Sunday, February 11, 2007

Thinking of Days Gone By


Finn has challenged us to write about things that we remember, that no longer are, from a different time and place...'things of days gone by.' I love challenges such as these, and of course, I love Finn, so 'I rise to to the challenge, takes off my 'kid gloves', kicks off my 'penny loafers' and throw my 'cape' to the ground (the kind with two slits for the arms to poke through, of course!)

Just thinking about days gone by, brings back sooo many memories. Growing up on the small island of Douglas, Alaska, we truly lived in a different time and different place. When we visited by Grandmother Catherine, in Louisiana, who spoke only Cajun French, I was in one very flat world with sugar cane to suck on and bayous to visit. But, when I was at 'home' with my Grandmother Elli, who was Finnish, I lived in a very 'hilly' one. One with different challenges as wide as the ocean which surrounded us, or the mountain which loomed over us. This grandmother spoke only Finnish. Two totally distinct and very different worlds, both with languages I did not speak, nor ones that I could even understand. Grandmother Catherine, was a little bird of a woman, subsisting on one piece of dry toast and one small bowl of oatmeal a day. Eating a fresh fig or sucking on a piece of sugar cane, her only indulgences. Grandmother Elli, sucked on sugar cubes and drank her hot coffee with milk by pouring it from a teacup into the saucer. With the sugar cube in her mouth, she then sipped her rich, dark brew. I remember cup after cup of this frangrant smell wafting through her house, all day long.

In Alaska, we had flour bin drawers that pulled out at a slant and a pulley clothesline that we stood on a stairstepped platform to pull the long cordings back and forth as we hung our laundry up with the old fashioned two pronged clothespins. In Louisiana, we had lots of stray cats, Spanish moss dripping from the trees, and lots of really old books to poke around in and daydream around.

In Louisiana, we had pure sugar cane syrup, fresh from the fields, but it is the syrup in Alaska, shipped up on the barges and eagerly awaited that I remember best of all. My beloved 'Log Cabin' syrup.....back in the day when it actually came in a log cabin tin. We used it on pancakes, dipped plain bread into it, and poured it on our oatmeal or toast. I used to be mesmerized by the little container and was always trying to figure out how to get it to open up so I could use it for a doll house. Instead, I had to use my imagination of what might truly be inside! I would eagerly await the emptying of one, rinsing it out and lining it up along with my other Log Cabin tins in a row. Then I would surround them and myself with all of my books to make doll houses and all of my wonderful dolls of course.

I remember five cent candy bars when chocolate really tasted like chocolate and the unbelievable anticipation of earning or perhaps even being given a nickel to buy that candy bar. I would through the streets of Douglas, clutching my little nickel, mouth watering in anticipation. A little town , with little streets that has barely changed from then to now.

How I wished I still had my childhood treasures, but our house burned down 35 years ago, and little was left of my childhood. Perhaps that is why I treasure memories, so. I collect my own tins of all kinds, now, and my own little treasures from the past. Like my memories, all things still live inside of me, but many stay for a moment and others stay and last for a lifetime.

3 comments:

  1. Thank you for this lovely post, a glimpse into worlds I have never known. Elizabeth

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  2. Hi Michele, you have risen to the challenge beautifully, cape and all...LOL I love it!! I had several of the kind with the slits for your arms, including a lovely royal blue one that I wore to archery tournaments..with blue suede boots to match...LOL.

    Your memories are beautiful, and what diversity in your young life. I can't imagine Grans who spoke a different language. It must have been mysterious and magical at the same time, perhaps, frustrating. I didn't find the language of adults all that comforting, even in English..*S*
    I would love to see the Douglas of your youth, it sounds so like the book The Land of Pointy Firs(I think). Referring to the tamarack trees, of course, I love their pointy, pointy looks.
    I have many of the same memories, no sugar cane tho. I love tins and containers of all shapes and sizes. Never have figured out what it is about them, except that it's about "putting" things in them, even when I don't.
    I don't think I ever had a log cabin tin, altho I know the look well. I have way too many, but find it hard to part with them. Especially the ones that advertise some product...those are my favorites.

    I'm so sorry to hear of a fire taking the pieces of your childhood. Thanks goodness you have the memories and I do hope, some pictures. I find the pictures help alot. Little forgotten item that appear to remind me..*VBS*
    I hope you write your stories down, or print off your posting. Thank you for sharing so beautifully, big hugs, Finn

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  3. What wonderful memories you have shared with us - thank you so much! Reading, I felt I could see you there - in both places - if I just closed my eyes.

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Michele Bilyeu blogs "With Heart and Hands" as she journeys between Douglas, Alaska and Salem, Oregon.