Today two friends from childhood visited me in my studio. It was a sudden unexpected visit. My favourite kind.
Shirley Pomroy and her sister Moe lived three doors up the hill on the other side of the road. After school Shirley would come to my house for French fries. We would play.
On quiet grey Sunday afternoons I would go to her house and we would eat thick slices of homemade bread smothered in cabbage water. She was one of about eleven kids who were all still at home.
I was the youngest of seven, six who had moved away. I remember her mother with her dark Irish hair and fair skin leaned over a Singer treadle machine, sewing. She made tailored suits for my sister who would bring out grey pin striped wool cloth from St Johns where she worked in a bank.
We grew up on a hill in clapboard houses that shook and lifted in the wind. Our windows rattled and we ate porridge and corned beef and cabbage and salt fish. We were soaked in culture but absent in the knowledge of it. We had everything we needed but we had nothing at all. Forget me nots grew in the ditches outside our houses and our yards flowed down to the sea. We walked across gravel paths, and threw rocks, and caught Caplin in white buckets.
Our lives were so simple. Today as we talked, things we had not thought about in years came flooding back. The things we never knew or understood. The beauty that surrounded us, that we loved and took for granted, at the same time.
My show of hooked rugs called The Very Mention of Home was hanging on the wall when they came. As I look at it now every rug is connected to our stories. They are the symbols of what we left behind and of what we found.
Neither of us think daily of what we had there as a lament. But as we said good bye, our eyes filled up, and I think it is because when ever you find something new there is so much lost in the old. There is so much lost in what you left behind. So much so that you cannot remember unless you see the others who were there and knew what you knew, and heard what you heard and saw what you saw. We know each other’s stories.
So our eyes filled as they left, not so much for each other but for some kind of beauty and innocence that has been lost and forsaken for what we now have and what we know to be blessings. For none of us would go back there to that place and time but neither would we forsake those long afternoons of not knowing about the big world outside of the bay we lived upon. Of sitting on Sunday afternoon with nothing to do but look out upon that bay and wonder what was beyond it.