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The Flannel Nightgown
It was such an extravagant act – that ripping apart of the babies’ flannel
gown. It had been hanging on the clothesline strung across the kitchen, where
clothes were brought back in, now in a “frozen state”, from the out-door lines and hung
again to finally finish drying
There were often many little nighties and diapers drying inside our kitchen as there were twin babies going through them overwhelmingly fast for the mother who had 6 other children to care for. This all done without any support, as her husband
was mostly working far from home in some under ground mine or another, in one province or another.
This fateful morning when Aunt Rose arrived at our door escorted by
a very official looking policeman with his bright yellow stripe down his
pant-leg. As a child of not quite 7 years, the last time there had been a
policeman at my door, he had come to take our dog away because the neighbours had
complained he had been a disturbance. I am now alerted to something not pleasant
occurring in the room.
I see my Aunt place her hand on my mother’s arm. This is
Unusual; my Aunt is not, as a rule, affectionate toward my mother, “The English War
Now I see my Mother’s shoulders wracking with sobs as she hears what they
say to her. I’m wondering who will they be taking away from our house this
The ripping of the nightgown I now realize was not an act of complete
disregard for waste. I knew that we didn’t have quite enough of them. It was an
act of anguish, and such great shock to hear that the man she had crossed the
ocean for, the father of her eight children was killed that morning while
working in that underground mine so far away in Ontario.
My Mother could not find
a handkercheif and in her utter grief chose one of those nightgowns….and I was to never forget the sound of that ripping or the sight of it.
This act would punctuate many events in the following years of my life, while I grew up in rural Saskatchewan, as one of eight children of a widow in a “Foreign Land”.