Tuesday, January 8, 2008

That Time of the Month

Why am I so happy? Because the January issue of Downhome has arrived. Downhome is like the Reader's Digest of Newfoundland and Labrador. Newfoundland and Labrador, mysteriously named for two different breeds of dog, is the easternmost province of Canada. Canada is the country attached to the giftshop on the far side of Niagara Falls.

Each issue of Downhome contains heartwarming tales about how great it is to live in Newfoundland and Labrador, sandwiched between ads for moving companies and out-of-province realtors, because the inhabitants are outmigrating in droves, in a desperate search for employment.

Although the magazine has a circulation of 50,000, it reads more like a a smalltown newsletter. The letters to the editor are addressed familiarly to "Dear Mr. Young," or "Dear Ron," regardless of whether the writers have actually met the editor. Each letter warrants a personal response from Ron Young, which he prints along with the original missive for the greater edification of the province and its expats. The letters often contain inquiries, usually from adoptees looking for their birth families or adult offspring trying to identify the figures in a deceased father's war photos. Last month there was a seasonal variation, a reader seeking the lyrics to "Santa Claus is a Newfie." The letters invariably include the writer's email address and home phone number, so readers with information can get in touch.

My second favorite letter this month is from a guy who's collecting donations to send Tim Horton's gift certificates to Canadian soldiers serving in Afghanistan. Tim Horton's, if you don't know, is a chain that brings together Canadians' two greatest loves: Timmy Horton was an Ontario native who led the Maple Leafs to four Stanley Cup victories before founding his own donut empire. It was a major foreign relations coup when they opened the Timmy Tent for the troops in Kandahar. Perhaps even as you read this, a Canadian stands proudly in uniform, scarfing down a couple of honey dipped, thanks to Dave Murphy.

Here is my favorite letter for this month:
Hello Ron,
I lost my world when my father, Jim Mithcell of Twillingate, died in July 2000. I am starting a memory album of him, and I am wondering if any of your readers have something to share with me about Dad: a story he told them, a trick he played on them, or maybe they heard him play the accordion. People who worked with him on the sealing ships or fished with him may have photographs or a video that they wouldn't mind copying for me. I know there are lots of people who knew Dad and have beautiful memories of him.

The plaintive request from a daughter who misses her dad. The image of an accordion-playing raconteur and trickster. The unselfconscious reference to the sealing ships. Does it get better than that?

Yes, it does. Because here is Ron's response.
Actually, Linda, your dad's mother, Rachael, was my grandmother's sister, making you and me second cousins. Nice to hear from you coz, even if we've never met. The last time I saw your dad was at my grandmother's funeral in 1997.

Ron goes on to provide Linda's complete contact information. But I'm not typing that all up here. If you want it, how about you get your own subscription to Downhome?

No comments: