By: Jodi Cooke
How a surprise package in the mail sent NTV’s Jodi Cooke spiraling back into her childhood, and the reflections that came along with it
It’s been said before that things in life come full circle. The question is whether or not we recognize that when it happens. And so when something came back to me this week, that I didn’t know I was looking for, it gave me more than a warm feeling of nostalgia. It gave me an insight into myself that I also didn’t know I was in search of. A realization that I’ve come full circle and a consideration of those who made me into the person I am. Let me explain.
Love for the Outdoors
I’ve often thought about where my love for the outdoors comes from. I’ve always believed it came as learned behaviour from my mom and dad, my big brother and my husband. My folks taught me to ski and sail. My big brother really nurtured my passion for skiing. I remember when he first got his driver’s license. We “borrowed” the family car to go skiing and he often dragged me along behind him at ski club meets and races. My mom wasn’t much of a camper, but she could make a mean breakfast on our small family sailboat. When I look back, that was camping – perhaps even more now, than camping has become – still she says she’s not a camper. My dad could fashion any piece of junk into something useful. The sailor in him made him a true environmentalist before it was hip. He would recycle garbage bags and we poked fun at him. He was onto something.
Me? Well I wasn’t sure if I had a skill of my own. I wanted to bring something to the table that made me feel like I contributed to our family. I was the baby and didn’t bring anything to anyone that they didn’t already know. At least, I thought that until I got something in the mail this week from my childhood. Only then did I realize that I brought the gift of making a house a home, even from the tender age of seven or eight.
Tiny Cabin on Trinity Bay
As my husband and I build a tiny cabin on Trinity Bay, I’ve learned quite a bit about the construction process. I love it. But I mostly love it for the moment I get to start decorating. The fresh whitewash on the pine walls inside are barely dry before he catches me hanging pictures, the floor isn’t even down before I’m rolling out the area rug and the windows are barely framed before I’m hanging curtains. I’m quick to make this house a home. We had an argument about the curtains.
“Why keep putting these things up, when I only have to take them down,” my husband would say. “Because I need temporary aesthetics that please the eye,” I’d explain. My husband finally gave in, and even started working around the panels that collected dust and dirt in a construction site. I wondered if I was obsessing a bit too much with the whole thing, but again – something came full circle to me – and now I understand.
I grew up in Lower Coverdale, New Brunswick. My favourite places to pass time were in the woods, and in my best friend’s play-house her father built, tucked in the trees behind their house. It had a working wood stove, bunk beds and all of our toys. Amanda and I would camp there many nights all by ourselves. Our parents trusted us to make a fire. We packed snacks. We played games. We went on all sorts of adventures. She was my neighbour and had a better knack for the “wilderness” than I did.
I was eager to learn. She taught me lots about the woods. She taught me things to eat out there, like tree gum, and things to avoid like bogs (learned the hard way).
I think as a kid I didn’t feel like I had much to give Amanda … except curtains.
One day my mom got a new sewing machine. I was eager to spruce up our little play house in the woods so I knew just what I’d do. I’d sew up some panels and get decorating.
I made a few curtains and tossed them in a Sobeys bag for the grand delivery. I only had to ride my bike about seven or eight houses up the road. My glorious arrival with proud curtains swinging off my handle bars in sequence with pink streamers was a sight to behold!
As I rounded the driveway off the main road my handlebars steering right, the Sobeys bag swung into the spokes of my bike with a mighty whirl. Amanda’s mother Brenda just happened to be sitting on the front porch and watched me as I flew bottom over front, a handle bar end over end. The glorious curtains were jammed up in the brakes – twisted and gnarled. The Sobeys bag, shredded and melted in a plastic skid marked streak. I was bloodied and bruised with rocks in my hands and knees and it wasn’t long before the tears and wailing trailed behind once the perimeter was surveyed and the shock of it all settled in.
Those Damned Curtains
Brenda didn’t miss a beat. She scooped me up and sat me on the front deck. She cleaned the stones out of my knees and collected my curtains. I’m sure she had a Popsicle for me too.
After I dusted myself off and got a good cry, we went down to the cabin and hung those damned curtains.
I think Amanda probably always thought the curtains were a bit “city”, but even if she did, she sure as heck didn’t let on and like a good friend does, she grinned and bared it for years to come. They hung in that tiny play house cabin in the woods long after my family moved up to the big city in Ontario, and I always longed to be back there.
This week, I checked my mailbox and found a package from Lower Coverdale.
Brenda Wilmot heard through Amanda, we had built a cabin in Newfoundland. She figured it was only fitting those curtains come home.
Inside that package, tattered and worn, I pulled out two neatly folded panels. They were white – bleached by the sun. A small grommet hung on by a thread where the tie backs once connected. I remembered them as blue. Maybe even an oxford stripe. Now, bleached by years of exposure, the curtains were finally retired and embarked on a long journey across the gulf, to my mailbox in St. John’s Newfoundland.
It was natural. It made sense to me. Here I am, 30 years later, still decorating the cabin. My childhood friend and her family knew that – after all these years. The little girl inside, riding her bike down the road, is still there. I’m still here. I’ve never let go of that. It’s the simplest things that bring me the greatest joy – and I find that in the woods. But when it’s time to come inside, I know my space will always be a cozy one, especially with the curtains wide open, letting the sun shine in.
I am forever grateful to the Wilmot family of Lower Coverdale, New Brunswick. Mac, Brenda, Amanda, Candy and Kim gave me life skills I am truly grateful for. They’ll always have a place to stay, in our little cabin in the woods.