The fifth presentation in this series
The Thompsons enjoy their hiatus in California, but in the early fall of 1924 they pack up and head back north to Canada.
When they arrive in Standard on the train, they walk from the station on a boardwalk. Just two years old, Marjie has never seen one and is afraid to step on it, so Will carries her. An old friend who was alerted to their arrival meets them. He loads them in his car, and drives the seven miles to their farm. It’s a wonderful feeling to be back in Alberta.
And so Will and Belle settle back into what is home for them, but for the two girls it’s a confusing time. Everything is new, strange, and sometimes frightening. Then, one day, the two little girls are delighted to find a pile of sand. They run to their mother and ask for their pails and shovels. Belle is in the middle of unpacking and has things scattered all around. She finds what they want, and Doris and Marjie run back outside to play. A few minutes later, in the midst of unpacking yet another box, she suddenly thinks, “What are those kids digging in?”
She finds her little girls happily playing in their new found “sand”: a pile of seed wheat! Newly run through a cleaner, it is piled on a tarpaulin, ready to be moved to a bin and saved for next year’s crop. Belle sizes up the situation, and goes looking for Will.
“I know we can’t let them play in the clean seed wheat, but they’ll be so disappointed. Could you make a pile of just ordinary dirt in our backyard? It will solve the seed wheat problem, and keep them happy.”
“That’s easy to do, Belle, but they sure will get dirty!”
“I know, but fortunately they love baths too!”
And so that crisis is handled. The pile of dirt works well, and other things in their strange new world keep them busy. There is a dog who loves them and is their shadow, and a cat who purrs and rubs against their legs. Who wouldn’t like that?
The weeks fly by. The snow begins to fall, and the Thompsons settle in for their first winter since the fall of 1922. Will and Belle are so glad to be back in their home, and long before the snow falls again, the little girls have forgotten they ever lived anywhere else.
The years fly by too. In 1932 Marjie turns ten and is in grade four. Doris is eleven and in grade five. Belle reaches forty-two in December. She is active in the community life. Her district boasts an active Ladies’ Aid Group: a social gathering and an educational one, all in one. Belle is a moving force in this group. She uses her teaching and organizing ability to the full. Women who have never given a talk, or planned a meeting, find they can, with her encouragement!
Late in 1932, the Thompsons host a party: a “grown-ups party,” they tell the girls. “Go to bed and be good!”
Realistic parents, they don’t really expect Marjie and Doris to go to bed early. They know the girls will be fascinated by the laughter and the chatter, the smell of coffee and of food, and the accordion music and the singing.
First it’s Will, sneaking up quietly with some fruit cake. Later, Belle goes up to check on them and to be sure they’re warm enough.
“I’m sure you’ll be sitting around the grate, but be sure you’re quiet. Sound goes both ways, remember! Don’t be too late getting into bed.” And then she’s gone, in her pretty party dress and fancy shoes. The girls agree that she is the prettiest lady there!
The grate is part of the modern heating system in their home. Big pipes carry warm air from the basement furnace to the first floor rooms, but there’s no way to run pipes to a second floor. Instead, a hole in the ceiling of a first-floor room has a grate over it, allowing warm air to travel upstairs. It also gives the girls a warm place to lie, while keeping an eye on the festivities below.
As they do this night, many times the girls fall asleep on their side of the grate, and are carried to their beds later, as Will and Belle head for theirs. After all, a party night should be enjoyed by all!
We’ve come a long way. Belle was conceived in a sod house in Nebraska, born in Iowa, and lived most of her life as a loyal Canadian on a farm in Alberta. She was a gifted person, an ordinary person, a mover and a doer, a playful and a humorous person. There is one more major move of residence to cover. You’re welcome to travel with me as I follow her through her final years.