Tuesday, August 12, 2008

a Port Arthur girlhood


My sister, Della, made this card for me from an old photo of my dad, my mother, and me. I keep it on my dresser. Today, I went to my mom's to look through old bxw photos of our early days in Canada. Of course, as usual, it was time for coffee. My mom and sister, Katja, served me the best munkki kahvit [donut with coffee]. My mom's homemade donuts are the best. I ate 3 in a row. That was my lunch. Munching on our munkkis, Katja and I reminisced about visiting our aunt, Irja, [our mom's sister] in Tampere, Finland in summer 2001. Irja took us out one morning to the river front for munkki kahvit. [but in our dialect we really say munkki kahavit as we draw out the word coffee]. If you've never had one, it should be noted that a munkki has nothing to do with a Robin's or Dunkin' or Tim Horton's doughnut. A munkki is a possu [a soft piglet of a donut!]. I was at my mom's looking for old photos to illustrate my immigrant story. Katri Saukkonen, the new Finnish intern journalist for Canadan Sanomat, interviewed me yesterday for the immigrant stories section that Anna-Kaisa Kontinaho began writing.

Here is a photo at Hillcrest Park, taken by my dad of my older sister, Katja, and me with our mom. Perhaps it is 1957. As you can see our äiti has her arm behind us to make sure we didn't fall off the edge. To this day, she has what my sisters and I call "worse case scenario" syndrome, aka Finnish mother's worrywart tendency. Wherever we went, she would be sure to shout out: älkää vain! ...which sort of translates to "do not!" but is less a directive and more a mother's worry that bad things will happen, accidents will occur, and she fears for us.

Here is a view of the parking lot at the lookout at Hillcrest Park. It must've been a Sunday, as Sunday was the day we went for a Sunday drive...and why are we so dressed up? Our dad wouldn't normally be wearing a suit on any given day, being that in those days he worked pushing logs at the waterfront at the mill in Terrace Bay. A Sunday drive was a thing that many families and folks did, shown by the many cars lined up. Getting a car was part of the American dream. Going out for a drive was part of the car culture of success. Our mother is taking the photo this time. Me and Katja are in our dad's arms. Most likely some versions of this photo was sent back to the relatives in Finland.

Here is a photo in the Sunken Gardens at Hillcrest Part, taken perhaps in 1958 because there is our baby sister, Della, on the grass with our mom holding her up. Again, we are dressed up. Again, our dad behind the lens. I am pointing something out, which, as my sister, Katja laughed aloud and said is still something I tend to do. Point things out.

This is something I have since outgrown. Storming out of the room when I get mad. This photo is from 1964; I was 8. I was mad because my mother made me wear a boy's style shirt; something Mrs. Nevala had picked up at the Sally Ann. We were living in Makela's basement apartment. My mother mentioned at our munkki kahavit that she visited Mrs. Makela in the senior's home the other day. Mrs. Makela has Alzheimer's. My mom said she seemed to stir and brighten up when my mother sang her old Finnish songs that they learned when they were children. My mother's tendency to get me things that looked like boy's stuff, shoes, shirts...hmmm...I wonder if it has had anything to do with my tendency to give orders and point things out?

My mother's hearts ease.

2 comments:

marja-leena said...

Thanks for sharing this little look into your childhood. It stirred memories of my own, so similar with munkkis, a worrywart mother and father's first car!

northshorewoman said...

yes, I think that many of us Finnish immigrants, especially those who came here in the 50s and 60s, and those who came from Pohjanmaa and other agricultural backgrounds, share a lot in the habits we took up to "become Canadian". A whole section on cameras, photos, and documenting life by our families would be very interesting to compare!