06 February 2016

Grampa's House

Grampa’s house was right across the street from the Methodist church.  And the quonset hut that held lots and lots of stuff in it.  Across the street on the north side, there was an empty field.  And east of the Church was the cemetery.  The main road into the village bisected the village and came to a T down near some woods.  There’s a road that goes around the lake shore.  There’s a big field where many activities are held.  It sits on top of a hill overlooking the lake and the road below.  Along the road, there are five landings, called Strong’s landing, one I never knew the name of, Boy’s Landing, Girl’s Landing and Drift’s Landing.  It connects to the road that runs north south from the Baptist Church on the south end, touches the main road at the T and the lake shore road, continues on around the south side of the big field and connects to the lake shore road on the East side.  Lakeshore Drive continues up to connect to the main road at the intersection where Grampa’s house sat.

From the Baptist Church, a road ran east up the hill, and met the road on the west side of the quonset hut and connected to the road that ran straight down the hill from Grampa’s house to where Sophie Goggleye lived.  And continued down to Goofy’s Landing on the south side of the peninsula in Nett Lake.  For me, these were the only important roads while growing up.  There were other roads and driveways off these roads which led to various houses.   The area from Grampa’s house to the Baptist Church and down to Sophie’s house was where I roamed mostly.  I mention the ball field because that was where the pow-wows were held.  And ball games.  However, I only went to the pow-wows with an adult.  I wasn’t allowed down there otherwise, least not by myself.

The village was mostly overgrown, cept where there was houses or buildings of some kind.  One got from place to place by means of paths through the various fields.  And many of these were through stands of wild plums, hazel nuts or other kinds of bushes I didn’t know the names of.  Think I was bout 10 years old before I found out there was way more houses than I knew there was.  Never knew where some of my school chums lived until I was old enough to go off with a group of kids.

In Grampa’s yard, there was a big ol willow tree with limbs that were just right for climbing.  Many’s the time I got into trouble for climbing in it.  Always wondered why I was in trouble for doing what the other kids did.  Come to find out that I was born a month early and was small for my age.  Not knowing this was the source of much confusion growing up.  And the cause of many arguments with my parents.  Sheesh, I'd be crying a lot too.  From the cuts, scrapes and bumps I got when I'd fall.

I wondered about many things in life while sitting in the tree.  I’d watch people coming and going.  Lots of people visited my grandparents and aunts and uncles.  My great grandmother lived here also.  She’d dress in long skirts and wore a sweater.  I always had to be careful whenever I was around her.  She’d come sit on the porch every once in a while.  She couldn’t see good which made me wonder how she knew I was in the tree.  Her hearing was way better than her sight.

She’d take me with her when she’d go visiting. It wasn’t often and I didn’t always like to walk with her cause she was always yelling at me.  Course now I realize it was cause she wasn’t able to move fast and I didn’t always keep her in sight when we walked.  Couple times, she and Grandma brought me with them to the Quonset hut.

I liked going in there cause there was lots of boxes to look into.  It was filled with little loops of fabric of all colors.  We’d bring home bags and bags of them.  I had these little looms that I could make little squares out of.  I liked doing this cause I could pick out whatever color I wanted.  I’d sit and watch them work on this big ol machine and out of it would come blankets.  I could watch them for hours doing this.  It amazed me.  All they did was stand there, push this board back and forth and cloth would appear at the top.  Always wondered how they did this.  I thought they were the most magical people, all these women who could make something by just pushing a board back and forth on this machine.

My amazement lasted until my teens when I came across a description of a loom and how it worked in one of the many books in the school library.  Still, it took a while before I made the connection with the magic my grandmothers did with what I saw in the picture.  It’s still a source of wonder for me, even knowing how they did it.

Yep, going to Grampa’s house was one of the high points of my childhood.  So many things happened while I was there.  Being small helped me to see many things cause people didn’t always see me sitting in the tree.  And I learned not to ask my parents about some things which left me wondering bout a great many things as I grew up.  It’s only been in the years while my sons were growing that I made sense of some of what I saw and heard cause I tried to answer my sons’ questions as best I could.  It was easier for me cause by then there was only one language being spoken in our house: English.

When Grandma Alice died, our language, Anishinabemowin, wasn’t spoken with us.  We had to learn English and keep on speaking it, thinking it and not listen when the elders spoke in “not-English.”  That’s how I thought of Anishinabemowin.  “Not-English.”  

There's a few  more stories I remember about Grandma Alice.  Great Grandma who lived with Grampa John in his magic house with the willow tree right in the middle of the village.


  1. Wonderful story, Mil. Very insightful. Love how you tied it together with the tree.

    1. Thanks. I think bout those days a lot, specially this past year.


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