Link back to Chapter 38
We were sitting on Will and Sally’s deck in the cool of a summer evening. Will had hosted one of his epic barbecues for us, and many of our friends and family had come to it. Ellie had brought her fiddle and Darren his mandolin and banjo; Emma and Jake had their guitars too, and so did Beth. For a good hour and a half we had enjoyed an old-fashioned singaround, with the musicians sitting in a circle sharing their songs with each other. Wendy and I had sung as a duo, sharing a couple of our favourite traditional songs, but Ellie and Darren and I had played together too, and I was glad that Wendy had the opportunity to hear my ‘other band’, as she called it, as we played a few of our bluegrass numbers, including one of Ellie’s own compositions.
Beth had brought Claire with her; the little girl was almost one now, and had just begun to walk. Don and Lynda were there too, and Lynda spent a lot of the evening following Claire around, playing and laughing with her. Don grinned at me; “I think she’s just about ready to retire and become a full-time grandma!” he said. “She’s down in Saskatoon at least a couple of times a week. It’s funny – the Fuhrs live right there in the city, but Claire doesn’t see half as much of them as she does Lynda”.
“I’m sure she sees plenty of you, too!”
He gave me a mischievous grin; “I like to see her now and again!”
After about nine-thirty the crowd started to thin, but some people were obviously in no hurry to leave. Hugo and Millie were there; I thought Millie was looking surprisingly well, although her speech was a little slower and more deliberate, and every now and again I saw her staring vacantly at nothing in particular. Hugo stayed close to her, and now they were sitting together, his hand on hers. Claire had fallen asleep with her head on Emma’s shoulder, and Emma was rocking her gently, with a thin blanket wrapped around her to keep her warm as the air cooled off.
Lisa had been quiet for most of the evening; she was happy to participate in conversations but she seemed more interested in listening than talking. Now, however, she was sitting with Will and Hugo, asking them questions about their early years in Meadowvale. “So you weren’t born in Russia, then?” she asked.
Hugo shook his head. “Our brother Karl was the only one born in the Old Colony; the rest of us were all born here”.
She frowned; “The Old Colony?”
“Ah – your dad hasn’t told you about that, then?”
“I have”, I replied, “but I didn’t use that name for it”. Turning to Lisa, I said, “He’s talking about the Chortitza Mennonite Colony – the one I told you about, where the pictures were taken on my wall back home”.
“Oh, right – now I remember”.
“Our mom and dad came to Canada in 1924”, said Will, “and Sally’s parents were in the same group too. Canadian Pacific lent the Mennonites the money for their passage by sea and rail; it took them years to pay that off, but they did it”.
“What was it like here then?”
“There wasn’t much of anything. Some of the land had been cleared, but there were no roads to speak of, no electricity, no access to heating oil or anything like that”.
“For sure no high speed internet, let’s put it that way!” added Hugo.
We all laughed, and Beth smiled and said, “My Grandma was born in 1930; in those days they lived in a pretty small house, and the kids used to sleep in the loft”.
“How many kids?” asked Lisa.
“She was one of seven; she was the middle child”.
“Seven! It must have been a big loft!”
“You can fit quite a few kids in one bed”, said Will, grinning mischievously at Hugo.
“As long as the little guys behave themselves!” he replied.
Beth grinned at Lisa; “Sometimes I think it’s better not to ask them too much about it!”
Lisa frowned. “I’m sorry – can you tell me again how you fit into the family?”
“My Grandma was born Rachel Wiens; she’s Aunt Sally’s sister. Tom’s wife Kelly was her niece”.
“Right – so Sally’s not really your aunt, then?”
“No – sorry – I’ve just gotten used to calling them Aunt Sally and Uncle Will, but they’re actually my great-aunt and uncle”.
“I do that with Uncle Hugo and Auntie Millie”, said Emma; “They’re really my great aunt and uncle”.
Hugo grinned at her. “Like I used to tell your mom, I am a really great uncle!”
Emma laughed; “Yes you are, but it’s a long time since I’ve heard you say that!”
I could see that Lisa was working things out in her head. “So you and Beth are second cousins?” she said to Emma.
“Yes – although she’s kind of like my older sister, too”.
“That’s on account of the fact that Kelly and I tried to steal her a few times from Don and Lynda”, I said, flashing a mischievous grin at Beth.
Beth smiled and nodded; “As you can see”, she said to Lisa, “I was brought up in a rather large family!”
“When she was twelve we managed to twist her arm to become Emma’s babysitter”, I said.
