Chemistry

sunshine

Good morning sunshine!

Well, it’s not morning anymore, but the a.m. of today was a gorgeous one.  The first of over three hundred more that are not the first of April.  I don’t like pranks and jokes and being fooled.  Even though I am often a great and gullible target.  Or maybe that’s exactly why shenanigans and trickery aggravate me so much.

Anyway, the SUNSHINE!  I thought today we were supposed to go sailing into many degrees on the plus side of zero celsius, but apparently that’s next week.  They say.  I’m beginning to dislike THEY.  Because now they say we’re getting snow showers this afternoon.  Seriously.  They need to keep this information to themselves if they can’t think of anything nice to tell us.

So what does all this have to do with the Daily Prompt: Land of ConfusionWhich subject in school did you find impossible to master? Did math give you hives? Did English make you scream? Do tell!

Well, it has nothing to do with it, really, except to illustrate why I simply don’t have the right character to be good at every subject there is.  I’m much too inattentive and unfocused (and yes, confused) to be messing around and dealing with really important stuff.   No, English did not make me scream. I loved English.  Math gave me a lot of headaches.   But Chemistry made me pull my hair out and wish to die.  I guess it’s good that there are people out there who care about the composition and properties of substances and various elementary forms of matter and their reactions and phenomena.  Without those people we would not have dangerous cleaning products and makeup. 

But who thought putting a bunch of teenagers in a room with substances that react to other substances including fire and water was a good idea?  I have told the story elsewhere of how a grade twelve classmate and I dropped a recently blown out match into a garbage can and blew it up.  It was an accident.  And it was only a small explosion.  It taught me to blow out a match and then hold it under running water before disposing of it amongst flammable materials.  So I guess you could say chemistry was not a complete waste of time for me, but I definitely don’t remember much else about it.  Except maybe for how much I hated the periodic table.

If high school chemistry had dealt with sympathetic understanding, rapport, and the interaction of one personality with another, now that I might have been good at.  Where all the answers weren’t H2O and Bunsen burners.  Okay, those were only my answers, but you know what I mean. 

On second thought, maybe unleashing all that touchy feely stuff in a room full of teenagers isn’t a really smart idea either.

What was your worst subject in school?  What’s the weather like where you are?  If you’re a world famous chemist or if you’re living in one of those places where the grass is green and crocuses are blooming, I take it back – I don’t think I want to hear about it.  Even if it’s just a prank.

Like a Stone

William Powell Frith - Sleep

William Powell Frith – Sleep

March 23rd Daily Prompt:  Mr. Sandman 

What kind of sleeper are you? Do you drop off like a stone and awaken refreshed, or do you need pitch black and silence to drift off to dream?

(I know this is yesterdays prompt, and I would have done it yesterday if I hadn’t needed to take so many naps.  It’s the only sane way to spend a Monday.)

I am a marathon sleeper.  If sleeping were an Olympic event I would be a high ranking favourite, a definite contender for the gold.  I have been in training my entire life.  When I was a baby my mother said her envious friends were sure she must be sedating me.  She could plop me down on any flat surface while she visited and drank tea and I would stay happily passed out until it was time to bundle me up again and take me home.  It was anyone’s guess what color my eyes were for several months because they were so rarely open.

I don’t remember ever being freaked out by bedtime as a child.  Or as an adult either.  So when I gave birth to a daughter who couldn’t seem to figure out how to sleep for more than four hours at a stretch until she was six months old, and then bumped it up to six hours between midnight and six a.m. until she was almost two – well that was enough to make me totally rethink the parenting thing, never mind my new zombie-like personality caused by sleep deprivation.  She was the kind of kid who would jump up and down in the middle of the room and sing and dance to stay awake.  After that I had a less confusing child who restored my faith in the existence of our family’s powerful sleep gene.  I never loved my son so much as when he would look at me with his forlorn little face at the end of the day and say “Is it time to go to bed yet?”

Although pitch black silence is nice for inducing sleep, for me it’s not a necessary requirement.  My grandma could fall asleep anywhere and so can I.  A loud noise or the phone ringing or incessant and annoying snoring (not mentioning any names here) will wake me up easily enough, but if I’m not sufficiently rested I will be ridiculously cranky until you shut up and go away and leave me alone.  Or give me coffee.  That also works.

