First to walk on water was Grandpa, mumbling, as he always did, in his deep Irish brogue - so thick - his words made no sense to me, whatsoever (although Mother claimed that he was speaking English).
He was followed by Nana – his interpreter. Though Finnish was her first language, unlike her husband, she spoke without a hint of an accent, translating (and, I suspect, sanitizing) his gruff croaks and throaty warbles into mini communiques to his perpetually lost and confused progeny. As always, when outside her home, she carried a beige handbag (that held a small paper bag filled with humbugs from Eaton’s). She wore a dress of brown roses and from time to time, she issued a queer soft sound: a combination of a hum and a sigh, exhaled upon a breath.
Then came, Mother in her black capris, carrying gladiolas from the Farmer’s Market and muttering: “I’ll never grow glads like these” – her inability to grow a decent glad: one of the many banes of her existence. (That and her failure to equal her sister’s meringues – topping her ‘bane list’.) Though, the woman did lay claim to a mastery of fudge, that was (to-hear-her-tell-it): the envy of the town – getting it to set ‘just so’, in an act of gastronomic wizardry, nothing short of divine intervention.
“Damn, I’m out of smokes” – that would be Dad, in his ‘we’ll-get-there-when-we-get-there’ dawdling steps behind Mom – “Bird” (his very odd nickname for me) “wanna go to the store for your old man.” Dad, seemed to run out of smokes every night after supper. Hence, his request that I make a cigarette run to the shop a block from our house, was practically a daily overture (certainly a major topic of our conversations, as I recall) … at least, up until his heart bypass surgery snuffed out his last butt … After that, he talked about how much money he was saving.
Ah, the 50’s: strange days to be a kid. If dancing in the mists of DDT, that City trucks rained down on neighbourhood streets to kill mosquitos, didn’t carry you off; the subliminal messages (and anything-but-subtle TV commercials) drumming into your developing psyche (almost from birth) that smoking was a swell pastime – no doubt, significantly improved your chances of a premature demise.
Off in the distance, I spotted my other grandparents in sauntering splish-splashes, just as I was joined (for real) by my grown daughter … “Whatcha doin’, Mumzy?” (her very odd nickname for me).
My attention was drawn anew, to the sight and sound of a flush of ducks, in a jumble of quacks and wing flutters, in what looked to be some sort of escalating duck squabble – or maybe, it was just regular old family stuff. Family stuff can often look kind of peculiar to people looking in from the outside, I think. Even in the 50’s none of us were Cleavers.
“I was just taking in the funny ducks,” I answered her … “They’re pretty far away now, though.”
sea and shore birds –
at water’s edge
note: The Cleavers – the main (and very idealized) family of a 50’s/early 60’s American TV show, 'Leave it to Beaver', where Mom (June) cleaned house wearing high heels and pearls, and Dad (Ward Cleaver) dispensed fatherly advice and life lessons in white shirt and tie.
photos: Pictures taken on a recent day trip to the seaside village of Steveston, BC – W. Bourke
© 2017 Wendy Bourke