Beth grinned. “Was that how it was? I seem to remember Kelly was the reluctant one, and I was the one who did the arm-twisting!”
“Kelly was a little protective”, I replied.
Sally glanced at Will; “She came by that honestly!”
We all laughed, and Will raised his hands in surrender; “I liked to make sure my girls were safe!”
“Just his girls”, Joe interjected; “It was an entirely different story with his son!”
“Here comes Joey’s hard-luck story!” said Krista.
“You were the baby”, he replied; “What do you know about hard luck?”
Everyone laughed, and Krista exchanged grins with her mother; “I guess they had the parenting thing down pat when it came to me!”
Colin had been sitting quietly, listening to the conversation, but now he grinned at Wendy; “Is that how it works?” he said.
She gave him a playful smile; “You tell me!”
“If only Becca were here”, I added; “She could tell a few stories”.
Will grinned at me; “Becca was spoiled by her big brother as well as her parents!”
“Yeah, I think that’s definitely true!” Emma agreed.
Much later, Wendy and I were still out on the deck with Will and Sally, with the citronella candles burning around us. The air was much cooler now; Wendy had slipped on a sweater, and Sally had made hot chocolate for us.
“Is Sarah okay?” Sally asked me.
“She’s having a bit of pain from her leg – the one with the rod in it. She did a lot of walking before we came, and I think she might have overdone it a bit”.
“Is she going to be okay when you guys go to Jasper?”
“I don’t know – we’ll have to see”.
Will gave Wendy a sympathetic glance. “So how was it tonight? Were you completely overwhelmed?”
“A little, but it was wonderful anyway – I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time”.
I could see Will was pleased; “Well – that’s good to know!”
She glanced at me; “We’ve talked a lot about Meadowvale, and all the people here”.
I nodded; “Wendy’s been writing things down, and drawing family trees to keep everyone straight!”
“Good luck with that!” said Sally; “Sometimes we can’t keep everyone straight in our own minds!”
Wendy gave me a quizzical look; “Has it changed a lot since you first came?”
“Meadowvale? There used to be old fashioned wooden grain elevators; now we’ve got those concrete grain terminals. And some of the stores have changed hands. But it’s mainly the people changes that I notice”.
Will nodded; “We’ve lost a lot of folks since 1982”.
“Will’s mum was still alive when I came here”, I said, “and both Sally’s parents; they were in that group that came over in 1924. And there were lots of other old-timers like them, people who had been pioneers in the early days of Meadowvale”.
“Charlie Blackie”, said Sally quietly, “and old Joanna Robinson”.
“Joanna was Beth’s great-grandmother”, I explained to Wendy; “Her son Mike married Sally’s sister Rachel. She came over from England in 1929 with her husband, but she always looked as if she’d just gotten off the boat”.
“You were very fond of her”, Sally said to me.
“Yeah; we were good friends”.
Wendy smiled at me. “I’m thinking back to the Tom Masefield I knew in the spring of 1982 – long hair, a bit left-wing, anti-establishment, very intellectual and bookish and introverted, and more than a bit defensive. And I’m thinking about what I’ve seen so far around here…”
Will laughed softly; “Yeah, we did wonder how long he’d last!”
I grinned at him; “Meadowvale people were very patient with me”.
“You ended up surprising some of them, though; you turned out to be a lot more adaptable than they’d been expecting. But the changing wasn’t all on your side. Yeah, you became a Christian – and you learned to be more of a people person – but in lots of other ways you stayed true to yourself, and people came to respect that. And there were plenty of people around here – especially the younger ones – who liked the fact that you were kinda hippie-like”. He smiled at Wendy; “They used to refer to him as ‘that hippie teacher from England!”
“There were quite a few girls around here who had crushes on him, actually!” Sally added.
“Including a certain daughter of mine”, said Will.
Sally nodded; “I remember her telling me Tom was a refreshing change from the boys around here. He was spiritually curious, and he liked going for long walks, and she found him interesting to talk to. Plus, she was kind of attracted to his music”.
Wendy put her hand on mine; “I remember that boy”, she said.
“You guys met through your music, right?” asked Sally.
“We did. It was at an open stage in the autumn of 1980. I was one of the early acts, and Tom and Owen were up later. They liked my songs and I liked theirs”.
“So you didn’t actually know each other all that long before Tom moved to Canada”, said Will.
“No. Of course, when you’re in your early twenties, two years seems a lot longer than when you’re in your mid-forties”.
