Unfilled Spaces

You used to sit opposite me,
in a chair designated
as yours.
While around us and beside us,
our children and their friends
came and went,
through open doors.

The room is rearranged now,
no special chair is there
as yours.
While around me and within me,
the memories and their echoes
come and go,
through half closed doors.

{Christmas Eve 2017}


A Piece of Memory

Old china piece

A fragment of broken china
unearthed from the past;
once treasured by my mother
but broken at the last.

Its a tenuous connection
to a home no longer there,
where love and laughter reigned
amidst the daily work and care.

But things do not connect me
to a place and people gone;
its the memories that I carry
that warm my heart, each day along.

Journal Keeping

Every day I write
The events that occur.

My life is quite ordinary,
There is nothing
Stupendously Important,
happening here.

But in twenty years or so,
when I read back
the record of daily events
for me, or my family;

I am brought
to remember again.

Tonight I touched a button,
-Accidentally it is true-
And I lost a whole month
Of presently written words!
And future remembering!

Mind Pictures

{Concluding part}
The roles of male and female were clearly defined and I cannot remember hearing any of the women of that generation bemoaning their lot. Nor, I might say, the men either.
My mother always wore an apron at home while doing her chores-which were almost non-stop because we were a large family. In the late afternoon/early evening before my father returned for his meal at the end of his working day, my mother would replace her apron with a clean one and comb her hair afresh. I now appreciate her example of physical appearance as pleasing to my father. That she, being weary from her day’s toil, which was not yet finished, took the time and made the effort to do this, impresses me greatly. I feel a touch of love there in those simple actions and am grateful for it.

Life was not all work in those “back-there” days and as children we enjoyed lots of play in the fresh country air, most of which we engineered from our own minds. I remember collecting buckets of the wild growing blue bells {a kind of inedible berry} with my younger siblings and leaning over the top side of the bridge, tipping them into the river we rushed to the lower side of the bridge and watched a purple blue tide roll by.

Before we learned to swim our mum would sometimes take us to a part of the river where sloping stones held a pool in the bottom of their meeting together. We were allowed to soap the stones and slide down them into the pool. In time all we nine children learned to swim and enjoyed many happy times on hot afternoons at the river, often with mum and dad there too.
{My dad always swam with his shoes on, and my uncle with his hat on!}

We lived near the site of a large sawmill and dad and the older boys would strip some slippery bark sheets off a tree and we would sit on them and swoop down from the top of the huge pile of sawdust to the bottom in a wild ride, only to troop back to the top and do it all over again. At night there were board games like Ludo, Snakes and Ladders, Draughts and so on, and dad and the “big boys” often played cards.
{There was no TV or computers of course, and no electricity in our district until I was in my late teens.} We also played verbal word guessing games, either for spelling the words or defining their meanings. We used to have a “bobs” set which we played on the quite long kitchen table-it was long because we all had a seat there for our meals.
Bobs was something like billiards, yet nothing like it, I suppose the only real similarity was that one had to shoot balls into holes, but numbers counted so if one was smart enough to get the right ball into the right hole then a better score was reached. {Depended on whether one was too small to reach the table top and hold the cue maybe?} At one time we also had a table tennis set-kitchen table again handy!
I remember building a ride-on buggy with two of my younger brothers and we had lots of fun running it down the hill, as one of us sent the other off with a push.
Taking turns was not an option for us, it was an expected behaviour.

Our parents passed on to us a love of reading and that was the main relaxation during the evenings in quiet times. I well remember when my mum and I were alone for lunch at the time the older siblings were at work and younger ones at school: we would sit one each side of the kitchen table and as we ate we each had our books propped up!
My love of reading has never diminished and I enjoy the companionship of a multitude of characters who enter my life through the pages.
My mum had a lovely voice and one beautiful memory I have of her is when she took us for a moonlight walk, and coming home we all sat on a log as she sang us a lullaby.

Hard days, some may say these were, but they rest happily in my mind, and memories bring back the love of good parents who cared for us all, and taught us to live in ways that brought happiness not only to us but to others as well.

