Sunday, September 03, 2023

An evening with Auntie Abra (August 23)

Our plane landed in Calgary around 4:00 in the afternoon. My mom had arrived at the airport at around 3:00 to pick us up, and then we were just about the last people off the plane, and then we had to stop to use the potties, so by the time we made it out to my mom she felt like she had been waiting forever!

But the nice thing was that she was waiting beside another lady, whose family members were on the same flight as us. They had been talking, and when the other party finally arrived, they said their goodbyes and my mom said something about how she hoped her daughter and children would be coming soon. 

"Oh, was it a mom traveling with three girls—a big one, a medium-sized one, and a little one?"

"Yes!" my mom said. 

"I was sitting behind them!" the woman said. "They were all so well-behaved!"

That was a nice thing to hear! 

We first went to get settled into our hotel, and then headed into downtown Calgary to meet up with Auntie Abra & Brady and Piper & Anton. Piper had offered to host a little dinner at her apartment's recreation room. She even let us swim in the pool, which was nice (though her pool was freezing cold, Piper had brought a bunch of pool noodles and squirt guns and balls and things which we appreciated getting to use)!

After we were finished swimming, we went to the rec room where Abra brought her kitten Padme. We had fun watching her hop all around the room:

We had some delicious pizza for dinner (which was, in part, why we decided on poutine at Costco rather than pizza again) and Piper also brought some ketchup flavoured Cheetos! (Canadians consume more ketchup per capita than Americans, but evidently not Finns (though that may have changed by this time in history) so of course we have ketchup flavoured Cheetos). 

Here's Phoebe with Padme again. Poor Padme was so skittish around Phoebe who is unafraid to approach most animals.

It was lovely to visit with this crew for the short bit we got them. They were all so wrapped up in wedding prep that they didn't have a lot of free time (and we were all so tired from traveling that we were ready to go to our hotel room). Channeling my Grandma Conrad, I insisted that we take a group photo before departing.

My grandma was very good at making sure to take pictures of our family before ever letting us leave her house. I don't know what she did with them all, though my Auntie Colleen might! She worked long and hard to go through all of my grandma's belongings after she died, curating items of importance and distributing her belongings to various relatives. She even put together books about each of my grandparents, detailing their life, including scanned photos and documents from their early school days to the very end of their lives. It's been an incredible gift! 

I always loved the photo albums she had in her living room—the fact that she could take pictures, develop them, and stick them into photo albums seemed amazing to me. My mom took pictures...sometimes...but often neglected to develop the film...and even more often failed to get the pictures into a photo album. (And that's okay—we all have different talents and abilities). I so enjoyed being able to take a photo album off the shelf and flip through the years, even though I wasn't featured in many pictures (because my aunt's family were the main characters, naturally). 

I turned more to journaling than to keeping up with photo albums or scrap books. Perhaps, in part, because a paper and pen(cil) was much easier to come by than a camera and film and album. But also because I feel there is a lot of value to the words behind a picture—that a picture is only worth a thousand words because it would take at least 1000 words to explain who is in the photo and what is happening and why it was taken forth. 

Anyway, years ago when we were poor college students in Durham, the Relief Society put on an enrichment meeting where they invited an interior designer to speak to us. I let a lot of her advice go in one ear and out the other because (a) we were not in a position to use any of her advice since our decorating budget was a whopping $0 and (b) interior design is simply not a passion of mine. Nothing in my home matches and...oh, well!

One piece of advice she gave, however, stuck with me. It was to fill your home with visual reminders of happy times because being surrounded by happy memories can help remind you that seasons of frustration or sadness or whatever is temporary. You were happy before, you can be happy again. Reinforcing those happy memories helps family members remember that they like each other...

I don't know all the science behind this advice, but I do believe that curating your memory is possible (if not a bit of work, since our brains are hardwired to remember bad things). After this I started printing out a precious few magnets of what I thought were my happiest memories to put on our fridge (thanks to Shutterfly's free deals). I may have gone a little overboard over the years, and this is my fridge now:

It's one of my favourite features of my house (if that gives you any indication of my lack of interior design skills). I love to pause by the fridge and think about all the people I love and all the people who love me. And when a good deal on magnets comes around, I have the kids put in bids for their favourite pictures/memories so we can get them up on the fridge, too!

This time around, I printed out a number of pictures of Abra's children to gift to her since I knew she didn't have any physical copies of pictures of her children (all her photos were lost during some...emergency...moves when her housing was a little unstable). I printed out baby pictures of each of them, as well as a few pictures of them growing up. I didn't get too far through my photos because I was pressed for time, but I got enough for her and I think she really appreciated it.

Now she can create a happy eyesore in her home as well! 

I hope it will remind her about everyone she loves and everyone who loves her. 

Anyway, my Auntie Colleen has scanned and digitized all her albums, which is such a generous labour of love! I flipped through a few albums and "stole" some pictures (of me, of our family, of my grandparents, things like that—they're on my phone camera on August 28 (just for my future reference, since I didn't include all of them below)):

I need to be better about printing out pictures to have available in our home like my Auntie Colleen (who in turn told me she was inspired by Auntie Arlene), but I was raised by a woman who has an impressive collection of photos stored randomly in a box (love you, Mom!) I think I'm doing okay to organize things on my blog for now. 

Granted, the article I shared above said that having digital collections is not as important as physical collections (since digital collections can become too large to sift through, which...I'm prone to agree with). They suggest printing out a "top 100" book each year, which I think is a clever idea. Even Colleen said that doing the early years—when film was a precious commodity—were easier for her than later years when film was cheaper and eventually replaced by digital cameras. Now she has a billion pictures to sort through, when she used to only have dozens or hundreds.

We'll see what I ever decide to do with our blog and with our photos. At any rate, I think the blog is neat because the kids can (and do) flip through the archives to read about the past (sometimes reminding me of stories that even I—the author—had forgotten about). They'll read about all their birthdays. Or all their halloween costumes. Or will look up "this day" ten years ago. Or whatever. And I think that's pretty cool even if they're not physically flipping through memories. 

Anyway, I insisted we take a group shot so we could remember that we were together and that we love and care about each other. The first shot (that I shared above) was the best shot, but I thought these pictures of Zoë and Phoebe being so sick of me taking pictures are hilarious because I remember feeling the same way while my Grandma Conrad was making us stand still for the perfect shot! I also like how at ease Abra looks here:

Here's Zoë trying to help Phoebe look at the camera (spoiler: it did not help)...

Here's Phoebe bravely going to give Auntie Abra a hug goodbye. They had a bit of a miscommunication because Abra thought that when Phoebe reached out to her she was coming to her, that is Abra thought Phoebe was going to let Abra hold her.

That was not Phoebe's intention at all, so Abra had to back away for a minute and apologize before trying again for just a hug.

Phoebe is a friendly and loving girl, but she is rather particular about who can hold her (though not as bad as either Alexander or Zoë were).


  1. That picture that says "probably celebrating a birthday" was at Grandma's house in Raymond. Josie and Patrick never lived in Raymond.

  2. I know! Hahaha! It’s definitely our HR house—pink walls, chandelier…