Tag Archives: childhood memories

A Special Place

24 Apr

HMMS

I grew up in the country.  All 3 of my brothers and I had the good fortune of attending a small rural school.  Now that I am in my ‘upper-mid 30’s’ I have the perspective to know what an absolute gem of a place that school was.  Our bus driver, Eugene, would burn by our house every morning in order to turn around at my grandparents garage a mile over the road.  I knew I had about 5 minutes to get my butt down to the end of the driveway.   The school is only a mile from where we grew up so the commute was short.  At the end of the school day, even that short ride felt long when you were hungry and tired because we played hard.  We had a real ‘Wildhood’ at HM MacDonald.

To give you some background info.  The school goes from grade Primary to Grade 6.   For the most part the same teachers taught myself and my siblings.  2 teachers retired after I had them (my class is legend to be the worst one in history… so we likely drove them to retire), but otherwise the teachers all stayed the same.  The classes were small.  I think one time we broke the 20 mark when a girl from British Columbia came into our class for a short time. Sierra.  I remember that ‘Come From Away’  girl clearly:  she had really long hair and it seemed so fascinating to be from Salmon’s Arm.  Her family mysteriously came and went.  There was a rumor that they left their dog in their freezer.  In grade 5 a piece was added to our school which enabled us to have more room and so they extended the school line. I remember we had a ribbon cutting celebration and different political officials came to our school for it. I graced them all with a tap dancing routine to Bobby Day’s 1956 smash hit – Rockin’ Robin.  I ‘time-stepped’ my way into our local newspaper.  I just laughed thinking of that.  When the new section opened we had a few jogging pant wearing kids from over the road join us.  Other than those few changes,  I basically had the same kids in my class all the way through.

Oh the memories.  When you have the same classmates, the same families, cousins in the school, the same teachers, the same janitor/bus driver and the same playground supervisor everything felt so secure and safe.   Of course there were the usual issues – bullying, cat fights, back talking and of course sour milk.  Literal sour milk.  We had a milk program at school and it has scarred me more than any bully did.  The milk was often on the warm side and I never liked it.  One time I complained that the milk was sour and my teacher said it wasn’t.  IT WAS.  Until this day I cannot drink milk on its own from an unknown source.  I have PSMDD – Post Sour Milk Drinking Disorder.

I know for certain that HM MacDonald helped me grow my confidence.  With confidence you can communicate better, be empathetic, be compassionate, take risks, think big and have a more positive outlook on life.  No one fell through the cracks.  We all knew each other and so it became a safe place to do public speaking, singing in the Christmas concert (or getting the golden speaking roles if we did a play) or strike out at baseball.   I could tell stories for hours about my memories from that school.  The time (when in grade 5 and 6) Allan and Brent stole the school bus and ripped around the soccer field with it.  Or when we were out past the buzzer and saw our teacher tramping across the soccer field to get us – Randy fell out of the tree he climbed and broke his pelvis.  When Amanda put a tack on the teachers desk and he sat on it.  When Bradley had gas so bad in class that our teacher sent a note home to his parents about his diet.  Or Miss Hickey (our completely bizarre music teacher) who made us study Beethoven and Bach in grade 3.   When we turned against our sweet bus driver/janitor Eugene and got a petition to have him removed from the school for smoking in the furnace room.  On a more scholastic note: Mad Math Minutes, Reach for The Top and science fairs.  Having to take the bus to Lakevale School to have enough kids to make two teams from and track and field day in town.  Hotdog days when it was your Mom’s turn to serve.  Cake walks where it didn’t matter who made the cake or what was in it – you ate it and loved it.  Participaction with Hal and Joanne.  Mass in the school gym on Wednesday mornings.  That canopy where you all run into the middle and it goes up into the air.  Fiercely competitive dodge ball.   The ‘Humping Cabin’ the boys made up in the woods behind the school.  To be clear – no humping ever happened.  The boys would make humping like motions while walking into it.  Heads Up 7-Up.  Hatching chicks every spring in our classroom.  Crazy high swings and those frigging monkey bars that everyone fell off at some point.  I could go on and on.  I am sure my brothers could add in countless memories they too have.  We all made life long friends from our days at HM MacDonald.

