Memories flow freely

Years roll by and memories flow freely, yet it is difficult to realize that it’s been a full seven years, on this day of publishing, since my Little Lady, the love of my life, left her place on earth to join the angels in paradise above. There she’s a guardian angel of all those with whom she lived, loved and left.

Having had greater than 52 years of what’s casually dubbed as wedded bliss, with my one and only Little Lady, can be blamed on her and she alone. She had a sharp-as-a-tack yet subtle sense of humour. It was something recognized by few and often momentarily went right over my head.

Even though I knew her little quirks and counter quivers well, I often found myself struggling to hold back laughter long after the time that a grin should have wrinkled my chin.

She possessed the peculiar audacity of having tense arguments often ending with boisterous laughter, and was adept, too, at putting smiles on faces, even at funerals.

The bright side of sad times must have been her personal major, for her hand kneading my shoulder brought me through far more than many. She knew when to share a tear of comfort and when it was time to not; a unique ability that most never muster.

I will always remember, that first week of September. I, in mid-upper-teens, boarded across the dead-end street from where she and her family resided. She was sitting in a large old chesterfield chair on the street side facing veranda, her skirted crossed legs comfortably scissor-positioned beneath her.

On self introduction I handed her a big, rosy, carefully shone apple, which I had just snitched from a nearby orchard. Her expressive eyes twinkled thank you, with pursed lips and cheek blush matching the colour of the apple. It was not before then that her next door neighbour informed me she was suffering the extraction of two eye-teeth and a molar after work, and her speechless swollen mouth was still frozen.

Though a year and nine months my senior, born rural route as I, and raised strictly Baptist, she jokingly kidded me about my non-wavy fire red hair, freckles, glasses and her fear of robbing the cradle.

But when she came up behind me, running fingers through my combed-back straight hair, something clicked. She wasted little time wrapping me around her little finger. She had the knack of a professional, not wanting much, but getting what she wanted.

 Following four off and on years, it was I who said yes to her, not she to me. Short weeks thereafter, during a slight pause in the usual “with this ring I thee wed” clergyman’s ceremony, as I placed the binding ring on her left hand third finger, she slipped an identical bi-coloured gold ring on mine. That ring is still where she put it; not once was there reason for removal.

That was Nov. 19, 1955, and with my “Just Married” traditionally decorated, washed and shone, bright-red Mercury convertible, 1949 vintage, parked strategically at the curb, we left the wedding reception at 9:30pm in a, recently-new, wine coloured, four-door Chevy demonstrator, half owned by she and her father, which was conveniently hidden in a neighbour’s garage down the street.

Promised by her aunt, as a wedding gift, was the use of an original log cabin on a lake-side farm near Long Beach, Ontario, just a few miles south of Hamilton. It featured a floor-to-ceiling hand picked field stone fireplace before which lay a giant thick Buffalo rug, and the original ox yoke, used to haul the logs, hung over its exterior door. Romantic, picture perfect, what more could you want? But fate fought and won that first evening.

We had not yet left the outskirts of Guelph when it started to sleet and snow. It came down so intense that the wipers could not clear the windshield. In order to see I ended up white-knuckled, driving with my head stuck out of the side window. There was nothing more welcome then the vacancy sign that popped up as we approached the steep slippery decline into Hamilton. It was one of those small, several-unit motels – a craze at the time sweeping coast to coast.

The room, it was said between grunts, moans and groans of the half intoxicated attendant, could be rented for seven dollars a night, with TV a one dollar option. As I stood there brushing ice, snow and confetti from my shoulders, I questioned “What do you think?” With a bleary eyed look he tossed back an extra dollar, then on legs that wobbled, staggered off mumbling, “I’ll turn the heat up in the bridal suite.” Unit one tagged the key he tossed in my general direction.

This “no-tell motel” unit sported a floor to ceiling mirror extending up over the four-poster queen size bed. The cast iron heating unit, which banged and clanged all through the night, was apparently steam fed from the far end of the seven units. This challenged not one iota the Little Lady. She immediately disappeared into the ensuite bath, putting plug in tub; she turned on the hot water.

Moments later she popped from within a rush of room warming steam; her petite rosy frame wrapped in a humongous towel. Then, framed in the steam-shrouded mirror, tip toe spinning before me, the beach towel twirling to the floor, she saucily chanted, “What you see is what you got!”

I, standing tall, dressed as born, wearing only a smile and the ring she had given; thinking ditto to that, replacing got with get, breathlessly blurted, “Oh my God! You have a beautiful body!” There must have been a serious grudge concealed within that statement for, with no regrets on my part, she held it against me the rest of her life.

Though long gone she is not forgotten and I’d hesitate not a heartbeat today, to give each and every one of my tomorrows for a single yesterday, if only I could say, once again,  “I love you” before she passed away.

We left long before dawn broke the next morning, arriving at her Aunt’s at seven. There the flickering blue flames of the apple-wood kindling and breakfast sizzling on the ancient fire-side cooking area waited.

Take care, ‘cause we care.



Barrie Hopkins