Dad Taught Me to Love Books

Dad looking out to sea

My reading life didn’t have an auspicious beginning.  I spent most of my grade one year at home sick with every childhood illness going – chicken pox, red measles, scarlet fever etc.  This was before inoculations for these diseases.  Consequently, my opportunity to learn to read was limited.  Our grade one class was divided into reading groups named Robins, Sparrows and Skylarks.  Although the labels were designed to disguise our reading prowess, we all knew the skylarks were the best.  My parents learned with shock at one of the parent/teacher confabs that their little “genius” was in the bottom group – the Robins.  That decided it.  Dad would soon change that status.

So began a daily regimen of reading practice that I dreaded.  Dad would sit in his easy chair, my reader on his lap and I was instructed to stand behind him and read every word perfectly.  If I made a mistake or tried to fudge it by adding a word that wasn’t there, I had to go back and repeat the whole sentence however many times it took me to get it all correct.  It was tortuous.  I usually ended up in tears, mom would be all for giving me a rest, but Dad was relentless.  No child of his was going to stay in the Robins group.

I should probably explain that my father was an officer in the Royal Canadian Navy, trained in communications.  My lack of reading skill was an affront to his training.  So he persisted in drilling my recalcitrant brain to recognize and sound-out syllables until I understood what the dancing black symbols spelled.  It might have been a total failure had I not wanted so badly to be able to read.

Mom and Dad had read books to us before bedtime every night.  They read our favourites over and over.  I loved “Beauty and the Beast”, “The Little Red Hen” and the now totally politically incorrect “Little Black Sambo”.  I knew them by heart and wanted desperately to read any time, not just at bedtime.  So I stood behind Dad’s chair every night for two solid weeks until I could read my whole “Dick and Jane” reader without stumbling.  My teacher was astonished at my progress and I got an immediate promotion to the Skylark group.  Ever after that she had to continually tell me not to read ahead of the others.

Once I knew how to read, I was voracious.  I read anything in front of me from the backs of cereal boxes to the daily newspaper.  That last item became the bone of contention between Dad and me as time went on.  Dad liked to read the newspaper first when he got home and sometimes, if I wasn’t quick enough to put it back together, he would discover a missing section and knew exactly where it was.  Heeheehee – his reading drills came back to haunt him.

As I got older Dad and I shared a love for mysteries, historical novels and Zane Grey westerns which we traded back and forth.  After reading so much, I began to want to write my own stories and well, the rest, as is said, is history.  Thank you Dad, for the gift of my favourite pastime -reading.

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Snowblowers & Instant Mashed Potatoes

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You are no doubt wondering what snowblowers have to do with dried mashed potatoes and the answer is nothing except that they are both Canadian inventions.  I became well- acquainted with instant mashed potatoes or a forerunner of them when we lived up above the tree line in Aklavik, Northwest Territories.  Up there almost every food was dried or reconstituted, even our milk.  Mom mixed our milk up every day and we got to like it eventually.  Dried potatoes were not as smooth as instant mashed but that was invented by Edward A. Assbergs in 1962 probably after eating a spoonful of the dried version we had up north.

As far as snowblowers are concerned, the first one was invented by another Canadian , Arthur Sicard in 1925, probably after digging himself out of the kind of snowstorm we had a few days past.  Now we could have used one of those machines up north, but it hadn’t been on the “to-bring” or “to ship” list we were given by the military commander my father was replacing.  It was definitely an oversight.

Another Canadian invention that we all employ is the ordinary zipper.  God bless Gideon Sundback who had the foresight to invent this handy fastener in 1913.  I’m not fond of sewing zippers into clothing, but I am very glad to purchase clothing with them.  I don’t know who invented Vaseline but I think that anyone who has ever struggled with as stuck  zipper must be as glad as I am that it was invented.

Another invention that helped with an onerous household task is the paint roller and we have Norman Breaker of Toronto to thank for that in 1940. He was no doubt anxious to save countless husbands from the back-breaking and time-consuming paint brushing  up and down ladders when we wives get that redecorating twinkle in our eyes.

Of course none of us would know the colour of a wall at night without the invention of the light bulb.  Thomas Edison bought the patent for that wonderful invention from Henry Woodward who successfully invented it in 1874 – also a Canadian.

These are just a few of the inventions that Canadians have given to the busy homemaker over the years, but they are some of the ones for which I am grateful.

Caleb’s Coat

© 2006 Mollie Pearce McKibbon

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“Grandfather, tell me the story about the  wooly coat.”

Isaac looked fondly down at his little granddaughter and smiled. She was the only one that asked about about that chilly night so long ago.  Everyone else had heard the story so many times that they no longer listened. Everyone but Sara.  He smiled and nodded and she climbed upon his lap to hear it.

“It was so many years ago,” Isaac began, “when I was just a little bit older than you.  My brothers were tending sheep in the hills.  Every day I tried to follow them up with the sheep.  Every time they would get as far as the brook and then one of them would turn around and tell me to go home.”

“Why did they do that, Grandfather?  Why were they so mean?”

Isaac chuckled, “Oh Sara, they weren’t being mean.  They knew that I couldn’t keep up to them and that could be dangerous if I lagged too far behind. But, one day I was able to keep up to the flock. 

“Was that the night?  Was that the night of the beautiful star?”

