A Good Home, Bowmanville, Christmas, Christmas Decorations, Christmas in Canada, Christmas Villages

Welcome to Bennyville, the Christmas Village

Happy Thanksgiving to my American family and friends! Here in Canada, we’re roughly halfway between our Thanksgiving (early October) and Christmas.

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Christmas is still more than 4 weeks away, but don’t tell that to my friends at BOAA.

Blog Photo - BOAA bldg side shot

Christmas decorations are already on display in this grand building in Bowmanville’s heritage district, east of Toronto.

Blog Photo - BOAA Christmas village red house and track

Blog Photo - BOAA Chrsitmas village and bus on road through village

Blog Photo - BOAA Christmas Village City Hall lit up

You can’t help smiling when you enter this educational and recreational centre.

Blog Photo - BOAA Christmas Tree

People are friendly. BOAA also holds many fun events and a surprising number of them involve costumes and decorations!

Blog Photo - BOAA Halloween 2-shot

How many associations can say their executive director (the wonderful, witty Angie Darlison, right) was a taco one year and a chicken the next? Not too many, I’d bet. Angie ensures that a sense of humour is alive and well at BOAA.

BOAA is big on celebrating the seasons and occasions, and its volunteers are some of the best decorators of all.

In November, the Christmas trees go up. 

Blog Photo - BOAA Christmas Hallway

BOAA stands for the Bowmanville Older Adult Association. It’s run by professional staff and avid member-volunteers.  Its members are very active people 55 years and older. They’re usually on their way to or from classes and activities held at the centre.

Blog Photo - BOAA Christmas village gazebo

But when the Christmas village is set out on huge tables in the building’s original front hall, many linger for a while, smiling.

Blog Photo - BOAA Christmas village admirer

It’s been at least 8 years since “Bennyville” became a BOAA tradition. 

Blog Photo - BOAA Christmas village church

“Benny Young is a member of the BOAA and the entire village is his,” says Angie. 

Blog Photo - BOAA Christmas village and road

“When Benny moved to Bowmanville from Nova Scotia he offered to set it up each year at the BOAA for our members and guests to enjoy. He works days and days setting up the village.” 

Blog Photo - BOAA Christmas village buildings and people

Angie says some members bring their family and friends to see it. 

Blog Photo - BOAA Christmas village santa on roof

“It’s amazing to be in the office, listening to the folks enjoying the village. They look for the bank, the lawyer, the town hall … and of course the older adult centre.   

Blog Photo - BOAA Christmas village train and water tank

“The addition of the train a few years ago took some getting used to but we’ve grown to love its sound now too.”

Blog Photo - BOAA Christmas village carriage and horse

Blog Photo - BOAA Christmas village buildings and truck

Blog Photo - BOAA Christmas village at one end

As for me, I am one of those lingering as long as possible. I feel like a small child every time I stop to look. I always think they fit perfectly with the grand old family mansion that became the home of BOAA.Blog Photo - BOAA Historical Bldg

Blog Photo - BOAA Chrsitmas tree 2

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p.s. BOAA is holding a book-signing next Tuesday for Myrtle the Purple Turtle and me. I’m very much looking forward to it! 

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A Good Home, Children's Books, Illustrated Books, Myrtle The Purple Turtle, New Children's Books

Purple Toenails and … Myrtle Becomes French?

 

I’m moving at the speed of turtles this week (to quote Oscar at Hermit’s Door), but it’s been a turtally wonderful time for Myrtle (to quote Gallivanta).

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First: Is this not the sweetest face?  

Blog Photo - Myrtle book held by Aggeliki - 6 yrs old - mother Theano takes photo

Meet Aggiliki, 6, whose photo was taken by mom Theano, of Whitby, Ontario. Thank you, Theano and Aggiliki, for this delightful photo, and for loving Myrtle the Purple Turtle! 

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Second: Myrtle has been translated into French, thanks to Jean Long and Jessica Charnock.

