Thursday, October 5, 2017

OH CANADA - Just two sesters on a trip of their lifetime!

We bought our plane tickets in June and each week we were counting down the days until we headed for Canada! New suitcases, jackets and boots, it was supposed to be cold and rainy the majority of the time we were there. Jacquie and I were both so anxious to just get there and be in Canada! Be in the Country mom was from! Be just a little bit closer to her than we could have been in the last 8 years since she’s been gone. Brand new Passports in hand, late Wednesday night Jacquie and I drove to LA to prepare for our week long trip. It seemed like a short drive to find long term parking at LAX, but a looong drive up to the 7th floor of this sketchy parking structure. Short shuttle ride over to the airport, short line through security, bags checked and we were finally on the start of our journey!
1am flight out wasn’t maybe the best idea, but who needed sleep when you had lots of adrenaline going through your body? A long flight to Chicago where we saw the sun coming up as we landed and then finally onto Detroit! It’s like we never slept a night, but all of a sudden it was morning and another day in another state. An hour in the rental car building was not ideal for us, but hopping into the car and setting our navigation for Tobermory was worth every minute of the wait! Jacquie offered to drive because she enjoys driving. I enjoy being passenger so it worked out well. 5 and half hour drive ahead and we were so excited.
We had our passports out and ready to cross the border. Both of us very anxious, never having crossed into Canada before and Jacquie had barely been out of CA! Seeing the border and the Canadian flag made me so happy! We were there! We pull up to the border and I hand Jacquie our passports. The Gentlemen at the booth said “Bonjour”. Jacquie and I both in sync said, “Oooohhh, Bonjour”. As if it was the fanciest thing we had ever heard! We both laughed at each other which was good, because we were both nervous! A few questions and he handed us back our passports and we were in! Nothing to it at all. I think we both thought it might be more complicated than it was for some reason.
The bridge in front of us was just beautiful and the scene from the top of the bridge was like none I had ever seen before. The color of the water was so blue and the sky was so very clear, the sun was shining and it was the best weather day we could have asked for! Music on the radio, windows down, Tobermory in mind, the drive went soo smoothly! It could have been a little bit of vacation mode, or it could have just been the truth, but the country of Canada that we were driving through was the most beautiful and breathtaking I have ever seen! The farm life was real in this country! The super cute houses that flew by we talked about owning or building for ourselves one day. The acres of land, the farms, the animals, it was unreal. Even the sky was a different color than it was back in the states! I could say that now, because I was out of the States.
We made very few stops along the way, we had our eyes and minds set on getting to Tobermory. We had great conversations and so many questions. One that sticks out so much is about mom and why for our entire lives she never talked to us about Canada. She never mentioned it and we never asked. Of course when someone is gone you have so many things to ask them. It felt like there may have been some big family falling out at some point with mom, we really had no clue. She was only 13 when she left her beautiful county with her family. Sounded like she just never looked back! Maybe there wasn’t much reason for her to look back. Afterall, those days, moving to Sunny California was a big deal. It was glamourous and full of movie stars. But really, how am I just learning about this entire big family in Canada at the age of 37? Made no sense to either of us. Sure, Jacquie knew she was named after my moms Aunt Jacqueline and to be honest, we remember when we were little that at my Grandma’s house we would talk to her every few years on Christmas. But to us, she was just a distant relative. And really until Mom and Grandma both died, we didn’t even think past our immediate family.
There were a few roads that we went down and were in awe the entire time. With the sun getting closer to setting, the sky above and ahead of us was changing colors. The clouds were rolling in and it made for some of the craziest scenery ever! We went through places that looked like a forest with very few houses, and very far from each other. There were some roads where we didn’t see another car for miles.  Some smaller roads were eerie to drive down. I felt like at any time, some bloody lady was going to come out of the trees onto the road and need us to stop for her. Shit straight out of a horror movie. Other roads made me feel like we were in Forks, watching Edward run right by us! The beauty was all so natural and so unreal. There were a few places that we had to stop and just jump out and take a few pictures! We made a stop at a grocery store for snacks and an ATM for some Canadian cash. The money that came out of the ATM was just so beautiful! It was crisp and green and had Queen Elizabeth on it. Again, I don’t know if it was just being in Canada on vacation or if was the truth, but the prettiest money I have seen! I may have even taken a picture of it with Snapchat and because the Queens face was on it, it was starting to put a filter on her face. Made me laugh, but I had to!
Hours later, finally we saw the Tobermory sign and our hearts knew we were in the right place! We pulled up to the hotel right as the sun was about to set on this beautiful harbor. Before checking in, I had to just stop, run to the river and take a few pictures as I soaked in all the beauty of the sunset over this new little piece of heaven called Tobermory! There was a large ship in the harbor and with the sun gone, it was hard to see the town.
The Grandview Motel was a very small hotel right off the harbor. Our room was on the second floor in the corner which gave us the most beautiful views from the front balcony and through our windows! There was a really big ship in the harbor that covered most of its beauty. Not really sure what day or hour it was at this point, we had been up for about 36 hours. The guy at the “front desk”, and I use that term loosely because it was defiantly a small town motel feel, told us at this time in the evening we could get some food over at the Princess Hotel that was within eye sight and pretty much everything else was going to be closing. It was about 8pm at this point, 3 hours ahead of CA time and we were starving.
We dropped everything in the hotel room, open our windows wide to let the amazing fresh air in and called our families to say we were there safe and sound! The walk over to the Princess Hotel was short, but through a dark street with the lake to the right of us. Being in another country, walking this dark street felt scary but also like there was not a care in the world. After sharing some not so yummy shrimp, bread and spaghetti we headed back down the dark road to the hotel.
The bed was very comfy and with a long day behind us we both slept pretty well all things being considered. We slept with the windows open and the AC on, neither of us could get enough of that crisp air we had never felt before! The sun came up and we both were getting a tad restless in bed but needed some more sleep before we were going to be ready for the day. All of a sudden out of NO WHERE was the loudest ship horn known to man! HONK HONK! Jacquie and I both were so startled, we sat up in bed half asleep and said, WTF was that?!?!?  Then laughed about it because as annoying and unexpected as it was, it was funny. I tried to go back to sleep after that, but not much luck! A bit later we were awake and ready to meet everyone!
