Today is Remembrance Day in Canada to honour the men and women who have served, and continue to serve Canada during times of war, conflict and peace. We wear poppies in remembrance, symbolizing that those who died in service will never be forgotten. At 11AM, all is stopped for a minute of silence in honour of those who served. Due to the pandemic, there will be less in-person events to commemorate Remembrance Day, however no less honoured.
This is also a day of remembrance of my best-friend, Rhonda, since I was a toddler. Today would have been her 55th birthday. She passed away from cancer just shy of her 50th birthday. In honour of her, I am re-publishing a personal essay I wrote. Two years after the loss of Rhonda, my brother, at 55 years old, passed away from cancer, too. He is also honoured in the essay.
As I get older, I am realizing the importance of remembering and finding ways to leave behind stories of ourselves for our future generations. This can be done through writing a polished memoir, but also through journalling, essays, quilting, scrapbooking, painting…even day timers. I have my late grandmother’s 3 x 3 black leather notebook that includes dates of her visits to her daughter in the hospital after she received the first successful kidney transplant. Seeing even my grandmother’s handwriting is a remembrance of her I cherish. Those things you craft, or write, or take pictures of may seem not significant, however they may become as cherished a memory as a poppy on Remembrance Day. Keep doing your craft. It matters.
One summer when I was small, a ladder appeared against a corner piece of fence that separated my backyard from Rhonda’s, my best-friend. I saw the silver top of another ladder on Rhonda’s side of the fence. That ladder was taller than the one in my yard so I had to swing my leg high over the fence to reach the rungs on the other side. When journeying back over to my side, I’d turn backwards, balancing my tummy against the wood, and stretch my leg blindly until my foot reached the top step of my ladder. I learned early that flip flops were not the shoe of choice to climb ladders. Sometimes a pair of flip flops would be in my hands and bare-footed I navigated the hot metal steps between my backyard’s and Rhonda’s.
I don’t know whose idea it was or remember who it was that added these ladders that linked my backyard with Rhonda’s. I do remember my mother, years later, telling me she’d once found me half way to Rhonda’s house after my three-year old self wandered out my front door. And she told me too, about the later times when I was five years old and she received a morning call from Rhonda’s mom to let her know I was safe at Rhonda’s house, pajama- dressed and shoeless. This all must have been before the appearing ladders.
I don’t remember wanderings to Rhonda’s. Mom is gone so I cannot ask her more. I do remember Rhonda’s favourite breakfast of crust-less buttered toast. I thought it very special, to eat bread with the crust cut-off. I wonder if I ate Cheerios before I wandered over to Rhonda’s. I do remember floating Cheerios in milk, and my brother, Mark, beside me eating his cereal in our kitchen then. I can’t ask him either about my wanderings to Rhonda’s since he is gone too. At my last visit with Mark, he nibbled on a crust-less sandwich while the sound of distant chimes came from his open hospice window.
I was too late to see Rhonda in hospice.
Rhonda had the prettiest baby doll pajamas. I felt big around her but she was smarter. Her house had four big rooms on the main level—the living room where we made card houses and the family room where we watched cable television, the kitchen, and the dining room with tables bigger than the one at my house even though my family was bigger. I had four older siblings compared to her two however, a big space of nine to twelve years in ages is between the three eldest and I. I remember dinners in our kitchen, a small gathering most often, with my mom and Mark, and a plate of food in the oven kept warm for my dad.
I don’t remember when the ladders were taken down. Maybe it was months before leaving to move west- my parents, Mark and me. Both my parents are gone now along with Rhonda and Mark; my memories behind fences only I’m left to climb.
I miss those ladders.
What are some things you do that you will leave behind? What encouragement would you give to someone who thinks their craft has no value?
Are you looking to give Hope to someone this Christmas?