Tag Archives: family

Ten (okay 14) books that had an impact.

My cousin Dianne posted a request on FaceBook – name 10 books that had an impact on you. Well because my memory is poor, I had to check my GoodReads site to look for some of those books. It was hard to wittle down to 10 – actually I had 14 that came to mind. Here’s my list: Johnathan Livingston Seagull; A Prayer for Owen Meany; Eat, Pray Love; Bel Canto; The Hobbit; A Spanish Lover; The Old Man and the Sea; A Year by the Sea; The Edible Woman; Tuesdays With Morrie; Paprika, A Spicy Memoir; Through Black Spruce; Mr. G, A Novel About Creation; The Golden Compass.

Most of these books were from long time ago. Were those books more memorable? Am I still reading books that are inspiring? Yes and No. Books were like an open window to me and I learned about the outside world. I grew up on a farm and even went to a one room school for grades 2 and 3. But despite that, I knew there was more out there.

Some of that world even came to me. In the summer time, we had workers to help with the tobacco harvest. They mostly came from Quebec and several from the East Coast. And I was first generation Canadian – my father and his family came from Hungary as well as my grandmother and uncle on my mother’s side – my Mom was born in Alberta.

Books were a way for me to learn about people, relationships and other places. I learned about about myself and others.

The Mink Ranch circa 1965

I was eating strawberries with my Dad and that brought us to some reminiscing back to when I was 8 or 9 years old.  I bought these strawberries at a roadside stand on Highway # 3 right across from the farm where we lived for about 3 years.  It was also known as the Mink Ranch although we operated it as a cash crop farm.  It was a fun farm to live on as there were some interesting places to explore.  There were a number of long, low, open sheds where the mink were raised along with some empty cages the mink were kept in.  There was also an old abandoned two storey house that I remember playing in – it was the ultimate play house.  I asked Dad about the walnut tree we had and he said that the shells were so hard that by time you cracked them, you’d only had a little piece of walnut left. So I don’t think we harvested them after that first year.

Now that I’ve started to think about this place, I have lots of memories from this time period.  My sister Rosemary and I attended the one room public school – S.S. Malahide #14. All eight grades in one room!  I did grades 2 & 3 there in one year.   There were only two of us in grade two, if I remember right, and once I got my work done, I would join in with the grade 3’s who sat in the next row.  I always considered myself lucky for going to that one room school especially since it was the last year that it was open.

There was a long laneway on this farm.  I must have been in grade 4 and attending school in Springfield.  It was early September and the rest of the family was working at the Gabor’s in tobacco.  I was too young to work so I got to go to school right from the beginning of the year.  So I was on my own – everyone had already left and I had to get myself on the bus and to school.  As I said, there was a long laneway on this farm and it was scary having to go byself.

On this one particular day as I got near the end of the laneway, I could hear dogs barking viciously coming from the house across the road and to the right.  I didn’t know these neighbours or the dogs so I was afraid.  The school bus wasn’t in sight and the dogs kept barking.  I was so scared the only thing I could do was go back up the long laneway to the house.

I was still frightened and all alone in the house.  I telephoned to our neighbour, Mrs. Owen who lived on the farm beside us.  Unbelievably, my only choice was to either stay by myself or make my way over to their farm.  Mrs. Owen’s husband and son were working somewhere on the farm.  Mrs. Owen didn’t drive and couldn’t come to get me.  And because I couldn’t go back down the laneway because of the dogs, I had to walk across the corn field between our farms.  Mrs. Owen told me to head towards the big Maple tree in the middle of the field.  So there I was, walking in the tall, dewy corn.  I was already scared because of the encounter with the dogs and now I was crossing through corn stalks that were taller than me.  I’m sure by time I met up with Mrs. Owen in the middle of the field, I was a big mess – my clothes were wet and I was crying my eyes out. Mrs. Owen got me back to her big farmhouse where they had a wood cookstove in the kitchen.  I don’t know how well I knew the Owen’s at this time, but after that, I’m sure we bonded forever because of my harrowing episode with the dogs and crossing the cornfield.

We moved away from that farm but I always remembered the kindness shown by Mrs. Owen, her husband and her son.

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I Bet I’m Not Thinking What You Are On This September 11th!

Remembering is good.  But sometime events overshadow what once was just an ordinary day to so many other people.  Or, it is a special day of remembrance that came before the one that most people think of now.

