One of my most amazing and unforgettable experiences happened in January 1949.
I had just come home from work. No one was in the kitchen. However, I could hear someone talking in the bedroom. When I went into the bedroom I saw Greta arranging articles on the bureau, and at the same time talking to little Herbie. When I saw the little fellow I just couldn’t believe my eyes! Our little baby boy was having the adventure of his life!
He was standing up by himself. He was standing in front of a full-length mirror. He had his two hands on the mirror and his sparkling blue eyes were looking at the reflection he saw there.
What on earth were his thoughts as he stared at something so new and exciting? I tried to imagine what was going through my little boy’s mind at this unbelievable and mysterious time!
Maybe his thoughts went like this:
“Who is this strange person looking back at me? Where is this strange bedroom behind this person? How come this person behind this stranger looks just like Mommy? When I leave this bedroom will I ever see my new friend again?”
This, and other questions were likely tumbling through his young mind. Still whatever his thoughts were he would return to our bedroom time and again. He’d stand up, place his hands on the mirror. Then he would gaze at the strange room and smile and gurgle at his newfound friend!
In 1947, my wife, Greta and I decided to move to the States. I was 26 years of age and Greta was 22. To make this move, we would be leaving parents, family, and friends. We would also be leaving the Town of Truro where we lives all our lives.
The reason we made this dramatic move can be summed up in one word – work! Yes, work was very scarce in Truro at that time.
Luckily I had an army buddy who lived in Bridgeport, Connecticut. His name was Jim O’Brien. He said there was lots of work in the States, and I’d get a job in no time.
Greta was pregnant for our first child at the time. However, she agreed to go whenever I suggested it. So we packed our meager belongings and headed south. Jim and his family welcomed us with open arms. We stayed with them until we got an apartment of our own.
I soon got a job with the General Electric Company. I worked on the assembly line. We were producing TVs. I was amazed when I got my first weekly pay cheque. It was a very generous amount. I held the cheque for $42.18 in my trembling hands! I couldn’t believe it! My God! I was going to be rich! What a wonderful introduction to the United States!
A short time after this Greta gave birth to our first child. He was a beautiful baby boy. What was the name this wonderful child inherited? Why of course it was Herbert. Why? Well this was my name, my father’s name, and his father’s name. Will this tradition continue? Time will tell.
I remember fathers were forbidden to go into the delivery room at the hospital. I thought later it must have been difficult for Greta to give birth to her firstborn child with her mother and family miles away in Nova Scotia.
After the birth and seeing my wife and son, I was a different man! No longer were we a family of two, we were now a family of three!
It was about an hour after midnight when I left the hospital. The air was cool, the sky was clear. As I walked out on that empty parking lot a strong feeling came over me. It was the feeling of euphoria, a feeling of accomplishment, a feeling of love! I was now the father of a beautiful baby boy! I felt like dancing, but I wasn’t a dancer. Still I had to do something! So I threw up my arms and yelled! It was a feeling I can’t explain. It was like a sportsman who had just won Olympic gold!
Then I realized my prize far exceeded a medal or a fancy cup. My prizes were a beautiful woman and a precious little baby boy. I was blessed indeed!
Two short years after arriving in the States we received some tragic news from home. Greta’s oldest brother, Fulton, had passed away. He died at the tender age of 32 years. He died of a heart attack. He was a locomotive engineer on the Canadian National Railway.
Greta was determined to get home as soon as possible. So, Greta packed her belongings and Herbie’s and left for home. They went to Boston, got a ferry to Yarmouth, and Greta’s father met them there and they drove to Truro.
They stayed in Truro for three weeks and it was the loneliest time of my entire life! I missed Greta’s loving kiss when I got home from work. I missed Herbie’s laughing and squealing and toddling around the apartment.
I had one dramatic experience while my family was away. One day I went into our bedroom. I glanced casually around. Then I received the shock of a lifetime! I saw the full-length mirror on the door, I was wee Herbie’s two hand prints on the mirror. These small hand prints will be embedded in my memory all my life. These small prints seemed to be telling me, ‘We’re a loving family, a family that should be together.’ This three-week separation and those wee hand prints on the mirror seemed to bring home to me how lucky I was to have such a beautiful family.
Life is a great adventure. We cannot foretell the future. If we could there would be no adventure to life at all.
As we grow older, our memory sometimes fades. Still, no matter how many years roll by I will always remember those small hand prints on the mirror. It was a constant reminder to me that my precious son, Herbie, was a proud member of the family I love.
PS – The tradition is continuing; Herbie’s son, my grandson, is Herbert Peppard V.