One of my aunts, one that I adored, used to make fun of that hymn because it embodies an attitude in Christianity that she despised. But then, she was a preacher’s daughter who grew up living in near poverty in every small town in southern Ontario. I remember my dad taking us on trips through that country, and in each town he’d point out the parsonage. The memory of a child is unreliable, so I’m not sure if the houses looked dismal to me or if that’s the way I heard the story.
Life for Methodist preachers in Ontario in those days was grim. I’m sure they weren’t paid much, and they moved every two years. My grandmother had five children, one of whom died young. I’m sure feeding and raising the rest wasn’t easy, and Nana, whom I loved fiercely, was a fairly neurotic and pessimistic woman. I recognized that only from the perspective of adulthood but I think her life must have accounted for her attitude.
I remember her house in Oakville fondly—it had its own smell that welcomed me. I loved the chesterfield (that’s a British way of saying sofa) covered in chintz, and a huge sideboard in the dining room. That sideboard is now in my dining room—well not in the cottage, but in the main house It doesn’t look as big to me these days but it is a treasure.
One of my aunts lived with Nana. Doey developed rheumatoid arthritis as a young woman, a nurse, and was reduced to being a stringer for the Toronto Star. I suspect my grandmother did a lot of her work, because Doey’s hands and feet were terribly contorted and painful. In those days, probably the 1950s, they didn’t have the treatments they do today for RA.
All in all my father’s family were not a cheerful bunch, and I marvel that he came away and moved to Chicago—with a robust enjoyment of life. He brought with him many traits that I suspect were inheritances from his upbringing—a strict sense of right and wrong, a firm commitment to responsibility, a democratic sense of fairness to all people. Much of what I am today I owe to his influence. When I was fourteen I went to work in his office and eventually became his secretary. I was a darn good executive assistant and could be today. One thing that Dad hated was to call someone—he always dialed his own calls, none of that “Get so-and-so on the phone for me” nonsense—only to have a secretary say, “Please hold.”
Sorry. I got sidetracked and carried away, but I thought of the hymn and then my family background because today was a real workday for me. My work ethic came to the forefront even though I am my own boss these days. I had edits on a manuscript to do but didn’t want to lose momentum on the work-in-progress. The result was that I had my nose to the computer all day, except about two o’clock, usually my nap time, my brain said, “I need a rest” and I took a nap.
Friends came for happy hour, people I hadn’t visited with for a while, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. But then I was back at my desk. Now it’s late, and I’m going to crawl into bed and read a good mystery.