Talkin’ ’bout my generation

This is my weekly newspaper column. Things you should known:  Michael Bliss was born in my hometown, and is a celebrated author of national stature.   He was a History Professor at the University of  Toronto and is “one of Canada’s best known and most-honoured biographers”. Here is a little bit of his story entwined with a little bit of mine and our hometown:

“People try to put us d-down (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
Just because we get around (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
Things they do look awful c-c-cold (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
I hope I die before I get old (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)

Why don’t you all f-fade away (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
And don’t try to dig what we all s-s-say (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
I’m not trying to cause a big s-s-sensation (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
I’m just talkin’ ’bout my g-g-g-generation (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)”
~ “My Generation”, The Who

What is a generation? From my spotty research, a generation can be as little as twenty years or as long as thirty-three. When The Who sang “Talkin’ ‘bout my generation’, they were of the age group that trusted no one over thirty. That generation (of which I am at the tail end) is now over twice that age. And while many of us still hold to some of our “revolutionary” beliefs, the “trusting no one over thirty” philosophy has died a thousand deaths.

What brought the whole question of generation to my mind was the opening chapters of “Writing History” by local boy made good, Michael Bliss. In those first chapters he paints a picture of the town of Kingsville just a few years before my time—but a Kingsville I recognize if not wholly, at least in part. Born in 1941, Michael, depending on your definition of generation is a half to a third generation older than I, and seeing Kingsville through his eyes and memories is an interesting tutorial in (fairly) recent history.

One of my favourite passages in his book is one in which he describes himself as a small boy experiencing his town while wheeling around on his trusty tricycle. He lived on Main Street in the block between Division and Spruce in the beautiful brick home torn down to the chagrin of many a town folk to make way for new development. I remember walking by the house many a high school noon hour and seeing a sizable cat sitting on the front lawn. The cat was famous for sporting one green eye and one blue eye. At that time Dr. Bruner had taken over the medical offices where Dr. Bliss, Michael’s father had his practice at one end of the house.

Here is Michael’s tour of the block that was host to his home: “The centre of my world was our big brick house on a double lot on the north side of Main Street, half a block east of the Four Corners.” (I love how he capitalized the Four Corners, giving them their proper due.) “When I grew old enough to expand my territory by tricycle—like Matt Goderich in Hugh Hood’s The Swing in the Garden—I would turn right, pass by the Kingsville Fire Department, then Babcock’s Restaurant, then a tobacco warehouse in the old Methodist Church, then the Kingsville Hotel, and finally reach the post office at the Four Corners. When I turned left, I passed a half a dozen homes with chestnut streets in their front yards, then reached the end of the block at Spruce Street.” When he was a little older and “finally allowed to go all the way around the block on my tricycle, I would peddle very fast past the pool hall, a hole in the wall of one of the town’s oldest brick blocks, whose proprietor, grey and cadaverous, would sometimes be standing on its doorstep, seemingly afraid to come out into a world of breathable air.” (Just a personal note here—I had a green tricycle upon which I had many an adventure thus can so relate to Michael and his tricycle—it was a magical vehicle which took me where I wanted to go as fast as my little legs would peddle. Had I run across the cadaverous proprietor once though, I would have probably changed my route.)

I recognize a few of the places that Michael talks about but am fascinated by the Kingsville of yesteryear of which he devotes about a quarter of the book. His descriptions are rich with nostalgia; and in the words of author, David J. Bercuson, his memories about the small town where he grew up “have a canny sense of time and place…. (he) manages to put his readers inside his story”. He is a wonderful story teller—something I did not particularly expect from someone who has written such tomes as “The Discovery of Insulin” (which may be a page turner in its own right).

In his preface he says somewhat modestly: “Almost every life is interesting enough to sustain a book if you know how to write it and if there is one person curious enough to start reading.” I am not sure what took me so long to pick up this book. Finally and gratefully, I have started reading it at the urging of Mr. Simon Vreman who lent me his copy. Admittedly I am only on the beginning chapters, but seeing my Kingsville through Michael’s eyes is illuminating—it reveals some of the foundation upon which our thriving little town continues to build itself.

