SHARING OUR STORIES – THE SNOWMOBILE TO STRASSENBAHN SAGA

SHARING OUR STORIES – THE SNOWMOBILE TO STRASSENBAHN SAGA

We send greetings to all our readers, hoping that you have had wonderful Christmas and Hanukkah celebrations and that you will have a happy and peaceful New Year 2017. This year’s celebration has been a cozy one for us, though Ian’s health is fragile, necessitating a lot of sleeping, sometimes into late afternoons. He has to be cajoled (Gayle’s task) to get dressed and participate in some of our celebrations though he didn’t get out for church services, Gayle’s choir concert or the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s glorious performance of Nutcracker. We did host his Winnipeg family of daughter, son-in-law, two grandchildren and their spouses, plus five great-grandchildren on Christmas Eve, though. Thirteen of us in our small penthouse floor apartment made the choice of the description “cozy” a true reality, but our gathering was nonetheless enjoyable. Chinese takeout and frozen pies made for a festive but easy supper. The adults and one teenager huddled in around our large dining table while the four younger kids enjoyed kneeling around their own festive coffee table. With city lights twinkling below us through our decorated windows on our 17th floor apartment, candlelight inside, festive decorations, goodie bags for all, new pjs for the kids to don, some early presents to exchange and some Christmas carol singing and dancing, we all had a great time. As a long-time percussionist, Gayle has a collection of rhythm instruments that she brought out to enhance the music from our Christmas CDs, so we could all participate in singing and making music.

 

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How enjoyable we find reading through many short stories in a favourite Christmas present: the 2016 “Chicken Soup for the Soul” anthology: The Joy of Christmas: 101 Holiday Tales of Inspiration, Love, and Wonder, compiled by Amy Newmark with a foreword by “Mrs. Nicholas Claus” and highly recommend it for your holiday enrichment. We also love to re-read and recall holiday stories of our own.

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In past years we have shared several holiday stories from Ian on this blog: (Dec. 10, 2012) “Unusual Holiday Flavoured Passages from My Memoir” (including “My Non-Event Christmases of Childhood” and the New Year’s Eve story of his youngest daughter’s premature birth and how her life was saved by a bottle of Scotch whisky) and (Dec. 31, 2012) “Happy Hogmanay! Happy New Year” an excerpt from our yet-to-be-published autobiographical book “Mexican Follies.” Below pictures Ian, Gayle and our poodle Peppy in our motorhome patio in Mexico in December 2004.

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In December 2014 we blogged a spontaneous play that Gayle and her then-4-year-old daughter had originated “The Christmas Story According to Gwynne” complete with Gwynne’s original illustrations.

manger scene for Christmas story

This year Gayle wants to share her story of a unique holiday trip she and her late husband Gus Johannesson made in December 1972 from their home in Germany to visit Gayle’s family in North Dakota. She calls it “The Snowmobile to Strassenbahn Saga.” For those who don’t know German, Strassenbahn means “streetcar” or “tram.” Those who read her story will understand why Gayle is reluctant to consider any more extensive travel during the wintertime. Pictured below are Gayle’s family at the time: back row: husband Gus, Gayle, sister Barbara, niece Danelle, mother Grandma Mil, sister Doreen, nephew Todd and brother-in-law Bill; front row: nieces Billi, Lisa and Lori. Missing is brother-in-law Danny who presumably took the photo.

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The Snowmobile to Strassenbahn Saga

Gus and I had moved to Germany in summer 1965 where he began to pursue a doctorate in systematic theology at the University of Heidelberg and work part time as a civilian chaplain with the US military and I worked as a secretary for the Judge Advocate, U. S. Army, Europe and Seventh Army. By 1972, we had already spent seven Christmas/New Year’s holiday seasons in Europe, either with Gus’ aunts, uncles and cousins in Norway or with our friends in Heidelberg and were excited to finally be flying home to the States to spend the holidays with my family members.

In many ways, 1972 had been a disastrous year for us–mostly because of Gus’ health. He had lost over 30 pounds due to an illness which was finally discovered in July and had already taken four bouts of rectal surgery for abscesses and fistulas, leaving him with a lot of pain and sapped strength, all of which grossly interred with continuing work on his doctoral dissertation. In addition, I had shattered nerves after terrorist bombs had killed three people in the barracks where I worked and our headquarters were plagued with continuing bomb scares and security precautions. Despite Gus not really feeling well, we had been able to get away to Spain in June for a few weeks’ respite touring the Moorish treasures in Grenada and then relaxing at the home of friends on the Mediterranean island of Minorca, sunning, swimming, snorkelling, exploring ocean-side caves and touring quaint fishing villages with Gus doing a lot of napping. However, returning to Germany and our daily routines led to more stress and, for Gus, the string of surgeries. We were really anxious to get away from it all and back to family and a traditional holiday at “home.”

In December, after several days with friends and attending to business in Chicago and Minneapolis, we flew on to North Dakota, spent some time with each of my two sisters and their families and then finally took a bus from Fargo to my mother’s home in New Rockford (middle of the state). We had a few relaxing days alone with Mom before the rest of the family arrived for Christmas. Here’s Mom (Grandma Mil) and Gus on one of our walks.

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It was wonderful for me to bask in the smells and flavours of the traditional Swedish-American Christmas of my childhood. Picking out and decorating the live Christmas tree, stringing coloured lights, putting up the manger scene we had sent Mom from Germany,

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singing melodious carols in English, Swedish and Norwegian, helping Mom to bake spritz cookies, sandbakelse, krumkake, Julekake, pepparkakor, and Swedish almond bars (from my grandmother’s recipe brought from Sweden), buying and wrapping gifts, preparing turkey, ham, Swedish meatballs and even Lutefisk (though I still didn’t like it, but good-old-Gus sure did!).

