Friday, March 18, 2016

The Lansdowne Letters: Wishing for a Christmas Miracle

I remember only too well 
the first time I had to be apart from Terry
for any amount of time.

It was the summer of 1993.
Terry had to work in Seattle for several months,
and I went out with him for the first month. 
It was great while it lasted,
but then the time came when I had 
to return to teaching in Aurora, Colorado.

We said goodbye, and I watched him walk to work 
from the window in his apartment kitchen.
A dreary, chill rain had just stopped,
and he dodged puddles on the sidewalk as he hurried off.

The lump in my throat was so big, I could barely breathe, 
and I didn't know my heart could ache so much.
I couldn't fathom how we could be apart for six long weeks.

So when I read my father's words
in a letter he wrote at the end of freeze-up,
I can begin to understand the loneliness he was feeling.
By then, my parents had been separated 
over twice as long as Terry and I had,
and they still faced unknown months apart.

   Reading Letters from My Father
Honolulu, Hawaii
March 2016
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Freeze-up ended in Lansdowne House, Northern Ontario,
when the first plane in arrived on December 8, 1960.

I can imagine my father's delight at the sound of the bush plane
approaching from the south over winter-bound Lake Attawapiskat
and his excitement as he collected his letters and packages;
but it was a painful moment
when he set his mail aside and loneliness closed in again. 

On Thursday, December 8, 1960 
My father wrote his mother, Myrtle MacBeath:

Dear Mother:
The box arrived safely today.  
Everything was in fine shape.  
It made me awful lonesome though 
to get my first Christmas presents.  

It really brought home with a bang 
the fact that I am not going to be with my family for Christmas.
Gosh, but it is going to be so lonely.

My Parent's First Christmas Together
Wolfville, Nova Scotia
December 1948
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

It is a real rip snorter of a night out tonight  - 
25 below zero with a 30 mph wind in from the northwest.

I have not been writing the Lansdowne Letter since freeze-up
because Uno’s typewriter is on the bum, 
and mine hasn’t arrived yet.  
As soon as either mine arrives, 
or the part for Uno’s arrives, 
then we will be publishing regular editions again.

I have been dreadfully discouraged, disheartened, and homesick lately,
and I have not been able to concentrate on doing anything except my job
and have been having a hard enough time concentrating on it.

Christmas in Charlottetown
Me (Louise), Roy, Donnie, and Mom (very pregnant with Barbie)
Prince Edward Island, December 1955
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I weigh an even 200 pounds now.  
Only 10 more pounds to lose to reach 190 which is my goal.  
Hope I don’t gain too much eating those cookies that you sent up to me.

I am so lonely up here.  
I do so wish that some miracle would happen 
so that I could get home for Christmas, 
but I know that’s impossible.  
I don’t care what happens, 
I am never going to stay away from my family
for another Christmas for all the money in the world.

Christmas in Alymer
Barbie, Donnie, Roy, and Me with Mom
Ontario, 1957
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I could have gone out for Christmas to Nipigon with Uno, 
but it would have cost me about $100.00 all told,
and if I spent $100 to go to Nipigon, 
I think I would spend another $50.00 and come home.  

Anyway, what am I talking about?  
It will be a long time before I am able to spend $150.00
without worrying about it.

Christmas in Margaretsville
Roy, Barbie, Me, and Donnie
Nova Scotia, 1958
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

I still have not received my traveling expenses,
and they still aren’t paying me my proper salary,
but it will all sort itself out before spring.

That’s one good thing about working for the government.
It may take you considerable time 
to get all the money coming to you,
but eventually you do get it all.
(I hope so, for they still own me some from the air force.)

I think I am going to have to get a pair of snowshoes.
It is no fun tramping through two or three feet of deep snow
for over two miles each day as I tramp back and forth to school.

Well, I must sign off now 
and get some official correspondence done.

I was disappointed that there were no stamped envelopes in the box.
Perhaps you can send me some soon, eh?
Thanks so much for the lovely box.  

