Memories of growing up contest winners

Apr 13th, 2018 | By | Category: Arts & Entertainment

The following submissions about growing up have won three lucky readers an autographed copy of of Mary Cook’s new book Reflections, The Best Job in the World.

Bath night

By Cindy St. Michael-Bennett

The wind made a low howling sound, like a pack of hungry wolves. Snow blew relentlessly, the windows were glazed over with ice, as the heat from the old wood stove met the unrelenting cold of the mid-winter storm.

We lived along the shores of the mighty Madawaska River, and the wind whistled down the frozen abyss adding to the dance of the wind already circling our house on the hill.

It was Sunday, bath night in our house, ready for school bells on Monday. The flames licked upwards as mom added more wood to induce a wonderful fire to boil enough water to bathe seven kids.

We had a little room we used as a “bathroom” and it housed our pride and joy … the new tub! Dad had brought the beauty home from a farm call one day, and to the delight of our mother and seven anxious kids, it was a hit. It was not boasting of a white, shiny, porcelain finish, or fancy curved claw feet, but instead was a dull, plain, grey aluminum colour, just like the cows liked it! Yes, it was a water trough, used by cattle to quench their thirst. We had indeed graduated from mom’s little wash tub, to this elegant, stretch limousine model!

Pails of the hot, steamy, water were poured into the tub, followed by a few pails of cold, until the perfect temperature was reached. Towels, facecloths, and clean pyjamas were tossed into the room, and the process began. It wasn’t bad being the middle kid of seven, as it went from the oldest to the youngest,  changing the water colour from clear to dull grey. And it was then I truly learned why they said, “Be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water!”


Bringing home the Christmas tree

By Kevin Agnew

Bringing home the Christmas tree reminded me of Christmas’s past. How well I remember walking, on a very snowy Christmas, with drifts that seemed to draw us to a spot past the Coal Chute and the “best berry patch” on this side of the train tracks, through the hills and finally, to a field where, if I am right, Jim and I found “the” Christmas tree, chopped it down and then, laboriously dragged it home, even though we could hardly make it through the snow.

Christmas was such a wonderful time when we were kids! We would begin to feel the excitement when Mom took out the big white pan and mixed the Christmas cake. I can still get excited thinking of all the chopping and mixing of the fruit and nuts, the stirring of the batter and the smell of the cake baking … and the finished product. I have never seen a Christmas cake to equal the one Mom made for us. I see it yet in my minds eye, as the symbol of our Christmas.

Of course, school prepared us for Christmas too – the flurry of excitement preparing for the Christmas concert, the practising of Christmas Carols with the choir, the making of Christmas decorations and the Spiritual preparation with the onset of Advent. How we saved all those sweets so we could really enjoy them on Christmas day!

We would have our own little tree in our bedroom to decorate with handmade paper chains and a foil star. What excitement.

Our Christmas tree was always the most beautifully decorated in the whole world. How it shimmered and sparkled. We would hang red and green crepe paper streamers from the ceiling with a big red bell in the middle.

What would Christmas have been without the piano which Mom played while we sang –  and how we liked to harmonize. Who can ever forget the wonderful Christmas dinner with turkey, dressing and Christmas pudding!

There are so many things I haven’t mentioned, but, Christmas was wonderful!


The short cut

By Jean Anderson

It was all my eight-year-old scatter-brained idea to take a shortcut through old Mud Lake Swamp on a hot summer’s day back in 1969. Myself, sisters Ruthie and Patty and our very staid Corgi, Lady, headed out from our cottage at Noir Bay for the local tuck shop about one mile away. Our Laurentian summer afternoons were always headed up by an hour’s walk to get a nickel’s worth of ice cream at Rickey’s round the bay. It was sweltering hot and so on the return trip I suggested we take a shortcut through Old Mud Lake Swamp, which  was now a muskeg because the water had drained into Lake Louisette the year before.

What was I thinking? As we entered the old forest growth off the main lake road, I plucked a six-foot pole off the ground to use as a sounding measure. As we picked our way across the fallen rotting masses of moss covered trees, I measured the depths as we progressed. I remember saying in wonder, “Hey look, six feet down and there’s no bottom, cool!”

Approaching the shoreline of the muskeg, our pooch saw her chance to leap from third position on our leg to the lead. Six feet or so to terra firma, she leapt onto the deceiving green grass that grew as a film over the deadly bottomless muskeg. Wrong move! She was instantly quagmired and sinking fast … we didn’t have a moment to spare. We quickly setup a rescue line on the shoreline with Ruthie, the eldest at 10 years of age, flat on her belly. Next came Patty, all of five years, in the middle holding one of Ruthie’s hands.

“Grab my other hand Jeannie,” she said as I stepped forward into the miry muck. Quick as a wink I grabbed Lady’s scruff and she was instantly airborne for the shore. With a sharp tug I was pulled back onto land as well and we all collapsed in relief.

The moment was short lived for I quickly realized to my horror, that I had lost my five cent flip flop in the muskeg! “Hey” I hollered, “My flip flop’s in the bottom of the muck and we can’t go home without it!”

Emergency line reinstated, Patty held my ankles this time as I flopped across the surface grass and reached down into the cavernous depths made by my left leg and fished out out one flip flop. With that we traipsed down hill to the lake road and rounded the bay to our cottage.

As the home stretch loomed ahead, I suggested that we get cleaned up before appearing at the back door, so as not to arouse Mom’s suspicions. So, like four racoons slinking home at sunrise from the garbage dump (Lady and I could match the smell), we slunk over to the launch dock and washed away all the telltale evidence into the lake. We presented ourselves at the kitchen door to happily recounted to Mom what flavour of ice cream we had chosen that day.

It wasn’t until Christmas of 1998 that we confessed all to Mom. We all laughed until we cried, having survived the longest shortcut in the world. As I recall that adventure today at 62 years of age, I realize that a few guardian angels must have been on patrol out there with us that day, to pull off what was just about impossible for us so young. Well, who knows.

One Comment to “Memories of growing up contest winners”

  1. Cindy St. Michael Bennett says:

    Wow, I just checked in again and I see my story!! Thank you for selecting my story!

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