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Gus and I got away a few times for walks alone. The photo above shows us posing on the frozen James River, not far from Mom’s two-bedroom apartment in a four-plex right across from the church where I had spent so much of my childhood. (I had been shocked when we first moved to Heidelberg to find out that the Neckar River there usually stayed open all winter long, only having frozen up once during the Twentieth Century, right after World War II.)

Once my sisters and their husbands and children had arrived, we were a family of 12. One sister had married a local boy so those five could overnight at his parents’ house just a few blocks away. However, my other sister’s family of four stayed at Mom’s, as did we. She and her husband slept in the living room on the couch bed but their two little ones got to sleep with Grandma Mil. Gus and I, as the “honoured guests from across the Atlantic,” got the guest room. This was fortunate as I had to be the nurse who cleaned his open (rectal) wound several times a day. (Surgery in that area has to heal from the inside out without any stitching.) It was a bit difficult to maintain much privacy, however, especially with five little ones underfoot. We got the biggest laugh of the holiday one evening when our two-year-old niece came out of the bathroom wearing two long “q-tips” (that I’d previously used to probe the wound and thought I had disposed of discreetly), one in each ear!!! (Even now in her late forties, she doesn’t appreciate the humour when reminded of the situation.)

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Other laughter was more pleasant, while unwrapping gifts, joyously sharing the Christmas story, telling the little ones of Jesus’ birth, singing, eating, going to church, playing games, taking walks in the snow, shopping and loving being together. Billi, Lori and Todd even got in some ice skating time. billi-lori-todd-skating-1972How wonderful for me to be at worship services in our home church again, sitting with my sisters and singing all those beautiful carols in three-part harmony as we had always done in the past. We revelled in a sunny, snowy North Dakota winter (coming back to a gray, rainy Heidelberg winter seemed a bit of a drag). With five small grandchildren, three daughters and three sons-in-law under foot for a week, Mom (“Grandma Mil” was then in her late 60s) stood up surprisingly well. Here’s Uncle Gus taking nieces Lisa and Lori for a walk. Our church, First Lutheran Church of New Rockford, is in the background at the left and part of the school I attended through Grade 12 is in the background at right centre.

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After our week together my sisters and their families drove back to their homes further east and we had another couple of days resting at Mom’s. Then came the start of our return trip, which I’ve named the “Snowmobile to Strassenbahn Saga.” The trip started with a wild bus ride in a near-blizzard to Fargo. This is usually a three-hour drive and took about twice that long. We were met by my sister Doreen and driven to her house in Fargo’s twin city of Moorhead, Minnesota.

Instead of flying out the next day we had a day’s delay caused by full-blown blizzard conditions which closed down the airport, plus everything else in the twin towns. We were to have flown from Fargo to Minneapolis and then on to Chicago where we were catching our international flight (a military charter airline from Chicago via New York to Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany). Listening to the radio, we learned that there was still a possibility of our getting out of town to meet our plane. The Great Northern railroad had a train plowing its way from Montana and across North Dakota, due in at 1 a.m. The only problem was that we couldn’t get to the depot (in Fargo, about five miles away from my sister’s house in Moorhead). My sister’s car was buried under layers of snow and, anyway, the roads were not passable. Fooling around in the snow in front of their house was about all we could do.

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Absolutely nothing was moving … but snowmobiles. Gus had heard on the radio that emergency snowmobiles were evacuating people. He figured that we qualified for an emergency since we had to meet a “military flight” in Chicago the next day. He called, explained our situation and we were granted clearance from the city police. To my two little nieces’ delight and my terror, we were picked up by two snowmobilers at midnight. Gus and I rode behind one snowmobiler; the other one carried all our luggage. There we went, over the (Red) river, through the woods and over 18 inches of snow, not to mention four to five feet of snowdrifts to Fargo’s train station. I hung on for dear life and had visions of falling off all the way; but we made it, only to have a long delay. The train arrived three hours late, struggling across North Dakota with a snowplow on the engine. I was too flustered by the whole situation to get any photos at the time.

So at 4:00 a.m. we boarded the train. Delay continued to be the motto of the trip, however. We missed our first plane connection from Minneapolis to Chicago and barely squeezed onto the last possible one, making connections at the Chicago Airport five minutes before we were to report in for our charter flight. Luckily, we had friends in Chicago that met us at the airport and got us from the domestic to the international departure area in record time. Had we been on our own, we never would have made it in time. We were delayed an hour getting out of Chicago, had to circle New York for two hours because of fog, were delayed in New York because of waiting for other passengers who were late in coming in from connecting flights, made an unscheduled landing in Shannon, Ireland (we never did hear why) and finally landed in Frankfurt six hours later than scheduled.

Once at the Frankfurt airport, we had to take the subway into the city’s train station, then take the train from Frankfurt to Heidelberg (an hour away) and then the Strassenbahn (streetcar) to our stop on Rohrbacherstrasse and walk a block to our apartment on Turnerstrasse. So – bus to car to snowmobile to train to airplane to another airplane to subway to train to streetcar to foot – and we were finally home. (I think we had just about every mode of transportation but ship and dog sled.) It was time for a long winter’s nap – well, at least two day’s worth – before I had to get back to work and Gus to start cracking the books again … then surgery again. He had 16 surgeries in all over a five-year period before the problem finally resolved itself. I ended my Christmas/New Year’s letter that year with the following: “Neither of us has ever had a great deal of patience, but we’ve had to develop it lately. Once one gets through the inevitable periods of despair and self-pity and gets back to the basic trust in God’s presence and strength, things look better. So, we’re hoping for a year of fulfillment and health – and wish you all the blessings of our Lord for the New Year.”

