About me and this blog

I was born on a native reserve in Ontario, grew up on the west coast of Vancouver Island (as far west as you can go without running out of Canada), came of age in Mexico City. Between times, I lived in the Fraser Valley, Texas, Seattle, Oklahoma, Bella Coola, on the BC north coast, and the Fraser River Delta, just south of Vancouver. For now, I'm "settled" in Campbell River, on Vancouver Island.

I have a boatload of stories to tell. These are some of them.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


That's what we kids called her. To her back, of course. Her real name was Miss Cosey. Miss. If she had a first name, I never heard it mentioned; all the adults called her Miss Cosey.

From our perspective, she was old; grey-haired, not white-haired like Miss Carlisle, but older than her nevertheless. Tiny and neat and fussy. Prim. An old-fashioned word, not much used nowadays, but it describes Miss Cosey perfectly.

On Wednesday nights after prayer meeting, the doctor's wife served tea and cookies. Miss Cosey held her tea cup and saucer dead centre in front of her, well above her knees, with the thumb and three fingers supporting the cup. The little finger stuck straight ahead, separate from the rest. We children imitated her; I suppose she took this as a compliment.

Mr. Lambert always poured some of his tea into the saucer and blew on it to cool it. He timed this action for a moment when Miss Cosey was looking in his direction. "Oh, Mr. Lambert!" Miss Cosey said every time, sighing. Mr. Lambert was most uncouth.

Miss Cosey lived in the nurses' residence, but I'm sure she wasn't a nurse. I have no memory of her in white, or walking the halls in rubber-soled shoes. Her shoes were black and sensible, with sturdy one-inch heels. I never saw her in the hospital offices, or in the kitchen. She didn't do lowly work like washing floors or scrubbing toilets; that was left for Mrs. Plummer. But she was always present. She even went to camp with us every summer, although she never went on a hike or down to the beach or joined in any sports.

She did teach the morning Bible Study at camp, though. And Sunday School at home the rest of the year. And here was the first of her two crimes. She talked down to us. We were innocent babies, she clearly believed; we could understand only short words and simple sentences. We needed to be shielded from the more unpleasant parts of the Bible stories she told; it would be most improper to mention pain and loss and danger. We, whose mothers were nurses, who listened to talk about surgeries and deaths over the supper table! We, whose fathers were preachers and missionaries, who made space at that same table for loggers and native fishermen, some of whom arrived at our dock on the beer boat!

Cosy-Toes told us about David the Psalmist, about his kingly glory and his love of God. She skipped all the good stories; the story of Absalom being caught in a tree by his hair and being speared there, or the one about David dancing so wildly that his private parts were exposed. I'm sure she thought we hadn't read them ourselves. We were just children.

She would never discover how wrong she was; she didn't allow questions or comments. She expected us to listen to her, recite the memory verses, and not to giggle or squirm. Nothing else.

One summer, Miss Cosey took it upon herself to improve our health, as well as our manners and morals. Every morning that summer, all the mission children lined up according to our ages on the boardwalk outside the nurses' residence. Miss Cosey stood on the porch with a spoon and a large brown bottle of cod liver oil. I was second to the last in the line, that year, and the dosing of the little ones took a long time, not least because of Miss Cosey's preliminary speech about how good cod liver oil was for us, and how it didn't taste too bad, "in fact, not bad at all!" Surprisingly, to her, the youngest children didn't believe this and had to be persuaded individually.

While we waited one day, my brothers saw a big garter snake under the rose bushes, and we three left the line and caught it. When my turn came, I had the snake wrapped around my forearm. "Oh, Susan!" Miss Cosey sighed.

And this was her second crime, and the unforgiveable one. She called me Susan. Everyone else called me Susie. And if she thought that was too informal, not proper enough, my real name was Susannah. Not Susan. Never Susan; I hated the heavy, dead sound of it. It was a stiff name, proper and controlled. Prim, like Miss Cosey.

I was kinder than she; to her face, I never called her Cozy-Toes.

Stories of Childhood

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