As some of you might be aware, I was born Canadian, but for the most part of my younger years I lived in the States due to my father’s work.
It was in the States, Chicago, Illinois, specifically, that I first met the Hansons.
Mr. Hanson was my father’s boss and what Mr. Hanson wanted, my father, who bowed to no one, would jump when his boss so dictated.
When Mr. Hanson called our home, and he did quite frequently, the children would be shushed while dad carried on his underling conversation with his boss. We knew that Mr. Hanson could make even my stalwart father quiver. That was fascinating and it served to make the five of us children nervous any time Mr. Hanson was mentioned. After all, if he could scare dad, then surely we should be deathly afraid of the up-until-then faceless Mr. Hanson.
Add in an active eight-year-old’s imagination and you can begin to understand the fear that lurked in my heart any time Mr. Hanson called.
Then came the day that Mr. Hanson extended his hand to my father not as a boss to his employee, but as one man to another. That was the day that Mr. Hanson invited our family to his summer cottage on the lake. Dad took the invitation as a summons and for days before the much-anticipated event we were schooled in using proper manners such as not speaking unless spoken to, saying “thank you” and “please” and which fork, knife and spoon to use.
Of course those instructions only struck further fear into our hearts as we knew that should we embarrass our parents on that blessed day we would be guaranteed swift and hurtful reprise.
The day of the visit dawned early for us as mom wanted to make sure each and every child was bathed and properly attired. Even though it was going to be a barbecue and the day was threatening to be unpleasantly hot, my sister and I wore starched dresses while my brothers wore dress shirts, pants and little bow ties. I laugh now when I view those pictures. How very formal!
Just as we were ready to leave mom scooped up our bathing suits as Mr. Hanson had also invited us to swim in their personal man-made lake.
When we arrived at the Hansons I was taken aback by how very expensive and lush was their home. Coming from less than modest means, that only served to underscore how important it was to make a good impression upon the Hansons for my parents’ sake.
But I was deathly afraid of the faceless Mr. and Mr. Hanson. Surely they had horns or a mean streak as wide as the Mississippi. Imagine my surprise when the doorbell was answered by a Santa Claus-like, rotund couple with huge, welcoming smiles upon their faces.
Mr. and Mrs. Hanson were wonderful! Apparently they never had children and I now know that must have been the reason they lavished attention on us. They thoroughly spoiled us. It is a day which, 50 years later, remains firmly and fondly entrenched in my memory.
I occasionally think about the Hansons and I realize why that day remains forefront in my mind. In a way it reminds me about facing demons in my life and understanding that sometimes those demons are of my own making. Mr. Hanson never was a demon, we just made him so in our mind. So it is with most of the demons in our minds — they are borne of our own fears and dark imagination.