THE CHRISTMAS STORY ACCORDING TO GWYNNE

THE CHRISTMAS STORY ACCORDING TO GWYNNE

 

“Last year it was Ian’s turn to share some excerpts from his book, From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada, about his “non-Christmases” as a child as well as a very special New Year’s Eve in Scotland when his prematurely-born daughter’s life was saved by a bottle of Scotch whisky.

This year it is Gayle’s turn to share some of her holiday writings. She has been super-busy these last months putting the final touches on our next-to-be-published book, Jake, Little Jimmy & Big Louie, plus rehearsing for the various musical groups she belongs to and then singing in their concerts or caroling at seniors’ or nursing homes and at Silver Star Mountain Village. Those duties are winding down now and so she has found time to offer her special holiday gift to readers, a play entitled “The Christmas Story According to Gwynne.”

This play originated in 1981 when Gayle, her late husband Gus and daughter Gwynne were living in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Gus was serving as a Lutheran pastor to a German parish and Gayle was enjoying her role as homemaker and mother. Their daughter Gwynne was a precocious four-year-old who kept her mother hopping. She talked almost non-stop in what her parents called “Gerglish,” a unique combination of German and English. Mama usually spoke English with her and Papa almost always spoke German with her; thus Gwynne understood both languages, spoke pretty good German but found it hard to express herself totally in English. She loved to have books read to her in either language and soaked up knowledge like a sponge. When the spontaneous play that follows began, Gayle realized that Gwynne had grasped the main aspects of the Christmas story but had added some unique twists to relate them to her own life and understanding. That evening, when Gayle related the story in great detail to Gus, he encouraged her to write it all down before the nuances of the story faded from her memory. She did so that very evening. To aid in the reader’s understanding, however, she “translated” everything into English. Other than that, however, the story is as exact to how it actually played out as Gayle’s memory could make it. The drawings we include with this story are Gwynne’s, drawn at her mother’s urging in the days following the play’s inception. We are also including a photo of Gwynne at age 4 dressed as St. Lucia, prepared to make the rounds of our apartment house to bring Saffronsbrod and Pepparkakor (Swedish treats) to our neighbours on the morning of St. Lucia Day, December 13th. That date is the start of the Swedish Christmas season and Gayle’s family heritage on her mother’s side is Swedish. (Yes, those are real lighted candles on the Lucia crown she is wearing! Because of that, Gwynne did this duty rather reluctantly.)

Gwynne as Lucia - age 4

Now, many years later, Gwynne lives in Norway, with her Norwegian husband, their three-year-old son and one-year-old daughter. She is employed as a teacher/librarian in a British International School, where they also celebrate St. Lucia Day. As an adult, Gwynne continues to nurture her unique imagination, teaches Sunday School, loves to play with and read to her children and has a house full of more books, toys and craft projects than one can imagine.

 

The Christmas Story According to Gwynne

By Gayle and Gwynne Johannesson, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Reprinted from a 1981 Johannesson Christmas letter and later from Esprit, the magazine of Evangelical Lutheran Women, November/December 1993 issue. Copyright © 1981 Gayle Johannesson; 2014 © Gayle Moore-Morrans.

 

Characters:

Gwynne (G) who also plays the Angel, Joseph, Pastor, and King Herod (in turn)

Mama (M) who also plays Mary, Joseph, Innkeeper (in turn)

Scene:

Gwynne, age 4, a budding actor, plays while Mama sews. Since early in Advent she has become fascinated with the Christmas story, has had it read and told to her, has seen it in pictures and manger scenes, has sung of it and heard it sung—at home, in church, in kindergarten, on television and at the Frankfurt Christmas Market. Now she wants to act it out—in her own unique way.

INTRODUCTION

G: Mama, let’s play “When Jesus was a Little Baby.” I’ll be the angel and you be Mary. (Exits the room in which Mama is sewing; re-enters, flapping arms.)

 

SCENE 1 – Mary’s garden, Nazareth

G: Fly, fly, fly. (pause) Hi, Mary!

Mary for Christmas Story

M: Hello! Who are you?

G: I’m the angel. I have good news for you. God sent me to tell you you’re going to have a baby in your tummy and he’s going to be the Messiah and save everyone from their sins. I think you better name him Jesus.

M: What wonderful news! You tell God I’m very happy to be chosen to be Jesus’ mother and I’m ready to do whatever God says.

G: Okay. ‘Bye now. Fly, fly, fly. (Exits, flapping arms.) (aside) Now you be Jofes. I’m still the angel.

 

SCENE 2 – Joseph’s home, Nazareth

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G: (Enters, flapping arms.) Fly, fly, fly. Hey, Jofes, wake up! I’ve got good news for you. God is giving Mary a baby in her tummy and then you have to both go to Bethlehem to be counted. The baby’s name is Jesus and he’s going to be the Messiah and save you from your sins.

M:  That’s great! I’ll get ready to travel right away.

G: Bye. Fly, fly, fly. (Exits) (aside) Now you’re Mary and I’m Jofes.

 

SCENE 3 – Road to Bethlehem

G: Don’t worry Mary; we’re going to soon be in Bethlehem:

M: I hope so, Joseph. I’m very tired and I think the donkey is, too. Besides that, I think it’s soon time for the baby to be born.

