Monday, February 14, 2011

"Foggy Firs", Nana's Cottage (blue roof)

Brian’s Reflection: Tuesday, February, 15, 2011

For God’s sake Madge! You
couldn’t even fit a fart in this car!

Jim McHugh, my father; he was
born on this date, 1917; and died
age 79. He would be 94 today.

I told this story at my father’s funeral, at which I presided (as I did three years later at my mother’s).

My Grandmother Angell, sometime after 1939, bought a cottage on a Laurentian mountain lake, about 100 km north of Montreal. What a blessing that was for my brother and me! Until I was sixteen, we went there on the weekend after school let out, and we left on Labour Day weekend. Weeks of freedom, the water (cool but refreshing, and a rowboat, sometimes with a small motor), lots of sun, long days, wonderful food. Who could have a better childhood?

It was only 100 km ….. but the weekend and summer traffic was intense, before the Laurentian Autoroute was built. It could take hours!! It didn’t help that my brother and I both got violently sick in the car.

My Dad had bought a cute little Austin, our first car. It had fabulous turn signals that were an amber yellow, shaped like short arrows, that flipped out from the side of the car. It was a pale blue, I think. And the truck lid pulled down from the top. Mt father would have taken my grandmother up to Montfort in April or May. Come school’s end, we would pack the whole car with everything we would need (made easier by the fact that my brother and I squeezed into the front because of getting sick in the back). One year, I remember my father packing the car – and it was finally jammed. He was trying to close the trunk lid, and it wasn’t easy. Just as he was trying to force it shut, my mother appeared at the top of the stairs with one more thing. It was then that my father uttered his memorable remark, his voice raised some, and tense.

It was so uncharacteristic of my father, whom I remember (having left home for good at age twenty) as quiet and not normally talkative – a slightly “dour” Scot with little sense of humour – that I recall laughing that he would say “fart”. And I have remembered that moment for now nigh on over 60 years. That moment has also been a reminder that I would like to have known my father better ….. but Life has its paths, and mine took me away for now over 44 years.

My Dad took risks – moving to Toronto, buying his family a home on a small salary – to provide our family with a home and some of life’s then modernities, like the Fridge that replaced our icebox, the TV, and that little Austin in which we visited Ausable Chasm and my aunt in Connecticut ….. and the cottage on the lake. I came to Canada little, and we talked little. But I remember him as faithful, and fair, and honest, and hard-working.

I raise a glass to his memory!


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