Maybe I was a raving insomniac in a past life and in this one I’m making up for all that lost sleep. Sleep is such a lovely thing.  I don’t understand why we all don’t do more of it.  Although I’ve heard there are people who would like to do that and can’t.  That makes me feel like one of the lucky ones.   It’s like my brain has an off switch triggered by simply closing my eyes.  Is that a blessing or a curse?  I don’t know.  Maybe the mysteries of the universe can only be solved at 3 a.m., in which case I probably won’t be the one doing that.

But I’m sure this talent for dropping happily off into dreamland and staying there for hours has to be a true indicator of an untroubled mind, right?

Anyway, don’t think too hard about that.  Just agree with me.  You’ll sleep better.

Kidnapped

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Daily Prompt:  Captives Choice.  You’ve been kidnapped and given a choice:  would you rather be stranded on an island, dropped into an unknown forest, or locked in a strange building?

Well this just brings up a whole mess of questions, doesn’t it?  Who are my kidnappers, what do they want, and why in the world have they kidnapped me?   If they’re expecting to get some huge ransom in return for my safe release, they’re in for a big surprise.  Oh well, however misguided and ill-informed they are,  they seem like decent guys, giving me a choice about where I’m to be held and all.

If they’re leaving me to die, then an island should definitely be their first choice, because it’s my last of the three. Islands by definition are completely surrounded by water, so stranded is an understatement in my case.  Even with a boat and a life jacket I would probably be too afraid to venture off dry land on my own.  Swimming is totally out of the question.  I can feel myself drowning just thinking about it.

Is there any other kind of forest besides ‘unknown’?  I’m personally not familiar with any forests and can’t imagine getting to know one.  They are jam-packed with trees and underbrush and wild animals.  And probably bugs.  I wouldn’t fit in.  Mind you, if they dropped me from high enough, it wouldn’t matter, would it?

So, locked in a strange building it is, thank you very much. I hope by strange they mean unusual or weird and not just unfamiliar to me.  Exploring old buildings can be fun even under duress in unfortunate circumstances.  I think.  Like if it was haunted or something, that would add an unusual and exciting twist.  There might be closets to open and bureau drawers to go through and filing cabinets full of clues.  To what I must admit I have no clue, but who knows, I might be smart enough to recognize one if I came across it.  In a building there’s going to be indoor plumbing, or at least a far greater likelihood of it than the island and forest scenarios.  Have I ever mentioned how much I like my creature comforts?  Even if it’s only bare walls surrounding me it’s preferable to cowering in wide open spaces.  With animals and bugs.

Locks can be picked.  Doors can be broken down.  Windows can be broken.  Floor boards can be ripped up and hidden beneath.  Not that I’ve ever done any of those things, but I don’t imagine they’re that far beyond my capabilities.  I would give them a try.  And if I could break out of one building, perhaps there would be other buildings close by to escape to and break into, where I could set off fire alarms or borrow a phone, or scream a lot and beg for help.

If this locked building turns out to be in the middle of an unknown forest on a deserted island, well shit.  Now I have no idea what to do.  Except give my kidnappers supreme hell for being collossal idiots.  I certainly hope they come back for me so I can tell them that.

Music Lessons

piano

365 Days of Writing Prompts from WordPress:  Tell us about a teacher who had a real impact on your life, either for the better or the worse.  How is your life different today because of him or her?

My mother bought a second-hand upright piano when we were kids and announced that all of us were going to take lessons and learn how to play it.  I don’t remember being given a choice about that, but we embarked on the process willingly enough.  Music lessons must have been something my parents discussed and dad agreed to simply to make mom happy, although even buying the piano would have been a major expense for them and certainly was not a necessity.  Like all good parents, they sacrificed to give their kids opportunities.  And like all kids everywhere, we did not always appreciate the things we had to do for our own good.

Mr. Rhodes was short and round and serious and I never saw him dressed in anything but a suit and tie.  He had black brush cut hair, big dark rimmed glasses and a stern and scowling look, but he was, underneath all that, a gentle man.  He played the organ at our church and his wife was our choir director.  She was also an Avon Lady, and he was a high school industrial arts teacher who taught music in his spare time. They lived in a little white stucco house near the high school and although I must have visited it a hundred times, all I remember is the tiny living room with a table chock full of Avon stuff and the piano lesson room around the corner where I would sit on a hard bench for an hour at a time in the interests of obtaining a well-rounded education.

