A Lightness of Feeling

I feel immeasurably lighter today than I did last week but it has absolutely nothing to do with body weight. I’m feeling light-hearted with a skip in my steps, as though a great weight has been lifted. Weight was indeed lifted, and I lifted most of it myself, box after box of paper copies accumulated during the 27 years we have lived in this house. From the basement storage room I carted out the door 20 years of financial records, except for the last seven years, that we are required to keep.

Then I began pulling down the manuscripts. Because I had no course time to take high school typing I had hand-written my first book, Management and Foods, then paid a typist to prepare it for typesetting. The finished book was for the BC Education Ministry and I saved those early pages for their memory value.

As I carried boxes and files out to the John Deer Gator for transport up to the garage area I remembered the circumstances under which each file was created. My next book project was Food for Life, by then I had a computer and was typing, sort of. I had carefully preserved each chapter just in case McGraw-Hill Ryerson might want to do a revision of even one chapter for the next printing. That never happened, but by the time the book was “out of print” 15 years later there were other boxes stored on the shelf in front of those files.

When my parents died I become interested in genealogy, which led to my learning there were second cousins still occupying the Forberg Farm in Norway that my grandfather had left to come to Canada. After I had visited them in Norway it seemed the story of the Forbergs in Canada needed to be told. That’s how from Fjord to Floathouse came to be published, with the requisite copies of edited manuscript stored on the basement shelves beside everything else. Eventually there were boxes of edited and final manuscript pages of two other self-published volumes, Beyond the Floathouse, Gunhild’s Granddaughter and Lifelong Learning ready to be placed on another shelf.

Not to be forgotten were the heaviest boxes hiding at the very back of the top shelf. After attempting to reach them, and finding such weight there, I asked a tall strong man to get them down and carry them out for me. They were two big boxes labelled Tribune Timber, which was the name of our contract logging company, sold at least 12 years ago. The grand finale was finding the financial records of Dale’s mother and of his cousin, Verna, both of whom had entrusted us with their leavings upon their passing. It  was long past time to dispose of them also.

So it was with relief that I saw two strong men approach my front door as I was writing this. I had been placing more current private pages in a cardboard box obtained from Monks Office in Sidney with the understanding the purchase price included pickup and shredding. With my pounds of paper loaded in the Gator and brought up to the garage I had contacted the company, Access Records and Media Management, to say they could come for the pickup.

The men came with two huge rolling bins, each capable of holding 200 pounds, loaded my paper and rolled each of them up to the truck. I watched as one of the men pushed a button on the side of the truck to start the action. Then he pushed another button that brought two levers tight against the bin and lifted it up out of sight. I could hear the shredder working and soon the sound stopped. Voila, all my ancient records were gone and a huge weight was lifted away.

What’s in a Scholarship?

June is school leaving time in most of the country. Please tuck this story in the back of your memory to bring forward when its appropriate.

This is the story about a child who grew up on the remote coast of mainland British Columbia living in a house pulled up on to a float of logs and surrounded by water. The few people living in the area, or passing through, were hand loggers, beach combers, and fishermen. Early schooling was taught by her mother because there was no school, or even other children to attend one. The mail and groceries came by boat every two weeks.

When she was ten years old her family moved and she was able to go to a one-room school, where one teacher taught twenty-eight pupils. It was typical then in many rural areas of Canada. But there wasn’t a high school in the logging camp so she was sent, at age thirteen, to board with a family she didn’t know, and visited her parents on weekends occasionally.

Four years later, near the end of her grade twelve year, a favourite English teacher approached her saying “You need to write the government finals anyway, so maybe you’ll think about filling out these application forms for a scholarship.” In 1955 the 400 student school was not yet accredited, and finals in all senior courses were mandatory.

When the school principal called her to his office he told her basically the same thing. She learned the scholarship was a gift from the principal employer in the town, Crown Zellerbach. It provided $500 for each year for four years, to a student studying at university to become a teacher. Did she want to be a teacher? She hadn’t ever thought of it.

Her mind whirling as she signed the forms, wrote the exams and secured a good job selling ladies clothing. She had a steady boyfriend, as most of her girlfriends had; the family assumed they would marry soon, and she would become a homemaker and mother as both her mother and grandmothers had been.

It may come as no surprise to those who know me that it was my picture in the local newspaper when scholarship winners were announced. Then everything was turned upside down. There I was, a logging camp mill-town girl, going off to try her way in a big city. I hastily made the arrangements: secured space in the dormitory and registered at the University of British Columbia.

When I arrived culture shock set in: sorority girls wearing cashmere and pearls (my best sweaters were Kitten brand in Orlon except for one Dalkeith in wool), dances were called “mixers”, afternoon science labs in cold, drafty, army huts, Saturday morning lectures, bus schedules needing transfers, heavy cafeteria food, line-ups for absolutely everything, but oh, it was all so new, and such fun.

I went home for that first Thanksgiving weekend and broke off with my boyfriend. From that time onward I didn’t really fit in at home. I had discovered a whole new world that I had not been aware of, and had decided to be a part of it.

I learned new ways of looking at life, obtained a university degree from UBC, met lifelong friends, including my best friend who became my husband, and developed a satisfying, varied, career that included motherhood also. It has been a very good life – one beyond my wildest expectations. Winning the scholarship did all that – it was indeed life changing.

If you remember nothing else about stories of award winners, even small amounts that provide approval and encouragement to a student, please never underestimate the change that can result in the lives of these students our CFUW clubs give money to. If they are ready to make the change it has potential for a whole different improved life.