December 1963 to June 1964

The school year continued , and Christmas approached with the usual concerns of overseas parcels, cards, baking, and Charlie’s birthday. The plan to spend Christmas in Brantford was scotched, along with Charlie’s birthday festivities, when he came down with shingles- a connection from our earlier bout of chicken pox in 1957. However, he recovered in time for us to visit the Moors for New Year which was fun for the children staying up late watching old movies with their cousin Bruce, and necessary for the adults to discuss plans for the summer wedding of the oldest cousin John with Sharon- who had asked Linda to be a bridesmaid!

The winter of 1964 involved fundraising events for the church- Cyn’s Cookery Demonstration for adults, and for the young people a Sleigh Ride. This was not a happy, cozy, ‘jingle bells’ experience in my opinion. There was no ‘one-horse open sleigh’, instead a pair of horses dragged a flatbed strewn with straw on runners slowly though fields covered with knee-deep snow. The jolly companions on the wagon competed in shoving their weaker ’friends’ off the wagon into the snow, forcing them to run to the point of exhaustion to try to scramble on to the conveyance, sometimes aided by compassionate friends, or repelled by nastier bullies. The bridge of Linda’s nose received a lifelong bump when she was helpfully pulled on – along with several more victims who ended up on top of her and her glasses. The hot chocolate served at the end of the ride was poor compensation for the experience.

At school there were preparations for the musical play to be performed in the spring, and at home more personal excitement. It had been arranged that Linda would meet Sharon in Toronto during Spring Break to join the other bridal attendants for dress shopping. An air ticket was bought for Linda’s first flight alone- and I can clearly remember how I was dressed for that trip. I had a grey suit with a jacket and pleated skirt. With it I wore a white pillbox hat, white gloves (both nylon with stretchy elastic) and white socks with black shoes. John and Sharon met me at the airport and we joined the other junior bridesmaid and Sharon’s two adult friends at a bridal shop and proceeded to try on dresses. I was shy- I only knew Sharon of the party, and uttered no opinions on the outfits, but it was finally agreed that we would be wearing pretty green full- skirted dresses with white accessories. I went to Brantford with the party for the weekend, and presumably they put me back on the plane in Toronto, and I returned home with great relief. I wish there existed a letter giving Cyn’s take on the excursion (I expect I had plenty of opinions to express about it once I was home) but I remember nothing more. Probably Cyn had agreed to make sure my dress was fitted properly when it arrived, and now we just had to wait for the summer.

Easter was at the end of March, and Cyn’s birthday followed, with celebratory cards from her closest friend in England, Nancy Heslop.

The school play that year “Asses’ Ears” was a musical telling the story of the Greek King Midas, not involving his golden touch, but his later offence to the god Apollo’s music, punished with donkey’s ears. He hid these under turbans but his barber knew the secret, and whispered the news to the corn- and the growing corn rustled the news to the reapers. Grade 7s and 8s were involved in the singing chorus- and Linda and her friends were also the secondary singing-and-dancing barbers, with a jolly song “Midas has got asses’ ears” to perform. It was presented in the auditorium of the new high school that had just been built, and the Grade 8 students were very interested to see the school they would be going to after their graduation in June.

In June, there were exams, we passed, got our report cards, and Linda would be going into Grade 9 in the high school built beside the new bypass, the Queensway, a four-lane highway designed to relieve Ottawa’s traffic congestion, and link the growing suburbs being built east and west of the city.

Graduation from Grade 8 was a rite of passage that involved one of Cyn’s most successful dresses for Linda- a white sleeveless dress with a panel down the front, embroidered with pink rosebuds. This was the first time I wore nylon stockings- with garter belt and suspenders attached (pantyhose had not been invented then)- to be followed by the second time later that summer, as bridesmaid. I felt almost adult- I would be going to high school, and when I started there I would be a teenager.

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