Sharing work across generations

From my position, lying in the back seat of the car, it always seemed to take forever to get to my grandparents’ house just off Victoria Park Avenue in Toronto.…

September 9, 2011 | | Autumn 2011 | Back Issues | Community | Departments | Headwaters Nest | In Every Issue

From my position, lying in the back seat of the car, it always seemed to take forever to get to my grandparents’ house just off Victoria Park Avenue in Toronto. I’d know we were close when my mom told me we were passing the airport, and then very close when the green sound barrier fences whipped by my window. I counted them down. Excursions to visit my grandparents were all so exciting for me: the smell of Ivory soap and fluoridated water in the bathroom, walks to the corner store to buy candy or to the park down the street, and a TV that picked up more than two stations.

As I revelled in these exotic city happenings, my dad invariably helped my grandfather with a project around the tiny wartime house: taking delivery of a load of wood and splitting it for the fireplace, fixing the deck, lifting the stairs that sank every year, installing new windows or a clothesline. My brother and I poked around and watched the shared work sessions, pitching in where we could.

The day culminated in lunch or dinner – and oh, what delicious city food it was. There was something different about eating in the air-conditioned kitchen in Toronto, knowing that the food came from my “Nan’s deli,” a.k.a. Steinberg’s. I imagined all the other Nans in the city lining up to get cold cuts and salads, purses in the crooks of their arms, hair set and covered with a kerchief. My Nan’s lunches usually ended with something chocolatey and store-bought. Even though I don’t have a sweet tooth, I gobbled it down. Tin-foil packages of leftovers made their way home with us, “They’re only going to go to waste,” my Nan would say.

I waited an interminably long few weeks for my grandparents’ turn to come to our house in the country. They would arrive in their shiny car (free of dust, not a farm truck), always very early, “to get a jump on traffic.” Chores, renovations, small harvests, repairs to fences and, of course, the yearly hay season kept our whole family busy on those work weekends. Not exactly barn-raising, but the physical work was not for the faint of heart. My Nan would stay in the kitchen, again preparing food for everyone, while the rest of us laboured long and hard.

Sharing work across generations ~ Illustration by Shelagh Armstrong

Sharing work across generations ~ Illustration by Shelagh Armstrong

The work of the farm was never done. It must have seemed insane to my grandparents, who had never lived on a farm, to see their daughter (my mom) choosing this rambling, unpredictable, messy, muddy lifestyle. But they were also very curious and always willing to help. Imagine the stories that my grandfather could take back to the staff room at the school where he taught in East York, pipe in hand, launching into Wingfield Farm-type stories of week­end misadventures.

My grandfather died a few months ago. He had spent his last few years in a peaceful facility for war veterans in Toronto. I would drive to meet my family there, passing the airport, watching the familiar sound baffles whip by once again. When I saw him in his wheelchair, it was hard to remember the work-sharing that our family had done over my lifetime. I saw him in his present state and thought only about the visit at hand, his frailty and when the inevitable would come.

Since his death, there has been more room for the vivid memories of childhood work sessions to come flooding back, especially when remin­iscing over old photos of pro­perties, projects and family meals.

I realize that I can credit these back-and-forth visits for an appreciation of both city and country. I love fast highways, but I also love winding dirt roads. I love urban delicatessens and all sorts of international delights, but I also enjoy locally grown food and simple home cook­ing. I like open spaces and unmarked trails, but I also fit quite well into tightly con­structed city spaces. I was lucky to experience both. And I was lucky that my grand­parents were a part of it all. Through these shared work sessions, we accomplished more than expected.


Hoof it over to the parade

Trot your horse-mad children over to this unique event. See over 50 horses of all breeds and sizes parading through downtown Erin during the Parade of Horses, on September 24 starting at5 pm. The parade launches Destination Equitation, a week-long celebration of horse in Headwaters, and it’s followed by an Equine Family Evening at the Erin Fairgrounds, featuring a barbecue, square-dancing tractors, and even a drive-in movie with a horsey theme. For a full list of the week’s events, see

Outdoor Ed Open House

Ever wonder what lies behind the gates at the Mono Cliffs Outdoor Education Centre? Here is your chance to find out. On October 2, the centre will celebrate its 25th anniversary, and you are invited to its open house from 11 am to 4 pm.

The day includes horse-drawn wagon rides, children’s events, site tours, program displays, and birds of prey presented by Wild Ontario. The Centre is located at 755046 Second Line EHS Mono, just north of Mono Centre. This is a free event.

Teddy Bear Picnic

Even Teddy deserves a night out! On September 29 at 5 pm, bring dinner and your favourite stuffy to picnic and play at the Caledon Parent-Child Centre at 150 Queen Street South in Bolton. Then walk over and snuggle up for a storytime at the library, all in celebration of Literacy Month in the Region of Peel. It’s free, but advance registration is required.


Do you have the white stuff?

Attention kids in Grades 4 and 5!
Want to ski and ride for free this winter? Here is a great opportunity for you. The Canadian Ski Council invites you to join its 14th SnowPass season.

If you are 9 or 10 years old (bornin 2001 or 2002) and attending a school in Canada, you qualify for the “SnowPass.” Sign up and swipe your card up to three times in exchange for a free lift ticket at some 150 participating ski hills in Ontario and elsewhere across Canada.

Parents, this is a great way for your children to try out this winter pastime and stay active as the white stuff takes over our region. For details, visit

Winter noggin safety

While we’re on the subject, don’t forget to protect your noggins this winter. With education, snow sport helmet use has increased year after year, and is now the norm. Helmets can make a difference by reducing or preventing injury from falls or other impacts during winter sports. See

Just a reminder that our calendar shows many more events taking place in the hills throughout the season. Fall fair listings, Halloween activities and Thanksgiving events are abundant right now. Don’t forget that
if you have an event to share with our community, use our handy event posting form.

Take care and have fun in the hills this fall! —Bethany

About the Author More by Bethany Lee

Bethany Lee is a freelance writer who lives in Mono.

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