When I was a kid growing up in the sixties I remember hearing of a country fair in Woodstock, New Brunswick, a town 100 km upriver from Fredericton. Each summer Woodstock celebrated what they called Old Home Week. I had lots of relatives who lived upriver, and who attended Old Home Week. Like all country fairs, Old Home Week brought together people from far and wide to show their animals, eat good food, ride the midway, and see old friends again. And whenever people gathered at our house, or we unexpectedly saw people we hadn’t seen in a while, Mum would say, “It’s like Old Home Week.”

So I guess you could say Hubby’s and my recent trip to New Brunswick was, as Mum would have said, like Old Home Week … or two weeks, to be specific. No animals were involved. We didn’t ride the midway. But we sure had a wonderful time getting reacquainted with old friends and familiar places. With a few good food adventures thrown in.

Misty early morning on the Rideau.

It’s a long drive from Ottawa to Fredericton, 1000 km give or take, so Hubby and I were up at dawn. Normally we leave home before sunrise. But the good thing about travelling in June this year, as opposed to August, is that we didn’t have to drive in the dark for the first hour. Lots of things have changed in the past few years, but it still feels good when, hours and hours of highway driving later, we turn into the driveway of the old farm.

Driving into the dawn as we head east.

My sister Carolyn is now living in Mum’s house, so at times during the two weeks we were there it was as if Mum had just stepped out for a bit, or was in the other room napping. Except for our bottle of white wine in the fridge. That would never have happened on Mum’s watch. Ha.

As is my habit on summer trips, I walked the trail several days, alone or with my sister. Hubby roamed the small rivers and creeks in search of brook trout, returned disgruntled in the late afternoon, and then set off again the next day. There were few fish… but at least it was good exercise. And he didn’t take a header down a steep gravelled bank and into the stream like last summer.

My friend Debbie and I shopped one day. On another day, we walked the old train bridge downtown, took the walking path along the river, and when we were walked-out, we fetched up at a bistro on Queen Street for lunch. Hubby and I had dinner in a downtown restaurant with Debbie and her husband one evening, to celebrate my birthday. The food was good, but the laughs were even better. Fredericton definitely has better restaurants than I remember from when I lived here many years ago.

My sister and Hubby and I ate my favourite childhood meal on my actual birthday. Hotdogs. I know… not a common 68th birthday food of choice. But my sister asked what I’d like for my birthday dinner, and that’s what I wanted. Maybe I’d been spending too much time wandering down memory lane. The hotdogs were delicious, though. And we had birthday cake too, of course.

Hubby and I indulged in take-out fish and chips one night. De rigueur when we are down east. And on our last night Hubby and Carolyn and I had a big lobster feed. The three trout Hubby had caught comprised our starter. Followed by lobster, salad, fresh asparagus, and crusty bread. Yum, yum. I didn’t take a photo of our feast because I didn’t think of it until all that was left on the table were empty bowls and plates, and empty lobster shells.

Fredericton is an old city, and the downtown streets are still lined with historic homes. On one Saturday morning, Carolyn and I visited the popular Boyce Farmers’ Market on George Street in downtown Fredericton. We parked blocks and blocks away. But the walk was lovely. I’d never noticed before that some of the older homes now have plaques explaining their history.

We had a blast at the market. I yakked to lots of people. An old friend who makes and sells wonderful soap made from goat’s milk. A guy who sells farm produce and who used to hay on the island where my step-father ran the farmer’s ferry. The same ferry I used to drive while Lloyd had his lunch break, during my brief career as a ferry-operator. Ha. I also chatted with another vendor in the back of whose truck my friends and I used to ride to the dances in Nackawic when we were reckless teenagers. Twenty km in the back of a truck. On country roads. At night. Gad. I can’t believe we used to do that. Going to market was definitely like Old Home Week for me.

The reimagined Marysville Cotton Mill

One day Hubby and I rode our bikes down the trail through Nashwaaksis, and up the Gibson Trail which runs along the Nashwaak River to Marysville. Mum and I and my brother and sisters lived in Marysville before Mum married my step-father and we moved to the farm.

Parts of Marysville are now considered a historic district. The Victorian red-brick cotton mill and the rows of red-brick former company houses, all part of the original 19th century company town, are now a national historic site. Back when I lived there we didn’t know it was historic. The mill was still operating, for a time at least. And the brick duplexes which line what we used to call Brick Hill, were simply where my friends lived.

Former “company houses” in Marysville leading to “Brick Hill.”

The old “Marysville Stores” building is now a coffee shop where I meet my childhood friends for coffee when I come home. I love that so much of the town has been preserved. That its working class heritage is valued. But I always feel a bit discombobulated when I return to Marysville. It looks much the same. And I am so very different. On the outside at least.

The sweet bride.

