These days, I’m feeling rather nostalgic. Dictionary.com defines nostalgia as “a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one’s life, to one’s home or homeland, or to one’s family and friends; a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time.”
When I grew up in Winnipeg in a family
of immigrants, we had boisterous Ukrainian Easter celebrations on my uncle and aunt’s farm and sometimes in our own home. Those were good times. There was a gang of us: my grandmother and her three sons and one daughter along with their spouses and children and a few more relatives and friends.
We’d gather at the farm after the lengthy mass at church, at which we’d bless our baskets filled with traditional foods. One year, the church even had their picnic on the farm. A wooden dance floor was built and laid down on the road leading to the chicken coop.
The bountiful lunch (including Paska and other food from the blessed baskets) took place in my uncle and aunt’s living room. Tables were put end to end and loaded with enough food to feed three times as many. Yes, plenty to eat and plenty to drink.
Once the meal was done, we cracked dyed eggs to see who had the strongest one. That tradition was followed by the singing of old folk songs. My uncles had rich tenor voices, ones that should’ve been recorded. Too bad today’s easy technology was missing back then. Some of the songs were the kind you’d want to kick your heels or twirl around to, others were sad stories of their homeland. Later, my cousins and I would run outside to play on the long swing in the nearby forest or play baseball with the whole family on the uneven field, that served as a cow pasture.
Passions ran deep with this lot as they’d been through so much together immigrating to Canada from an occupied Ukraine in the 1920s (the subject of my next book, an excerpt of which has already been published in Escape, an anthology published by Peregrin).
Though too much rye whiskey at these celebrations often led to unguarded words and heated exchanges, their love for one another carried them through to yet another day and another family get-together.
I’ve tried to carry on my mother’s traditions
in a small way. Our wee family on Vancouver Island even attempted to add more pysanky to our growing collection. For dinner, we had some of the traditional foods: paska (Easter bread), ham, kielbassa, holupchis (cabbage rolls), varenykys (perogis) and various vegetables. I made a lemon meringue pie, one of my mother’s favorites. It was a good meal but didn’t come close to the bounty I remember.
But nice as it was to carry on the tradition, my mother is no longer here, nor my father, nor my baba. My uncles and aunts are also gone, as are a few of my cousins, one of whom lived on the farm. They may be gone, but I still see their faces and smiles.
My mother’s traditions have been
watered down and they will no doubt disappear with the next generation, who will have their own ways of dealing with their past. Such is life and change.
We live in a rich land of many immigrants, many cultures, many traditions. For me, nostalgia, though wistful, is one way to celebrate those memories, even if they bring on the tears.
Are there things you do to celebrate the past? Are you at all nostalgic like me?