The Future Is In Our Past -
Every once in a while something happens that triggers memories of times past and the feelings of nostalgia are overwhelming. A recent visit with Myra and Newman Head in Gander transported me back to the days when, disregarding the ever-present dark side, life seemed simple and good.
Myra and Newman have the best of both worlds. They have an apartment in the Golden Legion Manor for the winter and a house in Ragged Harbour for the summer. Thanks to the Royal Canadian Legion for having the foresight to construct the Manor.
It's not certain how many of us knew past times were good while we were living through them. Yet, upon reflection, we know that times were exceptionally prosperous in terms of community spirit and the fruits of the earth in Musgrave Harbour, Newtown and Lumsden. Confederation had suddenly made us all rich in terms of material goods but we hadn't yet lost the connection to the past, when people had to rely solely upon each other.
Both Myra's mother and my mother were Pardys from Musgrave Harbour. My mother was ever so proud of the fact that she was a Pardy, born on Hicks' Hill. She reminded me of that until the day she died. She also talked about a teacher, Miss Hoddinott.
My mother, a good student, never had a chance to shine academically because of family circumstances. Her father died leaving my grandmother with three young children to support - my mother, her older sister Daisy, and younger brother Max.
When my father died, my mother found herself in the same position in which her own mother had been - alone with a child to raise. She went to work for Canada Post, where she remained until she was 67, two years past the retirement age of 65.
Imagine my surprise when a note on a family tree, given to me by Myra's husband Newman, told my mother's story. "Nellie (my mother) was born on Hicks' Hill near Uncle Eli Hicks' and went to the Hicks' school. Her first teacher was Miss Emily Hoddinott."
Did someone record a conversation with my mother? Or does such information remain common knowledge in Musgrave Harbour? Who knows what people will choose to remember? Nevertheless, the words are written. Maybe not carved in stone, but recorded.
Myra Head has no idea how much she was admired when we were young. She came to live with us in Newtown where she was the Postmistress and Telegraph Officer. It impressed me immensely that she knew Morse Code and was a dab hand at it. When Myra married Newman Head, an up and coming schoolteacher, for me it was all part of a grand plan.
When my mother took me to Musgrave Harbour for visits, Myra and her friends always seemed to be dressed in the latest fashion. They looked like Hollywood movie stars in their suits and hats. Myra would tell me about their escapades as young adults and it all seemed so sophisticated and unreachable. It was probably Myra and her teenage friends who inspired in me a lifelong fascination with suits and hats, even when they're not in style.
My mother also took me to Ladle Cove where her sister, Daisy West, lived. Aunt Daisy's house was practically on the water and was in the midst of tall grass and buttercups in the summertime. Aunt Daisy's grandson Fred West is keeping the spirit alive by recording family trees.
My mother's brother, Max, married Sadie Coles from Aspen Cove. Aunt Sadie still lives alone, in Aspen Cove, at age 97. Aunt Sadie fed me one of my most memorable meals, even if it was as simple as fried eggs and homemade bread. Sometimes simple things with affection are better than anything money and fashion can buy. Coincidentally, Aunt Sadie's nephew, Curtis Coles, manages the Golden Legion Manor.
During our conversation about relatives Newman Head, ever the Philosopher, mused about how quickly we're forgotten once we're gone. We read the names on family trees and understand that we cannot escape the fact that we live and we die and all that remains, after we are gone, are memories. As time passes, even memories fade. In time nothing is left of once vibrant, interconnected human beings, without whom we would not have known life.
What's it all about is the question on everyone's lips? As my friend Marie Parsons said on Facebook, " Much of it is such a mystery."
Then Marie quoted words from Johnny Cash's song, Lonesome Valley, "Everybody's got to walk this lonesome valley; we've got to walk it by ourselves; there's nobody here can walk it for us; we've got to walk it by ourselves." Marie went on to say, "But having said that I think we can "lean" on someone while we're walking in the valley. I guess it is whatever we make of the hand that we are dealt."
Margaret Fairless Barber said, "To look backward for a while is to refresh the eye, to restore it, and to render it the more fit for its prime function of looking forward."
Amen to that!