Day 191- Meah (2nd person I approached)
July 10, 2014 - It was a wonderfully warm summer day today. Meah was sitting on a bench inside a lovely air-conditioned shopping mall. She was digging through a large carryall handbag that was filled to almost overflowing with stuff. She was looking for her phone,
“It’s in here somewhere,” she said. I offered to call her and she laughed saying that would only worry her later when she saw she had a missed call. Meah agreed to chat with me, saying
“I think that’s a lovely project.” Then she found her phone.
Meah was born in Regina, Saskatchewan.
“I have two older sisters who are identical twins and one younger sister. I guess that makes me a middle child. My twin sisters were rather quiet and proper. I was the loud one, always trying new things and very active. There’s only eighteen months between the twins and I, so we were close growing up. My younger sister is seven years younger than I am. I think that we wanted to make everything perfect for her. We tried hard to ensure that she didn’t have to go through some of the things we did. We might have overly protected her. And then when we all left home, she was the only one left there. I think that might have been a bit tough on her,” she said.
Growing up in a small town meant Meah went to one elementary school and one high school.
“I didn’t like that everyone knew everything about everyone. I went to a Catholic school, complete with nuns in habits, the works. They would look to identify someone who they think is going to become a nun and that person for some reason was me. When I was sixteen I thought I’d be okay with becoming a nun, but only because I liked the ‘gidget’ headdress that they wore, you know the one with wings. I called it a gidget (it’s called a cornette). I always knew I’d leave Regina, eventually. My father was German and there were certain things he wasn’t permitted to do, in church. He couldn’t be an usher in the Catholic church, I guess they felt he wasn’t up to their expectations or something. I felt different from the others. All the streets in Regina had British sounding names. I always thought we were British.
Meah took the opportunity to leave Regina when she graduated high school.
“You either became a nurse or a teacher. The only university in Saskatchewan was in Saskatoon and I didn’t want to go there. So I went to Holy Cross School of Nursing in Calgary, to train to become a nurse. It was supposed to be hands-on education but in reality, we were just poorly paid staff. I made $12 a month. The thing that appealed to me about nursing wasn’t the health. I still couldn’t tell you how the brain works. I was drawn to the people, and helping people,” she said.
“I always thought that if I wasn’t married by the time I was twenty-one that my life would be over. I got married when I was twenty-one and found out that life really was over!“ said Meah, laughing. We laughed a lot during our conversation. Meah continued working in nursing. They had two children, a boy and girl.
“My son was born in the same room in the hospital that my husband had been born in. My husband was a computer guy and worked for Texas Instruments. He got offered a job in Los Angeles so we packed up and moved there when our youngest was about eighteen months old. We stayed there for just over a year,” she said.
“We wanted some adventure and decided to move to Australia. We sold everything, packed up and moved to Sydney. I got a job in a private nursing home. I had worked my way up and finally got my veil. The head sister wore a veil. The head sister also did most of the unpleasant work as well, making breakfast, emptying bed pans. The good stuff.”
They had been in Australia for about two years when Meah’s husband was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease.
“We came back to Calgary. The Doctor’s said it didn’t look good. My husband had always been one to not listen to what he was told, and he was never on time for anything. I knew he was going to be okay. He actually lived for years after that. We got divorced and he didn’t die until ten years ago. Never listened, never on time, for anything,” she said, smiling.
“We were married for eleven years. The children and I moved to Vancouver after I got divorced. I went up to UBC (University of British Columbia) to look around and explore the idea of going to school. I’ve always been one to chat with people and I met a Professor outside the theatre department and he invited me in to look around. I ended up doing my undergrad and then my Masters degree in Theatre and Creative Writing. They even produced my first play ‘White Skates’ at UBC,” she said. Meah has written number of plays and went on to teach Creative Writing at UBC. We chatted for a while about theatre. Meah also met and married her second husband.
“We’ve been married for thirty eight years now.” Her son works in theatre production in Winnipeg, and her daughter is a diplomat with the Foreign Office, in Copenhagen.
“As a child I used to think you could tell things about a person based on what was in their lunch box. How their mother wrapped the sandwiches, what they had to eat or drink. Or how tidy or even immaculate their home was,” she said.
“I thought that I had really changed once I left Regina. Several years later, I hoped in a cab and the driver looked at me in the rear view mirror and then turned around and said ‘Hey! I know you. We went to school together. You haven’t changed a bit!' I was mortified that he thought I was the same. I think when we are young we’re limited by what others think of us. I liked the idea of going somewhere new and recreating who I am, or who I thought I was. I thought damn you cab driver, for recognizing me. Really? I’m the same as I was?” said Meah, laughing scornfully. Meah attended a school reunion recently.
“I go to this reunion and as I’m checking in, the woman checking names off the list says “Oh I remember you! You used to babysit me and I remember you always gave me burnt toast. Seems we did all know the little things about each other,” she said.
I thank Meah for chatting with me and she reminds me I need to take her picture. We had talked about so many things and laughed so much, I almost forgot! Then Meah and I walked down the street together for a few blocks. We exchanged contact info and agreed we should go for coffee some time soon. I promised to email Meah a link to this story once it has been posted for a few days so she could read what I've written and any comments or remarks that might left.
“Oh great, I can see it now ‘That bitch owes me $40 bucks from years ago. And she hasn’t changed a bit! I’d recognize her anywhere.’” Oh how we laughed! #notastranger