Saturday, May 31, 2008
Friday, May 30, 2008
We often rest our weary bodies and minds out of need, but how often do we sit and observe. If we find ourselves in a beautiful setting such as this, the contemplation of God's creation is a given, but when we have only our thought to occupy us, do we shut them out with music, TV, or a newspaper? It is good to sit and observe our own thoughts and assess them as we would a garden. We will discover beauty, but also weeds that need pulling.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
* This is one of many beautiful components in Walter and Elizabeth Regier's garden. They will be on the Garden tour in June and we had a chance to meet the Regiers and preview their beautiful property last night. They were generous in letting me photograph to my heart's content last night.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
The phone rings and a sweet voice tells me I did some work for her a few years ago and would I be interested in painting her bedroom. I ask again for her name, stalling for time, because I have no idea who I am talking to. There is something familiar in the voice but I cannot register a name or a location or the work to which she is referring. I give myself away when I finally admit that I just can’t remember, and at that point I ask for more clues. Eventually the light goes on and everything comes back. It is embarrassing, because for the customer it was an important occasion to hire a painter to do her home makeover.
I have come to understand why I remember some people so well and others not at all. Either I made a very good connection on a social level, there was something very unusual about the person, or something happened on the job to make it out of the ordinary. I have several day planner books full of customers names and addresses from many years back and as I page through them, looking at the entries, I find that there are some that absolutely stand out and others give no clue as to what I did there or who they were. I deal with approximately 120 customers in any given year, and end up working for at least 100 of them. Out of those there are at least half that are new people I have never met before, who got my name from a regular client, or from one of the paint stores in town who graciously passed my name on as a recommended painter. So I should be forgiven for forgetting a few of them.
Some of them, in fact, many of them are unforgettable.
I first heard of these ladies referred to as the ‘four ghosts’. It was at a family event at my Uncle Henry’s house where someone inquired about his neighbours across the street. The house was attractive, the garden and lawns tidy and lush, and it seems that on occasion, there was a glimpse of the residents, but only for brief periods of time. All he knew was that they were four sisters and they came and went mysteriously like ghosts. It seems no neighbour had actually talked to them and so they were a mystery to all.
Not long after, I got a call from a Mrs. Quiring, asking if I could come to her home to give her an estimate for painting and papering their house. Her address was Princess Street, but much to my amazement, as I drove down the street looking at house numbers, I came to a stop across the road from my Uncle Henry’s house. I had a little thrill as I knew that this would be interesting and if I got the job or not, I would be the centre of attention at the next family gathering as I told everything I knew about the ‘four ghosts’.
A nervous, but pleasant lady greeted me at the door and bid me enter, as she stared intently at my feet. I had come to learn over the years that this was the signal to remove the shoes. Often I am loathe to do so when I see the kids and pets and various degrees of filth in the home, but here, I knew my socks would not become soiled. After cursory introductions, I learned her name was Helen, and she proceeded to show me around.
The house was elegant in an understated fashion and the furnishings and art work were classy and tasteful. The home looked well organized and very well taken care of. After complimenting her on her lovely home, she agreed with me and made it clear that it did not really need paint, but her and her sisters wanted a change. A ‘pick-me-up’, she said.
Sisters? I could hear or see no one but Helen. Were they at the library, out shopping, or locked in the dungeon in the basement? The house did have an air of mystery to it. I thought I had heard scurrying in the kitchen, or was it a back bedroom? I was quite curious, but there would be no satisfaction that evening. I took specifications, measurements and detailed information about the level of quality that was desired, and soon was out the door, on my way home to work out the price.
“Interesting,” I thought, but nothing really to tell Uncle Henry except for the description of the house and a bit about Helen. She did have one eye that seemed to look to the left, or was it the right. But that might have been the good eye. I did not want to stare so I really did not even know anything about her eye. It just didn't seem right.
I had gained her trust, and that is often all it took with older people. She said I was hired and I could start any time. When all the wallpaper had arrived, I presented myself at her door one day, and began to do the work. I remember the first day clearly as the house was steamy and moist with the heavy smell of cooking. It was Borscht! As I learned later, there was laundry day, cooking day, cleaning day, gardening day and shopping/ post office day. Sunday was church and visiting, but I never did find out what Saturday was until a while later. I was setting up my tools to begin preparation and it was inevitable that I would sooner or later have to meet the other ghosts. And I did. Well, sort of. Helen pointed out a figure stooped over the stove and say, “That’s Katherine. Agnes is in the back bedroom not feeling well today, and the other one is Susie.”
