

When I was very young, I remember hearing that our Prime Minister was John Diefenbaker and I couldn’t help but wonder why a baker would be a Prime Minister…… ? I pictured this person all dressed in white wearing a baker’s hat! Oh the innocence of youth!

I have to say, life was simpler back in the 1950s – at least to a young kid like me.

Stompin’ Tom – A Canadian Icon

I think everyone in Canada knows about Stompin’ Tom Connors – for anyone else around the world reading my blog, he was a proud Canadian, folksy-country musician / singer who graced the halls of small town hotels and community centers across the country for decades singing his self-written songs.  Sadly he died last week at the age of 77 years old.  My kids grew up listening to Stompin’ Tom on road trips to the east coast or music blasting from our garage during the summertime.  He was truly a Canadian icon.

Stompin’ Tom Connors was born in New Brunswick, Canada and raised in a foster home in Skinners Pond, Prince Edward Island.  The story goes that Tom left home at the age of 15 to hitch-hike across Canada……. for the next 13 years, writing songs and literally singing for his supper.  In Timmins, Ontario (where my aunt still lives) he was a nickel short for a beer at the Maple Leaf Hotel so he sang a few songs – and a legend was born.   He went on to sing in small hotels and bars right across the country, including our local old hotel in the early 1970’s…… and eventually larger venues.   A waiter at the King George Tavern in Peterborough, Ontario nicknamed him Stompin’ Tom in 1967 because of his habit of stomping his left heel to keep time to his music.

Vintage Cassette Tape

My Vintage Cassette Tape

All Stompin’ Tom Connors’ 300 songs were in reality, a history of Canada.  Some of my favourites include:  Big Joe Mufferaw (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gy3knGGzZr8&feature=player )  which is a song about a legendary French-Canadian logger  who travelled around the Ottawa valley (where I live) visiting many local landmarks (including our local hotel) ;  Bud the Spud “from the bright red mud” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HtySGSuKZe8 ),  about a truck driver carrying “another big load of” P.E.I potatoes to Ontario  ;   Tilsonburg (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDItmh42Rio) about when he worked in the tobacco fields in Tilsonburg, Ontario – I burst out in full chorus singing “my back still aches when I hear that word” whenever I’ve overdone it and my back hurts! ; Lady KD Lang, a song about Canadian singer K.D. Lang, who “jumps around like a rangatang” ;  The Ketchup Song (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkZ62XvJHVQ);  The Bug Song because I can relate to THAT one with all the mosquitoes we have around here;  and of course, The Hockey Song, a.k.a. The Good Ol’ Hockey Game (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFYV0P5f_t4) ,  which is  played at many National Hockey League games in Canada and always at the beginning of Ottawa Senators hockey games.   Many songs were about historical events like Fire in the Mine,  Algoma Central 69 (Railroad), The Black Donnelleys (massacre), and The Martin Hartwell Story (surviving bush pilot), to name a few.

Stompin’ Tom never ‘sold out’ and went to the U.S. to sing or ‘make it big’.  He was as big as HE wanted to be.  I respect him for that.  In 1979 in a fit of frustration and disappointment he returned all 6 of his Juno awards as a statement of personal protest against the Americanization of the Canadian Music Industry.*

Canadian Postage Stamp

Canadian Postage Stamp

Chris and I finally went to see Stompin’ Tom Connors in concert in 2006 at our local arena – it was a real treat to watch such an artist perform!  My sister Betty recalls  “I remember going to Hamilton Place to see him when Mark LaForme, Danny Lockwood and Larry Murphy (friends) toured with him … and I remember Danny bringing us back a tape from PEI about 35 years ago when he was touring all around Canada and we played it constantly!   I remember in 1978-ish, Brent and I went to Timmins  and we went to the Maple Leaf Tavern – where Stompin’ Tom played.  When we went on our family trip in 1989 – we crossed on the ferry to PEI and we had the tape in the tape deck and when we drove onto PEI soil – we blasted Bud the Spud!!… Great memories!!”

I always felt that a “Stompin’ Tom Connors Course” should be given at colleges and universities simply for its historical value.  Each song tells an important story……..a real piece of Canadian history.