 

 

Published in: on May 6, 2014 at 11:23 am  Comments (17)  
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Tidings of Great Joy

Christmas illustration

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is Monday, so it must be my weekly newspaper column–hope you enjoy:

        “The Christmas tree?  All Christmas trees are perfect.” –  Charles N. Barnar

My Christmas spirit is intact. My Christmas tree is up and I wonder now what took me so long. If I remembered more clearly each year how much I love having the tree up, I would probably put it up in mid-October. I am thinking it is a good thing my memory is so poor on this particular point—even I would get tired of having a tree up for two and a half months.

          Everyone has a different tradition when it comes to putting up their tree. Those who go the traditional “real” tree route have no choice but to put their tree up a little later as a tree bare of its needles is none too festive on Christmas Day—and that is what happens if you put them up too early. I have not had a real tree for years but I do remember the daily watering and finding needles hidden in the carpet in July—neither of which adds to the charm of a real tree for me. But the smell, the smell is wonderful—which is why I have a wreath of real spruce branches on my door—I can go and stiff it at my leisure, and enjoy it as John Geddes describes the scent beautifully in A Familiar Rain: “freshly cut Christmas trees smelling of stars and snow and pine resin – inhale deeply and fill your soul….”

          I consider the tree I put up a “real” tree in the sense that it carries the weight of Christmases past, the joy of Christmas present, and the probability that it will still be around for Christmas future. It is not one of those more expensive ready-lit trees; it is old, the branches are a bit unwieldy, and though sparse I have the tree in a corner and have trained the branches to curve to the front, so it looks much fuller than it really is.

          The tree is always dressed to the hilt—decorations drip from every branch and at the top is a little wooden plaque that I attach to a gold wicker star that declares: “Memories are made every Christmas.” Below it is a beautiful oval ceramic decoration given to me by my sister that purveys the sentiments of the season: “Behold I bring you tidings of great joy.”

          I understand that Christmas does not bring everyone joy. I am fortunate in that even though I have lost dear ones at Christmas, known of people who have had to deal with great tragedies during this festive season,  and had to deal with troubles of my own—the season brings a respite of sorts for me. I know it does not serve everyone this way—as I said, I am fortunate. (Living in temporary denial helps a lot—somehow I have the capacity to put reality on the back burner for a while.)

         

christmas tree with honest to goodness real ca...

christmas tree with honest to goodness real candles (Photo credit: ambienttraffic)

I remember reading books about Christmases past, in the days when the Christmas tree was not put up until Christmas Eve, and the crowning glory came when the lights were turned on (or lit during more historical and need I say it, dangerous times) for the first time. I love that tradition but not enough to relive it myself.  Amidst the daily grind, I enjoy being able to feast my eyes on something that takes me out of the moment and into a pleasant reverie.

          Last night I sat in the living room with all the lights out except for those on the tree—and the word magical sprang to mind. Transforming what is essentially a Charlie Brown Christmas tree into a thing of beauty is truly mystical. And that is highly representative of the season—it is mystical in the way it transforms even Scrooge attitudes into Tiny Tim’s way of thinking.

          Christmas does not solve all our problems but the season and its meaning, whether spiritual or secular (or both) gives us something to hang on to. There are those who believe that the “reason for the season” is not given enough air time; but I think that the feelings derived from Christmas do not have to be limited.

          There seems to be a controversy over whether one should say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”. I am not entering the fray—I will stick with Merry Christmas but happily respond to Happy Holidays. At this time of year we should practice tolerance and not get in a snit—stick to your guns and expect others to respect your viewpoint. Problem solved.

          I leave you now humming “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire”, dispersed with a little “I’m dreaming of a White Christmas” while listening for some “sleigh bells in the snow.”