It took the full four weeks that I was there before one of them would even acknowledge me or look at me. They had an uncanny knack of doing their work while at the same time avoiding me or even being near me. Only German was spoken so I assumed that I would not be able to carry on a conversation with any one of them anyway. They were always in a flap about something and there was a sense of urgency to every move. They were hard workers and it seems that work was all they knew. I tried several times to ask some personal questions of Helen, but she would brush me off and besides, she was the foreman and was too busy giving orders to take any time to speak with me. I was never offered coffee nor was I ever asked a question that did not relate directly to the work I was doing.
And so it surprised me one day when Helen called the sisters together and they stood as a group and watched and marvelled at the most exciting aspect of the new decorating job. It was way out on a limb for these ladies, but they had thought about this long and hard and now that it was actually happening, they were giddy with excitement. There was a closet door in a small foyer between the kitchen and dining room, a broom closet with a flat swing door, something they had never liked, did not understand why it had to be there, and how they could make it interesting. They got the idea from a wallpaper mural book, and now I was hanging a door mural on the door, making it look like a half stable door with a horse hanging his head over the
door as if waiting for a carrot. It was striking, but a little quirky for the setting and the house. I found out much later why they went that route.
I did discover that Helen was the youngest and took it upon herself to be the caregiver, according to her understanding of things. They were all well past retirement age, but seemed very close in age. The three eldest were slim and wiry, while Helen was short and plump. Perhaps, had Helen worked as hard as she made the others do, she too would have been slim. Helen was the only one who drove, so I supposed it gave her an extra element of control and it certainly did make the older sisters dependent on her.
We parted on very good terms, and though I learned very little about them, I had grown to like them. I did not expect to ever see them again. But I was mistaken.
It was eight years later that Helen called and this one I remembered. They had decided to sell their house and had moved into a condominium. Would I be interested in doing some painting and wallpapering? I always give priority to old customers so I accepted and this time Helen did not even ask for a price. She simply asked me to do the work and give her the bill.
There were no dark recesses of a house to hide in this time, so I finally got to meet the sisters, officially. And this time I learned enough to give me understanding. I could not help but notice a very large jigsaw puzzle half constructed on the dining room table. They all worked on it, but in turns. This used to be a Saturday activity, but now that there was no garden, there were two days a week dedicated to jigsaws. Helen was the most heavily addicted. She could not seem to tear herself away from the table and shouted out the duty roster to her sisters from her perch under the bright chandelier where she had gathered all the edge pieces and was making great progress. She complained mildly about how difficult it was getting to see the pieces in the evening and night light and she had to get as many pieces in the daylight as possible. Her eye had been injured as a child and was increasingly bothersome. Susie was diagnosed with cancer and was mostly confined to her room, but when she came out, looked fine to me.
It was during this time, over an offered cup of coffee, that I heard some of their story.
They had grown up in Russia during the Russian Revolution and were very young girls at the time. Their dad and brothers had horses and the girls had taken a great interest in them. It had been a happy and prosperous time until the troubles came. The rumours had spread like wildfire and soon they found out for themselves that it was more than rumours. The soldiers had come to their village and the whole family went to hide in the barn. They were found and all made to line up outside, standing against the barn. As these young girls watched in absolute horror, their parents and brothers were shot and killed. I could only assume what had happened to them next because she paused for a time in the story and then found an important task to distract herself.
I thought that this explained why they were reclusive, had never married and were very slow to warm up to a stranger, a man, in their home. They had been scarred for life. Two of them had been able to work at careers when they came to Canada, but the other two had to be cared for by their sisters.
I no longer looked at them as oddities, but my heart was broken at the thought of what their whole lives had been, playing out the scenes of their childhood time after time, and somehow coping, well into their 80’s. After Helen had opened up to me, there was a difference in her demeanour and it rubbed off on her sisters a little too. Two of them actually exchanged a few words with me.
Shortly after, I heard from another customer in the same building, that Helen had been diagnosed with cancer, in her eye, and the doctor’s had to remove it. It was not long after that, she died, followed by two of her sisters.
Several years later, my sister, who was the director of nursing at an old folk’s home, told me that the last sister had passed away. The caregivers had found $35,000.00 in her purse. I do not know what happened to their bank accounts, their assets, or their earthly possessions. They had no one. I always had hoped that their church had somehow taken care of these things for them.
It was a lesson for me. I admired them, in retrospect, for the way they stuck together. Perhaps they had made a pact when they survived their ordeal. But they had to put up with the whispers behind their backs, the sideways glances and the knowledge that they were different. They probably spent a great deal of time, each in their own way, wondering what might have been.
I ceased to judge people hastily after I met the Quiring sisters.
