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by Ray Wiseman

Precious memories

I recently celebrated a birthday. It doesn’t matter how many, but far more than I care to admit to.

Growing older has advantages. We can keep busy with the things we really enjoy. In my case, I write for publication and critique manuscripts for beginning authors. As a kid I had dreamed of being a writer and editor, and now I live that dream.

I’ve had other dreams fulfilled, so I sent my memory scurrying back over the years looking for highlights. I realized the most exciting moments had little to do with work and most, in some way, connected to my childhood.

One that occurred just a few years ago saw me at the controls of a Second World War flying boat.

I clung to the controls from Pelee Island to Brantford, reluctantly releasing them so the owner could land it. He wanted to stay alive and knew any attempt on my part to get it down would result in the cessation of life.

As a preteen, when war raged in Europe and the Far East, I had dreamed of flying an aircraft into battle. Flying the ancient machine fulfilled a 60-year-old dream, but with a major advantage: I didn’t have to duck enemy fire.  

My memory browser darted back over many more years to age 40 and came to a halt on a South African hillside. Seventy-five years previously, my dad had served as a scout with the British army during the Anglo-Boer war. I had dreamed about, but never expected to visit the land he fought over. I didn’t expect to live in a house looking down on the road he had taken into Johannesburg.

Years before, my birth Mother had planned to go to Africa as a missionary. Her plans had fallen through, but I had achieved them.

A sense of fulfilment almost overcame me. I stood on the continent of my father’s great adventure and my mother’s lost dream. Little did I know that great moment would turn into one of life’s darkest experiences. 

Whoops. Hang on, my memory is now dragging me back to my 10th year. During our time on the Alberta farm, mother had told me about a marvellous, miniature, live-steam engine that pulled a train around a track in London;s Springbank Park. She had shown me pictures of it. I dreamed about it, but knew I’d never see it.

But we moved to London. We went to Springbank Park, bought tickets and climbed aboard the tiny coach behind the engine. I watched in wonder as the engine puffed and wheezed then accelerated to its normal running speed - about 10 or 15 miles per hour.

I glued my eyes on the engine and the heroic man seated on the tender. He wore regulation coveralls and an engineer’s peaked cap. An oily rag fluttered from his pocket. The little train from the faded photographs had come to life.

Then the unbelievable happened; the engineer invited me to ride the engine with him and blow the whistle. That seemingly little adventure had made worthwhile our move away from my friends in Alberta.

Often we remember and cherish the little experiences of life rather than our great victories or successes. Those little things help blank out our failures and darker moments.  


Vol 43 Issue 27


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