Our Newfoundland Kitchen

Saturday evening was bath time for all the children. My mother would take the big round tin tub and put it in the middle of the kitchen floor and boil water to fill it up as one by one, we had our baths. It was a ‘business’ bath, no toys or rubber duckies as I can recall, and no fiddling around as everyone wanted warm water to bathe in.

In the evenings, we sometimes got visitors and they shared our kitchen also. One visitor, in particular, I remember. He was a cousin of ours, a deaf man. We were always trying to communicate with him as he could not speak or hear. I was fasinated with him as he was the only deaf person I knew. He would entertain us children by making shadow animal shapes on the wall with the light cast by the lamp. I don’t think I’ve met another person who could make as many and varied shapes as he did. For us and for him, it was a great way to communicate.

And speaking of visitors, we children had our special eavesdropping ‘hole in the kitchen ceiling’. This hole was over the kitchen stove to allow some heat to warm the unheated upstairs, and had a sliding cover to adjust the amount of heat that left the kitchen. When we wanted to listen in on our parents, and or visitors, we would creep down the hall and quietly lay flat and put an ear to the hole. I don’t think I ever heard anything life-changing.

Also over our stove was a slim wooden clothes line, attached to the ceiling with two strong wires and painted to match the walls. Here, my mother hung clothes to dry if the weather wasn’t dry enough to hang them on the outdoor clothesline. Sometimes, my mother would get a little distraught when we had the easterlies and north easterlies that lasted for days and days. With five children, there would be clothes hanging everywhere. It was a continous struggle to wash and dry clothes in those days of handwashing in a washtub and a scrubbing board, and no form of drying in damp weather except from the heat of the woodstove.

The oven door plays a part in my memories also. Many a Spring day we would arise from our beds or arrive home after school to see a box sitting on the oven door. In it would be a little lamb or two fending for its life. My parents would try to save an orphaned or abandoned lamb by keeping it warm and bottle feeding it. What a pleasure it was to feed those little lambs and see them survive. When these lambs grew and were put out into the meadow, they would always run after any adult or child, looking for their bottle of milk. If you were only four or five years old, this was pretty scary. I do remember this happening to my youngest sister, as both the lamb and my sister were bawling loudly as they ran through the meadow. We older children thought it was the funniest sight we ever witnessed.

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Shirley Daly Robichaud is a retired nurse living by the sea in Bayport, Nova Scotia. She grew up in St. Mary’s Bay, Newfoundland and still calls it “home”. Her love of the sea is evident by the dory moored in front of her house and the lovely yellow kayak by the shore. An avid reader, she likes to run, snowboard, cycle, kayak, and row.
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    Libby Noseworthy-Boss10 months ago

    I absolutely loved reading this, Shirley, and was sorry when I had finished it. You’ve really captured the essence of Newfoundland here. Growing up “around the bay”…. what wonderful memories. You write beautifully. Hope you are well.
    Libby

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