Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Some things that influence me during my formative years...

Formative Years

Birth – Born 5 August after 6 extra weeks gestation, with umbilical cord wrapped around my neck, by Cesarean section; bottle fed with Carnation evaporated milk.

Age 1– Father, aged 32, decapitated when exiting vehicle in a snowstorm at a railway crossing, when confronted by an oncoming train; played in playpen made from wood planks, large enough for an adult to recline in.

Age 2– Daycare provided by grandparents, Icelandic settlers to the Interlake that did not speak English; became bilingual, learned to write with pen and ink – first letter: T.

Age 3 – Companion to my grandfather while planting the garden with potato pieces, sharpening tools in barn, drinking with buddies – was the camouflage to prevent discourse/reprimand on evils of drink by grandmother, singer of sagas; mother remarried.

Age 4 – Moved to small village of 600 people into a white, rented house; played in coal bin – fuel for house. Sister born prematurely; we started being cared for by a Polish nanny. Went to kindergarten, learnt about and delighted in using hands in flour paste to make art. Friends with first love, Ernie.

Age 5 – Moved to newly built house on river in same village; boated in container for mixing plaster on flooded fields. Saw Rodin at Winnipeg Art Gallery, and escorted from premises when found stroking statue’s penis; started making forts in river willows. Fed my sister black chalk, to see what would happen, and waited.

Age 6 – Witnessed step-father, planner, (vodka) and grandfather, builder, (rum) reciting poetry while playing chess, each intoxicated; observer of project development and completion: landscaping, breezeway, interior waterfall, plant conservatory. Saw first movie – ‘Swiss Family Robinson’, with mother - cost: 25 cents; started piano lessons. Constantly ill with 'childhood diseases - mumps, measles, rubella, whooping cough; read Nancy Drew books and learned to love to colour with Crayola crayons.

Age 7 – Spent school year with teacher that was cruel; spent many hours at principal’s office after being ‘strapped’. Grandparents were care givers during holidays when parents went on exotic holidays; given loose change to placate spirit. Learned to skate, and participated in winter carnivals with hair coiffed with rags into ringlets – got first ‘Barbie’, a clone – Oleg Cassini doll. Witnessed mother’s desolation after after death of 4th child, a brother who died hours after birth – saved from immediate death by breathing device designed and employed by step-father.

Age 8 – Was tortured in school with yardstick smacks, writing ‘lines’ and holding encyclopedias with arms outstretched - always had name in ‘black book’; “Strapping” was abolished; watched grandfather save house during brush fire. Played in mountain of sand dropped on neighbour’s yard. Watched mother ‘Roto-till’ and plant garden, feed it fertilizer; watched kingfishers and sandpipers on the riverbed flats; crossed footbridge over river. Drew murals of the Amazon.

Age 9 – Grandfather died of tetanus after amputating toe in lawnmower (he laughed walking to the hospital across the lawn for treatment) – nurse did not administer tetanus shot; grandmother sold house and moved to apartment above a store; started organ and ballet lessons; saved from step-father’s belt beatings at home by dog, an overweight golden lab named Bunsy; started to be administered Dial soap after swearing at parents.

Aged 10 – Learned to love science. Wanted to be a nuclear physicist; bought taxidermy animals from teacher. Won public speaking prize; won 4-H photography demonstration prize. Learned to volunteer through mother’s activities – Women’s Hospital Auxiliary, School Board trustee. Caught on fire while burning garbage in the incinerator – rolled to stifle fire. Began to cut grass for 3 hours a day every summer on a Toro sit-down mower.

Age 11 – Suffered loss of hearing from multiple ear infections while learning to swim off docks where boats dumped raw sewage. Wrote poems on top of parents’ roof, at the riverside while sitting on concrete slaps that were dumped to prevent flooding of the river – trees along the embankment had been removed to ‘beautify’ the village. Wrote a poem for the teacher at the end of school – he cried.

Work in progress

Trials of leading...

Either I know where I am going, or I don't. This is the first time in living memory that I am at a carrefour for months. Disconcerting.

However, some work is being produced...