Re­mem­ber­ing the mys­tique of the par­lour

The Compass - - CLASSIFIED - MA­RINA GAM­BIN — Ma­rina Power Gam­bin was born and raised in her beloved Branch, St. Mary’s Bay. She is a re­tired teacher who lives in Pla­cen­tia where she taught for al­most three decades. She can be reached at mari­nagam­bin@per­sona.ca

Trend- set­ters of to­day have aban­doned the con­cept of par­lours for liv­ing rooms. Surely, the people who are re­spon­si­ble for these def­i­ni­tions must re­al­ize that the word par­lour sounds much more el­e­gant than liv­ing room or sit­ting room.

When I grew up in the 50s, al­most ev­ery house in Branch had a par­lour. To this day, I won­der what its pur­pose was. Al­though I prob­a­bly vis­ited ev­ery house in Branch as a child, the times I en­tered peo­ples’ par­lours were few and far be­tween, and only un­der cer­tain cir­cum­stances. The doors to these rooms were al­ways closed and in many cases locked.

Al­though the “par­lour end” (as it was re­ferred to) in many res­i­dences was off lim­its, there were oc­ca­sions when some of my com­rades and I man­aged to cross the thresh­old. We might be in­vited into such ar­eas to see a Christ­mas tree. That priv­i­lege of­ten in­cluded Pu­rity syrup and fruit cake. There was one sweet lady who pro­duced a de­lec­ta­ble box of chocolates but we were only al­lowed to take one each.

When­ever the Grim Reaper paid a visit to the com­mu­nity, we were sure to gain en­trance to some­one’s par­lour. But with win­dow blinds low­ered, burn­ing can­dles flick­er­ing and a dead body on dis­play, I didn’t en­joy in­ves­ti­gat­ing my sur­round­ings. I was al­ways cu­ri­ous enough to want to look at the de­ceased, yet ner­vous enough to get out of the wake room as fast as I could. Some of my friends were braver. Hence, they of­ten suc­ceeded in see­ing more than I did when we were in at­ten­dance at those spooky vig­ils.

As chil­dren will of­ten make im­ma­ture gen­er­al­iza­tions about topics, my child­ish rea­son­ing con­cluded that all par­lours con­tained a dresser stocked with good dishes, a ta­ble cov­ered with a lace table­cloth and trunks filled with all kinds of nice things. When I was nine or 10 years old, I would have given any­thing to be al­lowed to for­age in

some of those spe­cial places.

In the sum­mer­time, when nuns came home to visit, we chil­dren would pa­tron­ize them to get rosary beads, holy pic­tures or sa­cred medals. Such au­di­ences of­ten took place in par­lours. How­ever, we were so in awe of those hal­lowed women, clad in their un­usual garb, that we were afraid to do any scru­ti­niz­ing of the lo­cale. Dur­ing such ses­sions, it was hard enough try­ing to an­swer the sis­ters cor­rectly and rev­er­ently and not make a show of one­self. In­ter­est in par­lours was sec­ondary when we were con­vers­ing with re­li­gious life.

As chil­dren will of­ten make im­ma­ture gen­er­al­iza­tions about topics, my child­ish rea­son­ing con­cluded that all par­lours con­tained a dresser stocked with good dishes, a ta­ble cov­ered with a lace ta­ble- cloth and trunks filled with all kinds of nice things. When I was nine or 10 years old, I would have given any­thing to be al­lowed to for­age in some of those spe­cial places.

My grand­mother lived next door to us but I hardly ever got into her par­lour. Af­ter she died, we all spent two or three days there un­til she was laid in her fi­nal rest­ing place. Af­ter that, I could rum­mage around her par­lour to my heart’s de­light. I didn’t find any­thing spec­tac­u­lar in chests or cab­i­nets. So much for my child­hood fan­tasy and mys­tique.

Of course, by then I was 19 and I guess I had moved on to other pas­times and di­ver­sions which did not in­clude spend­ing time in par­lours.

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