The second Saturday we were at home we ventured up to Nackawic. Not in the back of a truck this time. Ha. No, this time we travelled in a car, to Big Axe Brewery in whose event space my great niece was married. The bride, the granddaughter of my late brother Terry, looked adorable. A few tears were shed during the ceremony. The meal was tasty, the wine cold, and the evening was a ton of fun. A real Maritime partay. I have lots of photos that I won’t be sharing because I don’t know how others feel about their pictures being made public. I do know that if I published the short video I have of my sister and niece and a few others on the dance floor my name would be mud. Ha.

Two proud Great-Aunties

At one point during the evening I learned that the DJ was an old boyfriend of one of my closest high school friends. I hadn’t seen him since I was in grade 10. We had a nice reunion and a catch up, as in… “so what have you been doing for the last 50 years?” Ha. Old Home Week indeed.

And speaking of reunions. On market day as Carolyn and I were walking back to her car from a downtown coffee shop, I ran into another old friend. An old friend whom I hadn’t seen in a very long time.

Janet and I were close in university in the seventies, and after I moved to Ottawa. The year I returned to Fredericton in the eighties we were almost inseparable and supported each other through some stressful times. Throughout the nineties after I’d moved back to Ottawa we holidayed together with our spouses. Then we had a falling out. Didn’t repair it. Didn’t try to stay in touch. And finally drifted apart.

I’ve missed her over the years, you know. And that Saturday afternoon encounter seems like fate to me. What are the odds? She doesn’t live in Fredericton anymore. Hasn’t for years and years. But on that day, when I was visiting family, and she was in town with friends, we happened to be walking down the same street at the same time. If I hadn’t stopped to speak to a group of people while my sister waited for me, we might have already turned the corner and been walking up a side street when my old friend and her husband and friends happened along.

But I did stop. And we saw each other, both shouting the other’s name, then we laughed, hugged, laughed some more, hugged again. I was so happy to see her. Maybe it was fate. Serendipity. Whatever. I’m glad it happened. The lack of her friendship had left a Janet-sized hole in my life. I don’t think I realized that before. But I do now. And I’m hoping we can repair that hole. Finally.

Being back in New Brunswick this past couple of weeks has been what my Mum would have described as "just like Old Home Week."
P.E.I. holiday, sometime in the nineties.

So. Old Home Week was a roaring success. Not just one week, but two, actually. Old friends, family, older friends. Familiar places. Planned reunions and unexpected reunions. Lots of good food. And some very bad dancing.

Seriously, what more could I ask for from my blog hiatus?

P.S. Ironically, it just occurred to me that the photo of me and Janet taken on Prince Edward Island in the nineties was at a friend’s cottage which Hubby and I rented for a week every August. The same week of the Charlottetown Exhibition… also known as “Old Home Week.” Ha.


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34 thoughts on “Old Home Week… Or Two”

  1. I had a similar experience as you had with Janet. My friend and I drifted apart as our lives were going in totally different directions. 20 years later we ran into each other in a local mall and have been very close ever since. It is so special to have friendships that span decades and I am so thankful I ran into her that day. Our differences seem of no consequence any more. I hope the same happens with you and Janet.
    Nice to have your blogs back.

  2. It sounds like your trip was just what you needed! What a roaring success!
    Beautiful scenery, reconnecting with others, laughing, even bad dancing! It’s all good.
    One last thing, I don’t actually think that you look very different at all in the last photo to the way you look today. It still looks very much like you.

    1. I like that photo so much. Never noticed how much grey I had in my hair in my thirties until I saw that photo. I was only highlighting my hair at the time. Looked all bleached blonde.

  3. Welcome home . I’m fascinated by old industrial areas such as your Marysville & enjoy reading about them . We always seek them out when we can – Old water mills in the countryside , canals in the towns , narrow alleys in the cities , defunct railway lines , old fishing harbours , the slate quarries of Wales & the old footpaths which our ancestors used to get around . These are the places that hold ghosts for me , not the stately homes & grand estates . Whilst I can admire the craftsmanship of grand architecture I don’t relate to it . Even in Bath we preferred walking along the pretty canal at the back of the grand houses . I think I’d like exploring your hometown . It must be a great place to live as you found so many old friends who’ve stayed there & not moved away .
    Max checked out the range of beers at the wedding venue & it’s no wonder it was a jolly celebration ! I think he was quite envious . How lovely the bride looked . Your brother would have been very proud of her .

    1. The National Historic site website told me things I never knew about Marysville. I’m so glad that they’ve preserved much of it. Stu tried their beer but I wisely stuck to white wine. Ha.

