Monday, March 3, 2014

Up North

Occasionally in the spring and summer months my family would go 'Up North'. Up North was up north a bit, maybe an hour and some from the city. It was a cabin my uncle and aunt bought and the extended family would make weekends of it. Imagine a bunch of Greeks and their kids in a ramshackle chipboard cabin in the wilds of Quebec in the mid 1970s. Cupboards filled with vintage tupperware containers or 'tuppers', a toilet that needed a bucket of lake water next to it and children to fetch it, mosquitoes and black flies, slugs in the lake, a rowboat that weighed a ton, treacherous front steps and other rustic details. The countryside will always be 'up north' in my head.
    Riding in the car on the way to the cabin I was astonished once to see dozens, if not hundreds, of dried flattened frogs papering the gravel road. They must have been involved in some annual mad dash to or from the lake and met a horrible death under the wheels of country traffic. Left to bake there, poor amphibious flapjacks. We were a few corners away from the cabin.
    We'd dash out of the car through long grass and run towards the lake, playing on it's border. Swimming wasn't encouraged due to the slugs so we'd have to drive to a sandy beach a few minutes away. The ladies packed bread and tomatoes. A vacation within the vacation. But that wasn't everyday. Our lake was primarily for rowing in, filling toilet buckets and for fishing.
    It was the men who would fish of course, keeping these small little guys and tossing back the catfish. I would insist on watching them gut the fish. I didn't eat fish already due, I suppose, to my mothers habit of filling the house with their thick fried aroma coupled with their dead eyes on the head left on the body on the plate. Me running around shrieking when fish was served makes for fond memories. So I didn't eat fish. It was one of the very few foods that I so steadfastly refused that my parents lost that battle, and early. Chicken liver I would tearfully choke down a bite of. Fish, no. Sorry.
    Of course I was still fascinated enough to want to watch the frightfully sharp blades enter fish bellies and spill fish guts. I liked animals and this was confusing stuff but I still watched. The little fish swimming around the bucket were all doomed. I'm sure there were times I protested and cried and made a scene. The ladies said I shouldn't watch but I couldn't help it. I'm sure I must have puked later on or developed a convenient fever. If the adults were going to kill and eat fish, this seven year old will make sure to wake up in the middle of the night with delirium and put on a little show for everybody. Gut fish ? Ok, here's some pure kid half asleep freak out.
    By far the best part of Up North was the man who did the rounds with a hatchback full of large cardboard flats full of giant chocolate glazed doughnuts. No one got hurt with the doughnuts.