Married

April 07

Peggy Sue Got Married

And so did I.  I don’t know why that movie title comes to mind – I don’t think I’ve ever seen it.  And I’ve never been to one of my high school reunions.  I prefer that people remember me the way I was.  Why dissillusion them?  We put a picture and an announcement in the local paper and disappeared.  To let all my old boyfriends know I was finally beyond their reach.  haha.  Or maybe to just let them know I finally made up my mind about something.

Our wedding was a poorly planned fiasco.  But strangely enough, with a lot of vivid, fun memories.  After we met in March, we spent the summer apart at our respective homes, working, waiting to get back to university.  Had some pretty stunning phone bills.  Even wrote some letters.  Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and all that drivel.  The following summer I cannot explain what possessed us to decide that living with his mother would be a great idea.  He had a good summer job which kept him away from home a lot, and I worked as a waitress at a bakery and got to know his family way too intimately for my liking.  Here is how W. proposed.  “We have to get the hell out of this house!  Set a date and lets get married.”  Ever and always the incurable romantic.  So I picked up a calendar and chose the 20th of November.  It was a couple of months away and I figured it would give my family enough time to get used to the idea.  Never heard of anyone in their right mind getting married in November, so figured it suited us well.  I went by myself to pick out wedding bands (no diamond – we couldn’t afford it, and it just was never that important to either of us.)   We got a marriage license.  Should have been almost a done deal by then, right?  We did not want a big production.  If we could have just sworn eternal devotion to eachother with a couple of witnesses, that would have been ideal.  But from the time we mentioned it to his mother, she went more mental than either of us could ever have anticipated.  Have you seen “Monster in Law”?  It was based on a true story,  whether they know it or not, and definitely drew from my MIL’s character.  I found many parts of that movie really hard to laugh at, having lived it. 

I don’t like control freaks, but I seem to lack the qualities it takes to stand up to them.  I’m more the passive aggressive type.  So whenever my future MIL made a suggestion, I went along with it only to a point. adding my own stubborn twists simply to annoy her, and so between the two of us we planned the wedding from hell.  I hope I drove her a little crazy, because I like to return favours. 

I didn’t want a fancy wedding dress, but she insisted a white dress was necessary.  So I bought a beach cover up pattern and some material and some silver trim and made a long flowing robe thing with a hood.  No freaky veil for me.  It cost me in total about 20 bucks.  I wanted my sisters to wear deep purple in the same pattern, but we had to settle for deep blue.  MIL insisted I carry red roses.  So when I was asked what color flowers for the bridesmaids I asked for orange, the first clashing color that came to mind.  Unfortunately I had to settle for pink.  Close enough.  We told the groomsmen to come in any suit color they had.  So the groom wore…I can’t even remember, blue grey?  His brother had a brown pin stripe gangster kind of suit, another guy had brown and my brother wore black. There was quite an interesting variety of ties and shirt colors.  Perhaps one of the reasons the photographer took some black and white pics.  My brother was the odd man out, but was there to be an usher with one of the groomsmen only, and not expected to be in the pictures, because that would make it all lop- sided.  As if we cared.   I have two sisters, but the younger one, being more crazy than normal at the time, decided she didn’t want to stand up for me, and although she came to the wedding she didn’t get dressed up in her ‘robe’ or walk down the aisle.  MIL was flabbergasted, but it was something the members of my family weren’t too surprised about.  We were all used to her eccentricities.   She was happy to be asked, but politely declined at the last minute.  So the pictures were all lop-sided anyway.   The funniest ones are the ones including our parents.  My mom has short sleeves and short little white gloves and some kind of strange barrel shaped hat.  My dad left his toe rubbers on, and his pants are too long.  My father in law looks drunk.  I later realized he probably was.  My MIL is holding a rectangular purse that is so big it is the first thing your eyes are drawn to – the second thing is her cowboy hat, crossed with a derby.  I don’t know how else to describe it.  W. and I look obliviously happy – most of the pictures we’re looking at eachother smiling.  No one needs to know how hysterically funny we found the whole day. 

