Family Ties


Tomorrow I am attending a weekend-long family reunion. We have not gathered for a reunion in ten years (unless you count weddings, funerals and anniversary parties). At this gathering one of our cousins is going to share some of the information she has dug up about our ancestry. It should be interesting. I’ve always loved hearing old stories about family members. It makes me feel connected to them somehow. I don’t know why that is important to some people and not to others but I’m one of those people who are fascinated by family history.

In preparation for our reunion, I’ve typed out some memories from my aunt about her grandparents. I learned some interesting tidbits while typing. One thing that made me snicker a little was our Scottish ties. I have always thought we were mostly Irish and English but it turns out we have quite a line of Scots in our blood. It made me giggle a little because John and I have recently gone to see the Pixar movie, Brave (which we really enjoyed) but now I picture my Scottish ancestors as characters from that animated film.

My great grandfather told my aunt the story of how his grandmothers cousin, Rory McLellan was a well known athlete who competed in the Highland Games. The story goes that while competing (in either the kyber toss or hammer toss) his throw went farther than the watching crowd had anticipated and accidentally hit and killed a spectator. He would never compete again.  A sad story for all involved and yet I can’t help but visualize the man as an animation. This is how I envision Rory to look (only with two legs):

Someone named Bonnie Kathleen really shouldn’t be surprised by her Scottish ancestry I suppose. Just like someone named John Johnson (pronounced Yawn Yawnson in Norway) shouldn’t be surprised by his Norwegian ancestry. And this also struck me as funny because the Scots and the Norsmen have had their battles and yet here we are happily united.  It all begins to make sense to me now…John (who likes everyone usually) has mentioned over the years that he doesn’t care for this actor or for that actor and one day I realized that all of these actors had one thing in common. They all had red hair! I think it’s the Norwegian warrior coming out in him. He has a deep seeded desire to defend his land from those red headed Scots. He can’t help himself, it runs deep. And yet here he has blindly gone and married one! I will have to keep my eye on him this weekend to be sure he doesn’t go and kick a ginger when he thinks no one is watching. 😉

I will update you next week if I learn of any interesting family secrets. Who knows, maybe my favourite singer Sarah McLachlan and I share some DNA.

 

 

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Road Trip Down Memory Lane


I hadn’t been on the Hope Princeton Highway in years, maybe even as far back as 36 years ago. (And that’s amazing because I’m only 34 years old – 😉 )

We were traveling from Seattle to Penticton on our way back from Florida and although it probably took us longer it was worth it for the scenery.  More than that though, it transported me back to a different time.  When I was a kid I used to travel that road with my parents to visit my grandparents.  Nothing made me happier than going to visit my grandparents, so this trip down memory lane was very pleasant.

Driving the Hope Princeton, which hasn’t changed a bit, had me transported back to a time when I was lying stretched out in the back of my dad’s Buick Le Sabre.  No seat belt or car seat required; this was the seventies.  My brother hadn’t been born yet so I had the whole back seat to myself. There was a lot of room in those big old beasts.  I would lie down on my back with my head on my pillow cozy under my blanket.  We would usually leave really early in the morning and I was encouraged to sleep for some of the way but I was always far too excited to sleep.  Instead I loved to watch the mountain tops and trees go by.  On one trip John Denver’s Rocky Mountain High was playing on the radio just as we were leaving Hope. The perfect song for driving the Crows Nest Highway which I believe is its proper name.

As we passed through Keremeos a whole new set of memories started to flood in.  Memories of driving between Keremeos and Penticton with my grandparents. I used to spend my summers with them.  My grandfather’s father lived in Keremeos and so we would visit every couple of weeks.  My great grandfather and his wife had fruit trees in their yard and I was allowed to climb them and eat my fill, which I did, which would trigger a stomach ache, which would have me swearing I’d never do that again, which would be forgotten about the very next time I visited.

