Travel Prep.

When my brother and I were teenagers, there came a time when our parents figured they could go away and leave us on our own. Their instructions were minimal.

Feed the dog.
Water the plants.
No parties.

We had it down.

Today I get an email from my dad, who is going to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas with his girlfriend and her 16-year-old daughter. It’s considerably more than the lists of yore. He’s got instructions of what to do if my grandmother dies and he can’t get back or they can’t get ahold of him. It has what to do if he has a medical emergency and I have to invoke Power of Attorney. It’s a lot grislier than the teenage lists.

Aside from the fact that the new instructions are a reminder that mortality is creeping towards all of us, unseen and gimlet-eyed, it’s a reminder that I’m an adult. Now I have to deal, so I will.

Not to say that I didn’t when I was younger. At one point when Mom and Dad were away, something happened with the front door lock and I had to go buy and install another one. Cue frantic flapping from my mom, who couldn’t seem to believe that I could have handled it.

And I can handle it now. Hell, thanks to my mom, I even know not to buy an urn at the funeral home. I know to go to Chinatown.

First Blood.

This post is inspired by Stephanie, and also brought to you by the letters P M and S.

I got my period the summer I was twelve. I’d done sex ed in school and several of my friends had their periods. It wasn’t something I was expecting, though. I was flatter chested than anyone in my class, including some of the boys. I lived my tree-climbing, Duran-Duran listening life, and menses were far on the distant horizon.

Except then I went wilderness camping with my father and brother. Some eight hundred miles of highway away from Vancouver. Then twelve miles down a gravel road. And then another three miles by boat. We were really in the wilderness.

I woke up and there was blood on my nightgown. I thought, “Oh. My period. Right. How do I deal with this?” Because of course, I had not brought any pads or tampons or anything.

So I went to our bathroom facilities (teepees made of random poles and plywood bleached silvery grey by the weather) and considered my options. I knew Dad had a trip to a nearby town (about 50 miles away) planned, so I couldn’t just shuffle off to the teepee every half-hour to change wads of toilet paper. I needed a plan.

Luckily, the Kootenays are drier than Coastal BC or I would have been stymied. But in the interior, things get tinder dry. There was moss.

Yes. My first sanitary pad, adhesiveless and bulky, was a wad of moss wrapped in toilet paper. Thank God we spent most of the travel day in the car.

Dad had a surprise in store for us. Mom was flying into a small airstrip to camp with us. This was the most unexpected thing in the world: My mother hated camping.

My mother brought pads. She said she’d ‘had a feeling’ I needed them, when I finally got around to telling her that night, as we washed pots in the lake. In terms of embarrassing to a twelve-year-old, this is about as embarrassing as it gets.

Embarrassing or not, I was grateful for her foresight then. I am even today. A girl should only have to wear makeshift maxi pads made of moss as long as she has to.

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