Photograph of the Knight family in front of the smaller dining room sideboard on South Street in Cowansville, Quebec. The late, Robin Knight Nutbrown, Frederick J Knight, Bernice Ethylene Crittenden Knight, Arthur J. Knight, Mary Louise Deller Knight, and the last one alive–me–Linda Susan Knight Seccaspina
The transparent yellowed curtains that hung in my Grandmother’s dining room never hid what mischief I was up to while she sat on the screened porch on Friday evenings. As a child I understood that the family business was open until 9, and I spent the evening hours waiting for my father in the rear of the building– which happened to be my Grandparents home on South Street in Cowansville.
I would always sit and chat with her, or watch her bake in the kitchen, but my favourite pastime was looking through the glass of her old china cupboard. There was the broken engagement ring that sat in a teacup as the ruby stone had fallen out, and a handed down figurine that my great great grandmother had received from Queen Victoria. Each piece in the cabinet had a story and my Grandmother was an amazing storyteller that made everything seem to come alive.
My curio cabinet that I hope my grandkids will love. The figurine from Queen Victoria is on the second shelf on the left in front of the green card.
Besides the china cabinet there was a very long sideboard at the end of the dining room. It held all the good dishes and silverware that were used on holidays and it seemed each set had a memory. Tucked away in the back was the black tin ‘money box’ that was brought out every Saturday night to tally up the week’s receipts. I can still hear the click of the old adding machine along with low murmuring voices that went on for an hour with Lawrence Welk playing in the background.
While I sat on the plastic covered couch in the living room I would patiently wait to hear the closing sound of one of the compartments in the sideboard. That was a sign that Grammy would make us all a snack of saltine crackers topped with Cheese Whiz, and of course another story about anything she felt she needed to talk about.
When I was 9 my Grandparents decided to make the electrical store bigger so they cut the dining room in half and her sideboard no longer fit the new smaller room. Not one for nonsense, she did the same thing to the sideboard that she did to her Thanksgiving turkey each year. She hired someone to cut it in half so it fit the room. Even though it was now half the size it never lost one memory. For years I heard her tell visitors what happened to it and that sideboard carried on its traditions, never missing a beat.
I always assumed my Grandmother just liked reminiscing about the past, but it was really something else. Now I can see that she was sharing her knowledge and trying to teach me life lessons along the way. When she died I not only grieved her death but I wondered what would happen without her to tell me stories about the past.
The day they tore down the old house on South Street I felt I lost my childhood, and for the first time in my life there really wasn’t any family to come home to. I ended up taking her dining room sideboard and it remained with me through a marriage, a divorce, and finally met its match in a fire in 1995. Was this the final end to memories?
The day of the fire I realized that my Grandmother’s words would still flow through me with or without the old sideboard. She had installed this desire within me to keep history alive for future generations.
Sometimes for days or even weeks I can’t face my childhood memories, but then there are days like today that the memories run out of my eyes and roll down my cheeks. I understand how her words made me who I am today and that she gave me a gift that attempts to connect people and dream of a better world.
My Grandmother would be horrified that we spend less and less time in face to face communication. But, even with technological communication we can still tell a nostalgic story and now to a bigger audience. By telling a story we hope that our rendition of events is more complete than the last interpretation we heard–or so we hope. Like my fascination with my Grandmother’s china cabinet and sideboard: with nostalgic words we can dream of a brighter tomorrow, and a happier day where our inner child comes out to play once again.
Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in The Townships Sun andScreamin’ Mamas (US