Bye now,

Give my love to Aunt Maude.
Tell her I’ll be writing to her soon.
I’ll drop you another line soon.

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

Grand Passage Between Long island
and Brier Island in the Bay of Fundy,
Nova Scotia
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

Links to Earlier Posts:

TLL: Anyone for ... Kokosh Wiass?

TLL: Unlikely Friends


1.  Uno:  Dad's roommate and teacher at the Catholic school

2.  Wind Conversion:
      30 miles per hour = 48 kilometers per hour

3.   Temperature Conversion:  
     -25º F  = -31.6º C

4.  Weight Conversions:
      200 pounds = 90.7 kilograms
        10 pounds =   4.5 kilograms
      190 pounds = 86.1 kilograms
5.  Depth Conversion:  
     2 or 3 feet =  .6 or .9 meters

6.  Distance Conversion:  
     2 miles =  3.2 kilometers

For Map Lovers Like Me:

Lansdowne House, Ontario, Canada


  1. He sounded really homesick in that letter. My parents were apart one Christmas and I'm sure it was really hard on them.

    1. Hi, Alex! It's not easy to be apart at any time. Fortunately Terry and I have always been together at Christmas. He had to work in California later on for 3 1/2 years, and that was brutal. Fortunately I worked in a year round school in Aurora and could see him after every nine week stint. Talk about excited when that was over! Have a great weekend!

  2. It just breaks my heart to read his letters but I have to say, I love that you have them all these years later. Being away from family is so difficult during the holidays.

    1. Hi Elsie! It breaks my heart to read his letters too, but I am so grateful to have them. I'm slowly transcribing them all. Finally a reason for learning typing all those years ago! I plan to have everything organized and preserved in the next few years. Have a lovely weekend!

  3. Oh what a great post, Your Dad sounds so lonely. was it the last Xmas away from his family? You look like your pretty mom. Xx

    1. He Kay! How lovely to see you! I'm slowly getting back into the swing of on-line things despite having internet access only in our little hotel lobby. Yes it was his last Christmas away from his family. Dad dearly loved Christmas. The first Christmas morning we all slept in, when I was 20, my father was distraught. He woke us all up with a loud bagpipe record. During the years after, those bagpipes sounded early each Christmas morning. LOL I'm the child who looks the most like Mom. Thanks for your kind observation! Have a great weekend!

  4. It must have been so hard for your parents to keep their spirits up while apart. At least your Mom had you kids around her, that must have made things somewhat easier for her.

    1. My mother was fortunate to have us and a number of relatives in the area, so she wasn't as isolated as my father, especially during freeze-up. I, as the eldest, had a lot of extra privileges, like staying up after midnight on Friday nights to watch Peter Gun, Perry Mason, and Shock Theatre on the tv. Mom didn't like watching scary things alone after dark. LOL! At 10 I was already cooking, baking, and helping Mom with chores. But not of that makes up for being a[art from the one you love. Have a great weekend!

  5. Had to be hard indeed, especially since he was so isolated up there. Being away is never easy though. Well unless you have crazies around you and need to get far far far away lol

    1. Hi Pat! Oh yes, sometimes it's good to get far, far away. LOL One time for me, it was not so funny. I was newly married and living in California with my first husband. Two ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms) agents came to our door. They told us that a friend of my husband had been making threats to shoot me in various bars in the area. He was angry that my husband had gotten married. They couldn't do anything because it was all talk, but they advised us to get out of town for several months if we could. So we went to my parents home in an outport in Newfoundland for a year. By the time we got back, his friend had cooled off. My first husband was a paralyzed vet, so we had the ability to pick up and go. Even now, I shake my head at the fact my life was threatened so much that federal agents came to warn me my life was in danger! Have a good one!

  6. This is so sad, I can almost see your Dad writing the words. He must have suffered so much with the isolation, and your Mum having family closer would have been a help. How little we know until much later what our parents did or how they managed in our childhood days.This is wonderful that you do have his letters, and a work of love to put them all together. Happy Birthday?? Did I miss it on the day? Hugs from NZ.

