First winter

My mom’s family are story tellers. Family gatherings and dinners would usually end up with them talking about their past – growing up in pre-war Steveston and then the war years in Turin, Alberta working the sugar beet fields. And their stories would often include some humour which would result in much laughter. I think I heard and laughed with those stories so often that I became almost nonchalant about their actual hardships and experiences. And maybe they told these stories with humour to cover the pain and sadness they experienced.

In the fall of 2019 I participated in the bus trip to the southern Alberta beet fields. The snow was falling on the first day of the trip as we arrived in Lethbridge. After lunch at the Nikka Yuko Garden, we were scheduled for a tour of the garden – and all the while the snow kept falling and now the wind was blowing as well. Begrudgingly I started the tour, and noted out loud that the snow was falling sideways because of the wind. And then I suddenly thought of my family and their first winter in Alberta. There I was, wearing my boots, thermal underwear, down jacket, complaining about the cold. What must have it been like for my mom, her siblings, my grandparents, to come from the temperate west coast and experience that first winter? Had they brought warm clothing? Even if they had, would it have been enough for the harsh Alberta winter?

I think I then finally really understood some of the fear, sadness, and despair they must have felt.

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