Mother Figures

I had a call the other night from one of the women I admire most in the world. She was a steadfast friend of my mother’s, and she and her husband have, since my mother’s death, looked out for my father, even as he becomes increasingly eccentric.

My parents met Marg and John in university. They all worked together to build their cottage on the Sunshine Coast, where I spent two weeks of every summer, growing up. If I close my eyes right now, I can see the rich, curling bark of the arbutus tree in the front yard, standing out against the blue of the ocean and the deep furry green of the island opposite the bay.

They remained close friends through house-buying and child-having and the rest of those things that constitute life. Their family has always been closer to us than even many of our relatives.

When Marg was pregnant with twins, her two-year-old daughter came and lived with us for three months. The twins were born on my dad’s birthday, so we always celebrated together.

When I was going through teacher training, I lived at their house.

After my mother died, Marg helped me clear out her closets.

On the phone the other night, there was a lull in the conversation. Then Marg said, “Sometimes I just wish I could talk to your mom.” “Me too,” I said.

I wondered if she’d called me as a substitute. And then I wondered how I was doing, as a substitute.

At my dad’s birthday on Wednesday night, I saw a picture of the granddaughter of two of my parents’ oldest friends. She’s two and a half years old and is the most beautiful blond angel you ever did see.

In the picture, she was clutching two seven-inch, fat, squidgy banana slugs in her little hands. Holding them up to the camera like trophies. It was so disgusting and so funny I had no words.

But, really. Should I worry about my ability to raise children if other people, people I know and respect, are letting their daughter squish banana slugs in her hands?

I don’t think so. They were really gross.

We’re Back.

Saskatchewan didn’t kill me.

Details later. I can’t decide whether to blog the experience using pure vitriol, or maybe just some deep irony seasoned with a soupcon of sneer.

Next year, we’re going to somewhere where we can communicate better with the people we stay with. Say, Outer Mongolia. Maybe some folks in the Cameroons. Hell, I hear that the Emperor penguins in Antarctica are friendly. Plus, they won’t give us dish towels. Probably.

Can’t sleep. Result:

Your Elf Name Is…

Dixie Snowballer

Does this sound vaguely porny to you?

The Tea Party

Tomorrow I’ll be taking off to spend my first Christmas ever away from my family.

My underwear is clean. My really warm coat is out of storage and de-wrinkled, so E’s parents don’t think he mistakenly left me at home and took a bag lady to Regina. The crochet scarf for his mom is wrapped. Ditto the book on notable gardens, for his dad. Wool socks? Check. Books to read? Check. Plants watered? Check. It’s done.

I’m not worried about being thrust into another family’s holiday traditions. I can do that. I’m flexible, right? I can deal with it if the gravy is too lumpy or watery or turnip-y. It’s no problem if the gift-giving happens after dinner or something. I can do it.

The problem is the tea party.

Our family subscribes to the ‘more is more’ school of christmas tree decoration. We have about a bajillion decorations, ranging from the carnival glass heirlooms to the made-it-in-kindergartens, to the-bought-it-on-sales, to the ones from the year we made cookie cutter ones from playdough, and painted and be-sequinned them. The latter, my brother and I hung on the lowest branches when our last dog was alive, because she would obligingly chew the hell out of a few each year. She spat every soggy bit ut, so we never knew what it was that made her chew the, Finely honed aesthetic sense? Maybe. Bo and I hated those decorations.

But I have always, since I was old enough to decide on a guest list, been the one to create the tea party. I was always the more interested kid, when it came time to choose a tree, because I had to have space, around the trunk, for the party.

The tea party consists of the ornaments that are heirloom, or will be, and are also people or animal-shaped. They are the elves that sit on branches and the bendy, pipe-cleaner poodles. They are the little sweeping maids and the drummer boys. They are large-eyed mice and silly little fairies. When I was about six, I made my dad buy some decorations that were songbirds in gilded cages. I thought they’d add the right tone to the party.

Every year, the tea party comes out for Christmas. This year, they won’t .

I miss them. Don’t laugh.

‘Tis the Season.

I know I am not a wildly social person. I know I’m an introvert. I know that I can do well in social situations, but I’d rather have a group of people I know than a group of strangers. Any day.

What I don’t like is a party full of strangers. What’s even worse is a party full of boring strangers. That was last night for me. I can’t say I didn’t have a good time, but I can’t say I didn’t do it without the aid of copious amounts of red wine.

The hosts of the party are an old friend of E’s and his wife. I like the old friend. I don’t like the wife. I can’t help it. She’s petty, narrow-minded, and shrill. And talkative. I spent the party mostly avoiding her (while hypocrtically chowing down on her fantastic canapes; I have to admit the woman can cook!), which caused me to be in serious discussions about things I wasn’t really interested in, like building codes and hospital administration and launching a business selling stickers.

