A writer’s dream

Ed Smith
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Last week was a most beautiful time for us. We were in St. John's for several days, but that alone wasn't the main reason it was great. I enjoy being in that wonderful old city. Nothing else like it anywhere.

I've been in love with St. John's ever since the days I was chasing Other Half up and down Waterford Bridge Road in the early ’60s. Caught her a few times, too. That was fun. Then she turned the tables and caught me. That was even more fun.

Last week, OH and I were invited to make a presentation to the first-year nursing students at the Centre for Nursing Studies. It's a yearly event for us.

I have always been partial to female nursing students. I think it began when I dated one from the old Grace Hospital, roughly 87 years ago. I say “female” nursing students to distinguish them from men nursing students in whom, I have to admit, I had less personal interest.

I was partial to female who were not nursing students, as well. In fact, I even married one when she was a social work student. I mention this to show that my interests were eclectic as far as women students were concerned. They didn’t have to be college students, either. Blondes with blue eyes were fascinating creatures no matter what their academic level.

When Other Half and I visit that nursing class, it’s one of the highlights of our year. My book, “From the Ashes of My Dreams,” is required reading for them and they are therefore familiar with the trauma of my accident and the events that followed.

They have tons of questions and insights and always remind us of what marvelous people these young men and women are. I think their instructors, particularly Kathy Stevens, are largely responsible for how well prepared they are. They also put on the most marvelous lunches after class!

Next morning, I spoke to pharmacy students from Memorial and Dalhousie universities. They showed me the courtesy of listening attentively to my ramblings, which is not bad for a mixed group of mainlanders and Newfoundlanders, male and female, testosterone and estrogen. I just know they were far more interested in me than in each other and the social activities planned for that night.

Some people say there’s no such thing as a coincidence, that it’s all part of a well laid out plan.

When I came out of the hotel to go speak to the group that had a large number of Dalhousie students in it, two women were standing on the steps. One lady I knew, and the other was a stranger. The stranger spoke to me.

“You’re Mr. Smith?”

She didn’t seem to be armed or have a very large male standing by her, so I admitted it.

“You don’t know me,” she said, “but I think you know my mother.”

That sort of thing happens to me all the time, as it does to most teachers my age. I even get younger women telling me that their grandmothers were in school when I was a principal. I always say they have the wrong person, and of course that’s always true.

“So, what’s your mother’s name?”

The name this woman gave me took me back almost 50 years. I won’t say her name because I don’t want to cause her acute embarrassment, or perhaps embarrassment that’s not so cute. Sufficient to say, the lady was my first date as a student at Dalhousie University.

She was really pretty, and I thought to myself at the time, “This place is looking up.”

Then, one day, I saw her crossing the campus arm in arm with one of those fellows who’s president of this and vice-president of that and whose family had more money than mine had fish. I figured there was no way I could compete with that, and never called her again. Stupid.

Anyway, the daughter told me that her mother remembered me fondly, which made my day. That’s certainly how I remember her.

This is a small coincidence, but nevertheless a coincidence. When I was signing books for the nursing students the day before, one young lady told me her name was Tina.

“That’s a coincidence,” I said. “One of my workers is named Tina.” Then I turned to the girl immediately behind her and said, “What’s your name?” And she said, “Jessica.”

Jessica is the name of the second of my three workers. OK, so it’s not all that weird. But I think it bears mentioning, so I have. Amen.

My publishers, Flanker Press, also launched my latest book, “A Spoonful of Sugar,” on Thursday night. We had a splendid turnout, including old friends from my school years, several newer friends and several of our family. There were also fans of my writing in attendance. I gave a new book to both of them.

It was marvelous meeting people who were once an important part of my life, and who still enrich it through memory. I am grateful so many turned out for the occasion.

At my book signing in Cole's Bookstore on Saturday, again many people turned out. A goodly number of them just stopped to say hello, which is a beautiful thing. I also have to thank Laura from Flanker for all her help that day.

I’m sorry to be boring those of you who have nothing better to do than read this to the bitter end. But this is the kind of stuff of which writers’ dreams are made.

Strangely enough, not one of the persons who came by took the time to bawl hell out of me. It certainly has happened before and it’s not exactly pleasant. The German shepherd that particular man had with him at the time didn’t make me feel any more comfortable.

Thank you all for sharing yourselves with me.

Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale.  His email address is edsmith@nf.sympatico.ca.

Organizations: Centre, Nursing Studies, Grace Hospital Dalhousie University Flanker Press

Geographic location: St. John's, Waterford Bridge Road, Springdale

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