“They were pretty formative years”, I added.
We were quiet for a moment, each of us occupied with our own thoughts. Above our heads a slight breeze was lifting the branches of the poplar tree; around the front of the house I heard a truck go by on the street, its tires singing on the pavement.
Wendy drained her hot chocolate and set it down on the table. Leaning forward a little in her chair, she looked across at Will and Sally in the dim light from the porch lamp. “I want to thank you two”, she said softly.
“For what?” asked Will.
“For being so open and welcoming to me. I know this can’t be easy for you”.
They glanced at each other, and Sally said, “I have to admit that when I first heard about you – and the fact that you had a daughter, and Tom was her father – I was resentful. Our Kelly struggled so much with the fact that she couldn’t have any more children”.
“I know”, Wendy whispered; “Tom and I have talked about that”.
“We knew your name”, said Will, “but we didn’t know very much about you – other than that you’d been a member of Tom’s old band, and he had a picture of the three of you on his wall. But we didn’t know he’d been in love with you; he never really talked about you”.
“In the early days I was still too sore”, I replied softly, ‘and after that, when I started to get to know Kelly – well, then there were other things on my mind! But Kelly and Joe were the only ones around here who knew the full story”.
“What would you have done if you’d known about Lisa?” Will asked me.
“I’d like to think I’d have gone back, even though fear of my dad was still a really big factor for me at the time. But if I’d found out later, after Kelly and I were married, I know I’d have done my best to be involved in her life and to support Wendy, if she’d let me – and I know Kelly would have stood by me in that”.
Sally nodded; “You’re right about that”.
Wendy shook her head; “It was never a possibility for me. Mickey made it quite clear when he agreed to take me in that the baby wasn’t to know anything about Tom – she was to be told she was Mickey’s child. And I was desperate for help, so I thought I had no choice. I really regret that now”.
“We were kids”, I replied, “doing what we thought we had to do”.
“But getting back to what you mentioned about being open and welcoming”, said Will, “I think you need to know that you’ve made it a lot easier for us, because of your attitude toward Kelly”.
“That’s absolutely right”, Sally agreed. “The fact that you’ve come here with Tom, and you’re obviously so interested in meeting his Meadowvale family and making connections with the life he and Kelly had here – that’s made a huge difference to us”.
Wendy glanced at me. “I told him a long time ago that I’m not threatened by Kelly’s memory; in fact, what I feel for her is mainly gratitude. She’s the one who made him the person he’s become”.
“That’s true”, Will replied, “but don’t let him tell you it was all one way. Honestly, Wendy, if you could have seen the way he stood beside her when she had cancer – especially the first time, when she went through that big, black depression – well, the only thing I could say to myself was, every father would wish for a son-in-law like that. She was so low, she basically shut him out – she shut everyone out except her baby – but he was totally patient with her, looking after Emma and doing all the housework, and being so gentle and understanding with her. It was heartbreaking for us as parents, but it was a beautiful thing to watch, too”.
“I had a lot of help”, I said; “I could never have done it alone. People came over and did what needed to be done. Sally, you were over every week, cleaning the house from top to bottom”.
Sally shrugged. “I was her mom; what else was I going to do?”
“And I was her husband, and I loved her. Giving up wasn’t an option”.
Will shook his head. “Sadly, not everyone takes that view – but you did”.
Wendy squeezed my hand. “And you’re a stronger person because of it. I’ve watched you since you came back to England, standing by your dad and mum – and Rick and Sarah – and the way you’ve been there for Lisa when she needed you – and I’ve said to myself, ‘That didn’t come from nowhere’”.
I nodded; “Thank you”, I whispered.
“Anyway, Wendy”, said Will, “we hope you’ll always feel this family is your family, too. I know Tom feels that way, and that’s the way we feel about him. He’s our son, and his mom and Becca have always been part of that, and when we got to know Owen and Lorraine it was like they were our son’s friends, you know? So we hope you and Lisa and Colin will be part of our lives, too”.
Wendy shook her head slowly; “You two are incredible”, she said. “I can’t believe how lucky I am – I honestly can’t”.
Will smiled at us both. “Yeah, it hasn’t worked out too badly, has it?”
“Not too badly at all”, I agreed.
On August 9th we rented a van and headed west, driving to Edmonton to take in the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, where we spent the weekend on Gallagher Hill listening to the likes of Alison Brown, Danú, Maria Dunn, Steve Earle, Jerusalem Ridge, Alison Krauss, and Loreena McKennitt. Wendy lapped it all up, wandering from one small stage to another, sampling the many different musical styles on offer; even Lisa, who was not a real folkie, admitted to me by the end of the weekend that she had had a great time.
