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Things I’ve Learned From My Family

When I was young, going to church was a big deal. It meant that we got to dress up in our finest and leave the yard. Being raised on a farm in the middle of nowhere didn’t offer a vast array of entertainment, so Sunday morning was a real treat. When I study the rare photos of these blessed occasions, I see that, without fail, I was tightly squeezed into some polyester-blend masterpiece that had been (wisely) cast aside by my older sister. Snot-green-coloured pants were all the rage back then. Or so I was told. I was built a little longer than my sister so when I pulled them on, the cast-off slacks resembled nasty gaucho pants, barely grazing the bottom of my calves. It didn’t help that the waist was usually too big for my pre-pubescent frame, so I’d give the pants an extra tug up for good measure. My brothers would then taunt me and ask when the flood was coming, so they could make the necessary preparations with the animals and the ark. Angry words would be exchanged and salty tears would fall.

By the time my parents issued the final warning for us to load our carcasses into the car, there was very little love left. And it’s rather hard to hold on to your last shred of dignity while being horizontally stacked into a car. On the two-mile drive into town, I fell victim to the following acts of barbarianism: braids rubbed out with fists, wedgies, snakebites, freshly squeezed flatulence that hung and ripened in the

morning air and gobs of phlegm produced to make me gag, if I wasn’t doing so already. So if I thought my pants were riding too high on the way into the car, imagine what I looked like by the time I got tossed out. Children nowadays should consider the seatbelt and car seat among the best inventions since sliced bread. Not because they help save your life; that’s simply a bonus. More importantly, they preserve your sanity by creating personal space, albeit a small one. The chances of maturing into a normal, functioning adult have since increased significantly.

To this day, I’m not sure how my parents put up with all of this — they must have wanted to murder us. And not only are we all still alive, but they’d turn these episodes into teaching moments. For example, I can recall yelling up to the front seat, “Mom! He’s on my side and he’s touching my braids and trying to spit on my pants!” To which the reply

would come, “Well of course you’re going to touch! There are eight of you kids back there, for heaven’s sake. And maybe it’s time you started thinking about what Jesus would have done. Do you think he’d be shouting at his brothers and sisters on the way to church?” What would Jesus have done? I’ll tell you what he would have done. Jesus certainly wouldn’t have been making fun of his sister’s pants that were too short, nor would he be doling out wedgies and snakebites on the way to church. No. He would have marched my family out to the desert and left them there for 40years.Forty days and nights just wouldn’t have cut it.

To sum it up, my siblings taught me that you have to pick your battles. Not many things in life are worth getting lathered up about and fighting over. But if it’s something that is, then stand up for yourself and don’t back down. And my parents taught me to find the good inanysituation. They constantly reminded me that life is like one big board game — you get your chips, play a good game, and then pass it on. Never try to hoard it. Never take more than you give. They sacrificed so much for our family and yet we took much of what they gave for granted. And do you know what that’s taught me? That giving freely of yourself to others is one of the greatest legacies you can leave behind. There’s no way to repay someone for that sort of gift, other than to pass it along to your own kids.

And my children? Well, simply put, they remind me of all that’s good in this world. And what grand teachers they are. In fact, they teach me so much that I often stop to wonder — how am I returning that favour? Am I sharing the gifts that were given to me by my parents? I’d like to think so. In regards to what we pass on to our children, here’s what Pablo Picasso, a Spanish artist and painter, (1881-1973) had to say:

“Each second we live is a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that will never be again. And what do we teach our children? We teach them that two and two make four, and that Paris is the capital of France. When will we also teach them what they are? We should say to each of them: Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the years that have passed, there has never been another child like you. Your legs, your arms, your clever fingers, the way you move… you have the capacity for anything… yes, you are a marvel… we must all work to make the world worthy of its children.”

Well put, Pablo. Now I’m off. There are a couple of marvels running around here like a pack of bush wolves — as I type this, they arecreating a unique moment in the universe.It could also be calledramming my last portable phone down the toilet.

JanitaVandeVeldegrewuponafarmnear Mariapolis,Man.Sheholdsabachelorofscience degreeinagriculturaleconomicsfrom theUniversityofManitoba,andhasworked forafinancialinstitutionsincegraduating. ShelivesinRegina,Sask.,withherhusband RoddyandtheirchildrenJackandIsla.Her firstnovel,PostcardsNeverWritten,was therecipientoftheSaskatchewanReader’s ChoiceAwardandalsolistedbyCBCasone ofthetopfunnybooksin2009.Shedonatesa portionofproceedsfromthesaleofherbook toWorldVisiontohelpthoselessfortunate. Formoreinformation,ortoorderherbook, visitherwebsiteat www.janita.ca

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By the time my parents issued the final warning for us to load our carcasses into the car, there was very little love left

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