Eight-year-old Gayle’s First Story: The New Puppy

Eight-year-old Gayle’s First Story: The New Puppy

Gayle has intended to post this story in the past but couldn’t readily find where she had squirreled it away in her numerous storage tubs of memorabilia. Now, after a hiatus of 67 years, it is finally getting published on this blog! As far as she knows this was her first attempt to write down a story and she is pretty proud of her first efforts, despite the extremely slanted lines, childish but rather cute errors in grammar and spelling, yellowed cellophane tape “binding” and less-than-awesome artistry. Even then, however, she made a good attempt at sharing an engaging autobiographical story and finding a suitable, descriptive opening and closing.

The story was written in 1950, probably around November since Gayle would have turned eight on the 11th (and Doreen and Barbara would have been six and five until the next spring) and hunting season for ducks would have been in full swing. The setting is a house on Central Avenue in the small town of New Rockford, North Dakota.

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Note that Lady has a docked tail and Spotie’s tail is normal. A lot of waterfowl hunting dogs at that time had their tails docked to prevent wagging tails giving away the hunter’s hideouts in the reeds to birds as they approached a wetland site. Odd that Spotie has no spots and that the three girls look more like dressmaker’s forms than little girls! The spelling of the puppy’s name is also unique. “Spotty” or even “Spottie” would probably have been better choices.

But for the existence of this little story, the incident of the new puppy would probably have been lost as their parents have been dead for years and Gayle’s younger sisters, who were 5 1/2 and 6 1/2 at the time, have little recollection of what happened. None of the three can remember what eventually happened to the new puppy either. Only Gayle (who was a “grown-up” eight year old at the time) remembers that they later discovered that Spotie was deaf. He only reacted to touch and not to sound.

Spotie’s mother Lady was the same age as Gayle, so eight years of age when she gave birth to Spotie, who was her only offspring. Gayle also recalls that Lady had been hit by a car some months before Spotie’s birth, though she hadn’t seemed to be injured. Mom Mildred and Dad George had later surmised that the hearing of the puppy fetus had not developed properly as a result of the car accident. We know that Spotie did not grow to maturity and Gayle has a vague recollection that she was hit by a car and killed, probably in her first year of life. (The trauma of that death most likely contributed to the girls’ poor memories.) No photos of Spotie seem to have been taken, surprising when recalling how many photos and 60-mm films their daddy took over the years. There are numerous photos of Lady, however, and Gayle is sharing one of those, as well as photos of the girls from around 1950.

The three girls were very close in age. Gayle was 16 months older than Doreen who was a year and three days older than Barbara. Lady and Spotie were American Water Spaniels, a breed begun in Wisconsin in the early 1800s who were bred as hunting dogs. George Moore, their daddy, was an avid hunter who brought home many wild fowl and deer over the years. The Moores’ freezer was always full of wild duck, wild goose, partidge, prairie chicken, grouse, pheasant and lots of venison. They lived in central North Dakota, in the Central Flyway, a haven for hunters of migratory waterfowl. The surrounding prairies were also teeming with other game birds, Whitetail deer and elk.
Gayle & Lady-1948
Although no photo of the new puppy exists, Gayle has chosen the above photo from winter 1948/49 of Lady, the mother water spaniel, and herself. About a year and a half later she wrote the story about Lady’s new puppy.

Water Spaniel puppy

Because of his name, the new puppy “Spotie” was obviously spotted, as was Lady. Included herewith is a closeup of a vintage online photo of an American water spaniel puppy.

In the photo below the three little Moore girls pose on their parents’ bed in their “clown pajamas” for what became the Moore family’s Christmas card of 1949. They are from left to right, Barbara Ann, 4; Doreen Joyce, 5; and Gayle Irene, 7 .

Moore Girls in Clown pjs-1949The only photo from 1950 that Gayle could find is the below shot of Gayle reading the “funny papers” to Doreen, who would have just started school and probably wasn’t yet able to read them for herself.

Gayle reading to Doreen-1950

 

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.”

