What we leave behind

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.

13 thoughts on “What we leave behind

  1. Having returned to the small town where I grew up and running the small Archives in the local library, I am touched by your memories and your ability to write about them. I luckily am able to walk down the streets and sometimes meet the friends of my childhood more often than most.
    Enjoy your rug hooking tips.
    Marlene
    PS I learned to hook from a 99-year-old neighbour in Victoria b.c.

  2. I agree with Heather. You never really leave that place that is settled in your heart. Your lines brought tears ( and happy memories) to my eyes. ,
    Pat R.

  3. I live in Victoria, BC. I moved here 27 years ago, love it. My great grandparents raised me and yes we had nothing but we had everything we needed. I am very new to rug hooking so still learning a lot. I love reading your articles and you are such an inspiration to me and keep me smiling. Thank you. Dee Henderson

  4. What wonderful memories your blog shook loose from my cobwebby brain. I had the same kind of childhood. We had little, but we had more than enough. We played kick-the-can in the street, hide and seek, paper dolls, built forts with blankets draped over furniture, and so on. We slurped homemade popsicles on hot summer days and yummy warm cocoa on dreary winter days. No TV, no video games or electronic distractions. Just real life in a loving home with kindly neighbors. Thank you for reminding me.

  5. We passed the highway sign advertising your rughooking 4 days ago on our way across Canada to visit our son in North Vancouver. I made a comment to my husband about who you were & that I would love to drop in on our way home. I passed by your house every day back & forth to school. I can picture it now. We had a very safe & happy childhood with wonderful memories. It ts certainly very special to connect with someone who experienced those same memories.

  6. Deanne this was so beautiful, I have tears for what you had and how you have brought your past to life. Congratulations it is a pleasure to know you.

  7. I too loved this post. Our childhood carries us through life. Having a childhood friend to remind us of things forgotten is wonderful I too have a childhood friend and although we don’t get together often when we do its a wonderful thing. Thanks for sharing.

  8. When I hear others Lament about the bad or ugly in their past I try to encourage them that it is the good and the bad that makes us the person we are today. The things I didn’t have as a child makes me so thankful for the blessings I have today. I loved this story. Thank you!

  9. Such a lovely post made me think of my poor upbringing but the laughter that was heard as the whole neighborhood played kick the can
    Cathy

  10. Beautiful words again. Written of memories that bring back the memories of your readers. My memories of white picket fences, climbing trees, playing with neighboring friends, riding our bikes all over the neighborhood, and now wondering what happened to them after we moved away…..

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