Write it Now

Growing up Normal

win badge I’ve decided to continue to intersperse my photo focus with writing –  short excerpts from the volumes I’ve written.  Comments and feedback welcome.

I think of my growing up as being “normal” … but, of course, I see now that my “normal” is not anyone else’s “normal”.  To me it was normal because all my friends were growing up the same way.   All of us had mothers that were there when we came home from school … except Wendy two doors down whose mother worked … what was it like coming home from school to an empty house?   We were all two parent families … except Mrs. Brooks across the road who was raising two sons on her own … how would I feel if Dad didn’t come home every night? All our neighbours had two children … except the McFarlane’s who had eight … how did they all get along and where did they all sleep?

When people learn I grew up in Quebec they say, “Oh, you speak French?”  But I tell them, alas, no, I grew up in an English enclave … at that time there was only the one French family in our entire neighbourhood.   That was normal.

The four of us lived in a comfortable three bedroom bungalow – a wood fireplace in the living room where we sometimes popped popcorn; a finished basement where we could entertain our friends, and a separate dining room where we ate, even breakfast – we never ate in the kitchen.  Although it was large enough, the space by the front window where the dinette would sit if we’d had one was always left empty.   Dad doled out a weekly allowance:  25¢, raised to 50¢, and by the time I was a teenager I received $1.00.   Summers were spent at a lake, somewhere, and Christmas vacations were spent skating – Mum helped me on with my skates lacing them tightly, and Debby and I hobbled to the rink by the club house.  There we glided and twirled through figure eights for hours, fancying ourselves to be the next Barbara Ann Scott.

Aunts and uncles didn’t participate in my upbringing and I didn’t know my cousins well.  We rarely had family gatherings, except at Christmas and then only with Mum’s side of the family – her parents, and two surviving brothers – Uncle Doug and his family, and Uncle Howard, a lifelong bachelor. I have nine cousins but we never got all together.   Dad’s parents and brother lived in Hamilton, too far away. His two sisters lived in Montreal, but our only visits with them were during  the Christmas season delivering presents for my cousins, engaging in some polite chat, and sipping a drink before departure.   I guess that’s why Dad so often asked me as an adult if I had called my sister recently – encouraging us to keep in touch and stay friends. (Which worked, Dad – we imagine you looking down on us and being pleased with our closeness.)

The drive home from Granny Laird’s on Christmas night was magical. All the businesses along the Cote de Liesse decorated huge Christmas trees.  As tired as I was after the festivities of Christmas day, I stayed awake to see them, my nose pressed to the car window in anticipation of the majestic trees lit with coloured lights twinkling like a rainbow of stars in the darkness. And then, on the other side of Cote de Liesse was an orphanage and on every passing I wondered about the lives of the children within its walls.

So, normal was a home with both parents together, a working Dad, a Mum who was always there but no extended family;  my own room, and only one sibling, living in an English-speaking, upwardly mobile neighbourhood in suburbia, summers at the lake, a new car in the driveway every two years and never a serious want.

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weekly photo challenge

More on making your photos talk …

Frédéric Biver offered up quite the challenge this week – bring two of your photos together in dialogue. What do they say to each other?   Place together two photos that open up meanings that weren’t there when viewed alone … hmmm.  

Click on image below for a closer look at Underwater Symphony

digital art photography

Underwater Symphony

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Fine Art Photography

Emergence

“Today I am someone different. Today I have finally become who I really am.”
― C. JoyBell C.

Click on image for more detail

digit art photography abstract

Some have enquired how I produced this.  Below is my starting image -

door Cardiff

In Sagelight I played with the light for a more dramatic effect and changed the colour to blues. In Photoscape I did a zoom blur distort.  In PS Elements I used the polar coordinates distort ‘polar to rectangular’ twice, compounding the distort and that’s when I saw something I really liked begin to emerge.  I went back to Sagelight to adjust lighting, texture and colour to enhance what I saw.   Photo editing in the extreme ;)   It is about transformation …  reinventing ourselves … emerging from a past to a future …   I’d really like to know if it works and what others think, yay or nay.  Click on first image for a closer look and let me know.

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Challenges

A-Z Challenge (again): H

I’m back again for another round of A-Z challenge but, wanting to add a personal challenge to the challenge, I am going to concentrate on signs this time – pretty signs, interesting signs, funny signs … whatever.