We got married in my home town in our little church with the bare minimum of relatives present.  His family (also the bare minimum) had to make the two day trip to be there. That day there was freezing rain, so lots of people weren’t able to make it, but our university friends risked life and limb to be there.  We had a luncheon in the church basement afterwards and then went back to my parent’s house to party with our friends who were always happy for any excuse to drink.  Neither of us thought to book a place to spend our wedding night.  So we ended up driving down the road and banging on the door of an old farm house that some friends were renting, and crashed in an upstairs bedroom that was freezing cold and full of dead flies.  Unfortunately, we have no honey moon pictures.  LOL

The following day we had to start our trip back to northwestern Ontario, so we had asked that people inclined to give us gifts give money only.  We still had a car full of stuff.  And although both of us would have been very happy to call that the end of it and the beginning of our married life where we chose our own destiny, MIL wasn’t finished with us yet.  They put on a huge reception for us a week later with a rented hall, a huge meal and a band and a dance.  All things we didn’t really want but are supposed to be eternally grateful for.  And that’s where the gifts REALLY poured in.  I don’t remember people asking us what we wanted or needed, but I’m pretty certain they took suggestions from dear MIL.  We had moved into a little three room house (kitchen, living room, bed/bath combo) about the size of someone’s garage.  It was, in my words, ‘heavenly’ and in MIL’s words ‘quaint’.  We had borrowed and/or cast-off furniture, a mattress on the floor, our clothes in boxes, a tiny little black and white tv with pathetic reception, and no worries about people visiting us because there was nowhere to sit.  So what use did we have for crystal for crying out loud.  And wine decanters and silver serving platters.  We stored them as long as we could get away with it, but for years after we moved away, every time MIL came to visit she would bring us some long forgotten wedding present. 

The party itself was otherwise not for my benefit by any stretch of the imagination.  W. spent the entire evenning dancing with aunts and cousins and people neither of us had ever met.  MIL was in her glory, putting on a big splashy event meant primarily to impress the neighbors.  I truly believe if I had slipped out early in the evenning, no one would have missed me.  Oh wait – except for one person.  He was the younger brother of one of W.’s best friends.  His name was Dougie, he was about four foot ten and he was falling-down drunk.  He staggered over to me and asked if he might have a “dancewiththebride”.   His powers of ennunciation had all but deserted him by that point.  So he stared at my chest while we stumbled around the dance floor.  He had an extreme case of short term memory loss, so he repeated this procedure several times until he also lost his sense of direction. 

Is it any wonder to anyone that I have taken a vow to never ever get married again, no matter what the circumstances?  Once was more than enough.         

A Trip to Ontario

April 03

Tripping to Ontario

I have the two best grandchildren in the entire universe.  We were a strange crew travelling together.  Me, my daughter and her daughter, my son and his son.  No spouses….just happens to be how it turned out and who was able to get away to go and visit my parents who are both in a nursing home.  They all slept over at my house the night before we left to facilitate getting everyone to the airport at by 6:00 a.m.  So it was an early early start for everyone.  The ‘girls’ got to sit together and the ‘guys’ had a seat with another passenger, who probably wasn’t looking forward to a four hour flight with a four year old.  But before we landed he remarked to both of them what a well behaved well mannered child he was – to which my grandson replied, “Yes, I am.  I LIKE to co-operate.” 

Once we had collected our luggage and taken bathroom breaks and found our rental van and strapped the two kids into their booster seats we started the second trek, a 3 hour drive north west.  We stopped for lunch and one more bathroom break, but otherwise went straight through.  The two kids chatted and played and laughed the entire way.  And when we got to my sisters house, they just kept on playing until it was time for bed.  Obviously no hassle when that time came, even with the two hour time difference, because they were both exhausted.  There was never a problem going to bed or sleeping in a strange place.  They are both quite adaptable.

We were up bright and cheery the next morning and went to visit my dad (grandpa/great grandpa) at the nursing home.  Just before we arrived in Ontario my mom had been taken to hospital with what the nursing home thought was congestion and flu, but it turned out that she suffered a mild heart attack in the early morning after she was admitted.  When you’re dealing with 90 year olds, you learn to expect just about anything.  Dad is in a wheel chair since having had a stroke a couple of years ago, and despite attempts at physio, he hasn’t shown much improvement or ambition to get better.  So, if he’s happy, why push it?  He is lucid and funny most of the time, and very accepting of the situation and his condition.  That first day we saw him he was very concerned about mom, but also happy to see his grand and great grand children.  The kids were quite interested in great grandpa and said hello and showed him the things they brought with them, and then went visiting some of the other residents down the hallway.  I love how kids are so completely accepting and unbiased and unafraid.  They met a lady who had a lot of stuffed animals on her bed which she showed to them, and they listened to another lady who said nothing but “you betcha, you betcha, betcha betcha, you betcha….”  They still talk about the ‘betcha lady’.   Kale explained and demonstrated his transformer dinasaur to anyone who would listen, and Kenzie organized her Polly Pocket case at the dining room table to the delight of great grandpas’ dining companions. 