While we drove along that road suddenly I was seven again and sitting between my grandparents in their yellow pick up they named Buttercup.  I noticed that my knees were still a little dirty even though I scrubbed them in the bath before we left.  My knees never came entirely clean in the summer.  The windows were open but it was hot and the air was filled with the sweet smell of my grandfather’s Old Sail pipe tobacco mixed in with my grandmother’s home-rolled Cameo cigarette smoke.  Buttercup had a tartan bean bag ashtray on the floor beside the gear stick and on the dash a Smokey the Bear figurine stared down at me declaring that “Only you can prevent forest fires!”  Conflicting messages to be sure.

We were oblivious that (by today’s standards) we were living on the edge, driving without seat belts and inhaling noxious smoke but I couldn’t have been happier.  Ignorance really is bliss.

I miss those carefree days, I miss my grandparents but I’m happy to be creating great new memories right now, everyday. Now I’m going outside to work in the yard and get my knees dirty.  The way they should be at this time of year.

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What’s your favorite memory of a Grandparent?

Happy Father’s Day to all the Wonderful Father’s and Grandfather’s out there!  Enjoy your day!

Tracy’s Take~

Tracy's Grad with NanaWhat’s your favorite memory of a Grandparent or Grandparent figure in your life Ladies?

My favorite memory of my Nana who is my Dad’s Mom was going to her house on New Years Day.   Nana and Jean, her companion would host New Years Day dinner and the entire Westerholm family would attend.

Nana had stockings hung from her fireplace for everyone overflowing with fun gadgets we all loved to play with.  She always found really unique things you didn’t find in the regular stores like 2 inch x 2 inch cameras or boxes that were puzzles.  My stocking always had a new Barbie bursting out of the top!

Within minutes of being there one of us would distract Nana while the other went straight to the heat thermostat to knock it back from 140 degree’s to a mild 85.  She would figure it out soon enough and we would be right back into the Arizona desert within the hour but it was a fun challenge.  Next stop the fudge dish, Jean made fudge to die for, no one else has EVER even come close. There was the smell of Jean’s turkey in the oven with mash potatoes and gravy.  If Jean hadn’t been there we’d all be eating P B & J sandwiches, Nana’s specialty and favorite.  It was what family was to me being there with my Aunt and Uncle and Cousins.  I loved the Chaos of everyone talking and having fun.  It was never boring.  I miss those times and love the memories!

Jacquie’s 2 cents~

jacquieI only really knew one of my four grandparents, my dad’s mother, Agnes Janzen.   Her husband, my grandfather John, died when my dad was a pre-teen.  My mom’s dad lived in Australia and her mother made England her home so there wasn’t much bonding that went on there.

Gramma Janzen was a gem, though, and was the quintessentially perfect grandmother.  She always had fresh baking on hand, was always up for a game of scrabble ( though she sometimes bent the rules. Very competitive lady) and she was a wonderful listener.  She was already quite elderly when I came from Australia so I only knew her as a smiling, white-haired cuddly, slow-moving old person who seemed to really like having us around for visits.

My most profound memory is of a short conversation I had with her when I was 18.  I was venting about the fact that some of my old high school friends had made disparaging comments about my having an Asian boyfriend (now my husband of 24 years ).  She said that in a couple of centuries all races will be mixed and that will no longer be an issue and the world will be a better place for everyone.  I was stunned to hear such a thoroughly modern ideal come from such a conservative, old-fashioned looking woman.  It really made me realize how little I knew about her.

She was all about love and family and good meals.  She passed away three years later, the same night my dad told her I had just become engaged.  I was living in Toronto at the time and so I didn’t see her at the end but I was told she was very happy for me ~ and I truly believe she was.    Here’s to you, Gramma!

Bonnie’s 2 cent’s~

Bonnie's PostI have so many wonderful memories of my grandparents on my mothers side that I don’t know where to begin.  We were always very close which I believe stemmed from the fact that I lived with them when I was a baby.  Strong bonds were formed early and remained always.  The relationship I had with my grandfather and the influence he had on my life was very special to me.  I’ve just shared some of those stories in my last post, so today I am going to share some memories of my grandmother.

Bonnie's Grandma

My grandmother with me and my cousin on her lap

One of the first things that comes to my mind when I think about my grandmother is her laugh.  She had a really great giggle and she found  humour in so many things.  I can still hear her laughing out loud and slapping her thigh.  That memory in itself will always make me smile.

