20 years ago today my Tutu died in Almonte. She was the oldest of six, born in Regina and all my life Saskatchewan was this big thing in the family. I heard it all – the dry heat, the big skies. We went to Regina for a family reunion when I was about 15 and I knew then that I was firmly an Ontario kid.
My Tutu and Gramps lived in Almonte for several years when I was younger. They actually moved into the Millfall, which is an old Mill made into condos. My father’s grandmother, and maybe both grandparents, worked at that mill when it was a working wool mill.
My Gramps grew up in Smiths Falls, and I knew that they met here somehow. When we moved here I started researching a bit and I figure out that before Saskatchewan my Tutu’s family was in Manitoba, and before that they were an Ottawa Valley family. In fact, Tutu’s ancestors were the Fergusons, one of the founding families of Beckwith and, presumably, Ferguson’s Falls. Both of her mother’s parents were born in Lanark County.
I tracked that family line and talked to my mother and figured out that Tutu was visiting family – her Great Uncle Archie, to be specific. His sister lived in Smiths Falls. Gramps told the story that Tutu picked him up on a street corner. He used to point the corner out to us, I wish I could remember where it was. She, of course, rebuked him whenever he said this.
My grandparents were always there for us. We were regularly with them. There were summers that they took us to a cottage for a week or two and my mother joined us on the weekend. The five of us drove to PEI together (and Tutu fell asleep on me throughout that drive).
Many of the memories that I have of growing up, Tutu and Gramps are baked in.
I think the thing she enjoyed the most was taking us back-to-school shopping. She loved clothes.
What I wish now is that I could talk to her about her history more. Her parents did a whole bunch of things, and she seemed to have aspirations herself. She had a life before she got married, a life during the war.
Mostly, though, she would have absolutely adored her great-granddaughter. There is so much of my kid that I know Tutu would have loved to see. Watching them on stage? Come on. The careful way they dress themselves? Soulmates.
I’ve written here before about the yellow butterflies. I believe Tutu visits us in yellow butterflies. When I took this baby out to Regina, we were sitting outside, baby in the stroller and I started walking back and forth with them, and this yellow butterfly got right up close and kept coming back. Would not leave the stroller alone. We were there to celebrate Gramps’ 90th birthday.
It is astonishing how much has life happened in 20 years.