Thursday, August 16, 2012


16 August 2012

The end of April, Cousin Heather Brenneman and her friend Marguerite came to visit. I hadn't seen Heather in 35 years. Easy enough to remember as the last time we were together was my wedding day!

When we were young, there was never enough time for Heather (a year older than me) and her sister Nancy (my age) to visit. I lived in the small village of Embro, they lived a 2 1/2 hour drive away in Barrie, Ontario. It's funny. Nowadays we think nothing of hopping in the car and driving 2 1/2 hours but back then it was a big deal and seldom happened. Way too seldom to suit our needs, anyway.

Heather and Nancy have two older brothers, Ron and Dave. They were years and years older (so it seemed at the time anyway - amazing how the age gap shrinks as we grow older) and wanted nothing to do with us. I always thought they were so handsome! (Still do.)

When we did get together, it was often "Overhome", the heritage farm our grandparents shared with their daughter and her family. That was a magical place swarming with cousins of all ages, mostly left to entertain ourselves. And entertain we did ... like the time we decided to ride the pigs. I was only about five at the time and so, of course, completely innocent. Unfortunately, parents back then were not so ready to applaud their offsprings' creative endeavors, especially ones which involved mud and pig shit and, after a quick bath, I was bundled into a blanket and driven home in disgrace. I don't think Heather was there for that one but it gives you an idea of what a bunch of cousins can get up to when left to themselves. 


Overhome. Me, Nancy, Cousin Brian, Heather, Cousin Pam (the little blonde kid) and Cousin Connie. The cousin behind Nancy is probably Sharon or Karen. Anybody know?

Heather, me, Nancy. Wow! Check out the lace!

Niagara Falls. Heather, Nancy, me.

So of course, Heather and I spent a lot of time reminiscing. We both remembered that Grandpa ran a small general store at Cassel. (Hey, cousins, does anybody have pictures of the store they can send me? I have none.)  Heather, being older, more observant, and having a far better memory than me, remembered lots more about Grandpa. She told me that, not only was he a farmer and a shopkeeper, he also was a skilled woodworker, a butcher, a dowser and healed by laying on of hands. (I hope Heather and my other cousins will check my facts and comment below with their own observations on life at the farm.)

Greg and I met Marguerite for the first time when we picked them up at the airport. Marguerite is great. She's funny and forthright and had some great stories of her own about growing up in Newfoundland. And she cleaned the kitchen and did dishes every day!

We crammed in as much as we could in the week they were here. (They came, they stayed, they flew to Barcelona and on to Morocco, they came, they stayed and then they flew home. Wish we'd had more time together.)

Forget jet lag. The Saturday H & M arrived (April 28th), we dragged them to Uetliberg along with our friends Laurie and Dottie. Heather, Laurie, Greg and I even climbed the tower as Dottie and Marguerite sensibly sat below.  The mountains obliged.  We finished with drinks on the terrace and then relented and took our jet lagged guests home.

train from airport to our apartment
Marguerite and her Moose.

Marguerite and Dottie, lumberjacks extraordinaire!

Dottie & Laurie

Heather and Marguerite

Heather, Dottie, Marguerite, Laurie, Greg

Hey, it was hot and I forgot my hat!

Sunday we spent a leisurely day in Zurich, hitting the usual sites.

Musicians on the lakeside promenade.


On Monday, we met Dottie at the train station. (Laurie had to work. Hey! somebody has to.)
We took the train and cable car to Santis Kulm. It was incredibly windy and there was still snow piled halfway up the windows and up above the terrace. The landscape didn't seem as approachable as Chaserrugg, which we could see across the valley. Maybe because we were confined to the terrace instead of out and walking the mountain top. The surrounding snow covered peaks seemed unreal, like something painted on a canvas of blue sky. Tired of the wind in our hair (and smacking our bodies), we were happy to duck inside for a meal. Without Laurie, we had noone to translate the German menu and so Marguerite happily wandered around the room, checking out what was served and chatting with diners to get their recommendations. Sure beat an English menu! To me, the highlight of the day was seeing a weasley thing run across the snow. Alas, the little rat was too fast for a photo. Back in the apartment, Greg served up great pork chops and asparagus that we had purchased at the market on Saturday before heading to the airport. We are SO going to miss the food here!