The festival ran until Sunday night, and the next day we drove west to Jasper. I had borrowed a couple of tents and some camping gear from various friends and relatives in Meadowvale, and we set up camp at the Whistler’s campground not far from town, booking our site for a week to give us plenty of time for exploring. Knowing that Sarah was having some pain in her leg and Lisa was not an outdoor person, Emma and I had deliberately planned to make the first couple of days’ hikes relatively easy, with a slightly more ambitious trek around the Valley of the Five Lakes on the third day.
On the fourth day we decided to attempt the Edith Cavell Meadows trail, a 750 metre climb starting in the boreal forest, trekking past glacial moraine, and then up into the alpine meadows and the bare rocks above them. It had been one of Kelly’s favourite climbs in Jasper, and we had done it almost every year when we visited the park. Sadly, Sarah was still having some pain and was afraid of attempting the climb, but Emma immediately said she would stay with her. Sarah protested, but Emma insisted, and so they spent a few hours canoeing on Pyramid Lake together while the rest of us went up the Cavell Meadows trail. Lisa made it as far as the first lookout, but by then she was obviously too tired and sore to go on, so I stayed and chatted with her while Wendy and Colin went on up to the top of the trail. Afterwards, when we got back to town, we all went swimming in the frigid waters of Lake Edith. We went to bed that night tired and sore, but happy.
The next day I woke up early as usual. I crawled quietly out of my sleeping bag, doing my best not to wake Sarah and Emma as I slipped into my clothes; I was sharing a tent with them, and Wendy was in the other one with Lisa and Colin. I unzipped the door and stepped out into the early morning light; the sky was clear, promising another warm and sunny day ahead, but the mountain air was still cold, and I was glad I had pulled on a fleece top over my tee shirt.
After returning from the bathrooms I warmed up some water over the Coleman stove, made some coffee and sat quietly in a folding chair by the picnic table to drink it, enjoying the peace and stillness of the early morning. Our campsite was surrounded by tall trees, with other sites on either side of us; above the tree line I could see the bulk of Whistler’s Mountain, and I remembered that I had promised everyone we would ride the cable car up there before we left Jasper. I took a sip of my coffee, thinking of all that had happened since the last time we were here, and breathing a few quiet prayers of thankfulness.
After a while I heard the sound of the other tent door being unzipped, and Wendy emerged, wearing jeans and a warm sweater, her hair still messy from sleep. She came over to where I was sitting, bent and kissed me on the forehead; “Did you sleep well?” she asked.
“Very well. How about you?”
“Like a log; I must have been exhausted. I can feel that climb in my leg muscles this morning”.
“I know; me too. Would you like some coffee?”
“Give me a minute to use the facilities”.
When she returned from the bathrooms I poured her a cup of coffee; she took it from my hand with a smile and sat down in another folding chair beside me. “I didn’t put my watch on”, she said; “What time is it?”
“So – what are we going to do today?”
“Well, I’m guessing that we’re all a little tired after yesterday’s exertions; perhaps we should drive down to the Athabasca Glacier today”.
“That’s the one where you can walk on the glacier?’
“That’s right. But then, on the other hand, we might want to just take a ride up there in the cable car”. I pointed toward Whistler’s Mountain; “There’s a rather nice restaurant at the top of the tramway, and from there it’s a short hike to Whistler’s summit. The views are spectacular”.
“More spectacular views?”
I smiled at her; “There are rather a lot of them around here, aren’t there?”
“It’s a wonderful place, Tom; thank you so much for bringing us”.
“It’s my pleasure”.
She was quiet for a few minutes, sipping at her coffee, cradling the cup in her hands for warmth. I could see that she had tried to tie her hair back, but a long wisp of it was falling over her forehead. I reached over and took her hand; she smiled at me, opened her mouth to speak, and then hesitated and closed it again.
“What?” I asked.
“You must really miss Kelly here”.
“I must admit that I think of her a lot when I’m up here”.
“The night your dad died you said something unusual had happened on the day of her death; you were going to tell me about it”.
“But perhaps you’d rather not talk about it right now?”
“No, I can talk about it”. I sat forward in my chair, resting my elbows on my legs. “She died in hospital in Saskatoon; the whole family was there with her, and a couple of others besides”.
“Emma would have been about fourteen?”
