I was delivered at home, on the kitchen table, by Dr. Gladys Cunningham, on Monday afternoon, April 15, 1946 on the campus of The University of West China in Chengdu, Szechuan.
Memories of China
I was called Mei Mei (little sister) by my big sister, Dorothy Marilyn Day, and big brother, (Edwin) David Day. I spoke fluent Mandarin, albeit, a child’s version.
I followed the big kids over a campus bridge across an irrigation ditch. I (2 ½ years old) fell through the side of a bridge into the swift moving water and vividly remember drowning. I was saved by the West China University campus cook, whose own son had died by drowning the week before.
I ate Castor Oil Beans which caused violent vomiting and diarrhea.
I found blood stained bullets under our front porch. (Reality?)
I was transported by rickshaw over a deep gorge. The swinging bridge was missing slats.
I had a great dah-niang whose name was Aggy. I remember finding her little daughter pinned by her clothes on a clothesline by, perhaps, my brother. (Reality)
I loved my brother and sister. We had a lot of fun and we produced creative memories, according to our personalities. (My sister was perfect and a buffer between my teasing, but loving brother and myself, “the innocent victim!”)
I loved our pet dogs.
I remember holding huge banana leaves upright with my brother and sister.
I remember loving mein (noodles).
I remember being told that, in fine Mandarin, Grandpa Meuser had asked to have someone throw a sandwich to him out the window of his house, but what he really said was, “throw the grandmother out the window!”
In 1948, when I was 2 ½, we went on furlough to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where I met my Grandpa Day (Rev. Charles David Day), Dad’s father. Lottie Lee Day, Dad’s mother, had passed away a few months before. Grandpa passed away not long after “of a broken heart”.
*In 1949, I attended the Canadian School in China for Preschool/Kindergarten. Apparently, I came home singing communist songs. (Reality?). It was evident at this time, that the Communists had taken control of China and all the ‘Foreign Devils’ were asked to leave.
Life after China
In 1950, I returned (via ship) with my family to Toronto. In 1951, when I was 4 ½ years old, we moved to the wonderful town of Maple Creek, Saskatchewan, ‘where everyone knew your name’. Dad was the United Church minister. I completed Grades 1 to 2 at Maple Creek Elementary School, but lost most of my Chinese vocabulary, as only English was spoken here.
In 1954, when I was 8, we, sadly, moved from our beloved Maple Creek to Calgary, Alberta. I completed Grades 3 to 9 at Mount View Elementary and Colonel Macleod schools and made lifelong (English and Chinese) friends. I was quite a ‘tomboy’ and loved horses! I decided to become a Veterinarian. I had always saved the lives of insects, amphibians, birds and animals. I also took piano and voice lessons. Dad was the minister of the Chinese United Church in Calgary, where he could again use his Chinese. I, excitedly, planned to continue on to High School with my best friends. All was well.
In 1961, when I was 15, Dad decided that he needed to go to Hong Kong to further use his China talents. Sadly, we left Dorothy and David, friends and pets and my aspirations for High School. In Hong Kong, I attended KGV British Grammar School. I was put into Form 5, which meant that I never did experience Grade 10. Scholastically, it was a disaster, although I learned Cantonese. Socially, however, in my own mind, I became quite sophisticated! Suddenly, I was going to parties, nightclubs, dancing and dating. My parents decided that I was a little ‘too’ social.
So, in 1962, when I was 16, my parents sent me to live with my mother’s sister, Helen Lennie and her husband, Arthur and their 3 children, Cathy, Dorie and Libbie in Willowdale, Ontario, Canada. They compassionately took me in and treated me like I was one of theirs. I attended Thornhill Secondary School for Grades 11 to 12. Here, I met my future husband, John Maver, who had moved to Canada from the USA when he was 4 ½, as I had, at 4 ½, from China. Somehow, I even became Posture Queen. Someone in my past had taught me to stand up straight! Six months after my return to Canada, my mother developed Ovarian Cancer and returned with Dad to Toronto, where she lived with Grandma and Grandpa Meuser. She died on June 19, 1963, at age 47, after a short, but valiant, fight. It was traumatic for all of us. John was the rock on which I leaned. But, again, my school suffered.
In 1965 to 1966, it was decreed that I would go to the boarding school, Alma College for Girls in London, Ontario, to complete Grade 13. It was not a bad experience. I met some great friends from all over the world and the Principle took me under her wing. She, I’m sure, was responsible for making me May Queen. Poor Dad had always told me to be humble….but I was 17.
Dad went back to Hong Kong, met a very special and caring person, Jean Tough (already an RN, and later becoming wife, mother, grandmother, aunt, and a wonderful minister with the United Church of Canada) , married her and had 2 sons (my special brothers), Ian, born November 27, 1967and Eric, born May 15, 1970.
In 1966, after sadly (and probably, wrongly), giving up on being a Veterinarian, I chose another caring and helping vocation, that of an RN. I entered Nursing School at Toronto Western Hospital, graduating in 1969. I worked in Urology and the Dialysis Unit at TWH. I had the incredible opportunity to nurse Peter Ongaro, the first Canadian heart transplant patient. In addition, I had the honour of becoming Snow Queen and being ‘Dick Loek’s Woman’ in the Toronto Star afterwards. Again, I felt the guilt!
In 1969 to1971, I worked in Public Health and Home Care with the Victorian Order of Nurses. I married John Maver on June 6, 1970, on the condition that we would have roots and never move…silly me! We lived in the Married Students Residence for the University of Toronto, while John obtained his MBA and then a basement apartment in North Toronto. John got a job with Procter & Gamble in marketing.
In 1972, we moved to Vancouver for 6 months. I was pregnant with our son John. We returned back to Toronto in 1972 and moved twice more, to and within, Unionville, Ontario. We had three phenomenal children, born in North York General Hospital. John, born, November 25, 1972, (now in Massachusetts, running his own company for computer social networking), Joanne, born in, July 21, 1977 (now a Toronto, Canada MBA in Bank HR) and Marilee, born February 12, 1980 (now a California EMT and Fitness/Yoga Instructor) and life was good. (Sadly, my sister, Dorothy died the same year Joanne was born. She died at 36, in 1977, on the same day, June 19th, as my mother had died.)
From there, through Procter & Gamble, we moved in 1983 to Norwich, NY and then in 1988 to Cincinnati, Ohio. (Here, John fulfilled a lifelong dream for me. He gave me my horse, Cloud, for my 40th birthday!) We moved back to Aurora, Canada in 1992 and finally, with Clorox, to Danville, California in 1996. Dad died in Canada October 1, 2003, but he and Jean did have a chance to visit us here. It is now 2008! We haven’t moved for twelve years. I have taken many college classes since I have been here in California, in Women’s Studies, Psychology, Psychiatry and English Critical Thinking. I plan to have my PhD in Science by the time I’m 90!
We are now blessed with a wonderful daughter in law, Jill, two amazing son in laws, Marc Clemente and David Heard and six incredible grandchildren, Hannah, Zoe, Andrew, Ella, Ryan. and John. As well, our dogs, horse and birds have given us so much joy.
Life is good! Twelve years in 1 place!!
Life in Process
I’m proud of my Chinese Heritage. My life has been enriched and incredible to date, with many impactful turning points. From the honour of being born Diana Helen Day in Chengdu, Szechuan, China, the daughter of humble Canadian missionaries with their own history of doctors, teachers, missionaries and ministers, to the amazing life of wife, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt and friend, and finely to the opportunity of moving frequently to new and exciting environments, (the last of which, to date, is Danville, California, USA.), I’ll feel forever grateful and blessed.