Down home ~ the mere thought of those words brings a warm and fuzzy feeling to my heart. Down home is where my ancestors have lived, some for 2,500 years in the area (native Micmac on my Grandmother’s side) while others arrived in Canada from a few hundred years ago. It’s where I have some of the most cherished memories of my life, spending many summers as a child on my Grandparents farm and bringing my own children for visits.
I recently travelled down home, a.k.a. New Carlisle, Quebec on the Gaspe coast, with my two sisters Betty and Faye. It was a trip of a lifetime – actually the first time the 3 of us have gone down together at the same time, ever: no parents, no children, no ‘significant others’, just the three of us.
We took two days to drive down to the Gaspesie stopping overnight in Riviere du Loup where we rented a lovely 2 bedroom cottage overlooking the St. Lawrence River.
The next day we drove the old highway 132 which we took back in the day before there was a super highway – it was absolutely beautiful and worth not rushing to get ‘home’. Along the way, we stopped at the old ‘wishing well’ which still houses the spring that we always visited as kids on the old road through the Matepedia Valley. We had reserved a room down home at the Maison Blanche that had a little kitchenette in it to help us prepare simple meals and snacks. After settling in, we ventured down to The Green, a park on Chaleur Bay. The boardwalk was impressive, the park was in great shape, and the cantine was still open. Every time we went out of our hotel room, we drove down to The Green to see if anyone was there – and there usually was someone we knew………… and were related to!
Our relatives were SO generous and thoughtful by inviting us for lunches and dinners! Of course, we had to visit Maureen and Murray Sinclair first. My cousin Maureen and her sisters Carolyn and Verna were especially close to us girls – when we were growing up, they came to visit us by train many times or we went down home and hung out with them every single day. Maureen and Murray even stayed with us for a time when they came up to Hamilton to live for a while. Maureen’s great home cooking was the perfect lunch after travelling for a few days. She even took care of the painting from my Grandparents’ farm that I did in 1967 for them – after the farm was sold, Maureen looked after the painting and to returned it to me this year.
My cousin Dale and her husband Dave also had us over for a scrumptious lunch one day after taking us on a tour of the renovated homestead (a.k.a. Mom’s). After my Grandmother and uncles died, they purchased the family farm and renovated the old house – it’s truly beautiful. I especially love that they reused the original banister post that I used to lovingly hug when I was a child – it’s my favourite part of the whole house. I’m pleased that the homestead has become a working farm again with a huge garden, pigs, and chickens.
My Auntie Mary had us over for supper twice – once for a ‘boiled dinner’ and another time for her famous scallops and fish. Oh my goodness, it was delicious. Then she took us back the four miles to the old homestead site where my Grandmother was raised and told us stories of the incredibly hard life they lived back in the early 1900’s on their amazing farm. Even a family friend, Dolly, had us over for a delicious cod fish dinner.
A trip down home wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Perce Rock. We three sisters went down to Perce for lunch, an hour and a half drive each way through majestic scenery along the coast.
We discovered that the town of New Carlisle still pretty well shuts down after supper. But we also realized that the Tim Horton’s in the next town of Paspebiac is the place to go if you want to see anyone! We were sitting there on Saturday evening when a gentleman and his wife came up to us and asked “are you Dave’s girls?”. Incredibly, he had seen our picture of lunch at Maureen’s on her Facebook page. This man, John, had known my father when he was very young – in fact, my Dad lived with his family before he joined the army in 1939! John told us all kinds of stories about my Dad and his family – we never knew anything about my Dad’s youth.
My Dad once told John that he used to rock him in his cradle. It was a real pleasure to meet John and Anne. They even took us to John’s parents’ old homestead and showed us around – describing antics my Dad used to do like doing a flip and touching the kitchen ceiling with his feet or showing us the dormer storm window that my Dad broke and fixed one year, still in it’s original condition fixed with putty. John showed us the now vacant lot where the house my Dad was born in used to stand. We found out that my Dad didn’t always live by the railroad tracks as we had thought; they first lived on Craig Street (go figure) right behind John’s farm. I felt comforted knowing that my Dad spent some of his childhood in a loving family home helping on the farm in return for room and board in a home where he was really wanted. It was fascinating! And a real highlight of our trip.
We left already planning our next trip down home in two years for our Auntie Alberta’s 90th birthday celebration.