“Yes. We’d been awake all through the night, much as we were the night my Dad died, except that Kelly lasted into the late morning. We were all sitting or standing around her hospital bed; her breathing was getting more and more shallow, and we all knew that it wouldn’t be long. I was sitting on her right side, and Emma on her left; Emma was holding her hand and talking to her, but Kelly had her eyes closed, and we had no way of knowing if she could hear or not. Eventually Emma just sort of leaned forward and put her head on her mom’s shoulder. And then we all saw Kelly’s left hand come up and around Emma’s back, as if she was remembering how she used to hold her when she was a little girl.
“I remember I leaned forward a bit, and then Kelly’s other hand came up; it was as if she knew exactly where my face was. Her eyes were still closed, but she traced both my eyebrows with her finger, really slowly, and then her hand went down to the sheet again. A few minutes later she died”.
Wendy stared at me; “That’s amazing”, she whispered.
“Yes – it was almost unearthly, in the most literal sense of the word”.
We were silent for a few minutes, each of us alone with our thoughts. On the edge of our campsite a squirrel ran down a tree trunk, stood up straight for a moment to scrutinize us, and then darted off into the undergrowth.
Wendy spoke in a small voice; “I’m so different from Kelly”.
“I know I said a few days ago that I didn’t feel intimidated by her memory, but I must admit that I’m not entirely sure that’s true any more. Having spent the last couple of weeks in her haunts, it’s not hard to feel as if she’s still somehow present”.
I didn’t say anything for a few minutes; I got to my feet, poured myself another cup of coffee and took a sip of it, stretching my back and looking up at Whistler’s Mountain.
Eventually I turned to face her again. “I had a rather vivid dream a few nights ago; I dreamt about that night in Oxford when you came to my room”.
“The night Lisa was conceived?”
“Yes”. I sat down beside her and took her hand. “Do you remember me telling you a while back that a part of my psyche had sort of gone to sleep after Kelly died?”
“I do; you said you thought it might be waking up again”.
I nodded; then, choosing my words carefully, I said, “When I thought about that dream, I realized that I’m actually quite looking forward to making love with you again, and I hope it won’t be too long. But all the things I’ve told you about how I felt the first time we made love – all those things still apply”.
She gripped my hand, her eyes searching mine; “You’re telling me that it’s not just sex that you’re looking forward to?” she whispered.
“I’m looking forward to being together with you for the rest of my life”.
I watched as a slow smile spread across her face. “Tom Masefield, are you proposing to me?”
“Wendy Howard, I think I am”.
“You think? I’d been hoping for something a bit more definite than that!”
I lifted her hand to my lips, kissed it, and covered it with my other hand. “Will you marry me, Wendy? The sooner, the better!”
She laughed quietly, her eyes shining. “Well, since you ask so nicely…”
“Is that a ‘yes’?”
“I think it is”.
“You think? I’d been hoping for something a bit more definite than that!”
We both laughed this time, and then she smiled at me and said, “Yes, Tom Masefield – I will marry you. And I’ll count myself a lucky woman”.
“No, no”, I replied, shaking my head; “I’m the lucky one”.
“Excuse me, sir, but after I rejected you and turned you away all those years ago, I’ve never had any right to expect this from you – so, I repeat, I’m the lucky one”.
I grinned; “Is this our first argument?”
“Possibly”, she replied, her eyes sparkling merrily at me.
“When shall we do it?” I asked.
“I suppose that all depends on what sort of wedding we want”.
“Do you want something big and formal?”
“No, not really. Would you mind being married in the Church of England?”
“Of course not; were you thinking of St. Michael and All Angels?”
“I was, actually; is that all right?”
“Perfect”. I frowned suddenly; “But is Elaine allowed to do it, with you being divorced?”
“I think there are some extra hoops to jump through. That might slow the process down a bit”.
“All the more reason for us to start it soon, then. Shall we go and see Elaine when we get home?”
“I’d like that”.
“What sort of time frame are we talking about, though?”
“How do you mean?”
“I mean, if Elaine looks at us and says, ‘So, when would you like to get married?’ – what shall we say?”
“What do you think?”
I grinned at her; “Decisive this morning, aren’t we?”
She laughed softly; “Give me some time, all right? This is only my first cup of coffee of the day!” She took a sip from her mug, thought for a moment, and then said, “I honestly don’t want to wait until next summer”.
“Neither do I”.
“Actually, I’d like to do it before Christmas, if possible; that way we could have Christmas together as a family”.