From the first lesson he had a lot of patience with me.  I had none at all with myself.  Much like how I wanted to be able to read books after a couple of weeks in grade one,  I expected to be able to play the piano well and to do it quickly without a lot of effort.  I wanted short cuts to mediocrity.  He was more bent on slowly fostering and developing an appreciation and a love in me for all things musical.  Music delighted him.   Lesson after lesson he painstakingly taught me how to read the notes on the page, the proper fingering and hand positions, and a lot of boring stuff about dead composers and sharps and flats and major and minor keys and keeping time.  I thought all the practicing would kill me so I did as little of it as possible.

Despite my best efforts to merely survive the tedium, a lot of knowledge sunk in and eventually some talent oozed out.  He told me I was one of his best pupils, although now I think he was being rather generous with his praise.  I did get very good at sight-reading, sitting down with a brand new piece of music in front of me and playing it through without difficulty.  But I never felt like interpreting what was written into anything beautiful or sad or joyous with feeling and real emotion.  Watching a concert pianist play something classical and emote all over the keyboard with closed eyes and a rapturous face made me extremely uncomfortable.  I had no ambition whatsoever for that to ever be me.  When Mr. Rhodes would wave his pencil in the air and cry “Dolce!  Pianisimo!”  in the middle of a piece,  I would often just bang away all the harder to drown him out.

Less dedicated teachers might have thrown up their hands, but he looked for ways to encourage and motivate me.  He went out one day and bought me a big music book full of John Philip Sousa marches and told me to take it home and play my heart out.  Suddenly music was a beautiful thing.  Our piano took a real beating for a while after that.  Grandioso and fortissimo were definitely my thing.  I was never what anyone would describe as a loud or forceful person, but for whatever reason, playing the piano brought that out in me.

My brother got to quit the piano lessons when he’d had enough of them, and one of my sisters decided she wanted singing lessons instead.  I often said I wanted to stop, but I could see how much it meant to mom for me to keep going.  And Mr. Rhodes pronounced me almost good enough to take my grade eight practical and theory exams if I chose to work a little harder.  So I kept going for music lessons longer than I ever expected I would, with no real plan for ever putting them to any use.

You may find it strange to learn that I went on to play the organ at church after taking lessons on that instrument as well, and adding deep bass foot pedaling to my repertoire.   I learned to do soft and quiet background pieces, slow and funereal dirges, the kind of soothing music that can put some church goers to sleep.  But I lived for the glory hallelujah Onward-Christian-Soldier marching hymns putting fire in everyone’s soul, never mind leaving a lot of the older parishioners a little breathless and blue in the face.

My music teacher had a heart attack and died in his backyard on a summer afternoon when I was halfway through high school.  I don’t know if there were any warning signs but that wouldn’t have changed the fact that it was sad and shocking news.  I never got to tell him how bad I felt for not passing the music exams, although I brushed it off as totally unimportant at the time.  I did tell everyone I didn’t want to take them but they urged me on so I went through the motions in my usual lackadaisical fashion.   Even though I knew how disappointed he would be if I didn’t do well, I didn’t work hard enough and I’m sorry for that.  I passed the sight reading part with flying colors though. That was the only thing that impressed my examiners.

How is my life different because of him?  Well I didn’t really have much of a life going on before he and his piano were in it, so I can only imagine how different it would be without all my miscellaneous musical knowledge.  It drives me nuts to hear wrong notes and anything played or sung off-key.  I can still look at a piece of music and read it and hear it in my head.  Maybe I could still play it, but these old hands are certainly out of practice.  We couldn’t be hauling a piano all over the place when my kids were growing up, so they never got to be “Rhodes scholars” like me.

I’ve heard people say they wish they’d kept up with their music lessons, but I don’t mind that they stopped for me when they did.  It was never one of my passions.  I’m simply happy to have known someone who loved it all so very much.

365 writing prompts

Not Playing Favorites

friends

365 Writing Prompts January 6 – My Favorite:  What’s the most time you’ve ever spent apart from your favorite person?  Tell us about it.

