|Mist Rising from the Canadian Falls|
As part of our vacation this year, we crossed the Peace Bridge from Buffalo to Fort Erie and meandered up the Niagara Parkway. Everything about our trip brought back childhood memories: meatloaf-potato salad-blueberry pie family picnics along the river, youth group banquets at the Victoria Park Restaurant, daring Maid-of-the-Mist voyages, and quiet strolls amidst a plethora of colorful blooms at the Niagara Parks School of Horticulture.
I grew up less than fifteen minutes from the Peace Bridge. Although respectful at the border, we came and went without a thought of terrorists or bombings. Life seemed simpler back then.
Something else connects me to this place. My grandfather, an artist and musician born in 1895, painted souvenirs for the shops in Niagara Falls: mugs, ashtrays, lighters, bread trays, knives, and other memorabilia--all with his signature painting of the falls.
As young girls, my sister and I traipsed behind him to the barn to watch his steady hand at work. The barn always smelled the same: oil paint, turpentine, natural gas, and old dusty beams all together. First, he lit the small gas heater. He always put on a tinted green visor. Then he sat down at his table, mixed just the right shades of paint, arranged his brushes carefully, and set to work, mug after mug, ashtray after ashtray, large boxes of them. He had an assembly line of sorts. One part of each small painting must dry before the next could be applied.
I've often wondered where all those souvenirs ended up. Attics? Basements? Estate and antique sales? Out of the thousands of souvenirs Grandpa painted, our family now has only a few. Perhaps just old souvenirs to many but to me, priceless treasures, telling a bit of the story of the man behind the paintings. The gentle man with snowy white hair who we knew as "Grandpa Ewert."
For me, Niagara Falls means much more than its mighty, thunderous presence. It reminds me of home and family, both gifts from a God who is faithful to every generation.
Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.