Pakenham Picnics

by Wendy Passmore-Godfrey

I grew up in Ottawa and some of my clearest memories are of family drives over the dirt roads of rural Ontario, Mom at the station wagon wheel, Dad with the map, the dog in the back and us three kids squashed in the back seat, with excited hot-dog breath on our necks.

Our drives inevitably included getting stuck in the mud and the adventure of getting unstuck. All these years later, I still have a piece of wood that was instrumental in extrication one time.

In autumn we would drop in on community Thanksgiving dinners, in old stone churches hunkered under spreading trees of orange, red and yellow, sitting elbow to elbow with strangers, on a wooden bench, forking mounds of mashed potatoes and gravy into our mouths.

Pakenham was one of my favourite destinations. (It was fun to say for one thing.) The beautiful stone bridge spans the background in many tiny black and white photos in our family albums. On hot summer days we waded across the sheets of rock under the cold river, our introduction to the awesomeness of geology. There was always an ice cream cone and the tip was always for the dog – disappearing in one slobbery snap.

I’m not sure if I can draw a direct line between the family picnics and my career/vocation as puppet builder and performer, and Artistic Director of WP Puppet Theatre in Calgary, AB. But I certainly can tell the story of being a child and climbing into our Ottawa house attic to make puppets. With my best friend Pam, I created epics such as the semi- autobiographical “Hood the Horrible” and “The History of Flying”. Our first paying gig was a friend’s birthday party when the clown cancelled and they were desperate for some entertainment.

However we are a sum of our past so I’m sure that picnics and Pakenham, ice cream and muddy back roads all inform my creativity. I’m looking forward to seeing the haunts again, when I come out to the Almonte Puppets Up Festival this August 2015.

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Photo credit: B&T Barnett.