Published on August 26, 2013
When he left the hospital, columnist Herb Peppard, right, threw up his arms and yelled for joy when his son, Herb, was born in 1947. The two spent several weeks together this spring and summer with the younger Herb visiting from Australia.
Published on August 26, 2013
Herb, age two, and his mother Greta at the beach near Bridgeport, Conn., in 1949. Not long afterwards, a family tragedy resulted in the two returning to Truro for a spell, leaving his father, columnist Herb Peppard, to reflect on the importance of family.
Of family ties and traditions continued
One of my most unforgettable experiences occurred in January, 1949. I had just come home from work. No one was in the kitchen, but I could hear someone talking in the bedroom. When I went into the bedroom I saw my wife 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, standing up by himself 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 were his thoughts as he stared at something so new, mysterious and exciting, I wondered? (Click here for another Herb Peppard column.)
I tried to imagine what was going through my little boy’s mind. 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?’
Whatever his thoughts were he would return to our bedroom time and again. He’d stand up, place his hands on the mirror, gaze at the strange room and smile and gurgle at his newfound friend.
To put this story into better context, Greta and I had decided to move from Truro to the United States two years earlier. I was 26 at the time and Greta was 22.
It wasn’t an easy decision as we would be leaving parents, family and friends. We would also be leaving the town where we had lived all our lives. But I needed to find a job and work was very scarce in Truro that time.
Luckily, I had an army buddy, Jim O’Brien, who lived in Bridgeport, Connecticut. 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 so we packed our meagre 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 on the assembly line with the General Electric Company. We were producing TVs and I was amazed when I got my first weekly paycheque. It was a very generous amount – $42.18. I couldn’t believe it. My God, I was going to be rich.
A short time after this Greta gave birth to our first child. He was a beautiful baby boy and we named him Herbert. Why? Well this was my name, my father’s name and his father’s name. Will this tradition continue? Time will tell.
Fathers were forbidden to go into the delivery room at the hospital at the time and I thought later it must have been difficult for Greta to give birth to her first-born child with her mother and family 1,204 kilometres 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 and 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 felling 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 Bridgeport (and not long after my son discovered the full-length mirror) we received some tragic news from home. Greta’s oldest brother, Fulton, had died at the tender age of 32 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, she packed her belongings and Herbie’s and left for home. They went to Boston and took a ferry to Yarmouth. Her 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. It happened when I went into our bedroom and glanced casually around. I looked at the full-length mirror on the door and it was there where a saw wee Herbie’s two handprints on the mirror. These small handprints will be embedded in my memory all my life. They seemed to be telling me – “We’re a loving family, a family that should be together.”
This three-week separation and those wee handprints on the mirror reminded 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 memories sometimes fade. Still, no matter how many years roll by, I will always remember those small handprints on the mirror. It was a constant reminder to me that my precious son, Herbie, was a proud member of the family I love.
P.S. The tradition is continuing; Herbie’s son, my grandson is Herbert Peppard V.
Herb Peppard lives in Truro. His column appears regularly in the Truro Daily News.