I’ve got as many different favorite people in my life as there are reasons for having them so it’s not possible to come up with some finite time period to describe to you.  Who keeps track of that kind of stuff anyway?  An hour can feel like forever and years can pass by in the twinkling of an eye.

If there’s anything I’ve learned in this life it’s that everything changes.  A high school teacher once told us, after a train accident (of all things) had taken the life of one of our classmates, that this was the time in our lives when we would start to experience the grief of death and loss, and that it would continue to get worse as we got older.  Imagine that, life being even more depressing after high school.  It starts much sooner for some of us of course, when a beloved grandparent or uncle or simply someone we assumed would always be around is suddenly physically gone.

But here’s the good thing about that.  If we remember them, they never really leave us.  Everyone we’ve ever met becomes a small part of who we are.  I miss the physical presence of my mother but in every other way she is still with me.  I think she will be inside me for eternity, in my head and in my heart.  Maybe my eternity will last eighty years, or maybe it’s already into eons if my soul is as old as I’ve been told. That either matters or it doesn’t.  Does time have to be measured?

Another thing I’ve learned is that the only one who will for certain be with me for the duration is me.  I am the common denominator in this great math problem known as my life.  So that should make me my all time favorite person and either a raging ego maniac or someone simply comfortable in her own skin.  I can’t get away from myself, no matter what role I choose to play. Might as well like who I am with all the labels stripped away.

A casual friend tried to convince me once that the absolute worst and most feared state we face as human beings is to be alone.  She is that person all of us have bumped into at some time or other who asks for our opinion so that she can go on and on at great length explaining to us why it is not only wrong but also stupid.  I think that explains why we’re not really close.  When I was silly enough to mention that I love my alone time, she just said, no, you don’t.  Inconceivable that anyone could be on their own and happy about it.

Being alone was actually preferable to her company right about then, although I think she would have found that idea preposterous.  Just a guess.  But I do like my own company, I like the quiet and the stillness and how relaxed I feel when I’m being perfectly me with no one to impress or entertain or piss off with my dumb opinions.

If you have a favorite person and you hate it when that person goes away, that’s okay, but it’s also not something to get obsessed about.  Things change.  If that person never comes back, you will go on living.  The hole in your life will fill back up and even though it will never be the same, it can still be good.

Well, is that enough blather for today? Enough of me talking to myself and wishing I would shut up already so I can go read a book or something?   I think that’s a yes.  See how agreeable I am?  I love me.

365 writing prompts

Thump Ripe Melons

joan baez

365 Days of Writing Prompts ( WordPress) for January 4:  Quote Me 

Yes, I know I am a day behind, but I’m skipping the one they suggested for today because it involved the phrase ‘favourite book’ and for me there just is no such thing. Or possibly favourite anything, but for the sake of sanity, I’ll just pick a quote I like and everything will be back to normal tomorrow.  Or, you know, as close as it gets.

Do you have a favourite quote that you return to again and again?  What is it, and why does it move you?

Life is a thump-ripe melon, so sweet and such a mess.  (Joan Baez)

Found out yesterday I have been getting this quote wrong forever.  I thought it was “life is like a soft ripe melon, so sweet and such a mess” but the words are from the song Rexroth’s Daughter, and the original version of this quote (which is actually what one is supposed to get right, because, duh, it’s a quote)  is a lot better than the one I appear to have messed up. Because thump-ripe is an incredibly fun thing to say, and stating that life IS something is so much more emphatic than being vague about what life might be like.

The whole song is quotable.  It’s so sixties and folk-song-y. I also found out it was a song originally done by Greg Brown, and Joan Baez did a cover of it, so it’s not even her quote!  See??  Life IS a big mess.  Sometimes I think that’s exactly what makes it sweet.  And thump-worthy.

Anyway, enough making things up for now.  Here is the song, sounding to me at the beginning as if her guitar might have been used a few too many times for melon thumping.

