The Courier & Advertiser (Perth and Perthshire Edition)
I had learned the pleasure of the camaraderie that can rise up between people when they come face to face with similar difficulties By Margaret Gillies Brown
Idon’t remember where we crossed the border into America. All I remember is that we were all feeling the heat and that the children were getting tired and bored by the long drive.
We had been warned that the American officials had an obsession about citrus fruits being brought into the country and everyone was being searched for them. When they saw our car full of luggage and fractious kids they thought better of it and we got through with the minimum of fuss.
That night we stayed in a motel in Spokane and next morning wandered through the relaxed streets of the town.
We touched Utah, Washington State, Montana – travelled mile after endless miles over cowboy country, all cactus and wild sage, and then came down off an amazing plateau where we stopped.
What I remember most about Wenatchee is that we all got very bad tempered there and Grant, normally a good baby, started screaming.
I can’t altogether account for it but think it must have been something to do with the suddenness of our descent after living at around 3,000ft for almost three years.
We drove down through the Okanagan valley memorable for the wonderful colours of fall and the rich ripe apples hanging in the orchards. There were open air stalls, every now and then, piled high with red apples.
One in particular I will always remember. It was a long stall with a mountain of the biggest and reddest apples I had ever seen.
We stopped the car to buy some and were served by an enormously fat man in a red shirt with a round stomach that resembled nothing so much as a very much exaggerated Mackintosh Red.
Gradually we made our way over the Cascade mountains – older and gentler than the Rockies and very beautiful.
We lingered on this wonderful high terrain with its clear rivers and bright colours of autumn, not unlike the Highland mountains back home.
We stayed the night in a log-cabin-cum-motel that smelt deliciously of pinewood smoke. And then next day we travelled on through Seattle and on to Vancouver, that most impressive city on the shores of the Pacific, with its backdrop of magnificent mountains.
Thoroughly spoiled by Eileen and Harold in a house with white angora carpets, silken quilts and antique furniture, we stayed two weeks in Vancouver.
At the front of their split level house there was a balcony to walk out on facing Vancouver’s magnificent bridge – a long balcony bright with exotic plants and where Japanese mobiles, made from fragile panels of glass, fluttered in the breeze with a mysterious eastern tinkle.
Although I was very much enjoying our stay with Eileen and Harold – the opulence, the beautiful scenery, the freedom from worry and the comparative rest, I was eager to get home.
Now that the event was so close I couldn’t wait to see my mother and father again. They had been a great support to us, always sending useful parcels and writing helpful, cheerful letters.
They never complained that they were missing out on seeing us or their only grandchildren growing so quickly.
Always optimistic, they never let us feel downhearted. I was dying to let them see our new babies and have them wonder at how their grandchildren had grown. No one on Earth would be more interested.
I was also longing to see my country again in all its moods and weathers – its soft greyness, its storms, its idyllic days, more appreciated because they were less frequent.
I did not know whether we would come back to this land that I had learned to love. I knew now that I could be happy in either country. I also knew that if we did come back, the pull of the place where I was born and raised would always be strong.
I was going back home a different person. Canada had taught me a great deal about myself and what were really the most important things in life.
It had taught me that most things can be done without, provided there is enough food, water and heat.
Many things I might have thought of as essential at home weren’t really, even tables and chairs.
I had learned a lot about humanity. We had met people of many nationalities and discovered, as I had always suspected, that the likenesses were stronger than the differences.
That in each race there were the generous and the kind, the mean and the greedy.
I had learned the pleasure of the camaraderie that can rise up between people when they come face to face with similar difficulties and how very kind complete strangers can be for no reason.
One wise saying I knew I would never forget. It was told to me by Eunice, the neighbour in Edmonton who taught me how to bake bread.
Her mother, an early pioneer, talking about her own difficult life in Alberta had once said: “I have had a lot of help from people during my lifetime and likewise I have helped many people. Not always the same people but I guess it works out about even.”
I was going back to Scotland a much more confident person, one who would find it less difficult to hold her head up and speak in public; one who would be able to cope with most situations.
I was also going back with much more appreciation of the British way of life and the Scottish in particular. It was perhaps we who had been in the doldrums not the country.
But not any more – after Canada anything seemed possible. I would, however, appreciate the feeling of safety I had always felt at home which we never quite felt in Canada, with its nine-month winter, when so much had to close down because of the severity of the climate.
Could there ever be work for everyone in the winter in this huge frozen country?
Most of all, perhaps, I looked forward to going back to a solid family farmhouse with its rowan tree in the garden to ward off trouble and bring good luck. The end.