Growing up in Newfoundland: Three Folklore Journals

Image Credit: Erik Mclean

Journal Entry Number One:

Growing up in St. John’s as a child, some parental customs practiced by my mother and father may not have particularly been common in the St. John’s area; considering that both of them are from outside the city. When I was about six years old, my father would often have this common practice, if he thought I was lying about something. One day my father questioned me regarding something I had done, rightfully assuming that I was the culprit because I do not have any siblings, nor did I have any pets at the time. My father said, “Brandon, let me see your tongue.” When asking this, my father was able to determine whether I was lying or not allegedly due to white spots appearing on my tongue. Although the more rational idea behind this is that based on my mannerisms and body-language, my father was able to tell that I was not telling the truth. In turn, this was likely due to my inability to maintain a straight face. Honestly, I do not know where this idea comes from, but it could possibly originate in the Central area of Newfoundland where my dad was raised. My mother being from Bonavista Bay never used this method to determine if I was lying, but it was a regular occurrence between myself and my father. Keeping that in mind, this does sound like I was a mischievous child.

A few weeks ago, (at the time of originally writing this piece) I mentioned this to my father and said to him:

“You know, that whole “let me see your tongue” thing you would do when I was a kid, I know there weren’t any white spots on my tongue but how did you know I wasn’t telling the truth?”

“Well,” he said, “There weren’t any white spots on your tongue, but you just couldn’t look at me with a straight face, and that’s what gave it away. I could tell by the look in your eyes that you were lying.”

He laughed. With this concept of lying, and spots appearing on the tongue of children that only parents can see, this also brings the idea of a white lie. Now that I think about it that is probably why the colour of the spots on my tongue would have been “white”.

Entry Number Two:

When I was a child, parental folklore seemed to be a frequent occurrence in my life. As an adult I now realize that customs my parents believed in were actually aspects of folklore, and even methods of parenting could be seen as folkloristic. From about age six to ten, this next example is actually from my mother’s parenting methods. My mother would claim to possess eyes in the back of her head. One time I asked my mother about this, and she said:

“He comes down to cognitive thinking, (in Newfoundland vernacular). Other than hearing you do something I told you not to do, there is the idea that if a parent tells their small child not to do something, chances are the child is going to do it.”

When I was four years-old, my family and I moved from St. John’s-East to Kilbride, which is located in the West End of the city. Upon moving, the only thing that remained in my parent’s living room was my father’s eighty year-old china cabinet which belonged to his grandmother. The bottom drawer was open, so my parents could remove items before they would place it on the moving truck. My mother told me earlier this week (at the time of originally writing this piece):

“I told you not to sit in the bottom of it, and I told your father you would sit in it as soon as we turned around.”

As mentioned earlier, the more a parent tells a small child not to do something the greater the anticipation of doing it becomes. As a result, I immediately sat in the bottom of the empty china cabinet, only for it to come crashing down upon me; at least that was what my parents thought. However, I managed to escape unscathed, the only ailment was that I was extremely scared by the whole experience and my mother managed to grab me before I would have been injured. My parents proceeded to clean up the mess created by the destruction of the glass panels in the doors of the china cabinet, while I was given time to think about what I did (so to speak). I mentioned this instance to my mother when I was a few years older, and she claimed that she knew because she had eyes in the back of her head.

Entry Number Three:

This final entry comes from 2013 when I started my final year of high school. When I was in high school I had tutor for Math, because at certain points I struggled with it. However, I was not terrible at Math, but I have not taken it since starting my Memorial University career because it is unnecessary for an English Major. For my first two years of high school, I hardly cared for my grades and had more interest in what my friends were doing. So in grade twelve, I decided that it was time to actually make an effort considering that I wanted to attend Memorial University next fall. At this point, I made a great effort to make sure that all items on my agenda for school were complete on time, and that nothing was forgotten. It was my goal to get ahead.

When thinking of folklore, individuals must consider that one aspect would be customs of the people, and even common rituals. Whether these rituals are major or not, perhaps coinciding with some sort of religion; there are also rituals which are seen as minor. For instance, I asked my tutor:

“How can I remember the things I have to do, if something is important? I don’t really want to make a list of things.”

He replied, “I usually draw a circle on my hand. Then when I look at it, I know there was something I need to do. The longer I look at it, the easier it is to remember what that actually is.”

This is folklore when it comes to the concept of rituals. Although this has no affiliation with religion and such, this custom was something I believed would allow me to remember all of what I needed to do, which held great importance. Folklore is often depicted as based on customs which people place into their daily lives, and even their personal beliefs. This interaction I had with my Math tutor allowed me to realize easy methods for remembering important things I needed to do at the time, without actually conducting a list. With that being said, this allowed me to participate in my own ritual, although it was nothing major, it was important to me. Seeing that it granted me the opportunity of doing well, I was able to become a student at Memorial University.

(c) The Modernist Son

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