“I like that idea. But we’d have to wait until after Mickey’s trial, right?”
She looked at me for a moment, then nodded reluctantly. “I suppose that would be prudent, wouldn’t it?”
“Chances are we couldn’t book anything before then anyway”
“Probably not. So the trial starts on October 24th and lasts for a few days?”
“They told me we should allow for five, just in case, but they didn’t think it would take that long”.
“Shall we aim for some time in the second half of November, then, to give us a few weeks to get the bad taste out of our mouths?”
I nodded; “Nicely put. Let’s start with that and see how close we can get to it”.
She grinned at me; “When shall we tell the kids?”
“Shall we feed them first?”
“There’s a thought!”
“Of course, that means we might have to wait for a while; they’re in no danger of waking up any time soon”.
I stood up again, stretched my back, and said, “When I first got up I thought my legs were too stiff to go for a walk, but now I’m thinking a quiet stroll would be nice. What do you think?”
“Can I come?”
“You don’t seriously think I’d leave you behind, do you?” I replied, holding out my hand to her.
She took my hand with a smile, got to her feet and slipped her arm into mine. “Lead the way”, she said, “but don’t go too fast, if you don’t mind; I wasn’t joking about my legs being stiff”.
We strolled out of our campsite and down the lane, passing other tents and a few bleary-eyed campers who were already moving at this early hour. The trees around us were tall, casting long shadows on the road ahead. A family of grey jays was flitting in and out of the branches, stopping here and there to look for food; a little further away I heard the chirruping of a squirrel.
“So when did you decide you wanted to do this?” Wendy asked.
“I think I’ve known for a while, actually”.
“What’s been holding you back?”
“Fear, I think”.
“Fear of what?”
“Fear of not being able to get it right. Fear that I might still be too sad about Kelly to be able to give you the sort of love you deserve”. I shrugged; “Maybe even fear that you might say ‘no’”.
She stopped abruptly and looked at me in amazement. “Fear that I might say no? Where on earth did that one come from?”
“Well, I do come with some emotional baggage, Wendy”.
She shook her head as we began to walk again. “Do you think I know you well?” she asked.
“I think you do”.
“Have you been hiding things from me? Putting on an act, or pretending to be stronger than you actually are – that kind of thing?”
“Not that I’m aware of”.
“Well, if what I see is what I get, I think I’m more than content”.
I laughed; “Nicely put!”
“Thanks. And anyway, I’ve got some emotional baggage of my own, as you well know. I’m afraid you might still find yourself woken up at night sometimes by my nightmares, and…” she hesitated, biting her lower lip and looking away, “to be absolutely frank, I’m not altogether sure that sex is going to be easy for me for a while, even with you”.
“And I understand too, Tom”.
I put my arm around her, pulled her close and kissed her on the forehead. “I love you”, I said.
“I love you, too – more than you can imagine”.
“I don’t know – I can imagine a lot!”
We both laughed, and she took my arm again as we walked on together. We were quiet for a few minutes; I could smell wood smoke in the air from early morning campfires, and a little further down the road a diesel truck growled noisily past us, pulling a large fifth-wheel trailer.
“Should we talk about some practical things before we mention this to the kids?” she asked.
“How do you mean?”
“Well, there’s the issue of where we’re going to live, for a start. The obvious thing is for you and Emma to come and live with us, since I own a house and you’re a renter. But on the other hand, our house will be a little tight for five people, since we only have three bedrooms upstairs. I know Lisa sleeps at Christ Church a lot of the time, but I’m still not sure she’d welcome the idea of sharing her room at home with Emma, much as they like each other”.
“So we might have to buy a bigger place”.
“Fair enough; if you’re okay with that, I’m okay with it too”.
“I’m okay with it; it’ll probably be quite expensive, though”.
“Well, Dad did leave me quite a bit of money, and I think I’ve persuaded myself that I don’t have to give away every penny of it”.
“How did you manage that?”
“It started with the Air Canada tickets”.
She laughed; “I can see you’re going to want to be able to buy them from time to time”.
“Yes. And I think it makes sense, if we’re going to need a bigger house for a couple of years, to pay as much up front as we can. That way we can save on interest payments and have more disposable income to be generous with”.
“Let’s try to be as generous with it as we can, alright?”
“I absolutely agree. That’s the way Emma and I have always lived, and I know you’re not really into accumulating lots of possessions and stuff”.
“I’m not, and your Anabaptist writers have been making a big impression on me that way too. I really want to go into this marriage with the idea of following Jesus together, even if we don’t always know exactly what that means”.
