I took liberties, borrowing this title…Grateful Dead’s title for a tune on their album, American Beauty. My brother was listening to Grateful Dead and Gregg Allman (RIP), when I was listening to Three Dog Night and Gordan Lightfoot.
Over the years, I’ve kept some excessively sentimental journal entries, scattered, some in notebooks and some typed up. I’ve belonged to Brat Newsgroups and followed writing by other children of military fathers. An excellent novel is based on a very similar life experience during the Cold War: Anne-Marie Macdonald’s Where the Crow Flies.
In The Way the Crow Flies, Ann-Marie MacDonald takes us back to the early 1960’s, a time of optimism infused with the excitement of the space race and overshadowed by the menace of the Cold War–-a world filtered through the imagination of Madeleine McCarthy, a spirited nine-year-old. Unaware that her father, Jack, is caught up in his own web of secrets, she at first welcomes her family’s posting to a sleepy air force base in southern Ontario.
The base, however, is home to some intriguing inhabitants, including the unconventional Froehlich family, and the odd Mr. March, whose power over the children is a secret burden that they carry. Then tragedy strikes, and a local murder intersects with global forces, binding the participants for life. As tension in the McCarthy’s household builds, Jack must decide where his loyalty lies, and Madeleine learns about the ambiguity of human morality–a lesson that will become clear only when the quest for the truth, and the killer, is renewed twenty years later.
As Father’s Day approaches and I’m thinking a lot about Dad and my family, but especially Dad, I’m putting together a bit of a reflection. I am proud of my Dad. I’m also pleased, in looking back, that I lived what I imagine is an unusual life, with very unique experiences. As you dwell a bit on your father, you will think the same. I’ve snapped some photos of bits and pieces and put them in chronological order here. The writing is sappy and poorly executed for the most part, but, I’m glad that I’ve documented some things.
Sherbrooke, Quebec and my parents met and fell in love. My parents knew and loved the Fortier family. We made trips to visit my Gramma and Grampa once we moved away. I remember my Grandmother’s home and her gardens.
Falconbridge, Ontario (Sudbury)
Ste. Sylvestre, Quebec…50 miles from Quebec City. Brutal winters with banks of snow up to the tops of our windows. The birth of my brother, Stuart. Playing in a creek bed some distance from the house. Back yard clotheslines. Mom, alone, a lot. I watched my mother sew the dress that she is wearing in the photograph below. I remember it.
Ste. Margaret’s, New Brunswick...some miles from Chatham.
I guess we didn’t have a camera to snap photographs in Ste. Margaret’s in New Brunswick. I haven’t any archive for this period, apart from a few bits of ephemera. An old fashioned bell rung outside of the school for my kindergarten and grade one year. I remember my coat hook. I remember faking that I could play the notes on my recorder. I remember secretly loving Holmer Berthiaume. I remember clam digging and clam chowder. I remember neighbourhood fun. And, my brother, Cliff, was born. I broke my collar bone.
Battle Creek, Michigan
North Bay, Ontario…three different postings and some very special years. The dock, Chief Commanda, Expo ’67 and a field trip to Montreal, Winter Carnivals, fishing…
Trout Lake, Cabin stays and learning to play Cribbage, Mr. Carlin and the first inkling that I loved art, hiking through the gully, Gus.
My sister, Val, was born.
I have reconnected with many of the people in this photograph over the years. Social Media has been a blessing for Military ‘Brats’.
On I went, during our second posting, to Widdifield High School, grade nine. My friends were lunch time friends, including Kathleen and Susan. Debbie Harris took the bus with me to Hornell Heights. We were walking-to-school friends. I have since, lost her. Later in life, I painted Miss Mitchell, the librarian, and the Library Club, using a photograph in the 1969 Pendulum as a reference.
I treasured, most, my time in the art room. I still have some of my sketches from that time. I reconnected with David Carlin some years ago as he had an exhibit in Callandar when I was on one of my Trans Canada migrations.
Great Falls, Montana for Grade 10, 11 and 12. Ramona and I have done well to stay in touch all of these years.
The thing about military people is that they DO have attached to them, many group photographs and records. I will spare you this collection, but for the sake of my family members, I have photographed Dad’s collection and accessed several that he did not have from on-line research. If ever you want these, please be in touch.
Dad, you mean the world to me. I’m grateful for your love.