As like many other families who came through HM MacDonald; my siblings and I have all done well for ourselves.  When someone complimented my Dad (who is a terribly modest creature) on his children he said ‘that was largely because of their Mom not me’.  While our parents and genetics play a big part in who we become so does the community you grow up in.  I know for certain that our elementary school days greatly impacted our characters and potential.

I read this week that the school board is looking to shut down HM MacDonald. This announcement came out of the blue as it is a thriving school with full classrooms and a small operating budget.  Tears came to my eyes when I read it.  The idea of kids from our community taking long bus rides to be placed in big classes breaks my heart.   It is a special place.  There are so few special places like this left.  We need to nurture them not close them down.

Are you there God? It’s Me, Emilie. Part 2

5 Mar

As yesterdays post explained I have been reading through old journals of mine and getting a large kick out of the stuff I wrote.  Here is another favorite.

Background:

My mother is a retired nurse and for much of my childhood she worked shift work.  This meant that she worked some weekends.  Due to her schedule Dad was left to man the ship.  One time my little niece Cora was having a tender moment with my brother when she said ‘Daddy, I love you.’  He was flattered and said ‘Oh Cora, I love you too.’  A moment later she said ‘But I definitely love Mommy more.’  You know Mom’s just do things right when you are a kid!  She made cinnamon toast, tuna delights and she was way better at rubbing your back when you were barfing.  So this entry from my journal came on a weekend when Mom was working, I was apparently bored out of my skull and I wanted something to do.  It makes me realize how crazy different life is for kids now.  

Entry

Saturday May 23rd, 1991 (I was 11)

Mom is working days this weekend.  Chris and Stephen are working at Jimmy’s and David is away at a tournament. Dad was planting the garden most of the day and the dog was with him. (insert – in most of my entries I started off with saying what everyone else in my house was doing).

I got up this morning at 8:15.  The boys left a bunch of dishes (of course) on the table so I cleaned those up.  After that I watched TV for a little bit and went outside to see what Dad was doing.  He was planting potatoes. I didn’t want to do that so I only stayed there for a little bit.  I asked Dad if I could walk over to Grandma’s and he said I could.  (insert – Grandma’s house is a MILE away.  She had cable and Fudgeo’s; we didn’t have either of those things because they didn’t bring the cable lines out past her house and Mom baked everything from scratch).  I walked to Grandma’s and saw some people picking bottles in the ditch along the way.  Grandma asked me to do her hair when I got there and I also put the vibrating massager on her back.  I don’t like doing either but Grandma would tell me I am lazy if I didn’t do it.  One of the workers from Newfoundland came to the house looking for some money.  Grandma told him he already got his pay and said that he should think about what he does with his money because a pay is meant to last a week.  Dad picked me up.  We went to church in Maryvale at 7.  I was really hoping Sarah was going to be in church but she was at her Aunt Lynn’s in Guysborough (darn).  One of the Gerrior kids cried the entire mass.  Mom was home when we got back.  There is a hockey game on (boo) and of course Dad is watching it.  Now I am in bed.

End of entry

Are You There God? It’s Me, Emilie

4 Mar

I did some organizing about a month ago and found some of my old journals from when I was between the ages of 10 and 13. I’ve been home sick for 3 days so I have some extra time on my hands; I’ve been reading my entries and dying laughing.  As an adult I am not one for flowery emotions and drama – I am pretty practical and nonchalant.  It seems I was that way as a kid too. One of my favorite books growing up was ‘Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret’: a book that details the thoughts and emotions of a 6th grade girl.  Boys, bras, periods, family disputes and everyday emotions. I wasn’t so much like Margaret as I didn’t really ‘journal’ so much,  I more ‘documented’ the daily going ons in our house.

Below is one of the entries from my journal.  To give you a better understanding here a few additional details:

I grew up on a hobby farm.  We had a few horses, a few cows, pigs and some chickens.  We only had female cows.  If Dad wanted one of the heifers to get pregnant he would need to call Joe Van De Valk and ask him to come over when she was in heat. Joe Van De Valk is not a bull from a local farm, he is an Artificial Inseminator. Joe was somewhat deaf so he spoke in a not typical manner (which was great as I love to do impersonations of people and I can do a humdinger impersonation of Joe).  Once we got older we had a great nickname for him ‘The County Cow F*&cker’

Saturday, October 5th, 1991 (I was 11)