Previewing “Twitterpated” As We Celebrate Our Wedding Anniversary

Previewing “Twitterpated” As We Celebrate Our Wedding Anniversary

We’ve just closed a nostalgic celebration of our 13th wedding anniversary with a return to the site where we met in June 2003 at Grace Café on north Henderson Highway in Winnipeg. Though we were seniors then, we are even “more senior” today and Ian is no where near as spry nor talkative as he used to be. In fact, due to mild cognitive impairment, he has forgotten so much of our story that we are super grateful that he shared his memories in writing while he still could. Most of his next memoir, Came to Canada, Eh? Continuing a Scottish Immigrant’s Story was written by 2007, but it hasn’t yet been published. Gayle is presently editing the memoir (and embellishing it here and there as she finds gaps and inconsistencies). She is plugging along as fast as her care giving duties permit. In the meantime, she read parts of the memoir’s last chapter to Ian this afternoon before we drove north to have a lovely meal at our “meeting place.”

Perhaps readers of this blog will enjoy a preview of selected excerpts from  Came to Canada, Eh?‘s chapter entitled “Twitterpated.”

To set the scene, Ian who was widowed in 2002, has decided at age 70 not to sit around and mope but to enjoy life and pursue the dating scene again after almost a 50-year hiatus. He joins a senior’s centre and dances up a storm, dates a few women he has met there and finally has a few unsatisfying encounters through an online dating organization. Then things change when Gayle enters into his life.

Then I thought I’d go for broke and sent a smile to a much younger widow (age 60) who was “religious,” had a professional position and was interested in music, reading, writing, travel, good wine, fine dining, history, conversation, and a lot of other things that interested me. We exchanged a few e-mails, thought we’d be quite compatible and then arranged to meet at a place she suggested. I had originally thought her name was Irene, as that was the handle she used on Lavalife. Just before we were to meet she disclosed that “Irene” was her middle name and that she really was called “Gayle.” While I was sitting in Grace Café, a Christian coffee house at the north part of Henderson Highway, I was kidding around with one of the waitresses. I knew right away when “my Gayle” walked in, even though I’d never seen a photo of her. Just as if this were a casual encounter, Gayle joined in on the chit-chat with the waitress and I, just as casually, invited her to join me.

I told Gayle I’d never been in this coffee house before and asked if she had a recommendation for something good that I could order. She replied, “Why don’t you try a chia tea latte?” (I think I could have drunk anything this very good-looking woman suggested and found it delicious!)

During our ensuing non-stop conversation, I found out that she was the editor of a Christian women’s magazine. (Hey, every writer needs his own editor, doesn’t he?) She seemed intrigued with my accent and asked me lots of questions about Scotland, indicating that her heritage on her father’s side was mostly Scottish. She told me that her maiden name was “Moore” but that she knew little about her father’s background as he had pretty much adapted to the Swedish environment of her mother’s side. She was born and raised in North Dakota (was American, in other words), had a bachelor’s degree in psychology and religion and served as a Lutheran parish worker before marrying her husband, Gus, who was a Lutheran pastor. They had lived 18 years in Germany where Gus was in graduate school and then served as a parish pastor. Then they moved to Winnipeg where he served a Lutheran church before taking an early retirement at age 58 due to early onset Alzheimer’s disease. He had died six years previously at age 62. Presently her two children, a daughter, 26, and son, 21, still lived at home with her.

We ended up closing the café and going in search of somewhere else to continue getting acquainted. We did find another one (Salisbury House), and spent more than an hour and a half there.

I asked Gayle if I could see her “tomorrow night,” and heard her say, “Well, I’m busy tomorrow night…” (just what I was expecting), but was delighted to then hear her say, “But I’m free on Friday.”

~*~

Friday couldn’t have come soon enough for me! We went for a walk along a beautiful creek meandering into the Red River, took pictures of each other and then drove to the Forks and had dinner. We continued to talk and talk and talk.

The next night I invited her to my house to watch a film. (I spent the day cleaning things up–my housekeeping hadn’t been the best up to that point!) The movie I chose was one I had recorded some years before, a Scottish film entitled, “The Bridal Path.” This is a film that Gayle loves to watch nowadays but at the time she said she was really in the dark–could hardly understand a word of the Scottish accent!

Our snogging after the film certainly convinced me that I was head over heels in love and Gayle seemed just as intrigued with me. (Wow, and she didn’t think I was in kindergarten!!!! Interesting how one can act so naturally with some prospective partners and so awkward with others. )

So “here’s us” (I had to get that Scottishism in), two seniors, both widowed, who felt and acted like teenagers and couldn’t have been more thrilled or surprised by it all. Gayle pronounced us both “twitterpated.” She had to explain that one to me, as I had never seen the movie “Bambi” and so didn’t know the story of the two fauns, Bambi and Fayeleen, completely taken with their newly discovered passion and the rabbit Thumper teasing them about being twitterpated. Later I looked up the word online. Here are the definitions:

“1)to be completely enamored with someone/something. 2) the flighty exciting feeling you get when you think about/see the object of your affection. 3) romantically excited (i.e.: aroused) 4) the ever increasing acceleration of heartbeat and body temperature as a result of being engulfed amidst the exhilaration and joy of being/having a romantic entity in someone’s life.”[1] Whew! I’ll buy that; very appropriate word!

~*~

By Sunday, on our fourth date, I couldn’t wait any longer: I proposed! (We both had quickly realized we’d met our “soul mate” and this was a concept I’d poo-pooed for years. Now I understood what it meant!) Gayle immediately said, “yes! I couldn’t have been happier.

The next day my bubble burst, however. Gayle e-mailed me from work. I had sent her something with an attachment and she e-mailed back that she had just realized we weren’t compatible (no more explanation)! I got on the phone and called her office, completely upset. She then laughed and apologized for upsetting me but said that we weren’t compatible because she couldn’t open my attachment–she had a Mac and I had a PC! Then she said that we’d need to have a serious discussion that night. That left me on pins and needles waiting to see what was up.

That evening she explained that she had confided in a good friend, their secretary at work, who had been appalled that she had agreed to marry me after knowing me for only about a week. Gayle said that her friend felt she had to slow things down and withdraw her acceptance of my proposal “for the time being” as we really needed to take a little more time to get to know each other better.

My reaction was, “Okay, I’m not happy about this but I’ll go along with it if that’s what you want. I have just one thing more to say, however. If you decide you want to marry me in the future, you are going to have to ask me. I won’t do it again!”

I’m happy to say that it only took her another week before she proposed to me! And this is how it happened. We had been talking about our mutual talents for writing. I had told her the story of agonizing over the birthday poem I’d written for Mary for her 60th birthday and that Mary hadn’t really appreciated it. Gayle replied that she dearly would have loved to receive such a poem written just for her. In fact, she said, she’d love to receive a love letter from me.

Well, I pulled out all stops the next day and composed a doozy–most of which is a bit too personal (and steamy) to quote here. I’ll just include the conclusion, “I love you; I love you; I love you. Without you I would be nothing. The one thing I know for certain is that we were meant to be with each other. I’m sure you’ll agree that this love of ours has been manufactured by One who cares for both of us, that it was He who made the introduction, then left it for us to make it work. Till we are together again, from your own WEE (I hope ‘adorable’) Scotsman, who worships the very ground you walk on. IAN XXXXXXX———OH GAYLE, MY DARLING, I LOVE YOU SO MUCH IT HURTS!” And I meant every word of it.

A return e-mail shot back indicating that the love letter had worked its magic. Gayle worded her “proposal” in “code,” however. It was something like, “Would you consider joining our two names when we get married (sooner rather than later) to something like “Moore-Morrans?”

Well, I couldn’t reply quickly enough, “I don’t care what name we use, as long as you’ll marry me!” In retrospect, I’d even have dropped “Morrans” and just taken the last name “Moore.” But I didn’t think of that at the time and, anyway, Gayle likes the double-barreled name, which I still find a bit “highfalutin’!”

~*~

The week after we met Gayle invited me to attend worship services at her Lutheran church where she was actually going to deliver the sermon as part of an Evangelical Lutheran Women’s annual service that was one of the programs that Gayle was responsible for at her job. I was intrigued by her obvious talents and curious about the type of service in her particular denomination. This also gave me a unique glimpse into Gayle’s sense of self confidence and “moxey” when, after the service a woman I had got to know at the seniors’ dances came up to me with a quizzical look on her face saying, “What are you doing here, Ian?” She seemed genuinely surprised to find out I was a guest of Gayle’s. Turning to Gayle, she boldly asked, “How long have you been dating Ian?” Gayle’s answer? “None of your business!” (I loved it!)

We had been together every day for about a month, usually at my house where we would have some privacy as her almost-grown children still lived with her. We reluctantly departed late each night as Gayle returned to her home.. . . .

Gayle and I had decided to have a traditional Scottish wedding. Since my Prince Charlie jacket was gone, I needed to get a new formal jacket to go with the kilt. It seemed appropriate to order an Argyll jacket since I’m originally from Country Argyll and the handle I had used when Gayle and I were hooking up on Lava Life was “Argyll.” I located a Scottish-Canadian who had a Scottish shop in the basement of his house. Gayle and I went to his shop so that I could order and be fitted for this jacket which is slightly less formal than the Prince Charlie jacket but which is more versatile, in other words it can be formal, semi-formal or informal depending on the type of shirt, tie and waistcoat one wears with it. It doesn’t have tails and is a longer jacket which has silvery (nickel-plated) Celtic-design buttons on the sleeves and front.

As the shop owner measured me for the jacket he made the remark, “Man, are you ever a Pict!”

Surprised, we both asked, “What do you mean?” I knew that the Morrans family had originally come to Campbeltown from Northern Ireland (my great-great-grandfather). In other words, my family heritage was Celtic. However, they had been in Scotland for several generations so had intermarried with families whose origins might have been in Scotland many centuries. The Picts were the original tribe of people who had populated what eventually became Scotland.

His answer was: “The Celts and the Picts had different body types. You can tell someone of Pictish heritage by the short legs but inproportionately longer torso and arms. That fits you to a tee, Ian.”

So there you have it; I was a Pict more than a Celt. I’m not sure that this has made much difference to me, but it certainly describes why all my trousers have to be shortened to 28 inch-length, but my shirts and jackets are normal length. The Scottish tailor who made my Argyll jacket and mailed it to Canada did a great job. I added a formal tuxedo shirt and black bowtie to complete the outfit. My sealskin sporran, sgian dbuh, green flashes, formal white stockings and black brogues completed the outfit.

Gayle went across from her office on Portage Avenue to a fancy bridal shop. She originally had in mind to buy a red gown to match my red tartan kilt. However, a magnificent, gold lace wedding dress caught her eye. When she insisted I come over to see her in it (and hang tradition), I saw that she was beautiful in it. It suited her to a tee! (I surprised myself by insisting on paying for it; though I still cringe thinking of the thousand dollars it cost! That was pretty painful for this Scotsman!)

We were married on September 7, 2003 at Gayle’s church, Sherwood Park Lutheran, in the East Kildonan area of Winnipeg. Our attendants were friends, Stan  (a Scottish-born Canadian with whom I played in a band at one time) and Alexi  (a lovely friend of Gayle’s). Stan wore a rented kilt and sporran. Alexi wore Gayle’s long kilt skirt and matching cape which she’d bought in Scotland years before.

Gayle likes to relate our preparation for the wedding at her house on Battershill Street. She and Alexi had been treated to a professional make-up session by my oldest granddaughter, Tammy, a makeup artist. Then they got dressed in the master bedroom while Stan and I donned our kilt outfits in the den across the hall. Soon the women heard singing and stomping from the hallway and came out of the bedroom to view a “parade.” Stan and I were marching up and down the hallway singing,

I’ll never forget the day I went and join’d the ‘Ninety third’

The chums I used to run with said they thought I look’d absurd.

As they saluted me, and gather’d round me in a ring,

And as I wagg’d my tartan kilt they a’ began to sing –

He’s a braw braw Hielan’ laddie, Private Jock McDade.

There’s not anither soger like him in the Scotch Brigade.

Rear’d amang the heather, you can see he’s Scottish built,

By the wig, wig, wiggle, wiggle, waggle o’ the kilt.[2]

Calan and Ian, my two grandsons, were ushers; my granddaughters, Tammy and Ainsley were punch servers at the church reception and granddaughter Tiffany presided at the guest book. Our three daughters participated as well. Audrey and Gwynne read the lessons during the church service and Shirley was emcee at the evening reception. All three served as hostesses for the church reception.

We were piped out of the church by a young lass of 15 years to an afternoon reception in the lower church hall with lots of friends and family present. During the festivities, I sang Gayle a Scottish song which she delights to hear any evening we do a little bit of singing.

“Oh, my love is like a red, red rose that’s newly sprung in June.

