Our childhood defines our personality. It shapes who we become. When Vilma Moretti had grandchildren, she realized that her childhood and theirs were worlds apart. They had absolutely no idea what life was like for Vilma when she was their age. Theirs was a world of computers, iPods, cellphones, texting, Instagram, and YouTube. Vilma thought that when they were grown they might be interested to know what it was like for other generations to grow up. She started collecting recollections—her own, and those of some of the many people she met every day while running Keith’s Restaurant, her family’s business at the intersection of Pelham Street and Highway 20, in Fonthill. The result was, “A Little Book About Us,” published in 2009, from which this series is excerpted. Keith’s is gone, but the stories remain.
I remember a lot of things from growing up on a farm in Texas. One that comes to my mind is during the ’40s. Myself, my older sister and younger brother would get up, get dressed for school, have our breakfast, and Daddy would be watching out the kitchen window, where he could see our school bus about a quarter mile away, and he would say, “Okay, get your coats on and get your books and get out there and catch that bus.” Then we all got a quick kiss and out we went. Something I also remember about school days during World War II—I had a favourite writing tablet with Genera Douglas McArthur picture on the cover.
Growing up on a cotton farm meant there was lots of work to be done. We kids did our share, what with hoeing weeds out from the rows of cotton, and then in the fall we helped pick the cotton. Daddy worked right along with us, partly to get the work done, but I think he wanted to make sure we didn’t fool around. I can still remember those days in the cotton field, it would be so hot and when we came in at the end of the day, Mother would run our bath water, and start with bathing my sister, then myself, and last my brother. We all used the same water— it was pretty muddy by the time we finished. We had a well and you didn’t waste water.
It was also our job to gather the eggs every evening. I still remember starting to reach into the nest to get eggs and there was a skunk eating them. Well, I ran out of that hen house so fast, and I always dreaded when it was my turn to gather the eggs after that.
I also remember when Daddy would be out ploughing. Mother would send one of us out back to see if Daddy was thirsty (he would wave his handkerchief) and we would take him a jar of ice water. Mother would go out with a white dish towel and wave it to let Daddy know that lunch was ready. Lunch usually consisted of fried chicken, white gravy, biscuits, black-eyed peas or other vegetables in season. Mother always had a big garden. Because we had a big meal at lunch time, our evening meal often consisted of cornbread crumbled-up in a goblet of milk, or we would have a bowl of cereal.
There wasn’t TV or air conditioners, so not much to do after supper but go to bed and hope there was a breeze coming in the window.
I remember having two favourite times of the year. Our family (Daddy’s side) had a reunion every Labor Day weekend, and it was such fun to go and get to see our grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. I still look forward to the reunion and this year (2009) will be our 74th.
The other and most favourite time was Christmas, when we went as a family and cut a cedar tree and brought it home and helped decorate it. We made chains out of coloured paper to drape across the room and also to hang on the tree. We would hang up one of Daddy’s socks (no fancy stockings in those days) and be delighted Christmas morning to find an apple, orange, some nuts and candies in it. We usually only had a couple of gifts for each of us, but one was always something that we had wished for, the other was likely some clothes. ♦