Let’s Help Mom with the Dishes
A little more history about my family, before sharing another story from my childhood in Cape Breton.
Born into an Irish Catholic family, my mother gave birth to me in a hospital in Sydney. She named me “Velma”. It is not an Irish nor a Scottish name. It is the name of the nurse who attended my mother during childbirth. Apparently this nurse was a, “lovely young woman,” and my mother was smitten with her. Thus I am named after a woman I never met, but one who intrigued my mother, not an easy thing to do. I’d love to have met this person, and I doubt she is still living. My mother had aspirations that I too would grow up to be a “lovely young woman,” and I believe I did just that and more.
My family lived in Lr. L’Ardoise, a very French, Irish Catholic community. My father, who had fought in WWII, was pretty traumatized, and resigned from the military on the boat returing him to Canada at the end of the war. He came home and lived with his father, while building his own own through VLA assistance. He continued working as a fisherman with my grandfather.The house completed, he and mom were married in 1946 and this is the house that I lived in until I was about 3, returning for the summers until I was 13 years old.
My brother was born first and I followed next, and then 5 more brothers and the last, my only sister. We no longer have the house; Dad sold it several years ago because we never went back. We still own some of the land and have lots of relatives and people around there who remember my father and grandfather and their families.
Below is a photograph of me and three of my brothers; Al, Kevin & Brian. I am the second oldest; you can bet I had fun growing up with a house full of boys – my sister was born as I turned 13 and there were 5 boys between me and her!
I think it was after I was born, or possibly the birth of my brother KJ (Kevin) that followed, or even the next brother, BJ (Brian) (who knows!), anyway I think Dad realized he was gonna need a whole lotta money to support his burdgeoning family. After much thought and, I am sure, sleepless nights and discussions with my mother, the decision was made to rejoin the Canadian Air Force.Helping Mom…Such Good Kids!!
I remember a rather charming incident, prior to our move, that involved my oldest brother and I. Must have been before KJ was born, ’cause I think there were still only two of us. Anyway, my father was out on the boat with grandpa and hadn’t returned for the day. It was around noon, and my brother and I were in the kitchen with Mom who had just finished feeding us our lunch and was cleaning up before taking us upstairs for our afternoon nap, when there came a knock at the back door.
My mother left us in the kitchen, walked down the hall to the back door. I was in the “tenda” (the equivalent of a highchair on wheels) and my brother was sitting on the wood box beside our wood stove. As soon as my mother disappeared from sight, my brother shinnied down off the wood box and toddled over to my tenda. He then proceeded to push me to the kitchen sink and perfunctorily announced, “We’re going to do the dishes for Mommy.” At that, he pushed a kitchen chair over beside me, climbed onto the chair and then onto the tenda, and proceeded to lean over and into the sink, turning on the water taps. I just sat there and watched as he picked up the bottle of liquid dish detergent and began “pouring” it into the running water.
He snarled at me that I wasn’t going to get any credit for helping if I didn’t help, so I crawled out of my seat and onto the kitchen counter and began placing the soup bowls and utensils into the now bubbling dish water. We kept on “helping Mommy” thinking “how proud” and “thankful” she was going to be. The water kept filling the sink, and my brother said, “Oops, I gotta go to the bathroom,” at which point he scrambled off the tenda, down to the floor and down the hall and upstairs to the bathroom, leaving me behind with the now “quite full” sink of dirty dishes and gallons of bubbles.
I knew I was in trouble if I didn’t turn off the water – BUT – I couldn’t reach the tap from where I was perched, and as I leaned over further, my faced landed in the sink and I screamed. The water was now pouring onto the kitchen floor and I was sure I was going to drown. As I lifted my face out of the water I heard muffled sounds and a loud holler. Both my mother and brother came tearing into the kitchen at the same time, colliding in the door frame and my mother yanked me out of the sink, yelling AT ME, “Just what in the he** were you thinking.” My brother, with his smug look that only he could give, just stood there, knee high to my mother, with this “angelic” look on his face, and piped up, “I told her not to do it!”
I got my second baptism by water…and by fire, and my brother got away scott free. I was to learn over the years that such would be the case with my oldest brother. It seems he could do no wrong and had this charm about him that made people just love everything he did or said, whereas I, with my Irish red hair and freckles, well I was labeled mischievous from the get go, and I guess I just tried to live up to it!
I got sent to my room for the day and my brother got to go out and play!
Stay tuned for more antics from the family chronicles. I hope you enjoyed it, because I am certainly enjoying sharing these memories.