Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Scottish Parents and Woolen Swim Trunks....

There is a black and white photo of my parent's taken on a warm summer day, on a white sandy beach somewhere here in Southern Ontario. I believe it may be the Sandbanks beach area....but it really doesn't matter that much where it was taken,  because it's what my father is wearing in the picture that really matters.

I absolutely cherish this photo.

My parents arrived in Canada sometime in the 1950's via a big 
boat. I can not imagine what that would have been like, I can't imagine being given all that sailing time to ponder: " what have we done? What will happen to us?" Any time I have made a life changing decision like that, the plane has  already landed and debarked before I can even comprehend what I've done.

However, I believe that no matter how you come to the decision to 
relocate, once you get to the destination, you just make it work. 

My father told my sister and I that for the first few years of " making it work in Ontario" he had a bag packed, ready to go back to Scotland. It took my father years to come to love Ontario as his new home.
** on a side note my father had two choices for relocation dictated by employment. This always struck me as completely fascinating, but his other choice was:  São Paulo Brazil! What a toss up! I mean how do you choose? Small town Ontario or São Paulo Brazil?? 

Some how I bet the boat trip to Canada w my mother vs. the boat trip to Brazil won out. Still, this didn't stop my sister and I fantasizing about being raised by nannies, speaking Portuguese and going to private schools...all in jest mind you. 

**Scottish parents in the 1970's and 80's meant for a myriad of slight linguistic misunderstandings, mostly by my young friends:  " what did your dad just say Sheila? It sounded like he was talking about wearing a bra and eating Cheerios!??"

That would be my father commenting on what a a beautiful day it was out, and that he was away to enjoy it. " Ach wee Pat, come in, Sheelah's jis aboot ready. It's a braw dee oot, isnny a cloud in the sky. I am awaw doon the toon, cherio the new." I mean, what's to not understand?  

Perhaps most importantly however, the 70's and 80's meant that my mother decided that knitting, and by knitting I mean she could have put Far East sweat shops to shame, was her job. My mother knit everything! I am surprised the 3 of us kids weren't cocooned and birthed by Phentex yarn itself.  
If you had a birthday party to go to, " here, you'll tak this lovely han knit soffee arm rest, I am sure wee Nancy will love it  Shelah!" If you needed a present for the teacher, " Shelah, dinny gee me tha face, I know Miss. Davies wheel jis luv this han made breed baskit"
I was quickly becoming known as the kid who gave the absolutely weirdest hand spun brick a brack for gifts, and!! always in the wildest colours that only Phentex could deploy. Bright orange hues, speckled with lavish dark green threads, artfully plucked atop putrid beige and washed out ham pink. (for those of you who aren't familiar with the "yarn" Phentex; imagine anything next to your skin knit with those metal SOS pot scrubbing pads. Think prickly, fully flammable, hideous colours! and lasted for years) All I ever wanted from my mother from her incredible knitting accomplishments was a black sweater. 

In the 80's I was all consumed by the punk rock and new music uprising. To be honest, it wasn't so much the music, although, do not get me wrong, I still adore most of my 80's faves...I was more consumed by the flamboyant fashion, and "no rules " of that one-of fashion period. It wasn't like today, you couldn't just go out and buy what you wanted. That kind of fashion style was never available in stores ( in fact today, when I am somewhere and hear a song I had to beg to get played on a dance floor or radio in the early 80's , and here I am in the grocery store, or mall in the year 2016 and it's just being played as back ground " musac"!?! I always reflect on my generation's pioneering for change.) 

It was quite sometime before a corporate store began reflecting what a kid into that scene wanted to wear. And, by the time they did, we had all grown out of it anyway....Le Chateau anyone?... An oversized, strategically ripped black sweater was an essential wardrobe piece to any new music/punk rocker worth their salt back in the early 80's. Much like now how a Chanel, Prada or Louboutin piece has taken over, but we just didn't have a brand name to slap on the coveted sweater. 

I hunted high and low for that perfect sweater, every second hand store I could think of was rummaged through. Then one day, much like little Ralphie in the now classic Christmas movie; 'A Christmas Story", I had a brain storm idea! Just like Ralphie concluded he would ask Santa for his much dreamed of toy, I decided this: " I know! I will ask my mom if she can knit me a black sweater!" I was over joyed with my new most excellent idea! So I approached my mom. " Mom, for Christmas I was wondering if you could knit me a black sweater? But make it like dad size, and use acrylic instead of Phentex.!? What? You can? Really? Wow...thanks mom!" 

For the next 2 months all I could think of was that new black sweater....loosely knit, oversized to my knees, I could even put a few well placed holes in it to make it extra cool! And hey, for a kid who took a pair of solid white Ked sneakers and stayed up till 4am one night going through at least 3 black markers to create a much coveted checkered pattern on them, all to emulate the Ska fashion trend at the moment; surely to gawd cutting some well placed "worn" looking holes in the sweater would be a breeze! 

Christmas Day finally arrived, and once I made it past my dad's blinding 8mm camera lights (the 80's version of a tanning bed) I made a bee line for the box I knew that sweater was in! I ripped it open, peeled back the carefully placed tissue and pulled out the black sweater of total coolness. Cept this sweater wasn't my version of cool. I looked over the heaping Princess Diana shoulder puff sleeves at my mother's beaming face, my mouth was hanging open. What was this Teeny, fitted girly black sweater from Vogue-does-ugly?!? Where was my oversized, loose knit cool factor outer wear? 

Now I am sure that on any other day my hideous, teenage hormone induced naughty self would have said something not very nice about my mother's creation. Today was Christmas though, and I could see she was so proud of herself. "Are yee happy wee it Shelah? Isn't it jis lovely?! I used acrylic wool, jis like yee wanted." Then and there I thought I could make that sweater cool, I'd come up with something. " yeah! Thanks mom, it's great!" **I did try to make that sweater cool to me, and well, unfortunately the arms fell off of it. As I was in the hall at high school, talking to a boy I really liked...that was after it almost strangled me at a Flock of Seagulls concert...this teenage bitch was getting Vogue pattern served** 

At about this time my father was opening his gift from mom, in the box he was given he pulled out a steaming huge pair of knit swimming trunks! His face was still as he pondered for a moment what it was that he actually received, the more he unraveled them, the bigger they got. Then he looked at my mother, " fer Cris sake, wit the hell are these?!" My mother was all too happy to tell him: "Woolen swim trunks yee eejit, they'll keep yee warm when yee swim!" To which my father replied: "swim? Bloody sure they'll no! Droon is mare like it!" This is where our family excelled, humour and sarcasism. Our biggest sign of love for one another was if you could make each laugh with a tinge of unintended cruelty, served straight up on the rocks of truth. 

Which brings me back to the picture of my more youthful parents which I cherish... on the beach...my mom with the skinny cigarette in one hand, pointed bikini top on, toes meshed in the sand, her one arm around my father as he stood boyish and goofy in his woolen swim trunks...the both of them beaming happy together in the hot sun, each content in their new found country.

1 comment:

  1. This one is my favourite so far. I ken the photie ye are on aboot! Remember the year we gave Dad for Christmas his old house coat that he thought he had thrown out? Or what about the time we cut the leg off his horrible checkered polyester pants? And he still wore them at the camp! Mom's sweaters were itching torture, but we were told, through gritted teeth, that we were to wear them! She did knit me a lovely argyle one which I still have. Love that sweater! And, love you too.