Down memory lane
For the past several days I’ve been working my way through three large cartons of family memorabilia, some of which I have never seen before. My mother must have been the initiator. Among the souvenirs is her mother’s teaching certificate from 1910. Another sign my mother was the original keeper is that the boxes contain every letter I ever wrote to my parents beginning in 1963 from Western, through my first job in Toronto, time in Ottawa and up to 1980 when I was at Maclean’s. That was the year she died. My father must have held on to everything, but added little, before his death in 1996. The next generation added photos, report cards and artwork among other items, but I never before realized the extent of the collection.
The revelations include letters exchanged by my parents in the 1930s before they were married. My mother was working for a drug wholesaler in Toronto, my father for Canadian Gypsum in Guelph. They dated as early as 1931 according to a supper club menu they both signed. There are also letters from another admirer my mother stopped seeing in 1933. Still, it wasn’t until 1940 that my father finally popped the question. There is no explanation why it took so long. Maybe he was just saving up his money living in a boarding house in the midst of the Depression. In one letter, he points to a university friend working at Eaton’s who was complaining about having no prospects and making only $20 a week.
I also was reminded of a few things about myself that I had forgotten. When I was press secretary for Robert Stanfield I wrote to my parents in March 1974 saying that the minority government of Pierre Trudeau wasn’t going to last much longer and there would likely be a July election. “Win or lose,” I said, “I’m getting out. Three-and-a-half years is long enough in a job like this.” There was indeed a July election. Stanfield lost; I left. We’ll never know what I would have done had he won.
And that leads to some lessons about life. Everything happens for a reason. If my parents had married earlier would I have been born? More obvious, you grab your opportunities when they come. And pick yourself up when you fall. Looking back, one experience seems to inexorably lead to another as if there were a plan. Would you have wanted to know what that plan was at the time? I think not.