I got a cup of coffee and sat out on the balcony and looked at the amazing view of the harbor. With that big ship gone now, you would see the harbor and all it’s beauty! The ship turned out to be the Chi-Cheemaun. It’s a ferry that docks every day and takes cars from Tobermory into Owen Sound. With it’s departure, you could now see the lighthouse we had been looking for! It had been hidden the night before. The water was this amazing color blue that you don’t ever see in CA. The air was crisp and the breeze was just enough to fill my lungs of clean air. The fresh smell and the sounds of the water breaking on the rocks just took my breath away as I sat there and sipped my coffee, I spent about 30 minutes just sitting there taking it all in!
Not many of our family members were in town yet, most of them were driving up that afternoon. We were about the first, so we still had some time before we could head over and meet Patti. Kathleen had called my cell and invited us over to come visit for lunch. We had nothing going on, so after some much needed coffee we headed over to meet our first family members of the bunch. I knew my moms Aunt Jacqueline was going to be at that cottage so I was bracing myself for some crying and big hugs! We pulled up and were greeted before we even got out of the car with hugs and so nice to meet yous! Kathleen was the first out the door for a great big hug and then came Al. Two of the most beautiful people inside and out that we would meet all week! A few more kids to hug and throw out of the way before I could find Aunt Jacqueline! My heart was beating so fast and I just couldn’t wait to wrap my arms around her. I saw her getting up from a chair and I made my way into the house and I ran right over and said, Hi, I’m Jamie, so nice to meet you and gave her the biggest hug I could. She is a spitting image of my Grandma Marty. As Jacquie made her way into the house I gave Aunt Jacqueline a few more hugs and cried and told her how much she looked just like Grandma. Finally Jacquie came in and was able to do the same. This was the moment we had both been talking about for months. Meeting Aunt Jacqueline and giving her a hug was probably one of the highlights of the trip for sure. She was the only person we remembered from our childhood phone calls. But to be honest, she isn’t the best hugger. I thought maybe it was just us, but turns out she is just not the biggest hugger in general. She has a lot of love, just doesn’t hug with all that she is like I do!
We sat and looked at each other and I couldn’t stop looking at her. She was my Grandma and it’s been 3 years since I have seen my grandma, so I just stared at her. The way she sat, the way she rubbed her mouth with her hands, the way she held her hands on her stomach was the exact way that my Grandma did. It was so weird but nice to see! All the questions came in about our flights and drive and how we slept and how we both jumped out of bed to some ship horn this morning, but all we could do was both stare at Aunt Jacqueline in remembrance.
Al and Kathleen were just like everyone said Canadians were like. They were so welcoming and polite and sweet! Was this just because we were new family or because that’s how they just were? Too early to tell, but we sat around the kitchen table and had some very yummy homemade Cauliflower and cheese soup that Kathleen had brought up from home. It was hard to eat sitting across from Aunt Jacqueline, staring at her, again, trying to soak it all in and remember every moment of my Grandma.
As we were eating lunch at the cottage Jacquie and I bring up the fact that mom never came back to Canada. Aunt Jacqueline had some great insight on why. She said because my mom never became a US citizen (which I had just learned a few months ago), she didn’t want to come back and get stuck in Canada. She was still a resident of Canada and most likely wouldn’t be let back into the US. Her new home was in the US so she didn’t leave. At this point, Jacquie and I start to fill up with tears. There was no big family falling out or some crazy story as to why mom didn’t come back? She didn’t come visit as an adult with children because she wouldn’t be able to get back into the states. How crazy is it to think my whole life I didn’t even know she wasn’t a citizen? Had she exposed us to Canada she knows it would all come up and she may have to face some things she had been avoiding her whole life? Who knows why, but at least it made more sense now! Still not happy about it, but if she had gone back to Canada she may have never come back. Her life would have been very different, there would be no Richard Harp to marry. None of us would exists! I am a big fan of the saying “everything happens for a reason”. As hard as that is for me to accept sometimes, I do think it is so true. If mom had gone back to Canada who knows how her life would have unfolded. I am grateful that she made the decisions she did, for whatever reasons she had.
Onto day 2… We finished up lunch and went out onto the Patio of the Cottage to see the amazing view! The Cottage sat on a beautiful Bay called “Hay Bay”. The view from the patio above was breathtaking! Jacquie and I had to go down and take a few pictures. It was all I could do to just sit and take in the view. Sit and just think about how much was going on and all that we were in store for the next few days!
We chatted about what our plans were for the week. We wanted to visit Flowerpot Island we had heard and read so much about. See the lighthouse, tour around town and meet everyone! I felt like within the hour we were eating more people came into the house. Moms cousin Byron, a rough looking man when you first meet him, but one of the best huggers and nicest soles! He was so loving, genuine and such a gentle man. Moms cousin Jack came in after lunch to meet us! He was short and sweet in every meaning of the word! He was definitely more reserved and quiet. He had such a kind look on his face. Jack knows everyone in the town and has some amazing carving skills that we got to see first hand! Because he has friends that run the Flowerpot Tour boats he made a call and was back in 10 minutes with a free pass for us to take a tour of the Island! Jacquie and I were super excited and grateful for that! We had to leave that beautiful cottage on Hay Bay and say goodbye for a few hours. Jack had us follow him over to where the tour was and stood and chatted with us until it was time to board! The front of the building that we were at had his Salty Dog Carvings all around it. I even made him go stand in front of one so I could take his picture in front of his work! It was really cool to see his talent standing there with him! We had expected the weather to be pretty cold and rainy but in fact, this day was one of the best days we had there. The sun was out and not a cloud in the sky. The sun was warm and would turn out to be one of the best weather days we had!
As we boarded the Tobermory Explorer boat, the guy taking our tickets said, “you’re Jack’s family?”. I felt like a celeb right there in Tobermory! The boat had a portion of it that was a glass bottom and was beautiful. The tour started off showing us the shipwrecks right there in the harbor! Seeing them through the glass floor was such a great way to view them and a really different experience! A few stories later and a 30 minute ride out of the harbor we finally came to Flowerpot Island! I was so excited to see the first flowerpot! My Grandma had old black and white pictures from back in the days of the flowerpots that she had taken. The flowerpot is made of rocks that formed there naturally overtime. The Island itself was beautiful and the water leading up to it was the most amazing blue color I have ever seen. We didn’t get off on Flowerpot Island, we just took the boat trip around and then headed back to the dock. We both felt very lucky and grateful that Jack arranged for this boat ride for us!
