Some trips down Memory Lane

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I don’t profess to know much about history.  I spent more time trying to avert my eyes from my high school History teacher’s unpleasant gestures and I unfortunately did not absorb any of the assumed knowledge he had bestowed upon us.  Instead, I doodled, wrote poems and passed notes to my friends.  I narrowly escaped with a passing percentage from my tenth grade scholastic year because of the embarrassing grade I received from that History class but my outlook on the past has recently changed.

(image credit)

I have been asked to help with a project for our local library.  They would like to create a book that details the photos and the memories of our senior residents, learn what brought them to Muskoka and what the area was like when they first arrived.  I knew I would enjoy the journey but I didn’t know how much I would love it until I did my first interview on Wednesday.

This area has been home to my family for many generations.  I have been fortunate to live here for most of my life and have many photos and stories of family members who walked these paths long before my grandparents were born.  It has been a part of  my soul for longer than I have been on this Earth and I now get to hear stories of how Muskoka has been the love of many other people’s lives.

My first interview was with a delightful 82-year-old woman who was born in Cork, Ireland.  She moved to England with her family after the war and bravely left the safety of her home to move to Canada with a friend when she was 23 years old.  As I listened to her detail the moments of her life, I became absorbed in her words as she described her passion for her early days as a cottager and subsequently as a summer resident.  Her words moved me.  I felt the same strong emotion she did as she described how she felt more than fifty years ago when she first came to the area.

Perhaps history is subjective.   The stories of our past may be told in different ways but they will always hold a special place in our heart.  I am looking forward to joining a few more of our long-time residents on their journey down memory lane.

Balls to the wall

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It lay dormant, nestled in the corner of the family dining room at the cottage.  It listened to every one of our crazy conversations and eventually became the topic of many of those conversations instead of just blending into the background.

Its birth was accidental.  It came to be through a simple act of property maintenance.  The family cottage was built in the early 1900’s and had begun to show its age so, without regard for its final appearance, a spray foam was used to seal a few cracks in the old building.  What resulted in the upper corner of that dining room was eventually named and heralded as a true piece of our family history.

Perhaps this innocuous object was made more grotesque by my family’s depraved sense of humor.  It is even reasonable to say that other families may never look at this simple mass and see what we all saw.  But from the first time it was noticed at a family dinner, it was affectionately dubbed the “shiny ball sack’.

Over the years, this harmless protrusion witnessed our highs and our lows.  It feasted on the sounds of our laughter and it absorbed the collection of our tears.  Somehow that inanimate object became a large part of the traditions of our family meals and I was devastated to find out it was going to be amputated from its place in those family traditions.

I haven’t been able to visit the cottage yet this summer so I was unaware that the surgical removal had taken place – until today.  I came home from work to find a lovely gift bag on my front door step and when I saw what was inside, my heart swelled.  There, gently preserved in a shadow box, was the shiny ball sack that has been a part of our family dinners for decades.  My aunt had painstakingly saved this piece of history and presented it in a way that would allow me to keep this little gem of our family history safe and sound.

ball sack

My mom and I used to laugh endlessly about this mutation of foam and it will now find its place beside a picture of my mother in my living room.  It is a fitting ending to this chapter knowing that two of the things that brought me so much joy will be together again.