Today will always be my mother Helen’s birthday.  She was born on this day in 1930 and sadly, she passed away in 2005.  I like to think of her on her birthday as a happy memory.  And this year I’ll be spending it in a house my mother lived in before she was married.  She didn’t live in this house long and I don’t think she really knew which house it was, many years later when she ultimately came back to live in Tillsonburg again.  She knew the vicinity, but it could have been this house or the one across the way.

We only found out for sure after my Dad saw it.  He’d come over to see my new place and on our way out of the house he just matter-of-factly stated, “this was the house your Grandmother lived in with your mother”.   Solved, after all these years of wondering just which one it was.

My Beautiful Mother As A Young Woman

“Happy Birthday Mom.  I sure am missing you.”  Love, Cathy, xox

Back to the Fifties with ‘Fingers Foris’ and his band

It was ‘Back to the 50’s‘ music for Dad and me at an outdoor concert on the lawn of Annandale House, part of the Sunday night music series.  In fact, this was the 2nd performance by this band this summer.  This is my cousin Jim Foris’ band and every so often he does a guitar solo, so I’ve nicknamed him ‘Fingers Foris’.

Watching Jim play reminds me of my teenage days when I was a groupie to the band Jim played in back in the 70’s.  I believe they were called the Village Guild and they did rock and roll covers from the 60’s and 70’s.  All through highschool I went to see my cousin’s band play at various small town community halls.  I got to go to these dances because my older sister Rosemary was dating one of the members of the band, Bob Helsdon.   Jim’s brother John was another guitarist in the band, Danny played the drums and Brad was the lead singer.  They were all good-looking guys and except for they all had girlfriends,  I’m sure there were plenty of girls in the audience who would have liked to be groupies too, especially the non-related kind.  Anyway, stories about those days long ago will have to be told another day!

Back to tonight and the 50’s music.  Dad was having fun clapping and singing along to the music.  We sat beside cousin Marg and her Dad, Mr. McQuigan, who must be about the same age as my Dad.  After the concert we said our helloes to the other cousins – Brenda, Lena, Bob and of course, Jim.  We also saw Jody and her clan.

Afterwards Dad and I came back to my place for tea, some home-made brownies (a recipe by Martha Stewart) and we watched some tv.

Dad would have been twenty-two and still unmarried at the start of the 1950’s.  This was my Dad’s music, but it is also my music because this was the beginning of rock and roll, a music that changed the world and is still played today.  It was so good to see my Dad  out and having fun.  If there would have been a dance floor, I’m sure he would have wanted to get up and dance.  All in all, it was a very good night.

Putting my Vancouver Bio to rest

This was the bio I had posted about myself.  Unfortunately things have changed and I am in transition of moving from Vancouver, my soul city, to a small town in Southern Ontario to spend time with my Dad.  Vancouver has been such a big part of my identity for my adult life following university.  It’s not quite over as I still have one foot in Vancouver and one here in Ontario.  Soon, I will have to pack up my life there and completely move here.  Here’s what I said about myself then: 

I love living in Vancouver.  People always think it rains all the time, but it’s not true.  Our rainy season is when the rest of Canada get snow and I prefer the rain.

I recently became involved with a social enterprise called Soup Sisters.  We held our launch on September 13, 2010 at Quince.  People get together once a month on a Sunday and make 6 giant pots of soup.  The soup is made for Kate Booth House, a women and children’s shelter.  We hope that this initiative will help to remind people that domestic violence, and all violence for that matter, is a very real problem in society.  Making soup won’t stop the violence, but we hope that the soup will be a message to these women and children to let them know that we care.  What says love and kindness more than a hot bowl of nourishing soup made by caring neighbours.  We may never meet these remarkable women and children, but our hearts will be with them. 

Soup Sisters is gradually opening up throughout Canada – be sure to check our website:  www.soupsister.org

 

Cousins!

Cousins! Growing up on a farm in southern Ontario, our cousins were so important to my childhood. And even though I moved away to BC after University, my cousins remained a constant in my life. Some of my cousins I know more than others, but that was mostly due to geography. The ones furthest away lived in Dartmouth Halifax, others lived up near Collingwood, Ontario,  another family lived in Windsor, Ontario.  My cousin Lynda lives in California and lived due south from me in Vancouver and for a time we saw each other quite often. I got California as a bonus and she got Vancouver, Victoria and Whistler.
 
