From Point Douglas we moved to Transcona.
This was a significant change. For the first time it was beginning to feel
that we were at home. Our immigration experience was fading. We were
starting to feel ordinary in our new context.
Our poverty stayed with us. We rented
houses that were generally old and somewhat broken down. I remember our
house on Harvard. A coal burning stove in the living room. A wood burning
stove in the kitchen. Mum used to have it warm when we came home from
school in the winter. We would thaw our boots and mittens on the open door.
Added a very nice sense of cosy.
age eight, I was the oldest of six siblings. We were generally close. This probably
came from mother's habits of prayer before meals and open conversation
during them. We shared our childhood joys. Also our worries and fears. She
listened in a way that strengthened us. We were not alone. We were loved.
My first day of school left a lasting
impression. We were lined up in the playground. As our names were called we
were to join a class. Then proceed into the school. I waited to hear my
name. It was not called. There I stood in the field alone. A teacher took me
in hand. She discovered that I was at the wrong school. The matter was
sorted in short order. The next day I was at the right school and admitted
to grade one. I found myself in a very new kind of world. Sitting in small
desks facing a chalkboard and the teacher's desk. Our names called from the
roll every morning. The singing of O Canada.
Every evening, just before bedtime, I would
go out to the coal shed. Sometimes mother would come along to help. Once we
noticed soft waves of green light in the night sky. We stood spellbound.
Joined in a sense of awe. An appreciation of the surprising goodness of
life. It was not until many years later that I learned we had seen the
Northern Lights. In my young imagination it was a wonder. An inspiration.
Life was not easy. A pattern had set into
the life of my father. He grew increasingly absorbed with the pursuit of his
own dreams. This led him into all manner of adventure. Sometimes for a
weekend. Sometimes for months. Leaving mother and us kids to get on as well
as we were able. There were many times when it seemed we would not make ends
meet. Mother would sit us round the kitchen table. She would pray as we held
hands. Asking for that which seemed out of reach; our daily bread.
Our prayers were answered in a great
variety of ways. Almost always rooted in the kindness of family, friends,
and neighbours. The church community was very supportive materially. This
while their glances and whispers evoked a clear awareness of our poverty.
And the shame of that poverty. No doubt one of the influences shaping me to
advocacy for the poor at our doorsteps.