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When I was little I used to love going to my grandmother’s house. It was filled with family portraits and china that had come from England as well as her paintings of Nova Scotia. She served tea in the afternoon, and even after 50 years in Canada had maintained her British accent. My Grandmother loved to hear me talk about my dreams to travel the world, to explore and to learn. When she was young she didn’t have the same kind of choices.

My Grandmother didn’t like to talk about the war. She was a teenager, living in central London, when the Blitz began. At the age of 18, she had had enough of bombing raids, blackouts, making do, and suffering loss.

One spring day in 1944, she was walking in Hyde Park with her dog. A few handsome Canadian soldiers walked past, and she coyly unleashed her dog and yelled to the soldiers to catch him. That’s how she met my grandfather. I do not know if my grandmother was in love with him. He was a farmer. Sick of War, I believe she thought she came to Canada as a member of the landed gentry.

Instead, she found herself living in a small wooden house in the back woods of Nova Scotia, 20 years old, pregnant and mostly alone. They were married for 32 years. But in the 70’s, something changed. At the age of 52, she packed her bags and left her marriage. She wanted to be independent. She began to paint and draw. Eventually, she supported herself as an art teacher.

I always viewed my grandmother’s choices as somehow connected to her experience growing up in a country that was literally under siege. She wanted to leave England and leveraged one of the only options available to a young woman at the time: Marriage. Eventually, she was brave enough to leave that too.

I think about how unlimited my choices are today, and all the adventures I’ve been fortunate to have —my heart, unhindered, is free. And I’m grateful for these choices.

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