Let’s get this party started!

1st December 2013, Sunday, Was that a snowflak...

1st December 2013, Sunday (Photo credit: tomylees)

I am providing you with a rare opportunity ~ a sneak peek into this week’s  newspaper column which is not due until tomorrow morning. As this is the first day of December I thought it was apropos. This is not hot off the presses–it is a look at something before it even meets the presses:     

            December really creeps up on us. It is not like we do not know that it is coming. But I am always a bit unprepared for this most magical time of the year. It comes directly after stealthy November, so why am I so surprised that there are now just a few weeks before Christmas instead of months?  I believe that my ability to live in denial gets me through November, but when December skulks out of the shadows and jingles its bells even I cannot deny that I should get in gear.

            So what gets you into the Christmas spirit? I devour Christmas magazines and cookbooks but seldom glean anything of import from them. I am not particularly crafty though for years I pretended—but now I just let the authentic me loose, and authentic me is not all that crafty.  I enjoy a bit of cutting and pasting but that gets old after a while and does not really get one much past making  Christmas cards, paper snowflakes, or the occasional bookmark. I think that my crafting phase has passed and though it was short-lived I did give it the “old college try” and if you happened to be the recipient of my craftiness, rest easy that you will not have to admire my “all thumbs” creations in the future.

          

English: A bauble on a Christmas tree.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  I do have a bit of a decorating bent, but find that I am thinking about the fact that what I gloriously decorate my home with will have to be taken down in about a month—so of late I tend to decorate with statement  pieces rather than all the small things I have collected over the years. The only place I break this rule now is the Christmas tree—mine drips with nostalgic tissue paper bells, popsicle stick sleds, pipe cleaner snowmen, and pinecones decorated with lots and lots of glitter. Sure my kids are in their twenties now—and are no longer producing these little works of art—but I keep them stashed safely away and bring them out every year reliving their childhoods when innocent belief reigned supreme.

            I remember those days of innocent belief, when I was not the purveyor of all things Christmas but an innocent and receptive beneficiary. As a kid, I could not believe that there could be a thing so wondrous as Christmas. My mother can be blamed in large part for this, as she created the best Christmases ever.  I remember going to my cousin’s house one Christmas and she showed me all the clothes she got and I recall thinking how horrible—mind you she was four years older than I, so at 13 she was very happy to get clothes, but at nine years of age I could not imagine worse presents. I told my mom then that I was really glad that Santa had not left me clothes. Dolls and books, games and toys were more my speed at that age—and Santa always made sure there was plenty to unwrap under our tree.

            At our house, we did not have the tradition of each person unwrapping one present at a time while the others in the family looked on—and though I now think it is a lovely way to celebrate—I liked the way we were each given a present and we all opened them at once. It added to the confusion and chaos of Christmas morning—which is one of its most attractive attributes to me. We were a family of six—mom and dad and two boys and two girls—and the mayhem was all part of the fun.

        

Charlie Brown Christmas Tree Shopping

Charlie Brown Christmas Tree  (Photo credit: K!T)

    Christmas past seems to play a large part of Christmas present. We remember old traditions and we keep them even if just in our memories. Some are translated to fit today; and others are kept intact to be celebrated over and over again. I have a rather bedraggled Christmas tree that my kids do not want me to get rid of because it is the one they remember from their childhoods. So every year we get it out and dress it to the nines, and it is transformed from a Charlie Brown Christmas tree to the belle of the Christmas ball. 

            So as this month of December gets started and we embrace it and all that it celebrates, we will enjoy the new season it heralds. Winter is made so much more palatable by the cheer imparted by the holiday season.

            In the immortal words of Pink: (Let’s) “Get this party started right now.”

ARE YOU READY FOR CHRISTMAS?

