Friday, August 3, 2012

Fifty Fridays: #1

When do you start being interested in the old photos?  When do you really listen to the family stories that your parents or grandparents tell?  For me, they were like verbal wallpaper.  I heard them and heard them.  But then, when I was about fifty and really wanted to know, I couldn't remember the details.  And, sadly, so many of the people who could have helped were gone.  I remember feeling very lucky when my grandmother - at the age of 99 - was willing to look at some old photos and help to identify them.  But, even she, with her long memory, would flip the photo over and complain: "No writing!".

I'm sure I haven't told my kids as much as they will one day think to ask.  And, of course, what's significant to me, may not be the burning question for them.  But, after a bit more woolgathering, I have the idea that I will bring out at fifty photos that mean something to me and tell the stories behind them.  These stories will be my experience of the event captured just as the stories I heard as a child were always the truth of the story-teller. 

As with many of my memories, this photo is quite hazy.  But every time I see it, I am transported back to my fifth summer.  We had visitors - all the way from Hong Kong.  Phyl, the woman on the left was a legend to me.  Always.  She accompanied my mother, baby brother and my two-year-old self on the train from the Maritimes to Vancouver.  Thinking about what that trip must have been like, I can understand how glad Mom must have been for Phyl's help and companionship.  How Phyl got to be a legendary figure to me was because my mother talked about her - a lot.  In my mind, I equated her with Grace Kelly.  Two things my mother impressed upon me: she married well and she was always impeccably groomed.  There was definitely a lesson in this story for me.  Probably most of our parental tales are told to illustrate values we want learned.

So, there we are: Phyl, my brother, me, and my Mom.  Their baby, Clare, is just toddling and her father is watching over her.  Beyond the photo, I can remember the nifty little straw bag that they brought for me.  It was made like a straw hat with a zip in the brim to make it a purse. You can see the strap is over my shoulder already.   The day was hot and the shade of the willow tree was cool.  I can still feel the grass under my bare feet as I played there.  It was a clover lawn and we did occasionally step on the bees.  Bringing back the image of baking soda paste sticking to my feet. 

This photo is one of the few taken when we lived in this house and for me it holds almost every memory I have of living there.  Freight and passenger trains thundered by on a track which is about 50 yards from where we're all sitting.  Overhead, the blue sky would be marked with the arcing trail of the North Star jetliner taking passengers around the world.  Warm, sweet blackberries grew behind our house in the fields which led to the river.  There were no fences.  Today, any mother would go insane trying to keep her kids safe in that environment.   But, I remember that my brother and I had a lot of freedom to explore and play and, a few times, get into some memorable scrapes.  My mother claimed that she always knew where we were because she could see our dog's fluffy tail waving.  He was our constant companion.  But he couldn't control us or warn us.  My Dad was at work most days but I do remember him getting up really early on Saturday to go duck hunting.  I remember his wool socks drying in the kitchen, his scratchy wool work jacket.  Our new-to-us maroon Dodge.  The gray upholstery was so soft and velevety.  My brother and I would stand up behind the front seat and whoop with joy when my father sped down a big hill. 

There was a farm next door with dairy cows that frightened me.  I used to wonder why the man carried his milk pail out to one side with his other arm straight out in the air.  I still have a dislike of warm milk.  I remember the pet rabbit that my younger brother and I literally loved to death.  And our old ginger tom-cat, Paddy, who must have had a huge territory which needed defending.  Most of my memories of him are of the injuries my mother seemed to always be nursing.  My mind's eye only sees him curled up in an old blanket by the stove.  Riding my tricycle along the road and warning my brother not to eat the white berries which grew everywhere.  Now I know they are snowberries but then I called them poisonberries.  Now I know that they are not poisonous but they don't taste good at all.  I can see that little girl sitting by the radio and listening to CBC's  Kindergarten on the Air  and Just Mary.  And, the day we decided to help some fence workers with their tarring.  Mom spent a lot of time scrubbing us with everything she could think of but the tar stuck.  When Dad came home we were bundled into blankets and carted off in that car to the gas station.  Then we were bathed with gasoline...that did the trick.  Can you imagine any of that happening today?

And, as always, I only remember that the days were sunny.  I'm sure there was rain and snow and darkness but I do not have any memories of that. 


Rudee said...

Cleaned with gasoline? Yikes! No, I can't imagine it, but it is how you get a petrol product off--using another petrol product!

I like the idea of leaving your stories in a format such as this. I'm sure your children will appreciate it down the road.

Tanna at The Brick Street Bungalow said...

I so enjoyed your sunny memories. =)

J.G. said...

What a wonderful idea! Going through old photos and telling those stories is a great way to learn about someone . . . and ourselves!


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