“That was the night, Sara.  I remember it was very cold and Caleb gave me his wooly coat to wrap up in.  It had been a long day and I had done a lot of climbing.  I curled up by the fire and fell asleep.”

“Then Caleb started shaking you and calling, ‘Isaac , Isaac, O Isaac the star’!”

“Yes, he woke me up shouting about the star,” said Isaac.  “ I sat up with a shiver and there was light all around us and such beautiful singing, Sara, such glorious singing!”

“And the sky was filled with angels, “ continued Sara, her eyes shining into her grandfather’s. “Were you frightened?”

“Oh yes, at first we were all frightened, but the angels spoke to us in such soft voices that we just listened and listened.  The music was so sweet it almost hurt our ears.”

“What did the angels say?”  Sara knew but this was her favourite part.

“The angels told us not to be afraid, that a special baby was born in Bethlehem, a king, and that we should go and see him.”

“Did you go, Grandfather, “ asked Sara smiling.  She knew what came next.

“Yes, I went, Sara, but I couldn’t walk as quickly as my brothers and soon, I was far behind. I began to run, but I stumbled and hurt myself.  Caleb heard me cry and he came back to get me.  He put me up on his shoulders like this, “ Isaac paused to put Sara up on his old shoulders.   Sara giggled and then Isaac sat her back down beside him.  

“We walked into the town and tried to find the others.  It was very dark except where the star shone.  We followed the starlight to a stable.”

“Were your brothers there at the stable?  Was it a real stable with cows in it?”

Isaac looked down at his granddaughter.

“It was a real stable, and there were cows there, but in their manger …..”

“In the manger was a tiny little baby,” whispered Sara.

“Yes, a tiny new born baby, “ repeated Isaac.

“His hair was shining, his face was shining and he looked right up at me.”

“And what did you do then, Grandfather?” asked Sara.

“ I thought the baby looked cold.  I gave his mother Caleb’s coat,” said Isaac.

“And did she put it around the baby?” asked Sara.

“Yes, she wrapped Caleb’s wooly coat around the baby and he smiled.”

“Did you walk back up into the hills?  Weren’t you cold without the coat?”

“We walked back up to the hills and our sheep, but I wasn’t cold and Caleb didn’t mind about his coat being left for the baby.”

“Did you tell other people, Grandfather?”

Isaac didn’t answer for a moment, but then he finally said, “Yes Sara, my love, I’d telling you.”

“Did you ever see your brother’s coat again, Grandfather?” 

Isaac smiled fondly at the excited child.

“Many years later, I took your father to listen to a great teacher speaking on a hillside not far from here.  Everyone was talking about how intersting his stories were and how he could heal people’s illnesses.  There were many, many people listening to everything he said.  They were all around him, but we got up as close to him as we could,” said Isaac.  

“He was very kind and the children crowded around him too.  Some people wanted the children to go away, but he told them to come closer.  So we did too. “

“And what was the teacher sitting on, Grandfather?” laughed Sara, putting her hands around her grandfather’s neck.

“He was sitting on Caleb’s wooly coat,” answered Isaac with a big smile. “Jesus was sitting on Caleb’s coat.”

******

Little Brown Teapot

Brown betty teapot

Little Brown Teapot

©2018  Mollie Pearce McKibbon

 

This little brown teapot,

 through the years,

has welcomed strangers, 

sopped up tears,

celebrated good friendships,

patched up fights,

calmed in stormy weather,

and lonely nights.

It’s been a staunch server

through all woes;

has heard about troubles

no one knows.

This little brown teapot,

without a doubt,

is more than a handle,

body and spout.

Fireflies

Fireflies

© 2018 Mollie Pearce McKibbon

 

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Tiny flashes light the path

Winding through the forest dark,

Minute points of silver light

From  heavenly anvil spark.

There’s wonders in the night time

That can only be perceived

By wise and curious people

Who always have believed.

The brightest beam of sunlight

Is not as welcomed or fair

As those sparkling  lanterns

And the One who placed them there.

Burgeoning May

Burgeoning May

First Crocus close-up©2018 Mollie Pearce McKibbon

Winter’s ragged blanket withdraws

Washed away by April’s tears.

Crocuses open their purple petals

To a smiling, unbroken, blue sky.

Breezes gently nudge the trumpet daffodills

While drowsy bees awaken.

Squirrels and chipmunks stretch and yawn,

Aroused in budding branches 

By the joyful serenades of robins 

And red-winged blackbirds 

Responding to the warm coaxing 

Of a burgeoning May.

 

Senior Locomotion

Senior Locomotion
© 2018 Mollie McKibbon

 

My perfume is linament
And I walk most carefully
Because at any moment
I could buckle at the knee.
Stairs are quite a challenge;
Going up I have no speed.
Going down them, I wobble,
Scaring those whom I impede.
Rising from chairs and sofas
Takes time and determined skill,
While I remember fondly
Youthful springing up at will.

elderly man wearing glasses using caneAnd dance which was so graceful
When I was young and complete,
Is more a lurch and stumble
Than light skipping of the feet.
Though my strong cane is stylish,

Carrying it can be a boregreen-turtle-hi

‘Specially when I forget it
And it clatters to the floor.

If perilous my travel

Down life’s rugged trails,
I have some good companions
Among the turtles and the snails.