This picture of my Mum and me isn’t very good, but it’s one of my favourite ones, taken just a few years before dementia started stealing her away from us. She was a poet and a story-teller throughout her life – now it’s time to share both.
A tribute to Agnes Knowles, Sr. – 07 May 1917 – 03 April 2010
I left Manchester Airport Wednesday morning, September 18th, 1946 to travel via Paris, Shannon, Gander and New York. This was only four months after seven years of World War II. Our connection in Paris – Orly Airport was not available until Friday morning – planes in those days were just beginning to think about flying a load of passengers and baggage across oceans. They were either new ones that didn’t have any airmiles under their belt, or ex-warplanes that were being refurbished to carry paying passengers.
In 1938, my Mum turned 21.
In her life, at that time, it was a magic number. She was finally allowed a key to the house; her mother had to discuss how much of Mum’s pay packet she was allowed to commandeer; she had to be taken seriously now.
Mum, however, had plans of her own. She found a government job being advertised in London that offered her a decent salary and a pension. She was a quarter of an inch too short so she inhaled deeply during the measurement process and put on her most charming demeanor. She made it.
The job? Wardress at Holloway Prison, one of the largest women’s prisons in Europe at the time. About that height issue? When she inhaled deeply, Mum was a towering 5’2”.
Sam was my father, and the sanctity of his bugle was probably one of the first lessons I ever learned. They (we) ended up on an Air Force station on Northern Vancouver Island (Holberg) and, as a civilian, my Dad was made a member of the Corporals’ Club. His age and war experience commanded him some respect and no one messed with him and The Bugle on Remembrance Day.
This poem by Mum was a tribute. Read it now…
As the crunch of heavy feet on hard-packed snow warned of the caller at least two minutes prior to the drumbeat on the door, I made a fast mental survey of possible visitors.
The milkman had made his rounds before lunch; the Legion boys had seen me splitting stovewood the day before and assured themselves that I had enough to last through the bitter cold snap; my husband was five hundred miles away at the Veterans’ Hospital; there was no resident minister in the district.
Shuddering at the thought of facing those thirty-five below zero degrees, I hesitated long enough for the caller to make his second onslaught. That was enough! Better to face the cold than have the baby awakened.
I opened the inside door and peered through the glass of the storm door. At first, all I could see was a snow-covered parka and a red nose; then, as the head raised and the eyes met mine, I recognized the face of the local constable of the British Columbia Provincial Police.
“Keep a thing seven years and you’ll find a use for it.”
That was Dad’s favorite cliché whenever he added to the ever-growing pile of odds and ends in a dark corner of the stable. Today, thanks to his example, I probably rank among the top ten on the “Compulsive Hoarders” list. But when I can’t find room in the cupboards, on the desk, under the beds, or behind the chesterfield for my latest acquisition, it becomes a major heart-rending operation to effect a solution.
One of those crises arose last weekend, when my younger son proudly presented me with the first product of his latest hobby – a large bowl, hand-carved from the burl of a red cedar tree. If only it had been about four inches in diameter there would have been no problem – filled with bobby-pins it would fit on the dressing-table. However, following the contours of the burl to perfection, this bowl measured eighteen inches.