Thanksgiving 2013: A Good-Hearted Holiday

Next Monday is Thanksgiving Day in Canada so this is my weekly column welcoming the holiday of food and family and blessings. I am going to count this as my first post on blessings:

Thanksgiving Day Greetings

Thanksgiving Day Greetings (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 “Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action.”  ~ W. J. Cameron

            We all look forward to a long weekend, but a long weekend that includes Thanksgiving Day is just that little bit more special. There is a lovely nostalgia to the holiday and it is one that merely asks us to gather together, feast, and give thanks. In her book, “Family Traditions”, Elizabeth Berg says, “No one has been able to tamper with the essential good-heartedness of Thanksgiving Day, or to trivialize it; and probably no one ever will. For that alone, we can be grateful.”

            Thanksgiving does seem to be the one pure holiday left, unfettered by blatant and constant commercialization. We do not need special clothes to give thanks—our Sunday best or best jeans will do. We may send a card or two to special relatives far away, but there is no need for gifts. What is expected is that we gather together and feast on the harvest. And be thankful for family and friends and food. Back to the basics of life – camaraderie and feasting.

            I love the word feast—it has an old world feel to it that appropriately defines the groaning board that is our Thanksgiving. Most of us pull out all the stops for our Thanksgiving meal—almost in an attempt to be thankful for everything. Berg said her “grocery policy at Thanksgiving time is this: BUY EVERYTHING.” I guess her thinking is that if we are going to count our blessings, we should have lots to count.

            She also tells the story of the Thanksgiving when her father, somewhat of a gourmand, tampered with the menu. People politely “put a few crumbs of his oyster dressing on their plates, then relieved, stacked up high beside it the cornbread dressing we always have.” The two key words here are “always have”. We seem to have deep traditions when it comes to the Thanksgiving meal, and though cooking turkey is a bit more adventurous for me that I usually like to be, in the name of tradition and all things Thanksgiving, I serve turkey.

            Thanksgiving and tradition seem to go hand in hand. We all have our own special rituals and customs that it just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without. But I still think we can mix it up a bit and add something new to our old repertoire without taking away from the celebration. Over the years we have always celebrated Thanksgiving with the traditional dinner, but one year we went to the Point and cooked breakfast on Thanksgiving morning; another year we went to an apple orchard and picked apples, all the while our youngest son was wishing everyone a “Happy Turkey Day” much to the embarrassment of his older brother; some years we share our feast with others and sometimes it is just our family.

            Every Thanksgiving is unique but always with familiar elements. The word Thanksgiving itself is as Cameron quoted above says “a word of action.” In our celebration of the event we give thanks for our blessings. The day makes us more mindful of what we are grateful for and in being mindful we are being attentive to the things we tend to take for granted.

            Recognizing and appreciating what we have is the gift of Thanksgiving. And, if like Berg, we “Buy Everything” at the grocery store this one time of year, we are doing so to celebrate the plenty that is available to us.

            I will end with the first verse of The Thanksgiving Song by Mary Chapin Carpenter. The simple yet meaningful words encompass Thanksgiving for me:

            “Grateful for each hand we hold

            Gathered round this table

            From far and near we travel home

            Blessed that we are able.”

Published in: on October 7, 2013 at 5:47 pm  Comments (41)  
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Harbinger of Change

My weekly newspaper column:

Autumn

Autumn (Photo credit: blmiers2)

                   

  “Autumn, the year’s last, loveliest smile.” ~ William Cullen Bryant

 Autumn. Fall. A new season is upon us. It is a magical time of year and envelopes the end of summer with two seemingly opposed celebrations: Thanksgiving and Halloween. But I am getting ahead of myself here—there will be time for both of these festivities—juxtaposed as they are in the coming month.

            We still have a few days left of September where two seasons meet—one fades away as another takes the reigns. The changing of seasons reminds us of the passage of time. I try not to wish away time anymore which I suppose comes from knowing I have fewer years ahead of me than behind. There is certain wisdom in this, but also a determination that the best is yet to come. Not because wonderful things have not happened in the past, but that is the past, it is the present that should be paid attention to, paving a way toward a future, uncertain though it may be.

