One of my first memories is of a bedroom I shared with my sister, next in line. There are five of us in the ‘siblinghood’ now, but at the time, there was only Kris and I. This bedroom, located in a small, sloped-roof home in Westfield, Maine, is forever fixed in my memory as one spanning the back end of our parsonage, with my parents’ bedroom occupying the front.
Our little bedroom—the nursery— had a double window that overlooked the backyard, from which, I believe, my swing-set could be viewed from my sister’s wooden crib. Up the gentle slope from this playset was the home of my beloved Mr. Turner and his wife, our closest neighbors, whom I would visit with a mind to explore. I have snippets of memories from their home, too, but these recollections are not as clear. I remember a darkened hallway leading to a well-lit living room, with a lamp signalling the transition from this narrow passageway taking one away from the kitchen. Under the lamp, to the right of the doorway, I can almost picture books on the coffee table; but this is perhaps just what I am envisioning now as an adult, rather than what I really saw.
Back in the parsonage, our home for the four inhabitants at the time: I believe this shared bedroom of ours’ had a small rocking chair. I do not have clear memories of this, but my mother always owned a rocker, so I cannot imagine this child’s bedroom without the centerpiece. I know in this room there were books. Many, many books, lining a two-shelf book stand. I know for sure that Beatrix Potter could be found among the stacks. Some of the earliest books read to me were Potter’s tales of puddleducks, naughty rabbits, tiddlemice and pouncing kittens, of which my favorite and best loved was The Story of Miss Moppet. I can still remember the intonation of my mother’s voice as she paused for effect, before launching her slender fingers into my belly at just the part where Miss Moppet jumps upon the mouse. I anticipated this page with great angst, knowing I would receive the dreaded tickle, but also with hidden longing, for this physical play was a nightly ritual of sorts, leading me into gentle slumber and sweet dreams.
One memory of this house in Maine, which I called home until I was 4 1/2 years old, was Halloween. I can remember the neighbor children calling on our house to receive a homemade treat, made earlier that day by my mother, receiving their goods (all while I peered out from behind mom’s skirt, anxious not to be seen by the sophisticated nine and ten-year old revelers). This memory is such a cozy one for me, as it calls me back to a time of innocence and joy.
In like manner, another memory hearkens back to a winter in the late 1970’s that hit the New England States particularly hard. That year, the snow was so high, our front lawn became completely buried under a mountain of snow. My dad began forging pathways from the front door to the driveway, in an effort to get himself to work. As a result, my pleading resulted in several maze-like passageways that would make a modern parent shudder at their potential for closing over and covering the child within. For me, they were magical hallways leading straightway into my imagination.
It was at the age of four that I learned to fish, having been afforded this rite of passage due to my father wanting a supper of trout. I know that it was from this time onward that I developed a strong distaste for anything fishy, as the sight of those captured fish and their bulging eyes and scaly skin, left me retching. I think I sampled the catch, but did so with nose pinched and gag reflexes ready and waiting.
I found my first friend in Westfield, a girl of my age named Leslie. She and I experienced great joy while jumping on her parent’s bed, along with enjoying grand times make-believing we were ladies of the house, complete with our own children. Lesley was also a Sunday School classmate at the small rural church where my father pastored. We devoured store-bought cookies and grape Koolaid— both luxuries, or at least they were for me— all while learning Bible stories from the New and Old Testaments. I especially enjoyed the watery taste of the purple, sugary drink, as it was a treat to be taken, only while at church.
My dad stayed on in this little community as pastor until the winter of 1979, a point in time when we experienced our first move as a family, relocating from Maine to Nova Scotia. I remember giving up our first pet, Princess, as she was not slated to join us as we crossed the border. It was with a broken heart that I said good bye. I never could quite understand why she could not come.
As food has factored in quite prominently in my memories, I will close with this: I remember my parents telling me that in this new locale, in Canada, children ate something called peanut butter and jam sandwiches, while back in Maine, it was all about the peanut butter and fluff.
And thus began a life.