When we were done, Jack had invited us back to his house so we could see his carvings firsthand! He only lived about 5 houses from where we were. He showed us around his woodworking shop and everything he had made and been working on! I may have said this before and will probably say it again, but the talent in this family is UNREAL! Everyone has some amazing talents! My moms cousins made their own houses, their own boats, all their own everything! They carve, they have some made woodworking skills, cooking and smoking skills! It’s so crazy!
A short visit with Jack, in awe of his Salty Dogs, I picked a few up and just looked at the craftsmanship. He even stained or painted them! They were just so cool! Jack showed us this book about Tobermory’s history that had our family tree in it! Grandma’s name was in there along with multiple generations back! It was so fun to see! I’m going to try and get a copy of the book, I have to call up there to the Press and see if I can pay for it and have them ship it to me! Worth every penny to have!
We had a few planned dinners and lunches while we were there and Friday night’s dinner was to meet Patti, her husband Ed and moms cousin Suzanne. Patti is the one who invited us out to Tobermory for Thanksgiving and the one we had been talking to mostly over the months leading up to our trip! She is the family planner for sure! She booked the venue, created and managed every aspect of Thanksgiving dinner! But she also made sure that Jacquie and I felt like we belonged at every moment. She made sure we were comfortable, she invited us over for every meal we wanted to come over for. She always made sure we had a drink in our hands. She asked ahead of time what we liked to drink so she made sure she had some. She checked in with us every hour of the trip. It was so nice that she was so accommodating for us and didn’t even know us! She was seriously the glue that held our trip together and probably doesn’t even realize it! Family is family, is family. And she made us feel that way from day one!
When we got to the cottage for dinner it was so nice to finally be able to hug Patti and meet her husband Ed, who is another amazing guy! Canada is just full of them! Patti’s mom Suzanne is moms cousin. Her and mom are about the same age and is one of the only people out there who remembers mom because anytime mom would come to Tobermory to visit, they were the same age, so they played together! It’s funny because Suzanne looks similar to mom. She is short and stocky like mom, short hair, light eyes and freckles just like mom. Suzanne is just like my Aunt Jan of the family. She is bossy, gets shit done and is in charge. And everyone knows it. Because I grew up with Aunt Jan in our family I am used to it so it didn’t bother me one bit! Hell, I am the same way sometimes so it was nice to see it does run in both sides of the family! I appreciate that kind of person now as I am older! It was nice to chat with her about mom. Jacquie and I both were hoping for more stories from her but only having summers and holiday’s with mom she didn’t have too much to say about her.
Dinner was so nice and it was great to get to know everyone on a more personal level! Just have the dinner conversations with our new family that we had been missing out on for years. It was a great feeling to be there sitting at the table with them! We ended most of our nights being exhausted, body was still trying to figure out the time change, and with all the emotions running through us, we were just drained. Plus Jacquie and I did such a good job of remembering who everyone was, names and what their family connection was. Who their parents were, who their grandparents were and how they fit into the family tree. That takes lots of brain power as well!
Day 3, Saturday morning we decided to skip the invitation for breakfast and sleep in. We had lunch planned with “the Cousins” at 11:30 so no breakfast was fine with us! Jacquie and I walked down to the Crowsnest where we were going to meet everyone a little early. We hit up the bar, grabbed a drink and headed out to the patio for some amazing fresh air before everyone got there. Lunch with “the cousin’s” consisted of my moms cousins kids. So basically our 2nd cousins. They do this lunch every year and it was so nice of Patti to invite Jacquie and I to join them! They were a fun bunch and everyone was so welcoming! My goal for most of the days was to try something I couldn’t get in CA or in the States at least. Or to try something I had never had before. On today’s menu, Fresh water fish and Poutine! The Fresh water fish was so pretty amazing! Do we have fresh water fish in CA? No clue, but I am going to find out! It wasn’t fishy at all and just had a great taste to it! Poutine was something Jacquie and I had been talking about trying and today was the day! French fries with brown gravy (with no e) and cheese curds. AHHHHH-MAZING! Why had I never thought to put gravy and cheese on fries before? It was very tasty and I think the cousins thought we were a little crazy because we had never had it and enjoyed it so much. Haha. Jacquie and I planned to add it to our life when we got home! It was so simple to do and worth every calorie! While finishing up lunch we all made plans to have a cousins night later that evening after dinner over at Patti and Ed’s cottage with all the cousins. They even had a tradition of playing the card game “spoons”. Which made Jacquie and I very excited because we grew up playing spoons and it was awesome that in another country, thousands of miles apart, with a family we didn’t even grow up with, they all played the same game as we did. I guess family is family even if you don’t grow up together!
Jacquie and I headed back to the motel for some down time before we had a scheduled dinner at Al & Kathleens cottage that evening. Down time for me isn’t great, I need to be on the go, I didn’t want to sit in a motel room and do nothing for hours. We were in another country, in a beautiful town full of our family history. Down time was not going to cut it for me. So I made Jacquie head over to the town Museum with me to check it out. The front of the Museum was so cute and we had no idea what was in store for us when we walked in. The lady at the front was very welcoming and had us sign the guest book. She told us a little bit about what was in each room and floor. We said thank you and made our way around the few rooms. Lots of fun artifacts from the old days, skates, skis, ship stuff. Just like an old museum would have. Coming around to the early school days in Tobermory there were some class pictures on the walls. Excited that my Grandma who went to Elementary school there would be in them, I started searching the names in the pictures. At first glance we saw the name Kathleen Hopkins and it was underlined. We knew there was a Kathleen Hopkins in our family tree so we were excited. The lady at the museum came over to us and asked about it. Turns out Kathleen Hopkins was her mom. So right away we knew we were in the right place and somehow related to this lady standing in front of us. She asked more about who we were and we told her we were Marty’s granddaughters. She said, you guys must be Pat’s daughters! Jacquie and I automatically started to tear up! She knew who Pat was!! Turns out she knew mom pretty well and also was one of her friends who grew up with her in Canada. They were the same age and in the same grade. It was so nice to talk to Ruth about mom. Finding anyone in Canada who knew mom was such a fun thing to us! We found Grandma’s class picture on the wall and her name in the paper, it was so fun to stand there in front of Grandma’s history in Tobermory!
Ruth told us to make sure we went upstairs to check out more specific family history. So we headed up there to find some cool information on Lloyd Smith. Lloyd was my Great Grandpa Dode’s brother and an amazing Craftsman. Not totally surprised at this point…. Everyone in this family… Lloyd was known for his Craftmanship in Tobermory but also known for his boat tours out to Flowerpot Island and his love for preserving the natural beauty of the Island. So fun to read about it and see some of the cool things he made!