G: Look, Mary; there’s Bethlehem: Let’s find a hotel room: (aside) Now you be the hotelman.

G: Knock, knock. Do you have room for us?

M: No, I’m sorry. We are all full.

G: All the hotels are full? Can’t you please find us some room?

M: Well, I have a stable in back where the animals stay. There’s an empty clean stall if you don’t mind sleeping on hay.

G: Well, is it quiet? We’re going to have a baby, you know; so it’s got to be quiet.

M: Oh, yes. There’s only one old cow and a sheep and two lambs and they don’t make much noise.

G: Good. Come on, Mary. Let’s go. (aside) Now you’re Mary again.

 

SCENE 4 – Bethlehem stable

G: I’ll fix up a bed for us in the hay. (pause) Oh, oh. We’ve got a problem.

M: What’s wrong?

G: There’s no phone.

Mama: Now Gwynne. Don’t you remember, when Jesus lived on earth it was many years ago and they didn’t have telephones. Anyway, why do you need a telephone?

Gwynne: Well, for heaven’s sake, Mama, we’ve got to call a pastor. I just remembered Jofes and Mary didn’t get married. They’re going to have a baby soon so they better get married!

Mama: Can’t you get a pastor in Bethlehem?

Gwynne: Nope. He’s far away. Well, if there isn’t any phone then we can’t play. (pause) I know—the angel can get a phone. (Exits and enters again, flapping arms.)

M: Oh, Mr. Angel, can you get us a phone so we can call a pastor to marry us before our baby is born?

G: Sure. (Exits and re-enters with phone.) Now I’m Jofes.

G: Ring, ring, ring. Hello, Pastor Johannesson? Can you come and marry us? We’re going to have a baby soon. You can find us easy, just follow the star and when it stops we’re in the red house.

Pastor J for Christmas Story

(Angel flies out, removing telephone. Re-enters as pastor, performs ceremony while M. plays Mary and Joseph in turn. G. exits and re-enters as Joseph. Fixes up a bed for Mary in the hay, settles donkey (hee-haws), talks to cow (moos) and sheep (baas). G. exits and re-enters with doll in cradle.)

 

SCENE 5 – Next morning, Bethlehem

G: Mary, wake up. Look at the nice manger I made for the baby you had in your tummy. Let’s name him Jesus. You wrap him up and I’ll put him in bed.

M: There, he’s sleeping now. Say, do you hear voices outside? It sounds like shepherds talking and they say an angel choir told them to come to see our baby.

G: Yes, and listen to the song they’re singing.

G&M: (singing) Glo-o-o-o-o, o-o-o-o-o, o-o-o-o-oria! Glory to God in the highest!

manger scene for Christmas story

G: Come on in. (Extends hand to imaginary shepherds.) You can see the baby, but be quiet—cuz he’s sleeping. (Gently strokes the doll’s cheek.)  Isn’t he cute? He’s the Messiah and is going to save you from your sins.

Gwynne: Oh no, no, no! (Runs from room, prances around in hallway.) Get that baby out of here! I don’t want a boy baby; I want a girl baby!

Mama: What’s wrong now? Don’t you want to play anymore?

King Herod for Christmas Story

Gwynne: Oh, Mama, can’t you see? I’m the wicked king. I’m going to throw all the babies in the river. (Exits, re-enters flapping arms.)

G: You’re going to have to get out of here and go to Egypt for a while. It’s a long trip so you better pack lots of things. You can have picnics on the way. I’ll tell you when the wicked king is dead so you can come back. Don’t worry; God will take care of you and I’ll get things ready. (Exits, flapping arms.)

 

SCENE  6 – Somewhere in Egypt

(G: enters pulling a wagon loaded with dishes, doll clothes, tablecloth, cookies, bananas and a pillow.)

G: Now we’re in the camper. (Spreads tablecloth on floor, sets out dishes and food. Sits down with doll on lap.) You’re getting to be a big boy, Jesus. Here, have a cookie. (Turns to Mary) Isn’t it fun to be camping?

M: Yes, it’s nice here; but I’ll be glad when we can go home to Nazareth.

G: Oh, don’t worry. The old wicked king should be dead soon. Hey, I think I hear the angel. (Exits, re-enters flapping arms.)

G: Fly, fly, fly. That wicked king is dead, so you can come back. Your baby’s safe now. (pause) Say, Jesus sure is a big boy now. That’s a long trip and he’ll be too heavy to carry. I know; I’ll help you. You two take the donkey back and Jesus can fly with me. (Exits, flapping one arm and carrying doll under the other.)

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Happy Hogmanay! Happy New Year!

For those who don’t know what “Hogmanay” means, it is the Scottish name for New Year’s Eve. To celebrate this Hogmanay 2012 and tomorrow’s New Year’s Day 2013, we want to interrupt our posting of the next installment of our children’s book, “Jake, Little Jimmy and Big Louie” to post an excerpt from our emails sent to friends in which we related the latest happenings during our extended stay in Mexico November 2004 to March 2007. (Who knows – maybe we’ll even find time some day to publish our Mexican accounts in book form.) This account is from early January 2005 when we were still living in our motorhome at a wonderful water park near Villa Corona, about an hour’s drive east of Guadalajara.  My remarks are in plain type, Gayle’s are in italics.( Our emails were usually a joint effort.)

