Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .

Saturday, May 14, 2016

What's in a Name?

We have a tradition in our family.
I know what you’re going to say . . .
Another tradition?!
Hear me out . . .
When we were expecting our babies, and fighting arguingconsidering possible names, my ever-helpful Husby gave me a list from which to choose.
My Husby’s an historian. Did I mention that?
It’s significant.
Moving on . . .
The list was seven pages long.
And included such classics as: Trophimus. Trogillium. Vafthrusdinal. Gundohar and Gundobad (If we should ever be blessed with twins.)
I see your face.
Mine sported a similar expression.
And named our babies. Mark. Erik. Duff. Caitlin. Tiana. Tristan.
Now, I'm sure you’re wondering about the aforementioned tradition.
That comes here . . .
Because I was rude ignorant smart enough to ignore his helpful advice, my uber-determined Husby started in on the next generation.
With one significant change.
Our children weren’t given a choice.
Nope. They were given a name.
One name per grandchild.
Oh, they chose their own names, too. The names that would appear on birth certificates and numerous and sundry other legal places throughout the child’s life.
But each of them have a Grandpa Name (hereinafter known as GN) as well.
Unofficial, but just as important.
Let me enlighten you. These are the names as they now stand:
Megan Sarah. GN: Cruchenperk
Kyra Danielle. GN: Ataxerxes
Odin Erik. GN: Dashley
Thorin James. GN: Ragnowinthe
Erini Tiana. GN: Salmanezer
Jarom Elliott. GN: Abindaraz
Bronwyn Bell. GN: Pintiquinestra
Linnea Viktoria. GN: Adrevalde
Hazel Jane. GN: Bardowick
Willow Victoria. GN: Cantabrie
Leah Brooke Rachelle. GN: Ettelwulf
Aksel Grant. GN: Burthred
William Duff. GN: Hieronymus
With each one, there’s been the usual angst. And the ‘Why don’t they use my good names?’ question.
Maybe you can answer that . . .

Friday, May 13, 2016

Song of the Heart

Mom's favourite picture.
There is a line from a Joe Diffie (yes, I’m a country music fan) song that goes:
Home was a back porch swing where I would sit, 
And mom would sing Amazing Grace, while she hung out the clothes.
That line reminds me of my own Mom.
Mom was always singing. The first thing she did when she entered the kitchen in the morning was switch on the radio.
And hum along with the current favourites while she stirred up breakfast.
Later, radio off; I can picture her with her hands in hot, soapy water, belting out ‘Darling Clementine’.
Or hoeing in the garden to ‘Till We Meet Again’.
It’s amazing how ‘Amazing Grace’ or any number of other songs go along with milking the cows. The rhythm just works.
Folding clothes? That will always remind me of ‘You Are My Sunshine’. When she could convince one of us to join her, sung in two-part harmony.
‘Let Me Call You Sweetheart’ was waltzed with the broom across the kitchen floor.
And what would pea-shelling and bean-snapping be without ‘My Easter Bonnet’?
And early morning without ‘Good Morning, Mary Sunshine’?
Or bedtime without ‘Irish Lullaby’?
Riding out to the cows inevitably brought a rendition of ‘The Old Grey Mare’.
And evenings with the family - at least one chorus of ‘Whispering Hope’, again in harmony.
There are dozens more. I can’t picture Mom without a song in her heart and on her lips.
And her kids all do it, too.
Sing, I mean. While working.
More than once, I got smacked on the back of the head for bursting into song at inappropriate times during school.
It’s been too many years since I heard my Mom sing.
But in my memory, she’s singing still.
The last lines from that same Diffie song are totally appropriate for me: My footsteps carry me away. But in my mind, I’m always going home.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Great Gifts

My parents were a social sort.

And often entertained.
With friends and food and games galore
And fun for hours, sustained.

And in those days of party fun,
When er’ food came in sight,
There were no paper plates to serve
With gusto and delight.

