Family Lines

stories for you

Month: October 2016

A Wilde ghost writer

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What do ghost writers have in common?

They all use invisible ink.

Happy Halloween!

The ghost above is Oscar Wilde. He was an Irish writer who wrote in the 1880s. You probably know The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest: these are just two of his works.

Headless on Halloween

Boy dressed as Headless Horseman.

My nephew in 2013 as the Headless Horseman.

Halloween is in a few days and while I won’t be dressing up, I do remember some costumes from when I was in elementary school in Nova Scotia. I always wanted to be dignified and pretty while my mother always wanted me to be something funny.

One Halloween, I asked to be a “Lady.” I’m not sure what I meant by that. I was six. My lady was a real life lady, a woman, an adult. She wore high heels and blouses and lipstick. I didn’t get the heels but I got the make-up, a black beret and a skirt. I also disappointed my mother, who wanted me to be a clown or an old fat man created by shoving a pillow down my shirt and drawing wrinkles on my face with black eyeliner.

In Grade 6, I got a little more daring. I wanted to be the Headless Horseman. For years I’d been fascinated with the story of Ichabod Crane and Sleepy Hollow and the man who rode his horse without his noggin. Some of this had to do with the fact that I lived a couple of kilometres away from Hollow Bridge. I thought the similarities between the two names were uncanny. Sleepy Hollow – Hollow Bridge: almost the same, right?

Hollow Bridge Power Plant, Nova Scotia.

Hollow Bridge Power Plant, Nova Scotia.

Hollow Bridge has a population of maybe nine people spread over three houses. There’s a Nova Scotia power plant on the right that sits high on the hill and has a huge water tower standing straight out of the landscape. Taller than any of the trees. It’s a steel feature in an otherwise bucolic setting. As for the hollow bridge, there are two bridges along the road that could be the hollow bridge. I’m not sure which one the area is named after. Anyway, I felt it was a place the headless horseman could roam. That’s how I chose my costume for my classroom party.

My father made my outfit out of things around our house. He cut shoulders for me out of a discarded piece of wood and he attached it to the top of my head by a shoelace tied under my chin. He cut eyes holes in an old dress shirt of his so I could peek out. In my day, knickers were popular for girls. These weren’t underwear but trousers cinched at the knee with elastic. I wore a royal blue corduroy pair. My mother lent me her nursing cape from 20 years earlier; it was a heavy wool black cape with red lining. It was perfect.

I topped off my outfit with a papier mâché head I made and painted to look like a face. I even added brown yarn for hair.

I was excited about wearing my costume to school. We were having the party in the tiny Gaspereau Elementary School gymnasium. I was going to rock it.

At school, I put on my spectacularly spooky outfit on at noon and thought everyone was going to love it. But no one knew who or what I was. Disappointing. How could these kids not know who the Headless Horseman was when Hollow Bridge was close by? I was astounded and hurt that my outfit went to waste. Oh well, it was cool to me.

In 2013, my 10 year-old nephew decided to dress up in a great costume – the Headless Horseman. People knew who he was supposed to be and he doesn’t live anywhere near a Hollow or Sleepy community. Pop culture finally caught up.

Ode to my Rad Pants

Rad pants.

Look at how Rad those pants are…

I’ve had my Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) Rad pants for many, many years. I got them from my roommate in Toronto in 1995. Mo liked my Guess jeans. I liked her Rad pants. We made a trade. I think I got the best part of the deal. The jeans would have been out of style a long time ago. The Rad pants, however, just met their end last week.

Ode to my Rad Pants

You once sheltered me from the sun

and kept me warm when there was none.

You protected me from rain, snow and sleet

and went with me to the mountains where my friends meet.

Your blue-sky colour always made my day

and we’ve been to many places, even Lutsel K’e.

Through thick and thin you’ve been the trousers of my heart

I’m thankful for your years of service but we have to part.

I’m so sorry to say goodbye and put you in the bin

but you’ll go to MEC heaven with a grin.

May you frolic in green meadows and sing and tap dance

Because you’re Rad… Pants.

Pants in bin.

Farewell…

The dammed fish

Creek with snow.

The creek in winter.

My sisters and I spent a lot of our free time playing in the Nova Scotia woods with the neighbourhood kids. Since there were only a six houses in the area there wasn’t a lot of children but there was a lot of things to do. Sometimes we liked to go to the creek behind our family’s home and build dams.

The creek is what’s left of a mighty river that used to power a mill up the road. In 1950, the Nova Scotia government stopped up the river and made a lake by constructing a dam for hydroelectricity. And that was the end of the mill and the river and the beginning of the creek.

The dam.

The dam.

The creek was full of nimble water spiders and pretty florescent green dragonflies and beautifully freckled speckled trout. You had to stand still and stare at one spot in the dark brown tea coloured water before you could spot a fish. We think there were some gaspereau fish, also known as alewife, under a rock where the creek pooled. But never caught one so was never sure.

I always dreamed of reeling in a big fish in the creek. The trout dad taught us to catch were tasty but small. I wanted some that had heft, that would fight, that would make a good story.

One summer day my siblings and our friends cooled off by heading to the creek. We waded over to the other side to explore that part of the waterway. There were a couple of small streams branching off and we decided to dam a section.

We worked hard. Gathering rocks and large sticks and then moss to use as mortar. A wall took shape, resembling the inside of Nick’s log house. It reminded him he had to go home and he headed off, scaring his parents by getting lost for a couple of hours in the forest. We stayed and finished our project. Wouldn’t you know, the dam held the water back. Success.

A couple of months later and it was autumn. Nick and I were hanging out and needed something to do. What about checking out the dam? Off we went into the woods. Ducking under branches, jumping over rocks and leaping across the creek in our rubber boots and sweaters to find our handiwork.

It was still doing a good job but being kids we decided it needed to come down. So we started to pull at the sticks and loosen the rocks and grab at the moss.

What was that? I could see the top of something large and dark near the surface of the water. On the creek side that was dammed.

Stepping into the water I leaned down and peered into the churned up murky creek. It was a fish. A very big fish.

I shouted to Nick and he had a good look at it too.

“That’s a big fish!”

Here was the fish of my dreams. I needed to catch it. Since I didn’t have a rod or a net I would use my hands. Nick helped.

We wrestled with the several pound fish for a good five minutes. It was slippery and floppy and strong and didn’t want to leave home. Then, with one heave I threw it onto the land. It didn’t just lay it. It went wild with fury and scared me.

I had caught the fish. Now what? I didn’t want the fish to die. Besides, it wasn’t fishing season and I didn’t want to break the law. So I pick it up and slipped it back into the creek. The undammed part. And watched it swim away.

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