“We were thrilled to be invited to a New Year’s Eve party at Bill and Eva’s home in Ajijic (just hiccup while you say it and you’ll probably get the pronunciation right). To recap: Bill and Eva are the lovely couple I met on the Internet before we left Winnipeg. We met them in person shortly after our arrival in the area. On our second visit to the “hiccup town”, we popped in again to see them. When we were leaving they told us they were having a New Year’s Eve (Hogmanay, to us Scots) party and that if we wished to attend we’d be very welcome.

“On the way home, after making a reservation for lodging that night at a local bed and breakfast, (We didn’t want to dodge cows, burros and various and sundry drunks whom we might meet on the dark country roads on New Year’s Eve.) Gayle and I talked about the invitation and I decided that, since it was Hogmanay, the biggest Scottish holiday except for perhaps Robbie Burns’ Day, I would wear my kilt, sporran, Argyll jacket and the whole kit and caboodle. Gayle had her tartan cape and formal kilt skirt along so decided to wear hers also.

“So, we got there around seven, started meeting the few that had arrived and then I met Greta! Greta is really a lovely lady but, when she met ‘your’s truly’, she couldn’t believe it. I THINK SHE WANTED TO TAKE ME HOME! I’m sure she’d never before seen a Scotsman in full Highland dress or heard first hand the Scottish burr.  ‘Does he REALLY talk like this all the time?’ she wanted to know. ‘What a wonderful accent,’ and ‘Oh, you’re so cute,’ she cooed. Then, kiss, kiss, kiss!

“(Obviously, Ian thought it was wonderful; I had a hard time keeping my cool!) I don’t know if it was Greta’s husband’s doing (a very nice guy) but they soon left as they were heading for another two parties.

“Then there was another interesting (?) couple – his name was Dan and his name was Tom! Tom was also interested in ‘your’s truly’. Specifically, he said, he was very interested in what I had under my kilt!!!!! (Actually I get this question from someone every time I wear it!) Gayle said later that I should have told him that I have a bumper sticker on the front of our motorhome that reads, ‘Happiness is under my kilt!’ – although I wouldn’t be the least bit interested in proving it to him! He was also interested in the ‘furry thing’ in front. I had to tell him it was my sporran and that he definitely was not getting it!!!!!

“It was a great evening where we were able to meet quite a few gringo friends of Bill and Eva’s, either snowbirds or permanent residents, who we know we’ll want to see more of in days to come. Eva had a wonderful spread of food and we enjoyed Bill’s bartending, the fire in their outdoor fireplace and the great evening air of around 60 (15C) degrees. Just before midnight we walked upstairs to their rooftop terrace perched halfway up the mountain and watched the fireworks being set off down in the town along the lakeside. Of course, we also participated in a good rendition of “Auld Lang Syne.”

“When the party was finally over in the wee hours of the morning, we left Bill and Eva’s to return to the Bed’n’Breakfast we’d booked into. The street was packed and we had to park about two blocks away. Almost next door to the B n’ B we encountered a full-blown Mexican street party. There must have been around two hundred souls, adults and kids all in an elongated circle, taking up the whole street and sidewalks on either side. A big bonfire was going just to the side a little bit and a rope was suspended over the street to hoist piñatas,  hollow containers made of paper maché or clay. Some looked like horses, some like stars and various other shapes. All, of course, were filled with candies for the kids.

“Gayle and I were winding our way through the party to get ‘home’, when I noticed a vacant chair off to the side. Calling Gayle, who was just ahead of me, I motioned  to her to come back and sit. She did, and immediately a chair was provided for me also. The folks were really having a good time and soon the Mexicans accepted us as visitors, everyone smiling and waving to us. We were each offered a glass of hot ‘Ponch’ and then a man with a tequila bottle came by and offered to top up the Ponch. And it was very welcome, I must admit, (not as good as Scotch, but not bad, to tell the truth – well, it was free! Anything alcoholic and free isn’t that bad, is it?) So, I’m thoroughly enjoying the tequila and watching the kids whacking at the piñata. After all the kids had had a turn, many of the adults volunteered or were coerced into taking a whack. Then, silly me, always ready for a “carry-on”, volunteered to try to whack the evasive piñata! This ‘thing’ was on a rope, raised and lowered indiscriminately, making it difficult for a (get this) blindfolded person to hit it.

“Okay, I’m there, Casey at the bat. I had volunteered to beat the piñata to death. It must have been the first time in history (well, in this century) that a Scot, in full Highland dress, was blindfolded and was attempting to destroy the candy container that was swinging from a rope. He did manage to glance a blow off it, but not good enough to break it. After a few minutes I gave up. The crowd then gave me a cheer (more in compassion, I think, than for his competence at being able to hit the target) and I went back to my seat and a wee drop more tequila. Not much later, Gayle and I went to our abode. This was in the wee hours of the morning of the first day of the year.  HAPPY NEW YEAR!”

copyright © 2005

Installment 3 of “Jake, Little Jimmy and Big Louie,” a Children’s Chapter Book

We’re sorry for the delay in blogging this next chapter of Ian’s children’s chapter book entitled “Jake, Little Jimmy and Big Louie,” but, as you know, Christmas intervened between Chapters 2 and 3. Gayle and I wish all of you blog readers a very Merry Fifth Day of Christmas. So far we’ve had a nice quiet celebration with church on Christmas Eve, followed by a delicious and traditional (to Gayle) Swedish Christmas supper to which we had invited friends. We slept late on Christmas Day and ended up opening our presents that afternoon. The next two days have been spent eating, playing with our new dog Misty, lazing and watching a number of movies that we received as Christmas gifts, reading from some of the books we received and, of course, listening to Christmas music. Gayle has finally found time to edit the next chapter of the story we are posting and I’ve approved the edit so here goes with Chapter 3. Please give us any feedback you may wish to pass on. As you know, the book has not yet been published except here in this blog. We are still hoping to have some drawings sent in on JPGs from our great-granddaughter or from any children that might read this story or have this story read to them. We are including suggestions for drawings at the end of each chapter. We’d like to include some of the drawings in the published book and would give credit to the artists. Here is a nice cartoon rendition of a budgie’s head as a model for Little Jimmy.