One more stop for us outside of the museum before we leave! Ruth made sure to give us a personal tour of “Jacob’s House”. This tiny little handmade house was the 3rd house to be built in the town of Tobermory! The 3rd family to come and build on the land! Jacob Belrose was my Great Grandma Tiny’s Grandfathers brother. (There are many family trees that I will post later) He and his wife Agnes built the house by hand in 1875! Amazing how deep my family history runs in the city of Tobermory! Jacquie and I stood in the doorway of the house and again tried to soak it all in! My poor memory can only hold so much, so I took pictures of everything so I could remember and even then had to ask Jacquie a billion times about how we were related again. Lucky for me, Jacquie has a great memory and was able to piece this puzzle together better than me! The trip to the Museum was worth every minute we spent there and I’m glad we took the time to go for a quick trip! Meeting Ruth was so great and meaningful to us!
Back to the motel to freshen up before Dinner with Al & Kathleen! I’m telling you, everyone wanted to hang out with us, which was so crazy. I felt like everyone was just as excited to meet us and hang out with us as we were with them. I mean, when in your lifetime do you get to have such meaningful time? Al & Kathleen were again, just so amazing. Between their hugs and love for us, it was just so nice! They wanted to know all about our families and what we did for a living. They really took the time to get to know us and share stories with us! Getting to know more about Aunt Jacqueline was such a treat for us! I asked a billion questions about what she did, where she lived and who she was these days! She has such a strong sense of family and for me that was pretty awesome!
Kathleen is a great cook and had made some yummy pasta to share with us. We loved to eat and she loved to feed us! For dessert she made this really tasty apple crisp. Jacquie and I both wanted to try to make it when we got home, our families would love it! Kathleen shared her recipe with us and I made it the first week we got home! Dinner and dessert were done and we were headed over to Patti’s cottage for some spoons with cousins!
Spoons in the states and spoons in Canada were pretty much the same thing! Our second cousins were such a fun bunch of people! Some were quiet, some were more outgoing. It was like we just fit in with them. At least that’s how JQ and I felt. I think they felt the same way. We all had a few drinks and played multiple rounds of spoons! Just like our normally family gatherings there were cheaters and bickering. No one listened to each other, it was loud and lots of fun! No one minded that JQ and I spoke our minds or were opinionated. They were all the same way so we just fit right in. The nice part about meeting them was that we didn’t grow up with them, so they didn’t know us from who we were in front of them that day. They didn’t know our history or who we were or were not when we were younger and maybe stupid. And the same with them. If they were the awkward kid or the bad kid who went to jail, we had no idea. Nor did we care. We took them for who they are today, loved them and look forward to getting to spend some more time with them in this lifetime! A few promised they were going to come visit and make a trip to CA, so we will see how that turns out! It would be amazing if we could get some family out for a visit to Cali!
Day 4 and Jacquie and I were still running on pure adrenaline. Sunday was our big family Thanksgiving dinner. Monday was the official Holiday, but everyone has their dinners on Sunday. I got up somewhat early and walked into town to grab breakfast sandwiches for us at the cute small town Coffee shop! Jacquie and I picked up the rolls I was bringing to dinner from Peacocks grocery store and we walked around that store for at least an hour trying to figure out what JQ was going to make to bring. Everything that she wanted to make, Peacocks, being a small town “grocery store” didn’t have at least one of the items from what she was going to make. So we walked around in circles thinking and looking at what they had. It was frustrating, but it was just small town life at that point! So JQ finally came up with a fig spread to serve with some bread which turned out to be very good! We made our way through the little stores there that morning and picked up the rest of our souvenirs to take home as well!
Jacquie headed back to the motel and I was finally going to meet Holly! She was one of the first people I was in contact with when we learned about our family in Canada! Since April her and I have been in contact, first by email and facebook and then we started to write letters back and forth by snail mail! It has been so amazing to receive her letters and learn about the history of the family. It was finally time to meet her! I feel like I knew Holly so well when we finally saw each other and I gave her a big hug! She gives history walking tours of the city of Tobermory, so I was excited to hear her take on the town where we had spent the last few days soaking up the history! She had a great little book of black and white pictures of what the town used to look like back in the days. It was more of a Fisherman’s town back then. Docks full of fishing boats and nets! It was fun to see some of the first buildings in the city and see some that were very similar to what was there today! Holly and I walked by the house my Great Grandpa Dode and Grandma Tiny built. Next to that house is where Aunt Jacqueline and her husband raised their family. That small little street had lots of our family history on it! All the pictures of my Grandma and the house she grew up in was all of a sudden standing right there in front of me! It was a very cool feeling!
It was time to finally head over to the Legion for our Thanksgiving dinner we had been anticipating for months! At this point in the trip, we had been in town for 4 days so we had gotten a chance to meet almost everyone at different points in the days, so I was excited it wasn’t going to be this crazy overwhelming feeling of meeting everyone at once. The one person I was very excited to meet came in with his walker looking for us! My moms Uncle Albert was the sweetest loving little old man! When I came over to him to introduce myself he may have been a little confused on who I was, but once he got it straight and I called Jacquie over, he made us feel so amazing! He held both of our hands close up to his face and told us we were the only reason he drove up to Tobermory this weekend. He was so sweet and made us feel so much more like family, if that was even possible at this point! His kind words and the way he loved us was just so sweet. Sweet is just the best word I can use to describe him. He looked just like he did when he was younger in pictures with my Grandma. I just loved that man!
Canadian Thanksgiving dinner was very similar to ours in America, but no pilgrims or Indians. They are just being Thankful. Which was a nice gesture! I’m very used to praying before Thanksgiving dinner in all of our families, this time we just were able to take a moment of silence to think about the ones who weren’t there to join us. It was a nice time to think of my mom and grandma who were the direct bloodlines to all these amazing people sitting with us! I just can’t say enough about how welcoming and loving everyone was to us. I wanted so badly to stand up during dinner and express my thanks to each one of them. For inviting us out, for having us, for treating us like we had always been part of their family. I knew I couldn’t do it without breaking down and balling my eyes out. So I didn’t. I regret not doing it because I think it would have been nice for them to hear how grateful Jacquie and I were. But I hope that between the texts, emails and facebook posts we have posted that they get it.