When they first read Myrtle the Purple Turtle, Jessica noticed that Jean was translating the words into French as he read.  They quickly offered to do a written translation for publication, and of course I said, “Yes, thank you very much!”

Blog Photo - Jean and Jessica

You may remember Jean and Jessica. A French-Canadian couple, he’s a former teacher and vice-principal, and she’s a former high fashion model, secretary and wine importer. Both are extremely creative (see my blog posts about their remarkable creations). 

Myrtle will also get a French name! More on that later.

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Blog Photo - St Thomas' Church Ext New and Old

Third: At my family church, St. Thomas’ Anglican in the village of Brooklin (northeast of Toronto),  7 year old Makayla marched up to me this morning.  She clearly and politely requested her very own copy of Myrtle, paid for it, and waited as I signed it.

Blog Photo - Myrtle fan at St Thomas church

It was part of a successful fundraising book-sale at St. Thomas’ today. Money raised will benefit the parish’s good works. 

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Fellow author Paul Mason also kindly contributed books to the sale. We both feel privileged to do this.  Our families have both experienced the loving kindness for which this church is known.

Blog Photo - St Thomas' Church LOVE stained glass
Above 4 photos by Hamlin Grange

Fourth, Myrtle has been blessed with more positive reviews.  I’m over the moon with gratitude to these terrific bloggers who took the time to read Myrtle the Purple Turtle recently and review it. This is a magnificent gift and I thank you all:

Sally Cronin

Wendy Macdonald

Gallivanta 

Sheryl Normandeau

Oscar Larson

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And finally, an elegant, well-known friend of mine, who — to protect the guilty — shall only be identified as Rita D, decided to one-up my friend Mandy and me after we painted our fingernails purple. Yes, she had her toenails painted purple.

Blog Photo - Myrtle and Rita Purple Nails

Having recently recovered from injuring her leg, Rita decided to celebrate by  getting a pedicure, and she chose purple to honour Myrtle.

Mandy and I are pleased to be one-upped by you, Rita. Thank you!

So there we go. A series of events that have a certain purple turtle — and tons of loving kindness — in common.

Be well, my friends! Thanks always for being there.

 

 

 

A Good Home, Oma and Opa, Young readers

Oma Paula and ‘The Best Critics’

I never know how much to tell you about the journey that Myrtle is on! (Are you bored yet?)
 
But many of you have hung in with me through the rough times, so I figure you are more than overdue for good news. And right now, some of my ‘goodest’ news is about Myrtle.
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Blog Photo - Myrtle Readers Paula and the grandies
 When Paula de Ronde wrote about Myrtle on Facebook recently, I was delighted.
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“Yesterday I read Myrtle the Purple Turtle with three of my ‘honorary’ grandchildren. Myrtle got three thumbs up, some giggles and big smiles.
“Cynthia Reyes has written a book for parents and friends who love to read and love to read to children.
“We had quite a talk about it and it is a hit.   Zoe, who is only 2, sat through the whole thing and wanted me to go back to certain of the very colourful pages. She was the illustrations critic and by her response they certainly did what they are supposed to do –  engage through colour.

“Dylan Damien (8) and Charlie (6)… talked about ‘friends’  and that ‘it’s OK to be different.’

“I have told many friends about how much I like this book. However, these are the best critics as the story is for them.  I bet this becomes a go-to, cuddle-up book on those long Winter nights.”

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Stefan Steen took the photo above of his wife Stephanie, their 3 children and Paula.

Paula and Stefan go way back to his childhood, when he and her son Damien were close friends.  Sadly, Damien died young, but Stefan remained close to Paula and her husband Bert.

Stefan and Stephanie named their first child for Damien.  Damien was known for giving the greatest hugs, and Paula says she is delighted that the kids have learned to give her “Damien hugs” too. 

They are the grandchildren of her heart, she says.

Today, Paula and Bert are close to all three children, who call them “Oma”, and “Opa” (Dutch for “grandma” and “grandpa”).