Coldest night of the winter, working up my farewell
In the middle of everything, under no particular spell
Dreaming of the mountains where the children learn the stars
Clouds roll in from Nebraska, dark chords on a big guitar
My restlessness is long gone standing like an old jack pine
I’m looking for Rexroth’s daughter. She’s a friend of a friend of mine
Can’t believe your hands and mouth did all that to me
And they are so daily naked for all the world to see
That thunderstorm in Michigan I never will forget
We shook right with the thunder and in the pounding rain got wet
Where did you turn when you turned from me with your arms across your chest
Yeah I’m looking for Rexroth’s daughter, saw her in the great northwest

Would she have said it was the wrong time if I had found her then
I don’t ask very much, a field across the road and a few good friends
She used to come and see me, she was always there & gone
Even the very longest loves don’t last very long

She’d stood there in my doorway smoothing out her dress
saying ‘life is a thump-ripe melon – so sweet and such a mess’

Well the murderer who lived next door seemed such a normal guy–
You try to swallow what they shove at us, you run out of tears to cry
I heard a man speak quietly, I listened for a while
He spoke from his heart to my woe and then he bowed and smiled
What is real but compassion as we move from birth to death
Yeah I’m looking for Rexroth’s daughter and I’m running out of breath
Spring will come back I know it will and it will do its best
so useful, so endangered like a lion or a breast
I think about my children when I look at any child’s face
pray that we will find a way to get with all this amazing grace

It’s so cold out there tonight, stormy I can hardly see
I’m looking for Rexroth’s daughter and I guess I always will be.

List of Eleven

eleven

From 365 Days of Writing Prompts, January 3rd.

Kick It:  What is the 11th item on your bucket list?

I do not have a bucket list and probably never will have one.  I get exhausted just thinking about such things.  And W has become so efficient and organized doing the shopping that I don’t even have a grocery list kicking around anywhere from which I could take the eleventh item and use it to write something astounding.  Imagine an entire blog post on lettuce.

No, it’s okay, I can’t imagine that either.

Instead,  I’ve decided to focus on a couple of random words in this prompt and call it being creative.  Or maybe even inspired.  Although that’s probably pushing it.  So here’s a list of eleven memorable quotes from the book Eleven Minutes, by Paulo Coelho. 

eleven minutes

“Once upon a time, there was a prostitute called Maria. Wait a minute. “Once upon a time” is how all the best children’s stories begin, and “prostitute” is a word for adults. How can I start a book with this apparent contradiction? But since, at every moment of our lives, we all have one foot in a fairy tale and the other in the abyss, let’s keep that beginning.”

“When I had nothing to lose, I had everything. When I stopped being who I am, I found myself.”

“I can choose either to be a victim of the world or an adventurer in search of treasure. It’s all a question of how I view my life.”

“When we meet someone and fall in love, we have a sense that the whole universe is on our side. And yet if something goes wrong, there is nothing left! How is it possible for the beauty that was there only minutes before to vanish so quickly? Life moves very fast. It rushes from heaven to hell in a matter of seconds.”

“I am two women: one wants to have all the joy, passion and adventure that life can give me. The other wants to be a slave to routine, to family life, to the things that can be planned and achieved. I’m a housewife and a prostitute, both of us living in the same body and doing battle with each other.”

“No one loses anyone, because no one owns anyone. That is the true experience of freedom: having the most important thing in the world without owning it”

“Considering the way the world is, one happy day is almost a miracle.”

“Really important meetings are planned by the souls long before the bodies see each other.”

“No one owns anything. Anyone who has lost something they thought was theirs forever finally comes to realize that nothing really belongs to them. And if nothing belongs to me, then there’s no point wasting my time looking after things that aren’t mine.”

“Read. Forget everything you’ve been told about books and read.”

“She wasn’t a victim of fate, she was running her own risks, pushing beyond her own limits, experiencing things which, one day, in the silence of her heart, in the tedium of old age, she would remember almost with nostalgia – however absurd that might seem.”

There.  Now wasn’t that a lot more educational than finding out that I’ve always wanted to swim naked in Paris?  Well I certainly hope so.

Resolved

calvin-hobbes-new-years-resolutions-572x433

From the WordPress prompt book:  Have you ever made a New Years Resolution that you kept?

Well, of course I did.  I kept them all.  Just some of them better than others and for different lengths of time.

I’ve done all the popular ones.  Get fit.  Save some money.  Lose weight.  Drink less.  Quit smoking.  Eat healthy.  Put my family first.  Be a better person.  So, you know, been there, done all that, with varying degrees of success.  Perhaps my best one was vowing to no longer drink a whole pot of coffee a day.  Then I got one of those coffee makers that dispenses a cup at a time and has no carafe.  So you can’t drink a pot if you don’t have a pot, right?  I never said I didn’t cheat.