The few things that were different in our dinner were my favorites! My moms cousin Byron brought his amazing smoked fish, but also some smoked deviled eggs! This man has the best talent for smoking food! My second favorite was a simple dish that Holly made. It was carrots and turnips. And I think that’s it. It was so tasty that I even went back for seconds! On both! I’m going to get that recipe from Holly so I can make it this year for Thanksgiving. I think Victor’s family would love it! Dinner was done before we knew it and everyone was standing around talking and just enjoying each others company. It was a perfect time to take some pictures with everyone and just enjoy the conversations! Patti had made a really cool board with our family timelines and pictures on them which was very fun to look at. I had my flash drive there with my mom and Grandma’s black and white pictures. We put them in a laptop and enjoyed pointing out who everyone was in the pictures!
We ended Thanksgiving evening at Patti’s cottage playing yet another round of spoons with our second cousins! It was kind of bitter sweet knowing the next day we would be checking out of our hotel and we would have to say goodbye to everyone that evening before we left. We had a few drinks and won a few more rounds of spoons. My moms cousin Jack, who did all the cool carvings in the town and in his garage had come over to the cottage to visit for a bit and to our surprise tossed on the counter two of his Salty Dogs he had hand carved that we were admiring at his house the day before! HOLY MOLY, Jacquie and I were so surprised and so grateful. Apparently he doesn’t just give his carvings out to anyone so we both felt so privileged to receive one! He is so funny, he came in, dropped two on the table and made some comment about giving them to us and then kind of walked away. That is just who Jack is. He is a man of little words but so kind! I immediately grabbed for the taller one I had been admiring in his garage. Jacquie and I were so excited to bring home a handmade piece from Jack. In our minds, he was kind of a small town big deal there. The day before we had seen one of his carvings for sale in a store there, and we were like, OH, is that Jack’s? Like he was a celebrity and we were related to him.
Before we headed out Patti and her mom Suzanne came out with two purple gift bags. One for each of us! We both opened one up and out came one of Suzanne’s amazing and beautiful handmade blankets!! These people were spoiling us so much with the most meaning gifts for us! For someone to spend so much time making something and just handing it over to strangers who just became family was so amazing to us! The blankets were both beautiful colors and I had picked the purple one, so it worked out nicely for both of us! How lucky were we?? Handmade gifts, amazing family, spoons… it’s like we were on cloud nine and didn’t want to come down anytime soon. We hugged all of our second cousins and cried… it was so sad to be leaving all of these people who in the last few days had become family. Honestly right now as I type this I cry thinking of how special they are. How they are just awesome people and this was one Thanksgiving that I will talk about for the rest of my life! It was very hard to say goodbye to Patti, she is the one that had invited us out, checked in with us all the time, made us feel just like part of the family. I’m happy to say that it won’t be goodbye, just until later. Jacquie and I are 100% going to bring our families back out there. It may not be in the next year but it will be before 2 years for sure! More to come on another trip out.
We headed back to our motel for one final sleep in Tobermory. We knew we had to get up in the morning and check out and start for Owen Sound where we were excited to go, but it wouldn’t be the same. We had such immediate connection with Tobermory from the second we stepped foot in it!
Monday morning came too fast and I sat out on our patio taking it all in again… not ready for it to be over, but knowing we had to move on. Jacquie and I went down to the village for the last time to grab some breakfast before we headed out of town. We ate at the only little breakfast down there called Craigy’s. It was TINY and had about 8 tables in it, but one managed to open pretty fast so we enjoyed some breakfast and headed back to the motel to check out and pack up.
After we left the hotel we had one last stop before leaving town, it was to visit that lighthouse! The Lighthouse for so many reasons was special to me. My Grandma collected everything lighthouses since I was little. She had everything from Salt and Pepper shakers to coasters. Pictures all over her house. Lighthouses were her thing. CRAZY to me that I never even knew why until Tobermory! I had this old black and white picture of the light house with I believe my Grandma at the top of it, and so Jacquie and I had to visit that same spot! It was a pretty cool little spot, filled with tourists that morning. We took lots of pictures of it, but I was most excited to take the same picture that my grandma had taken of her. Because her picture was taken back in the 50’s it was hard to get to a spot on the grounds where I could take the same picture. BUT, I walked back into some trees and over some rocks so I could get as close as possible! It was beautiful!
Heading out of Tobermory our eyes were filled with tears! We came up to the Tobermory sign in the road and pulled over, against all signage telling us not to, parked and got out to take some pictures in front of the sign! Totally worth it!It was only about an hour to Owen Sound where we would meet Holly and Glen at their house where they invited us to stay for a few days before we headed back to the States. The City of Owen Sound was so nice. It was just a little town, bigger than Tobermory, but still a little town feel. The houses were old brick and so beautiful. Everyone had a yard for the most part and the houses just felt homey. Almost like the City of Old Town Orange here. Old but beautiful houses that held history of the town! As we got into town, we noticed that Holly and Glen hadn’t arrived home yet so Jacquie and I found the closest Mcdonalds to break for some Ice Cream. The McDonalds in Canada have a bakery that serves fresh muffins which I thought was pretty cool. I got ice cream and French fries as we sat to pass some time. One of our second cousins, Chris, who we had just meet a few days ago happen to walk into the same McDonalds as a pit stop on his way back to Toronto, which was really funny. We only knew a handful of people in the Country yet we randomly run into one at our pit stop. Nice to say hi and by again to him!
Holly’s house and neighborhood was beautiful! Holly and Glen collect quite a few things which was really neat to walk through the house and see. Everywhere you looked you could see something different and unique! From clocks to these big mugs, porcelain figurines, beautiful wood furniture pieces! It was such a fun house to be in! They both love to read or loves books, so they had these amazing book shelves that Glen had made covering their living room. I could have spent hours looking at all the books they own! I wish I lived closer to come over and borrow some, it would be my own personal library!
