A Christmas spent “up the lane” in Upper Big Tracadie, Nova Scotia
Tara Reddick is a third-year student at STFX, she grew up in Antigonish. She is a playwright, her play “The West Woods” toured Nova Scotia and was also featured at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa in 2017. The following story is a little look into her childhood during a Christmas spent “up the lane” in Upper Big Tracadie, Nova Scotia. Upper Big Tracadie is a rural African Nova Scotian community about 25 minutes from the town of Antigonish.
My mother and father always did the best they could at Christmas. I never really asked for anything. What I received, I received. It was always about the spirit of Christmas and never about gifts. I never bragged to my friends after Christmas break, I had nothing to brag about. I tell you though, I can remember every Christmas like it was yesterday. I miss my Nanny especially at the Holidays, she died the day after Christmas; I was there when she took her last breath and I think about her everyday. Nothing will ever come close to a Christmas spent at my Nan’s down home. She was our matriarch, she was our rock. Her name was Dorothy Daye and this Christmas marked the third year of her passing.
Go Tell it on the Mountain
Christmas eve, mom and dad pack up the few gifts we have and the 6 of us load up our Dodge Omni meant for 4. Lorraine and Wilfred, two boys and two girls rowdy unruly brats. Mom says, “Let’s wake up Christmas day down home kids.” Do we have to mom? Off to Nanny and Granddaddy’s we go. Folks are home from Toronto, Montreal and Halifax. Aunts, uncles and cousins alike. Nintendo show downs, penny hockey, snakes and ladders. Checkers too, but we can’t find all the pieces. Sliding down the stairs on our bums. Carpet burns and playing school, “I want to be the teacher this time.” The wood furnace is burning, uncle Barry got it wide open I tell yah! Nan is baking, molasses cake, corn bread, brown sugar-squares, lemon, apple and blueberry pie, “Did anyone take out the turkey yet?” Better take out a big one. It is still early in the evening, now it’s time to get out Mahalia Jackson’s Christmas album. The needle on the record player isn’t the best, but it plays. Granddaddy fell asleep in his favourite chair. Just a few hours before he had it rockin’ and the kitchen turned into a wrestling ring. WWF legends, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Roddy Piper. “ Get em, that’s it, pin him, come on pin him, give it to him.” He smokes his Export A’s and sneaks a little drink and the sweat is pouring. “How much wood did Barry put in that furnace anyway?” The kids are tearing the house up, playing hide and go seek, finding places we never knew existed.
Nan cleans houses in town and the families she works for always give her chocolates. Me and cousin Geneva eat them before she even knows they are open.
Later in the night, Nan just wants her daughters to stay in and pray in the Christmas day, but my aunt’s got other plans. They go down, down the lane to Mrs. Cunningham’s and over to Rear Monastery to visit aunt Evelyn. They come back laughing and telling stories and I listen, I always listen. Nan is asleep at the table she was waiting up. Now all 20 of us cousins have found a spot to sleep. On the floor, we take beds on the coach, even in the hallway, in every corner all of us sleeping, close as close can be. The house is warm with love and we are happy the furnace has died down, but don’t dare let that fire go out cause it’s cold tonight.
Morning, Nan is first to wake up she is at the stove. She starts in on breakfast. Two cartons of eggs, two pounds of bacon, fresh biscuits and beans. The aunts are tired, “See I told you fellas’ to stay your ass home last night, out running the roads.”
I wish I could go back in time, there was so much love and I had my Nan.