Growing up in Newfoundland in the 1930’s.
Little Valley had been had been rightly named for it appeared to be just that to one entering it’s harbour for the first time. Situated on an island on Newfoundland’s rocky south coast, it was accessible only by boat and it was here on a sunny July morning in 1931 that Adam was born. The sixth boy in a family bereft of girls, he was another mouth to feed from the small income his father, Eli Murphy, managed to eke out as an inshore fisherman who fished alone from his small dory. The statement didn’t mean that he was loved less than his brothers or that he wasn’t wanted, it was simply a fact of life.
The coastline was rocky and it’s sparse soil not suitable for gardening of any kind which meant that vegetables were almost unknown in the diet of the twenty-nine families that called the community their home. Adam’s mother Mary, like the other women in Little Valley, spent days picking berries and later making them into jam. Adam’s favourite was the bake apple which grew in abundance on the marshes. Birth control was unheard of at the time and would have been considered immoral, if it had been. In the way they perceived life, if a couple was meant to have fifteen or even twenty children, that was the way the good Lord had ordered it. It never would have occurred to them that God might not approve of bringing children into the world to survive on a diet that consisted almost entirely of fish, salt beef and pork, coupled with bread and molasses. Dried peas and beans were usually available at the community’s one store but some families lacked even the few pennies necessary to buy this luxury. Fruit was unheard of, accept maybe at Christmas when an apple and an orange might be a child’s only gift.
Adam was a quiet, thoughtful child who at the age of six, once asked his mother why he could not remember when he was a baby. The question amused everyone so much, that he felt it best to keep any further questions to himself. He soon discovered that his parents subscribed to the idea that a child should be seen and not heard and subsequently kept his mouth shut and ears open. Although he listened without comment Adam didn’t always agree with his elders. By age ten, while other boys of his age might be trying to kill a small seabird by throwing rocks at it when it came near the shore, ( something he abhorred and felt to be very wrong), he would be sitting in a corner of a net loft, listening to the men until they sometimes forgot he was there. Here he heard things that weren’t usually talked about in the presence of children and which he filed away for clarification at another time. At home too certain things stood out in his memory, like hearing his mother say, “ I can’t believe I’m fifty”. Afterwards he would remember that as the only time he recalled his mother speaking of her birthday. For adults, those anniversaries it seemed, came and went without fanfare although children were always reminded and usually given their ‘bumps’, one for each year, by their peers.
Welcome to Authspot, the spot for creative writing.
Read some stories and poems, and be sure to subscribe to our feed!