A tribute to Sundays
Back when I was a kid, growing up in Cold Brook, Sunday was always a very special day. We always began Sundays with a healthy breakfast. Dad always prepared breakfast for us, consisting of eggs and sometimes fresh bacon. The eggs were fresh from my grandparents’ farm, as was the bacon, when they had some. Sometimes we ate porridge. This was mom and dad’s favourite, but I was never a fan of the stuff.
Sundays were the only day of the week where you could sit on the doorstep and not hear anything except the birds singing, and the sounds of the farm. Grap always had cows, pigs and chickens and horses. These animals had their own sound, (and smell!) Every other day, the whine from the sawmills filled the air; a sound I miss dearly each morning these days.
Sundays were a day of worship, as we never missed mass, unless the bridge was out, or it was stormy. On those days we said rosary instead. Church and God were such a big part of our lives back then.
If I was a good kid in church, said my prayers, and behaved, Dad and mom would stop at the ‘Sweet Shop’ on the way home; where I could have my choice of snacks. I always got whatever special ice cream they had in their freezer. My favourite was a ‘pop up’, which was an ice cream in a cardboard tube that you pushed up with a stick from the bottom. I liked ‘Buried Treasures’ too. Dad usually chose a vanilla dixie cup, the ones that came with the little wooden spoon. Mom had a vanilla dixie cup too, but she also bought a bag of regular Hostess potato chips, which she added to the ice cream. Oh, I always picked up a few packs of Popeye Candy Cigarettes. Me and my friends would ‘smoke’ the entire lot, and act like ‘grown ups’.
If I was good all week, I was allowed to visit Arlims, where I could spend my money. This store (which still exists today) always had the coolest toys. I usually chose a cap gun, or some other new toy I could share with my friends. Once I had seen a toy bomb. It was a big black plastic ball with a fuse on the end. A battery controlled a timer inside, and the toy made a loud bang when the timer went off. I really wanted one of those, but mom figured it would scare my little brother. She was probably right. Can you imagine selling kids toy bombs today?
Sundays were also a day of family get-togethers. All of Gram and Grap’s children, and their families, would gather at their home every Sunday, for dinner. Gram always had that big stew pot on the old cast iron stove. In the pot she cooked all fresh vegetables, plus salt beef or riblets. In the oven she always cooked either a turkey, or chicken, sometimes several to ensure she had enough cooked for everyone. A good memory for me is just the smell of dinner cooking.
Once dinner was cooked, everyone got around the big wood table, and sat on the wooden chairs, the ones with the black leather cushions. It didn’t take long for the table to get crowded, mostly with adults. Us kids had to either sit on our parents’ laps or take a seat in the living room with our cousins. That’s where I sat mostly.
I still remember Gram proudly serving dinner, everyone chatting and laughing, telling stories about the ‘good old days’ and about highlights in their lives. I wish I had paid closer attention to the stories, so I could write them today, but I was too busy being a kid, and having fun with my cousins. If we were good, Gram would sit and look through family albums with us, showing us pictures of our parents when they were little, and telling funny stories about them.
After we enjoyed dinner at Gram and Grap’s, we would head down the road a little, to Nana’s. Nana was alone most of the time after Grappy passed away. Uncle Brian stayed with her, but on Sundays he was either at his friends’ homes or still asleep. We would always visit Nana, enjoy some cake and maybe some ice cream, while she and several of mom’s sisters and brothers gathered around the tiny kitchen table, and chatted about their week. Sometimes Nana came to mass with us, and on the way home, she would tell stories about when she was a little girl, growing up in Nova Scotia. There were so many stories I wish I could remember, but being a kid, I had other things to do, like being a kid.
Sundays were family days. After lunch and visiting our grandparents, if the weather was nice, Dad would take me fishing, or he and mom would pack up the family car and we would go on a ride. Sometimes we went out to Piccadilly Park for the afternoon, and we would dig clams for a big snack when we got home. Dad would boil the clams up and serve them outside while we sat around the wooden picnic table he built. Sometimes on Sundays we would just stay indoors and listen to Dad and mom singing while dad played the guitar. They sang so nicely together.
Sundays were also a day of rest, especially for dad. Throughout the week, he worked at whatever job he could find. Most of those jobs tired him out, and once he came home, he would fall asleep for the night. He worked very hard on jobs with a pick and shovel, or a chainsaw. I remember one job dad worked at the barracks for a new company in town. He worked as a janitor, and when he came home from this job, he still had lots of time to spend with us because he wasn’t as tired as when he worked the labor jobs. Dad always made time for family; he still does.
Sunday evenings were a time to do homework. Mom would sit with me every evening and go over math or reading with me. Mom was a teacher before I was born, so she knew lots of stuff about schooling kids. Mom said she taught several of dad’s siblings and other kids from Cold Brook when she first moved here. She had some funny stories about them which always made me laugh. Mom taught me so much that once I began school, I already knew all my colors, how to count to 100, and I could read lots of words too.
Just before bedtime, my parents and I would kneel by the bed and recite the rosary. Mom clutched her rosary beads while she thanked God for all the wonderful things and prayed, she could have more kids like me.
After the rosary, it was bedtime. This was usually around 8:30. I used to lie in bed wondering what went on after that time, and what I might have been missing by going to bed so early. I used to ask if I could stay up a little longer, and if I was a good kid all day, sometimes I was allowed to sit up until 9, which I learned was basically boring. Mom and dad would go to bed just after I did.
Sundays are different these days. With Gram, Grap, Nana, and most of my uncles and aunts gone, our family is much smaller than it used to be. You can sit on the doorstep for hours and not once do you hear the whine of sawmills, or cows mooing, roosters crowing. You cannot even hear kids playing outside. We live in different times now, where kids spend their time inside, playing video games. Church seems to have lost its lustre, now mostly seniors fill the pews. The world seems so much busier these days and I am happy I still have the memories of Sundays and of growing up in a family community like Cold Brook.