            I have been patient to this point, not bringing out too much of my fall décor until it was officially fall, but now all bets are off. Never mind that I have had my fall wreath on the front door for several weeks, or have changed up some of the candles to fall plums and pumpkin, or have an ornamental pumpkin sitting on my coffee table. And yes, just last week I gathered a few pinecones from beneath a tree at the park and have them nestled in a wooden box. Unbridled,  I will bring out my collection of pumpkins, my silk autumn leaves (okay they are not silk but suffice to say they are not plastic), and the rest of the flotsam and jetsam of autumn I keep boxed up waiting for this glorious time of year. {I often reflect how now I use the words glorious and lovely and other words of gush that at one time I would not have gone near with a ten foot pole—dare I say that entering the early (early—did I stress early?) fall of my life I am less reserved, more liable to effusiveness? }

     

Fall PEEC

Fall PEEC (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 I find that I am not the only one enamoured with the fall. In a way, I find others loving my favourite season a bit intrusive, making it no longer mine. But over the years I have learned to share, and in that sharing learned to appreciate it even more. I remember as a student, walking along the sidewalk to school, shuffling along in the leaves that had fallen; and looking around to see that no one was watching, then kicking them up, creating a mini-furor of colour. There is nothing better than walking through fallen leaves in the fall, the sound of the crisp crush under footfall.

            I will share a few quotes I found that speak to me of autumn, that share my fervour for the season that precedes winter. Perhaps my favourite is this one from nature loving author and journalist, Hal Borland: “Autumn is the eternal corrective. It is ripeness and colour and a time of maturity; but it is also breadth, and depth, and distance.”       

            Writer George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) declared, “Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” Lavish in her ardour for fall, I can quote the dear lady freely and feel that I will never attain her ebullience (in other words using “lovely” and “glorious” will still in no way put me in the same poetically lyrical class as this great writer).

            Rebel philosopher, Albert Camus said that “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is in flower.” And Samuel Butler declared something in the same vein saying, “Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruit.” Elizabeth Lawrence is a lady after my own heart—she believes that “Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn.” I can only imagine the patience this would take if one took her advice literally.

            I hope you have enjoyed our autumn journey, and if you were not a fan before—perhaps I have persuaded you at least a little to join me in the celebration of this new loveliest and glorious of seasons. (yes, my tongue is wedged firmly in cheek here).

Sweet Regrets

 

My Way: The Best of Frank Sinatra

My Way: The Best of Frank Sinatra (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you are human, you have regrets. Even Frank Sinatra “had a few, but too few to mention.” But today I am talking about sweet regrets—regrets that do not fall in the category of serious missed opportunities, things we want to repent,  or misgivings about what we might have said at a party after one too many. (Not me of course, but I have a friend………..ha ha)

Sweet regrets are those things that we look back on fondly—something we once had, but now only have only the memories–and yes maybe some missed opportunities, but missed opportunities that we can call on and wonder, “what if,….” but in a daydreamy kind of way and not with angst.

My sons are now in their twenties, and I regret that in the busyness of raising them, I may have missed out on really enjoying all the little wonderful things that happened.  The bouquet of dandelions brought to me by my eldest. The way my youngest got off the bus at the corner of our street and ran toward me with arms outstretched for a hug. There is nothing better than being the centre of the universe for your child. In time, it is short—but it is one of the loveliest memories I have.

I was fortunate to be the recipient of some advice given to me quite unsolicited at the grocery store when my oldest son was being somewhat “spirited”. He was two at the time—and I need to say no more—as everyone remembers what “two” is like. An older lady, seeing that I was perhaps a bit challenged walked up to me and said quietly “Enjoy him now, they grow so quickly.” I would on many occasions remind myself of her words—on those days when the third glass of milk had been spilled, or I had cleaned up the Legos and “car cars” one too many times. Her voice steadied me as my kids grew up. I think I can give her all the credit for having fewer regrets and more sweet memories.