Oh, my love is like a melody that’s sweetly play’d in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass, so deep in love am I;

And I will love thee still, my Dear, ‘til a’ the seas gang dry.

‘Til all the seas gang dry, my Dear, and the rocks melt wi’ the sun.

And I will love thee still, my Dear, while the sands o’ time shall run.

And fare-thee-weel, my only Love! And fare-thee-weel, a while!

And I will come again, my Love, tho’ ‘twere ten thousand mile!”[3]

This was followed by a smaller reception for family and a few close friends in the Scandinavian Centre. (Gayle likes to keep her Scandinavian roots alive!) That night was a howling success. We had a delicious smörgåsbord (gotta get in those Swedish vowels or Gayle will correct me!) meal and then lots of music provided by friends and family.

To Gayle I sang, “Cailinn Mo Ruin-sa,” a beautiful Gaelic song. Some of the verses (in English) go like this:

“Dearest my own one, oh won’t you be mine,

Full of devotion, so modest and kind,

My heart’s full of longing and yearning for you,

Come close to me darling, you know I’ll be true.”

(I rewrote and combined parts of the next verses to reflect “our story”)

Do you remember when in Grace Cafe

I made your acquaintance on that perfect day,

Since then you are mine dear, the choice of my heart,

My promise I give you that we’ll never part.”[4]

 

Gayle and I concluded the reception by singing a duet, “September Song:”

“Oh, it’s a long, long while from May to December,

But the days grow short when you reach September.

As the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame,

One hasn’t got time for the waiting game.

Oh the days dwindle down, to a precious few–September, November.

And these few precious days, I’ll spend with you.

These precious days, I’ll spend with you.”[5]

This seemed appropriate because we were both “seniors” and Gayle had eventually come around to accept the fact that I was ten and a half years older. She said her late husband had been eight years older than her and she had always said if she ever married again it would be to someone younger than her! Then along came Ian, aged 71 to her 60 years. I made a promise to her then and there that I would live to be 100. I said when my 100th birthday came and I was interviewed by the press as to the secret of my longevity, I’d reply, while leaning on my cane, “SEX, every day; twice on Sunday!”

[1] Definition of “twitterpated” from the Urban Dictionary.

[2] First verse and chorus of Harry Lauder’s “Waggle o’ the Kilt,” written in 1917.

[3] “My Love Is Like a Red, Red Rose” was written by the Scottish bard, Robbie Burns, over two hundred and fifty years ago.

[4] Traditional Gaelic song to a waltz tempo.

[5] “September Song” composed by Kurt Weill with lyrics by Maxwell Anderson. Wikipedia describes it as “an older person’s plea to a younger potential lover that the courting activities of younger suitors and the objects of their desire are transient and time-wasting. As an older suitor, the speaker hasn’t ‘got time for the waiting game.’”

–Previews from Came to Canada, Eh? Continuing a Scottish Immigrant’s Story by Ian Moore-Morrans with Gayle Moore-Morrans, ©2016

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September 7, 2003

A MUSICAL WALL DISPLAY

A MUSICAL WALL DISPLAY

Bedroom Music WallA note to retired musicians: Here’s a way to display musical instruments that may have been played for years, are no longer in use but can still be enjoyed. We’ve included longtime bandsman Ian’s antique trumpet and a chanter used for those who want to practice the bagpipe but not make too much noise as well as a number of percussion instruments Gayle used when keeping time with a ukelele band, including a Celtic bodran and tipper, a hand drum, tambourine, a set of maracas, carved wooden spoons and a rainstick. Also included are photos of Ian posing with a trombone he played in a military and Salvation Army band, playing lead trumpet in a Royal Air Force band in the former Suez Canal Zone, of Gayle with her ukelele band and of us singing duets at a Robbie Burns’ party and as the duo “Okanagan’s Mr. Scotland and His Bonnie Lassie.” Displayed nearby are two trophies Ian won in years gone by for singing Scottish songs.

