“That’s my father.” … Seemingly an innocent and offhand remark made by the youngest of his three children, those three little words meant much more to our dad. I know it made him feel proud and happy to be that father, that figure of authority and loving protector of his family.
It was a responsibility he took seriously, a role that only he could execute with his unique brand of friendship, understanding and humour…”
“Daily Post Prompt: Never Again – Have you ever gone to a new place or tried a new experience and thought to yourself, “I’m never doing that again!” Tell us about it.”
On Saturday, I saw this photo on Facebook that brought back a memory for me. Also on that day, I read the above prompt from the Daily Post. So I couldn’t resist sharing said event from my childhood.
My friend Nancy, my younger sister Lynn and I were walking home from school one late afternoon in St. John’s, when we noticed from the Boulevard the many ice pans on the surface of Quidi Vidi Lake. I think it might have been spring thaw.
Quicker than you can say “last one in is a rotten egg,” the three of us ran down to the lake’s edge, dropped our book-bags on the shore, and proceeded to jump from ice pan to ice pan across the surface of the deep water. Not once did either of us think anything could go wrong. I guess we were so young and naive, we had no fear of the risk we were taking.
Luckily, Nancy’s father happened to drive along the Boulevard while we were playing there. Before we knew it, we were swiftly ordered into his car and driven home. At the time, we didn’t feel so lucky, but I shudder at the thought of what could have gone down if he hadn’t. Perhaps all of us!
Of course, our parents were outraged and we all received our punishment. The next time I saw my friend Nancy, she told me that her father gave her a good spanking.
“And that was it?” I asked, incredulous. My parents didn’t give spankings as discipline. They knew what really hurt: grounding my sister and me for a full week. No outdoors for seven days except to go to school.
I remember thinking at the time that Nancy had gotten off easy compared to us. Yes, she’d endured a spanking, but at least her suffering was “behind” her. 😉
Now I realize Mom and Dad had wanted us to appreciate how dangerous our activity was, by giving us a whole week to think about it. Never again did we dare to risk drowning by “copying pans.”
*copy: To jump from one floating pan of ice to another in a children’s game of following or copying a leader when the ice is breaking up in spring in a cove or harbour. A game of follow-my-leader over the broken ice, every cake of which, it may be, sinks under the weight of a lad. It is a training for the perilous work of seal hunting, which came later in the life of Newfoundlanders. You will see the merry young lads ‘copying’ as they call it—jumping from pan to pan till far out in the Cove in fearless rivalry. ~ Dictionary of Newfoundland English
Did you ever jump on ice pans when you were a kid?
Have you ever done something new and regretted it?
When my husband Paul was six years old, he and his family moved from Newtown, the little community in which we live now, to live in the capital city of St. John’s. Their parents relocated so that David, Paul’s oldest sibling, could attend the Vera Perlin school for his special needs. On the day of the big move, Paul crawled up under the house – the actual house we live in now – in a show of protest. “Everyone should be able to live where they were born,” he argued, but the die had been cast. He was pulled out and packed into the car with everyone else.
On the very first day at their new school, Paul and his other brother, Kevin, who is one year older, decided to walk home from school for lunch, despite being told to stay there and eat the lunch they’d brought. But when they saw other children going home, they wanted to go as well. Unfamiliar with their new neighbourhood, the two boys got lost, and Kevin started to cry.
Brave little Paul tried his best to console his big brother by distracting him. “Don’t cry, Kev. Look at the pigeons,” he said, pointing at a bunch of them as they waddled across the sidewalk, hoping the strange, tame city birds might cheer him up. It worked, and they ended up following a classmate to his house. Between the jigs and the reels, their dad had to leave work and go pick them up.
Let’s go back a couple of years, when Paul was four and Kevin was five, to another time the younger boy displayed his wisdom. A new addition to the family of three boys had arrived, and this time, it was a girl! When their mom brought baby Julie Ann home, the boys crowded around to get a look at their new sister. Kevin’s eyes opened wide when her diaper came off to be changed. “Look, Paul,” he said, incredulous. “She ain’t got nar topper!” (penis)
“No, ya foolish,” Paul said, enlightened beyond his years. “She got whatever Mom got.”
Now before you think I’m beating up on my brother-in-law, I’d like to share one more tale. Okay, two. When Paul was about nine and enjoying his summer holidays in Newtown, Kevin saved him from drowning. Paul was diving with some other boys off of Burnt Island, but he tired in the deep water and panicked. Kevin grabbed him by the hair on top of his head and pulled him to safety.
Years later, when Kevin was just beginning his teaching career, he and Paul were driving along in St. John’s one evening. Without warning, Kevin pulled over, stopped the car, and jumped out. He’d spied two teenage boys in a fist fight near the local hockey rink, and he wanted to stop them. Paul watched as he parted the boys, reasoned with them, and ended the scuffle.
It was a day he never forgot. Where most people would just keep going and not get involved, Kevin stepped in and tried to solve the problem. It made Paul really proud of his brother.
Paul confessed there were other boyhood fights where Kev stepped in and rescued Paul himself, fights my husband started and couldn’t finish. I would say he’s grateful for those too. And so am I. 🙂
When we were little children, my dad worked as a salesman. Sometimes he had to leave his young family to go on short business trips. On several occasions and if we were on summer vacation, he would take us along, and he would make a working holiday out of it. We loved to stay in whatever motel or hotel he booked for us. It was on one of these little motel stays that I saw my first TV program in colour (I’m telling my age here, for sure). And of course we enjoyed the novelty of eating in different restaurants each night.
Most of the time though, Dad’s job only required him to be away from home from nine to five, Monday through Friday. One particular day, as he was getting home just before supper, he got out of his car and noticed my little sister playing outside with her friend. He heard her as she turned to her playmate and said in a proud but quiet tone, “That’s my father.”
That little memory always made my father smile when he shared it with someone. Seemingly an innocent and offhand remark made by the youngest of his three children, those three little words meant much more to him. I know it made him feel proud and happy to be that father, that figure of authority and loving protector of his family. It was a responsibility he took seriously, a role that only he could execute with his unique brand of friendship, understanding and humour.
We had our dad with us through all the joy and the turmoil of growing up, and for many years after. He stood by me twice as I married, giving me away to another man who professed his love. But when we lost him almost ten years ago to the devastating illness known as ALS, none of us were ready to say goodbye.
Today is his birthday. Happy Birthday, Dad. He would have been seventy-nine. It was my wish to let everyone who reads this blog today to know a little bit about him. He was a man I was proud of, and still am. Why?