Last week we went to my mom’s house for a summer visit. She lives in Saskatchewan, where there have been wildfires this year! Despite the smoke being blown in to her area, we still managed to enjoy the hot weather outside…although sometimes it became too hot for us. My mom lives in a small town of about 20 people. It is like being out on a farm. Her yard is fairly big, with a ton of big established tress. When you sit on her front porch with a cool drink, you feel like a Southern Belle. The porch has a roof that protects you from the scorching sun and strong winds.Sitting on the porch, sipping your cool drink, you can look past two big swaying trees to see the rolling green hills in the distance. It is a very serene pastime. My mother and I did a lot of that while watching the kids play. I don’t drink pop any more but while I was there I was a kid again. I drank pop, ate chips, sucked on Popsicle after Popsicle, played games with the kids, watched trash TV…the usual summer pastimes I had as a child. There were also long conversations with my mom which I enjoyed immensely. We didn’t talk about much of importance, just chatted and refreshed each other on our lives. It’s the little things!
A special event was on while we were there. Claybank Brick Plant day! Built in 1912, most of the original structures and equipment have survived. The equipment that survived is turned on once a year, and we were there to see it. The machines were turned off in 1989 and the brick plant shut down. They opened it up again in 1991 to tourists. It is truly amazing.
Every year they turn on the machine that shapes bricks and every year it works beautifully. They don’t make machines like they used to. (I know I sound 90 years old there but it’s true). Seeing the machines turned on, hearing the noise and experiencing the dust in the heat, made me appreciate the lives we live now. We may moan about our commute and the hours but none of us have to do jobs like this. The work was heavy; both physically and mentally exhausting. One little mistake could wreck a whole days worth of bricks and none of the workers were allowed to stop until their huge quota was met. One of the plaques had a very interesting fact. The work was so hard on their hands that, after a few years of work, their fingerprints were completely rubbed off. My mom was joking that, after they retired from the brick plant, the workers all became criminals! It was funny but, when you looked at the weary faces in the photos, you didn’t doubt it. They all looked exhausted and beaten down; like ex-cons already! They worked 12 hour days in dust, noise, and heat before walking up the road to sleep in hot bunks on the upper floor of a brick building: what is now the gift shop building. I don’t doubt it did feel a bit like a life sentence. Best paying job around though, I heard. So they did it for a higher purpose- provide a better and richer life for their families. That’s honourable.
There was also a demonstration of original welding (in the classic gear and a classic stove) and answered any questions about the classic style. A high school boy was so fascinated that the demonstrator was giving him tips on finding gear to began. Beyond that there were tractor rides in to the hills (we missed these), the gas powered train to ride, face painting, balloon making by the wonderful Tootsie the Clown, live music, food, and pottery for the kids to try. It was a very fulfilling day. I expected to be there from 10 am to 12pm, but we ended up staying until 3:30pm- just before the closing time of 4pm! Crazy. It was so fun we didn’t want to leave, despite the scorching hot temperatures. It was the highlight of our trip.
We spent the next few days just hanging out with my mom and in her yard. Hunter and Izzy liked to run and run and run ahead of me, something they can’t do safely in the city.
On July 1st, Josh flew in to the nearby city to meet us there and drive back home with us. We drove in to the city to pick him up and bring him to my Mom’s house. My mom wasn’t feeling good so decided to stay behind. The kids were so excited to see Daddy at the airport. We had lunch in the city but it was too smokey outside to check out any Canada Day festivities, plus Josh had been at the airport since 6 am and was already exhausted by the time we finished lunch at 1pm. Instead, we picked up groceries before heading back. While we got groceries my mom sent me a text- she was sure she had tonsillitis! (She went to the doctor the next day and was right!) A repeat of Christmas. I swear her tonsils are allergic to us visiting. I made sure to get her Halls, chicken noodle soup, and Jell-O.
A couple more days of visiting and then we headed back to our fair city of Calgary. The last night at my mom’s house was spent with my mom and I sitting on her porch, sipping ginger ale, talking and watching the sun set. A delightful end to the visit.
If you are ever in the vicinity of the Claybank Brick Plant on the last weekend of June, check out Claybank Days. It is worth the price of admission!