Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom (And Whimsy)

Posted on January 24, 2024 under Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom with one comment

We are family


“We are family,

I got all my sisters (and brothers!) with me.

We Are Family – Sister Sledge

Warning. If you’re under the age of 60, please check your gag reflex as I once again go down that dreaded and well-trodden road, “the good old days”.

Most of my stories start innocently enough. Somebody makes a passing comment, or I see something online that catches my attention, and I’m off to the races.

Last week, I was travelling back home from “The Hawk” with a few work colleagues. We swapped stories about our day at school. We were all teaching grade 6-8 students. This is not an easy age for young people…or teachers. Never was and never will be but arguably, it is much more difficult being a teenager in 2024. There are so many more distractions with the proliferation of social media. Case in point. Whenever I grant a few minutes of “free time” at the end of class, the first thing the students ask is can they use their cell phone. Mercifully, most schools have a policy that requires students to deposit their phones in a pouch in a “phone bank” hanging on the wall as they enter a classroom.

My young colleagues were curious to know what I was like as an eighth grader, as it appears that this remains one of the most challenging grades.

Now, all of us have selective memories and maybe we choose to forget most of the bad stuff of our youth and choose to simply remember the good times. My siblings might have their own take on what I was like at 14. I won’t ask them to preserve my dignity.

I told my friends that I have fond memories of my youth. I liked school, I played a lot of sports and don’t recall any panic attacks or dealing with anxiety. My theory is that I was fortunate to grow up in a big family. We learned how to share, how to get along (most of the time) and how to have each other’s backs when things went sideways. Singing together and saying the rosary were staples. We also learned a lot about discipline and respect. I am not going to suggest that the present generation eschews discipline and respect. In the 60s, there was a delicate mixture of fear and respect – at home and in school. It was unthinkable to question authority.

I had a great chat with a school custodian the other day. Anyone with an ounce of wisdom knows that custodians and school secretaries are the most important people in schools. They know everything that’s going on. We were bemoaning the fact that it is almost impossible to discipline students in 2024. Certainly not in the fashion of 50 years ago. Spare the rod and spoil the child. Each of us had several stories about punishment inflicted upon us when we went astray as youths. Nuns were notorious for cracking our knuckles with a ruler. Our parents weren’t reluctant to use the same instrument on our backsides. We concluded our discussion, agreeing that a swift kick in the arse never did us any harm.

My big, unwieldy family went their separate ways after high school and university and we had siblings on either coast and several provinces in between. In retirement, most of us ended up on the east coast with several of us back in our hometown.

If you read last weeks’ piece (shame on you if you didn’t!), you might remember that I used the expression “everything old is new again”. Even though we’ve had our differences over the years, we now seem to be at a stage of quasi-permanent peace. We have accepted each other’s idiosyncrasies and enjoy getting together. Two things that have resurfaced which bring me great joy are the two things that bonded us in our youth: music and food. From time to time, we get together and sing some of the oldies at the Museum summer ceilidhs. We usually get together for a rehearsal even though we’ve been singing the same songs for 70 years. My sister usually hosts these practices and bribes us to show up by providing homemade pie at the end of the rehearsal.

Our sister also hosts a monthly dinner at her home. I wouldn’t miss these for anything. We reminisce and we spend most of the meal laughing and poking fun at each other. My sister prepares good old-fashioned meals, the ones our mother taught us to make oh so many years ago. Breaded chicken breast, mashed potatoes (the way mom made them!), mashed turnip, carrots and peas. The desserts are mom’s as well. Cottage pudding: white cake with a warm, caramel sauce.

A few of us have resumed playing bridge.

Simple pleasures. Fond memories.

At my age, I don’t want or need material things. Give me experiences. Good for the heart and soul.

Families. Sometimes you can’t live with them but in the end, you can’t live without them.

Have a great weekend.

P.S. I saw this in a book I’m reading: “In life, you have to learn to count the good days. You have to tuck them in your pocket and carry them around with you.” I like this sentiment.

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