Friday, October 2, 2015

The Lansdowne Letters: Love the People in Your Life

I had another beginning written for this post,
and when I returned to do the final edit,
my head and heart were hurting 
from two tragedies,
another insane mass shooting in Roseburg, Oregon
and the devastating personal loss
a friend of mine is experiencing.

Two very different events,
but every death lances someone's heart.

When we love,
we take the risk of loss,
and life is ephemeral.

Hopefully the joy of love
outweighs the heartache of loss.

We Five in the Fall of 1960
Roy, Donnie, Me with the Baby (Bertie), and Barbie
Outside the "Shop" Where My Grandfather Once Worked as a Carpenter
Photo by Sara MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue  
All Rights Reserved

I will always mourn the loss of my parents;
I miss them every day,
as I miss the other people I have loved and cared about
who have traveled on before me.
But the joy they gave me is worth the heartache.

And so tonight, 
I am finding comfort and respite
in these words my mother wrote
so long ago.

Yes, mother!  

I had decided to share one of her letters
from this time my father was alone in the North
when she was caring for my siblings and me
in our grandmother's home in Smith's Cove, Nova Scotia. 

She wrote lots of letters during the time
my father was in Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario 
but many did not survive.

I treasure these glimpses into my everyday life from long ago.
Our parents sheltered us from their worries
and made light of their hardships.
They sacrificed for their children
and gave each of us a wonderful start in life.

On Sunday, October 30, 1960 
My mother wrote to her mother, Ella MacDonald:

Dear Mother, 
I received your box on Friday.  
We didn’t have to pay anything for either box.  

I love the slacks you sent.  
Barbie was delighted with her sockies, 
and the long ones you sent me feel nice and are so warm.  
The plastic panties are great for the baby.  
Everything you sent was useful. 

 My Sister Barbie Swinging on an Apple Tree
in My Grandmother's Backyard
(The BEST Swing Ever!)
Donnie in the Field
Photo by Sara MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue  
All Rights Reserved

How does Louise feel and when does she expect the baby?

Harry came over on Wednesday to see 
what was to be done and to order the materials.  
The first day he came at 10 a.m. and left at 12:00 p.m.  
The next day he came at five to 9 and left at ten to 12.  
Came at twenty after one and left at 3.
2 hrs. + 3 hrs. + 3 hrs. = 7 hrs.  
I imagine he would call it seven hours.  

He has to come back to smooth over cement.  
He fixed the shop, 
cemented in the cellar windows, 
took off the storm windows, 
fixed a board by the chimney, 
put new step on the shop (it broke), 
and fixed two light sockets upstairs.  
The chains had come out.

I’ve had the furnace on during the last month, 
but haven’t since Harry put the storm windows on.  
The cellar windows should be put on early, 
even if we have to do them ourselves.  
However my oil bill was only $15, 
and we have been cozy and warm.  

Another thing, the days have been lovely and warm lately.  
You should see Donnie outside raking up the leaves and apples,
going to take after you, I guess; 
housework no, but she could rake leaves by the hour.

My sister Donnie Raking the Yard
Photo by Sara MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue  
All Rights Reserved

Flickr:  Paul Dunleaver   License

I spent the evening making pumpkin grinners.  
The children love them so.  
You would think it was Christmas.  
So far we have three pumpkins.  

Louise made toffee apples, 
36 of your apples, they taste lovely.  
Never knew they were so good.
We have had an apple cake, baked apples, 
and toffee apples from them so far.  
Louise also made popcorn balls.

Me Up Another Apple Tree
in My Grandmother's Backyard
Photo by Sara MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue  
All Rights Reserved

The weather was so wonderful yesterday that Barbie and I 
played hooky and walked up the back road as far as Helena’s.
I didn’t stop in for we weren’t dressed for the occasion.  

The baby is beginning to talk.  
She has said, “Let me up,” “See,” and, “Mommy,” 
and goodness knows what all.

We Five in the Fall of 1960
Me with the Baby (Bertie), Roy, Barbie, and Donnie
with Gretchen, Our Dachshund, Under Her Hand
Photo by Sara MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue  
All Rights Reserved

Well tomorrow night is going to be a big event with all the spooks and all.  
What does Louise do on Halloween?

Love to you both,

Love the people in your life. 
It can turn on a dime. 

