Does she need a second word for dress?

Recent visits to see our grandchildren, both east and west, impressed on me again that most miraculous and mysterious of matters: children acquiring language. How in the world do they process vocabulary and grammar and everything else in those little brains of theirs? It’s a delight to watch and participate in, to read aloud to them and hear the nursery rhymes and songs learned so effortlessly, it seems.

The adult reader realizes that the little Miss being read to can’t possibly know all those words yet. Gown, for example, in a story about a girl who delivers a dress through a snow storm. But set into the story, which charms her for any number of reasons, and heard numerous times,  gown, which is another word for dress will probably stick. Does she need a second word for dress? Well, yes of course she does. The two are slightly different, and she will need a lot of words for everything. Differences, nuance, precision, sounds of various kinds enrich our lives. Continue reading

My mother turns 90

Tina Doerksen, now 90.

My mother turned 90 yesterday, and my seven siblings with spouses, as well as several granddaughters and great-granddaughters, travelled to Winnipeg  to mark the milestone. Mom was born in the former USSR, in today’s Ukraine, in 1922, and fled Russia with her parents as a small child. She grew up on a farm near Winkler, Man. She enjoyed school. Her father was somewhat unusual in the Mennonite community of the time in that he insisted his five daughters get an education and profession. Three of them chose nursing, and two, including Mom, chose teaching. Mom left her teaching career when she married, but her teaching gifts continued to be exercised in various ways, not least of all as mother of eight children. Continue reading

Gratitude for this family

Playing in the tent and on the rope swing, by granddaughter M., 7.

I’m just coming off a wonderful week with our family. Instead of the usual two of us, the house filled with eleven more people — five adult children/spouses, and six grandchildren aged four months to nearly ten. For most of the week, we had warm autumn weather, allowing us to extend our interactions onto the deck and into the back yard. We played boce ball, put up a tent, swung on a rope swing, and jumped in leaves. The kids had planned a number of special activities such as an egg drop competition (teams tried to wrap a raw egg so it would survive ever higher drops) and pumpkin carving. We went to Birds Hill for a wiener roast and kite flying. Inside we read and played games and visited and ate.

I confess I’m always reluctant to get too buttery in my expressions around family life, lest they mask both its inherent challenges and its true splendor. But I’m so deeply grateful for this family, for each one in it, and for the relationships we enjoy. These (now) twelve other people are truly the best gifts to me, over and over. And not just in what they give me in their love and kindness, but also in what I see them giving each other. Continue reading