It was a sunny day when we walked hand in hand where possibly no human had tread before as we explored the vast wilds of the prairies of friendly Manitoba, which at that time were only a few steps away from our backdoor.
The blue sky covered the prairie as the lid over grandma's potato-pot, creating a giant round where sky and land unite into the horizon. We stood at the center of the world from where the distance to the skyline was just as far to the east as it was to to west, and equally as far from the north and the south. We not only stood in the center of the earth, we were the center. We were just married.
The year was 1955, the town called Transcona, inhabited by former Ukrainian and Italian immigrants who were still speaking broken English but were considered old-timers, as they had landed there a few generation before we did.
Ten years after the end of world war two, Anne and I, together with a handful young immigrant couples from Holland joined a sprinkling of dutch new Canadians who had arrived a few years before us again, including two of my father's brothers, my uncles Roelof and Daniel Smid and their families.
My Anne was seventeen and I was twenty-one when we arrived in Transcona.
We were so young and so happy.
We walked hand in hand over the endless prairie, on that very sunny day, there was no end in sight. We kept on walking and walking over the endless plane, until... until we found that flower.
Forgotten was the prairie panorama as we bend down to have a better look of the lone tiger-lily, so beautiful a flower as we had not seen before.
We regarded that flower from then on as our favorite and did not change our mind until years later Anne and I discovered a real sunflower like the one she used to draw when she was a student of the elementary school. We found a field filled with the tall flowers, with heads as large as diner plates, all with their faces turned to the sun, after we had moved to beautiful BC. Then the tiger-lilies were forgotten but not the prairies, and certainly not the prairie's friendly people.
There stood a little house in the prairie, it had a living dining-room, a narrow kitchen, a master bedroom, a second bedroom and a tiny baby bedroom. The man of the house had built a crib for a baby to lay in and the woman had made blankets to cover the baby with. She had tasteful decorated the room with on one wall a large applique on jute, showing a scene of an ice-cream vendor selling his ware to a score of children with pets hungrily looking on. It was a work of art.
There was no baby as yet.
But the day arrived that Anne said, “I think it is time now.”
“How about if I take you to Winnipeg hospital on the way to my work in St. Boniface, and check with you at noon,” I said, “how is it going.” “We have to go.” “Now.”
Anne - ”Did you see the baby?”
“She is pretty blue.”
Anne - “It was a hard delivery. They put me out at the last moment, I think. O, and it's a girl. There goes your soccer team, sorreee.” I had seen the pink card on the cradle which said 'baby girl Smid.'
Once I had told Anne in jest that I expected a boy, in fact that I wanted eleven boys – a soccer team. Nonsense of course but Anne had not forgotten.
“Anne - “Do you still want the rest of the team? You might as well forget it because this baby-girl is a keeper, and I don't mean a person standing between goal-posts.”
Anne - “Maybe our baby-daughter is going to be a professional soccer player yet. Who knows, but what are we going to name her?”
“You name her, you name the girls and I name the boys. Anne, if I see how you had to suffer I'd rather adopt.”
Anne - “Its only the first one, the next one is easier. I was thinking to name her after my mother, Jantine. We could call her Tina or Jane, or I found this nice English name in the baby-book, Janice.”
“OK with me.”
Anne - “And I thought Ida for a second name, after my sister. Janice Ida sounds nice in English. I once wanted a second name.”
“What second name did you want for yourself?”
Anne - “If they had named me Ida, I would have wanted Anje for second for sure, because I loved opoe Anje, but did not like opoe Ida. I liked her name though, anyways Ida Anje does not sound good and neither does Anje Ida, but Janice Ida sounds strong and flows nice, its the perfect name for our baby.”
“Why didn't you like your opoe Ida.”
Anne - “Every Sunday after church mother and I had to visit her and when we came through the door, there she sat, with the radio on, listening to a church service. And we had to get in on tippy toes because opoe Ida sat almost on top of the radio listening to that sermon, we had to be dead quiet so as not to bother her. It took always so long before the sermon was over. It was so boring.”
It was past eleven at night when I got up to go home. I opened the door to the outside and - stepped on the roof of the third story. I had forgotten that I was was on the fourth floor and once outside was not prepared for the severe Manitoba cold of February 14 hitting me, I had left my parka in the truck and quickly turned around to get inside again, but now the door was locked. I was fast getting cold and feared to freeze to death on top of the hospital roof, so I pounded on the door but no one appeared.
I went down on my belly and peered over the edge of the roof to check the distance to the snow on the ground and found it much farther down than I had thought. The only way to get down was by holding on to the downspout but doubted that it would support me. I was very scared at this point and at the same time thought how ironic my situation was – while my wife after the ordeal of birthing was high on having a beautiful baby-daughter and was asleep in a warm bed, I was by myself going to freeze if no one would rescue me. I was formulating the headlines in the morning newspaper –
Man Died Near his Wife and Newborn Baby,
Body of Dead Husband and Father Found on Hospital Roof,
Father Found Death on his Baby's Birthday,
I heard a door opening and a woman's voice asking a two word question, “New father?”
I was dumb enough to ask “Why?”
The nurse only smiled.