Whose Mouth Do I Speak With
by Suzanne Rancourt

I can remember my father bringing home spruce gum.
He worked in the woods and filled his pockets
with golden chunks of pitch.
For his children
he provided this special sacrament
and we’d gather at this feet, around his legs,
bumping his lunchbox, and his empty thermos rattled inside.
Our skin would stick to Daddy’s gluey clothing
and we’d smell like Mumma’s Pine Sol.
We had no money for store bought gum
but that’s all right.
The spruce gum
was so close to chewing amber
as though in our mouths we held the eyes of Coyote
and how many other children had fathers
that placed on their innocent, anxious tongue
the blood of tree?

Alex found this poem and sent it to me a while ago. She knew that it would conjure up some special childhood memories. I have countless snippets stored from times spent with Dad in my childhood, but probably the most numerous are of our walks in the pasture. It was four square miles of paradise to my childish eyes, and will forever be my favourite place in the whole world.

I don’t know how old I was the first time Dad got out his jackknife, scraped at a spruce tree trunk, and told me to hold out my hand. I’m guessing three or four, since I had to be old enough for my legs to take me to the forested part of the east pasture. I won’t lie and say that I loved the taste of spruce gum the first time I tried it, or for several times after that. But the sense of connection to something very primal and earthy more than made up for the “interesting” flavour.

Today would have been Dad’s 96th birthday, so it’s the perfect day for posting this poem. Obviously there was a reason why I forgot about it and only found it in my bookmarks today. I still miss him most at this time of year, when we once shared a joint birthday celebration. But this will be the tenth birthday without him and it doesn’t really hurt anymore. I’ve spent the day grinning to myself as I wandered through the pasture again with him in my mind’s eye. Sometimes I’ve seen a little red-headed girl, skipping along holding her daddy’s big hand. In other moments I’ve seen a teenager with a head full of questions, walking in step with a dad who always had a head full of answers. And sometimes there has been a little blonde-headed girl, skipping along holding her grandpa’s big hand, while a grown up girl wanders behind, watching history repeating itself.

Happy Birthday, Dad.


5 thoughts on “Wandering

  1. Hard to believe that your dad has been gone 10 years already…you have so many wonderful memories of him and I'm glad that they bring you so much comfort:-) Such a beautiful poem in his memory!!Happy Birthday to you, my friend, I hope you've been having a lovely day and being treated like a queen:-) xoxo

  2. I can remember to this very day my own father standing in the oul kitchen with his great big hand clasped around mine. He worked seven days a week his entire life and yet always had time for each and every one of his children. Precious memories that do ease the pain over time.I hope you had a happy birthday and even more pleasant memories of your father.

  3. Thanks for both of those thoughts, Diane. It's so easy to write about Dad because of the wealth of memories that are mine for life. How lucky I am. 🙂 The birthday you already know about, so 'nuff said there!Time has indeed flown, Pea. Dad always said that he'd rather we not remember him at all if we couldn't remember him with a smile, so he's getting his wish. For the first while you wonder if you'll ever lose the steel-toed boot to the stomach feeling, but it goes away with time. As you know yourself. As for the birthday, I was indeed treated like a queen. But when am I not treated like one by these two? How lucky am I? 😀

  4. Of course the new boy gets a comment all to himself. 🙂 A very warm welcome to you, Jimmy, and thanks for dropping by. Hopefully you'll feel the urge to make it a regular thing. It goes a bit quiet here sometimes as I've a challenge or two to deal with, but I always come back for more!I have to say that your comment really moved me. Men tend not to gush as freely as we silly women do, so it tends to affect me more when a man says such things. Obviously you lucked out in the Dad department, too. Isn't it grand?

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