Stompin’ Tom Connors had the foresight to leave one final letter to all his fans, to be published after his death:

“Hello friends,

I want all my fans, past, present, or future, to know that without you, there would have not been any Stompin’ Tom.”

“It was a long hard bumpy road, but this great country kept me inspired with it’s beauty, character, and spirit, driving me to keep marching on and devoted to sing about its people and places that make Canada the greatest country in the world.”

“I must now pass the torch, to all of you, to help keep the Maple Leaf flying high, and be the Patriot Canada needs now and in the future.”

“I humbly thank you all, one last time, for allowing me in your homes, I hope I continue to bring a little bit of cheer into your lives from the work I have done.”

Sincerely,

Your Friend always,

Stompin’ Tom Connors”*

In the last few weeks of his life, Stompin’ Tom helped plan his own Memorial Celebration now on March 13th, 2013 in Peterborough, Ontario in the local arena which he insisted be open to the public.  In lieu of flowers, the Connors family has asked that “donations be made to your local food bank or homeless shelters, in memory of Stompin’ Tom.”*

What a class act, eh!

What memories of Stompin’ Tom Connors do you have?

* http://www.stompintom.com/

Sister Bet's Stompin' Tom concert ticket

Sister Bet’s Stompin’ Tom concert ticket

Christmas Comes Early

Yesterday I was given an amazing gift!  I’ll be able to enjoy this gift from now through to Christmas and beyond.  What kind of amazing gift is this you ask?  “It came without ribbons, it came without tags, it came without packages, boxes, or bags” LOL  Well it’s…………. my son Marty and his partner Jeanette!  They arrived home for Christmas all the way from Malaysia after 23 hours of flying and landing and flying and landing and flying and landing again!   What better gift could a Mother ask for?!

Marty & Jeanette August 2012

Marty & Jeanette
August 2012

They enjoyed a really good cup of French Pressed coffee (thanks to Kelsey, Melvin’s girlfriend)  almost as soon as we got home from the airport.  We had a simple spaghetti supper so they could continue to relax and get their ‘land legs’ again.  Afterwards, my two Granddaughters, Kalia and Livi, and Darin and Amanda came over to see them.  The girls were SO excited!    Jeanette managed to stay awake until 8 p.m. but Marty held on until 9:30 then called it quits after well over 24 hours without a good night’s sleep.

Our house is full of life.  This morning we began watching a new BBC series that Marty knew we’d like called “Wonders of the Universe”  and when we’re done, we’ll start Carl Sagan’s series “Cosmos”…….. Marty’s all pumped about the Universe these days!   Then Melvin and Marty brought up the electric guitar and keyboard and had a bit of a jam session in the living room.

Gaming After Jam Session

Gaming After Jam Session

Marty had just bought a new acoustic guitar  with pickup in Kuala Lumpur last week so he wanted to test it out on the homefront.   After eating a season’s worth of Asian food,  they enjoyed good Canadian cuisine of roasted carrots, parsnips, beets, and corn with roast Chicken and mashed potatoes and a nice fresh green salad  tonight.  Jeanette, Nellie, and I gleefully planned alot of meals and baking to enjoy in the coming days and weeks.   Tonight my son-in-law Mike brought his own home-roasted fair trade Sumatra coffee beans for Marty and Jeanette to enjoy for the next couple of days.   After dinner, we all watched “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas”…………… (~sigh~, again).  We also began making plans for the Star Wars moviefest including Robot Chicken Star Wars.

Both of them actually felt more fatigued today than yesterday – likely the result of the adrenaline rush yesterday, the weeks of extreme heat in Malaysia, the long flight, and of course, the lack of sleep………. not to mention the time change.  They left one day and arrived here 23 hours later, but on the same day and even gained about 1/2 a second (thanks to Einstein’s Special Relativity Theory, I think)!  In the true spirit of Marty McFly, they went back in time, so to speak.