{There is much more I could write but having written a lot in my personal memoirs I will refrain from doing so here}

More Mind Pictures

{Continued from yesterday’s entry}

Men of course also worked extremely hard, my own father as a sawmiller and later as a small-fruit grower. The modern sawmillers of today have their work streamlined by machinery, whereas in the yesterdays of my childhood it was hard “hands on” labour. My father was the “header in” at the sawmill he owned, this meant that he pushed huge billets -logs cut from a tree and shortened into various lengths- along the bench and into the big circular saw. Someone on the opposite end of the bench grabbed hold of the billet as it came through, he was known as the “tailer out” and as they grew old enough, they would usually be one of my brothers. The billets having been split in this way were passed through continually until the whole were cut into whatever length boards were required for the orders. Very large logs were pushed through a “breaking down” bench first and then in more handable size transferred to the other bench. Someone used a smaller bench and saw, where the boards were cut into shorter lengths, especially those required for making cases for apples to be packed in. The person who operated this bench was called the docker. Trees were felled by axe and crosscut saw, where two men each held an end of the saw and pushed and pulled as required to saw down the tree. Before the sawing began the axe was used to cut a “front” in the tree so that it would fall in a certain direction. Horses were hitched to the fallen tree and pulled it into the mill. One of my brothers was usually the horse driver.
Thus our parents taught us the necessity of work, and of work on a regular and thorough basis.

When I was in my teens our father had cultivated a small-fruit farm, growing strawberries, raspberries, black currants and loganberries.
Each of we children still living at home were expected to work in picking the fruit in the ripening season. There seemed to be an endless succession of golden sun and blue skies days-sometimes too hot!-that we enjoyed during this time. Our dad was a fair taskmaster and paid his children the equal amount that other pickers from outside the family received. Each day after we had finished-and some of those days may have started at 5 a.m. and ended at around 7 p.m. or after- the fruit was weighed, and each person’s tally entered into a book which was the season book for that year. At the end of the season when our dad had received his cheque from the fruit processors we were duly paid. I can well remember the wonderful shopping trips that were planned mentally over the six to eight week season and the culmination in a trip to town, over forty miles away.

{to be continued}

Mind Pictures

{Some few years ago I began to write memories from my childhood of the people who peopled it, so this is the first part of those mind pictures imprinted on my childhood memory}

This began as just a few of the things that stay in my memory of the woman who gave birth to me and raised me but may progress to other aspects of my growing years and the people that inhabited them.
Maybe the foremost thing about Mum was her always being there. She was a constant all the days of my childhood; the only times I remember her being absent were when she birthed younger siblings, or when she was ill.
The first time I remember her being ill I saw from the comfort of my bed, that my father and elder brothers were carrying her through the living room on a mattress. I didn’t see but I knew, that they placed her on the back of my father’s truck, which was our transport then. I waited for them to return, whether I slept or not during the interval I do not know, but I saw my father carry in the mattress without my mother on it and I waited for her to walk in behind him, but she did not appear. The next morning we younger ones were taken to our neighbour’s home where we found our mother being cared for in bed. I don’t know the nature of her illness because I never thought to ask her, nor do I know how long she was away from home but I well recall the bereft feeling that swept over me the evening she did not return with my father and brothers.
When my four younger siblings were born we older ones who could not be left at home, were taken into the homes of relatives or friends of my parents, until she came home with the new baby.
When I was twelve years old, Mum went to hospital for a serious operation and was hospitalised for a month. I was exempt from school, which ended my formal education, as I was needed at home to care for the family during Mum’s absence.
This was a big ask of a girl of my age and I remember my aunt from next-door coming sometimes on washday to give me a hand. I look at the girls of today of that age and am thankful for the training my mother had given me previous to that time as to how a house was managed. All the tasks were harder then because there were no things such as electric washing machines in our home, or in homes generally, we did not even have a hot water system. Hot water for doing the washing was heated at first in a wood-fired copper, later an electric copper was purchased. All clothes were washed by hand and if they were of boiling material, then boiled in the copper, lifted out with a “pot stick”, and rinsed twice and wrung by hand, before being hung on the line to dry. When dry, they were ironed with a “flat iron”. This was an iron made from cast iron and with a flat plate on the bottom; it was stood in front of the fire to heat-or placed on top of the wood-heated stove. Two or three irons were used at the one time so that there was always another one heated when one was replaced because it had cooled. Thus washing day and ironing day was a large chore and I have clear memories of my mother doing these things.