My nephew drove from Windsor to London to pick up his girlfriend and then home during a busy school week to see grandma and to see us.  He stayed overnight and left the next morning, so it was a quick trip but wonderful to see him.  Kale gave him a tour of the house…..pointing out his and his sister’s bedrooms as now belonging to Kenzie and Kale.  He also told him the pool table in the basement was a bowling game for adults. 

We went out to restaurants several times.  Both kids are accustomed to placing their own orders, mostly for chicken fingers or pasta, and always chocolate milk.  Once when we dined out we had to wait almost an hour at the table, for the rest of the party to arrive, and for our food.  The kids spent the time drawing on placemats – when one was filled up front and back, someone would pass them another one. 

We have some great photos of the two of them at a park and playing on a sandy Lake Huron beach.  Kenzie collected a bag full of rocks, sand and sea shells which we had to cart all the way home.  Although the weather was still cool, they were able to play outside a lot with side-walk chalk and kicking around the remaining piles of snow.  They both got stuck in the mud in the garden.  They referred to my sister as “grandma’s sister” and her husband as “that guy who lives here”.  They watched movies, played dress up, made up games and read stories to eachother.  One of their favourite books was Gilles Tibo’s “Where’s My Hockey Sweater” which they dubbed “The Messy Hockey Guy”.   

We were able to have them make two very short visits with great grandma after she came back to the nursing home and was unhooked from oxygen and intravenous.  She was incredibly happy to be able to see them, however briefly, and they were very willing to give her hugs and kisses.  Kale made her a card which contained a picture of himself, an upside down swimming fish, a square fish, and a tulip.  For any grandma, no explanation is necessary.  On the day we left they gave and received long hard hugs from everybody.  You would think after a week together and facing another long trip they would finally start to be argumentative and whiney, but it didn’t happen.  They laughed and played together all the way back to Toronto, and for an hour at the airport.  They watched their little tv screens the whole flight home. 

I don’t know how much of this trip they’ll remember, since they’re four and five, but I know none of us will forget how incredibly well behaved they both were.  We had a good time.  It made my parents happy to see us.  We made a happy memory. 

The Love of My Life

March 20

How I Met The Love Of My Life

I suppose you could call it fate, or kismet, or destiny…..or a complete fluke. Tomorrow is the anniversary date of the day we met, in 1970, when March 21st was still considered the first day of spring.   I LOVE stories of how people met. If you don’t, best to stop reading now.   Just thought I’d warn you.  It gets sappy. 

My daughter once said to me in utter frustration over finding a long term relationship – “You know that guy I’m supposed to meet who will sweep me off my feet and it will be love at first sight and we’ll live happily ever after?  Well I’m pretty sure he died in a plane crash, so I give up,  it is NEVER going to happen.”  Shortly after that little speech she asked a guy at a bar (a friend of a friend of a friend) to dance.  When he said, “So, tell me something about yourself,” and she said “I have two cats, I date a lot of guys, and I eat a lot of beans,” he found her fascinating.  That’s what he says.    They have been together ever since.  So with that bizarre beginning, if that’s not a match made in heaven, I don’t know what is.  She told her brother how she picked him out of a crowd, so to this day we refer to him as “The Chosen One.”  Maybe you would have to know my regal daughter to get the full impact of how funny that is.

But of course it isn’t always about choices.  Sometimes you bump into someone and don’t know what hit you.  Or you can work yourself into a relationship gradually.  My mom and dad knew eachother all through school, and he jokes that he waited around so long she was the only one left.  I think its more like mom waited around for him to get a clue.  My son and daughter-in-law met in highschool, two very different people with different interests, and yet today they have one of the most loving and supportive relationships I have ever seen. So I don’t know how it happens or why, but here’s my/our little story. 

