Easter Musings

Put on your Easter bonnet; with all the frills upon it…do you remember that song? Probably not, unless you were born before 1965.  When I was young, I always got a new hat and dress to wear to church on Easter Sunday. The hat was usually a wide brimmed one with flowers on the band and wide ribbon streamers flowing down the back. Sometimes there was an elastic than went under the chin so the hat wouldn’t blow off in those strong Newfoundland gusts of wind.

We didn’t do egg hunts back then; the ‘Easter Bunny’ would come during the night and leave a little gift and some chocolate under the bed. So on Easter morning the first place we used to go was under the bed to see what we got. Skipping ropes, marbles, jacks (if you know what jacks are, then you’re almost as old as me), and other springtime things could be found, as well as a  chocolate bunny. This would be followed by egg cracking contests where we each took a dyed hard boiled egg and cracked it against another person’s egg. The one with the egg that didn’t crack was the winner!

When my children were young there were a few different traditions. On Easter morning they had Easter baskets at the table with a spring gift which could have been a T shirt, bathing suit, bike pump or a baseball hat, along with a solid chocolate bunny. They never got to eat the bunnies because later on we melted them down with a little cream for a chocolate fondue. Then they would go on the hunt and fill their baskets with chocolate and cream eggs which had been hidden all around the house. Sometimes we found Easter eggs in December!

The Easter meal was usually ham or turkey with chocolate fondue for dessert. A high point of the day was when the children  watched  their chocolate bunnies sink lower and lower in the pot as they melted down for the fondue. Then I would put a huge platter on the table filled with strawberries, bananas, pineapple chunks, pears, oranges and apples which we dipped in the chocolate. Wonderful memories!

My destiny is fondue

This year we had company for supper last evening; today we’re going to an Easter buffet at a friend’s place, and tomorrow will be the big family Easter meal with 12 in attendance. And there will be a little egg hunt for my grandchildren! Happy Easter everyone

My Parents are 3G

3G all the way!

Talking about generations (3G), I have to do a little bragging here…

My husband surprised me with a Kindle 3G a few weeks ago and since then I have been voraciously reading everything I can download on it, including free books from the Kindle bestseller list. Imagine, about a week after I received mine, my parents, who have gone to Florida for a month, decided to buy one down there. They also bought a little netbook so that they could keep in touch with friends and family. They did their research beforehand: do they buy an Ipad or something else? Well, they decided that two toys for less than the price of the Ipad would fit the bill. Now they each have something to play with; while Mom is reading on the Kindle, Dad can surf the net on the netbook. And vice versa.

That’s not all. We talk via Skype regularly, and the other day, I brought Mom on a virtual tour of my house from my laptop.

Oh and did I mention that both Mom and Dad are in their 80’s? They might be the “older generation” but they are open to learning new things and enjoying life to the fullest. In the words of Tom Clancy,”Life is about learning; when you stop learning, you die.”

In today’s world where a lot of aging people shun the net and everything technological, saying that they are too old to learn all that, all I can say is, “Kudos to you Mom and Dad! You’re 3G all the way: gracious, gregarious and avant-garde.”

Student Cuts and Cigarette Butts

In 1973 I was a student at St FX, albeit not a very good student. I was more interested in having a good time than concentrating on my courses. Parties, pranks and other fun were priorities on my agenda and there was just no time to give to the more serious reason for being there. I was like someone cut loose for the first time. And that is how it came to pass that I had to take some summer courses at UPEI, to make up for the ones I had flunked at X. I had a good friend named Marilyn, from Charlottetown who, with her parents’ permission, invited me to stay at their home for the summer while I took two courses. Truth be told, I wasn’t much better at UPEI that I was at X.

I took two courses that summer, but I still had to work to get some money for the fall session back at X. I managed to find a little job keeping house for a woman who was recovering from surgery. Every morning I walked to her house and tidied up, made beds, washed dishes, vacuumed and did whatever else was needed. That only took a couple of hours and I was left with lots of time to go to my classes and do the required reading.