She grinned at me. “Good. And that leads me to the next thing we need to talk about”.
“Have you got a list in your head?”
“So what’s the next thing, then?”
“Church. I’m assuming you think it would be a good idea for us to go to church together”.
“I do, and if it means we can do that, I’m quite willing to start going to St. Michael’s with you all the time. I don’t think I’ll ever feel like a real Anglican, but I can certainly worship in an Anglican congregation”.
“No, listen, Tom, I’ve been giving this a lot of thought”. She smiled at me and said, “I’ve suspected for some time now that sooner or later you might ask me to marry you…”
“You have, have you?” I teased her, leaning over and kissing her.
“I have!” she replied, her eyes sparkling at me. “And as I said, I’ve given this church issue a lot of thought. I really appreciate your willingness to move out of your comfort zone, but there’s someone else to think about, isn’t there?”
“Yes. Emma’s the kindest and most thoughtful of people, and she never makes a fuss, but I know her well enough to know that she feels much more comfortable at Banbury Road than she does at any Anglican Church”.
“Well, that’s probably true; she appreciates some things about Anglicanism, but in her heart she’s a very committed Anabaptist”.
“Exactly. And I know she’d never make an issue of it, but I don’t want her to be secretly resenting the fact that I took you away from her to my church, or that I made her feel as if she should come with us”.
“I don’t even want to think about it, Tom; having a good relationship with her is too important to me. So if there’s a way we three can go to church together, I’d like us to do it”.
I put my arm around her shoulders. “You’ve really thought this one through, haven’t you?”
“I have. I’ve been having a few serious conversations with God about it”.
“Are you really sure you want to do this?”
“I’m really sure”.
When we got back to the campsite about half an hour later Emma was standing at the picnic table, wearing a fleece top and her green Saskatchewan Roughriders ball cap, warming up the coffee over the Coleman stove. “Hello there!” she said, looking at us curiously; “Where did you two wander off?”
“Oh, just went for a walk, that’s all”, I replied.
“Listen, Dad, I’ve just had a great idea; why don’t we wake the others up and go into the Bear’s Paw Bakery for breakfast?”
“I could go for that”, I replied, “but I’m not sure I want to be the one to wake the others”.
“What’s the Bear’s Paw Bakery?” asked Wendy.
“It’s a really cool place, Wendy”, Emma replied; “you really have to go there to be able to say you’ve experienced the Jasper ambience!”
“What’s so special about it?”
“On the surface, nothing”, I replied. “It’s thoroughly crowded at this time of day – you probably have to stand in line for twenty minutes to get to the counter – and the chances of getting a table are pretty remote; most people just get take-out. But the food is amazing, and like Emma says, it’s a classic part of the Jasper ambience”.
“Are you sure it’s a good idea to stand in line for twenty minutes for the privilege of not getting a table?”
“Once you’ve tasted their bakery stuff, you’ll never ask that question again”.
“Well, okay – but my two offspring aren’t very good in the morning, as you know!”
“Trust me – it’ll be worth it”.
We drove into town at about eight-thirty with three very sleepy young people in the back of the van. Lisa had protested loudly about being woken up so early; Colin fell asleep again, and it took us a few minutes to wake him up after I pulled into the parking lot across from the Bear’s Paw.
The bakery was situated on a side street just off the main road, and as I had predicted, the line-up was already out the front door. Lisa groaned as we crossed the street; “Whose bright idea was this, anyway?” she complained.
“Mine”, Emma replied cheerfully.
There were a couple of benches outside the bakery, and people were sitting on them drinking coffee and eating muffins and cinnamon buns and other assorted baked goods. A group of five people had arrived just ahead of us; they looked at the line-up, and one of them suggested trying somewhere else. The rest of them agreed, and they walked off down the street. I grinned at a young man sitting on the end of the nearest bench eating a cheese bun. “I love it when I hear people say they’re going somewhere else”, I said to him.
He nodded; “They’re making a big mistake!”
We stood quietly in the line for a few minutes; Lisa was listening carefully to the young couple ahead of us, and after a moment she whispered to me, “They’re speaking German”.
“Yes, but not from Germany, right? It’s Österreichisches Deutsch – they’re from Austria”.
“Are you sure?”
“Let’s ask”. She smiled at the young couple and spoke to them in German. “Excuse me”, she said; “My father and I are having a difference of opinion about where you’re from”.