I had a friend say to me once that the only reason I went to University was to find a husband.  What a horrible thing to suggest!  Even though I don’t really know what I went for exactly and that’s one of the things I eventually ended up with.  But to put it so bluntly….sheesh.  Anyway, there I was, taking the subjects I liked – English, Psychology, Philosphy – with no clear objective in mind.  I loved to write, and I had a couple of papers coming due when my room-mate invited me to a party at residence.  I sighed a lot, and said no, and finally gave in on the condition that she not wander off on me, since I didn’t know any of the people who were going to be there.  So of course as soon as we got there she wandered off.  I joined a bunch of people sitting on a flight of stairs for want of something better to do.  Down at the bottom sat a long haired bearded guy strumming a guitar, head down, oblivious to everything but his music.  Found out later he had been nudged and prodded and persuaded by a buddy (who was at that particular moment nowhere to be found)  to attend this party, and that he hadn’t really wanted to be there either.   Some stair case dweller guy asked me if he could get me a drink, and while I waited for him to come back, which he never did, people just kind of drifted off until I was the only one left listening to the music.  While I was pondering my next move, or lack thereof, the guitar player looked up, saw his audience of one,  and stopped strumming.  We both said hi and grinned like idiots at eachother.  Finally he said “Got any requests?”  to which I replied with the first thing that popped into my head –  Do you know ‘Gentle on my mind’ by Glen Campbell ?  So. He frowned at his guitar, fiddled around with some chords, and proceded to play something I certainly couldn’t recognize as anything even vaguely familiar.  Suddenly he stopped and looked up and just said “Nope, I guess not.”  I don’t know why I thought that was one of the funniest things I’d ever heard.  In hind sight its just kind of stupid, but I was laughing and said “Good, because I don’t really like that song anyway,” which made him laugh.  He had a great smile underneath all that hair, and he made me laugh just about everytime he opened his mouth that night.  And not once was he trying to be funny.  That should have been a huge warning sign for me,  because can it really be a good basis for a relationship, finding humor in his confusion and utter sincerity?  But after a few beers (which he insisted were ales) I wasn’t paying attention to any warning signs.

Turns out he was a biology major, heavy into the sciences, and later I discovered I could help him out when he wrote his papers without ever understanding what the hell he was talking about.   I still don’t think even after all this time that he really gets my sense of humor and has just given up trying.  As long as I’m happy, why mess with it.  That night his buddy asked my girlfriend if he could take her home, and of course both of them had to drag the two of us along.  At one point he told me my grey faux fur jacket looked like a dirty polar bear hide.  (HA!  Really?  Have you ever seen a real  polar bear?) No, but this is like a fake one.  (I don’t remember what it said on the tag when I bought it, but I really think I might have remembered  if it mentioned fake dirty polar bear).  Do you know you have really beautiful eyes?  (Well.  Yes.  Who wants to discuss polar bears anyway.)   When we were standing together I mentioned that he was tall.  Brilliant conversationalist – I don’t know how he kept up.  And he said, no he wasn’t really, I was just short.  (I only appear short to you because you’re tall.)  How tall are you?  (I’m five foot four.)  That’s short.  (But only to someone who is tall.)  But you’re short to me, and I’m not really tall.  (So, how tall are you?)  It went on and on, with neither of us passing out from boredom.  I can’t explain why.  We said a whole lot of assinine things to eachother.   When I asked him what his last name was, he spelled it for me, although it is a name as common as Smith.  He asked me for my phone number when they dropped us off, and he wrote it down on the frosty windsheild of MY car.  So I really thought I’d never hear from him again.  But it turned out he had a good head for numbers.  And that there were a whole lot more stupid topics we needed to discuss. 

I asked him later what his first impressions of me were.  Hoping he’d give my brilliant mind at the very least an honorable mention.   He says he remembers my hair being almost as long as my skirt, and when I stood up at the top of the stairs and he was at the bottom, it was a breathtaking view.  (So…what else?)  Your skirt barely covered your ass.  (I think we’ve established that point.)  You were really up beat and happy.  I liked your hair, it went right down to your……  (And I was smart too, right?  Remember that big term paper I aced?)  Oh, yeah, you were smart,  and you had great, great legs.  (So, it was my brilliant mind and my sense of humor that attracted you to me, right? )  Yeah, that was probably it, he says, nodding reflectively,  with a stupid dreamy look on his face.   It’s why I love him.  He knows I’m always right.    

