|April 21, 1966|
April 21, 1965. Not really much of an exciting day, as far as history goes... Rome was founded on this day in 753 BC, Henry the VIII ascended the throne of England in 1509, and the Red Baron was shot down and killed (by a Canadian) in 1918. The #1 song on the US Billboard Charts was "The Game of Love", by the oh-so-memorable Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders. And there were some famous births too: Catherine the Great in 1729, Charlotte Bronte in 1816, and Queen Elizabeth II in 1926. Oh and let's not forget Tony Danza, in 1951.
But in the small "Franglais" town of Hawkesbury, Ontario, a family of five was about to become a family of six.
I have three sisters who are seven and eight years older than I, and as is the way with older siblings, they loved to tease and torment me. I think the twins were particularly fond of this as a pastime, and over the years I was told everything from "you're soooo much younger than us because you belong to the government and they're going to come back for you some day", to "you were an accident". I know, nice, eh? But don't worry... there was comeuppance (GW).
|From left: Joan, Janet, Elizabeth, and Me!|
Momentarily struck silent, my sisters absorbed this information.
"Yeah, well, you almost killed Mum when you were born!" was the next sentence they uttered.
My mother kept going about her activities with a casual, "yes, that's true I guess" and a not-so-subtle wink in my general direction. Fortunately I was made of strong stuff and had learned not only to put up with their remarks, but also to get even. Eventually.
I was the last try for a boy, as it turns out. My name was to be William David, and I would go camping and fishing with my Dad, build things in his workshop, be handy with tools, and go to baseball and hockey games. Aside from the name and the gender, all the rest turned out to be pretty accurate! I did do all those things with my Dad!
1965 was still a time of conservatism for small town Ontario, and my mother had a Scottish doctor named Dr. McLeman. He believed that "when the frrrruit is rrrripe, it will drrrrop!" And so, the fact that my poor mother was in labour for 5 days with me did not faze him, and a C-section was never even considered. On the fourth day Dad took Mum to the hospital, and both of us had a really hard time over the next few hours. I was apparently in distress, and when I finally decided to make my entrance at 4:16 in the morning (all 8lbs and 15oz of me), I was born face up (or sunny side up, as they say), which makes things harder for everyone I guess.
And yet, I didn't cry. (I'm told I never cried.) My mum says that I "cooed", and that her first words to me were, "Welcome, wee lassie".
|Lilacs are still one of my favourite flowers...|
|My parents, grandparents, and me|
on my christening day.
I was christened Barbara Ruth that summer. Barbara after my mother's sister, and Dad chose Ruth "just because". They liked the sound of Barbara Ruth better than Ruth Barbara, but wanted to call me Ruth. So I have never gone by Barbara in 46 years. (And don't even try it. Or Babs. Or Barbie.)
|That's me in the bow, at the ripe age of 13. Dad took|
me on a white-water canoeing trip in Northern
Quebec. One of the best memories Dad and I share.
Who knows how things would have turned out if I was indeed born William David. All I can tell you is that as the youngest of four daughters you can imagine that I was (and still am) pretty spoiled. Sure - as a girl I learned the domestic arts. I'm a decent cook, better-than-average baker, and so-so house keeper. I learned to knit and sew and crochet (and realized quickly that those things are not my forte), read music and play the piano. I can iron (but prefer not to), polish windows with newspaper, and clean silver with baking soda and tinfoil. But I also learned how to use a hammer, level a concrete walkway, cane seats in an antique chair, refinish furniture, paint a room, pitch a tent, portage a canoe, and roast corn over a fire. I grew up in a house full of love, laughter, and song. I can sing hymns and folk songs, show tunes and 30s ballads. I know how to read a star guide and find the north pole, the difference between a loon and a merganser, and how to tell the call of a cardinal and a whippoorwill.
I've never been a big fan of my birthday. I love when people remember, and I am certainly fond of a good ice cream cake. But really, it's a day to ask my parents what they remember about that day, and to say, "thank you" for the 46th time.