BENEATH THE HEIGHTS:

GROWING UP AT QUEENSTON AND BEYOND

Chapter 15
FAREWELLS AND NEW HEIGHTS

[Ajijic Sunset]

As a new millennium begins, it has been over forty years since I lived with my parents and brothers beneath the Heights at Queenston. I Mother and Dad have gone now, but not the memories they evoke of gentler though turbulent times growing up there in the forties and fifties.

Over the intervening years, whether teaching high school in Toronto, in graduate work in Florida or Arizona, on my first job as professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, or the twenty-five years at Temple University in Philadelphia, I returned to visit my parents at least twice a year. On many of those long car trips back from the States to Hamilton, I usually made a brief detour after crossing the new Lewiston-Queenston Bridge, that had been built on the Heights just beyond my General. Each time I crossed, I would turn off the expressway to Hamilton, head down the hill off the Heights, and drive through my beloved childhood village.

Yet I never stopped to walk the quiet streets, or retrace my old paper route or search out residents that I once knew. Despite the building of a few new homes or the upgrading of many of the old ones, the village was still familiar to me. Yet this was not the Queenston I had known. The few friends with whom I once shared another life had long since moved away as I had done. Many of my older newspaper customers had passed away and few who were left would likely even remember me. I was no longer even tempted to climb the hill and knock the door of our old home.

In 1984, after living disenfranchised in the United States for ten years, I decided to become an American citizen. My vain and fruitless goal had been to help vote out Ronald Reagan during his second run for President. By that time, I had already said farewell to Canada and five generations of pride that I vowed I never would desert. My General notwithstanding, the time had come to move on and to accept the responsibilities of my life on the other side.

Dad, the family genealogist, had carefully documented our early American ancestry and located our descendent that came to Canada after the Revolution to remain part of the British Empire. He was then able to join the illustrious United Empire Loyalist Society and urged me to do the same.

At that time Jim and I were in Philadelphia and were doing genealogy of our own. While we were tracing our early American roots, I discovered that a Rebecca Lawrason, sister of my direct ancestor Miller Lawrason, had married an ancestor of Jim's Mother, Daniel Corson, and had landed in Niagara in 1789 with her brothers Miller and Lawrence. Jim also found that he could document his family to many early descendents that qualified him to join genealogical societies such as Founders and Patriots and Sons of the Revolution.

To honour my own loyal British heritage, I decided to take my Dad's lead, and join the Hamilton Branch of the UEL. Loyalists are proud of this lineage and their role in founding Canada. Our family tree showed five full generations of Lawrasons related to Miller and Lawrence who first arrived at Niagara. One of these ancestors, Titus Geer Simons, had distinguished himself protecting Canada from American invaders at the Battle of Lundy's Lane in 1814.

Over the years, few of our family had ventured back across the American border. Someone in the family had confessed to me that my favorite Uncle Murray had once run off to join his theatrical Uncle Pat in New York City. Apparently, my Grandfather Lawrason would have none of this. He had rushed down and dragged his wayward son back across the border to civil living far from the moral degenerates of the theater that lived in that wicked city.

Thus, our Lawrason loyal Canadian heritage was engrained in us over many generations. We Lawrasons were different, special and always loyal to our crown and country. Why had our ancestors not suffered at the hands of those rebels in several wars along the border between our countries? How could I desert my citizenship and my Queen? Several years before, I bravely was able to tell my parents that I was gay. But, somehow, I was never able to tell them that I was now an American.

[50th Wedding Anniversary in 1987]By 1980 or so, Mum and Dad grew less able to keep up their car and home. They finally had to give up the first home that they ever owned on Norfolk Street in Hamilton, purchased during my days at McMaster. My brothers and I helped them relocate to St. Elizabeth's Village, a Catholic founded sanctuary for retired people. Actually, they were very happy there in their last years relieved of the growing burden of caring for a house and yard. The gardens and natural waterways where they could enjoy native flowers and birds gave them many restful final years. And they then took several trips to Europe and other distant locations, free of the worries.

In the Club House at St. Elizabeth's, at Mum and Dad's Fiftieth Wedding Anniversary in 1987, all three of us boys presented Mum and Dad with our family photos in gold frames.

David presented his picture with his second wife Clare and his two families: Peter and Lynda now in their twenties beside Clare's two children, Colleen and Aimee, both not quite ten.

Then Ralph and Myrtle presented their photo with daughter Elizabeth and son Brent.


[at Fallsington PA 1987]

 

 

And finally, I presented a photo of Jim and I standing proudly at the front door of our first home together in Fallsington Pennsylvania.

 

 

Only a few years later both were gone. Dad died at 86 in 1991 in a nursing home where he lived for a year after a stroke made it increasingly difficult for Mum to look after him alone. Mother followed him in 1993 shortly after her 90th birthday.

[Burial at Ancaster Cemetary 1992]My brothers David and Ralph are now grandparents and David has retired with his third wife Elizabeth. Jim and I have retired to another small village, Ajijic, a spring paradise in central Mexico, where we share our life fully and openly with many like souls.

I have said farewell to Queenston, farewell to Canada, farewell to my parents and farewell now to the United States as well. My days beneath the Heights were not necessarily the happiest years of my life. Childhood is rarely fully innocent or even fully carefree. Over the years, each new adventure and challenge has raised my life to a new level of enjoyment and challenge. Yet those early days beneath the Heights spent dreaming of crossing forbidden rivers has shaped my journeys forever.

My journeys took me through university and to five years of high school teaching. Eventually, they took me across that alluring river to graduate work in educational technology in Florida and Arizona. Then my journeys brought me back to Canada to teaching at the University of British Columbia and eventually to a new partner for life. In pursuit of Jim, my journeys took me back across that border to a new life in Philadelphia where I worked with challenging educational technologies that over my career changed from simple audiotapes to the burgeoning computer internet.

My journeys also took me from a restless life alone into a committed relationship with a priest and partner that changed both my personal and my spiritual direction yet again.

[Ajijic Jalisco Mexico]Yet I will never say farewell to new dreams or journeys. Now in retirement in Ajijic, Jalisco Mexico, Jim and I share our lives with many other happy adventurers who have sought out this place to search for new fulfillment. Together in 1999 we founded the Ajijic International Film Festival in this quiet Mexican fishing village. New adventures await us as we delight in the life of this “spring time paradise.”

Here, the mountains behind our Mexican village heights reach three thousand feet, far above the three hundred foot rise at Queenston. Here, every night new lights from across the water beckon me. On the south shore of Lake Chapala below the heights of Mount Garcia, I see the twinkling lights of other small villages, not unlike our own, somehow distant yet always welcoming.

Yet my General no longer stands on guard on the familiar heights above me. Instead, above me in the ink black sky the handsome giant Orion protects me.

[Constellation Orion]Each night his massive frame wheels across the heavens. I try to make out his shape, his arms held aloft brandishing his staff and cloak, huge chest tapering to his narrow belt, and sword hanging below, to ravish or protect.

All through the winter my Orion proudly appears in the east, passes directly over our home and village in the early morning hours, then slides slowly down the western sky and disappears behind the mountains to the north.

My new heavenly guardian is no cold stone statue rooted to a monument spire, no beacon to lure me back home. This glowing mythic hunter and lover beckons me to challenge history and to follow him on to new heights to discover new adventures.

No longer do I wonder what lies on that other side. And I have no choice but to follow him wherever he leads.

 

[red line]

Beneath the Heights

Robin's Writing

Robin's Home Page

Jim and Robin's Home Page