The crowning piece is the last trumpet Ian still owns. It has been about 12 years since he  gave up playing but Gayle has finally convinced him that he needs to polish up his trumpet, at least for our display. So here he is with a bottle of Brasso and some soft cloths starting on what is going to be a huge task. He found the trumpet years ago in some antique or thrift shop and found out it was made in Winnipeg probably in the early days of the last century. We could hardly see the manufacturer’s etching on the trumpet’s bell but after the initial polishing attempt can read “Premier Williams Winnipeg” and further on down the bell a large number “37”. We’ve heard a few squawks from it so far. Ian’s lip (embouchure) is sorely out of practice! However, we were both pleased that he had awakened an interest in the trumpet again. (Gayle is not going to hold her breath until the trumpet polishing is finished!)

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Ian documents his early years of music making in the Salvation Army and RAF in Scotland, other parts of the UK and in the British military sector of the Suez Canal Zone in Egypt in the early ’50s in his first memoir “From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada.” Gayle is now editing the second memoir “Came to Canada Eh? Continuing a Scottish Immigrant’s Story” where further music making will be documented in Canada. A third memoir, written by both of us entitled “Mexican Follies” tells of the beginnings of our colloboration in music-making and in jointly producing books. Publication plans for that depend on how quickly Gayle gets to the editing. For her, there is never enough time and too many interruptions but little by little she hopes to get to publication again – some day!

Below is an excerpt from “From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada” which tells a comical story about Ian’s attempt to “show off” with his trumpet to his new wife:

The following Saturday night, our dance band was playing at Forres Town Hall. I had been bragging to Mary about the introduction to the song, “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White,” that I played on trumpet, standing up, before the rest of the band joined in. It consisted of the first three notes, then into a big glissando, using the third valve slowly, to go down and then up to the third note again and then continuing right into the melody when the rest of the band joined me. It was just a copy of what a big-time trumpet player (Maynard Ferguson) of that era did. Everyone thought it was very effective, sounding and looking quite professional. So, there I was saying, “Wait ‘till you hear me play!”

Saturday night came and my Mary was sitting at the side of the hall, close to the band, her eyes firmly fixed on “Lover-Boy.” Then it was time for me to shine. I stood up, the first two notes came out correctly, but I have no idea what happened to the bit where I was supposed to do the fancy stuff. I played absolutely terrible! The rest of the band started all right, but I had to sit down with a very red face—even redder than usual! In front of my Mary, too! You know, I must have played that “intro” at least 40 times previously without fail. (That’s what I get for trying to show off, eh?)

Ian playing solo cornet

Ian is playing a cornet in this photo, but about a year or two before his trumpet story above. A cropped version on an RAF photo, ca. 1952.

Bedroom-Ian and Gayle musicmaking photos

AN APRIL SWIM IN PARADISE

Gayle is experiencing a nostalgic evening and needing a break from visiting Ian in hospital (he is recovering well from two mini-strokes or transient aschemic attacks three days ago), preparing for a Saturday moving sale in our garage and back yard and trying to pack a few boxes a day in preparation for our move in May. (Any semblance of having a routine day has vanished for the time being, yet she feels compelled to do a long-overdue post on this blog.) We have sold our house in Vernon, British Columbia, actually move out in three weeks (on May 11th), will have our household stuff put into storage and move in with friends for about 10 days before heading east to Manitoba where we hope to settle once a life-lease apartment (for which we have been on a waiting list) comes available – hopefully by June or July. In the meantime, we plan to drive to northern Manitoba to deliver our dog, Misty, to her new parents, daughter Shirley and son-in-law Brien, visit for awhile and then head south to Winnipeg where we plan to settle. In a way it will be like coming home as that is the city in which we met and married almost 13 years ago.

Nostalgia has been brought on by our choosing to sell some of our Mexican treasures that we accumulated when we maintained a home in Mexico (November 2004-May 2007, with yearly trips back to Manitoba to retain our Canadian residency). It is now early spring here in British Columbia with tulips, magnolias, daffodils, lilacs and fruit trees in full bloom, and still the end of winter in Manitoba. In contrast our first April in Mexico was glorious with a warm, full-blown spring, as we moved from our motorhome into a rental house in Chapala Haciendas, a suburb of Chapala in the mountains of central Mexico on the shores of Lake Chapala, Mexico’s largest lake. Here we became acquainted with new types of flowering plants and trees, a much earlier and warmer spring than either of us had ever experienced and an exotic atmosphere that led to a charmed fascination with all the new experiences we were enjoying. Though Gayle got fully acquainted with Location Writing last summer, now that we think about it, the following piece was an even earlier occasion for Location Writing. Our rental house was a one-and-a-half story brick house, inside and out. We mostly lived on the front veranda and garden surrounding the swimming pool which took up most of the front lawn. You will notice that Gayle refers to Ian as “Scotty,” the name he chose to be known by during our Mexican sojourn. We will start with a slide show to illustrate her story.

