To Whom Much is Given (Part I of III

Ah, summer. Pools are open, some kids have likely started driving their parents mad as summer holidays commence, the days should be super hot, and margaritas, taco chips and air conditioning will be all the rage.

I love Texas, and summer is my absolute favorite time of year. One question I have been asked the most from guests and those I meet is, “how did you get here ALL the way from Canada,” as if Canada is some foreign far off land of Arctic adventures and not just across the imaginary dotted line of Washington, Montana, Idaho, and Michigan.

I have to tell ya, the road to my Texas life is not a short story, but the trifecta trilogy. I have learned to condense it down to some reasonable three-minute blurb with many details not mentioned, when asked. When I started dreaming about my bed & breakfast years ago, in my mind it was without a name. I tried all sorts of catchy phrases to brand my future—The Susanna Grubb, The Maple Leaf, The Lone Maple, but nothing really stuck, until one winter night sitting around my elderly parents’ table for supper.

It was one of these visits that mom shared with me how she got her name — Virginia May. My grandmother, Margaret Mary, wanted to name the baby on the way, Marion, but my grandfather Archie Bald Auld Gibson, felt it too “old fashioned,” and then looked at his tin of Virginia cigarettes and voila she was born Virginia May, on October 15, 1929.

It was then that I knew The Virginia May would be the B&B name as a way to honor my mom, her life, and her unwavering love to my father of 70 years. And let’s face it, it’s pretty southern catchy.

So it was my mother, Virginia May, along with my father, Richard Woods, (both good Canadian folk) who also adopted me from Calgary one cold winter day shortly before Christmas in 1967, and tottled back to Edmonton with said adoptee in tow during an amazing winter storm.

I was one year old. It was my grandmother (mom’s side) who said, “you need a girl,” and it was also Canada’s centennial 100-year anniversary. I never really got that connection but it always came up in the folklore of my life. I am sure I am royalty in some sphere of life, and maybe I am the younger good-looking aunt to William and Harry….

Dad always told the story that I was bought from the store—hand chosen—and as a small kid every time I went to the grocery store and I would see the groceries on the conveyor belt, I always had this image that I too had sat on there and was purchased like the food we picked out and took home.

And so, with my new family, it was then life started. Mom and dad gave me a life filled with carefree summer days on a farm two miles from the town of Stony Plain, about a 25-minute drive from Edmonton—Alberta’s capital city.

They gave me two older brothers, lots of cats and dogs, a few mean geese, chickens, horses, mini bikes, a big garden and buckets of Barbies. They gave me a dime for the town confectionary store. They gave me spankings for poor behavior. They gave me a curfew I found hard to follow as a teenager. They gave me squished kneecaps if I was fidgety in church. They gave me reprimands every time my report cards said I talked too much.

They gave me unconditional love when I didn’t deserve it, and they gave me tools to work hard in life. They gave me many life lessons about love and loss, and forgiveness, and resilience, and kindness. They modeled faith and loyalty. They gave me a life when another couple could not.

I don’t remember ever sitting down and being told I was adopted. I just always knew. I seemed to fit in the family makeup with my blue eyes and blonde hair like my dad and my older brother. I always, always felt loved. I never felt I was less than my brothers, or not equal to. I say that as a mature adult now. Of COURSE I felt wrongly convicted of girl chores when it seemed my brothers never had to vacuum. And my brothers felt I was the spoiled baby of the family. Of course I never was spoiled—ever. We three kids were all five years apart, and we fought like siblings do, and for all intents and purposes, we had a very normal 70s life. But you know, as one gets older, and becomes a wickedly-evil sullen and beastly teen, one starts to wonder—where DO I come from? Who do I look like, and can I get a new set of parents?

Teenagers are like a wasteland of emotions as we seek to define our own identity, all the while making everyone around us pay dearly as we emerge from our chrysalis shell. I had very few details of the events of my birth and who in fact brought me into the world. I knew she had red hair and blue eyes, and was 5’6”, 19 years old, and born in Michigan. And he had dark hair, 5’8”, 19 years old, and was born in Nebraska. Those were all the details I had, and my birth certificate had been changed and listed Richard and Virginia as my parents, but you know, curiosity.

I was born December 8th, 1966, and many years later I learned I had been birthed in a ward for unwed mothers at a Salvation Army Hospital in Calgary, Alberta, to “ Jack and Diane—two American kids growing up in the heartland.” I had been given the name Heather Lyn, and it would not be until 2010 and 2014 that I would finally learn who these two kids were who gave me life—all thanks to Facebook. And it wasn’t Jack and Diane. Colleen McCullough is the owner of The Virginia May B&B at Eagle Mountain Lake. You can follow the B&B on Instagram and Facebook @thevirginiamay

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