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

The Brier Island Nature Reserve 
Bay of Fundy
Photo by Roy MacBeath
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Links to Earlier Posts:

TLL: On Canoes and Procreation

TLL: Kitche Shemaganish 


1.   Pregnant Louise:
      Mom's sister, Louise Lindholm, who was expecting her third child Claire.
2.  Harry:
     Harry Sulis, a neighbor who looked after repairs to Grammie's home when she away.

3.  Pumpkin Grinners:
     What we called carved Halloween pumpkins

4.  Toffee Apple Louise:

5.  The baby beginning to talk:  
     My sister Bertie is now a published author of two books!
     Why Kids Can't Spell: A Practical Guide to the Missing Component in Language Proficiency
     Oscar the Herring Gull

6.  Photos of We Kids:
     Mom had borrowed a camera from a neighbor so she could send some current photos
     to my lonesome father in Lansdowne House.  He had asked for them.

And for Map Lovers Like Me:

Location of Smith's Cove

Location of Lansdowne House
Red Dot, Upper Left
Sketched on Unknown Map of Ontario 
possibly from Atlas of North America:
Space Age Portrait of a Continent
National Geographic 1985

Terry and Me at the Bengal Lounge Today
The Empress Hotel, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada


  1. That shooting in Oregon was so tragic. Sorry for your friend's loss.
    These letters are cool because they are a glimpse into how life was at the time.

    1. Thanks, Alex! I never know how people will react to the letters I post; and since I can't predict, I keep plugging along chronologically. To me they seem ordinary because that was my life, but I also recognize that they capture that time. Imagine! I'm old enough to think of my childhood as "that time!" LOL

      I've been reading a lot about First Nation Peoples while I've been here in Victoria. I'm trying to understand the historical context of the time we were in the north; and it's all mixed up with political, religious, and economic forces ~ the Department of Indian Affairs, the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches, and the Hudson Bay Company and its fur empire. So many fascinating cross currents about which I sensed very little as a girl. I guess it's still all about power and money!

      Have a lovely weekend with your wife. I hope you get some time to play guitar in your Christian Rock band!

  2. What a heart-squeezing post, Louise. "every death lances someone's heart" Indeed it does.

    How wonderful that you have these letters; a beautiful way to reminisce about loved ones that have moved on. I love the photo of you and your hubby!

    1. Thanks, Martha! I've lugged these letters and photos around for decades back and forth across the continent. I always knew they were important to me, and I always knew I would do something with them. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine something like blogging!

      I remember when the power of technology first hit me. I was taking a journalism class in 79 or 80. Our professor showed us a very early computer with word primitive processing that some reporters were beginning to use ~ pre Apple, pre public internet. I thought "This is going to change everything! But I had no clue how much!

      Have a great weekend. Must be almost time to put up that "For Sale" sign in the yard. My good RC friend Dee insisted that we put a statue of St. Joseph under our porch when we last sold our home. The statue is supposed to be buried upside down, but she said laying it under the front porch would do just fine, and to trust her. What do you say to that? I put a statue under our porch, and our house sold quickly after languishing for a couple of months! Hugs!

    2. That is quite remarkable about the statue! Perhaps I should consider it because we want to sell as quickly as possible! :) We are tying up loose ends and hope to be up very VERY soon. I was hoping to be done by now but life gets in the way!

    3. Good luck, my friend! Someone will be very happy to buy the home you've lovingly fixed up!

  3. The letters sure let you have fond memories and bring feelings to light. Sucks when loved ones pass indeed but the memories we have of them do live on with us. Looks like a great place to stay from the pic at the end too.

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Pat! The Empress is wonderful, but we're not staying there. In my dreams! We're in a budget hotel down the street. But we can still enjoy wonderful spots like the Bengal Lounge for a drink. Have a great weekend!!!

  4. I. Love. Your. Blog! These stories are all so wonderful. What memories.... What a life of hardship your parents lived-- to be so far apart. The stories and photos are just amazing and I love reading every one!!


    1. Thank you, Vicki! How lovely to read your kind comment! I have many memories of my childhood, but not necessarily the details, like Donnie loving to rake the leaves and apples, or Barbie and Mom sneaking off for a walk on a beautiful fall day, or little Bertie saying, "Let me up!" She still doesn't want to miss anything! Have a great weekend, Vicki!

