Tag Archives: Mom

It is regrettable that this item is undeliverable.

My mother, Vivian, has always loved writing letters and still writes a couple each week, as well as sending lots of birthday, anniversary and thank you cards. It takes much more effort at age 97 as her fingers don’t always do what she wants them to, but she takes her time and gets the job done.

Here’s a letter she wrote to her friend, Lance Corporal Harold Bulger, who was serving with the Algonquin Regiment of the Canadian Army during the Second World War. “Hally” had worked for her father, Wilbur, before the war, helping with farm chores like making hay and bringing in grain. As hired help were fed their noon meal by their employer in those days (and up into the 60s and 70s in our corner of rural PEI), my mother got to know Harold well. She doesn’t remember why she referred to him as “This Place”, but guesses it must have been something he said often.

The letter is dated September 15, 1944, eight days after my parents were married in Summerside, PEI, while both were serving in the RCAF. My father, Harold Phillips, was stationed in Summerside, and my mother, Vivian Hardy, in Sydney, Nova Scotia. They were both 22, so I’m not sure why my mother thinks she waited so long to get married! Her reference to being “posted back to Canada” is because she was “overseas” during the war, spending 13 months in Torbay, Newfoundland, then under British rule.

Vivian and Harold Phillips, September 1944

Harold Gabriel Bulger was killed in action in Belgium on September 10, 1944, one day after his 26th birthday, so he never got to read this cheerful letter from his old friend. He is buried in Adegem Canadian War Cemetery.

The letter was stamped and written on a few times before finding its way back to my mother on PEI, probably in 1945: 10-9-44 for the date of Harold’s death, Deceased both written in wax pencil and stamped, just to drive the sad point home.

I can’t read all the cancellations, but my guess is the letter travelled Sydney> Europe> Sydney> Ottawa> Conway Station. I suppose there was a general military post office in Ottawa (OTTAWA M.P.O. 318, maybe?) to redirect mail to service members as they moved between postings and back to civilian life. Someone wrote my grandfather’s name – Wilbur – and Conway St., PEI in red pencil, and that was all the address needed to reach its final destination.

Harold Bulger’s parents, Annie and Gabriel, lived in Foxley River, about a mile from my grandfather’s house in Freeland. They had 17 children, 14 girls and 3 boys, who all lived to adulthood (a true miracle in those days). Harold and another brother, Lawrence, both joined the army during the Second World War. Like my parents, and many others who volunteered, this was as much a way to make money to help the family as it was about patriotic duty, and their large family could no doubt have used the financial injection in a community where jobs were scarce.

Lawrence was killed as his unit, the North Nova Scotia Highlanders, were advancing towards Berlin on March 25, 1945, less than two months before Germany’s surrender. Lawrence was 20 and is buried in Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery in the Netherlands.

Two sons killed within six months, buried far from home. Poor Annie and Gabriel.

Their names are read out at the Ellerslie Legion Remembrance Day service as part of the long list of those from our area who died in the line of duty. Each year I think of this letter when I hear Harold’s name, just a newsy note that would have been long gone if he had received it. I can imagine him reading it while having a smoke and a mug of tea, maybe telling a pal the news from home, then using the paper to light a fire or even roll a cigarette if rolling papers were scarce. Instead, it has become a treasure.

(With enormous thanks to Clinton Morrison, Jr., for his excellent book, Along The North Shore: A Social History of Township 11, P.E.I., 1765-1982, the top source of historical information on our community and past residents. It is known as “The Other Bible” in our home, and many others, as countless discussions and arguments have been resolved by pulling Clint’s book off the shelf.)

Homemade Halloween

When we first moved into our house in 2002, and for a few years after, we were lucky to get 5 or 6 trick or treaters on Halloween, mostly neighbours and cousins. Our 1,000 foot lane is often muddy this time of year, and children in the country have to be driven from house to house, so you go where you are taken!

One Halloween in the mid-2000s, I was doing the morning milking with my friend and neighbour, Jonathan, at his uncle’s dairy farm, and we were comparing notes about how many children we were expecting that night. Jonathan lives less than a kilometre from our house and he was getting 20 and 30 kids a year! His secret wasn’t much of a secret: better treats!

So, we upped our game, and the numbers started to rise. By 2010, we had moved into the double digits, and last year we had 20! I love watching the tiny shy toddlers turning into teenagers taller than me. I beg them to keep coming back even after they can drive!

The most heart warming, and perhaps surprising thing in this world of stranger danger and store-bought everything, is that every child who has been here on this rainy, windy evening has been looking forward to one thing only: my mother’s homemade sugar cookies. She baked and decorated five dozen cookies this year, with two-packs to give out tonight, and the leftovers will go to her church Sunday School this weekend.

Her 97-year-old hands don’t work as well as they once did, and she is never really pleased with the decorating job, but she says a prayer as she works that each child who receives them will live in peace and happiness. Nothing I can buy at a store will ever compare to this, and she will be remembered by children born in this decade long into the late part of this century as that nice lady who made the cookies on Halloween.

Twofers of sugar.

Ernest Insists on Cashmere Stockings

I’m preparing a presentation for tomorrow evening, the third one I have given this year on the general topic of “I’m saving and sharing stuff and you should, too!” The first two talks were in my Tyne Valley/Ellerslie neighbourhood, but this one is in Summerside, so I am switching it up a bit.

I’ve just added a clip from audio interviews I’ve done over the past few years with my mother, Vivian. She was raised by her paternal grandparents, Ernest and Eva Hardy, after her mother died in 1927 when my mother was four. They had already raised eight children, including my grandfather, Wilbur, their oldest child. How good it was of them to take on my mother and her younger brother, Edgar, so that Wilbur could continue to farm and make a living.

Eva and Ernest died long before I was born, but I have heard so many stories about them from my mother and her aunts and uncles that I feel like I remember them. The act of telling stories about someone keeps them alive. Many of my memories are not of things that happened to me but of things I’ve been told so often they are now mine.

I especially love this story about Ernest as it make him sound like Matthew Cuthbert off to Carmody for puffed sleeves! My mother was 91 when this was recorded, and she has been every bit as generous as her beloved grandfather.

Ernest Buys Cashmere Stockings
Ernest and Eva Hardy, Freeland, PEI

97

My mother and I delivered eight dozen sugar cookies that she baked and decorated herself to the vacation bible school group in Tyne Valley today, her 97th birthday. She said it’s not a big deal, but I think it’s kind of a big deal at her age, or any age, really! She wishes she could do as much as she once did, but she still does what she can, and that’s a great lesson for us all.

Everyone needs to feel needed, no matter what age or ability. When my caring responsibilities start to feel heavy, I remember times when I was alone and had no one who needed me, and I know that was much worse. Love and be loved, and make cookies.