My biggest sweet regret is that I cannot have a “do-over”—those days of youthful exuberance have been replaced by grown up boys—nay, men—though my youngest insists on calling himself a “man-boy”. (Just an aside here—aren’t all men man-boys; and all women merely girls with life experience?)

I have other sweet regrets—and while they are mine, they are not mine to share in a public forum. But they are part of me and inform the decisions that I make now.

What sweet regrets do you have that you can share?

Note: This post was inspired by a reply to a comment I made to notquiteold’s post Do-Over. In response, she said: “Sweet regrets is a perfect description.” Go to her blog to see why.

Published in: on September 13, 2013 at 1:03 pm  Comments (28)  
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A Quilt Scrap of Stars

Kingsville

Kingsville (Photo credit: Wilson Loo)

I live in town. About 8 blocks from uptown Kingsville on Lake Erie. About 7 blocks from downtown Kingsville. (Actually this is sort of a joke, because I do not know the difference between uptown and downtown ~ maybe I will Google it.) I am about two blocks away from the lake. One block away from our beautiful town park with rolling hills. The hills are very gentle, but in flat Essex County they are a rare commodity.
When I look up into the sky at night, I can see a sliver of the universe.  But I do not see the whole sky as there are trees and houses that block my view and streetlights that dim it.
I grew up in the country where the skyline went on forever, uninterrupted. I miss that. A blanket of stars and not just a quilt scrap. More than a glimpse at the moon but the moon in all its reigning glory.
I just read a post on the blog, lakesuperiorspirit by , and it reminded me of my childhood days in the country. Reminded is the key word as my experience was not the same as hers, but the endless sky hit a deep note of nostalgia for me. Check it out–It is called:
“How chickadees sleep at night in winter and other forest tales”.

What is your view of the night universe like? And do you know the difference between downtown and uptown?

A Blissful Trip Down Memory Lane

James Taylor at Christmas

James Taylor at Christmas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Shower the people you love with love
Show them the way that you feel
Things are gonna be just fine if you only will
Shower the people you love with love
Show them the way that you feel
Things are gonna be much better if you only will. ~  from “Shower the People” sung by James Taylor

Dr Bill Wooton provided the words and music to the whole song on his blog today, but I thought I would share the words I found most important – words which if taken to heart are really what life is all about. And these words are a gentle way of going into the weekend.

I am an unabashed fan of James Taylor—which I guess in some circles is not considered cool (not the circles that I travel in), but I do not care. I think people of my generation, the young Boomers, find his voice and words take us back to a time when we were young, but also speaks to us today.

Thanks Dr. Bill for the trip down memory lane. It was blissful.

What makes your trip down memory lane blissful?

Published in: on April 5, 2013 at 8:40 am  Comments (41)  
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Bliss Covered in Syrup

English: French toast served at Mac's Restaura...

French toast . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In honour of my son Tyler who is going back to school today after his Reading Week at college (something we more honestly called Slack Week when I was at university), I am going to provide you with a recipe of sorts – one that I am going to make for him this morning for the third time this week.

He loves French toast. Loves it. Can’t get enough of it. And he is always appreciative when I take the little time it takes to make this breakfast of champions (though sometimes we make it for lunch, and on occasion, supper.)

Tyler is my picky eater. Every family has one, but since he has been away at school his taste buds have expanded to include salad, grilled cheese sandwiches (his must have real cheddar cheese, bacon if he has it, and raspberry jam) and stuffed pasta (he used to eat pasta with just butter and salt—now he will eat three cheese ravioli), and sweet potato fries.

He was never a picky eater by choice—some things appealed to him and other things did not. Food had a yuck factor for him, and some of it still does, but I find it interesting that once he has been exposed to a variety of other foods outside our home, he is more likely to try them. He has five roommates in the house he lives in at college (which is only two blocks from Fanshawe in London) and so he is exposed to a lot of different tastes. They all  have one thing in common though: Pizza (which I consider a major food group and so do they).

