Archive for November, 2010

I hope you all have a great day!

Thanks to Fountaindawg for the graphic!

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In the summer of 1952, I spent the month of July with relatives, away from my parents. It was my first extended separation from them. When I arrived back at our summer cottage at the end of July, my mother sat me down to tell me her news. She was pregnant! Yes, she was going to have a baby at the age of 42. There were a couple of unexpected (by me!) results of the pregnancy. First of all, this summer of ’52 turned out to be our last summer in the cottage. My mother and her sister had inherited the cottage on the death of my nana, Jean. The two sisters came to the conclusion that selling was what they needed to do. The other family (aunt, uncle, cousins) had moved from the city and were now living about a mile and a half from the cottage. My parents needed the money from the cottage sale because they were going to need a bigger house with the advent of their 3rd child. And so the cottage was sold. I miss it to this very day.

During the following winter, my parents purchased a larger house – from the parents of one of my classmates! So by mid-winter, we had moved out of the small house on Hanna Rd., and had taken up residence on Craig Cres., in a much larger house, which not had only four bedrooms, but also had a den and powder room on the main floor, and had a finished recreation room with a fireplace in the basement. The lot was large and offered lots of scope for gardening, something my mother loved to do. The garden overlooked the rooftops of Canada’s first outdoor shopping centre, and beyond that, I could see from my bedroom window the lights on the baseball field in the park across the street from the shopping centre.

My sister made her advent on a snowy night in February, 1953. I was still in thrall to my orthodontist at the time, and on that day I had to go downtown after school for a checkup with him. Usually my father picked me up at the corner of Boor and St George, but on that day, with the snow falling furiously outside, he phoned the orthodontist’s office to say that I had to make my way home on the public transit, because he was at the hospital with my mother. Just as in her first two pregnancies years before, my mother had unexpectedly gone into labour about 3 weeks before her due date. My sister was born at the height of the blizzard at 11 p.m. that night.

We had lived one long block south of the high school before this winter, and now we lived one short block to the north of the school. I could leave home at 8:55 am and still be in class on time! During my high school years I sang in the school choir, which always rehearsed at lunch hour. I could go home for lunch and be back for the rehearsal, which took up at least half of the 90-minute lunch hour. We were a winning choir, always taking the honours in our competitions at the Kiwanis Music Festival, and I was so happy to be able to stay in the choir. My brother went also home for lunch and he went back to school for German class, which was taught only in the lunch hour, as an extra option. One could do choir (not a credit class) or German (which WAS a credit class) but not both! He loved to irritate me by saying stuff (insults, mostly) in German which bore no relation to the French and Latin that we both studied.
Living on Craig Cres. was great because not only was it close to the school, it was close to the park that adjoined it. The local baseball league played in the park all summer, and in the winter, there was ice! Oh yes, there was a public (free) skating rink (with no music) and there was a standard hockey rink just for shinny. Real league games were held in the arena. Both my brother Ken and I loved to go skating on winter nights after we had done our homework. I’d head for the regular rink with my figure skates and he’d go for an hour of shooting pucks on the hockey rink. In the summer I would go sit on the bleachers by the baseball diamond and watch the local baseball players in action.
Our new home also offered lots of babysitting opportunities, as the adjacent streets had quite a few young families, all needing teenage sitters. My first obligation though, was to my mom, who needed me frequently to take care of the baby while she did some task around the house. I’d go home from school in the afternoon and then take the baby out in her carriage for some air, or down to the shopping centre below us to do some errands for mother. All my teachers knew that my mother had given birth, and as they left school and passed me with the baby in her carriage, they would honk a hello and wave to me. However, those who did not know me naturally assumed that I was the mother. Most especially did people think that I was the mom of the baby if my mother and I were out together with the baby. My mother had “gone grey” very early, and by her 40s had a full head of grey hair. I often was the one pushing the carriage, and was 17 years old, so seeing us together, people naturally assumed that I was the mother of the beautiful blonde baby girl in the carriage. But I was not, and my own classroom teachers knew that I was not.

(To be continued)

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Secret Daughter

Author: Gowda, Shilpi Somaya
Publisher: Wm Morrow/Harper Collins
Personal Ranking: 8/10

This fine novel held my attention from the moment I started it. In rural India in 1984, Kavita gives birth to a daughter, who is her second daughter. The first one was taken away by Kavita’s husband Jasu soon after the birth, and Kavita never saw that child again. Only a boy was wanted.
The arrival of a second unwanted daughter prompts Kavita to take drastic action. Unbeknownst to her husband, she takes her secret newborn daughter, whom she has named Usha (meaning dawn) to an orphanage in Bombay and gives her up for adoption. She wants her second baby to have a chance at life, a chance her first daughter did not get. Her husband Jasu never learns of the existence of this child over the next two decades. Kavita never learns in that time of the fate of the child she gave up in order to save her life.
In California in 1985, Somer, a female doctor married to Krishnan, a male neurosurgeon of [east] Indian birth, discovers after a series of miscarriages that she is never going to give birth to her own biological child. She is infertile at a very early age.
She and her husband Kris come to the decision that they should adopt….and they do, from the orphanage in Bombay, where Kris’ parents and extended family live. Having misheard the child’s name on adoption day, they call their new daughter Asha (meaning hope)
Thus begins a story of two families, one in California and the other in Bombay. In the centre is Usha/Asha, the link between these two family stories that span a little more than 20 years.
More than anything I enjoyed the descriptions of the life in Bombay of a well-off middle class family, that of Krishan’s parents and extended family. The contrast between that family and the introverted and uptight American family in California could not be clearer. I also liked a lot that the main characters developed and changed over the two decades of this engaging story. Themes of love and loss run through this novel, engaging the reader’s emotions. Well done!
This lovely book is well worth your time.

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