I'd wondered who lived in the house on the riverbank in a little academic enclave in London, Ont. When my father and stepmother lived there I adored it. It had dark floors and beams, an eccentric layout and a big stone fireplace. It seemed both solid and transparent. Beyond its big picture windows kayakers navigated high water, ducklings tottered across the grass, a curious groundhog peeped, squirrels staged epic raids on the bird feeders. So many trees. Rose bushes and daffodils. As I understood it, the house had been, long before, a bootlegger's shack, then hauled up the bank and expanded bit by bit.
It was a special place made more so by its special people -- smart, tasteful, amusing, alert in conversation to the telling detail, the charming coincidence, the good story.
And here we were chatting out on the deck behind the legion in Bonne Bay, with the lit silhouette of the mackerel boat at our backs, the bay glassy and the sky blazing with stars, a visitor from London and I, and she knew the house.
More than knew it; she had celebrated Christmases there. Her host had round for the holidays his aged and spirited father, who joked about getting sprung from his retirement home and one year had a serious request: no more turkey. Please. It was always on the menu at the facility where he lived; "I am so tired of the damned stuff," he said.
And what would he suggest? Chinese takeaway! Something that tastes... like something, for heaven's sake. Done. They had a Chinese feast. Now he is gone, but at Christmas they toast him and tuck into takeaway, steaming cartons and crinkling packets of soy sauce instead of the gravy boat and the dressing spoon.
A good story.