This is the second in a short series of posts about my family’s history, living in Canada as landed immigrants in the 1950s and 60s. This particular series discusses my mother’s experiences living and working on a farm as a child.
I guess life on the farm is extremely routine and regimented. It has to be. Mum lived on a dairy farm in southern Alberta, near Lethbridge, for most of her childhood. I remember hearing stories about how awful the children in her school were to her and her twin brother René. You don’t speak the language, you’re different, and so you’re the object of extreme prejudice by the other — more Canadian, more normal — children. I count myself lucky I never had to experience anything like that. But whatever happened at school, Mum was lucky enough to have René, a built-in best friend. I can’t imagine what it’s like having a twin sibling…
In any event, school was soon forgotten when René and Mum got home, or when they had to wake up first thing in the early morning to milk the cows. Ever present, though, was their desire to bug poor Georges, the wayward Frenchman who never stood a chance.
Georges was a man of particular habits; he liked his toast his certain way and he liked his daily schedule his certain way. What he didn’t like were children, due in large part to my grandparents’ kids and their constant interference with his routine. This was a time before even television or the web. Kids had to occupy themselves somehow. René and Mum occupied themselves with disrupting Georges’ life.
Georges had a pair of slippers he always kept on the porch. In the morning, when he’d wake up, and before he had breakfast, Georges would go upstairs, open the door to the porch, step outside, slide into his slippers and keep right on walking, as though the slippers magically found themselves on his feet. Without a misstep, Georges was on his way.
Until the morning René nailed Georges’ slippers to the deck, my mother watching on, complicit in the whole scheme.
I imagine it a morning like any other, only this particular morning saw Mum and René on the edge of their seats at the breakfast table. And so it went: Georges hauled himself up the stairs, through the kitchen, out the door, onto the porch and into his slippers. However, on this particular morning, his full stride was stopped completely short. I imagine his thoughts of confusion as he tumbled face-first into the floor of the porch; an immediate sense of panic, turned to confusion, then realization at what was going on, then rage and some concept of whole was responsible — all before he experienced a great deal of pain.
Mum never mentioned Georges swearing, not with curse words, anyway. He’d say things like “Espèses de cons!” and “Mais qu’ils sont fous!” Nothing terribly earth shattering. But this time, the curses came fast and they came furious as Mum and René giggled until they were disciplined by their parents.
A single, solitary example of the life Georges led in Canada.
In my next post, I’ll tell you a little bit about my Mum’s discovery of Georges’ bedtime routine… and his fear of gophers.