As the youngest child in our family of four, pictures of myself with the family were very scarce. Travelling back to the Maritimes just last month with my two teenage children, I was able to search through a number of albums that my sister Deborah kept and find many keepsake photos. They brought back so many memories of how we used to spend weeks in the summer on the waters of the Baie de Chaleur. The smell of the salt water, bonfires and the feeling of the hot black sand burning my feet still takes me back to our lazy, endless days at the beach.
It’s vacations like these that are prime time for family storytelling, and having not been back home for a reunion like this since my children were one and three, it was really important for me to see them experience new memories with their relatives. Whether it was when we were having big family meals, or sitting at the lake, my children were able to listen to some of the funny bits, the sad bits, the gory and smelly bits (the kids could tell when a story was sanitized for their own protection). Then we invited everyone else: cousins, aunties and uncles to tell a story too. Now that got interesting! Don’t forget the youngest; their stories may not be as coherent but they were some of the truest, and most revealing.
And then there was the food we all shared. Taste can linger far longer in the mind than it does on the tongue, and anyone who remembers that sacred roast beef dinner can attest: food memories rarely exist in a vacuum. They are intimately tied to where you had that unforgettable bite. I can honestly say that most of the memories that are really vivid for me have been surrounded by food in some way. As a child living in the Maritimes, our beach adventures were daily and always involved digging clams and then boiling them up on an open fire ready for a family feast. I can still smell those clams.
I hope the memories of this vacation last a lifetime for my children, whether it’s the endless storytelling or the smells of the open fires we had every evening!