Back to the Rock, Part I

George Rowe


“I’m going home! Yeah, I’m going home!”

I said this to my wife as she packed the final items into our suitcases. By the time you read this article, I will be enjoying the bliss of being in NL. My wife and I, along with more than 100 people from the Rowe family will be gathering for our traditional family reunion—an event that happens every five years. Yes!

Living with a family having awesome parents and 15 siblings will send a thousand thoughts down memory lane. Reflections on the past and the anticipation of the reunion stirs the inner spirit like nothing else.

The old homestead is now gone and to accommodate so many people we have rented a church camp site at Starrigan for three days. It is a large complex with many cabins, a large dining/cooking area with professional cooks making some of the best food known to Newfoundlanders. We will be graced with a large gym, fishing pond, ball diamonds, hiking trails, etc. We will have a blast.

Registration will begin at 3:00 pm on Friday August 16. Many of us have not seen each other for five years and thus Friday will be a time of tears, hugs, hysterical laughter and meeting some family members for the very first time, e.g., spouses and children of nieces and nephews.

Our three days together will almost be a carnival, with games, lots of food, balloons, sporting events and a talent show where I will hear some of the greatest singing and experience world class comedy for free. We will also have our own church service in the large gym on Sunday morning.

There will be quiet time for reflection and story swapping. Memory lane will sometimes stretch for miles with beautiful and exotic flowers, shrubs and trees of all descriptions. As we walk down that section of memory, we will share stories of weddings, births, graduations, holidays, parents and yes, the positive impact made in our lives by the little wooden church on the hill. Stretches of memory lane will also be graced with thorns and thistles and we will share memories of death, sickness, disappointments, failures and “stuff” that cannot be fully explained but can still break the heart.

Many of us, certainly the siblings, will visit two of the local cemeteries and pause for a moment at the headstone of Mom and Dad, our younger brother, grandparents and a number of aunts, uncles and cousins. Some of us will hold hands, place floral arrangements or simply stand and weep as we deeply appreciate the memories of those we honour.

The old two storied house is now gone. My Dad built the house and every nail driven, every board sawed and every measurement taken was done with love. The house of “stuff” became a home of “love” because of the will of our parents. Love was easily expressed in our home with the firm handshake, the hug and the verbal exchanges of “…I love you.”

The house was built near the ocean with just a narrow vegetable garden and a beach separating us from the mighty Atlantic. My bedroom window was facing directly eastward and as a child I can recall kneeling by my window to watch some of the most spectacular sun rises on the planet. The colour contrast between the ocean and the sky could never be captured by paint or brush, pencil or picture. You just allowed yourself to enjoy the moment, internalize the colours and contrasts of God’s creation. Looking through that same window on a stormy winter day, I also saw the mighty Atlantic being churned into threatening waves as they were being pushed toward the beach and the vegetable garden with such force from a Northeasterly that the ocean spray would drift toward my bedroom window and completely obliterate my vision if but for a moment. The sound of the sea gulls was like music to the soul and the sweet smell of ocean spray could outdo any fragrance found in a bottle.

I remember the days when we had no electricity, running water or indoor plumbing. We studied with the kerosene lamps, water was fetched from a running brook near the house or a shallow well dug with pick and shovel. Toilet facilities consisted of a rough little building with two round holes and several copies of the Eaton’s catalogue. We worked really hard in gathering firewood, planting and harvesting vegetables, cutting the hay, taking care of the horses, sheep and chickens. We were always meaningfully employed but always found time to have fun.

When my feet hit the NL soil I know I will be overcome with emotion. The experience will forever imprint life-long memories that only death will erase. My next article will begin the moment our plane lands in Gander, NL. Until then remember that the sun is always shining.