 

Village store in Rossport, Ontario

Village store in Rossport, Ontario

The Crown Inn, Raglan, Wales

The Crown Inn, Raglan, Wales

Abandoned in northern Ontario

Abandoned in northern Ontario

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Photography

Photo Editing: Making your photos speak

I’ve said before that I think of each photo I take as a canvas with which to play, to see what I can bring out of it.  Ideally I’d like my photos to speak to the viewer, to evoke a feeling or spark a memory. So I challenged myself and took some pretty mundane images and tried to get them to speak …  these are my starting images.

The Hot Seat

waiting room seating at airport

Opposition

waiting room seating at airport

Wallflower

DSCN3776 St Petersburg theatre

They are just chairs, after all, but … I’d be interested in your comments.

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Write it Now

My Little Town

win badgeFollowing on “I Digress …”, I’m going to continue, I think, to intersperse my photo focus with writing –  short excerpts from the volumes I’ve written.  Comments and feedback welcome.

My Little Town

I often think my parents didn’t raise me … I merely drifted up.

In the 1930’s the majority of people lived in the metropolitan areas or on farm lands, but the years following the war saw the birth of suburbia.

Pointe Claire, c 1950

Pointe Claire, c. 1950

Pointe Claire in the late 1940’s consisted of a basic grid of streets, a few scattered houses on un-landscaped lots, and a lot of open farmland. Grandmother Laird was heard to say that Pointe Claire was where you went to have a picnic, not to live.  There was no area of commerce except the old village along the lakeshore, which consisted of a theatre and a few shops. We lived well back from the lake, in the Heights.  I guess the hills up St. John’s Road and Coolbreeze Avenue defined the rise to the Heights but this afforded us neither views of the lake nor special status – in fact, it meant we were pretty much out in the boonies and Dieppe Avenue represented the back of back and beyond, where Pointe Claire dissolved into farm fields.

Through the Veterans’ Land Act, property in Lakeside Heights had been designated as veterans’ land, available only to those who had served in the war.  Dad’s qualification was service with the Queen’s Own Rifles as an infantry soldier. About 1947 they purchased a half acre lot later to be designated as 97 Dieppe Avenue, and contracted to have the house built at a cost of $6,000 – a chunk of money to a man whose salary was $90 per month with Canadian Pacific Railway.   Mum and Dad trekked out from Montreal to check on the progress of the construction, which was frustratingly slow, only to find at one point that the contractor had taken up residence in the basement of the uncompleted house they were so anxious to move in to.

The slow progress delayed their move until 1948.  Pictures show my parents as young twenty-something’s outside the house, the property devoid of any landscaping, not a tree in sight, some construction materials still lying about, and as far as you can see, open farmland punctuated by three or four other newly constructed dwellings – these were to be my neighbours.

The area in which I drifted was confined to a small block radius around our home.  Within five years, by the time I was ready for school, homes of varied design lined the grid of streets.  All set spaciously on the half acre lots; some were two storey boxes, others low-lying bungalows, but all were all inhabited by the families of returning soldiers, each family expanding at a regular rate and all of us growing up together.  To the west I walked four blocks to school; to the east it was three blocks to L & L’s, the only corner store.  And across St. Louis from the store sat the clubhouse where the pool was built for summer swimming and the rink for winter skating, the monkey bars, the slide and the seesaw.  Such was my sphere of influence.

My neighbourhood wasn’t racially or culturally diverse.  There were no blacks or browns or shades in between, and only one French-speaking family, the Grenier’s four houses down. But if not culturally diverse, there was a division and it was defined by religion. This was a time when ‘mixed marriage’ referred to the joining of a Catholic and a Protestant, generally considered a mix that could only lead to its own downfall.   As kids we weren’t concerned – the Catholics played just as well as us Protestants and, weather permitting, early evenings always found us jumbled together outside playing hide-and-seek or Mother-may-I.

