Times were dif­fer­ent back then.

Cape Breton Post - - CAPE BRETON - Mike Fini­gan Loose Change

When I was a kid, like ev­ery other kid I knew, at this time of the year I’d be sit­ting at the kitchen ta­ble with my skates on, tied into my chair with tow ropes, one arm free so I could eat my sup­per, cry­ing, bawl­ing, with ev­ery bite be­cause I was dragged into the house from LeBlanc’s pond where a five-hour hockey game raged on with­out me.

Ma would stare at me, at her wit’s end, and talk about me like I was the cat.

“I don’t un­der­stand this! All he has to do is eat and then he can go back out! Has ev­ery­body lost their minds!?!” “Baawaah­h­h­hhh !!!! ”

It was 30 be­low out­side. Cel­sius or Fahren­heit. Take your pick. My hands didn’t work any­more. They were two claws frozen into shapes that you could just slide a hockey stick han­dle through. My feet were two blocks of ice. My nose, be­gin­ning to thaw, ran like Mt. Ve­su­vius. My lips couldn’t give shape to words. All I could say was “I iss­ing na ame! Waaawah­hhh! Ang is aww yuh fall!”

I had my hood up and my scarf tied around my neck so tight my eye­balls popped and I could see al­most all the way around my head.

Liver and onions and po­ta­toes piled two feet high in front of me. I cal­cu­lated it would take two days to eat it and by the time I got back to the game there’d be no­body left. It would be over. There’d never be an­other hockey game for the rest of my life. The best thing that ever hap­pened to me would have come and gone. It’s noth­ing but ashes! “MaaWah­h­h­h­hhh!”

Then my grand­fa­ther would start in telling me what things were like when he was my age. Bah!

He was never al­lowed in the house with his skates on! He didn’t even have skates! Not like I had. He had spring skates. They bolted on. You had to drill holes through your feet. They were held to­gether with chicken wire. Heavy as a bucket of coal. He didn’t have shin pads ei­ther. They used cat­a­logues!

I found the spring skates up in the at­tic once. He wasn’t ex­ag­ger­at­ing! They looked like de­vices de­signed to make you con­fess to crimes you never com­mit­ted. They were just raw, rough­hewn in­dus­trial blades, welded onto rat traps. Ev­ery­thing was heavy in his day.

Snow shov­els. Num­ber 9 pan shov­els. Made of iron and pet­ri­fied wood. I had to drag mine from the coal barn to the drive­way with ropes and pul­leys to shovel snow.

My job was only to pre-cut igloo-like blocks so he could shovel them up and fling them into the un­known.

It feels like I’ve lived a thou­sand years since then. It feels like I was born in the iron age.

Now I sit at the ta­ble and tell kids all this, know­ing full well that they see me as an old fart, that they see me as a talk­ing head on a TV with the sound turned off.

“When I was a kid ...,” I start in be­cause, by God, it’s my turn. “We had no com­put­ers! We had no phones. We walked 40 miles a day, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH. We didn’t get drives any­where! We got kicked out of the house ev­ery morn­ing. ‘GO PLAY!!!’ They told us and fed us to the wolves. We played with sticks and rocks! We didn’t know any­thing! There was no heat, no ther­mostats, no show­ers! We got a bath once a week. In dirty wa­ter! BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH!” You’d think they’d be amazed. You’d think they’d drop their chicken burg­ers be­fore they could take an­other bite. Lis­ten­ing in thrall to how we had to make fires ev­ery morn­ing.

But no.

“Zat right?” they say.

And con­tinue liv­ing their lives. Like we did.

CON­TRIB­UTED

Ah … for the good old days of frozen toes and a river to skate away on.

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