Published on July 04, 2014
Herb Peppard’s first daughter, Lark, shown here at age four, loved to help her Nannie bake and couldn’t resist a bowl of chocolate cake batter, enjoyed while sitting on the front step at her family home. SUBMITTED PHOTO
Published on July 04, 2014
Herb Peppard’s first daughter Lark was only about 18-months of age when her mom Greta was diagnosed with polio. SUBMITTED PHOTO
Dispatches by Herb Peppard
Lark. What a beautiful vision comes to mind when we think of a lark
We see in our mind’s eye a beautiful free-spirited bird. A bird whose joyous song and spontaneous exuberance is uplifting to all those she comes in contact with. Anything that brings such joy to our lives is a rare treasure indeed.
We named our daughter, Lark. Greta and I were walking home from a movie one night. I remember we were walking through some vacant lots. Suddenly, Greta stopped, and with a wistful, far-away look in her eyes, announced to me and the brilliant night sky: “When we have a daughter, let’s call her Lark.”
I was very agreeable, because the movie we had seen that night had a heroine in it by the name of Lark. This was the first time either of us had heard of “Lark” as a girl’s name. It sounded so beautiful, that we made a pact – a promise – that very night, our first girl-child would be Lark.
It was after a son, Herbie, and three years later that our pact was realized. Greta gave birth to a beautiful, happy, energetic baby girl, Lark. Although our new little girl had no way of knowing, or caring, she was not born in a hospital. The regular big hospital in Truro was so crowded that they had fixed up what they called the hospital annex. The annex was a huge old house they’d fixed into hospital wards. One of the nurses Greta had while there was a friend of hers, Gwen Blair. Gwen remained a very good friend; later her name became Gwen Rogers.
We couldn’t wait to get Lark home so we could play with her, cuddle her and love her all to ourselves. We were living in a big tenement house on Lyman Street at the time. Herbie, was just two years old. Lark was a joy to us from the start. Full of fun, joy, and the best part of it all was that love showed. Lark held nothing back.
Our little family was a very happy, contented little group until calamity struck us a year and a half later. Greta took deathly sick. We thought it was the flu, but when she got steadily worse, we called Dr. Little. He must have had an idea what was wrong, because he took a spinal tap and also got another doctor for a second opinion. The truth came out. My wife, the beautiful mother of Herbie, age four, and Lark, 18 months, had the dread disease – polio. We wondered was this to be the end of our beautiful family?
Greta was taken to the polio clinic in Halifax. She was almost immediately confined to an iron lung, which looked to me like an old-fashioned casket. Whether she would live or die was very doubtful at this time, but the doctors didn’t seem too hopeful. They didn’t know Greta.
Our children were separated. Lark went to my parent’s house on Alice Street, and Herbie went to Greta’s parents, just across the street from where we lived on Lyman Street. Nannie Peppard took little Lark right under her wing, and would deny her nothing. After all, who could resist those sparkling big blue eyes when they smiled up at you. I remember many times, when Nannie was baking, Lark would be right by beside her, helping. Lark would stand on a chair so she could reach the counter. With her face covered with flour, and her little hands energetically kneading the dough, she was a picture of beauty. And baking something for Grampie and Daddy – the thought of that made her work all the harder.
Then I remember putting on the storm windows for Nannie. Lark would play around the foot of the ladder in the piles of autumn leaves. Then she would throw handfuls of leaves up at me and laugh as she peered up through the rungs of the ladder.
It was two months after Greta took sick that I took Lark and Herbie down to visit her at the polio clinic in Halifax. It was Christmas, and what would Christmas be without Greta seeing her beautiful children? We took presents, but the biggest gift we could give Greta was to gaze on the beautiful faces of Herbie and Lark. These children were her life. Even when confined to an iron lung, there was a fierce determination in those lovely blue eyes. As I sat with her, on a cold winter night, with only the “woosh! woosh!” bellow-like sounds of the iron lung to break the eerie silence, Greta said to me: “I’ve got to get well so I can bring up that little family of ours.”
And I feel this was the big reason she did get as well. She wanted to experience life with Herbie and Lark and guide them through every phase of their growing up.
Then came the wonderful day when Greta came home to us. It was so nice to have our little family together again. Because Greta was still very weak, we had to have a housekeeper.
Probably the most memorable thing about my daughter, Lark, as a child, was the wonderful, loving welcome I’d get whenever I came home. She must have had a sixth sense, because whenever I opened the door at the bottom of the back steps, she`d fling open the door at the top of the stairs. There peering down at me would be that beautiful happy face with those laughing blue eyes. Next would come the welcome I loved, and lived for, “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!”
Although she was very young then, Lark never, ever concealed the love she felt, and never has since.
Greta became pregnant three times after her return form the polio clinic. She wasn`t strong enough to carry the first two, but we were lucky on the third one. After a very worrisome nine months, Greta gave birth to another beautiful baby girl, Rosalee.
Lark was just seven years old when Rosalee was born. Lark became a regular little mother to her new little baby sister. Where Greta had difficulty with her hands, Lark, with her nimble little hands did everything to help. She would help change, dress, feed and rock Rosalee to sleep. Lark was like a second mother to Rosalee, and she’s always acted in this manner toward her younger sister even today. Today, even though these women have children of their own, this loving bond between them is as strong as ever.
As Lark grew up she showed a great deal of enthusiasm for anything she was interested in. Her school projects were a thing of beauty and each one was done to perfection. She became interested in sewing and making clothes, and again she excelled at that. Lark loved to sing, she had a beautiful voice, and with three other girls they formed a group which sang together throughout high school and were very popular.
Then came the dreadful day that Lark dropped a bomb-shell on Greta and I. She said, “I’m going to hitch-hike to Vancouver with Herbie.”
This was during the 60s and many of her generation were doing the same but we were shocked, angry and heartbroken. We knew we couldn’t stop her when her mind was made up because Lark was very strong-willed. But, Oh! It was hard to see her go. Probably this is the most anguish any parents can go through, to see their beautiful daughter leave on a trip and not know if she’d ever come back. So, Greta and I worried from the time she left until she arrived safely home again.
I know we only have our children for a short time and then we must let go. A wise woman once said: “There are only two lasting bequests that we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots; the other, wings.”
We could only pray, as parents, that we gave Lark enough confidence and freedom so that she could face life in an independent and happy way. We also hoped she remembered her roots and realized her parents and home was always a haven of love whenever she needed us.
Today all that’s in the past. Lark has been happily married for 40 years. They have three beautiful children and three beautiful grandchildren of their own. She went into marriage and motherhood with a dedicated love that only Lark is capable of. And I know whatever trials and tribulations may befall Lark, she has the strength of character and dedication to family, to overcome them all.
Even if I live to be 100 years old (a milestone just six years away), I’ll still remember my daughter, Lark, as a little girl, of five or six years of age. I’ll especially remember, this welcome of love, “Daddy!”
Herb Peppard is a longtime Truro resident. His column appears regularly in the Truro Daily News.