Anyway, after all these years of making sensible resolutions, maybe it’s high time I became more daring.  I should resolve to have more fun, do something crazy, go on an adventure, wear more purple, rock the boat, break all the rules!

Yeah.  Now that I’ve scared myself sufficiently with the possibilities, maybe I’ll just calm down and keep it simple.  Keep breathing, be content with the way things are and thankful for my ordinary life.  Read more books.  Be kind.  Focus on the now, be still and listen, hold no anger, find inner peace.  Easy things like that.

With retirement looming in the very near future (this September I hope) I am also looking at ways to spend all my glorious free time.  I’ve always said I’ll take up painting again, so I resolve to do that.  I will need a studio and lots of supplies. And some ambition would be helpful.

It’s funny how we think we need a brand new year to make a brand new start when every day is a new beginning.  As far as I know, no one is ticking off points on a score sheet, measuring my progress, or waiting around to give me a grand prize for whatever I’ve done.  Most days I like me.  When I don’t, there’s always tomorrow to turn things around and be better.

Keep those resolutions non specific and vague, and you just might be astounded at your success.

I think in terms of the days resolutions, not the years.  (Henry Moore)

No matter who you are, no matter what you did, no matter where you’ve come from, you can always change, become a better version of yourself.  (Madonna)

So How Is 2014 Going For You So Far?

therapy room with joanna cross

photo from Facebook page therapy room with Joanna Cross

This year (well, last year, actually) I downloaded this e-book to Kindle on my I-Pad.

365 Days of Writing Prompts

by The Editors, WordPress.com.

365 writing prompts

Then I promptly forgot about it, until today when I began wondering if I should try once again to do a post a day for a whole year.  I fell short by about twenty posts last year but  I like to set lofty goals for myself and then break the rules.  They’re self-imposed, so no one cares, least of all me.  And if I don’t like the prompt I can just use it as a springboard to talk about something completely unrelated, which is often how my brain works.

I also have a word-a-day calendar to improve my vocabulary, but already, skipping ahead and tempting bad luck,  I’m noticing the words are ones I’ve heard and used before, and that has made me all pouty.  Then I read somewhere that awesome things will happen if I choose not to be a miserable cow.

So here goes.

The first prompt is named “Stroke of Midnight”. 

Where were you last night when 2013 turned into 2014?  Is it where you’d wanted to be?

I was tucked up in my bedroom fast asleep, and yes, it’s exactly how I expected to (not) see in the new year.  If you really need to know, I missed midnight by a good three hours. That’s either very pathetic, or extremely smart on my part.  No hangovers in this house. Is there a bah-humbug phrase for thumbing ones nose at the celebration of another year biting the dust?

But even without a mad drinking party the night before, there are days (and a lot of them happen to come along in January) when I suffer from a severe case of clinomania (an excessive desire to stay in bed.)

There’s our first new word that did not come from my calendar, but from somewhere completely different,  snuck in to the middle of nowhere, and here’s the next one.

 - orenda (n.) a mystical force present in all people that empowers them to affect the world, or to effect change in their own lives.

I don’t know, I think the New Year Gods are trying to tell me something.  So, look at that!  Post number one done, three hundred and sixty-four to go.  We are on a roll and slowly working our way up to world-changing mode. Hang on to your pointy party hats.

A House Full of Doors

grandmas flowers 001

Weekly Writing Challenge: Collecting Detail

The year is somewhere in the early 1950′s because I am not yet six.  Six is the magical age I will be when we move my grandparents off their farm to live in a brand new place with us. So the details of grandmas house should be nothing but foggy distant childhood memories by now, but they’re not.  They’re as vivid to me today as the view from my own kitchen window is from yesterday.  I close my eyes and the pictures come alive.