We tried to relax, watch some TV, do a load of laundry and have a nice quiet, simple dinner with them. It was nice to sit and not do much for the evening and just veg out because we were so tired from running on pure adrenaline for the last 5 days! I was so thankful that Holly and Glen let us stay at their house and we didn’t need to be in a hotel. Staying with family will always be my first choice. I was so grateful that Holly agreed to let us stay there. She didn’t even meet me before a few days ago! Although we had been writing back and forth for months, I feel like I knew her the most out of anyone else there. But we were still super thankful to be there. The first night in a new place again is always hard to sleep, but the fact that they collected clocks was NOT helping us sleep! It was pretty funny, I didn’t even think about it until the night started to quiet down and I could hear the ticking. There was a beautiful clock on the end table by my side of the bed. Jacquie told me there was no way she was going to be able to sleep with that in the room and I thought I would be ok. BUT the second I laid my head down on the pillow and I heard the tick, tock, tick, tock… that was not going to work for me! I didn’t want to offend Holly or Glen because I knew they loved their clocks, but I already knew there was no way I was going to get any sleep. So I picked up the entire clock and brought it out to the living room and put it gently down on the desk next to Holly. I had to tell her there was no way that was going to work out for me. We laughed about it and she totally understood. Jacquie and I squished our fat butts in a full size bed that night. Not a lot of sleep was happening. Right outside our door was a coo-coo clock that went off every hour. I did manage to get some sleep, but I remember hearing each hour ding… I must have slept between the 4-5 hour ding, but other than that I heard each one every hour. That was no fun and I just had to laugh about it in the morning!
We had a full day ahead of us in Owen Sound, so we started off with breakfast in this cute little place not too far from the house! I had an amazing smoked sausage breakfast that was so tasty! After breakfast we headed over to visit our Great Aunt Jacqueline at the place she lived. To our surprise when we got to her room she had her entire bed full of things she had knitted! She knew that my Grandma used to make us slippers each year so she put out all the slipper she had and gave us each a bag to fill up to bring home for the family! From slippers to oven mits to these really cool teddy bears. She had a bed full of things she made that we could take. Neither Jacquie or I wanted to take too much but we both wanted to make sure we brought home a pair of everything for everyone! So we took a bag full with us. We were able to visit with Aunt Jacqueline for a bit longer, thank her for everything… stare at her a bit longer and then finally say goodbye. Jacquie and I both cried our eyes out as we left. Aunt Jacqueline is 90 years old and going strong. I have no doubt that she is going to live another 10 years, but it was sad to leave her. To leave that connection of my grandma I missed. To say goodbye to yet another family member we had grown so close to within just a few days.
Our next stop was to Holly’s parent’s apartment. Uncle Albert and Aunt Gloria! Aunt Gloria had just had knee surgery so she wasn’t up for traveling to Tobermory for Thanksgiving. She was one of the only people we hadn’t yet met. But because Holly had told me so much about her and we had talked all about her I felt like I knew her the second we walked in. Like everyone there, they were so welcoming and again felt like I had known them my entire life. We sat and chatted for a while and they shared pictures and stories with us! Albert and Gloria are two of the sweetest people, between the two of them they really had so much history in Tobermory. They both grew up there and even raised their family there for the most part, so it was great to chat with them about everything. We took some great pictures and headed out back to Holly’s house to rest for a bit before our last stop!
Turns out that Allan and Kathleen also live in Owen Sound so we were able to spend one more evening with them before we had to leave. They live in a beautiful house not far from Holly and Glen. We grabbed a bottle of wine and headed over for an early dinner! Kathleen is such a great hostess and cook! Again, it was nice to just sit and chat with them over dinner and dessert. They pulled out some old photo albums with lots of random pictures in them! Turns out they had some of our family that Grandma had sent out to Aunt Jacqueline at some point. Weird to see pictures of me and the family in the “old” photo albums in Canada. It was such great bonding time for us but also so nice to have the time to say goodbye to them and cry. The love we felt from Allan and Kathleen was so amazing, it was kind of weird. We just met you, somehow we are so sad to leave you. I feel like I was hugging my Aunt and Uncle goodbye, they weren’t strangers that we had only met a few days ago by any means. It was so nice and comforting to me and Jacquie, yet still so shocking how all of this could happen all so fast! We did not want to say goodnight or goodbye. But with lots of promises we would be back.
We packed mostly everything that night and tried to get to bed at a decent time. We knew we had a really long day ahead of us on Wednesday. We were both very sad it felt like it was over and we had to leave. I will tell you that if I had my family there with me and had the chance to stay there another week, or hell, even forever. I think we both would have. Yes I missed my babies so much, but I was going to miss all of these people so much too!
Wednesday morning Holly and Glen took us to their favorite neighborhood breakfast spot. We packed up and headed for the border. We were still about 5 hours from it so we knew we had a long drive ahead of us. It was very bitter sweet to say goodbye to Holly and Glen. Holly and I had gotten so close over the last few months and we had such an amazing trip, but I was ready to head home! That morning and we headed to the car to search it for our passports, cause well, I hadn’t seen mine since the border on Thursday… it started to rain. I think the Country was crying because we were leaving. I’m pretty sure that’s why. The entire time we were there the weather had been pretty awesome! The sun was bright and warm but the air was crisp and chilly. Never a drop of rain while we were there until Wednesday morning when we headed out when the sky cried.
The drive was long but not horrible. Again, Jacquie drove the entire way! Crossing the border back into the US was no biggy. Where were you, what were you there for? Where are you going now? Easy Peasy. Back to the airport and heading home was the next stop for us! It was a very long day, layover in Dallas, another flight into LAX, shuttle to my car, drive home from LAX. We finally arrived back to my house around 1am. I helped Jacquie pack up and get on the road to home. While we were gone there were some crazy fires by the toll road so it was closed, she had to take the long way home at 1am of course.
That’s our crazy and amazing trip day by day to Canada, my mom and Grandma’s homeland! This really was a once in a lifetime trip for Jacquie and I. I have a lot of people in my life that I want to take to Canada and introduce them to everyone, but I am sure glad that Jacquie and I took this trip together because honestly it was such a good match, we both felt the same way about finding our family out there and both were so excited, we both studied the family trees. We both were just so in awe of the entire experience, there is no one I would have rather made that trip with! Definitely an amazing sister trip to meet everyone! Even though we both plan to go back again with our families, I say once in a lifetime trip because there will never be another time in either of our lives that we will go and visit a place where we know no one, meet tons of family who are so excited to meet up in return and then cry when we leave them because we miss them so much! It’s just not going to happen again and I am so grateful that we were able to go and have such an amazing time. Pictures to come. 12 pages for 7 days, not too bad, but finally documented so I don’t forget it any bit of it!

