When I returned home from the hospital, my parents decided to allow me to eat whatever I wanted. My mother soon learned to keep the butter out of my reach as I would eat it by the spoonful. I have never lost my love of butter but I don’t eat spoonfuls anymore.
Ice cream was another favourite. Uncle Cecil, back in Canada after the ceasefire in Europe, was living on the farm with us in late 1945. I can remember Mum saying, he would buy one pint of ice cream for everyone else to share and one pint for just him and me. Uncle Cecil was a great tease, and on one occasion, knowing that I disliked bananas, he slipped a tiny bit of banana into my ice cream. When I came to that spoonful I took my time savouring the ice cream then calmly and forcefully spat out the banana, right across the table into the face of the hired man.
When I was a little bit older and we would visit my Grandma Wood’s, she would often make rice pudding with raisins in it. My cousin Rosanne and I would share our puddings, I would give her all of my rice and she would give me all of her raisins. Even though she got more to eat, we would both leave the table happy and with cleaned dishes.
The norm is for babies to double their birth weight at six months and triple it at a year. I was off to a good start weighing 16 lbs. at six months but that is when I came down with a very severe case of eczema that covered my entire body. I managed to get up to 20 lbs. by the time that I was eight months old but then I started to have a failure to thrive. The doctor in Neepawa referred me to the Winnipeg Children’s Hospital (now part of the Health Sciences Centre) for intensive care. My weight at one year had dropped to ten pounds. In hospital I was placed on an elimination diet to try to discover the cause of the eczema but nothing seemed to be working.
At the time it was felt that young children in hospital should not be upset in seeing their parents leave at the end of visiting hours so Mum & Dad could only view me through a window while I was sleeping. You have to wonder if the stress from being separated so completely from my family had an adverse affect on my recovery. There is no record of how long I was in the hospital other than the fact that I spent my first birthday there (July 22nd) and cut my first four teeth between my birthday and Aug 12th while there.
Since nothing seemed to be working my father decided that if I was going to die anyway that it should be at home with family so we returned home to the farm. My mother had been given expensive creams to apply but as with most kids my face and hands needed frequent washings which she did with regular soap and water. When she noticed these areas starting to clear she pitched the creams out the window.
Playing piano with mittened hands
I was usually put in mittens to try to keep me from scratching the affected areas. The only lasting effect of this experience was very sensitive skin with occasional break outs on my arms and legs and the severe separation anxiety that I went through. Apparently, for over a year, I would panic if my mother left the room without me. Perhaps this whole experience is also why I was daddy’s girl.
In this first formal portrait of Nadine, taken when she was five months old, she is leaning against a blanket my father picked up second-hand. But despite its humble entry into our family, it has become an heirloom. It is the blanket she was wrapped in on the day she was first brought home. It is also the one mother wrapped me in two years earlier. Six years later, it wrapped our baby brother.
And a generation later, my sister used it for her three children. Then it went to her daughter-in-law who used it for three of her children. My sister has it back in her possession now, but has offered it to her granddaughter who is expecting in December. That will make four generations of the family who came home for the first time wrapped in the same blanket!
The momentous day was July 22, 1944. My sister, Nadine Faye Turner was born at 11:10 pm weighing 7 lb. 7 oz. . I don’t remember the occasion though, nor the day nearly 2 weeks later when my mother returned from the hospital with her, though no doubt I was quite excited at the time. But from this vantage point, years later, I cannot recall a time when my sister did not share my life.
Mum with Nadine at 2 months (Sept. 1944)
Mum with Nadine at 7 months (February 1945)
Mum with Nadine at 14 months (September 1945)
Nadine Faye was born, like myself, in Neepawa General Hospital. We were still living on the Brunskill farm. Here are some early pictures taken of her with Mum.