“I give you this to take with you: Nothing remains as it was. If you know this, you can begin again, with pure joy in the uprooting.” 

-Judith Minty, Letters to My Daughters

I turned two years old in our new home in Wolseley.

Mom wrote in my Baby Book that my second birthday was celebrated quietly, with cake and ice cream.

Just Nancy, Daddy, Mama, & Bozo.

Nylon brush from Daddy & Mama
Silver knife and fork and spoon from Granny Shaw
A book from Mrs. McDougall
A card from Hazel Hamblin at Indian Head

The picture of me taken closest to my second birthday has all but my eyes covered by the snowsuit I showed you in the last post. The next closest picture is this one, which was taken in the spring of 1950 on the steps of the Town Hall, which seems to have been one of my parents' favourite places for pictures. 

Our Life is Quite Different

Mom and Dad had been living in Indian Head for eleven years, and had made a number of friends there. But they had few, if any, friends in Wolseley. 

The town itself consisted of a row of stores along the railroad tracks, an intersecting street that went at a 90 degree angle away from the tracks. The intersecting street was very wide and had more stores on both sides with apartments above many of them. There were houses going off in three directions behind the stores, some of them circling Fairly Lake, a small lake which was more or less in the middle of the town. The Town Hall and churches were a little distance from downtown as well.

In Indian Head, we'd had a small bungalow with a yard on a street with other houses. In Wolseley, we were living in one of several apartments over a brick two-story building that had a row of small stores on ground level. This was on the street that angled away from the railway tracks. Based on several pictures taken of me in front of buildings on the street when we lived there, it might even have been the building shown here, that now has a Medical Clinic. http://wolseley.ca/wp-content/uploads/Userfile/dsc01686.jpg

It's possible that the store below our apartment was one Dad had bought or leased, and was a men's clothing store, but I only have a brief line in my Uncle Jim's letter, which I'll show you soon, to make me think that.

In any case, Dad was working hard with both a store to run and the mink farm to help look after, so we didn't see much of him. He was very focused on making a go of both so that he had enough money for a decent life for all three of us.

I have no idea what his actual involvement with the mink was. I don't think I was ever told or wanted to know. I assume they had to be fed and their cages cleaned, and so forth. Maybe his partner did that, or maybe they took turns. Anyway, I have no memory of his being dressed to clean cages. Unless he was on holidays, I only ever remember him dressed in either a suit or a sports jacket and pants with a good shirt and a tie.

On the grounds around Fairly Lake.

As was the case in Indian Head, much of Mom’s, and therefore my life in Wolseley revolved around cooking meals, washing dishes, making beds, dusting, sweeping the floors, washing and ironing clothes, getting groceries and doing other shopping, and so forth. Oh, and doing that without spending any more money than was absolutely essential.

Since we were in a small apartment, Bozo and Fluffy would have been a little more constrained than before. But, back then, dogs and cats roamed freely, so I guess it was just a matter of letting them outside whenever they wanted to go and calling them when you wanted them inside.

As in Indian Head, I was usually in bed not long after seven, so I’d see Dad for only a little while after he got home from work. After supper, he’d spend a few minutes reading my books, and, as I got older, playing a simple game like catch with a rubber ball. He'd also listen to me as I told him what my dolls and I had been doing. 

After I was in bed, Mom and Dad would read any newspapers or magazines they had access to, and listen to programs on the radio. On Friday or Saturday evening, they might visit friends or have friends over. I assume they made some friends with other people who were living in apartments over stores, and they found a lady who would come and babysit me on the occasional times when they went out together. 

On Sundays, we went to church in the morning and then we might go for a drive in the afternoon. We were dependent on Dad to take us anywhere, and Mom loved getting out and just driving around the town or the countryside. Of course, this was long before seat belts or car seats, so I'd be in the back seat playing with my dolls. 

Sometimes we drove to Indian Head to visit friends there. 

I loved our new church!

I assume we were going to the church before this, but on Monday, May 1, 1950, I was formally enrolled into the Baby Band of St. James United Church in Wolseley.

Two days later, on May 3, 1950, I was enrolled in the church's Cradle Roll.

By then, I was nearly two years and four months old and eager to learn! I can actually remember the excitement I felt as we went down the stairs to the church basement each week. I felt warm and happy to be there. Not in the least concerned about being left by my parents.

I was excited to be learning new things. I loved the songs and the crafts we did, but mostly I loved hearing the Bible stories. At home, I had only a few books, which my parents read over and over to me. Here, there was a new story every single time I went! And there were toys to play with! And we did crafts and played games, too. I loved going to Baby Band!

Visits with Family

Because money was so tight, and neither of their families had much money either, Mom and Dad rarely got to see their families back in Manitoba.

But we did make one visit to Brandon during the summer of 1950 for what I believe was my grandmother, Jennie Shaw's, 75th birthday.

Yes, Mom is holding me there because I wanted to be elsewhere.

Note that my doll actually has clothes on. 

Also, one of the rare photos of my dad with a T-shirt on. But he still wore dress pants. 

Mom usually wore a dress, and she loved high heels of any kind.

Mom (Margaret Shaw), me, Granny (Jennie) Shaw, Dad (Bob Shaw)

A New Challenge

I have no idea if Mom saw the irony in this picture or not.

I was two and a half years old and ready to go to church (and quite happy about it as you can see). 

I’m in a large back alley sitting on a log near a pile of firewood, and I'm wearing a very pale dress with white socks and shoes.

A boy who lived in an apartment like ours is dressed only in what looks like a diaper, and is barefoot. There's another boy as well, sitting on the dirt.

This was part of the yard behind the apartments, and this was where the kids from the apartments played. 

You can imagine how much my mother hated that yard.

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Can You Relate?

My parents "started over" a number of times.

Have you ever upended your life? Left one job for another in the hope that the new one would be more fulfilling or financially better? Left your home and started over in a new place? Done both at the same time?

Does the thought of moving to a new place excite you or frighten you?

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LoveChild: Life Lessons from an Ugly Duckling is the story of my struggle to adjust to the life I was given, and my eventual discovery that, not only had I become a swan but, contrary to my perceptions, I had always been one. Though I didn't realize it until many years later, my life was part of a much bigger plan that all made perfect sense.

I'll be blogging my story once a week.

Find links to all these blogs at:


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  • NJ, you were one very pretty girl. I know I have lived in 17 different homes. Currently 25 years in this home; longest anywhere. I used to like the change of moving.

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