We take a detour driving to Mexico to visit Uncle Wilf and Aunt Dot in Vancouver. In their eighties, they live in the tiny house Wilf built many years ago. The kitchen cupboards, I note, have many drawers—a feature of my brand new condo that I find indispensable. Uncle Wilf was way ahead of his time.
Aunt Dot is shaky and unstable when she walks, but she insists on cooking us dinner. We savor the rich aromas of her chicken stew and dumplings. Dumplings? I haven’t eaten those since I was a kid. I watch carefully to see how they’re made even though I know I won’t ever try. I’m not a cook. The meal proves as tasty as the aromas promised and we overindulge.
Having made our way between the tables and lamps and myriad knick-knacks, we perch on the tiny armchairs in the living room and reminisce. Well, Wilf and Dot reminisce. We listen and ask questions and enjoy a mini-history lesson.
Wilf’s family was one of the first to come to Canada from France in 1640. In May of 1885 the family moved west arriving in Calgary by train which was as far as the tracks went at that time. They bought two oxen and a Red River cart to travel north to Saint Albert. There, they were greeted by Father Lacombe, who nursed Wilf’s sick mother back to health and gave them their first pig.
Aunt Dot totters out of the room and comes back with photo albums. We see pictures of Wilf’s family in Montreal—his mother, father, and siblings.
“Who’s this?” I ask as my attention is snagged on what looks like a picture of a black man and white woman’s wedding.
Wilf studies the picture. “That’s my mother’s sister and her husband.”
I’m all agog. There has to be a story here. A whole novel. Runaway slave, underground railroad, French welcome….
“Tell me more,” I beg.
Uncle Wilf thinks for a moment. I fidget as I wait for what has to be an adventure story. Greedy author that I am, I want every detail, but he only says, “The cousins were kind of dark.”