Monday, March 28, 2016

What makes a memorable holiday?

 What? Chickens in the attic?

Easter has come and gone with all the implications and celebrations associated with it. All weekend, I've thought about my most memorable Easter. Kids today gather chocolate eggs and fuzzy, stuffed chicks. Our eggs were hard boiled and painted by us. Our chicks - well, here's the story.

I was about eight years old. We lived in a three-story, wood frame house with extra staircases, and polished oak floors. Off the formal, echoing, main hall, the kitchen offered warmth and food. A brick chimney ran up one wall, wonderful smells emanated from the stove set in a nook at the side and sunlight poured in big windows along the back wall.

Cast-iron radiators used to dry mitts, and supporting a wooden top that held Mom's big Oxford dictionary, ran under the window. Outside, a steep hill ran up to a plateau that held my father's garden. We were a minister's family and luxuries were few and far between. But my parents managed to make our life rich and happy.

Mom ironed paper bags for art paper and taught us to make African villages out of them. Dad, well he did things stemming from his Manitoba-farm background. Plants and flowers filled tables in every window in the house and vegetables grew thickly in the upper garden. He scythed the hills by hand with huge swishing sweeps and taught us to weed.

Easter in our house centered around the church and the traditional Easter services. My parents usually hid the eggs we'd colored and gave us small baskets filled with bright colored fake straw. We had fun. We didn't know anything different.

All of those details are fuzzy and some bits are filled in with tradition rather than what I remember. However, the one year that stands out is the year we burst into the warm haven of the kitchen to find real baby chicks keeping warm on the oven door. When I close my eyes and remember, a welling of excitement and wonder still floods me.

Dad grew up with various winged fowl on the farm, but we were in the middle of town. We weren't allowed to build a chicken coop in the backyard. But Dad had a plan. As those chicks outgrew the various boxes and their yellow downy feathers were replaced with russet and brown and golden feathers, he built them a chicken house--in the attic.

The third floor had two finished rooms with softwood floors. He covered the floor of one room with cardboard boxes. One layer of flattened boxes running left to right and another layer running front to back creating a sealed layer. Next came an old-fashioned screen door to replace the standard door on the room.

We then transferred the half-grown chicks into their new home. I'm not sure how long we kept them , but it was quite a friend-maker. No one else had chickens in the attic.

Summer came and we transported the chickens to a friend's home in Cape Breton. Roddie and Jessie had a flock and ours were added to theirs. Jessie would tell us that our morning eggs came from our chickens. At the time, that seemed reasonable. Now I know it might have been a bit of a stretch.

What is your most memorable holiday event? Do you think that in the fifties, we had it worse or better than the kids today have it? Or was it just different?


  1. What a story. Chickens in the attic! Sounds like a title of a children's book. Regarding childhoods, I certainly would not want to be a child today. Time was spent differently back then. On things that seemed to matter.

  2. Childhood has changed for sure. Some kids still get outdoor time at the insistence of their parents and some of those parents still do funny and amazing things with their kids. However, it appears that too many live lives that hook them to digital devices for all activities - so only their thumbs, and sometimes their brains, get a workout.