I am sitting…

grandparents and Dan

…by a south-facing window in Edmonton, working on the edits of my forthcoming book, Blue Portugal. There is some snow, ice, and beautiful sunlight glowing pink in the trees where magpies mutter and plan. Edmonton appears in the pages of my book and it was here, in the Provincial Archives, that I found a hidden story about my family’s past, one I puzzle through in an essay called “The River Door”. I’ve just been working through this essay and I am filled with a strange yearning to have the years of my childhood to live again so I could ask the questions I am left with. In the photograph, my grandparents are holding my older brother on the porch of the house they built in Beverly. It must be 1951. My grandmother had lost her first husband and brother in the Spanish flu epidemic, then an infant, and somehow, with 8 living children, she found my grandfather and married him. She was as far away from her childhood home in Moravia as I am from her now. My grandfather as far from his village in Bukovyna as I am from him. (I am farther away than that.) I am carrying their story now, sharing it with other members of my family, and soon, with anyone who reads my book. This is weather they would have been familiar with and when I walked out to the bakery earlier, I thought of them, thought of the pillows my grandmother stuffed with goose down, the little quilt she made for my brother out of scraps of her housedresses and my grandfather’s pyjamas, and I was walking with them under the light-filled trees, holding their hands, as I will hold my grandchildren’s hands a little later in the day when we go on an outing.

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