I was thinking about memory after having a conversation with my son about some of his earlier memories.
This is my favourite childhood photograph. It was taken beside the stable where the draught horses lived. Dolly and Dan. The location was on the farm and sawmill that my paternal grandparents owned. Near where some of the more beautiful scenes from Brokeback Mountain were filmed. My family had just moved from Quebec.
There was no electricity, flush toilets or running water. We chopped and carried wood, hauled water, milked cows, fed chickens, made bread. I can still do a pretty mean hog call. Everything like it had been done a generation before. Except we had trucks.
In this photograph I am digging for dinosaurs, lost things and long ago people.
My aunt made me the jeans. My poor citified mother did not want me in trousers. She tried desperately to keep me with curls or braids in my hair, lace stockings and little plaid dresses. I was miserable. So my aunt, who was in her teens, took pity and made me the jeans with a red plaid lining. She knew my mother would have to let me wear them because they were a gift. She has always been my favourite aunt. Note the patent leather mary-janes and lace socks. The jeans are completely encrusted in mud.
I could swear like a trooper in French and had figured out that very few understood what I was saying. I took advantage and insulted some of the ones who insisted I speak French. I called them names and smiled sweetly. They thought I was being adorable.
This worked very well until one day my mother was standing behind me and heard. Jig was up.
They made me eat peas. Slimy home canned grey peas. They were disgusting and I could gag them out my nose in protest. I eventually learned to spit them in my pocket and put them down the outhouse. My Uncle swears I am so tough because I was toilet trained in an outhouse at 40 below. Truth was I had accomplished that feat long before we left civilization in Montreal.
I remember the day this picture was taken. The sun was hot on my back, the grasshoppers were humming, the magpies were calling and I was in absolute heaven.
Backwater Blues Bessie Smith