Thursday, January 22, 2015

WYL #2 My arrival and childhood

I’ve gone right back to the beginning of my life with this story. I needed a lot of help from my parents to fill in the gaps, but I think it gives a nice little recap of my beginnings. I hope you have a few laughs too!


Right on Time

I was the first of 4 children in our family which grew in fits and starts. Just after I turned 5 my sister Kirsten was born. Nine more years went by before my brother Olaf arrived, and soon after that Graham completed our family.

The best way to start the story of my birth is to state the unbelievable, the impossible, but what my mother, to this day, claims as fact - I was an immaculate conception. Sweethearts since the 9th grade, they got engaged before my father moved to Calgary to start his university education, leaving my mother in Medicine Hat to finish high school. Fate and exuberant young love had other plans. With a passion born of absence, my parents made love - but carefully, to preserve my mother's innocence. It seems that there was no distance that would foil the life forces which traversed unintended paths - paths which eventually intersected on my behalf. In an instant, two young lives were changed and a new one created.

After a hasty marriage, my parents set up house in Calgary, Alberta. They lived in a furnished apartment on the top floor of a house not too far from the university. They were poor. With $150 a month from money saved up from summer jobs, and financial help from my grandfather Turvey, they scrimped to make it through each month. During a particularly poor month they sold their mattress, a wedding gift, to pay for the rent.

After a few months of housekeeping practice, my parents were finally rewarded with my arrival. Punctual from my first breath, I arrived right on time, September 17, 1962. With no mother to turn to when the contractions started, my parents called Aunt Della and Uncle Paul who lived a few blocks away. Mom and Dad spent the day with them while I prepared for my debut. By 2:30pm it was clearly time to head to the hospital. My dad stayed with mom offering encouragement until she went to the delivery room - in those days father's weren't allowed to stay for the birth.

At 8:15pm Monday evening I was here. I never have been one for staying up late. With no epidural available, Mom had a gas mask with something to dull the pain, but the sensation of my birth was still felt. She says that it was a wondrous thing. I don't recall what I thought about it, but most likely I wasn't pleased at leaving my warm cocoon.

I was immature, not premature, as I had a slightly low birth weight (5lbs 10oz). Whoever said that birth weight is tied to adult weight has not met me, although I never grew beyond 5' 2" tall.

My name was already picked out - Laura Ada. My maternal grandmother with the same name had passed away a few years before my birth, and since my paternal grandmother was named Ada, it was perfect. Sharing a name with both grandmothers, neither of whom I remember meeting, gives me a connection to them that I might not otherwise have.

Mom stayed in the hospital for 4 or 5 days, transforming from an innocent teenager and resting up, no, growing up, for her new life as a mother. For the first week my grandmother Ada stayed to help. On my mother's first day alone, the neighbour, Mrs. Peterson, took one look at her and offered to look after me so that mom could take a nap.  She gratefully handed me over, but instead of a nap, she tidied and cleaned the apartment.

The new little family: mom, dad, baby, and Perky, the pet budgie, was finally on its own. Not completely though. The Petersons from downstairs were good, kind people. Help from relatives, notably Uncle Clarence, Aunt Ruth and their 6 kids who often included us for Sunday dinner, as well as Uncle Paul and Aunt Della was appreciated.

Time was busy for my parents. With the dedication of a new father, my student dad studied hard. I was kept quiet and out of the way so I didn't disrupt his work. Mom took care of the apartment and me, often bundling me up into the buggy and setting me on the porch so that I could get some fresh air. I wonder if those early months of outdoor living influenced my love of nature. I spent much of my early childhood being quiet so as not to intrude on studying and to this day, I have a strong aversion to disturbing people or making noise.

By the time I was 2 months old my mother could no longer nurse so I was weaned onto 2% milk. Formula was just being developed at the time, and if available would have been too expensive. A few months later, when I could sit up, she'd take me downstairs to the neighbour's apartment so that I could play with a little girl my age that Mrs. Peterson babysat. I'm told that I was a happy baby but was sometimes troubled by colic.

I wasn't yet a year old when we made our first of many moves. Edmonton was our destination - dad was going into Med school.


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