Saturday, April 15, 2017


March 9, 2017 My Uncle Dan posts on Facebook. Happy National Cousins day! He posts the following 2 pictures.

On my moms side of the family it's always been very small. Just my Grandma and Grandpa Uncle Dan and mom. That's it, no other family so of course, I have to ask, who are these people? The lady in the second picture in the middle looks JUST like my Grandma, so I knew right away who it was! It was my moms Aunt Jacqueline! When I was younger I recall talking to her on the phone a few times. Afterall, my sister is named after her!
That day my whole world opened up! All these random people on facebook started say hi, we are your moms family from Ontario Canada. Wait, what?!??!? Connections to my mom?? Right away I started to get so emotionally attached to every picture I could find, every friend request that was coming in, every word anyone had to say about us being family.
Mom has been gone for 8 years now and anything connected to her has been gone a long time. We never see my Uncle and I am really bad at going to visit my grandpa Andy. Since my Grandma passed 93 years ago really any connection to my mom has faded. There is the occasional time I get to see my Aunt Sharon or my moms best friend April. Those are some of the only people in the world that make me think of my mom the second I hug them and feel so connected to her. Not really sure why those people, but they just do! I get this crazy overwhelming feeling of my mom when I am around either of them. March 9th felt like one of those feelings!

The next two days I couldn't sleep, I couldn't get ANY work done. I wanted to live on facebook and look through pictures and ask questions and just find out anything and everything I could about this family that had been so far removed from my life.

Now, let me just back up a second... I knew my mom had an Aunt Jacqueline and heck I even knew there was an Uncle Albert there somewhere. Couldn't really have told you if they were alive or not. Holidays that we spent with my Grandma we would chat with a few random family members on the phone or all yell hi from the dining room as we were eating dinner. I even have two quilts that "Aunt Jacqueline" made sitting in my closet 10 feet from me. I about lived in one of those quilts years ago, it was the only thing I would sleep with for years! I even joked to my friend Jenny at some point that when I die, I wanted to be buried in it. It was just one of the most comfortable blankets I owned. So to say that I didn't know my mom had family in Canada would be a lie. I really just never knew the extent and anything about them!

First off a girl named Patricia (same as my mom) sent me a message on FB and was very interested in finding out who I was. As was I to her! I then heard from Holly. My moms direct cousin. Like, bloodline to my mom! Holly was so sweet and said she wanted to write me a letter, so I gave her my address and got hers in return. The next few days I spent hours up at night building a family tree. Adding pictures and dates. Just for my immediate family really. Nothing too extended. Hell, i wasn't even adding spouses on there at first. But the more I built and added the more addicted I became to knowing birthdays and death dates. I was building a family tree that maybe my kids would be interested in learning about one day! That week Patti sent me over her family tree and I got to see just a very small portion of some of my moms family in Canada.