  5. Louise, this post is very heartfelt! I couldn't agree more that the loss/hurt we feel after a loved one leaves
    is softened and soothed by the love they gave us.
    My busy your mother was!! Five children and supervising everything that had to be done. That generation was truly incredible.

    1. Love is everything in this life for sure, Jim! Where would we be without love? This northern series has focused so much on my father because of his letters; but it was my mother who was the rock in our family. She was unshakable in her love for us and in her determination for us to get a good education and be able to stand on our own two feet. Nothing fiercer than a momma bear when it comes to her cubs! Stay safe this weekend; we've been watching all that bad weather bearing down on NS. Check out that cliff on MacDonald Hill before you get too close!!! Hugs!

  6. A lovely letter from your Mum, what a treasure to have now. The loss in Oregon, I listened to Barak Obama talk, and he was almost crying, then from Jim, I heard a longer speech. Down here, years ago, a firearm had to be registered with its own number to the person's firearms licence. When or if it was sold, it then had to be registered to the new owner. That all changed, and now if you have a licence, can buy a rifle, shotgun, and if you sell it, all you need to do is see the other person's licence. So any firearm could belong to anybody!!! To buy a pistol you need to be a member of a registered pistol club, and have an endorsement on your licence, and an endorsement is needed to have a MSSA. I wish the rules were tighter in other countries, and here I would like them to go back to the older way. Hold onto your memories, love will always be in your heart.

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Jean! Guns! The political third rail in our country. I used to wonder how they got the guns out of the Old West, and now we're right back there again. People have become numb to these shooting events. I was proud of Obama for speaking out the way he did and saying that "our thoughts and prayers are not enough." The gun lobby people are very strong, and those of us for stricter gun control are not making progress. It's going backward. I have friends who are passionate about their rights to own a gun; and I grew up on a gun range as a child so I understand something of their perspective. But things have gotten way out of control here.

      One piece, which is controversial, is that we have to address better mental health care which has been shameful in our country. We chose to cut taxes over the past 30 0r 40 years by cutting mental health services and throwing people out of treatment and onto the streets, among other things. I could tell you story after story about the endless and often futile attempts I went to as a teacher to get help for mentally ill students. Most teachers have stories to tell!

      I don't know what the answers are, but we can't sit back growing number and doing nothing!

      I think the human heart has an endless capacity for love! Have a happy weekend, Jean! Hugs to you and Hugh!

  7. Hi Louise, your blog this weeks made me weep. I miss Mom and Grammy, Dad and so many others - thanks for sharing this letter. I guess I've been a walker ever since I could walk. It was great to see you last week - hugs your sister Barb

    1. Hugs right back at you, Barb! I had tears as I was writing it. And laughs! And the photos! You know, we didn't even have Christmas photos that year, because Mom didn't have a camera. These only happened because Mom borrowed one to take pictures of us so Dad could have some. These letters and pictures are amazing to have! I'm glad the family is getting to enjoy them. Weren't we all the cutest, starting with Roy all dressed up in his suit for Dad and so proud of his science project bean plant? Wish you were here with me this weekend! Have a good one! Hugs!

  8. Oh my, Louise, there are so many things to love about this post. Though I could feel your aching heart for the the personal loss (and mine aches along with you for those poor souls in Oregon), how wonderful that your mother could comfort you with thoughts expressed such a long time ago. The photographs are absolutely wonderful! I do love seeing you as a child, and all the more so now that we have met. That one in the apple tree is one of those "Yup, that's how I picture Louise!" moments for sure. I'm realizing we had in common being the oldest of our siblings, though you had so many more to love and protect. We had in common as well that our parents struggled to give their kids the very best life they could. I picture you making toffee apples and popcorn balls and your mom carving pumpkin grinners ('grinners" is a new term for me). It occurs to me as well how much effort was involved in taking those all-important photographs at that time. It was so much more difficult to get a camera, find the time to take the photo and then have it processed and shared amongst the family members. So much more to say, but must stop for now. I do plan to go back in time and catch up with at least some of your previous posts. Sending you love and hugs. Oh.. have to mention that is a beautiful photo of you and Terry living it up in Victoria! Bill and I send our best to both of you!

    1. Hi Carol!
      It's so good to hear from you!!! I can't get over how much fun I had with you and Bill on Monday!!!

      My Mom was always there to comfort me, no matter the situation: from skinned knee, to broken heart, to my having too much to drink and her wiping my face with a cool cloth and saying it would be okay, it would pass (not my finest moment, but a fine one for my Mom).