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A retired librarian and cultural connoisseur,  Paula has an eye for great stories.  She was the first person outside our family to read the draft of Myrtle, and therefore was its first reviewer.

Blog Photo - Paula and Bert
Photo Credit: Heather Bubb-Clarke
She said this about Myrtle:
“It is a long time since I have been so effusive about a children’s book.  Now we have something other than The Ugly Duckling, et al,  for this age group with a nice dollop of  ‘how to’ for adults facing this dilemma too.
 

“Children will love, relate and respond favourably to the  humour and that light, underlying silliness that is their everyday language.  I was smiling as I read some of the lines, descriptions and Myrtle’s thoughts.

“There are many teaching moments and issues in this book and you present them in such a warm and lovable way.  It is simple but not simplistic, ethical, tackling issues that we so need to tackle today but without being pedantic.”

I respect Paula a lot, so you can imagine how much her critique encouraged not just me, but our whole family.  And now, we’re glad to know that she has read it to her ‘grandchildren’ too.

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Thank you, Paula, Stefan and Stephanie — and special thanks to our young critics!

 

A Good Home, Memory

Being “Special”

There’s a lot to be said for being ridiculous — if you mean to.

I often mean to.

But I realized very recently that my family doesn’t always know when I’m joking.

I say something ridiculous.  They burst out laughing.

Or not.

“How can you have known me for so long and not know when I’m joking?” I ask, serious now.

“Because you’ve come out with the craziest things sometimes,” one of them answers. “You’re very special.” 

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Special? 

Oh… Of course.

They were there. Witnesses to the not-so-funny moments in the very bad years.

All those times.  

When I struggled to get the words out, struggled to even think of them, hold them long enough in my mind — only to have them come out in a mish-mash.

Or when the words came, but I asked the same question over and over until someone said: “You’ve asked that question 5 times in the last hour”.

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I can smile at some memories now.

I remember the first time my family pulled out my favourite board game — wanting to help bring back my words.  It was a warm day. We sat at the table on the verandah.

 

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I couldn’t remember the rules. Couldn’t find the words.

But we stuck with it, moving slowly through incomprehension and frustration to laughter at the ridiculous words I created.

And — the whole time — I called the game “Scramble”, not Scrabble. And no-one corrected me. 

It was, of course, the perfect adjective for my mind and speech, but I didn’t make the connection at the time.  

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I empathize — very keenly now — with people whose memories have been stolen by head injuries, or diseases like Alzheimer’s. 

People like my friend whom I’ll call Mel. 

Mel knitted sweaters, blankets, and made gorgeous quilts — prized by her family and friends. 

Mel had now forgotten all that. Forgotten even family and friends.  

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I was surprised at how elegant she still looked. Dressed in a light-blue skirt-set, not a hair out of place.

We sat together in the lounge of the ward where she lived.

It was a locked ward.

Mel smiled at me politely. 

Blankly. 

I chatted, paused between sentences, searched her face for signs of recognition. I told her it was freezing outside. I told her that I’d recently brought my relatives to see one of her quilts that still hangs in a prominent place that we both know very well. 

I patted her arm.

I said I wished I’d asked her to teach me how to quilt.

“I can’t even figure out how to cut the squares of cloth,” I confessed. “And I have no idea how to join them.”

Her eyes fastened on mine.

She seemed to listen, and even nodded. 

Then her fingers started to move on her lap. Almost as if they had a mind of their own.

Smoothing out the imagined fabric. Drawing, cutting, even joining our imaginary squares.

I watched, transfixed.

Mel looked up at me as if to ask: “Got it now?”

Sublime. It was sublime.

Mel was teaching without words. 

I nodded,  at a loss for words.

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We sat together.

Silent. Smiling. Holding hands. 

It was enough. It had to be enough.

The blank look was back. 

I finally, reluctantly, said goodbye. Hugged her and left her there.

I heard the thud and click of the door behind me as it closed and locked.

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Dedicated to everyone who has a head injury, dementia, or whose brains work differently.