As we get older, we are sometime preoccupied with things that might seem silly to others but which have some sort of significance for us. With a family and personal past as complex and as chaotic as mine, I have often wondered about things I experienced as a child or learned from my parents. For years, I have been trying to track down the owners of the farm in Alberta where, in 1949, my family spent our first winter in Canada in a chicken coop. A couple of days ago, I was finally successful. What I really wanted was to see if they might have a picture of the coop because, since I was only 4 years old at the time, I don't remember much from that time. The picture shown here of me and a 'friend' is from 1949, but was taken elsewhere in Alberta.
The original owners of the farm had died but had left the farm to one of their sons. He would have been about 11 years old in 1949. He actually remembered my family and me and the 'teasing' that he subjected me to. He, apparently, got me to pull carrots from his mother's garden and then eat them, dirt and all, to his great delight. I don't remember that specifically, but joked that it might explain why I am in such good health today. I do remember an occasion when this fellow and his sister induced me to climb into a manure sled. I was covered, head to toe, in pig poop. My mother must have been thrilled, having to bathe me afterwards and wash my clothes with cold water from the well, because there was no running water in the coop.
I have never felt disadvantaged because of the less than perfect circumstances during some parts of my life. I never wanted anyone to feel sorry for me or to help make things better. I learned that from the example of my parents. They just wanted to be left alone to succeed on their own. That is all I have ever wanted. Don't help. Just get the hell out of my way. Don't give me anything, but don't take from me what isn't yours either.
The telephone conversation with the current owners of the farm where that chicken coop had once stood caused some laughter, some reminiscences, but resulted in no picture for my collection. Who would photograph a chicken coop anyway, and why? It was worth a try, though, to satisfy my curiosity.
I have been alive for 60 years now, over 56 of them in Canada. I hope to live a lot longer. That old chicken coop has been sort of a marker for me, an indication of where I began my life in Canada, and a way to measure, by comparison, any achievements I have enjoyed in the years since 1949. I wonder what my son will use as a similar marker as he grows up.
It is not the destination, my friends, that is important in life. It is the journey that matters. The journey will pretty much dictate your ultimate destination anyway. And if you are going to make the journey, why not make the best of it? Enjoy it when it is good, learn from it when it is troublesome, live it as if it is your one and only chance to be alive.
I don't know who said it first, but it is true: Life is not a rehearsal.