Reflections: Going Home

George Rowe

We are now going back in time to a small rural community in Newfoundland.

There, homemade cooking and baking was an everyday occurrence. In the evening, kerosene oil lamps cast shadows in the kitchen, outhouses were supplied with Eaton’s catalogues and a Saturday night bath consisted of a large galvanized tub and an endless supply of Lux soap.

From a young boy’s perspective, neighbours always appeared to be old and, if they were not blood related, they were referenced as Mr. or Mrs. Neighbours and had to be treated with respect. You never raised your voice, contradicted them or turned your back while they were speaking with you. I was eight years old and about to pay a visit to my neighbours.

In a voice as clear as a bell my mother called from the kitchen, “George, I need you to run on an errand for me.” Like any good little boy I was in the kitchen without hesitation. “I have just taken some homemade bread out of the oven and I want you to take a loaf to the neighbours while it is still warm.” “But mom….” I couldn’t even finish my protest before she interrupted me. “Don’t you ‘mom’ me. I want you to dress warm and take this loaf of bread over to our neighbour.” I didn’t want to go. It was really dark and very cold outside. It snowed most of the day and slippery conditions were a real concern.

Before she handed me the neatly wrapped loaf of bread she looked me all over to make sure my boots were laced up, my jacked was zipped to the chin and a final check to make sure I was wearing my wool cap and warm mittens. “Now George, you be very careful. Don’t you climb over the neighbours fence and drop that fine loaf of bread in the snow.” “I’ll be careful,” I said, “…don’t you worry about a thing.”

When I stepped out into the night the darkness almost shocked me but the brightness of new fallen snow helped dissipate some of my fear. The distance from our house to that of the neighbours wasn’t far but for an eight year old boy it was half way around the world. The silence during the short trip was absolutely deafening. No traffic. No loud music. No cell phones. The only sounds was the music of the wind, the crunching of snow and the sound of a little boy’s heartbeat. My entire nervous system was gripped by fear and only the smell of homemade bread kept my sanity in check.

I finally made it to the front door. I knocked! I knocked! I knocked again! There was no movement but I knew the neighbours were at home because the lamp was lit and I was sure I heard somebody speak. While I was talking to myself about whether I should stay or go, I knocked once again. This time I definitely heard something—footsteps coming toward the door. It was an eerie feeling as I listened to the inside latch being raised and the door slowly opened. When the neighbour saw me he looked back over his shoulder and shouted to his wife, “It’s Margaret’s boy! Come on in! Come on in!” I stood in the middle of the kitchen holding a loaf of homemade bread and not sure how to make a quick exit I rambled on without taking a breath and said, “Mr. and Mrs. Smith, my mom just made a whole lot of homemade bread and she wanted me to bring you a loaf while it was still warm and if you will excuse me I need to get home real fast.”

I laid the bread on the kitchen table and started to back out when Mrs. Smith said, “Poor boy! He looks like he if half frozen. Come on my child and stand by the stove and get yourself toasty warm.” I protested and remembering my manners I said in a very low voice, “But I need to go! I really have to go….now!”

I really did have to go. Coming out of the cold and walking into a wood heated kitchen caused my bladder to feel extremely full, to the point of almost bursting. I couldn’t ask to use the bathroom because the outhouse was somewhere on the outside extremities of their property and I would be ‘overflowing’ before I got there. This was the most humiliating moment in the life of an eight year old. What was I suppose to do? I crossed my legs—several times. I put my hands in my pockets and held tightly to the faucet so it wouldn’t leak and heat from the wood burning stove intensified the situation a hundred times over.

Seeing my discomfort and studying my body language, Mrs. Smith asked, “George, are you ok?” “No!” I snapped. “I need to do my pee and if I don’t get outside real fast then I’m going to burst.” “Oh my blessed word,” she said. “Hurry! Get outside!” I ran but it was too late as pee began to run down my leg. I went through the door with a flying leap and as my boots hit the snow covered grass I did a complete somersault and just before I hit the ground I woke up! That’s right! I was in a deep, deep dream and instead of piddling in the kitchen of Mr. & Mrs. Smith, I was piddling in my own bed. As I reflect upon this dream let the memories of being a child encourage us to seize the moment and enjoy life to the fullest.

Remember, the sun is always shining.