    1. Thanks for the birthday wishes and hugs, Jean! It's just 8:00 am here in Honolulu. Soon I'll be heading off to work out and Terry will be going to a pickle ball clinic. The fun thing about being in Honolulu for five weeks is that it's like living here. Tonight: mai tais and pink coconut birthday cake at my favorite Royal Hawaiian.

      We all get up and down in life, and this was definitely a down time for Dad. He was worse than a little kid at Christmas. He loved it so much. I can remember many late Christmas Eves trying to go to sleep and hearing Dad downstairs playing with the windup toys and laughing with Mom as they got ready to stuff stockings and put presents under the tree. This was the only year he was apart, and we joined him in Lansdowne House in late February. It is a work of love and a privilege to organize, transcribe, and preserve the family letters. Have a great day with Hugh!

  7. Such a great post, Louise! He sounded really lonely! I love all your photos, too. I want to thank you so much for all your kind comments on my blog during my depression, it means so much to me. I am so glad I wasn't alone, and I will also keep you in my prayers and thoughts. Sending you much love and many hugs.

    1. Hi Linda! You are a sight for sore eyes! It is so good to hear from you! I'm just sorry I wasn't there every single day to send you hugs and warm wishes! And thanks for your kind words about my post! Take care, my dear friend!

  8. Oh how your father must have felt, Louise! It must have been such a relief when you all arrived and lived there with him.
    We take so much for granted nowadays, don't we. Things are simpler and more manageable for the most part.....especially with the communication technology available to us.
    Your early childhood sounded a lot like mine in that my sister and I learned to do so much at an early age to help our parents. Made us who we are today.

    1. You're so right, Jim! And we're better for the responsibilities we were given! I think it would help kids a lot to shoulder some real responsibility today; that's one way to develop confidence and self esteem.

      I'm finding it quite refreshing to be out in the middle of the Pacific with limited and balky access to the internet; so much seems irrelevant because we're far behind!

      Happy anniversary!

  9. The 1948 photo of your Mom (spitting image of you Louise)!!!! Isn't DNA a wonderful thing!

    Moving around so much ~ now understand your desire to see the world. Which is a good thing I might add!

    The ice pellets are spitting and tapping at our window as I type. Kind of weird/appropriate as I have just finished reading your letter. All fits in!

    Cheers and keep your SMILE smiling!


    1. My smile is smiling, Ron! Thought this is my weirdest trip to Hawaii yet! We've been eating, reading, sleeping, floating on rings in the water, and going to happy hours. I've been hitting the gym, and Terry has been playing pickle ball. That's just about it! I haven't even climbed Diamond Head yet! No sight seeing yet, just feasting our eyes on sparkly water. And we have only two weeks left! :( Exactly what the doctor ordered! Take care my friend!

  10. Separation for any length of time can be difficult. I often think back to the separations that wars have caused in history. Absence makes the heart grow fonder <3

    1. What a delight to see you, Keith! I can't imagine if Terry had to go off to war! I too think about all those terrible separations and the sacrifices others made that allowed me to live as I do. Have a good one!

  11. I couldn't imagine being away from my wife like that during a major holiday. That letter's really sweet, and those pictures are wonderful. I love flipping through old pictures like that. Kind of sad to think that in the future the extent of going through old pictures will just be browsing Grandma's Facebook profile.

    1. Thanks, ABFTS! I love old photos too, and I'm pulling the family collection together to pass on to the next generation. We'll be lacking a lot of mementos from the past in the future, not just photos, but diaries and letters. It is sad to think of.

    2. My hubby just came by and showed me the forecast for the Denver area! Yikes! Be safe!

  12. What a post Louise ...had me in tears thinking of how hard this was for M&D!! And Christmas was such a special time for D. I can't imagine how he managed over the holidays on his own without Uno and School to keep home occupied. I have never seen some of these particular the Alymer photo ...I love your curls! XXOO Dutchess


Thank you for your comments! I appreciate them very much.