Last September 2011, we cousins had a Barzo family reunion in Waterloo hosted by Uncle Jim’s kids. We looked at old family photographs and the register from Pier 21 in Halifax where the Barzo family arrived by ship in 1930.  We talked, laughed, reminisced, met new members of the family either through marriage or babies and toddlers who recently came into this world, and caught up on each others lives. And of course there was fabulous food.  We are Hungarians and we love to eat good food.  It was a lovely setting in my cousin David’s big backyard, with tables set among the tall shade trees.  It couldn’t have been a more perfect late summer afternoon. We made new memories that day.
 
The original Barzo kids – Julia, Mary, Simon, John and Joe are all still with us, but we lost Jim several years ago. Our parents are getting older and 3 are now living in care homes.  Unfortunately none of the older generation could make it – they just ain’t as young as they used to be! 
 
Luckily, another mini-reunion was planned and the original Barzo kids, except John, got together around Christmas time.  The room was filled again with their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren and my cousins.  More stories were told and we again looked at the old family photo albums, mostly of black and white snapshots taken by cameras on film and developed in a laboratory.  These old folks have seen many changes in the “new country” and they kept up with all the changes through necessity and with the help of the younger generations. 
 
Pictures are now digital, can be instantly viewed right on the camera, sent via internet, posted on the world wide web.  They may not know too much about this ‘new fangled’ global digital world, but that doesn’t matter because they lived it.  They travelled half-way across the world from Hungary, first by train to Germany, then by ship to Halifax where they again boarded a train east to Toronto, changed trains and travelled north to Hunta to connect with Michlos Barzo, my grandfather. The last part of the trip was made by horse and wagon into the wilds of Northern Ontario to a tiny stone house.  My grandmother Ursula had four kids in tow, one was even a toddler of two, carrying a few belongings and perhaps $20.00 in cash among them all.  My grandmother had been ready to turn back to Hungary when they were still in Nova Scotia because as far as she could see, it was an empty, forrested land.  She must have cursed under her breath at her husband for bringing her family here.  But stay they did and year after year their lives improved.  It wasn’t easy and it took many hard years of work including many lean years when this family of eight had to make do with very little and sometimes went hungry. 
 
Thinking about all these things is at times unimaginable, but the group picture that hangs in my Dad’s room taken that day, shows a happy family that made a new life in Canada – true pioneers.  Here’s to Michlos and Ursula Barzo, my family and of course my cousins.  Let’s keep the memories alive, keep making new ones and remember how we got here. 

The Lemon of Illness and the Demand for Lemonade « CFAH PPF Blog

My father was recently diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.  Getting to the diagnosis took too long and he suffered with extreme chronic pain.  Unfortunately the news wasn’t good – cancer at 83.  Treatment has now begun – chemo and radiation is the normal protocol.

Last night I watched a program on the Knowledge Network called “Chemo” which followed a day in a Polish cancer clinic where people received their chemo treatment.  I now have a sense of what chemo is like – I never knew this while my mother went through her treatments.  It was usually easy to know who had cancer – just look for the bald head.  They were young, old and in-between; one woman was pregnant.  Lives turned upside down, dying on their mind, hopes for the future diminished, independent men and women not used to needing help from their spouses or children.  They talked to the neighbour in the next bed or recliner chair sharing their stories, their fears and worries and sometimes their tears.   All the while though they had their eye on the tube that dripped toxins into their bloodstreams.

The process takes all day – slow and agonizing.  At the end of the day, they walked from the clinic exhausted and perhaps thinking how the next couple of days would be – the side-effects, the loss of several days because of the nausea, fatigue, pain and the knowledge that they would be returning again for another treatment.  I felt sad at the end watching  The Sister walking out of the clinic on her own.  A woman asked her how God could cause this much suffering and the nun could only answer that it was a mystery and no one knew.

The one good thing was that most people talked about their cancer – a chance to speak the words out loud of what must be running through their heads.  The important thing to remember if you go with someone for their chemo treatment is to just listen.  The comments and questions are not for answering.  This is no time to try to cheer them up with platitudes.  Some people may be able to find a gift in their cancer but many others will not.  It’s not a competition.  This link will take you to one woman’s story of her illness.   Prepared Patient Forum: The Lemon of Illness and the Demand for Lemonade « CFAH PPF Blog.