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Learner story archives

December 6, 1999

This story was written by Ada Thompson, from the Halifax-Dartmouth area of Nova Scotia. Ada was born in a small community in Nova Scotia. Over the years she travelled to many places in Canada. She enjoys reading and learning new things such as the computer. Ada decided to try the Dartmouth Literacy Network as it could offer the chance to study without the large classroom setting, which would not be in her best interest. The story of Mrs. Bell came out of a special memory.

Mrs Bell

by Ada Thompson

Mrs. Bell was a lady who lived in my community. As I remember, her small home was at eye level from our kitchen window. Her children were grown with families of their own. We were neighbours and friends. When I was younger, my curiosity never found its way to question how or why this lady who was white lived in our community. At that thime the majority of families there were black. What I do remember about her is that she loved her family, and that she was a nice person, and helped to bring many of our community's babies into the world.

Mrs. Bell was a mid-wife. Often when people could not find a birth certificate or the special date of something, the answer would be, "Ask Mrs. Bell, She will remember." And she did. As I got older, Mrs. Bell's granddaughter and I became good friends, and she loved her "Mama", as she called her, very much. When my friend Sally would leave to go back home to Truro, she would say to me, "Please visit Mama for me," and I often did. I would see here sitting in her comfortable chair near the window, her walking stick close by. She would most always have on a cotton dress and bib apron. From this seated position she could see all who came and went. A friendly wave would indicate that she saw you. If Mrs. Bell needed something from me on my way home, a firm tap on the window with her stick meant to stop and come to the door. Knowing her for so long gave me and all who passed her house privy to learn the tapping sounds on the window. A firm tap meant that your mother would be informed of your actions. A soft tap meant "Please come, I need a few things hung on the line and they must be very white." When they were dried I would bring them in, fold, and put them away. She was very particular about how things looked on the line so I gave special care how I washed them for fear she would make me do them over again. I remember her saying, "Thank you" with a hint of a smile, "Here's a few sous." Even though money was neatly folded and placed in my hand, I never found out what a "sou" was and I still like the mystery about it.

There were and still are women in my community who gave of themselves to teach me respect and other strong values. My friend Sally went into nursing due to her grandmother's influence. As I went out into the world I learned to be more accepting of others and how to laugh at myself when needed. I learned as well that dreams can come true. These are only some of the lessons of life I gained from these women. Mrs. Bell is a part of the history of my community and rightfully so.

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