I was a smoker back then and I continued to smoke for the next ten years, but I got my start at St FX, with Marilyn. That summer we didn’t have much money for smokes, and besides, if her parents knew that she smoked they would have hit the roof. Her father was a dentist and could really preach on the evils of smoking and how it could yellow your teeth and give you halitosis. Her stepmother spent her days keeping a spotless house and talking in a high-pitched baby voice to their elderly and very sick dog, mostly oblivious to much else.

One afternoon Marilyn and I were at loose ends as to what we could do for the rest of the day. We were sitting in her aqua colored bedroom where the twin beds, positioned at right angles to each other, were piled high with stuffed animals. It was a hot July day where you could look out the window and see the heat rising from the pavement below. The cicadas were buzzing and Roberta Flack droned out Killing Me Softly With His Song on the radio while we both craved for a cigarette. But we didn’t have any.

“I’d kill for a puff right now”, I said.

“Me too.”

“We can’t just go and buy some; your parents will kill us.”

“I know, and it’s been so long since we had a smoke. But there is something I have…”

Marilyn went over to a door in her bedroom that led to an attic space. I hadn’t even realized that the door was there, so much it blended in with the wall color. She pulled the door open, reached in and took out a paper grocery bag. I was intrigued.

“This is my butt bag,” she said.

And sure enough, the bag had hundreds of cigarette butts along with a few packs of matches in it. There was even some tin foil for a makeshift ashtray. She explained that any evening her parents had company, she would get up early the next morning and, under the guise of being a helpful daughter, clean up the living room, empty the ashtrays into the butt bag and then hide it in the attic. That way she would always have a stash.

We dove in and picked out the longest butts, lit up and took deep hauls on them and then we blew the smoke out the window so as to not leave a smell in the room. Those butts were so stale and dirty I still have a hard time to picture myself smoking them and actually enjoying it. I guess the thrill of doing something illicit was so exciting that it just didn’t matter.

I don’t know whether or not Marilyn’s parents ever found out about the butt bag, but every time now that I hear Roberta Flack, or Jim Croce singing Bad Leroy Brown, I am transported back to that little house in Charlottetown, my friend Marilyn, the summer of 1973, and the butt bag.

My Stamp Collection in a Jubilee Box

Tucked away in my night table cupboard are an old metal box and a book. The box is rusty in places and bent in others. The paint is wearing off as well. The box has two oval pictures on the hinged cover: one of King George V and one of Queen Mary. It has been with me forever, it seems. It used to sit on my dresser when I was growing up in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, and it accompanied me when I left home to attend St Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia in the 1970s. From there the box and I traveled to Northern Alberta where I taught school for several years; then to Calgary for another few years. When I got married and lived in Quebec, the metal box was ever with me, but at that time it was relegated to the back of the closet along with the aforementioned book. While living in Quebec, over a period of twenty-six years, three children, homeschooling and a home Chiropractic clinic in the basement, I moved house five times, and each time the box got packed with the rest of life’s paraphernalia.

The box came from my Mother’s things, from when she was a schoolgirl at St. Patrick’s Convent in St. John’s in 1935. That was a very special year because it was the Silver Jubilee for King George V. As part of the jubilee celebrations, he and Queen Mary paid a visit to St. John’s because at the time, Newfoundland was still a colony of Great Britain, and was governed by a commission of government sent over from England. All the schoolchildren in St. John’s were given one of these boxes, commemorating the special event. So when my mother got married and moved to Corner Brook, the box came with the things from her other life. 

I don’t know how it came to be that out of five children, I was the one who got the box. Well, at the time it was given to me, there were just my brother, one sister who was still a baby, and I. Actually I don’t think my brother cared about the box, but I liked it because it had a picture of a former Queen on it.  The reigning monarch then was Queen Elizabeth, whose coronation was the same year I was born, 1953. In between King George V and Queen Elizabeth there were two other Kings of England who were also rulers of Newfoundland: King Edward VIII and King George VI.