It was cold.

It was windy.

But the views were worth it.

There was just a little snow.

Snow piled almost to the top of the window.

Just how windy was it? (Hint: I don't usually sport a Mohawk.)
On Tuesday, it was just Heather, Marguerite and me taking the train to the Tamini Therme at Bad Ragaz. We just missed an art festival and saw several interesting installations in the process of being dismantled. We spent a few hours getting mellow and relaxed in the hot water. Chef Greg served up a wonderful chicken dish with pasta with a mozzarella and tomato salad. Did I mention how much I'm going to miss the food here?
Marguerite beside granite sculpture. I want one of these!


On Wednesday, the three Canadians (that would be Heather, Marguerite and me), took the train to Lucerne. Usual stuff only this time we took in the museum beside the Lion Monument. Well worth the 12 francs for me and included in H & M's Swiss Rail FlexPass. Neat geological formations and a fascinating but slightly scarey maze. We were back in Zurich in plenty of time for H & M to desert us for the sunny climes of Barcelona and Morocco.

couple of Neanderthals

I kept running into the mirrors. Finally, Heather said, "If you see yourself, don't go that way. It's a reflection." She always was the smart one. (And how come I couldn't figure that out?)

H & M flew back on the 17th and we had just one full day to play. It was on the train once again - this time, destination St Gallen to see the famous library. There were plenty of photo ops along the way. That evening, Heather treated us to dinner at our local tavern.

The next day it was another goodbye. Heather and I promised we would not let another 35 years go by until we see each other and I hope that's one promise we'll keep.

But then, something happened that almost ended any chance of a reunion.

Back in Saskatchewan, Heather was heading into the country to visit some friends at their cottage when she fell asleep at the wheel. The car careened off the road and into a murky retention pond, trapping Heather and her dog Zobbi in the car. Fortunately, three Good Samaritans dove into the pond. One of them had the presence of mind to grab a sledge hammer (who carries a sledge hammer in their car?) and smashed out the rear window just as Heather and Zobbi were running out of air. Heather escaped with a cut elbow and some horrific memories.

The story has two more bizarre twists. The friends Heather was on her way to visit picked her up from the hospital later the same day. They stopped at the sub shop across the street and, as an ambulance raced by, the saleswoman remarked that it had been a busy day for ambulances. Heather explained how she had ended up in one of them.  The saleswoman surprised Heather with the information that her boss had been one of Heather's rescuers.

Bizarre twist number two: when Heather emailed me about the accident and explained that she had lost her camera, her computer and all the pictures from her trip, I was able to reassure her that I had the copies of all the pictures both she and I had taken during her visit here, plus the pictures she had taken in Morocco and Spain. Only, when I went to find them, I discovered that I had somehow deleted the whole file! When I checked the backup drive, I discovered even more bad news: for whatever reason, neither Norton nor my external drive had been automatically backing up. What makes this even stranger is that I really am compulsive about backing up my photos. Hell, I even have CDs of photo albums in the safety deposit at our bank!

Which all goes a long way to explaining why it's taken me so long to write this blog. Fortunately, Heather is alive and well and taking life more slowly as she deals with the trauma of her accident. And amazingly, she was able to recover all of the pictures from her computer and share them with me using Drop Box.

I can't explain why the accident happened or by what twist of fate three willing heroes were there to rescue my cousin.

Sometimes, it's enough to know that all is well.

And, since I'll be ninety-four if I wait another 35 years to see Heather again, I think that's one promise I'll keep.

Acknowledgements: Many of the photos in this blog were taken by Heather. She takes better pictures than I do. But I'm working on it.

No comments:

Post a Comment