My grandma was one of those people who understood the joy of play and would get right down at my level to join me in all kinds of different play.  She found the fun in these simple things.  One of her greatest gifts to me was to help me learn to read at only 5 years old.  It really gave me a boost when I started school.  She bought me a subscription to receive a new Dr.Seuss book every month.  I’m still a HUGE Dr.Seuss fan by the way.

One year I went to spend the summer with them and she had all kinds of adventures planned for us.  When we found old cow skulls on their property she encouraged me to pretend we were archaeologists  finding dinosaur bones.  She demonstrated the danger of cactus by blowing up a plastic bag and popping it on the sharp needles.  She “helped” me build a tree fort which remained dangerously intact for many years.  If I so much as licked the spoon after she made cookies she would tell everyone that I helped her make them and would brag about what a great help I was.  During my summer stay each night she and I would sit together and she would ask me to describe my day to her and then she would write down in my own words everything I said.  It was my first journal and I cherish it to this day.

Grandma and Bonnie

My favourite picture of us together

I miss her so much but I’m forever grateful for having had her in my life while I did.

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My Grandfather

Bonnie's Post“Poppie” was the result of my very young attempt to say “grandpa” – and it stuck.  I was the first born grandchild and my predecessors agreed the name was right by them too.

I was only a few months old the day we met so I don’t remember the encounter but my mother has told me it was an awkward meeting.  Not for me, but for her father and for herself.  My mother was young, un-married with a baby, and moving home after fleeing an abusive relationship with my biological father.When my grandfather arrived to pick us up it was the first time he’d seen my mother in months and the first time he’d ever seen me.  He was not impressed with the situation and was trying to remain gruff and uninterested in me.  Apparently as they drove home silently I must have been in a very good mood because I couldn’t sit still or stay silent.  I bounced around while my mother tried to keep me still and I babbled baby talk directly to my grandfather. I knew he adored me.  He just didn’t know it yet and I wanted to get our relationship going!  When he finally couldn’t resist and glanced my way – I had him!  It was the beginning of a long loving relationship we shared.

I lived with my grandparents along with my mother on and off for the first five years of my life.  And I loved it!  I was the center of attention for not one but three adults who delighted in my every move.  How great is that!

Some of my fondest memories are when I would “work” beside my grandfather.  My grandmother would sell it to me.  She would tell me that my helping him with certain jobs was very important. “He couldn’t have done it without me” she’d say and I just ate it up.  I couldn’t wait to go to work with him.  He always gave me certain jobs to do and it made me feel very responsible.  This is huge when you are still so young.

Working with my grandfather Working along side my grandfather

My mother went away to get married the summer I turned seven.  I stayed with my grandparents.  When she and my new dad returned from their honeymoon I was excited to see them both and ran around showing off and acting silly.  My father and my grandfather stood talking while I was running around like a banshee.  My grandfather told me to settle down but I ignored him…and then I lost my footing and came crashing down.  I think I was more embarrassed than hurt but I cried loudly and dramatically and then ran to my new dad for comfort.  Not my grandfather.  Years later, when I was an adult, Poppie told me how that almost broke his heart, but he said he knew it was right.  He was at once sad that he had been replaced, and happy that I clearly loved my new dad.Poppie on his horse

I was the last in our family to see Poppie alive.  He was eighty five and in the hospital for surgery that should have been straight forward and not life threatening.  My grandmother had passed away only two months earlier and I think much of his will to go on went with her.  While I visited him at the hospital he was bleeding internally but nobody realized it.  He was supposed to be transferred to another hospital for more surgery the next day.  He was very uncomfortable and in a great deal of pain.  After a short visit he said he didn’t like me to see him like that. “You should go now” he said.  I hated to see him suffering and was a bit relieved that he suggested I go.

I gave him a kiss and hugged him goodbye.  When I reached the door I stopped and turned around.  “See you in the other place” I said.  He smiled and nodded.  He died that night.

I can’t explain the kind of strong bond we shared.  It’s beyond words.  I’m  still aware of his influence in my life today and I feel comfort knowing I’ll see him in “the other place” one day.

Bonnie

I'll always look up to you

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What is a Grandparent?