I remember when I was in university (about the time that pizza was brought to the new world), I would eat pizza almost every night in residence—a bunch of us would go together and order one after studying or getting back from the school pub.

I realize I have digressed from today’s recipe—but French toast is not all that complicated.

French Toast à la Tyler

White bread – as many slices as you need to feed the people you are feeding ~ Tyler always has 3

I egg for every three slices of bread

English: Cinnamon

English: Cinnamon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Splash of milk

A little vanilla

Cinnamon sprinkled in

Syrup and butter – enough to drown the toast

Using a whisk, whisk the eggs and milk and vanilla and cinnamon together. Dunk the bread and put it in a hot frying pan. We just got a new big non stick frying pan and can cook three pieces at once. We flip them when one side gets nice and toasty. I eat the burnt ones.

I know this is not an official recipe – it is just a bit of a map that takes us on a journey to syrupdom.  It is meant to be more nostalgic than directive—but it is the last day I will see Tyler for several weeks (Easter is coming up)—so it is my goodbye to him today. (Don’t feel too sorry for me, I email him every day and I am one of his ten on his phone plan that he can call without charge—so we talk a lot).

Do you have any nostalgic recipes that give you or your family bliss?

A memorial of sorts

One Room School

One Room School (Photo credit: W9NED)

This is a shortened version of my column for the newspaper:

Sometimes writers need prompts. Something to get the juices flowing. This morning a prompt from WordPress read: “A place from your past or childhood, one that you’re fond of, is destroyed. Write it a memorial.”

And do you know what immediately came to mind? The one room school house that I attended for the first four years of my school life. It was called  Zion — and yes, we walked about a mile and a half to school (it seemed like five miles) but not in bare feet, or in ten feet of snow.

I cannot remember when the school was torn down, but whenever I pass the spot where it stood, a wave of nostalgia passes over me. I wish it were still standing, though if it were, it would probably have been turned into someone’s residence as so many of the smaller schools have been. Students who attended these schools were eaten up by either regional or town schools, but their experiences at the one room schools would never be lost.

I loved and hated that school. We were exposed to such a variety of kids that it really did stand us in good stead for a life that is made up of all kinds of people, and not just kids our own age. You learned how to cope, how to get along, and you learned that life was not always easy.

What I loved about the school was the fact that we were exposed to a unique learning experience. We learned our lessons, but were able to “listen in” on the lessons of the other grades, and if you were an eager student you garnered an education above your years. We did a lot of things together as a whole school. We played baseball together; we had a school choir where we competed at a yearly concert; we practiced for the yearly Christmas concerts together; and we exchanged names for Christmas gifts.  You were just as likely to end up with some grade eight boy’s name, as the girl who sat next to you in your grade.

What I hated about the school were the things most students would hate about any school—if you were picked on, or you were not quite up to snuff in sports, or if you were the teacher’s pet. But those were all valuable learning experiences as well, if not the most pleasant. (I still remember being taught how to make an iceball—a snowball with ice in the middle that hurt like heck if you got hit with it.)

One of the best things about a one room school for me was that the teacher had to divide her time among all the grades, so when she was not teaching you, you had all the time in the world to do your lessons, then read as much as you wanted. Since I loved to read, this was a real bonus for me.

After grade four,  I was moved to a regional school and put in a classroom of kids who were my own age. It was quite a transition. We had a teacher who was available to us all throughout the day, which was a good thing, but left little time to be on your own.

I am glad that I got to experience both ways of being educated. I would never give up the things I learned at the one room school house. To this day, I miss being able to see a piece of my history. The school was the same one my parents and aunts and uncles attended, and even some of my grandparents.  It was the true essence of community.

I will never bid a fond farewell to Zion—it will always be fraught with sadness.

Where is the bliss? Not in the fact that the school was torn down, but in the fact that it was a piece of my history. What piece of your history is missing, but still remembered?

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