Only the best that could be found
Would aid my parents’ guests,
And so they served on china, fine,
And silver for the rest.

And when the meal was done, the guests
Rose quickly to their feet.
And, as a group, cleared table, and
Would in the kitchen meet.

The duties there were quickly giv’n,
Who’d man the towels and sink.
And in an instant, all was done,
E’en faster than you’d blink.

When I was ten, above the rest
Stood out one woman there.
I watched in awe as she took towel
And dried the silverware.

Her movements were that quick, I found,
My eyes could barely follow.
And soon a gleaming pile she had
All ready for tomorrow.

“I’d love to be that fast,” I said.
“My goal is clear to see.”
She shook her head, “I’m sorry, dear,
You won’t be fast as me.”

I took it as a challenge then
And practiced faithfully.
And finally knew just what she meant,
“You won’t be fast as me.”

For some of us receive one gift,
And some another. True.
Her gift was drying silverware,
And mine? Is telling you.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


Sometimes, things said shouldn’t have been.
Because sometimes little ears are hearing . . .
And shouldn’t be.
Let me tell you about it . . .
Mom had invited some of her friends over for tea and a visit.
The house had been scrubbed inside and out.
The kids, ditto.
Furniture had been arranged.
Sighed over.
Okay, admittedly, what was said at this juncture was directed to no one and almost under Mom’s breath.
Just not enough under her breath: “I sure hope Mrs. (name-withheld-because-we-don’t-want-this-to-happen-again-EVER. Or NWBWDWTTHAE, for short) doesn’t choose to sit here. This antique chair of mother’s is pretty delicate and she is so heavy.”
FYI. Just because kids don’t appear to be listening, it doesn’t follow that they aren’t.
Moving on . . .
Little sister was well within hearing.
And understanding.
And . . . eeep . . . recording.
A short time later, the ladies started arriving. Including the aforementioned NWBWDWTTHAE.
The woman hovered uncertainly near the previously-discussed chair.
And that’s when little sister took it upon herself to save the day. Swooping in quickly, she smiled at the woman. “You can’t sit here,” she said in her most authoritative voice. “Because you’re too fat.”
I know you’ve had those occasions when you spoke without thinking. Or when something you said was repeated to the wrong person.
When the embarrassment is so thick and deep you want to just sink through the floor.
Take comfort in knowing that it’s happened to all of us.
To some of us, more than once.
We call ourselves the Girls of the Gaffe.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Forever Bubbles

On the street where we lived...
The tricycle in the background sits on Penny's drive.
I asked my youngest daughter what her favourite memory of growing up was.
Her answer surprised me . . .
When our family moved to Beaumont, Alberta, our first home was ‘up on the hill’.
A term for all of the houses built before 1980.
When the town was still . . . small.
Every home on our lively little side-street was filled, quite literally, with children.
We once tried to count all of the kids.
And got lost somewhere around fifty.
Yep. Lively.
On any given day--rain or shine, sleet or snowstorm--the street seethed/boiled/churned with children.
They were running everywhere.
Between homes.
Through backyards.
To the semi-private park tucked neatly into the corner.
It was a safe, peaceful world in which to raise them.
Across the street from our house was the home of Penny and her family.
Penny was my best friend.
And our kids liked each other, too.
On a warm day in spring or fall, with the afternoon sun shining on her front yard, it wasn’t unusual for she and I to be found sitting on her front step, visiting and waiting for our school-age kids to make their way home.
And blowing bubbles for our still-at-homers.
Our little learners would come around the corner, spot us up there on the porch, and quickly join in the fun.
Talking about their day between batches of bubbles.
It was, in a word: peaceful.
I remember it as a fun, happy time.
My youngest daughter remembers it as the very best of times.
Penny and her family moved away.
We are still in touch, as time and distance allows.
But, sometimes, in my mind, I’m sitting on that front porch visiting with my best friend and waiting for my children to gather.
Forever blowing bubbles.
I think my daughter is right.

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