My Pointe Claire doesn’t exist any more. Familiar houses are still there – ours and Debby’s, the McCormick’s, the Arsenault’s, and the O’Rourke’s.  The Hagemyer’s is gone, replaced by one grander than anything that existed before on these veterans’ lots.  As I grew, so did Pointe Claire, transforming from the open fields and tow paths into the bustling, widely diversified and multi-ethnic community it is now.  It is now a bustling city with miles of subdivisions, crisscrossed with main thoroughfares and the Trans Canada Highway, dotted with malls, and home to a thriving industrial park … all of which are in what I remember as the farm fields beyond the barbed wire at the back of our half acre lot.

 

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Challenges, Travel Theme Challenge

Visual Quotations 64: Horizon

“The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”  – Christopher McCandless

The horizon from atop Jungfrau in the Swiss Alps

The horizon from atop Jungfrau in the Swiss Alps

Alberta prairie

Alberta prairie

Agimak Lake, northern Ontario

Agimak Lake, northern Ontario

Ailsa’s travel theme is: Horizons

 

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Write it Now

Threads

win badgeFollowing on “I Digress …”, I’m going to continue, I think, to intersperse my photo focus with writing –  short excerpts from the volumes I’ve written.  Comments and feedback welcome.

Historical threads of the 1950’s wove a textured pattern into the fabric that was the backdrop to my childhood.   This backdrop was a post-war world.  Many returning soldiers had only been home for two or three years, and some were coming home to children they had never met.  Families were separated through the years of war and sweethearts had their futures put on hold for more than half a decade.  My parents were of the latter group – just 18 when the war broke out, they were 25 when they married on May 5, 1945.

Not just my father, but my uncles, and the fathers of all my friends were men who had served in the war.  Dad returned in 1944 from his stint overseas, but I never met my mother’s brother Kenneth because he was one of those sacrificed; he was the brother and son that was lost.  The war was part of our collective consciousness and its threads were stained with loss, anxiety, and deprivation. But Canada was still a fledgling country in 1949, populated with a mere 13 and a half million people.  While Europe struggled to rebuild, post-war Canada entered an economic boom when jobs were plentiful and hopes were high. This optimistic atmosphere was balanced by the flood of immigrants fleeing the bombed out centres of Europe and England who arrived with a waste not, want not attitude and threads darned into their winter coats.

Then came the Cold War and an air raid siren was erected in our playground by the Clubhouse.  Threats and counter-threats hurtled between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States and formed a nebulous red cloud under which we lived, the threads of growing anxiety carried on the wail of a test siren.

It was a time when the bread man delivered to the door and a quarter bought a comic book, a pop and a package of gum; when milk came in bottles and we left our empties on the front step with money in them, assured it would be there when the milkman delivered in the morning.

With these measures of uncertainty, anxiety, opportunity and hope as a backdrop, my childhood unfolded, weaving into the mosaic, threads coloured with learning, love and laughter, tinged with childhood apprehension.

 

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Odd couple, weekly photo challenge

Odd Couple/5

My Odd Couple series, in which the couples may or may not be odd.  I’ll leave that to the viewer ;)   I am also including the original photo for those that are interested in my composition and  editing choices.

silhouette in St Petersburg subway

The only thing I chose to edit this time was the saturation – totally arbitrarilysilhouette St Petersburg subway

You can view my Solo series here. 

The Weekly Photo Challenge is: Silhouette

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Write it Now

Threshold

win badgeFollowing on “I Digress …”, I’m going to continue, I think, to intersperse my photo focus with writing –  short excerpts from the volumes I’ve written.  Comments and feedback welcome.

 

A small group of nervous, giggling girls,  we didn’t venture much past the entrance to the basement social room.  It was large, and mostly empty, chairs sat around the perimeter just waiting to make wall flowers of some unfortunate souls.  There we hovered, standing on more than just the threshold of the dance floor, trying in vain not to look as awkward as we felt.   Three older boys seemed to be running the show, setting up the record player and sorting the selected albums and 45’s.

We took furtive looks at these boys, my eyes sweeping passed the tall handsome blond one who was to be my future husband and lighting upon the tall, good-looking, dark-haired one.  Having set everything to their liking – the music was up, the lights were dimmed, as much as Reverend Martin would allow – these charmers headed towards our anxious group.   Of all the girls I could have been hovering with, it had to be Ann, my nemesis, and here was the tall dark one heading towards the two of us.   I prepared to die rather than live the anguish of being left standing there alone.  No one was more surprised than I when I stepped on to the dance floor with Terry.  I had just met my first boyfriend.

 

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