It was the 1950’s and Newfoundland had only a few years prior, in 1949, become a province of Canada, thanks to Premier Joey Smallwood’s negotiations. We might have been Americans, but Joey chose Canada. Up to 1949 Newfoundland had her own army and her own currency and postage stamps. In fact, going to Toronto required a passport because you were traveling to a different country. And, growing up in Newfoundland in the 1950s, we were still very conscious of our new status as a province. I remember seeing old letters and envelopes around the house that bore Newfoundland stamps, and there were still many Newfoundland coins in drawers, just tucked away there because they no longer had any monetary value.

My father got my brother and I interested in stamp collecting; we collected stamps from everywhere we could find them, but the most precious ones were the Newfoundland stamps, of which there was still abundance. I saved mine in the metal Silver Jubilee box, and I still have them. The book that goes with the box is my Majestic Stamp Album, which cost $1.25 in 1961. There were even separate pages for Canada and Newfoundland. When I opened the box the other day, a flood of memories came back to me: my childhood, simpler times, Corner Brook, our house on Queen Street; standing on the side of the road waving the Union Jack when Queen Elizabeth came to town; my father’s jewelry store, St Henry’s School and the Presentation Sisters who taught us there, dirt roads where you could make a pothole and play marbles, jump rope, a bottle of milk on the doorstep with the cream frozen on the top, and all the stuff of my childhood.

I don’t know if the stamps have much value today, but I’m still hanging on to them for the memories and to pass on to any of my children, if they are interested.

How Do You Like Your Coffee?

Are you Rolling up the Rim to Win? The prizes are fantastic and all you have to do is just keep  buying coffee and rolling to your heart’s desire, right? Sooner or later you have to win something. I was a master roller some years ago, bought a couple of cups of joe a day in hopes of hitting it big. I got two things: 1. Poorer and 2. a couple of free coffees. Was it worth it? No way!

Cars lined up for a chance to Roll up the rim to win

Several years ago a single mom named Marie Andre was my hairdresser in St Eustache. You can imagine she didn’t make much money, but she was a great hairdresser. She had long tresses that were sometimes pink and sometimes purple and man, could she drink coffee! There was a Cinnabon Restaurant just across from the salon where she worked and she always had  a cup of Cinnabon coffee on her station. She used to tell me how hard it was to raise her son alone on a hairdressers salary. I could well imagine, and so I tipped her well each time I went.

One day I asked her, “Marie Andre, how many of those Cinnabon coffees do you drink a day?” and she told me she drank two, but when she worked evenings she drank three.

“Well, how much does one cost?”

“$2.25 plus tax.”

“So that means you spend at least $4.50 a day on coffee, and sometimes $6.75.”

“Yes, but it’s the only treat I have.”

So I did the math with her. Assuming she worked five days a week and only bought two coffees a day, that came out to $22.50 a week, before taxes; $90 a month, and $1080.00 a year. On Cinnabon coffee! Imagine what she could have done with that money.

So Marie Andre brought a coffee machine to work, made all her coffee, and drank to her heart’s content, knowing that she was saving at least $800 a year. That’s a lot of money.

I always think twice before buying a coffee now, knowing that I can have one at home for pennies. Starbucks is another place with overpriced coffee, and they say the price is going up due to the rising cost of coffee beans. When I was in Seoul earlier this year, the coffee-shop coffee was at least $5 a cup.

However, there is one place that I buy coffee every week on my way home from grocery shopping: The Irving Big Stop. Their coffee is .99, any size, any time, any flavor.

Big Stop coffee ad

Poisson d’Avril

Ha! Mother Nature gets the last laugh today, April 1st. It is also known as poisson d’avril in Quebec (april fish?). Well so much for April flowers and stuff…today we’ve had sunshine, rain, wet snow, sleet, freezing rain (hey wait – sleet IS freezing rain) and snow. Right now something is falling on a slant, so you can add wind to the mix, and I am real glad to be on this side of the window! Happy April Fool’s Day! Happy Spring!