budgie head cartoon

“JAKE, LITTLE JIMMY AND BIG LOUIE”

by Ian Moore-Morrans

edited by Gayle Moore-Morrans

Copyright © 2012

CHAPTER THREE

Jake and Jimmy Become Friends

As they headed home, Jake and his dad chatted about their visit to Bill’s Budgie Barn and all they had seen there. When the car was in the garage, his dad took the birdcage from the back seat and began heading for the house, carefully carrying it by its handle.

(The rest of the chapter’s content has been deleted prior to the book’s publication.)

* ~ * ~ *

Picture suggestions: Jimmy in his cage

Jimmy sitting on Jake’s folded hands

Jimmy hopping down a ramp

The drawings below were done by Ian some years ago to illustrate how he pictured the ramp set-upRamp to chair 001 in Jake’s room.

Jimmy's ramps 001

Blogging a Book for my Great-Grandchildren – “Jake, Little Jimmy and Big Louie,” a Children’s Chapter Book

Budgie cartoon

As a Christmas gift for my great-grandchildren, especially for the oldest two Leland (11) and Hannah (7), we are going to begin blogging a children’s chapter book for ages 7-12, that I wrote some years ago but have not yet published. I’m hoping that Leland and Hannah will enjoy reading it, will give us some feedback on the story and perhaps even read it to their younger siblings and cousins. We have seven great-grandchildren in Manitoba (the two oldest named above, plus Caleigh (5), Madison (2 1/2), Logan (2 1/2), Brayden (17 months) and Lexi (7 months) as well as a young grandson in Norway, Gustav Sebastian (20 months). [The other grandchildren are in their late 20s and 30s as are Gayle’s children. My children are in their 50s.] We’re hoping they will also like the book, even though it was originally written for children. Grandma Gayle liked it and she is 70!

Readers of this blog are also invited to share the story with their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, if they are lucky enough to have some. We’re hoping that Hannah, who is a wonderful little artist, may even want to draw some pictures that may eventually go into the published book. Anyone else who would like to try their hand at drawing and coloring pictures that tell some of the story of the book are also invited to send them in to us. We will add a few suggestions for pictures with each section of the book. If you draw hard enough so that the picture is very clear, please do so on a half sheet of normal 8 1/2 by 11 inch (216 mm by 279 mm) paper, have it scanned in and send it to us on a JPG to our email address: gayleian@gmail.com. Any artist whose picture is chosen to go into the published book will be given credit in the book.

“Jake, Little Jimmy and Big Louie” is about an 11-year-old boy in Winnipeg who adopts a handicapped budgie bird and then an ugly rescued baby chick who eventually grows into a huge raven. Jake learns to help Little Jimmy feel like a very special bird and, though he didn’t want Louie at first, he soon realizes that Louie has become an important part of the family who comes to the rescue when Jimmy gets into dangerous situations. One adventure follows another and the three become fast friends who really love each other.

Here is the first installment:

“JAKE, LITTLE JIMMY AND BIG LOUIE”

by Ian Moore-Morrans

edited by Gayle Moore-Morrans

Copyright © 2012

CHAPTER ONE – Jake wants a Pet

Jake was 11 and would have loved a puppy for company—something he could have fun playing with when he got home from school. But he knew that his wish would never happen because of the scare his mother got when she was a little girl. She had been bitten by a dog and, since that attack, had always felt nervous and uncomfortable whenever any dog, big or small, happened to come close to her. Even tiny dogs upset her.

Finally, Jake had resigned himself to getting some other kind of pet. “Maybe a rabbit,” he thought. He also hoped he’d get the rabbit soon. Whenever he hinted to his mom and dad about getting a pet, his dad would say, “We’ll have to wait and see.” It seemed to Jake that he had been “waiting and seeing” for ages.

With spring break coming up fast, Jake knew that getting a pet before then was an absolute must. It was a “now or never” sort of thing, so he decided to ask his dad just as soon as he saw him.

Jake was taller than normal for his age, with dark brown, almost black, curly hair. His family lived in a newer section of Winnipeg. A big plus for Jake was that their house had a big, fenced-in back yard— just ideal for his plans. He didn’t have any brothers or sisters, so sometimes he felt lonely when he was not having fun with his pals. A pet, in his own words, “would be cool.”

~*~

“Mom, do you know where Dad is?”

“He had to go visit a friend, then he was popping into the hardware store on his way home, and–” Jake’s mother glanced at the clock on the kitchen wall, “seeing that it’s almost twelve-thirty, that’s likely where he is right now.

“Will he be long?”

“I don’t think so; he knows that lunch will be going on the table soon. Why; what do you want your dad for?”

Jake put on his best begging face. “Mom, would you ask Dad when he gets back if I can get a rabbit? I’ve asked a whole bunch of times and he keeps saying that he’ll think about it. He knows I’ve been saving my allowance to buy a pet. Could you ask him for me—please, Mom?”

“No way, Jake. It’s between you and your father and I don’t know what he’ll say.”

