Molly Greene & The High Rangers

Molly Greene—‘with three E’s’—is my grandmother. She was a British war bride who, along with an estimated 48,000 other such women, arrived in Canada after the war. She married her Canadian soldier, Freddie, and they lived in this cottage by the lake until he died two years ago.

I visit my grandmother most Saturdays. We have tea together; she talks and I listen. At 92, she has enjoyed a simple, happy life but finds today’s world somewhat baffling.

“Everything is controlled with buttons these days,” she laments as she fumbles through her vast collection of remote controls in search of the appropriate gadget for the task at hand. Trying to turn on the TV for the 6 o’clock news, she frantically presses a button over and over again and we watch as the living room blinds open and shut, open and shut as if suffering a petit mal seizure. Later, when she wants to change the channel, the room becomes uncomfortably warm as the thermostat on the gas fireplace rises in two-degree increments.

“You feel so disconnected from things when all you do is press a button,” she moans, “it was better when we had to get up to put a log on the fire, or turn the record over.”

There’s no point in reminding her that with her limited mobility such activities would be almost impossible for her now and it is this fleet of handheld devices that allows her to remain relatively independent in her own home.

After tea, she nods off in her chair and I take the opportunity to step outside and walk down to the garden gate.

“Don’t you dare open that gate until I get there, Tommy!” she’d yell from the front step when I was a child, “and mind you watch my hydrangeas!”

I always thought she was saying ‘mind my High Rangers’ and, unbeknownst to her, it was the fear of these mythical creatures—not the fear of drowning—that kept me on the right side of the garden gate. Even today I find myself peering cautiously into the bushes to see if I might catch one. I could never quite decide whether High Rangers were super heroes or diabolical villains.

After my stroll, Grandma is awake. Confused as she may be in the 21st century, she is completely sharp and lucid about her earlier memories.

“Oh the war,” she says with a grin, “the best years of my life! It was all so exciting.”

 “I was in the WRENs,” she says proudly. “I served tea to the officers and kept their offices tidy. The other girls and I got up to all sorts of mischief … oh, we had such great times together. And, of course, that’s when I met Freddie …” She smiles and her face softens like that of a young girl in love as she relives their first encounter. 

“We had turnip soup for starters and apple crumble made with turnips for pudding …!” This from a woman who’d be hard pressed to recall what we just ate for tea!

It’s difficult for me who grew up with FOX news, CNN and Facebook to imagine how any reasonable person could consider war the ‘best years of their life’. I’m sure my grandfather felt differently. He returned home minus a leg. If anyone ever asked him how he lost his leg, his response was always the same:

“Don’t be silly, I wasn’t that careless. I didn’t ‘lose’ my leg. I know exactly where I left it!”

That was pretty much all that was ever said about his war. How much my grandmother knew about what he went through, I’ll never know. It’s certainly not my place to march in and stomp all over her memories; everyone has High Rangers of one kind or another to be wary of.