25 June 2018

Once upon a time in Avondale

Shortly after the birth of my daughter, a very talented and caring cousin wrote of his own childhood memories at The Maples. Jim Morrison was editor of The Bugle (Woodstock NB) and this was his weekly column for 21 November 1984. Re-reading it, I was, yet again, moved and wishing he was still with us.
No.1 and I were having a candlelight dinner one evening last week, a very special occasion as we welcomed a beautiful new addition to the family, so to speak. [Baby "M"], only a few weeks old now, was the centre of attention.

To tell the truth, No.1 and I are surrogate grandparents to MM, a role we accepted with enthusiasm and considerable pride.

But this isn't a story about the newest addition to the family. It's a "once upon a time" story, one of memories of earlier years. The mood was sparked by the candlelight dinner and the fact that the evening was spent in the old homestead where I had lived for a number of years while attending the one-room school in Avondale.

I may have had a few candlelight in the old homestead dinners, as a sub-teener, but I can testify to the fact that I had none under electric lights. There was no electric power in the old house in those days. It was either candles or kerosene lamps, mostly the latter.

In the short days of fall and winter, we had breakfast and supper with light from kerosene lamps. We studied with the same kind of lighting. And we played games under this soft lighting, and read books. Lots of books.

The visit brought back many memories of long walks to school, regardless of weather. Of skating on the large pond above the dam, of trips to the frigid two-seater at the back of the barn, of the steady, comforting warmth from the wood-fired kitchen stove and the sizzling hot old Quebec heater in the parlour...

The millpond was the best outdoor skating one could ask for. When there was no snow, you could skate for miles... and we did. There would be bonfires at night, both to give light and to keep us from freezing.

We used to skate and slide and toboggan more than is usual today. We were encouraged to spend as much time outdoors as possible.

In those early days of my youth there was no radio in the home, no television, no computer games.

The nearest 'town' was Hartland, about seven miles, and it was a treat to go there and visit relatives and do a bit of shopping. You went by horse and buggy or horse and sleigh or you walked. Woodstock was 12 miles away and you hardly ever made that trip.

The young couple we visited last week have never had the joy of such experiences, of course. The old homestead is more modern now, complete with electricity, running water (hot and cold), bathrooms with all the fixings, radios and television, and other electric marvels.

But there's something that hasn't changes about the old homestead: the warmth you felt as you enter the door. There's been an outpouring of love from The Maples and there still is. And the memories it sparks have a warmth of their own.