Nostalgia has been a close companion of mine over the last number of weeks. The memories began flooding my thoughts as I sorted through baby clothes I’d kept, “just in case” they’d be needed again. Unfortunately for our family, we lost the little human that was to join us when his family had a change of heart. For this little one, his extended family gains a boy who is loved far beyond biological ties… and for many newborns who will be placed up for adoption or apprehended, love and being wanted is a luxury they don’t often feel until they find the security of the phrase “permanent placement.” Even in biological families there is a “pecking order” where each child is treated differently by one, or both, parents.
In our family, the eldest held special consideration because he was the first. The second was lost in a miscarriage and the third nearly died, overdue and blue with the umbilical cord choking him as he left the birth canal. The observant medical staff saved his life and he grew up calling himself the “Golden Child.” It’s a fairly accurate description as I do think I had at least one parent who raised this boy believing he could do no wrong. Then the twins were born, premature, which meant an extended stay in the hospital. I think my Mother truly never understood the bond between a father and daughter until my elder sister arrived. She thrived and it was only when the twins went for their six month checkup she learned my Dad visited his “Numero Uno” (his nick-name for her) two and sometimes three times a week until she was able to come home. He’d never told my Mom he’d visited. And with no vehicle, no driver’s licence and no one to look after three children under the age of four, it was several months before my sister joined her brothers at home and she and my mother learned to really bond. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must have been to be separated from her child like that but, somehow, they made it through the challenge of it all. It was the late sixties and my Dad had his coveted baby girl whom he adored more than he loved himself, I think. I can relate as I feel the same about my girl and my boys. It’s them before any other human on this planet.
I came after another miscarriage; another set of twins. Four years after me, another baby girl followed. And she is the “baby” in every way: last grand daughter for my paternal grandparents, last child for my parents and last sibling for us older children. I don’t want to go so far as to say she was spoiled but I would acknowledge she lived in an environment where immaturity did go unchecked. She is the baby and no one thought to correct her behaviour. As an example, my brothers discovered a rather abundant blueberry patch when they were working falling trees up north one summer. Our brothers, my baby sister and I made a deal… we spend the day with them picking blueberries while they worked and they would pay us for our harvest. My eldest brother nearly drooled at the thought of ending the day with a bowl of fresh wild blueberries and cream. My sister and I agreed to the deal, and I think we got the better end of the bargain. An eight and four year old can’t be entertained for very long picking berries. I remember a few things from that day… berry stains on my fingers, mouth and toes, making a moss bed on the forest floor and taking a nap there and how the sun’s rays lazily filtered down over my body, leaving me warm and drowsy when I fell asleep.
A couple of weeks after our berry picking adventure, and long after the berries and cream had been devoured, the “Golden Child” pulled my sister and I aside. He fanned out colourful paper bills in his hands and invited us to choose one. There were purple, blue, green, red and brown pieces of paper. My sister chose a red one and I chose a brown one. Both of us had the paper gently removed from our hand and we were directed to “choose again.” When I went to choose the same denomination ($100), the fan of money was quickly adjusted so my fingers grabbed $20 instead. My little sister grabbed the same red bill as she had the first time. After the fourth time, my brother asked her why she kept choosing the same bill even though she had to keep giving it back. She shrugged and said she liked the horses. Needless to say, she got to keep the $50 when she chose it again. I don’t remember what I bought with my $20, probably a doll or a kite. At the end of the day, my little sister spent her fortune and our brothers also bought her a new dress as well. Sometimes it’s good to be the baby of the family!
This year, with the wild fires burning all around us, our family made the conscious decision to not go berry picking this season. We figure the animals are going to be fairly hungry and leaving food out for them is simply not an option. Besides, there are already enough bear sightings and problems keeping bears out of neighbourhoods without encouraging more irresponsible behaviours by feeding the animals as well. I hate seeing a beautiful animal destroyed simply because it has lost its fear of humans. So, while we will miss tasting fresh wild blueberries this year, we are thankful to be able to purchase cases of blueberries originating from British Columbia. We already froze some of them. And looking forward to baking up a blueberry crunch, muffins and I’m going to try making blueberry fritters. Once I have a chance to cook up some jam, I’m going to make oven baked blueberry donuts and then I’m going to work on a new recipe… blueberry lemon ice cream. You see, all those years ago when my sister and I picked those blueberries to enjoy with cold cream… and back then we had cream that came from the milk lady, who delivered milk with cream on top, once a week… well, I discovered I didn’t like the taste of blueberries and cream. Not even with a small sprinkling of sugar overtop. I’ll take my blueberries blue, thank you very much. No cream for me! But as I glance over at my seven year old, with blueberry juice staining his lips and his little cream moustache bearing evidence to the fact he’d rather drink the cream than spoon it into his mouth, I am transported back to a time when life was ideally carefree. And it was the simple things in life that brought the happiest moments… things like beds of moss to sleep on, the sun’s rays reaching to the forest floor to warm us in the afternoon, money made of paper rather than plastic with beautiful horses to fuel the imagination of a small child and a bowl of cold blue berries served with ice cold farm cream and a little sugar. We may not have had a lot of money but memories of childhood reveal we were rich in ways that truly mattered, even if we weren’t the first born, numero uno, baby, golden child!
Take care and have a great week, everyone!