After the drink had been flowing and the herbed chevre with cranberries and the spinach dip (I love spinach dip!) were inside me, I felt a little better about things. I did have a great conversation and impromptu dance class with a couple of women, who were all excited when I said I belly-danced. We also compared the Canadian education system to the Hong Kong one. I think I like theirs better. I had another conversation with someone about the temperament of Apaloosa horses. Also, I had a conversation with a young woman about lobster livers. That was pretty interesting.

Even the old friend’s sonsy, nattering wife ceased to annoy after a while. She means well. We stayed way too late and it was darn hard to get up this morning.

I Have Done the Unthinkable.

I made shortbread tonight. Not the Family Recipe, but a recipe off the Internet.

Horror of horrors, it tastes just as good, if not better, than my mother’s when she was on finest form.

I was always told that one had to do things just so, to get the shortbread to turn out right. I believed it, because I have eaten a lot of tough shortbread.

But I grabbed a recipe for dropped shortbread and made it on a whim. The instructions said I had to whip it, so I took E’s Braun hand mixer to it. That didn’t work, so I squished it with a pastry cutter, then creamed it with a wooden spoon. At this point, I was resigned to shortbread of a bricklike consistency, but I kept going. I squished it through the hand blender again for a while, then glommed the little bits onto a cookie tray, not thinking much about it. Ten minutes later—ambrosia!

I’ll be making more tomorrow, because unlike the Family Recipe, this stuff’s a breeze. Especially if I can abuse it the way I did, and still have such fantastic results!

Charity Begins… in my Front Yard.

I’m just in after a discussion with one of the several Vietnamese ladies who take our returnable bottles to the depot. As far as I can tell, she’s the head of the cadre. Her English is the best, out of all of them. There are about five that I know of, and I listen for their carts so I can run out with the bottles and cans for them.

I always give to them, if I can. It’s a hard way to make money, trolling for empties. Especially considering that some of the others who also patrol on recycling day are large, mentally imbalanced men who will actually physically steal from them the bottles and cans these women have collected. The women are afraid to yell, except for the mentally challenged one. She gets them in trouble, as my early-risin’, compassion lackin’ neighbours don’t see why their sweet slumber should be interrupted by a small Vietnamese woman yelling her head off at a 200-lb white male who is trying to steal her living.

After one such fight, my landlady and I explained to the woman that she and her friends could leave as many empties as they could in the rhododendron and viburnum bushes at the front of our yard. It means I can’t do anything with that area, garden-wise, but I don’t mind. It’s just taken a lot of explaining for them to all understand that that’s a safe place for their stuff. After all, neither my landlady nor I speak Vietnamese and the cadre’s English isn’t so good. But tonight, I think the head bottle collector understands. So, soon the others will, as well.

Sometimes I wonder if it’s not just hubristic of me to want to give to this one set of people, and not to the others who come around. But then I remember the guy who dropped a Heineken bottle on the sidewalk during his collection rounds, and cycled off without doing anything about the shards of glass on the sidewalk. I’m going to take a flyer here, but I bet the cadre a) doesn’t drop bottles (They’re quieter going through bins than the men on bikes) and b) would stop to pick up the glass.

In any case, if these women are desperate enough to make a living that they’re willing to walk around at night and look through my trash, I’m going to do what I can to help them.

I am a Renegade.

So Em taught me to crochet and I haven’t been the same since. I decided I would make a sweater. Good, huh? One problem:
I don’t know how to read a pattern.

So I’m totally making it up as I go along, happy in my basic ignorance.

I’ve got time to do it, as John turned me on to Green Wing, and I have been giggling happily to myself ever since. I crochet and watch the show. Thanks, John!

For those not in the know, Green Wing is a British show set in a hospital. It completely avoids being a hospital drama, and the action centers around Caroline, the new doctor, who has to make her way in this new environment. My favouirte, however, is the HR director/psychologist/counsellor. The last episode I saw, she was dancing around to some rather tinny music. Only when she picked up her cell phone did the viewer realize that it was her ring tone. Cue her waiting for the thing to ring again—and starting to dance again!

Um.

Your Seduction Style: Sweet Talker

Your seduction technique can be summed up with “charm”
You know that if you have the chance to talk to someone…
Well, you won’t be talking for long! ;-)

You’re great at telling potential lovers what they want to hear.
Partially, because you’re a great reflective listener and good at complementing.
The other part of your formula? Focusing your conversation completely on the other person.

Your “sweet talking” ways have taken you far in romance – and in life.
You can finess your way through any difficult situation, with a smile on your face.
Speeding tickets, job interviews… bring it on! You truly live a charmed life

You know, they missed some stuff in that quiz. Like: If a hot young seine boat deckhand needs help getting back to the boat, do you leave him a) at the top of the float ramp? b) when he’s safely on the boat? c) when he’s safely in bed, or d) when the sun’s coming up?

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