They looked at her in surprise, and then the young woman smiled; “What’s the issue?” she asked.
“My father thinks you’re from Austria, and I’m not sure; he speaks Österreichisches Deutsch, but I don’t”.
The young man grinned at me; “You’re absolutely right – we’re from Innsbruck”.
“I spent two months there once, working at the summer festival”.
“Really? What year was that?”
“Before you were born, probably – 1979”.
He laughed; “Yes, the year before I was born”. He held out his hand to me; “I’m Christian Schröder, and this is my wife Petra; we’re actually on our honeymoon”.
I shook hands with them both; “I’m Tom Masefield, and this is my daughter Lisa”.
“Are you Canadian?” the young woman asked; “You speak very good German”.
“Thanks. Actually, we’re both English, but I lived in Canada for twenty years. We’re holidaying here too”.
Christian gestured toward Wendy and the other kids; “And this is the rest of your family?”
Lisa and I looked at each other, and we both laughed; “It’s a long story!” she said.
“By the expressions on their faces, I don’t think they speak German!”
“My younger daughter Emma speaks a little, but the others don’t”.
“Shall we switch to English, then?”
We introduced them to the rest of the family, and for a few minutes there was a lively conversation going on as the line moved forward and we got closer to the counter. Eventually, after we had picked up our coffee and muffins, we said our goodbyes; Christian and Petra were taking their breakfast with them, and Emma had spotted a free table for the rest of us and moved quickly to claim it. It was really too small for the six of us, but we crowded around it anyway.
“Well, that was brilliant!” said Lisa. “What are the chances of that – ending up in a queue behind a couple from Austria?”
“Pretty good here, actually”, Emma replied. “People come up here from all over the world”.
After a few minutes of eating and quiet conversation, I glanced questioningly at Wendy. She gave a little nod, and I said, “Well, Wendy and I have something we want to tell you”.
They looked up, and Sarah said, “What is it?”
I looked at Wendy again; she took my hand and said, “Tom and I have decided to get married”.
“Big surprise!” Emma replied with a grin; “I thought I saw something different about you two when you came back from that walk this morning!” She was sitting beside Wendy, and she leaned over and kissed her. “Congratulations!” she said; “Have you set a date?”
“Not yet, but we’re hoping for sooner rather than later”.
Lisa was sitting beside me, a smile on her face. “How soon is ‘sooner’?” she asked.
“Well, let’s put it this way – I don’t think you should count on having a year to order a dress”.
“Ah – a winter wedding?”
“We’ll have to wait and see how soon we can do it”, said Wendy; “We won’t have a definite idea about that until we get home and start making some inquiries”.
“So this means we’re all going to be living in the same house, does it?” asked Colin. “Our house would be a bit tight for all five of us”.
“We’ll probably have to get something bigger, at least for a while”, Wendy replied; “We’ll have to talk about that”. She put her hand on Emma’s arm; “Are you alright with this, Em? I’m really asking, because I want to be sure”.
“Oh yeah; I’m really, really happy for you guys. Truly, Wendy – I am”.
“I would never presume to try to take your mum’s place in your life, you know”.
“I know that, but thanks for saying it, anyway”.
“So where are you going to get married?” asked Lisa with a smile.
“Well, we’ve only just made the decision this morning”, Wendy replied, “so we haven’t actually arranged everything, but we’re hoping for St. Michael’s”.
I looked across the table at Colin; “What do you think of this?” I asked.
“I think that if you buy a new house, I’d like to build the kitchen cabinets!”
We laughed; “I don’t think you’ll get any argument on that one!” said Wendy.
“So do we get to be in the wedding party?” asked Emma.
“We’ll find a way to fit you all in”, Wendy replied.
“Are you going to ask Uncle Rees to do it?” asked Lisa.
“There’s a thought!” Wendy replied. “I’ll have to talk to Elaine about having him involved in some way”.
“Of course”, I added, “he might just want to be the brother of the bride”.
“That’s true; I’ll have to ask him”.
I looked down at my empty coffee cup. “Looks like we’ll need another round of coffee to plan the occasion”, I said; “Anyone care to stand in line with me for another twenty minutes?”
“I will!” Wendy replied; “You and I can go and talk fiancée-talk and leave these youngsters to talk about – well, whatever kids talk about on occasions like this”.
“Are you lot okay with that?” I asked as Wendy and I got to our feet and scooped up the coffee cups.
“Absolutely!” Emma replied; “You two go away; we’ve got some serious plotting to do at this table!”
Link to Chapter 40