Friday, February 17, 2017

Understanding Our Parents

Did I ever consider trying to understand them?
No,” I would reply. What either stated by them (or admonished us about)
was not to be questioned!

If my sister (14 months my senior) or I disobeyed, we were reprimanded. Next time, it was a 'trip to the barn'! My sister was there a few times (never discussing with me what had occurred). It was always at least 30 minutes before she returned. I knew the horses were stabled in the barn as well as their tack (harness); I had imagined that my father had applied the leather reins to her. Fortunately, I never made that trip! If caught in a lie, Mom would scrub our mouths with strong soap!

My mother had beautiful flower gardens, so it was frequent that neighbours stopped by to admire them and share a cup of tea with her. One time I had to 'go pee' so went to the 'outhouse' to relieve myself. However, my father was using it...standing beside the wall of our house where I could view him leaving it, I tried very hard to 'hold it'...and calling to him that I was waiting. I couldn't interrupt my mother with her visitors...finally, the pee ran down my legs on to the grass. My father, realizing what I had done...spanked me and strongly reprimanded me! And I was so humiliated!

They fed us...they clothed us...they taught us 'right from wrong' ...they trained us to work together as a family with the vegetable gardens, the fruit tree orchards, with the sowing and harvesting of crops. In school, we were never allowed to participate in 'extra-curricular' activities. We attended church and Sunday School dressed in 'our best' complete with hat and gloves; never were we permitted to attend “Girl Guides” held in another church's Parish Hall. However, we were involved with 4-H Clubs:
A Youth development program to encourage gardening, landscaping,
farming in general, vegetable and fruit markets, sewing and cooking,
and the raising of farm animals.
The 4-H Clubs today can be found in over 70 countries where almost 70 million young people share in the 4-H experience. In our day, we submitted crafts and baking, choice fruit, vegetables, flowers...even calves and lambs...all to be judged within the Club and also with entries at local fall fairs.

When I reflect on our parents' teaching and training, it was beneficial, keeping us on 'straight paths' and away from 'worldly enticements'. However, there were many times, especially in High School where we felt segregated...unable to participate in activities with our school friends.
Why should our parents deny us these opportunities???
Why could I not attend a daytime performance with my Grade 12 classmates to view a Shakespearean play, travelling by bus to the Capitol Theatre in Brantford...to enhance our Literature appreciation? Two English teachers from school came to discuss this with my parents. The answer was still negative!

During my High School days, I played softball with the Burford Bluebirds. Loving baseball, my father took me to the International League's Brantford Red Sox games occasionally; once, I had 'lucky numbers' for a drawn prize...so excited was I to discover I'd won a case of ginger ale plus 6 free movie passes to the Capitol Theatre. We gladly accepted the pop...my father tore the tickets, discarding them.
(The reason for the rejection of the two foregoing experiences was due to the fact that...it would be supporting the sins of Hollywood!)
My parents' attitudes like these, I didn't understand!

There were also good times designed for our 'life training'...Easter Sunday was one of them! As teens, my sister and I were driven into Brantford to attend a Sunrise Service. We had new coats, hats and gloves, so felt thrilled to attend this Christian youth service along the banks of the Grand River...following which we were all entertained with breakfast at a local Christian church. And now, to the gist of this writing:

Playful Frogs and Toads: Living on a farm, Mom would leave my sister and me in the house while she assisted Dad with the 'milking and feeding of the cows' which was done twice a day. Many evenings, Eileen gathered up a few frogs (or toads) which she'd locate near marshy grasses adjacent to our house...bring them to the kitchen table for us to play with. This was Great Joy! But one time, Mom returned early...and we were caught! I failed to understand why Eileen was 'sent to the barn' because of this bit of fun we were enjoying. WHY?

The Old Dishcloth: For some reason, ugly warts developed on the top of my right hand, forming a thickish line below the knuckles. (Was this God's punishment for playing with these amphibians???) To rid the warts, Mom suggested I take an old ragged dishcloth and bury it in the garden. She was certain my warts would disappear!!! (Recalling, I really believe that behind that stern discipline, was a sense of imagination... and a sense of humour.) After 4 weeks, she sent me to dig up this old rag...and would you believe? The warts had already begun to disappear!!! Such Magic!

My Mother's Talent: She gave readings! Not teacup or futuristic advice...she would stand before an audience reading stories or articles she herself had either written or located...all which embraced Life, both humourously and philosophically. She had gained appreciation and popularity through rural bazaars where local country folk attended. It was at such events, she met my father...who played his guitar, Jew's harp and mouth-organ. Two years later, they married...and the rest is 'history'!

Santa Claus is Busy: After the fall harvest, Dad had 'leisure time' to work in the machine shop, mend fences, do house repairs, play the guitar and sing. Noting the fact that he was busy in November and December Mom told us he was assisting Santa Claus. Since we couldn't question our parents' decisions, at 5 or 6 years of age, we paid little attention. In mid December, we trudged through the crispy snow into the back woodland to select our Christmas Tree. Mom helped us to bake cookies and make decorations for the tree. On Christmas Eve, Eileen and I went to bed like good little angels. Lo and Behold! On Christmas morning, Santa Claus had indeed arrived! There was a small rectangular table and two hand-crafted bench style chairs...all 3 pieces painted in red and yellow like Mom's kitchen.
How delightful for our dolls' tea parties!

The Chariot of Fire: It happens! When my aunt (Dad's sister) married to Uncle Earl, died, Mom tried to explain her death. Yes, my sister and I would miss her...but we wondered why we couldn't attend her funeral service. Trying to pacify us, Mom raconted that “God took her to be with Him.” Asking how God did this, she replied, “God sent his chariot to take her to heaven.” I asked, “Did you see the chariot?” She stated, “Of course...it was a chariot of fire, and once in the sky, He sent his horses to lead them to God's pearly gates.” So wonderfully believable at my young age!

When a teenager, Mom told me about the Biblical version of Elijah and Elisha ~
reading from Ezekiel chapter 1: verses 1-28.
And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven.
Elisha saw it and cried, 'My father, my father...
the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!'
And he saw Elijah no more.”

Merle Baird-Kerr...composed January 19, 2015
To comment...email to: inezkate@gmail.com or mbairdkerr@cogeco.ca

1 comment:

  1. From Sherrie: "Merle, what a wonderful blog you have given us of your rural life growing up with your parents. It is very nice to see you were ruled by an Iron Glove, my Mom used to say!
    I was born and raised a city girl who was roaming and adventuring at an early age as Mom had 4 of us, so being the eldest, I got more freedom than the others. My best pal was Dog Skippy who was my best buddy. My most cherished memories was helping my Mom with the general housework and gardening which I loved then and still do today. My Dad wasn't home much as he was a travelling salesman & left my Mom to raise us on her own with some help from my wonderful sweet Gramma who would come over to Babysit.Dad made great money but Mom held the household together herself. We moved 3 times, to better ourselves.
    You have really made me think of my younger life, today on Family Day weekend and I thank you for this sharing of yours which has prompted a sharing from me. I'm sure all your readers also have a little to share & will look forward to reading them on your blog!
    Love to all families this weekend.

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