This time last week I was basking in the company of my new grandbaby. In Edmonton, there was rain and John and I visited the Royal Alberta Museum where I really liked the Western Threads exhibit — quilts, hooked rugs, a few exquisite dresses of hand-dyed silk. We explored the Bug Room and imagined ourselves into the future, showing Kelly the cases of huge stick insects, the tarantulas, and the various beetles.
This morning, life is both rich, and (I confess) a little lonely as I think of how quickly babies change and grow. We Skyped yesterday and it was good to see that tangle of arms and legs and small downy head cradled by her dad but it’s not the same. And now I know how my parents felt when my children were small, how their parents felt — my grandparents (ironically) in Edmonton while my family lived in Victoria, or Matsqui, or Halifax. My mother’s foster mother was in Halifax so we did see her weekly while we lived there in the early 1960s but our relationship was always formal, not intimate. As I suspect was her relationship with my mother. For all the years we lived on the west coast, my mother wrote to her mother weekly. I have some of the photographs she sent to Halifax from Victoria — a young woman with her first son, then later her four children; those children posed with Santa Claus or standing in rivers and lakes in their bathing suits. Those children posed in front of reconstructed dinosaurs near Drumheller on summer visits to Alberta.
Before that, the vast distance between Central and Eastern Europe and Drumheller, which is where my grandmother came to with her first husband and five children, then seven. Did my grandmother’s parents and relations in Horni Lomna know of her own second marriage, my father’s birth, the subsequent generations? And will I ever know them? Online databases make certain discoveries possible but others are hidden in history. Or in the uncertainties presented by my own inability to read other languages. I’ve been tracking one thread — my grandfather’s connections to Sniatyn, in Galicia — but it keeps fraying, running thin. Certainly nothing to hook into a rug or piece together as a quilt block. Not yet.
In the meantime, I’m thinking of a quilt for Kelly. I made some baby blankets and a crib quilt but that was before I knew who she was, before I’d held her long fingers in mine. Or had my fingers gripped by hers. I have some ideas and will keep them in my mind until I can see how to stitch something that will be hers alone.
4 thoughts on “the distances”
Lucky baby – enveloped in such love, and soon in her very own quilt.
She has wonderful parents. They’re calm and loving.
I am sure that you and John are going to be (are!) the best grandparents in the world, little Kelly’s future already being stitched together with both thread and your so superbly crafted poems and stories where she will learn the love of words.
Barbara, what a lovely and generous message. Kelly’s grandfather has already written a beautiful short lyric which is about to be typeset on our small Adana press as a keepsake (expect one!).