When we were young, my brother and I took drama lessons for several years in downtown Hamilton. The studio was located in an old, rickety building whose original construction predated Confederation. It had gone through at least a couple of renovations since then, but that all happened long before I came along. To me, the building with its glacier-slow elevator and funny smells seemed, to borrow a phrase, “as old as the hills and twice as dusty.”
In a previous post, I mentioned Jean Little, one of Canada’s most notable children’s authors. She was a favourite of mine growing up, and so I decided to revisit her life and work and write about it here.
Jean Little was born in 1932 in Japanese-occupied Taiwan. Her parents Gorrie (Flora) and Llew were both doctors working as missionaries with the United Church of Canada. Gorrie herself grew up in a missionary family, which often meant a life of long-distance relationships, ably described in Jean’s His Banner over Me (2008).
I am baking on a Tuesday evening. This is unusual for me. Normally my Tuesday evenings are tied up with choir practice or volunteer work, but in the summer, these things are on hiatus. And even though we have central air, baking isn’t something I do much of in the summer. But this evening is different as it’ll only come once. It is the 100th anniversary of my paternal grandmother’s birthday, and so I’m marking the occasion by attempting her signature cookie recipe once more. This time, I hope to get it right.
Today’s my dad’s birthday, so I decided to surprise him with something different in addition to a gift card. In a way, this story was the spark of inspiration for this blog. We live in different parts of Ontario, so I wanted to share it with him as easily as possible. This way, he can read it on his tablet at his leisure.
This story is grown from kernels of truth…
Once upon a time, many years ago, a young boy lived in a far-off land with his family. If there was one thing this boy wanted in life, it was to own his own bicycle. Bicycles were so common where he lived that lines of them streamed through the streets all day. Everyone owned one, or at least, that was how it felt to the young boy. The mailman had one. The factory workers rode by on their way to their shifts on them. The family next door had several. Even the minister’s wife rode one around town while making calls, which scandalized the elders and secretly thrilled the church women.
But the young boy did not have his own bicycle yet. He was the odd man out in his class, and he felt it keenly. He knew why he was the only one. It wasn’t because his parents couldn’t afford it, they had several already. No, it was because he’d been sick for over a year and they were worried that he wasn’t strong enough yet. Every time the doctor visited, hopes were raised and then dashed.
But the young boy remained eternally hopeful. He pored over cycling advertisements in the newspaper, cutting out the pictures and details of the models he liked and pasting them into a little notebook. His older brother and sister laughed at his obsession, but not harshly, because they were secretly rooting for him to get his heart’s desire.