Fishing For Eels, Catching Memories

We were walking along the banks of the Thames River in London, England, near Parliament, when we came upon the three fishermen. Or perhaps that should be fisher boys as they were obviously preteens. There was a bench opposite them so we sat down and watched.

I never did figure out the family dynamic, though Vivian could probably tell you since she spoke to the man accompanying the boys. One, or maybe two of them were his grandsons, the other was a friend of theirs. This was a summer afternoon outing, teach them to fish. Though I am only guessing at the teaching part – they seemed to be doing well enough on their own without much instruction.

That is, they were doing well enough if you like eels. The creatures looked to me like every little boy’s delight, slippery and wiggling, but I am not sure how they would taste. I’ve never eaten an eel, but given that I like fish and seafood I probably would enjoy eating one. I have no idea how they are cooked and I presume some people find them very tasty. I must admit though that when I think about the Thames my first thought is the centuries of human pollution. I’d want to do some research before consuming anything caught in the river, just to make sure it was safe to eat.

I seem to have caught only two of the boys as they were proudly displaying their catch to passersby.

I seem to have caught only two of the boys as they were proudly displaying their catch to passersby.

I suspect this fishing expedition was not just about catching supper. It was about creating memories. Those three boys will always remember the outing with their grandfather, the excitement as they hauled their catch out of the river. I would not be surprised if that was his purpose.

I don’t remember much about my grandfather (I only really had the one since my paternal grandfather died before my parents met) – he died when I was 10. He and my grandmother had moved from Montreal, where my family lived, to Toronto a couple of years before that. I have no difficulty conjuring up his face in my memory, and I remember his house, but am hazy on what activities we did together.

Except for the Santa Claus Parade.

As in many cities worldwide, the annual Santa Claus Parade marks the unofficial start to the Christmas season in Montreal. As a child it was always a magical time, watching the different floats go by, waiting for Santa in the last float on his way to set up his court in Eaton’s department store. It was an exciting event, but being at street level with thousands of people made it difficult for us little guys to get a good view of what was going on.

My grandfather solved that problem. His office was along the parade route. He took me and my brother up to the 10th floor (I think it was) and we were able to have a great view of the parade, and were sheltered from the late-November cold. It has been more than 50 years, but I still remember. I suspect my grandfather knew he was making a memory.

The grandfather taking three boys to catch eels in the Thames River probably didn’t have dinner as his foremost objective. He too knew he was building memories. The day will come when he is no longer alive, but three no longer little boys will remember that afternoon, their youthful delight and the man who made it possible.

I have tried from time to time as a parent to do something special with my children, something that will create memories that they can draw upon in the future. Time will tell whether I have succeeded. Now it is your turn. Go out and build some memories with the children in your life. Go catch an eel!

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One comment

  1. No doubt you have created a wealth of memories for your kids, Lorne. And if you become a grandfather, I am sure you will create wonderful memories for your grandchildren.

    I have only the slightest memory of those parades, watching from the SunLife building. Yet more than a decade after grandfather died, when I was back in Montreal for that summer, the sight of that building still made me feel good – made me feel I belonged and that I had history there. My memories of the house are stronger, especially the Sunday afternoon games played with grandma B – rolling the cushions, hide-the-thimble. I remember watching her knit afghan strips, with the one needle held in the special holder she used after her stroke.

    Thank you for writing about grandpa B. It is good to remember.

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