  4. What a trip! So many memories and faces from the past, it must have been quite discombobulating to process. Re your friend: I had a similar friend, similar closeness, similar splitting of the ways, always regretted it. On my wedding day I thought of her and how she should have been there, but, you know…there was a brief reconciliation and then she went to live in Switzerland and I heard no more until, years later, on a Sunday when I was cooking lunch and all alone in the kitchen, the phone rang and there she was. We see each other a couple of times a year but the essential friendship is still there and we are still who we were. Life does odd things.

    1. Life does do odd things As more of my friends migrate back down east, I’m reconsidering my vow that I’d never move back. The quality of life down there is pretty good, I think.

  5. It sounds and the pictures support that you had a wonderful vacation. I’m so glad for you. Going home without your mother there can be off setting at times. I know. It’s a tad like falling down the rabbit hole where familiar things are slightly off and you realize you have changed too. I hope you can repair your friendship with your friend. So much history there and shared memories make a good argument for working things out. Glad you are back refreshed and energized! Missed your blog!

  6. Your pictures are fabulous and you had a wonderful time. So enjoy reading your blog. I still cannot imagine keeping it down to just FIVE!!! Whenever I see a Sale Sign, it is like a red flag to a bull and I tend to charge in. And CHARGE then becomes the operative word. Fantastic reunion for everyone.

  7. It looks and sounds like a wonderful trip. The bride and her dress are stunning. I want to see more of what you wore at the wedding. Connecting with old friends can be very comforting: people who knew us at a different time of life. A few years ago I had a random encounter with a high school friend that I had not seen in many years. During the pandemic she orchestrated zoom calls with some of our group that have continued. And tomorrow I am meeting four of those friends for breakfast. Our lives went in different directions for many years, but here we are sharing not only memories, but our current lives.

    1. My niece’s dress was perfect for her. She looked so beautiful. And very tasteful, I thought. I plan to do an outfit post next week Wedding-guest-outfit saga… plus other fashion trivia.

  8. Que votre pays est beau et verdoyant .
    Mon jardin est plein de roses et les lavandes fleurissent déjà.
    Que je vous envie de pouvoir remettre vos pas dans ceux de votre enfance ,de retrouver votre famille …
    Ce doit être vivifiant et tellement heureux …
    Merci de partager vos impressions avec nous .
    Bonne semaine

  9. A great post. It seems to me to have a healing and cup-filling vibe. Thanks.
    Is that your new white jacket being worn by your sister in the “Two proud Great-aunties” photos?

  10. Marietta Winchester

    This is my first time posting Sue -I missed reading your blog! Reading it today I feel as if I am visiting your childhood home! Welcome back!

  11. What a wonderful post, Sue! Thanks for sharing Old Home Week, your own edition, with all of us readers. Speaking of readers, I can’t wait for your next book post. You’re my best source of reading recommendations!

  12. Welcome back! Sundays have not been quite the same without a new post to read, but it was good to know you were taking a well-deserved break. Thanks for sharing your New Brunswick adventures with us!

  13. Welcome back ! I hope you feel refreshed and revived,the thought of writing a blog every week and putting as much into it as you do makes me want to go and have a lie down.
    I had a falling out with my best friend in our last year at high school, she took something that I said as sarcasm, but I think there was something else , I was dating someone that I think she wanted for herself. I could never understand why that came before our friendship, but that’s teenage girls for you ! We never made it up and I always wish that somehow we could have, but anyway I left the UK,and I’ve never seen her since.

    1. Thanks. Maisie. I am ready to be back! I think with fractured friendships it’s hard to find the way to make that initial contact. I’m glad ours was accidental. Saves all that awkwardness.

  14. Welcome back! You have been missed.
    Looks like you had a lovely trip both mentally and physically. A trip down memory lane can be comforting in many ways.
    Love the photos – everything looks so lush and green.

  15. I’m so glad that you’ve had wonderful holidays and family and friends reunion (and a beautiful wedding)!

  16. I only know “Old Home Week” as a PEI thing, so was surprised to learn of its New Brunswick iteration! I guess it’s a Maritime thing….

    Beautiful bride, great setting, sounds like a lovely wedding. Looking forward to seeing what you wore.

    So happy you met up with Janet, and I truly hope the reconciliation sticks. My Janet was Suzie, and we had a fall-out after being besties from the first day of grade 7 through college. I tried to apologize for my part, but she wouldn’t listen. Fast forward 30 years, and I received a FB friend request from her, and a private message with a full-throated apology. Our friendship was restored, but she had Parkinson’s, so our reconnection lasted only 13 years before she passed 18 months ago. I still miss her, and hate the wasted time. Hoping for a happier ending for you!

    1. Thanks, Carol. Yes, I hope Janet and I will repair our friendship too. Sorry you had too little time with your friend. Stu and I loved to go to Old Home Week in Charlottetown in the nineties. We went every year to the rented cottage for a decade because we couldn’t bear not to go. We loved the harness races and the down-homeness of the Charlottetown fair. Not to mention the freshly dug clams. Ha.

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