Trips With Mom and Dad

Linguists, with nothing better to do than secure grants to study this shit, have found that, when we refer to couples, we put the name of the person we knew first, first.  Duh!, and in related news, the sky is still blue and water is wet.  So, if we knew Bob first, we say Bob and Marg, but if we are Marg’s friend, we say Marg and Bob.  Take a look at the title and see who I knew first, and who was more important to me.

I loved both my parents, but Mom was my favorite.  I was born in 1944 in a small Ontario town.  Back then there was no Sunday opening, almost no businesses were allowed to operate.  Occasionally the local theater would have a Sunday midnight movie.  They could open the box office and you could purchase tickets from 11:30 PM, but no-one was permitted to enter the theater.  You had to go back outside and line up again for later entry, after it was officially Monday.

We didn’t get TV ’till I was twelve, and even then it was one channel from a farm-centered small city.  Sundays were often a challenge to fill the time.  My parents regularly bested the challenge by taking my brother and I for a ride in the car.  Sometimes we had a destination decided.  Other times we would get to the first main intersection and Dad would say, “I think we’ll go this way today”.

Mom’s relatives either lived in town or too far away for an afternoon ride.  Sometimes we would drive 25 miles to the town where two of Dad’s sisters lived.  Talk about innocent times.  If we visited the outlaws, Mom and Dad sat and talked for hours and we kids were just left to run loose.  We could have been anywhere, doing anything, with anybody, in a strange town, but we were never kidnapped or molested.  Sometimes we went to see Dad’s third sister.  She lived in a little three-room log cabin with an outhouse and an attic(?) which consisted of a few planks across the ceiling beams, and reached by ladder.  They needed the attic.  There were 7 kids.

They lived in the house as guardians of the attached saw mill.  We climbed all over the huge logs and ran in and out of the saw shed.  Did all kinds of stupid stuff but never broke anything, mine, or the mill’s.  Learned about peavey poles and drag harnesses.

Sometimes we went 25 miles in a different direction, to the nearest city.  Ten thousand population, big stuff for a small town boy.  It nestled in a bowl at the bottom of fifty-foot cliffs, on the rocky shore, at the edge the Niagara Escarpment.  It featured, right at the bottom of the cliffs, a lovely park.  It had a take-out food sales booth, at the end of a roofed eating area.  I don’t remember whether it was open on Sundays because, we didn’t usually eat at the park, and if we did we took a picnic lunch.  The place was landscaped, with big lawns and trails and play areas and a water plant section.

Either by passing this park and continuing on up the road to the top of the cliffs, or taking the slightly longer way around but avoiding the switchback down and then back up again, you could get to another park.  This one was just a county-owned lookout spot at a pretty little waterfall where the river dropped to feed the stream in the park below.  Again, boys being boys, I climbed and jumped off every rock in the place, and still got home in one piece, in time for supper.

Dad was an amateur entertainer.  I don’t know where he got his huge collection of jokes.  Probably the same place I got mine, everywhere.  He arranged the Saturday night party at the local Legion.  He hired a three-man band and sang with them.  He also slipped in the jokes and announcements.  He wasn’t a great singer, but they weren’t great audiences.

When we went on our trips, there were no radios in our cars.  Family time meant conversation.  I always thought of myself as an urban child, but I couldn’t go for a drive without learning something.  I was shown barns and silos, pigs and farm geese.  I had explained the difference between riding and draft horses. (Some farmers still used them: then, and there.)  I knew milk cows from beef cows, and could identify Jersey, Guernsey, Charolais, Angus and Holstein.

When the conversation and education ran out, my Dad might begin singing.  Seldom current songs heard on the radio, rather, what could be called traditional songs.  Songs similar to what the Canadian group, The Rankin Family put out a few years ago; Mary goin’ to a barn-dance, Bob working to get the hay in.  The details, sadly, are lost in the mists of time, except for one piece of doggerel.  A song with seemingly endless verses, each one of which was punctuated with the chorus, “Come a wim-wam-waddle, come a jack-straw saddle, come a John fair faddle, come a long way home.”  To this day I have no idea what that meant, except as a reminder of the much-missed, halcyon days of childhood.

If we drove south, we might stop in at a cheese-making plant.  Not necessarily 24 hour, but apparently 7-day operation.  As long as they didn’t sell anything, they weren’t OPEN.  I remember a couple of occasions when the kindly cheese-makers offered me some cheese curds.  To this day I don’t know what went through my mind.  I viewed those curds like space aliens and would have nothing to do with them.  These days, I pay five dollars for a plastic bag with a double handful at the farmers market.

I hitched up a team of mammoths to pull this big load of nostalgia.  It felt so good that I think I’ll turn on the time machine to go back to the past a few times in the future.