After a few more dates, he told me that he wanted a farm as soon as he graduated, that even though he had a trade as a plumber, he felt a deep connection to the earth, that he couldn’t imagine a better life than on a farm. He spoke with such passion that I found myself being caught up in the romantic notion of marrying a handsome farmer—despite my childhood vow.
Ted brought me out to the property he had in mind, a small patch of land on the banks of the Sturgeon River. Because the farm was so close to Edmonton, my childhood fears of isolation were crowded out by other, much happier memories.
As a girl, I spent countless helping my mother in the garden. Though I didn’t always realize it, they were some of the happiest times in my childhood. For my mother, gardening was more of a pleasure than a chore, and she instilled the same feeling in me. If I helped her weed the carrots or water the tomatoes, it wasn’t because she made me do it. I did it because I wanted to. As I looked at Ted, it suddenly seemed to make sense for me to build my future life around growing things.
My mother also gave me a love of music. She was an organist in our local church and played the piano at home almost every day. On days when I was less than enthusiastic about helping in the garden, she’d say to me, “Why don’t you go inside and practice the piano?” As a teenager, I became the church’s substitute organist, and eventually I earned a diploma from the Toronto Conservatory. Ted wasn’t a classical musician, but he loved to play the saxophone—and sometimes even got paid for it! If I ended up with him, I knew there would always be plenty of music in my life.
I also thought of my father. He was a strongly principled man, with deeply held convictions. He raised me to look at life with clear eyes: to judge for myself what was right and what was wrong and to act accordingly. He also showed me, through his example, the value of good, hard work. Standing next to Ted, I sensed the same kind of strength in him.
A few days later, I faced the awkward task of breaking up with my Trans Canada Boyfriend. Mom was not amused.
“Lois, Ted seems like a nice boy, but really, didn’t you always tell me you would never marry a farmer?”
“Well, yes, Mom, but…”
“You always said that farms were the loneliest places you knew.”
“I know, but…”
It went on that way for a while. Ted was hard to resist, though, and he won Mom over soon enough. Dad was even easier to convince: he’d always backed me in whatever (or whomever) I chose to pursue. “Marry the one you love, Lois, whoever that happens to be.”
Ted’s father, on the other hand, presented more of a challenge. Mr. Hole was an impressive figure, and I trembled a little the day he invited Ted and me home for a “chat” about our future plans.
“How are you going to handle farm life, Lois? You know it’s not easy. How are you going to help make ends meet? Are you prepared for a lot of backbreaking work?” The questions came thick and fast. Mr. Hole paused only occasionally to take a puff from his pipe.
To this day, I wonder whether he simply didn’t think a city girl was up to the challenge or whether he was trying, in his own gruff way, to warn me about the hardships that might lie ahead. Was he remarkably insightful about the important role that women play on the farm or simply chauvinistic? Still, I found it ironic that I was getting grilled, even though Ted was the one who wanted to pursue this whole notion of farming.
It was quite an ordeal, but I kept my composure and answered honestly, determined to prove that I was “right for the job.” At the end of the interview, Ted’s father seemed reasonably satisfied. Ted and I breathed a sigh of relief. With parental barriers hurdled, all that remained was the wedding.
When the big event arrived, it was the happiest day of my life. Everything went exactly according to plan—until after the service.