Monday, May 26, 2008
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Friday, May 23, 2008
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Monday, May 19, 2008
Showered and cleaned up, relaxing before a delicious dinner. I am sorry I do not have enough pictures to include everyone who pitched in to make the weekend a success. Pete, Helga, Will, Margarete, Reiner, Joel, Connor, (Wendy in spirit) Ken, Herta, and Lis, you all worked so hard and efficiently, each contributing in your own way, all the pieces coming together to make it happen in a productive, yet fun way. And the Nephews and Nieces, Daryl, Theresa, Kyle, Lynnette and Andrew .... you did not have to come, but in all truth, we could not have done it without you. George and Laura, we missed you but understand your obligation that kept you home. Maybe next time.
Pete: Went up early to power wash the house and then painted full time the next day and a half.
Helga: Organized and prepared the most awesome meals for all of us, all at the Loewen Estate next door where we could get away from the job site to focus on having fun and fellowship and food without the paint pails beckoning us. AND, you were painting too!
Will: The van, the ladders, the sun screens and lots of 'cutting in'. What a worker! Thanks is not enough.
Margarete: How do you do it. Tedious rails, and finishing off the sun screens with a sponge brush. Amazing stick toitiveness. You and Will were a real inspiration.
Reiner: Spending your long weekend with us, painting posts and rails and doors, just awesome. We really do not see enough of you.
Joel and Connor: Maybe you little guys will get a paint brush next time, but thanks for sharing your cookies with us. You were a pleasure to have around. Bring you mom next time.
Ken: Who would have gone up on those hot gables if you were not willing? Thanks isn't enough. And thanks for rounding up all the paint and cleaning brushes that were abandoned by the tired and hungry crew. Nice to have someone who knows what they are doing.
Herta: Rails and more rails. I know you would prefer painting your canvases with water colours. Thanks for 'saving my life' a few times with your timely cappuccinos. Awesome!
Lis: I can't believe you painted all that wrought iron railing. Living with me has prepared you for just that kind of thing. For sure! I doubt anyone else would have volunteered for that the way you did, with nary a complaint.
Darryl: What a life saver you were. The big question of the project was the gutters on the lakeside of the house. You did all of them! Wow! You really and truly deserved that afternoon nap.
Theresa: You are a natural painter. You endured painting lattice, the ultimate test, and you didn't get a drop on you! Thanks too for all the help with food preparation. I like the way you have fit into our family.
Kyle: Lots of brush work and patience and doing what had to be done. Thanks so much for coming and helping and especially for being my taxi to Penticton and the great talk we had on the way.
Lynnette: There were no exceptions, everyone took charge of a brush and did some painting, including you. As a food provider, you get my very biggest thanks. It was so great having you there and just for the record, my 'ribs' were hot.
Andrew: Steady and dependable as ever, and with the accuracy and expertise of a true professional. Cutting in those soffits twice was no easy feat. The finishing touches that you did made the job truly beautiful. You didn't have to come, but boy, am I ever glad you did!
Thank you all!!!
Ten ladders, five paint trays, with rollers of varying sizes, and 16 paint brushes that all needed cleaning at the end of the day made it challenging.
Here is the 'old guy' who was up at 5am to beat the heat, painting all the soffits before the rest of the crew shows up. After working until almost 9pm that night, he was so exhausted he could not get to sleep and went back at it the next day with only 3 hours of sleep. Let's not even talk about the shoulder and neck problems that were greatly aggravated. Complain, complain, complain. Nobody is listening so shut up.
Here is the youngest brother doing some 'grunt work' which he claims he is not used to. Looks to me like he knows from grunt work. Just next time, get a 'man's roller'. Get this. He came all the way from Calgary just to paint the double shop door! Talk about a family supporter. Thanks again, Reiner.
We, OK, I was really hoping and praying that the weather forecast for Sunday was accurate. What a bunch of speakers of untruth! It was supposed to be 22C. With the added humidity it actually felt hotter than the 34C of the day before. We have spent many May long weekends there in the past and NEVER have we had this kind of beach weather. Of course, when we go here to work, this is what we get. I blame Al Gore.
Andrew got to spend a bit of time off the ladder when he did one of the final little projects, the fake wishing well disguising the irrigation control centre.
Caught taking a little nap during the hottest part of the day. It got to 34C with a very hot breeze. The paint dried before we could apply it so we ended up just nailing it to the wall. :-)
Lis's one and only sister, (not counting her 8 sisters in law) Herta, climbing the ladder of success, or was she testing the theory about how many brunettes it takes to change a light bulb.
Ken likes the jobs where he can sit and work at the same time. I am relieved he did that task as it was VERY hot up there.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Monday, May 12, 2008
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Saturday, May 10, 2008
It seems that a tulip's life is pretty much determined by environment. They have had a very long and beautiful life this year due to the very cool weather, but even they must eventually 'fall apart'. We all have only so much time and must make life beautiful where we are planted before we too, start dropping our petals.