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AN APRIL SWIM IN PARADISE

by Gayle Moore-Morrans

With the sun’s rays a bit deflected as the clock nears four, it is finally time for my daily rendezvous with my beloved new pool. I don my orange flowered swimsuit to contrast with the turquoise pool walls and lavish on some sunscreen. My swim shoes await me at the brick steps that surround our upstairs bathtub; but first I need to shake them out in case any wee scorpion has decided to take refugee in one of them. (Thankfully, one hasn’t.) Grabbing my sunglasses and a towel from the clothesline downstairs, I descend from the terrace to the front lawn and down the steps into the pool. Scotty, my husband, has already moved the solar blanket off the water, skimmed the water’s surface with the pool net and turned on the pump so the water is shimmering fresh and turquoise in the sunlight.

My routine begins – ten laps along the length of the pool. Not too impressive when you think the pool is only 16 feet long, but that’s all my metal-laden bones can handle. With a humerus supported inside by a titanium rod, an artificial knee and an ankle held together by plates and screws, I’m proud to be able to do that much kicking and stroking. Then its time to whip out my trusty foam noodles – one fuchsia and one chartreuse. Without them, my pool time would be shorter and much less fun. Spanish practice comes next – cientos agua (100 water) sit-ups with the noodles’ assistance. When I started five months ago I kept track of my sit-ups while counting from uno to diez (1-10) in Spanish, over and over until the counting became rote. Then I graduated to the teens – onze, doze, treze, quatorze, quince, dieseseis, etc. Now its second nature to get from uno to cien (100) and beyond.

Sit-ups done, it’s time to relax and enjoy the surroundings. Fronting the built-into-the-hill pool is a brick wall which I peer over to enjoy the panorama in front of the house. A bright red-headed-and-breasted bird sits on his usual perch on our car window where he visits with and pecks at his reflection. Then he flies to the front gate leading to our driveway, on to the bodega (gardener’s shed) and finally into one of the towering jacaranda trees lining the street. I admire those graceful trees, profuse now in all their springtime glory, blanketed with large grapelike clusters of tiny, light purple trumpet-shaped flowers, their fernlike leaves just beginning to appear.

Beyond the street our hill continues descending into a valley dotted with houses peeping out from swatches of purple from more jacarandas and the dark green of pine and fichus trees. Then the heavily wooded mountains loom at the horizon, still brown from their winter rest but beginning to show patches of green with the promise of an emerald blanket once the rainy season begins in June. Towering over the highest peak is a cluster of telecommunications towers and a clear blue sky broken only by a fading jet stream.

Now my attention turns to my immediate surroundings. Several “critters” attempt to share the pool with me. A few days ago when I first started down the pool steps, I jumped at the sight of a two-inch long scorpion floating by. He (or she) wasn’t alive, though, so I relaxed and watched it sink to the bottom of the pool. Today I decide to check the drain pail at the far end of the pool and, sure enough, “Scorpi” has been drawn into it by the action of the pump. (I ask Scotty to take it out and let it dry so we can add it to the collection of dead scorpions I’m planning to take as souvenirs to my son in Canada.) Another of my more unpleasant swimming companions is the “helicopter-wasps” who buzz around my head from time to time. I’m not sure of their scientific name, but Scotty has given them the helicopter handle because they seem to have revolving antenna on top and long legs that hang down when they are flying, resembling landing gear. (Luckily, they don’t seem to be interested in stinging me, except for the one that got caught in my towel when I was drying myself the other day. The cool water sure felt good on that sting.)

I prefer more pleasant pool companions, although they don’t seem to fare too well in the water. Lovely dragonflies flitter along above me, the occasional one getting too close to the water. As its wings get waterlogged, it struggles to free itself, just getting wetter and in danger of drowning. I come to the rescue, picking it up along with a handful of water and gently toss it to the brick edge of the pool. Its struggles lessen as it feels the solid wall beneath it, but its wings are still too waterlogged to fly. I watch to see how it is drying out and, when the drying seems to take excessively long, swim over to it and gently blow on the wings. Before long, the lovely insect seems to shake itself, flex its wings and take off for another flight. It’s not the only reckless flyer, however; before long I’ve got three other dragonflies recovering on the sides of the pool wall.

