A few days ago, I received a copy of my birth certificate in the mail. Nothing unusual, except I’m 57 years old and had not ever seen it. Some when during the packing and moving to bring a whole family to the new world, my birth certificate got lost.
When I read the house address where I must have lived just after I was born, I thought about my parents and their daring decision to pack up their family and transport us to a totally new country called Canada. (In 1957, distances where much greater than they are now; the world has truly shrunk. )
I still remember the debates that raged in our young household back then. I remember Mum and Dad looking at a world atlas, flipping from Canada to Australia back and forth as arguments were presented and shot down.
I know Mum was concerned about the heat. We all ready had relatives in Australia. The heat seemed to be the stumbling block. Dad who served in Yemen during the Second World War, and told some fond stories about Aden and the weather, really wanted to go to Australia. Nevertheless, Mum prevailed and Canada became our destination.
Picture this. My Dad worked on a dairy farm in England. Mum at the time didn’t work. Back then your wages came in little brown envelopes containing cash every week. But the sum Dad made was minute when faced with a family of five to feed and clothe and house. The opportunity to start over in a land of opportunity must have called to them like a siren on the rocks.
What amazes me is the will power, determination, and sheer guts it took for them to make the decision to pull up stakes leave family and friends behind to fend for themselves in an alien land. No wonder as a child I loved to read stories (still do) of people braving a new world (literally as in Science Fiction) or historically as the opening of the west, the famous Oregon Trail. The independent spirit of people who do such things resonates with me.
I grew up living with my own personal heroes, though as all growing does, I didn’t always view them in the softer glow of retrospective.
Scraping all they had to buy passage on a ocean liner, air travel was not a common method of travel in 1957, our few worldly procession packed in a couple of steamer trunks, we made our way to Liverpool by train. Our aunt, grandma, and granddad travelled with us. There were more than a few tears shed, though I couldn’t really fathom why. I revelled in the excitement of the trip. I remember coming into Liverpool and staring at the bleak row houses that slipped by row after ugly row, with laundry hanging on cloth lines looking as drab and shabby as the city. I’m sure that is not a fair summary of Liverpool but that is my memory.
From there on there are flashes of memory. I remember standing on deck just as the ship began to slip its birth. I was confused by the physics of motion and wasn’t sure the deck would stay beneath my feet. I remember letting out a slow sigh of relief when I realized I didn’t have to walk to keep the decking under me. Just as I relaxed, the ship’s horn sounded making me jump ten feet off the wooden planks.
Mum and my sisters where struck down almost instantly by sea sickness and spent much of the voyage, off again on again in the cabin. I didn’t miss a beat. I roved the ship mostly without supervision since Dad’s time seemed to be taken up with nursing. He gave me a quick tour and showed be how to find my way back to the cabin, which was at the water line, and left me to my own devices. I had a blast.
On that trip I discovered, corn on the cob, blueberry pie, and green peppers.
When we docked in Montreal, I left the ship with some sadness. We’d been through storms when no one was allowed on the upper deck and I’d seen icebergs slip quietly by as we pass Bell Island Newfoundland, and had made friends with some of the crew. The brutal task of settling-in lay ahead.
But I’m sure Mum left with relief, looking forward to getting the family housed and restored under her command.
The train trip from Montreal to Guelph Ontario took us through the night and the early sunrise hours of the next day. I didn’t sleep a wink. I sat with another lady and we eagerly read off the station names as we rolled to a stop at each place. In the dark, I couldn’t fathom what lay beyond the window, but as the sun rose a whole new world came into focus. I remember my excitement as I looked out at the endless fields and forests, river and lakes that whipped by the window. I remember the smell of the new world as it streamed by.
I didn’t spare a thought for what my Mum and Dad might be imagining as we rushed headlong to our new life. Mum had been up most of the night as well. I don’t think either of us was at all tired.
Around ten in the morning suddenly, after all those stations along the way, it was our stop.
A whole new adventure began from the moment we stepped off the train.
Those were exciting times for me. I was old enough to understand and remember what was happening but young enough not to have experienced uncertainly or fear of the unknown, or any of the other negative emotions or attitudes we develop with growth. (That’s another story. )
In retrospect for me, I lived a high of adventure, an experience that played a role in shaping who I am. But for Mum and Dad, I cannot image what emotions were churning in their minds. All I know is they joined the legions of brave souls who adventured out into the unknown with nothing more than faith, hope, and a wish for a better life.
These days’ sceptics seem to be winning the battle against the dreamers and the adventurers of our world. To the jaded, cynical, ho-hum attitude to adventure and exploration, these people mouth , I have one question. What do you think our world would look like with out the millions of heroes who set out from their homes to find new worlds? We are indebted to them all.
Sometimes we look far a field for our heroes. Look right in front of you. Chances are there is a hero standing there.
Our Dad has gone on ahead of us yet again. However, my Mum is still alive and continuing to demonstrate the independent spirit that led our family here. Though she is now legally blind, she continues to lead a full active life, not content to sit at home fearing to venture forth, which would be out of character.
The other day on the phone, I asked her if this address meant anything to her: 45 St. George’s Drive, Victoria, S. W. 1. ? After a pause, she said, “ Yes, we use to live there!" “Where did you get that address?"
“On my Birth Certificate, " I replied.
Nick Grimshawe has been writing for most of his 57 years. While his tastes range widely, he is now focused on his three “Life Keys" writing, reading and food, (anything to do with food including the growing of it). He also publishes a newsletter on health:Health News Notes, and blogs at http://www.beautifulsummermorning.com . He also writes the Beautiful Summer Morning quotes delivered via email every day with great photography included to put you in the right mind to conquer the world.