That week was really rough and emotional for me. Again, connections to my mom that I hadn't felt in so many years just brought so much out of me! Apparently Jacquie was feeling the same way. Which, of course she was. Her and I are so different, yet so similar in so many ways when it comes to mom. Patti had mentioned that their Canadian Thanksgiving is in October in Tobermory and we should come for a visit. HELL YES! First of all, hearing the word Tobermory was so great! It's one of those things from my childhood where I knew the name but really knew nothing about it. My Grandma had named her little black doggy Toby and had it for many years when i was growing up. I knew it had something to do with something... but again, that was many years ago and my memory is bad! I'm sure Grandma told me at some point. Hell, I'm sure my mom and I had conversations at some point about Tobermory. Maybe? But how can I really ask her.

Jacquie and I right away started looking at flights and saying, we are going to Canada in October! We have too! I started to vision how it would go! We would fly out there, walk into a big Thanksgiving dinner and hug everyone! I would cry every time I meet someone new. It would be another connection to my mom.

I'm pretty sure I spent the next few days chatting with Patti online and asking her a billion questions! About family, about us coming out there. Where should we stay? How was the drive from Toronto to Tobermory? Jacquie and I knew we were going to go and would work out all the details, but we were going to make it there and meet everyone! 

That next weekend on a beautiful Saturday morning I took my pad of paper and a pen and sat outside and started to write Holly a letter. I wasn't quiet sure what I was going to say or what I was going to write. Anyone who knows me knows that I am old school when it comes to mail. I LOVE snail mail! I love to get it, I love to send it! I'm that person in 2017 that sends thank you cards and birthday cards, and just because cards. To your house by snail mail! So this was so exciting to have some new penpals to write to!

My letter to my moms cousin started with, please excuse my writing and spelling, it's been a long time since I've sat and written a long letter! I wanted to tell Holly about my family. About my sisters and their families and all about my husband and kids. What did she know? Did she look at the billion pictures I have on FB, would she be bored if I told her more about them? What did she want to know about mom. She knew she died, but did she know how? Did she care? I wasn't even sure where to go with it all. But oh man, once it started it just flowed out like I had a great plan. The first 2 pages were about mom and how she died. Super detailed for some reason, down to the last morning in the hospital and what lead up to it. I say for some reason because I'm not really sure why I wrote about it. But I sat outback in the sun crying and writing. Wiping my tears and I talked about my moms last days to someone I didn't even know but had already felt this very strong connection to! It was really nice to get it out honestly. The only place that I really ever talk about that week is here on my blog and well I don't blog anymore nor do I ever really read the ones I did. But when mom died, I blogged about it and I'm glad I did. But 8 years later, I don't ever really talk about it. I certainly don't tell anyone the story. I cried, and re-read the first part like 5 times, asking myself if I should just start over to Holly and take all of that out. But what the hell, it was already on the paper, in pen, so why not just leave it.

Alana wanted to add something to the letter so since I talked about the Beatles and how much my mom loved them, she drew a picture of the words "Let it Be" and colored it in. It was beautiful! I wrote 3 pages front and back. I tried to say a little about everything, but not too much all at once. I mailed it along with Alana's drawing and a few printed pictures I had here at the house. I know they are all over facebook but there is something special to me about having printed pictures! Even if I do nothing with them. The mail took 10 days to get to Canada, felt like a lifetime waiting for a note from Holly telling me she received it! I was so nervous! Nervous that I had written WAY to much detail about mom dying and she would either ball her way through the letter or she would think, why the heck did she tell me all this? Holly finally got it and sent me a message thanking me for it. She really enjoyed all the details and couldn't wait to write me back!

Alana and I were checking the mail every day! Waiting for a letter back from Holly! Finally on Friday, 4/14 it arrived in my mailbox! Alana and I were so excited! It wasn't just a letter, it was a package with stuff in it!! Holly send Jack and Alana both a Canada coin purse with a Canadian dollar coin in it! They both were super excited to receive a nice gift! In the package there was a Canadian flag, a typed out letter and some pictures! I was so excited to jump into the letter and find out more about the pictures!
The letter was filled with knowledge! About family, about Tobermory and the deep roots we have there. About my Grandma and her siblings. My Grandma's parents. I learned that day that my Great Grandmother was born 1.5 pounds and her mother wrapped her in quilts put her in a pan and kept her warm on the "cookstove". WHAT?!?! That shit is crazy! My Great Grandma was born in 1898 and barely survived. I also learned so much about the family and the pictures that Holly sent were so amazing! I will post some of them here soon. I honestly can't wait to sit down and write Holly another letter! Actually I would just love to receive them from her. Mine are boring as hell compared to hers! She is a great writer and story teller! I honestly don't even know what else to say in a letter to her, but I feel like getting this stuff on paper and documenting my family history is worth it! Maybe my kids will care, maybe my grandkids will care, but this last month has just been so amazing! My brain is fried with trying to remember a family tree... Grandma Tiny, Grandpa Danny, Uncle Danny, Dode, Jacquie. Just so many people and so many names and faces. Each one of them a bloodline to my mom. A connection to who she was when she was little and how she came to be.

I'm pretty sad that her story in Canada pretty much ends at the age of 13 when they left there to head for California. Why did I not ask my mom all these questions when she was alive? One thing I will say is that some of that family out in Canada is just as excited to connect with us and we are with them! That just makes my heart so happy! There is family out there, there is pieces of my MOM out there that I haven't heard about. That i don't know about. Undiscovered pieces of my mom! October can NOT come soon enough!

Documenting all this on my blog because, well... I forget everything. I used to blog often so I could remember things. So even when my memory goes (worse than it is) i will still have my blog to look back and and remind myself. I want to remember this month!