For the coming days and weeks, Marty will be busy re-exploring the old neighbourhood and ‘gaming’ with Melvin.  Jeanette is happy to be where she loves to be:  in the kitchen cooking  again or enjoying the cold Canadian winter, before she heads down east to visit relatives in January.   But tonight, our two world travellers barely made it to 9 p.m.

Jeanette in the Kitchen

Jeanette in the Kitchen

We’re  REALLY excited to have them home for the next little while.

The Beatles!

I heard this month that it’s been 50 years since The Beatles released their first single record “Love Me Do”……… 50 years!!!  They were John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr.   I have always been a HUGE Beatles fan – for their entire career and more.  I guess you could say that I caught the pandemic called Beatlemania!

I first saw The Beatles on TV’s The Jack Paar Show in 1964.  I was mesmerized by their ‘mop-top long’ haircuts and the music – rock and roll.  I watched them perform many times on the Ed Sullivan Show over the years too.  It was reported that in Britain, mobs of crying, screaming girls actually fainted at the sight of these 4 hunks.  A mysterious feeling had awakened within me and I started playing The Beatles music in my basement, even pantomiming with a fake guitar along with the music, just like I was on stage with them. lol   I knew EVERY word to EVERY song too…… maybe I still do.

Some of my Beatles Albums

The next summer, 1965, The Beatles toured North America and their one Canadian stop was Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens (we lived in nearby Hamilton).  I was going to be there!  I don’t remember the exact details, but I think my sister Betty bought a $4.00 ticket (yes you read that right, 4 bucks to see The Beatles) and then won a free ticket from a local radio station contest.  So my Mom said that I could go to the concert with the group from the radio station – I was 12 years old.  The Beatles played two shows that day on Tuesday, August 17, 1965  at Maple Leaf Gardens, 4 p.m. and 8:30 pm. – I attended the late show.   It was awesome!!  I screamed like a girl through the whole thing – just like the other 18,000 fans!   It was SO loud that nobody could actually hear them singing!  I truly believed that John Lennon waved to me way up in the Grey Section!  It was mayhem and mass hysteria, but that was Beatlemania……  it was awesome!!  They sang all my favourite songs like “Twist and Shout”,  “Ticket to Ride”, “A Hard Day’s Night”, “Can’t Buy Me Love”, and “Help”, among others.  I learned later that they actually only sang for less than an hour but it seems like an eternity.

After that concert, I started wearing a John Lennon cap that I bought downtown.  It was a black “Poorboy” style cap.  I thought I …….er, it was SO cool!  I played Beatle music whenever I wasn’t at school on my record player – we had ALL the albums and most single 45 records.  Sadly, I only have a few Beatles albums left.

The next year, The Beatles returned to Toronto on Wednesday, August 17, 1966 to play Maple Leaf Gardens.  My ticket cost $5.50 this time and I bought it myself.  I wasn’t going to take ANY chances that they would sell out of all 32,000 tickets (two shows).   Again, I screamed my way through the entire concert – thinking back now, what a dumb thing that was!  Why didn’t I just listen and enjoy the music?  It was the last time The Beatles ever played in Toronto before they broke up the band.  I think that my favourite Beatle was always John Lennon.  Paul had that infectious smile, George was shy, and Ringo was quirky, but John was amusing yet serious.

Original Ticket Stubs

I still have my original Beatles ticket stubs from those two concerts, framed and in a place of honour on my fireplace (along with my ticket stub from the Monkees concert).  Those early days of Rock ‘n Roll shaped my love of music for life.  When we drove to Florida last March, my son Melvin filled a little Mp3 player with ALL the Beatles songs to listen to.  My daughter Kristi and I had a ball belting out the tunes!  My sister Betty says that she still has her ‘Beatles Scrapbook’ from way back in the 60’s and even some of my old posters.

I was given a gift last Christmas by my two kids Nellie and Melvin – a coffee/tea mug with the infamous picture of The Beatles “Abby Road” album cover in a collectible Beatles Box……… my kids know me!

My Beatles Mug

I feel blessed that I witnessed with my own eyes,  the most influencial musical group in the history of music.   Yeah, Yeah,  Yeah, I love The Beatles!

 

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