When I was a small child, my parents used to pile us all into the family car and we’d make the long drive (including a long ferry ride) to Newfoundland, to spend a few weeks of the summer with my maternal grandmother. My grandmother still lived in Fox Cove, the fishing village where my mother was raised, in a large clapboard white house directly across the street from a protected cove – to the left of it, the road past my grandmother’s house sloped steeply up – that portion of the street was referred to as ‘The Steep’ as in, just past The Steep or the store past The Steep. You wouldn’t think you’d need to differeniate between stores in a town with only a few hundred people but there were in fact two convenience stores, located equal distance from my grandmother’s house. The one past The Steep was probably a bit closer, but to get to it, you had to climb the hill which was no easy feat, especially in the summer. On the other side of the cove, opposite my grandmother’s house was a cliff of sorts that loomed over the little cove and into its face a number of houses were built, tall narrow homes with a narrow road that ran past them and a flimsy wooden guard rail that ran between motorists and pedestrians and the water below. (This is, at least, how I remember it).
So many of my favorite memories from when I was a child center around my grandmother and visits to her house. Pulling off the road in front of the gated fence that surrounded my grandmother’s property, the tall grass that grew between the road and her house, the laundry that flapped in the wind, drying quickly in the salt air that blew in off the ocean. My grandmother, coming down the path, her snow white hair, the smell of the pressed powder on her soft skin, the cotton printed housedresses she wore.
The house, with the big kitchen in the back where everyone gathered, the parlor in the front dusty from neglect and lack of use, the four bedrooms upstairs with the iron bedframes, the mattresses that sagged in the middle and the porcelain dolls left over from my mother and my aunts childhoods. The little bathroom tucked beneath the stairs, with just a sink and toilet, no bathtub (my mother would take us to her oldest friend’s house during the week so that we could bathe). The sound of the fisherman in the early mornings, the fog off the water, the smell of fish in the late afternoon when they returned with their catch. The hardness of the rocky beach beneath our feet and the frigid cold of the Atlantic when we dared to walk in the water.
Long summer days where my sisters and I were free to do what we wanted as my mother visited with her mother and her friends still living there in town. Picking blackberries from the bushes in the woods behind the small cemetery at the end of town, at the top of the hill, the same cemetery where my grandmother would be buried years after leaving her home to live on the mainland with one of her daughters.
These are my favorite memories. If I sit still, with my eyes closed, I can still smell the sea air.
A couple of years ago, I had the chance to privately tour Toronto artist Charles Pachter’s home and art gallery, The Moose Factory, prior to a benefit concert that the non-profit where I worked would be hosting at the gallery. During the tour that Pachter himself gave me, I stopped before a painting of his, a large canvas, probably at least eight feet wide and just as high. He didn’t need to tell me that the painting was one he had done while travelling in Newfoundland, it was as clear to me as the memory of my grandmother’s house and I fought tears as I stood gazing at the painting. I was pregnant at the time, but not very, maybe six weeks and nobody yet knew but already I knew that if the baby was a girl she’d be named Clara. I stared at the painting and missed my grandmother, missed her house, missed Fox Cove and wished desperately that I had $70,000 to spend on a piece of art because if I did, this painting would be hanging on my wall.
(You can see more photos of Fox Cove (like the one above) and the surrounding area here. I should add that my grandmother’s house is no longer standing but my uncle still owns the land where the house once stood. I’ve talked to him in the past about buying the land from him and am just waiting for him to be ready to sell.)
*Making blogging fun (and easy) again by participating in this 30 Day Challenge.