I was having my Girlfriends gab session with Kelly my Hairstylist/Girlfriend and we started to talk about Grandparents.  She summed it up beautifully.

“A Grandparent is someone who will take time out of their day to make glue!” ~Kelly

Isn’t that just the truth!  I have been hearing inspiring stories lately about Grandparents who do just that and are remembered for it everyday.

I recently did a post Love is Forever… by Lawrence Thomas who also has written a beautiful book about his Grandparents I Remember December.

Vilma Jensine AndersenAfter reading Lawrence’s story it made the memories of my Nana flood my thoughts with our time spent together.  Vilma Jensine Andersen.  She was the Best Nana anyone could ever ask for.  She spent time with me.  Which is all grandchildren really want when it comes down to it.   I spent a  lot of time with my Nana and enjoyed every single moment of it!  She was an independent woman who lived her life authentically!  She was a single mom raising two boys while making a living as one of the first women Bus Drivers in Vancouver.

She never judged me even when I might have given her reason to.  She accepted me for who I was and I loved her deeply.  She is still a big part of my life although her role has changed from Nana to Angel.  My kids and I are certain she changes red lights to green for us when we are running late.  Shortly after she passed, my daughter at the innocent age of 3 said to me “Do you think Nana is looking up at us smiling?”  I laughed out loud while replying ” I hope she is looking down at us!”  That was when my daughter began her release of all helium balloons to Nana so she too could enjoy them, a 3 year old way of saying hello to the Angel in the sky.

Jj & Nana Nunu

My Nana was a pack rat and for kids that is pure heaven!  Her basement was a maze of pathways that were heaped to the ceiling with cool nick knacks we got to go poke through.  My brother Chris always led the way.  We had such fun.  As soon as we arrived at her house and had our Nana hug and kiss and a piece of fudge, we asked politely if we could go down to the basement.  Yes was always the answer.

She was every little girls dream, a Barbie collector!  She had tons of them and they were on display in party mode on top of her piano every time we went for a visit.  It was one of many hobbies she loved that we could share.  She had every Barbie accessory available to girl-kind so I was in Barbie heaven.  Now my daughter has carried on the Nana hobby and plays with them with her in mind.  My Nana had the greatest sense of humor as well.  My Dad used to put her Barbie display into, lets just say uncompromising positions.  One time she had an Insurance man come to her home to renew her policy.  She told us she thought he was such a nice man who seemed really interested in her Barbie collection.  She hadn’t noticed until the man left what my Dad, her son, had done.  She laughed at the thought of what he must have been thinking as he did her renewal.  She checked them every time he left from that day on.

When I sit and think of her I can still smell her skin when she leaned in for a kiss and snuggle, it was fresh loose powder.  She had her powder compact sitting in the bathroom which I would try as soon as I locked the door behind me.  She always looked so pretty and put together to me from her lipstick to her beautiful scarf wrapped gently around her collar.

When Nana couldn’t keep herself safe at home independently anymore we had no choice but give her the help she needed in a home.  She hated that she was not independent but she settled in after time.  She had the company of my other Grandmother so she had a slice of history with her.  I loved my Grandmother Jeannie Robertson too but unfortunately I did not spend the time with her as I did with Vilma so my memories are with Vilma mostly.

Tracy & Nana at GradWhen your growing up and have time with your Grandparents it is a gift that not every child receives.  I am so blessed to have had the time I did with my Nana because she is part of who made me the person I am today.  She was a strong, independent woman who could survive on her own.  She was a giver not a taker.  She made my childhood that much more memorable which I am grateful for.

My Nana had Alzheimer’s in her later years so you had to remind her kindly every so often who you were and how you were related, but it was worth it for the moments she did recognize you.  My last visit with her before her passing she said to me ” You haven’t changed since you were 12 years old”  I still cry when I think of those words because when I was with my Nana I was still 12 !  I miss her terribly and love her with all my heart and soul.  I can only hope I will be as wonderful a Nana as she was to me!

If your kids don’t have Grandparents who live close by there are Grand-Parents out there who would love to enrich your child’s life.  I came across this site that looks interesting.

Grandparents.com

Surrogate Grand-parents

Tracy

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