Anyone looking for the pure pleasure of getting lost in a good book need look no further than June Mitchell’s Glad I Dropped In: A hodge-podge of memories and family lore, a memoir sure to evoke both laughter and tears.
June, or Junie as she refers to herself in the early portion of the book, tells her life story as she recalls it. In those earlier sections where she has no recollection, she narrates as an outside observer, based on what she heard from others.
June inherits her socialist leanings from her parents. Her mother, Marjorie Cooper, becomes the third female Member of the Saskatchewan Legislature, serving four terms for the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. June’s father, Edward Cooper, is a high school teacher and fellow member of the CCF.
June also develops her social activism from her Aunt Luella. When she witnesses a man dragging a woman down the street, Luella calls police, who ignore her. She then adds that her father has just left the house with a hammer; the police respond immediately.
June opens up and reveals some of her frailties. When her five-year-old sister Elaine steals a chocolate bar, eight-year-old June marches her back to the store to confess her guilt, even though she admits stealing many bars herself. On another occasion, she deliberately gets drunk, just to see what it’s like.
June doesn’t shy away from heart-rending scenarios. She relates that when her husband, Grant Mitchell, is stricken with a heart attack in the middle of the night, the ambulance attendants drop him going down the stairs.
She offsets the tragedies by dispensing liberal doses of humour, including the mix-up at her wedding. The minister gets the groom’s name wrong, the soloist forgets the words to her song, and Grant is too nervous to give his speech.
As a teacher, June recalls having to strap one boy, an experience as painful for her as for him. At recess one day, a swing bangs a student’s head. June wants to take her to a doctor, but the girl’s father won’t hear of it. “She don’t need to go to no doctor,” he said. “Her head’s hard enough.”
Being adventurous, June travels freely throughout Canada and the United States, often sleeping in her van, and sometimes getting into trouble. She’s arrested after joining protestors supporting Mohawk land claims at Oka, Quebec, and spends a night in jail. While trying to catch up to a convoy carrying relief supplies to war-torn El Salvador, she’s almost shot at for taking a shortcut through a gas station.
June intersperses twenty-seven of her poems throughout the book, often as the lead-in to a chapter. She also includes forty-four photos, mostly black and white, of her life and family. Glad I Dropped In: A hodge-podge of memories and family lore is a neat little package, laced with laughter and tears, and tied together with love.
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