“Joe Van de Valk came over today. I woke Dad up because he was taking a nap when I saw his van pull in the driveway.  Dad and I went up to the barn.  When we got there Joe pulled out a catalogue with pictures of bulls in it.  He said ‘Jesus Christ Leonel I got some real nice stuff today.  That fella there (pointing at a picture of a bull from Ontario) he has some beauty calves.  Throws big ones.’  (insert – just like a modern day sperm bank Dad would choose the sperm from the most suitable bull).  Joe then put on a glove that went up to his arm pit.  After that he pulled a long rod from what looked like a bucket with dry ice in it.  He then took his arm with the rod in his hand and put it up the cows bum.  Ginger bawled.  After some poking and prodding he took his arm out.  The glove was full of hot steamy manure.  After Joe left Dad and I went into town and picked David up at basketball. When we got back it was lunchtime and Dad made us cream peas on toast (like he always does when Mom is working).’

End of entry.

The truth is…

22 Jan

Image

Seeing as I am Canadian I sometimes feel pressed to say that I like winter.  In truth: I hate it.  It makes me feel like less of a Canadian but I can’t hide it anymore.  As I type this post I am sitting in sunny Hawaii soaking in vitamin D and feeling fabulous.  I just received an email from my mother saying that a foot of snow is expected this evening and that today the local plough shed burnt down along with 3 ploughs.  Isn’t that bad timing?  I clearly remember being a kid and on the days that it was storming we would wait by the radio to hear if school had been cancelled or at the very minimum that our bus was going to be late.  This is the time in my life when my hatred for winter began…

I grew up in a community called Maryvale (the department of highways moved the sign once and for 2 years we lived in North Grant)  and where my parents house is we call it Hell’s Gates (original I know).  There is a weird combination of a small mountain, a 200 acre open field across the road and some kind of wind tunnel.  From November until March our entire life was controlled by the weather.  I remember waking up and thinking the bloody Apocalypse happened – our windows would be covered in snow, the car was buried in snow and wind howled like crazy.  Whatever plans I had that morning were at the very least delayed or even cancelled.  We would need to wait for someone to come and clear our driveway out and that could take hours.  After a few storms snowbanks would pile up higher than the roofline of our house.  So after waiting 2 hours, pulling on snow attire, warming the car up, and clearing the car off we would attempt to get out of the driveway (this was a whole other challenge).  My Mom would throw her aside her conservative ways – she would turn into Mario Andretti in an attempt to get out.  The end of the driveway was usually a total whiteout in both directions.  Someone would have to get out of the car and stand in a place where they wouldn’t get hit in order to see if any cars were coming.  The wind would be blowing so strong that this already hateful event was made worse. So, Mom would hammer the gas down, we would fishtail out of the driveway and spin down the road.  We would think Old Man Winter had lost his mind, however, when we got a mile over the road all would be relatively peaceful.  I can’t tell you how many people went off the road in the front of our house – we always had knocks at the door from forlorn travelers stuck in the ditch.  There was a few years when the military actually came in with some sort of a machine that blew the snow so high/far I think it ended up at the North Pole. The Department of Highways for many years put a snow fence across the road in an attempt to block some of the blowing snow. Waiting for the school bus was a brutal cruelty – it would get so windy and wild that my brothers (probably begrudgingly) had to hold my hands so that I wouldn’t blow away into the great white abyss.  Seeing that big orange school bus pull up was the most amazing feeling. We got so much snow at our house that we would jump off the roof of the house into drifts.  I think David lost his boots on one plunge and they weren’t recovered until the spring.  When we were kids we had so much fun outside – playing in the snow, jumping off the house, cross country skiing, but that was when I didn’t know what day of the week it was, I didn’t have to run errands, I didn’t cook my own food, I didn’t have to clean, I didn’t have to work – i didn’t have anything to do other than play. Now, all winter brings me is shoveling, a dog full of snowballs and cold hands and feet. 

Fashion is a big part of winter that is a challenge for me as well – salt stains make my blood boil, when I put on a pair of pantyhose/tights I nearly have an allergic reaction, my head is too big for most fashionable hats and I detest how pasty my poor legs become due to not seeing sunlight for 5 months.

The good bits of being a Canadian exceed my strong feelings about winter and thus I have not given up my citizenship, but I think we need to add another province to Canada (one that is sunny all year round) – let’s trade in our worst province for Turks and Caicos.  I would volunteer to be the first resident.