Biographical Non-Fiction posted January 11, 2018 Chapters: 1 2 -3- 4 

This work has reached the exceptional level
Pictures can be deceiving

A chapter in the book Nana's Roses

A Picture of Promise

by Sharon Meda

Wedding Contest Winner 

My parents married on June 12, 1955. I think they look happy in the wedding photo. I'm told they were in love when they married. Stan, with a rare smile, looks down on his beautiful young bride, Vi. He has a slight tilt to his neck, barely noticeable.

He had driven his car off the road the night before, after leaving his bachelor party while intoxicated. Three days after the wedding, when he began to sober up, the pain drove him to the hospital where an X-ray revealed he had broken two vertebras in his neck. He spent the next ten weeks in a neck-brace.

He was lucky to have survived that crash at all; the car didn't. While he had cheated death the day before his wedding, he wasn't so lucky in September 1992. At the age of fifty-eight, three years younger than I am now, he suffered a broken rib while being jostled in a skidder crash, and it punctured his lungs. He died in a helicopter on route to the hospital. They'd been married thirty-seven years.

Vi looks young, innocent and happy in the picture. Maybe she was at the time. She had certainly wed the man of her dreams; tall, dark, and handsome, he could be a real charmer. At the time, she probably thought she had it made, after all, that was the goal of young girls of that time: grow up and get married. I don't know if she'd made any plans for her future beyond that sunny day in June.

The colorless photo of the day doesn't show her crystal blue eyes, honey blonde hair, or the deep red of the roses she held. Neither does it reveal the years to come, when she would think she was in hell. Living in a logging camp without electricity or running water, hauling water from the creek in big metal milk cans, and chopping through the ice in the wintertime. She would then use that same axe to chop firewood and kindling to keep the wood stove burning, cooking hunks of whatever game Dad had shot on the cast iron stovetop. She washed clothes in a big metal tub with a scrub board--first, for the two of them, and then for her four daughters.

When I turned six years old in 1962 and had to start school, we moved into town and could enjoy the luxury of utilities and flush toilets for the first time. Dad stayed in the logging camp through the week and came into town for the weekends.

While we girls celebrated the upgrade to modern life, Mom embraced the freedom living in town offered her. She would 'coffee' with neighbors most days, leaving me in charge of my three younger sisters.

From the logging camp, we had moved into Merritt in central British Columbia, a small, windy, and dusty logging town with a sawmill at each end. The smell of fresh cut lumber always hung on the breeze. We rented a house just one block from my school. While we lived in the upstairs suite, the basement was ready to house another family, but it was empty the entire time we lived there.

Leona was the youngest sister, and she became my steady charge. I carried her around in a laundry basket, and she was with me wherever I went. The summer of the year I started school, Leona was six months old.

One afternoon during that summer, I raided the downstairs apartment for two Hudson Bay blankets, a hammer, and nails. I nailed the blankets to the top of the washstand in the back yard to hang down as the walls for our 'fort'. I'd also found a couple of candles and some matches, I lit the candles and used the melted wax to secure the base of each to a small jar lid. These went into the fort along with us four girls, Leona tucked in her basket as usual. Somehow, in the playing and jostling, a candle was knocked over, and the blankets ignited. Our fort was on fire.

We three older girls ran into the house and grabbed pots, filled them with water, and rushed out to throw it on the flames. Leona, still inside the fort, was not only in danger of being burned, but was also being doused with cold water, causing her to scream at the top of her lungs. The excited yelling for more water and the baby howling brought neighbors running. They pulled the laundry basket, with Leona, out of harm's way and put the fire out by tearing the blankets down and stomping on them.

When asked, "Where's your mother?" I could only look down and shrug. First, I didn't know where she was. Secondly, I was painfully shy and couldn't utter a response, even if I'd tried.

Mom, recounting the story later, said she had heard the screaming from five doors down and said to her hostess, "I sure hope that's not my brats making all that noise." Once she'd finished her coffee, she wandered home to learn it was in fact us. Being the oldest, I got the strap.

Her coffee visits later became beers at the bar. Later, after I was around ten years old, she would be gone for weeks at a time, partying with friends we never knew.

She always came home, but one time, she returned not so much because of a sense of responsibility, but at the command of her mother. She'd left us four girls with our grandparents for two weeks during summer vacation, a yearly event. But this time, she phoned a week after the scheduled pick up date to say she had joined a band as a singer, was going on tour, and would be back in a month or so. She was told, "get home now, and pick up your kids." She arrived in our station wagon two days later, very disgruntled and cranky. She never forgave her mother, or us girls, for spoiling her shot at fame and fortune.

The union that looked like bliss, captured in that wedding picture, suffocated her over the years. She felt trapped with a man she had fallen out of love with and four daughters she never wanted in the first place. I'd often hear her say, "I knew how to have kids; I just didn't know how not to."

The picture doesn't show the angry woman she'd become, or the miserable life she'd lead until the drinking finally killed her, five years after Dad was gone. In truth, her picture of promise belied her future of despair and doom.

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© Copyright 2018. Sharon Meda All rights reserved.
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