Jake didn’t really listen to what his mother was saying; instead his mind filled with thoughts of a pet and the possibility of his father agreeing. He dreamily carried on, “I’d like to get one of those fluffy, white ones. You know the kind—they’re called Angora—I think.” Then he brightened up a little. “I know it wouldn’t be nearly as good as having a dog; but it would be okay—I guess. At least better than not having anything—and it wouldn’t bother you the way a dog might, would it?” Then quickly, he added, “But a rabbit would be all right, wouldn’t it, Mom? Nobody’s scared of rabbits; are they?”

~*~

Jake’s father arrived home just as lunch was ready. After washing his hands he sat at the table, telling Jake’s mother about something funny that had gone on at the hardware store. Jake sat in silence while his mother dished up the food. His father then said grace, thanking God for the meal and immediately started talking about something else. Jake was pleased to see his father was in his usual good mood, for there was a lot of laughing going on.

He also knew his mother was well aware of what was on his mind and he hoped she would begin talking about a pet for him. She looked at Jake a few times during the meal but he wasn’t sure if she was doing so for a particular reason. He decided to wait.

When they had stopped eating but were still chatting, Jake became a little impatient, thinking, ‘I’m going to say something as soon as I can.’

Suddenly there was a lull in their conversation and he jumped in, again using his best begging voice. “Dad, you promised me a while ago that you’d think about letting me have a pet rabbit. Are you still thinking? You said to wait a little—and I haven’t been bugging you, so do you think I could have one—please, please? I’d really look after it and take care of it—and I’d like to get it before spring break. Please, Daddy.”

“Hmm—well, young man, you know, I actually have given some thought about you getting a pet. But I don’t know about a rabbit. They take quite a lot of looking after. There was an article in the paper just the other day about rabbits, mainly about the Easter Bunny. It told how lots of kids want a little bunny at Easter-time and then they’re left to die weeks later—after the newness wears off and the interest dies down.”

“I wouldn’t do that, Dad; I’d really look after it—forever and ever!” Jake said excitedly.

“Forever?” his dad said with raised eyebrows. “Well, do you know the newspaper said they can live for about twelve years? That’s a long time. Are you willing to look after it that long? What happens when you are, say, eighteen or nineteen, and you want to go out and spend a lot of time with your friends or go on a date with a girl friend?”

There was an uneasy silence when no one spoke. Thinking about what his dad had said made Jake look quite glum.

“So,” his dad continued, looking over at Jake’s mom and then back to Jake, “your mom and I have talked about this a few times since I read that article and we both know rabbits are not as easy to care for as people think. Would you consider getting a pet that isn’t so much trouble, maybe something your mom and I wouldn’t mind looking after when you get older—possibly a little budgie?”

“A BUDGIE?” Jake blurted out, a little louder and with more feeling and a good deal louder voice than he had intended. Then, after a few seconds’ silence, with his voice still loaded with emotion, he appealed to his father, “Oh, Da-a-ad, I don’t want a silly budgie; they’re no fun. You can’t take it for walks or throw sticks for it to fetch like you can with a dog. You can’t even play with it in the back yard like you would a rabbit; it’ll fly away!”

Jake certainly didn’t feel very good about what his dad was saying. He was thinking, ‘budgies are silly things that might be all right for girls, or maybe grown-ups, but not for boys.’ He watched his dad shuffle in his chair and sip his coffee. He was waiting for some kind of indication that he didn’t really have to get a budgie.

But, to his dismay, his dad continued, “A little bird like that is really no trouble to look after, you know. It’s much easier to care for than a rabbit. A budgie can be a lot of fun, too. Do you know, for instance, that you can teach budgies to say things? They don’t understand what is being said, mind you; but with a little patience you can have them say things like, ‘My name is Joey’; ‘Hello Jake’—and more.”

Jake was wide-eyed. “Are you serious, Dad? They can talk?”

“Well, not really. What you have to do is to keep repeating the same thing over and over, and some day, usually when you’re not expecting it, the little budgie will come out with a few of the words you’ve been saying to it.”

Jake was not too thrilled with the idea of looking after a “silly bird,” but, knowing that his chances of getting a rabbit were not good, he thought he would play for time and ask his father some questions about budgies.

“Well, Jake, the best person to talk to would be Bill. He’s a friend of mine who owns Bill’s Budgie Barn. There he raises hundreds, maybe thousands, of budgies for a living—and he treats them all as if they were his own children. I’m sure he’ll have all the answers for you.”

“He has that many budgies—hundreds or thousands?” Jake was wide-eyed.

“He certainly does. He ships them all over the country,” he paused slightly, then smiled and continued. “Tell you what, Jake, we should take a drive out to see him. Then you can talk to the expert yourself and get a better idea what it’s all about. How about it?”

“Okay, Dad,” he replied, pretending he was interested so that he could get in his pitch for a rabbit later. “When can we see them?”

Jake wasn’t prepared for his father’s reply. “Let’s go now. It’s only a short drive to Bill’s place and he’s always home on a Saturday.” With that said, his dad got up from the chair and headed for the back door. “Coming?” he asked, as he took his hat from a coat peg and lifted the car keys off an ornamental key shelf. Opening the back door without looking at Jake or waiting for an answer, he headed out to the car.

Jake’s mind was working fast, looking for a way out. ‘Hey,’ he thought, ‘I guess I’d better go for now. Don’t know what else I can do.’

~*~

(Picture suggestion: Jake thinking of a rabbit and his father thinking of a budgie. The photo above shows a cute little budgie.)