Grandmas kitchen is a fascinating place with doors to somewhere else all around the room.  There’s the door I just popped through from the white pillared porch, too big and heavy to pull shut all by myself.  Off to the right is the door to the woodshed.  I never open that door and I make sure I hurry to somewhere else when grandpa goes to fetch wood for the black wood stove so grandma can cook things and bang her pots and pans around while she waits for the fire to be just right. Beyond that door is a dark and scary place full of damp wood smells and cold still air.  And maybe dogs and wild scratching cats. I don’t want to find out what’s in there.

old radioThe door to the cellar is also closed against the darkness.  I am not allowed to open that one.  Grandma is sure if I do I will tumble down the stairs.  I am also not permitted to go through the door beside the giant radio that’s as big as me.  The radio is playing and grandpa is sitting beside it halfway across this doorway like a guard, bent over with his ear up against the soft cloth part where the voices come through.  He has to do this to hear it, because grandma doesn’t like it to be too loud, although she never stops talking and banging things around to drown it out, no matter how far grandpa turns up the knob.  The  door behind grandpa leads to the hallway and then there’s another door to the front room.  Only special company can go in to the front room.  Not children.  Children are to be seen and not heard, as grandma is very fond of saying over and over again so you’re not likely to ever forget it.

But I know another way to get in there.  I know how to be a child who is not heard and not seen either.  There is an open doorway next to the woodshed door which goes into the utility/store-room, and from there another closed door that leads to the indoor plumbing.  This is what grandma calls the new bathroom.  Kids are definitely encouraged to use the bathroom whenever they want and they don’t even have to ask.  I quietly slip in there and click the door closed behind me.  There is an enormous white tub beside a tiny white sink, and off in the corner like an afterthought, the shiny new toilet, snug up between the wall and three stair steps leading up to yet another door.  This is the one I sneak through and close silently so that I am standing on the landing, where a left turn leads to the upstairs.

I never go all the way up these stairs (there is no one up there to save me from whatever frightening things the second story harbors), but I like to go halfway.  I am small enough to fit my head and one arm and shoulder through the spindle railing under the shiny brown banister at just the right spot.  There on a flat-topped bureau below me sits a beautiful yellow-green cut glass pedestal bowl filled with luscious wax fruit. There is a golden apple with a rosy red blush on one fat round side, looking good enough to eat, although it’s not.  I tried to bite into it once and was unpleasantly surprised and sorely disappointed.  The marks from my teeth are still there to remind me of the experience.  There is also a cluster of blue-violet grapes, a bumpy tangerine orange and a creamy golden banana.  I like to look at them and touch them, pulling my fingertips across their sticky waxy skins.

Now, instead of retracing my steps and returning to the bathroom, I tiptoe down the three stairs that lead in the opposite direction from the landing and into the hallway.  Slowly, silently I creep towards the front room door and at the last minute, scoot across behind grandpa, inside and around the corner where I stop and hold my breath until I’m sure no one has seen me.

Grandmas front room has the most incredibly beautiful windows I have ever seen in my short little life.  They are tall and clear in the middle and they let the sunshine come streaming through to light up big bright patches on the hardwood floor.  On either side of each window are small rectangular panes of pebbled coloured glass.  Skycolored glass blue, sunshine yellow, and best of all, brilliant red.  I press my nose up to my favourite red one (it’s my favourite because it’s the only one I can reach by balancing on the arm of the big stuffed chair) and gaze out at a crazy red world.  The leaves on the trees are red; the sky, the grass, the fence and every one of grandmas flowers – everything.  Magically, unbelievably  red, red, red. I want the glass to swallow me up into this delicious red bubble where I can be as red as a riding hood, as red as a real apple, crunchy and sweet, as red as my red flyer wagon, spinning down a slippery red slope into a land where red never stops.

Oh oh.  I hear grandma wondering in a very loud voice where I’ve gotten myself off to. I hear her go clumping away and barging through the bathroom door.  In a flash I hop down off the chair, run back out into the hallway and through the forbidden door where I put my flushed cheek up against grandpa’s arm and clutch hold of his overall pant leg.  He doesn’t even look up.  There you are, grandma exclaims as she marches back into the kitchen.  I didn’t see you.  Were you right there all along?  She was, grandpa chuckles.  Right here beside me.  Quiet as a mouse, just like always.

The big radio is a wonder, the wax fruit, the many doors and the beautiful stained glass windows – I love them all.  But perhaps the best thing in this house full of doors is having a grandpa who’s as good as I am at keeping sneaky secrets.