Still at home includes the journals written between January 1958,
when I was twelve and in grade 7, and September 1963, when I was eighteen
and leaving for college.
I should say something about the euphoria in many of these entries.
Some of it seems and probably was false; the true remnant is relief at
leaving the oppression and helplessness of childhood. Nobody except my
mother was interested in me when I was a child, but as an adolescent girl
I was intoxicated to discover that suddenly just about any man could be
made to be interested in me. I had real - though ambiguous - sexual power,
and this power rightly interested me a lot. At the same time, at school,
two male teachers were sponsoring me in ways that brought me other kinds
of attention too. By the end of high school I was honored and welcomed
in my community in ways I never had been as a child. So the Still at
home period was a steadily rising arc, and learning to guide that arc
now seems to me to be what these entries mainly are about.
Everyone I know who kept adolescent journals has either destroyed or
lost them. The adolescent period is intensely interesting to the new person
undergoing it, but its events and changes are too common and their expression
too unformed to be interesting to most adult readers. I don't like boring
readers or demonstrating so unequivocally that I wasn't a prodigy, and
the temptation to edit has been strong. I have resisted it because in this
project I'm as interested in formal change and continuity as in emotional
and intellectual change and continuity. If I transcribe accurately, it
will be possible to watch someone begin to write in an isolated community
in northern Alberta, and then to track stylistic changes over nearly fifty
years. On the smaller scale of the Still at home section, accurate
transcription can demonstrate what maturation means, grammatically. If
I retain spelling mistakes it's possible to see exactly where this writer
learns to spell difference. If I transcribe the twelve year old's
ellipses and exclamation marks, punctuation can be used to track the comings
and goings, and then the gradual disappearance, of a particular written
The originals of the Still at home years are in small lined exercise
books or on looseleaf sheets collected into volumes by string tied through
3-ring binder holes. The originals' organization into books was usually
accidental; I have set volume breaks where I think I can see significant
Beginning in March 1959 I sometimes interpolate entries from a 5-year
diary because they give more of a sense of daily event.
[Still to be written]
[Still to be written]
Religion comes up in these journals (for the last time in Still at
home) in a sometimes embarrassing way.
My family attended a small Mennonite Brethern church that belonged to
a larger synod of North American Mennonite Brethern churches. The church
itself was a small plain building out in the country, on a hill two miles
south of La Glace.
There are various kinds of Mennonite. Our kind looked and dressed like
any of the other farm families, but forbade smoking, drinking, dancing,
and movies. Mennonite Brethern doctrine included pacifism, hellfire, 'getting
saved', and adult baptism by immersion.
All the members of the La Glace MB church were either first- or second-generation
immigrants who had come to La Glace as refugees from the Russian revolution
and its aftermath. When I was a child our little church carried on many
of the traditions of church life in Siberia. Men and women entered the
church by different doors - women, girls and very small boys on the right,
men and older boys on the left - and sat on opposite sides of the the aisle.
Services included public prayer, in which any church member who felt moved
would pray aloud while everyone stood shifting and shuffling around them.
Hymns and sermons at Sunday morning services were usually in German, although
at evening services we would use the little red Moodie songbook with its
rousing hymns in the English evangelical tradition.
By the time of the earliest journals, most of the founding generation,
including my grandparents on both sides, had moved to BC, leaving the farms
and the church to their kids - young adults who had arrived from Russia
as children and had gone to school in English. This younger generation
gradually dropped most of the Russian customs and the use of German. They
felt doctrinally compatible with Baptist and Alliance churches, and they
shifted the feel of the church toward those more mainstream denominations.
By the time I went away to university in 1963 men and women could actually
sit in the same pew. This younger generation - to give them credit - also
de-emphasized the hellfire aspects of evangelical belief in favor of Christian
As I remember it, the best thing about this very particular little church
was its congregational singing. Our young parents had sung in the choir
together before they married each other and became parents, so they were
trained sight-readers and glorious part-singers. Our church was famous
among our Norwegian neighbours, Lutherans and Pentecostals, for its music.
Although they were admired as workers, the men of the church were scorned
for their pacifism through WWII, and distrusted for their strictness about
tobacco and drink. At school there were fewer Mennonite kids than Norwegian.
We weren't popular. The Dutch Reform group was small, too, but they weren't