Stage 1 – childhood & youth, from birth to 17
…to imagine, to dream, to explore, to play, to work, this is what childhood & youth are all about, developing the attitude and skills to live a good life.
I was the eighth in a family of 11 children, with six sisters & four brothers, living on a farm on the prairies. The work was hard & constant, starting as soon as the toddler could look out for her younger sibling, fold her clothes, shell peas, etc. But the freedom was exhilarating! In the interstices of the constant work, we imagined, we dreamed, we explored and we played intensely.
…to imagine. I climbed trees when the need for privacy became imperative in our boisterous family. We had a gracious hedge of maples around our houseyard, a legacy from my paternal grandfather who wanted to be a gentleman farmer when the frontier demanded pioneers. (Grandfather John MacLise failed at farming, but he succeeded brilliantly at creating a lovely houseyard for his son Eugene & family.) My special trees in the hedge became homes to my imaginary friends; each friend had a history with family details & personal characteristics, so I would climb the tree and have an animated chat—taking both parts, of course—with the friend I needed that day.
…to dream. Dreaming infused the day with triumphs envisioned in contests big & small. Before starting school at five years old, I dreamed of sitting in a desk in Devonshire School at the front of the classroom with the other pupils from grades 2 to 8 in rows behind. When I moved to the town school, I dreamed of all the excitements the town of 500 would offer.
In elementary school, the very best was the skating rink, the boys weaving among the girls with hockey stick & puck and the girls trying to twirl like Barbara Ann Scott; mayhem but so much fun.
In high school, it was the curling rink with a real ‘café’ selling hotdogs & drinks and two sheets of ice where our teams—boys, girls & mixed—competed. This village hub hosted the crowning event of our winter season, the Men’s Bonspiel where men came from miles around and the competition—and play—was fierce.
…to play. We played church, with one brother as the choir perched in a tree overlooking the nave, with another brother as the priest saying mass at an altar adorned with beautiful pieces of broken glass, and with the rest of us as the parishioners in the ‘pews’ of our church in the hedge. We girls did resent that we had to wear ‘hats’ (clean panties—shades of the pussyhats in the Women’s March, ha, ha) in church while the leftover brothers did not. But there was no question that the girls, the older sisters, were in charge, telling the priest & choir exactly what to do!
We played prisoner’s base and baseball in the twilight after supper, a half-hour or so of intense action, before I washed the dishes, lined the shoes up against the kitchen wall—our late Queen’s nanny wrote that when Princess Elizabeth was a child, she made sure her toy horses were perfectly aligned along the nursery wall every evening before she went to bed; I can relate to that!—did a bit of homework, and went off to bed around midnight. And it’s prophetic that we younger tribe played Calgary Stampede, with wooden sticks for horses and imagination for everything else—I’ve lived my life in Calgary, my favourite city in its beautiful foothills with the mighty Rockies across its western horizon.
Stage 2 – finally an adult, from 18 to 40
…to study, to grow, to love, to work, this is an adult’s responsibility to become a contributing citizen in the free world, to bolster & protect that freedom bequeathed to us by our ancestors.
…to study. And so I went off to university in a city, a little nervous about the classes with many students and the city with many people. My brother was already there, and my sister enrolled after a year a teachers’ college and 2 years of teaching. We set up house in a rundown rowhouse, with three university students renting the main floor and the three of us renting the upstairs. I simply don’t remember feeling deprived in my student life. We had three rooms for three people: a bedroom for Roberta & me, a bedroom for William, and a common room where we cooked on the hot plate and ate at a tiny table with three chairs; I had always shared a bedroom, until 13 years old with two sisters, and then with one until I left for university, so sharing it with a compatible sister was perfect; and a bathroom with a flush toilet and a capacious bathtub with hot & cold water at the turn of the tap was nirvana, coming from a childhood of an outdoor toilet and a strict rationing of hot water from the woodstove tank. Waiting to use the bathroom? Pshaw, a mere bagatelle compared to using an outdoor toilet in the heat of summer and the cold of winter.
And we studied. We went to class, occasionally skipping because we were too caught up in a game of bridge, but mainly enthralled by the contents—I was outwardly know-it-all as youth is wont to be, but inwardly amazed at how little I knew in this vast sea of human knowledge. I grumbled about the reading and the essays and the deadlines, and longed to continue in English. But I had to make a living, so I accepted the move to Education in my second year to earn a teaching certificate. That deprivation was a fact of life, and raging against it would have wasted energy and depleted joy; after all, I had a lifetime ahead of me to pursue English—as a reader, as a writer and as an editor.
…to work. From Sean’s birth to Jason’s entry into Grade 7, I stayed home with the boys and ran the household. I always wonder how women do it, running a family while working fulltime at a demanding job, when the myriad needs of family members take up all the oxygen in the room. A marriage takes work, and the family fire burns steadily when the hearth is tended; the inevitable flareups between husband & wife, parent & child, brother & brother can be sorted before they rage out of control because you have the time & energy for that primary task. My advice to younger women is to raise your own children until they begin school; then they begin their own lives, and you still have plenty of time to pursue your career, whether it be new or continuing.
Stage 3 – in my prime, 41 to 75
…mainly to work, to see our boys succeed in their university, professional and personal lives, to become a grandparent, to travel.
…to work. And so I returned to school, this time taking journalism at Mount Royal College (now, Mount Royal University). I did some freelancing upon completing the 2-year course, and a career in journalism beckoned. But that demanded being footloose & fancy free, most likely beginning your career at a small newspaper in an obscure, out-of-the-way town with a meager salary. There is romance in that when one is in one’s 20s. But I was married with a family, so I looked for corporate work and was hired as the technical editor/writer by a consulting engineering firm. Working with engineers was a whole new world to me—and I loved it.
The business world was re-engineered in the 1990s, so after 10 years I left the security of fulltime employment for the thrill & ‘freedom’ of a company of my own. It’s funny, but its name was always going to be Editor’s Ink ltd., with the possessive easily moved if it grew. (Even though I’m retired, I’ve kept the name [sans ltd.] as my tradename in the slim chance a desirable project will come my way.) The work—interesting, challenging, rarely boring—came in waves of overwhelming hours and troughs of few hours or none at all. And I loved it, too.
The oilpatch rollercoaster took another dive in 2015, and my work dribbled to a halt. Never being the best of marketers and now being in my seventh decade, I reluctantly decided to fold up my company and retire.
Stage 4 – in my golden years, 76 to …
Now I am in the autumn of my years, still editing—grandkids’ essays, the community newsletter; still writing—letters to family, friends & ‘To the editor’; still reading—mainly history & classical literature because good current fiction is hard to find. I railed against the Covid restrictions, not so much for Jack & me whose lives changed little in this 2-year lockdown, but for my grandchildren and all the young people whose lives must be open & free to discover what it is to be human.
After this woke tyranny, I am seeing glimmers of hope that we in the West have come to our senses—resisting the leftie bullies and their insane demands of masking, social distancing & shutting down schools & businesses; pushing back against the climate catastrophists, especially in this bleak winter of high prices for essentials resulting from catastrophic decisions by green-driven governments; electing conservatives to leaven woke fanaticism with reality. We have a long way to go, but we’ve at least started on the path to once again celebrate Western civilization, not destroy it.
An inveterate optimist, that I am.