Following 7 days in the hospital my Mom and Dad decided on a name for me; it would be Paula. Secretly mom had another choice, Lara, after the character in Doctor Zhivago, which happened to be one of her favourite movies at the time. To this day, I had wished it was Lara, but both parents agreed, that when they said both names out loud to me, I reacted to Paula more than Lara.
I was taken home and now the work would begin for the new parents. Mom would remark that my eyes were closed the first 6 months of my life. It seemed that this little girl, me, would choose sleep over eating. Nice to know some things never changed, although I do enjoy a good meal now. Mom would have to wake me up to feed me, wake me up to bathe me, wake me up to change my diaper, wake me up to play with me, I think you get the gist. But like many new babies I also suffered from colic for a short time, which was a complete dichotomy. Mom tried and tried to breast feed, but in the end had to admit defeat. This little girl was fussy and ‘cranky’ at times (one other trait that has not gone away), which kept the new parents on their toes.
As time marched on, the ‘baptism’ invitations were sent out. I would be baptized in the Catholic Church where there would be a celebration of my debut into the Church, and for some, the first introduction to ‘me’. My parents asked Mom’s Aunt Helen (Josephine’s sister) and Dad’s Uncle Wilfred (Kay’s brother) to be the godparents. I couldn’t have asked for better godparents. I was truly blessed. Following the ceremony, photos can be found of a little red headed girl, eyes closed, being passed from one relative to another. Now Mom was no different than any other, she would continually remark that I was the most beautiful baby she had ever laid her eyes upon.
Mom would always say ‘my family produced beautiful babies, not like some’.
Subsequent to the baptism, Dad would be transferred to Ottawa. Time to pack up and move again, but this time, with a little red haired girl. Although Mom had friends and family in Montreal and in Toronto, she knew no one in Ottawa. A little apartment was chosen and the new family moved in. Mom’s entire day was spent with me. She would talk to me, hold me, play with me, teach me and bond with me. I must have been in my glory to have the undivided attention of my Mother. It would begin all over again when Dad would arrive home from a long day at work. Was I spoiled? Hell yes! Mom would take me shopping in a stroller close to the apartment and regularly purchase special dresses for me. Strangers would always remark on my hair colour, which gave Mom so much pride.
Baba always said ‘you were like a little doll’!
During our time in Ottawa, we would drive out to Montreal and Toronto frequently to visit relatives as Mom had no adults other than dad to talk to, and she missed her family terribly.
One long weekend we drove to Toronto to visit the new ‘grandparents’. The visit went well, but Dad’s mother, Kay gave more attention to her son and new granddaughter then Anne. Kay was still not pleased that her son had chosen Anne. Was it because Anne was ‘Ukrainian’? Anne thought so, but nothing was ever said out loud. There was one thing that Kay could not criticize, and that was how Anne was raising her grand daughter, in this there was admiration. I was a good baby who was just about to enter the ‘terrible two’s’.
The trip ended and our family of 3 drove back to Ottawa to our little cozy apartment where my parent’s would find out we had been robbed. Mom was beside herself. The ‘crooks’ not only stole all of my Mom’s jewellery, including a beautiful cameo given to her by her grandmother from the Ukraine, but also ransacked the apartment and threw laundry detergent throughout. It was a mess in more ways than one. The police were called and they listed what was stolen, but advised the victims of this crime, that most likely it was kids, and they would probably never see their items again. My Mom was devastated. She felt violated and frightened thinking the ‘hooligans’ would return to the scene of the crime one day. My Dad agreed that he was also frightened for his wife and daughter.
After some months Dad was able to talk his company into a transfer back to Toronto. There we were, packing up again and moving, okay so I wasn’t packing, but I never felt it was disruption. I had everything a child could ask for, loving and caring parents, thrown together with incredible, fun grand parents. It was a bungalow in Cooksville that my parents purchased. The house was close to a Catholic school, which was very important, as Dad would always point out.
This is the point where this story becomes a little fuzzy. In 1966, Mom was pregnant again. She would talk to me and tell me that I was going to have a little brother or sister, but that turned out not to be. Mom miscarried in her fourth month. She was heartbroken. Who knows why she wanted more children, as I wasn’t the easiest child at that age. I was told that I had a temper to match the colour of my hair. If I were told ‘no’, I would throw ‘fluffy’ (my stuffed dog) across the room and stomp on it. Charming.
But in May of 1968, Mom was pregnant again. This pregnancy was a little easier than the first. One of my first memories was sitting next to her while she would let me feel her belly and tell me stories about a new brother or sister. I was so excited! She would tell me that I would help look after him or her and play and be his or her guardian angel.
Meanwhile if my parents went out on a ‘date night’ I would be cared for by Baba (Josephine) or Nana (Kay). There would be no babysitters, other than family my entire childhood, in fact, my entire life. Being cared for by each of my grandmothers was diverse, yet always fun. Baba loved music and old movies. We would sit all day long and watch movies starring Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, Dan Dailey, Betty Grable and more. She would teach me all the songs and would twirl me around and dance.
Furthermore, the ‘Lawrence Welk Show’ was a staple in her house, we would sit and watch together, while she would impersonate him and say… ‘Wunnerful, Wunnerful and ‘Ah One and Ah Two’.
Nana’s house was just as diverse; she would teach me gardening, how to set the table for lunch, how to dry the dishes, and of course there was bowling for dollars and every hockey game on TV to watch, while Grampa would teach me how to play ‘cribbage’, a game that to this day, I still love.