Many people have already read 2nd Line West and the reviews have been incredibly gratifying. I realize how important it was to write this inspiring book and how it has already helped and offered a new perspective and meaning to so many people.
The Reviews and the personal messages I have received for this inspiring book have made every moment of the journey worthwhile. Even those times when my memories were hard to recall and write about. But most of this writing adventure has been just that; a glorious, engaging and joyful experience which has helped me grow and become even more grateful for all aspects of my life. Here is the introduction:
The first time I saw the house on the country road 2nd Line West, it was the summer of 1971. I was seven years old. This was the place where many lives were changed forever, including my own.
Our father, a busy real estate broker, simply fell in love when he first saw this particular country home during a showing to his clients. Oh no, he could not sell this special place to anyone else. Mom and Dad bought this house as an investment property. They knew our family would call this beautiful place home one day. It was a ranch bungalow, sprawling from left to right, with light-coloured brick and a black roof, sitting in the middle of two acres of land. There was a separate black wood tool shed on the right side of the property, an in-ground pool with diving board at the back left corner, and a pool house with change rooms. An eighty-foot driveway with lush hedges running down each side brought you into the property. The front yard had two large cedar trees, a white birch tree, and a decorative wood structure that covered the well water shaft; it looked like a tiny white house.
As my father drove the forty-five minutes north from our suburban home near Toronto to 2nd Line West, one mile from the little village of Meadowvale, he explained to me the benefits of living in the country. I sat in the front seat of his new silver Monte Carlo, looking up at him, my eyes wide, hanging on to his every word. The car windows were all the way down as the wind rushed in. I noticed different smells in the air the further we got away from the city. Dad had a special nickname for me. “Zeek, nature is a place that helps us think, get to know ourselves, have a more open mind. Out here, son, where children don’t have a local mall to hang out, families have closer relationships with one another.”
As we pulled into the driveway, he parked on the paved extension behind the house and got out of the car. He said, “Come on with me.” He walked to the back of the property and ducked through the middle of the wooden fence railing. Of course, I followed him into a golden hay field that surrounded the house. The field took my breath away as we stood amongst what looked like millions of gold feathers, waist high for Dad and chest high for me. In the gentle wind, gold dust swirled around us, sparkling, as it deflected the sunlight. This was the pollen dust released from the hay, which we disturbed as we made our way through. I followed in his footsteps, which made a path, an easier walk for me.
We continued in silence for ten minutes or so over the rolling fields then climbed up to the top of a knoll. We stopped to survey the Credit River far off in the distance. We could now see down into the valley. Next to the river were train tracks and a wooden trestle bridge over the water.
Dad paused, looking across and down at all this beauty. It was late in the afternoon, the sun was about to set, sending warmer coloured light that blanketed the scenery. To me, everything was brilliant. The distant green fields looked greener, the Credit River, a darker blue hue, the gold hay field, more golden as it swayed and swirled in the wind around us. I looked up at Dad and saw him smile to himself. Professional photographers call this time of day the magic hour for a reason. We continued to gaze over the landscape, and then he turned to me. “Zeek, you might not be able to see what I’m looking at right now, but there’ll be a day when you’ll see everything I’m seeing. The beauty of this place will overwhelm and surprise you.” I simply nodded and took his hand.
Our family did move into this country home on 2nd Line West two years later. We spent many years here together, but only two as an entire family. My father’s death occurred in the winter of 1975. It took years for our family to recover from losing him, especially our mother, who lost the love of her life. Now Margie, at thirty-eight, with a grade-six education, was a widow with four children. Along with her shock and grieving, she had to reinvent herself.
Everything had to change. Everything.
As a wonderful mother, full of fun, focus, and determination that surrounded her caring for the four of us, Margie continued her approach to life. She continued to offer our spare bedroom to many who came across her path. That room was rarely empty. But it was how and why she was able to do this that is her amazing story, and my honour to tell. Margie had a naturally caring disposition that allowed her to always notice someone who needed help, a place to land, a place to regroup after life offered them up depression, sadness, or an unexpected “curve ball.” The home on 2nd Line West was a place where many were given their second chance, and some even a third chance, not just us kids.
Fast forward to the late summer of 2011. We lost her at the early age of seventy-three. Our mother’s memorial service had just taken place. My youngest sister Julianne and I were driving through the countryside not far from our old home on 2nd Line West. We left that house in 1983. As we drove by the property, I lingered a bit as we remembered those who did take our spare bedroom. This was a home Mom brought people to, offering them respite and safety. When Julie and I finished remembering the many who stayed with us in the late 1970s forward, we were shocked that the list totalled eighteen people. “Let’s go find them, Julie,” I said, sitting in the car, thinking of our beloved Mom. “Let’s interview them on how their time in our home and how their relationship with our mother helped them in their life journey.”
We did. It took us three years. Through word of mouth and social media we were able to find everyone and completed all interviews. Some also wrote us letters. I’ve always had a deep respect for my mother, honouring her throughout my life. Yet conducting these interviews took my admiration, respect, and awe to a whole new level. My mother’s story and these people’s stories had to be told and shared with the world, this I knew.
After the interviews were completed, I began to write, often waking up in the middle of the night. I couldn’t go back to sleep until a particular story was purged from my mind. Late one night, I sat at my desk wondering, why Mom brought these people into our home. What was it about my mother that allowed her to do this so naturally? Grown up, in business, I sat in my home, an old farmhouse, in the upper loft. I gazed around the room. All walls were filled with pink paper, yes, Mom’s favourite colour. I printed and pinned the stories and interviews up on all four walls. While this was always a quiet and serene place for my writing, this night at 3 am the silence was deafening. All of these stories represented our mother’s natural response to another person in need. An individual who required some attention, care, and respect. As I sat, so still with hands resting on my laptop, a question occurred to me. Perhaps the desire to connect and help one another is something we are born with and something most everyone has forgotten.
I followed this thought further. I thought about a group of young children in a playground; if one falls down, another child immediately will respond by helping them up. I thought about a child in a daycare, moving a play table and chairs from the corner of the room to the middle. Other children automatically pitch in to move the pieces. I then remembered my mother’s favourite life motto, “To love another is a gift that we give to ourself.”
I am about to take you on a journey into a life story. The tragedy, struggle, rising, and continuing to move forward, onward. You will witness a lady’s life, peek into a family’s story, and then hear the stories from those our mother helped, her impact on those around her. She used her wisdom and strength to influence and facilitate positive transformations of many lives, all the while reinventing herself.
Oh, I did see what my father said I would. It occurred two years after his death. I was fourteen, on a ten-speed bicycle pedalling up the big hill just south of our home on 2nd Line West; the Davidson horse farm was at the top of that hill. In autumn, vibrant colours in the trees bordered the country road. Standing on the bike pedals, with legs burning, I continued pumping my feet with head facing downward, sweat dripping. As I pedalled in the shade of this hill, I felt the lowering air temperature on this beautiful late fall afternoon. It took all I had to pedal up that second tier of the steep incline. When I got to the summit, stopping, I looked up. The sun was setting directly in front of me over 2nd Line West. It was a brilliant orange. I felt its warmth on my face. A flock of about a hundred black birds flew towards me, passing ten feet above, all in formation. I heard the sound of their collective wings as they passed, a new sound I’d never heard before and have never heard since. I got off and stood on that paved, isolated country road, and said to myself, “Oh, my God! This is what he saw.”
This was 2nd Line West.
Stay tuned for my next Blog!