Oatmeal, …a tale of Belle River life, by Joanne Mousseau E

Under the weather today and as a result, my appetite is a little smaller than most days.  No Friday night pizza in the works, no leftover delight of shrimp soup from yesterday, no relaxing glass of wine.  Had been ginger ale and soda crackers for the last 24 hours and mouse sized portions of those, at best.

It was when I retrieved the orange and blue bag of quick-cooking oats from the cupboard in search of something bland that might stay down today that I began to reminisce.  John was at work, hundreds of miles out of earshot and so my youngest, Reese, the captive and patient audience of one that he often is, got to hear the recollections of my youth that the oatmeal bag spawned.  He, brain in tune with a video game on his laptop on the couch in the living room, but appropriately and respectfully acknowledging my musings as they were shared.

As I stirred the rolled oats into the boiling water, I spoke to him of the many wintry mornings as a child waiting only minutes that seemed an eternity for a saucepot of them being cooked up by my next oldest sister.  With both Mum and Dad at work, my older siblings looked after getting the younger ones fed and off to school.  The rest of us busied ourselves in our ample kitchen with preparation of bag lunches, consisting more often than not of a peanut butter and homemade jam sandwich and an apple, perhaps a sweet treat of sorts in there too, to hopefully be remembered at departure for school time and enjoyed later that day.  We were also allowed each a dime for a milk ticket, which had to be mindfully purchased from the teacher in the morning upon arrival in order for the appropriate number of tiny milk bottles to be delivered outside the classroom door in time for lunch.  I loved those little glass containers, even though I embarrassed myself more than once, thinking that I could set the bottle on my slant top desk and actually get to drink it without it sliding to the floor and shattering in a pool of it’s own frothy contents before I had even begun to eat!!

Older siblings at my house were four, younger than I were three more. Among the best memories of my early youth were times that took place with the older ones more prevalent of course, in a house near the railroad tracks in Belle River. Such wonderful times, skating the wintry weekends away on the frozen pond in the field at the end of the street, anticipating late in the darkening afternoon the ring of the old brass school bell that signified dinner was on the table. My parents had acquired the bell when elementary classes moved from the Legion Hall to a brand new grade school near our church, year unbeknownst to me, 1950 something, I think.

The ringing of the bell the first time meant we had five minutes or so to make our way home with frozen feet and fingers, remove snow covered clothing, wash hands (which often doubled as a thawing) and get to the table.  If it rang a second time, we were late and could expect a mild tongue-lashing upon bursting through the steamy kitchen door entrance, with one or more of us of course protesting that we hadn’t heard the first sounding, which was all we could ever come up with.  The excuse was always quickly forgiven as we gathered ’round the table, all ten of us.

More lazy days lolling around that same pond in the heat of the summer, spent face down at times on a homemade raft, peering at crawfish and tadpoles through a jar-bottom dipped into the murky water~~other times lying back facing skyward, clouds drifting, daydreaming, watching the dragonflies darting about dining on mosquitos above me.  I was a butterfly chaser, spring peeper catcher and tree climber~~bruised knees and scraped elbows could be expected all summer long.

After dinners and under a setting sun, we’d often gather at an empty lot behind the beer store for an impromptu game of baseball, usually involving kids whose names we did not know from houses on other blocks, always sufficient numbers though to make two teams.  If the game’s appeal wore thin to some as the evening faded, someone else would initiate a game of ‘hide and seek in the dark’, which often meant sitting in long damp grass in a favorite hiding spot with the chill of the evening setting in and actually looking forward to either being found out or to the familiar sound of the brass bell once more, calling us home.

So many of our indoor activities involved jumping on beds, something that I have to believe my parent’s were not aware of~~or perhaps they were and secretly smiled at the joy it brought us.   I recall one particular Saturday afternoon after all chores had been assigned and accomplished, a ‘bouncing on the bed’ mishap occurring.  Big brother Mike was left in charge, he would have been 15, maybe 16 or so and for some reason, the youngest three of us were in my Mum and Dad’s room on the bed.  Mike at some point came charging in and leapt upon the bed and with one great bounce, sent all three of us flying off the mattress in every direction, but with me landing on my little face on the floor.  I ended up with a bloody nose and Mike feeling absolutely horrible, extra apologetic and quick to clean up me and the evidence, droplets from my parent’s room to the bathroom and he not likely anxious to have to explain the incident to them.  And of course I never breathed a word of it, whether having been sworn to secrecy or out of sheer adoration of my big brother, could have been either or a combination of both.

Rare though is the time that we get to spend as adults recalling these fond memories in the company of the others.  All of my surviving sisters and one brother live out west near Edmonton.  The other two brothers and myself live within minutes of each other here in Windsor and only occasionally find the time to get together.  Considering that it only took a bag of Quaker Oats to start me thinking of our simple yet richly storied past, I wonder how often and easily it happens to the rest of them??  I believe that I will dial one or more of them up tomorrow evening and inquire.

Joanne Mousseau, March, 2010



  1. How splendid, the more I look at it and re-read

    Comment by oversion — March 7, 2010 @ 5:16 am

    • And how apropos, the photos you chose to accompany my little story. That big old house was green and white back then, but color matters little, as the familial heartbeat from within was the same when we drove by it that day.

      I dreamily watched many an eastbound train venture out of the Belle River Station from those very bedroom windows.

      And so thank you, John~~now you’re just spoiling me horribly.


      Comment by blueberryerie — March 7, 2010 @ 6:44 am

  2. Please, do continue with your memories Joanne – I so enjoyed every scene – and particularly the bed jumping and cover up from your parents.

    Comment by janebarlowofcanada — March 9, 2010 @ 12:58 am

  3. hahaa, it even says ‘from janebarlowofcanada’ which means
    you were in your own blog too Mum, thats good to know!

    Comment by oversion — March 9, 2010 @ 1:14 am

  4. A wonderful tale of the human experience in our distinctive Belle River.
    A classic Canadian City, with those two languages in its name.
    I hope there is more about our past in the future!

    Comment by jacques rousseau — March 9, 2010 @ 2:41 am

    • There is much past in our future, Jacques, so much history leading up to this moment.

      Comment by blueberryerie — March 12, 2010 @ 4:15 am

  5. I love it, what a great trip! Can’t wait to tour the town again in person in July…It’s been a while.

    Comment by Moose#8 — March 10, 2010 @ 5:14 am

    • A July visit to Belle River is a fabulous plan, hope we can go together!?

      Comment by blueberryerie — March 11, 2010 @ 2:45 pm

      • Milkweed and monarchs all summer long, the cicadas will announce our arrival.

        Comment by blueberryerie — March 11, 2010 @ 2:48 pm

  6. Y’arrrr sista!!!

    Comment by Shang'arrrr — March 10, 2010 @ 7:58 pm

  7. whooeee! done fell plumb right in the middle of the family pot here! Cool. Czam

    Comment by czandra — June 11, 2010 @ 11:04 am

    • if i can git the fire lit again, there’s plenty more ‘oatmeal’ to share

      thanks for looking in, czam

      Comment by blueberryerie — June 11, 2010 @ 3:34 pm

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