The comforts of family


It’s a quiet Sunday evening here at the Manse after a busy weekend in Queensborough and area. As Raymond potters around in the pantry getting supper ready (that’s what he’s doing in the photo, right there on the Harvest Gold stove) I am thinking that the house feels a little bit empty.

You see, we had a houseguest this weekend, our nephew Timothy – whose mum, my sister, Melanie, grew up in this house just like I did. Tim, a student at the University of Toronto and very good pianist, was a good sport and said yes when I asked if he would come and play for the service at St. Andrew’s United Church this morning. (It was one of those Sundays when we are without our minister, because she is busy at the other two churches on the pastoral charge, so someone else reads the service that she prepares. That someone today was me, and Timothy filled the role that our minister’s husband – also a minister – usually undertakes, for which our little congregation is very appreciative: providing the music.)

The service was early today – 9:30 a.m. – so Tim came to Queensborough last night. He had dinner with us and some friends who were joining us and then, when the guests were gone and in the quiet of the late Saturday night, sat at the dining-room table studying for a calculus exam that he’s got coming up this week. Just before we all went to bed, though, I talked to him (I hope not boring him to death; I don’t think so) about what Saturday nights were like at the Manse back in the 1960s and 1970s when his mum and I and our two brothers were kids here, and our dad was the minister at St. Andrew’s.

I showed him where the old black-and-white TV had stood, on which Hockey Night in Canada played every Saturday night through the NHL season – as I am sure it played at every single house in Queensborough. And how it was also bath night for us four kids, each in turn, so the big old bathroom off the kitchen was always warm and steamy on Saturday nights. I pointed out where the ironing board would be set up (by the woodbox containing the wood to fuel our old Findlay stove) so that my mum could iron my dad’s “church suit” (which was pretty much his only suit) even as all the bath and Hockey Night in Canada activity was going on.

And all the while, I explained to Tim, my dad – his Bubba – would be upstairs in his study, thinking through and writing down the sermon and prayers that he would deliver at two or three services the following morning. Dad would generally burn the midnight oil on that, and it was quite common for all the rest of us – four kids and Mum – to be tucked cozily into bed late Saturday night while the light was still on in the study and Dad – who would be up before any of the rest of us on Sunday morning – was still working.

There are times I think I would give almost anything to be back at the Findlay-warmed Manse with Dad and Mum and Melanie and my brothers, John and Ken, on just one of those long-ago Saturday nights, when the world seemed a slower and a safer and a happier place.

But how fortunate I felt to be able to recount those happy Saturday nights right here in the very same house, showing Tim in real time and space what would happen where in that distant time in this same place.

Anyway, when we were all tucked away in our beds last night – Raymond and me in the bedroom that was once my parents’, and Timothy in the one that his mum and I shared when we were a lot younger than he is now – I realized (and commented to Raymond) how nice it felt to have “family” staying in the Manse with us.

It was a taste of the old days. And I have to say that ever since Tim left for home early this afternoon, it’s felt kind of empty here in this big old Manse.

Though warm memories can go a long way toward filling that kind of emptiness, can’t they?

4 thoughts on “The comforts of family

  1. They certainly can. Our house in Metis has been in my mother’s family since 1875 and is our primary ‘lieu de memoires’. Two things we have done (and which you might consider) is to collect family pictures and artifacts; some are hanging, others are stored away in the very large attic. But they are saved and they are where they belong. The other is to collect memories, similar to those you shared with Tim, to write them down in my computer and to print and distribute copies to any relatives who ask; that way they’ll be saved from the ravages of fading memory and neglect.

    • That is excellent advice, Kirwan. How I wish that more of the memories of those who are no longer with us – my father, my grandparents, and also the people of the congregation of St. Andrew’s United – were safely written down and preserved. Good for you for making that a project; I am certain that the generations to come in your family will be very thankful. How wonderful to have a home that has been in the family for so long. So many memories!

  2. It’s entirely a need for persistence on your part. Whenever my mother (or others) reminisced I took notes, went home and wrote these up, printed them and went back to get these proofread. Gradually my collection burgeoned.
    So whenever you gather with your siblings and contemporaries pour in some wine (or whatever) take a few notes and do likewise.

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