It’s just not done that way

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

When I am fry­ing trout or caplin, I in­stinc­tively lay them in the po­si­tion that my fa­ther re­ferred to as ‘heads and tails’ with the heads and tails fac­ing in op­po­site di­rec­tions.

That’s the way it was done when we lived in Branch in the 50s. Call it a bit of ob­ses­sive-com­pul­sive be­hav­iour if you wish, but if I saw the lit­tle rain­bows or Ger­man browns or sil­vered-coloured caplin ly­ing head to head, I would in­stinc­tively turn half of them around.

“You can’t fry them like that. It’s just not done that way.”

There are more sit­u­a­tions wherein the state­ment, “It’s just not done that way,” flashes across my mind. I smile and mostly think of my fa­ther. Mommy wasn’t very pre­dictable and hardly ever did things the same way. My fa­ther, how­ever, was a dif­fer­ent story.

Af­ter he re­tired from fish­ing — or should I say, af­ter he started re­ceiv- ing his old aged pen­sion — once a week my fa­ther would walk down to the lo­cal shop on the cor­ner to pick up the week’s sup­ply of grub. It was al­ways on a Satur­day and it had to be around two o’clock in the af­ter­noon.

It was use­less to of­fer him a ride in the morn­ing or the evening. “They al­ways ex­pect me to come around two o’clock of a Satur­day,” he would say.

If he was pre­par­ing the veg­eta­bles for our Sun­day din­ner, my fa­ther al­ways sliced the turnips. Once I chun­ked them in­stead of slic­ing and I im­me­di­ately learned that for salt beef din­ner you sliced, for stew and soup you chun­ked. Ac­cord­ing to John Power, that’s the way it was done.

No mat­ter how hard my mother pre­sented her case, there were only cer­tain oc­ca­sions when Daddy would wear his best cap and jacket (wind­breaker he called it). “You can’t go down the road all dressed up in the mid­dle of the day.” It was all right to “rag up” to go to church or to a wake or to go to a dance at the Se­niors’ Club, but for run of the mill ac­tiv­i­ties, your at­tire had to fit your sta­tion in life.

One facet of Daddy’s sched­ule, which was not strict, was his time for nap­ping. He could close his eyes and sleep any­time in any en­vi­ron­ment.

I re­mem­ber one cold win­ter’s night Mommy said, “John, why don’t you make the shav­ings be­fore you fall asleep on the daybed?”

His re­ply: “I can’t go mak­ing shav­ings at seven o’clock in the evening. If peo­ple come in, what will they say?”

Shav­ings had to be made just be­fore you went to bed. It had some­thing to do with per­cep­tion, the fact that vis­i­tors might think you were send­ing them the mes­sage that you were ready for bed and try­ing to get rid of them.

Ah yes, Daddy, you might have wanted to be or­di­nary, bring­ing no at­ten­tion to your­self in what you did or what you wore. To me you will al­ways be a very spe­cial man.

No mat­ter how hard my mother pre­sented her case, there were only cer­tain oc­ca­sions when Daddy would wear his best cap and jacket (wind­breaker he called it).

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