When my sister and I were kids, the most exciting part of our holiday calendar year was not always Christmas. There. I said it. For us it was Thanksgiving, so I suppose that makes us big turkeys.
Don’t get me wrong, we loved the Christmas presents, the time off school, and the good eats and the holiday spirit, but what we really, really loved each year was Thanksgiving. More importantly, we loved what we did at Thankgiving. Growing up in Newfoundland was a time that I will always hold dear to my heart because it was during those years when life seemed simplest. Almost effortless at times. Family strife felt insignificant, personal differences had not yet crept into the fabric of our family and vacations were a guaranteed good time. And Thanksgiving was special to us because it was the time of year when we went with my god parents and their two kids (our besties) to Terra Nova National Park.
Terra Nova Park was (and still is) a beautiful park on the east coast of Newfoundland that not only had tent and RV camping, but cabins for rent. These cabins, set up high on stilts, were side by side duplexs which meant that our two families always had adjoining homes. During the day the grownups would have their cabin, and we had ours to play in. Our time there was spent exploring the woods, kicking up huge piles of alder, birch and maple leaves, running along the beaches, but by far the most important activity of all…was FISHING.
Each day our little troup of kids would trundle off down the trail, fishing rods and tackle boxes in hand, with left over turkey or bacon for bait, down to the park wharf. Hooks were baited and tossed over the side, bringing up fish after fish. While sometimes these fish were scrappy, rough scaled fish called cunners, we also got the odd tomcod or codfish. One year we even went down at night an jigged for squid, using a powerful flashlight to attract them to the dock. These times were the very best of times, and I miss them dearly. Over the years, the fishing got more and more difficult, and in hindsight we now know why with the decline and decimation of the Newfoundland cod stocks. By the time we left Newfoundland in 1986, the fishing was pretty tough.
When I think of those days, and of those memorable Terra Nova trips, my senses often bring back the story. I smell the tar and creasote from the wharf beams, and the bouquet of the slowly decaying leaves on the trails.When I close my eyes I see my family and friends, at a time when everyone seemed so honest and innocent. My skin remembers the comforting warmth of the cabins and their forced air heat, and the taste of delicious Thanksgiving turkey and Pop Shop Pop. And I think of my friends, and the bonds we formed while casting simple hooks into the water with much anticipation of the next big catch. So when I see my stepchildren doing the same now, I only hope that they get that same feeling when they are older. You just can’t get that from a video game.