“As God touches the earth with his hands, he provides the wisps of wind, the soothing showers and the sunshine that beams down and warms the earth and it is good.”
– A line from “Spending Time With My Memories” by Anne Teeuwsen
Ponoka Seasons Retirement Community resident 88-year-old Anne Teeuwsen has some amazing stories to tell and her memories are vivid, colourful and vibrant. Lean close and listen carefully and you may hear tales of winter walks, hand-raised orphaned lambs and her four sons’ laughter as they catch gophers.
It will be well worth the effort.
Shaking hands from Parkinson’s disease hasn’t kept Teeuwsen from recording her memoirs. At times she’s enlisted the help of a willing friend, Shirley Greene, to type for her. It’s a good thing she did.
On June 18, surrounded by family and members of the local Women’s Institution chapter Half-Way Grove, Teeuwsen was celebrated for her beautiful words, being presented with a first place in non-fiction creative writing certificate as well as the Alberta Women’s Institutes Mrs. A. H. Rogers Creative Writing Award plaque for her memoir entitled “Spending Time With My Memories.”
Fern Killeen, the executive director of the Alberta Women’s Institutes came to present Teeuwsen with the awards. Four of the seven members of Half-Way Grove were also present and brought flowers for Teeuwsen.
Although in person Teeuwsen’s voice may be quiet, it comes out strong and clear on the written page. Thick with imagery and sensations, her words will transport you to a different time, a different place.
“I am going to close my tired eyes for a while and loosen the reins on my memories and let them take me to some of my favourite places,” reads the opening line of her memoir.
Her story is a memory journey with different turns and legs, starting as a child recalling the exhilaration of a lung full of frigid air, to memories of her young sons, and losing her first husband, to hauling feed in a beat up truck and having to layer up so much she “looked like a stuffed chicken.”
Teeuwsen began writing her memoir a long time ago, starting in high school. She stopped for awhile, but started it up again after the loss of her first husband, Tom Hartford.
Hartford was killed in a work-related accident at Judy Creek, in 1960. Teeuwsen began writing again as a way to help her young sons remember their biological father, as they got older and started asking questions about him. Her third son was born three months after his father’s passing.
She recounts how her mother came to be with her, before the accident. “I’m sure she had been placed there and not by accident,” the memoir reads.
In her story, she recalls when her second husband Joe Teeuwsen brought a young pigeon into the house that had landed on their windowsill during a storm, and the excitement of her four sons as “there was a great rush for the phone each wanting to phone Grandma and Grandpa to tell them of our capture.”
The pigeon dubbed “Charlie” wound up staying for the winter.
“We had fallen in love with Charlie by then … we couldn’t just dump him out in the cold without food or shelter.”
Last weekend, Teeuwsen shared a new memory with her family, as they held a celebration of life for her late husband Joe, who recently passed away. The celebration of life was held on the family’s farm. The couple had built a dam and a park there, and the family camped and held a service.
She wasn’t expecting the awards at all, or to be able to enjoy that achievement surrounded by family, who came into town for the celebration of life. It was a bright spot in an otherwise difficult time.
“I really wasn’t expecting anything,” she said. “I’m excited and I’m overwhelmed. All I can say is ‘thank-you’ I guess.”
Receiving the awards was “really wonderful,” she said, but for Teeuwsen, the best part was seeing two of her sons that she doesn’t get to see very often and the other family members that gathered.
“I hear my name being called and knocking at a door. Oh how I hate to leave my journey with my dear friends, my memories … Now I tuck my memories away in a safe place, because I will need them for another precious journey.”
Teeuwsen has written dozens of stories and with many more ideas, she hopes to continue writing for a long time.