Peppy, our wee poodle, strolls down from the terrace to sniff around the pool and watch my antics. I try to coax him in for a swim, but he’s not interested. He’s joined me swimming in a lake in Canada, but I think the steps into the pool are a bit daunting for him. Or maybe he’s decided he’s just too old to swim or, like Scotty, thinks that the water is too cold.

My last daily routine includes floating around on the noodles, exercising my arms and “bicycling” with my legs while checking on the growth and beauty of the plants and trees in the yard surrounding the pool. Two fan palms on the south side provide a lovely bit of shade and an ever-interesting view of their delightful crisscross patterned trunk made from the scars of palm fronds long ago wilted and cut away. I continue to be appalled at the sloppy job the landlady’s son did while painting the pool – the turquoise paint somehow made its way over to the palm trunk, strangely colouring some of those crisscrosses. Surrounding the palms are eight-to-ten-foot tall poinsettia trees, rather scrawny now that their winter blooms have faded and most of the leaves have dropped. They’ll need severe pruning before long, having earned a bit of rest before those barren stalks again produce profuse red, pale pink or white flowers ready for another Christmas. I remember that they are native to Mexico and have a most apt name in Spanish – flor de nochebuena (Christmas Eve flower). I also love to think of the large scarlet poinsettia blooms that covered about a mile of cobble-stoned streets last December when we watched a village parade in honour of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Mexico’s patron saint.

After the poinsettias, a number of very strange looking “skeletons” line the walk going around the south side of our house. These trees are called “frangipani” in English, but in Spanish are known as flor de mayo or mayflower trees. At present they look a bit like giant saguaro cacti with their barren arms sticking out and up, except that they don’t have spikes and their fat leafless stalks are a dull gray colour. I’ve noticed that the ends of each stalk have begun to produce a deep dull reddish and spiky growth, several of which have turned into a circlet of long green leaves with small buds in the center. Apparently, by May these buds will open into delicate, fragrant clusters of small four-petaled pink or white flowers that are often formed into leis. It’s hard to imagine that such an ugly tree will turn into a celebrated beauty in just a few short weeks.

Swimming into the southeast corner, I gaze at the fascinating banana trees. Though rather young and thus not very high yet, one of the trunks has produced a huge, full-grown dull red flower whose large top and bottom petals are slowly curling open, little by little each day. Several days ago the inside of this flower revealed small teeth-like protrusions which have been very gradually turning into larger rows of “teeth” and now today the top row has begun to look like teeny green bananas. I know they will eventually become larger hard green bananas and finally ripe light green and then softer yellow fruits. Surprisingly, the huge bunch of bananas that is finally formed doesn’t hang down as I supposed; instead, it proudly “hangs” upward, just waiting for the picking. Every few days, I ask Scotty to get the camera and record the progress of the flower as it gradually turns into fruit.

Across the cobblestone driveway on the west side of the pool, I enjoy the shade of a towering fichus tree with its huge, gnarled trunk and large, exposed upper roots surrounding several hills of ant debris and a crowded pot of peace lilies which I’m planning to divide into two pots, claiming one for my own. On either side of the fichus, vibrantly-colored bougainvillea vines climb the fence and twine their way into the trees, cascading with lush flashes of purple, violet, crimson, orange, gold, fuchsia, pink, rose and white. Several beds of brilliant, scarlet lilies complete the scene.

After an hour in the water, I’m suddenly feeling a bit cold but do another couple of laps before calling it quits. My swim completed, I climb the steps and take a seat to dry off and warm up in the fading hour of sunlight. My eyes linger on the pots of fragrant blooming rose bushes and flamboyant orange, blue and yellow tufted bird-of-paradise plants that I’ve planted along the brick path around the pool and then onto the lush potted ferns and geraniums along the terrace. This surrounding beauty captivates me anew each day. If April is this gorgeous, I anxiously await the wonders that May and June will bring to my daily dip in this Mexican paradise.