Home Is Where The Heart Is
Treasuring a binder full of family history and a farm full of family memories
My Grandma Joyce has this battered, torn red Duo-tang that has been around for as long as I can remember. She has tracked the birth, marriage and death of every single person in our family in this old binder. Between my grandma and her four siblings, along with my grandpa and his three siblings, there are now four generations of family written about in this book— all by Grandma’s hand. The pencil is starting to fade and the pages are too full to keep adding new family members.
When Grandpa passed away in 2016, I began visiting Grandma regularly so that we could work together to type up her handwritten family record and put it in a nice new binder. In addition to the record itself, we wanted to include biographies of Grandma, Grandpa and their four children. Eventually, we would write biographies for the grandchildren as well (there are six of us) and then, one day, the greatgrandchildren. In December, through the joy of adoption, I added Grandma’s eighth great-grandchild to the family. William is named for his great-grandpa who passed away exactly six months before we received the news we would be bringing William home.
As we sat at the kitchen table, I listened to Grandma reminisce about her life. She was transported back to being a young girl on the farm in Rowley, Alta., helping her dad with the horses. Then, just as quickly she talked about being a young woman living in Lloydminster, Alta., and meeting and being courted by Grandpa. She became a mother, raising four wonderful children and then a mother devastated by the sudden and tragic loss of her daughter.
During these visits, as I listened to her life story, Grandma became a new person to me. Sure, many of the stories were ones I’d heard before, but I was hearing them in a new light now.
A running theme throughout the stages of her life was the farm in Rowley. The family home and livery barn had been such a huge part of her life and, in turn, became a big part of all our lives. We all grew up
visiting the farm in summer, helping to paint the wagon wheel fence, marking our heights on the door to go upstairs, getting in trouble for eating all of Grandma’s snap peas out of the garden, and listening to stories about Vic and Mary, two of the horses Grandma had growing up. Rowley was the scene of family reunions, baptisms, Grandpa and Grandma’s vow renewal on their 50th wedding anniversary, and my Auntie Shona’s funeral—she is buried in the cemetery there.
Over the years, as we all grew older and Grandpa began to succumb to dementia, the farm and barn have aged. The barn turns 100 this year and is in need of repairs. A few months ago, Grandma handed me a letter on one of our visits. It was a handwritten letter that she wrote about the farm and its history. She asked me to type it up and send it to Our Canada.
It would mean the world to her to see her letter in print. And maybe, just maybe, it will bring some muchneeded attention and support to our historic and beloved barn. ■
The Salloway livery barn has seen 100 years of family life and events, but is now in need of restoration.