      I was all over those apple trees as a kid. I remember asking my Aunt Louise if she wanted to climb one with me, and she said "Believe it or not, Louise, the day will come when you won't want to climb trees so much!" Now I still want to climb, but I'm afraid of falling and breaking. LOL No more jumping out of trees to land in big piles of leaves in the fall.

      Oh well, each time in our lives has it's pleasures. Like being able to afford a nice cocktail in the Bengal Lounge at the Empress! The Chinese bartender was really nice and had worked at the hotel for over 40 years, since 1978 in that beautiful lounge. It reminded me of the Long Bar in the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, except the bartenders weren't making Singapore Slings by the gallon! I swore (when I was 22 and working in the field as a geologist near Fredericton, NB) while having my first Singapore Sling that one day I'd go to the Long Bar in Singapore and have one there. I did!!! We're going to go back to the Bengal Lounge and have a drink the bartender created and is featured in the hotel cocktail list.

      I'm thinking I'll make a pumpkin grinner this year. No one comes trick-or-treating when I live, and I miss my school Halloween parties and parades. But I think I'll carve a pumpkin for Terry and me! Love and hugs to you and Bill! Have a great weekend!

  9. Dearest Louise, I am so sorry for your friend's loss. Your mother's letter was so nicely written and I loved reading about you making delicious toffee apples and popcorn balls! :) Isn't it amazing how some things from so long ago, and even after our parents' passing can comfort us? I miss my parents as well, especially my father, as I was closer to him. My mother died in 1983 and my father in 1984, and they were young, just in their 60's. I was in my 20's when they died. I can still hear my father's voice, and the calls he would make to me from the veteran's hospital where he lived the last 14 years of his life...and died. He would say, "Hi, honey!" Amazing. Thank you so much for sharing your memories and comforts, and for evoking mine. Sending you a warm hug. Oh, and I love your last photo!

    1. Thanks for your lovely comment, Linda! How sad to lose your parents so young, but how wonderful that you can still hear your father's voice! What would we do without loving memories to buoy us up?

      I can hear my parents voices still, although I can no longer hear my first husband's. I am so grateful I have wonderful memories and things to help sharpen that memory when it forgets some of the details. When my Dad went up north, my Mom started treating me like I was older and more mature. We talked a lot, and she let me stay up late with her on Friday nights to watch Perry Mason and Shock Theatre. I think she was too scared to stay up alone, especially for the second show which came on around midnight. We had so much fun!

      Grammie had five big apple trees, so there were always apples for pies, and toffee apples, and apple spice cake. We had no clue that we were pretty poor! LOL! Ignorance is bliss!

      Have a wonderful weekend! Watch out for Montreal police near porta-potties! LOL Hugs!

  10. A very moving post, and I appreciate the friendly happy faces in the closing photo. This country needs more refreshment and less private artillery.

    1. Thanks, Geo! And you're right! We do need more refreshments and less artillery! I don't know how we'll turn the tide; but I drank my share of wine tonight! Cheers! Have a great weekend!

  11. So many of the things in this post hit home for me, especially the family photos. The definition of hardship seems to have changed for many of us through the years but heartache always stays the same. Thank you for sharing this letter. I'm glad to see you and Terry at the Empress Hotel, embracing the day.

    1. Thank you for the lovely comment, Melanie! I try to embrace almost every day! Family photos mean so much, especially as the years pile up. Have a happy day!

  12. I'm sorry about the awful event that happened. It really is crazy.
    I loved your Mum's letter, SO full of gratitude! I love the fact you have all this correspondence!x

    1. Thanks, Kezzie! There is so much to be grateful for in this wonderful life! Have a good week, my friend!

  13. You two look great together in that last photo Louise! An Empress and an Emperor in the right place. Victoria is wonderful and for me, no better than in February when the cherry blossoms are blooming. Is this really Canada? :)

    1. Hi Mark! Thanks for the kind words! The cherry blossoms bloom here in February? Wow! Too bad we're leaving beautiful Victoria Wednesday. It's been a blast! Have a great week!

  14. Toffee apples and popcorn balls! I remember when homemade treats were handed out at Halloween -- and were perfectly safe to take and eat. Different world then!

    1. Different world indeed! Where I was there were rarely store-bought treats. I'm glad I was a child then! Happy Tuesday, Debra!


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