Gwen Tuinman



rural ontario

Feeling Nostalgic — A Rural School Experience


September is the month when children return to the hallowed halls of education to rejoin their friends for another nine months of lessons. No matter my age, I still feel the urge for back-to-school preparations. The arrival of September brings with it a sense of urgency. It feels like a time of renewal or the beginning of a new cycle. Continue reading “Feeling Nostalgic — A Rural School Experience”

Memories of a Rural Childhood

I recently encountered a humorous individual who claimed to enjoy “spelunking, knitting and tatting“.  A curious combination of pastimes, I thought.  I don’t meet many people who tat and even fewer who spelunk.  My grandmother actually taught me how to tat on an ivory shuttle.  She and my grandfather lived on the farm next to my childhood home.

DSC_0052 (2)Their farmhouse was simple by modern standards, but in my eyes, it was a wonderland of discovery. A screen covered veranda hugged the front and side of the house.  I found it infinitely impressive that one could be both indoors and outdoors at the same time.  A walkway lead from the gravel lane to the backdoor. Just outside that door, imbedded in cement, was a bootscraper. Before going inside, the bottoms of boots were dragged along its dull metal edge to clean off clods of earth collected throughout the day.

I recall the mudroom and wading about in my grandfather’sGwen fall 1967 white barnyard in background 001 rubber boots. My grandparents’ jackets hung in rows from wooden pegs and smelled of honesty and hard work. Their sleeves tickled my face when I ran along the wall.  A trapdoor was cut into the sandy plank floor. Beneath the weight of its metal pull ring lay a mystical place where children weren’t allowed. The root cellar was damp and musty, its walls lined with dusty jars of canned tomatoes, pickled crabapples, beets, and chile sauce. Wrinkly potatoes sprouted roots through burlap bags.

A memory is returning to me now of cucumbers in a tall ceramic crock pot, floating in salty brine. My grandmother wearing an apron, her cheeks flushed with exertion. One of those crock pots lives in my home now. Instead of pickles waiting to be born, it holds umbrellas wishing for rainy days.

Harold and Cleo farmhouseThe kitchen was snug but no one ever minded. The window above the sink looked across a cornfield flanked by woods. There was always an African violet on the windowsill and another plant, a succulent, whose name I can’t remember. It looked like strings of green pearls tumbling from a pot.

There were hyacinth glasses and forced bulbs to mesmerize me as well. Their roots waved through the water like translucent hair.

Of all the images  this exercise of remembering conjures, it is this one that causes the lump in my throat to rise and the tears to come.

Oh, and by the way, tatting is a form of lacemaking that uses a “shuttle” and white thread.  As for spelunking,  I’m not sure, but I don’t think we did it on the farm!


Please leave a comment.  I’d love to hear from you!

Feeling Nostalgic — Surrounded: On Living Among Books


While I was growing up, my hometown continued to shift and alter as well. The historical building that once housed our library is long gone, and in its place, stands a modern structure.

tillsonburg public libraryVisiting  the original building felt like stepping onto a page of history. Beautiful architectural features welcomed patrons: columns, a hardwood foyer, oak bannisters, arched doorways and ornate trim work. I still remember, with great fondness, the old book smell, sagging shelves, and card catalogue system.   Before setting out on summer vacations to northern Ontario cottages, I would sign out an armful of books to read on splintery docks.

My first elementary school was called the Goshen Side Road Elementary.  Cow pastures surrounded our playground on three sides.  With only three classrooms, you can well imagine, there was no room for a library in our building.  Visits by the bookmobile brought us no end of joy. This travelling library was a big purple transport truck; bookcases lined the inside of the trailer.  Each child was allowed to sign out two books, then the truck was off to visit the next school.

Today, waiting for a book to arrive means I am waiting for my Chapters/Indigo order to come through the mail slot.  I’ve resisted the move to e-books, so far.  There is a tactile experience to holding a book that can’t be satisfied by holding a Kindle.f7e1b2dfa11a776abbbae4e828784452

I must confess that technology is adding to my book experience in an unexpected way.

Through the magic of Pinterest, I am curating a world where I am surrounded by books.  When I need to reconnect with that old book smell or surround myself with a gallery of books that could never fit within my house, I log on, and walk slowly through my collection of nostalgic library and bookshop photos.

Please click on the link to follow me:   Libraries and Bookshops.


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