UNUSUAL HOLIDAY FLAVOURED PASSAGES FROM MY MEMOIR

100_1185

The holiday season has once again returned to our house. Gayle and I are planning two more book readings before the end of the year. She chose this coming Thursday, December 13th, which just happens to be St. Lucia Day, the start of Christmas celebrations in Sweden. Since her family heritage is mostly Swedish-American, she likes to do the day up big and invite friends in for some good Swedish Christmas baking. She’s been baking and decorating for over a week. We’ll be combining her Swedish Christmas atmosphere with two book readings for friends, acquaintances and the public at our home: one at 2 p.m. and another at 7:30 p.m. In contrast to her candle and ornament laden decorating and entertaining, Gayle has chosen and assigned me several readings that have to do with my unique and unusual memories of the holidays. My memoir, “From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada” which was published this year doesn’t contain the usual fond and nostalgic accounts of Christmases past or holidays celebrated up big and fancy in the midst of large family gatherings. (I leave that to my wife/editor for her writings on her childhood memories.) One probably notices from the title of my memoir, that an impoverished childhood and a Scottish upbringing puts a certain slant onto many of my reminiscences.

Gayle, Ian and Christmas tree

From Chapter One, “The Cold and Hungry Years,” – (My Non-Event Christmases of Childhood)

“Speaking of winter, that brings up Christmas. Ah, Christmas! That time of year was a “non-event” for us. The day would come and go–and I didn’t know a thing about it for years! Then I found out that there were kids who would get a toy cowboy outfit that had a cowboy hat, a belt with a holster for the shiny revolver and maybe spurs. The poorer folks would share the things among the family members. Using the above for an example, one would maybe get the hat, another, the gun-belt, another would get the gun and the spurs and then they had to take turns with them!

“I was about six or seven when I learned that there was a man dressed in a red suit who would come and give good children a present and I wondered why it was that I didn’t get anything as I didn’t do anything bad. Gradually I learned that the man in the red suit was only a story—a farce—a great big lie. Then I didn’t feel so bad. It’s no wonder that I still don’t have a great deal of love towards the occasion, or Santa Claus, for I know there are still lots of kids around today who get the very same as I got back then–nothing!

” Today, my heart goes out (not really!) to people reminiscing about Christmases long ago and proudly stating how they didn’t get very much compared to the kids of today, that they only got a little doll, or they only got a children’s bake oven or something simple like that¾or maybe that their parents could only afford a chicken for the Christmas dinner as a turkey would have cost too much. (I don’t think I knew what a chicken was at that age and if I did, I would probably have thought it was food for a king!) If I can remember right, my first Christmas present was an orange¾and that was from the Salvation Army Sunday school when I was eight or nine years of age! Yep, some people didn’t know they had it so good!”

From CHAPTER SIX, “Back to ‘Dear Old Blighty'” (This chapter told of my return to Britain after serving in the Royal Air Force in the Suez Canal Zone, 1951-3. I married my penpal Mary and we eventually had two daughters. This New Year’s Eve story tells of my youngest daughter’s birth and how her life was saved by a bottle of Scotch whisky.

“Two years later our second daughter, Shirley Christina Morrans, was born. She wasn’t due until February 1959 but decided that she couldn’t wait and so arrived at around five-o’clock in the morning of the 31st of December, 1958–seven weeks early. She was born at home, as this is what Mary and I decided (we could do that—our choice) after the carry-on we had at Motherwell Maternity Hospital during Audrey’s birth. At that time, technology wasn’t anywhere nearly as good as it is today, and apparently it was dangerous for a baby to be that premature.

“It was fortunate Shirley chose the 31st of December which is New Year’s Eve, called Hogmanay in Scotland. Hogmanay is about the most important holiday for us Scots. It was tradition for everyone to have a bottle of Scotch in the house at that time of year so as to be able to offer a ‘wee dram’ to any ‘first footers’ who may appear at the door to wish us a ‘Happy New Year.’ If it had been any other time of the year I wouldn’t have had any whisky in the house as I didn’t normally drink the stuff then!

“The midwife was sent for shortly after midnight. She arrived, checked things and left again, saying that she would be back in two hours. She returned exactly as she promised. The midwife then worked with Mary while I did all the hard work (again!) of walking the floor downstairs! When Shirley finally arrived, she was blue—and that was not good. The midwife asked me if I had any whisky in the house. I said “yes,” that I had a bottle. She ordered it and a basin, too. When I had brought her both, she laid the baby in the basin, opened the bottle of Scotch and poured all of it over the baby, massaged her with it. The midwife then told me I had to rush to the phone to call for an ambulance and oxygen immediately.

“It was a one-minute run to the nearest phone kiosk (call box). There I found a button that could be pushed in case of an emergency. A male voice answered and asked me what I wanted. I told him I needed an ambulance and oxygen immediately for a premature birth as the baby was struggling for life. This idiot told me to go and find a policeman to verify my story. Well, I think I called that bloke everything under the sun and told him that if my daughter died I would hold him personally responsible!

” The ambulance arrived at the house, took the baby away–not to Motherwell Maternity but to Bellshill Hospital, where she was put into an incubator. Mary was fine, as the afterbirth came away just before the ambulance arrived. Shirley came home after two weeks in the hospital and remained in excellent health.

“(For many years I kidded Shirley about owing me a bottle of Scotch.) One day–maybe around 1995–she and her family were spending a vacation with us when Shirley came to me with a bottle of Ballantyne’s. I asked her what that was for. She gave me a nice wee kiss and laughingly told me, “This is the bottle of Scotch I owe you, Dad.”

“Well, I gladly accepted it, not only because I didn’t want to hurt her feelings but also because I had learned to appreciate a good whisky by then!”

Copyright © 2012 Ian Moore-Morrans