There have been countless memorable moments for Rita MacDonald during her many visits to Antigonish, but one never fails to evoke a hearty laugh.
“I am going to bed after a cup of tea and a peek in the Casket,” she said, with a chuckle, quoting a line that came from her first cousin, Josie England, one night.
“I will never forget being so taken back by that,” she added.
MacDonald remembered, as a young girl, in this part of the world – unlike in her home state of Michigan, there were often wakes in peoples’ homes.
“I thought they are still doing that, but I wondered why she wanted to have a look,” she said.
Although England quickly cleared up the confusion – explaining ‘the Casket’ was the much-talked about name for the local weekly newspaper – it didn’t lessen the humorous effect, one that continues almost two decades later.
“We have a lot of fun with it,” she said.
MacDonald’s father, Peter, was one of 16 children from the ‘Little Alan’ family that made their home in Ohio – the one in Antigonish County, not the Buckeye State. As a young man, Peter moved to Detroit, where he married and started a family.
“We would drive for three days (each way) – I don’t know how my parents did it,” MacDonald said of her family’s annual summer trips to Antigonish, five people in a “big blue Oldsmobile.”
She added “there are so many great memories” of those excursions, including time spent with family and friends at her Aunt Jean’s house.
“We loved eating at Wong’s,” MacDonald said, with a laugh, noting a BLT sandwich was the meal of choice for her and her sister.
“And, one year, we were there for a total eclipse. I remember how dark it got,” MacDonald said, recalling hundreds of people gathering in a field to witness the spectacle.
The visits – like the one just a couple weeks ago – are as enjoyable as ever.
When asked about her affection for Antigonish, she said “it is hard to explain.”
“I just love it – it feels like home,” MacDonald added.