High School

March 16

SDHS

I seem to have skipped right over my five years of highschool in this, my illustrious personal history, so I suppose I should regress at least momentarily.  I was voted Mid-Summer Night’s Dream Prom Queen in my final year.  There, that’s all I really wanted to say.  HAHA!!  Now you can imagine that I was drop dead gorgeous and incredibly popular.  Sorry, but I have to disillusion you.  Well, maybe not about the gorgeous part…..

The reason I spent FIVE years in highschool was because that was way back in the day when Ontario still had grade thirteen.  Somebody’s idea of a cruel joke, giving every high school senior one more year to prepare themselves for the big leap to university.  Or in my case, too much time to think about it.  My grade nine and ten years were spent endeavouring to be a nerd.  I was in a class full of them, and desperately wanted to fit in.  I don’t think I ever got a mark under 85% in those two years, and still I was never higher than 10th in my class of brainiacs.  The school actually divided students up into A, B, C and D classes and it was no secret that the A classes were the high achievers.  I once wrote an algebra test and thought I might be embarrassed when I got handed back my 100% score.  I need not have worried – my result was a mere 98%,  with our super star nerd getting 102% because he also answered a bonus question correctly.  That’s pretty much how it went with this group of A kids.  We were every teachers’ dream.  To this day my sister (the pretty one) refers to me as ‘the smart one’.   But, you know, there are book smarts and then there’s everything else in the world.  By grade eleven I was ready to broaden my horizons.  That was the year I started slumming, according to my peers, and found out how much fun it was to hang out with the C’s and the D’s, whose whole lives did not revolve around French verb conjugations and chemistry and physics labs. 

Quick aside here about chemistry.  I had to work my butt off in that class being what you might call not very chemically inclined.  My most memorable chem lab was the one where my partner (his name was Louis, he was about four feet tall, super cute and very smart)  and I were conducting some kind of an experiment that involved a bunsen burner.  See how the details have stayed with me all these years?  We had cleaned up a spill and thrown the paper towels into the garbage can.  Then we lit the burner and tossed the match.  THEN there was a booming explosion, and the garbage can burst into flames.  It was the most fun we ever had in chemistry.  Me and Louis were practically famous after that.

I imagine every school has its group of popular kids which you are either a part of or not.  Our class had what I always thought of as the group of seven – girls who gave you the impression that they were better than everyone else, even if they didn’t actually think that themselves (although a couple of them definitely did).  Three of them were the daughters of teachers.  All of them were career oriented, members of student council,  and played on various sports teams.  And five of them made the cheerleading squad.   I came to and from school by bus every day, so doing any of these things that involved staying after school was not really an option for me and for the rest of the unpopular girls.  So I always felt left out when these ‘town kids’ shared experiences.  Then when I could drive and had the option of hanging out with them, I realized I really didn’t want to. They were….boring in a lot of ways.  None of them smoked or drank or swore or drove around in fast cars. 

By grade twelve I was quite enjoying my double life.  I still got good marks and was little miss goodie two shoes in class.   Weekends I hung out with partiers.  I had a lot of experiences that I would not have been caught dead sharing with the group of seven.  Anyway, fast forward to grade thirteen.  The group of seven are the elite, looked up to by everyone.  It is time to vote for the prom queen.  All girls in my class are elligible.  All my C & D friends graduated last year from grade twelve, so we can’t blame them for voting for me.  Enter my little sister.   She has a million friends in grades nine and ten, and she suggests to all of them that they vote for her sister for prom queen!  Couple that with the vote splitting that must have gone on amongst the popular seven and voila.  I wear the tierra. 

There were a lot of stunned reactions when my name was announced.  My boyfriend at the time who automatically became Prom King was perhaps most stunned of all.  The word mortified comes to mind.  Three girls from the group of seven became my ladies in waiting.  I still have the pictures.  We all look a little shell shocked.  Perhaps this is the night that these seven girls finally got pissed. 

I have a couple of regrets when it comes to these five years.  There were actually two guys in my class of nerds who had a crush on me all through high school and I never gave them the time of day.  They were just such incredible geeks at the time, and when you’re a teenager your priorities in that department are all screwed up.  I know that one of them became a carpenter, of all things, and still lives in the same town.  He is a beautiful person, and I wish I had known him better when I had the chance.  I had an English teacher who was absolutely incredible, the best teacher ever.  He read Shakespeare standing on top of his desk weilding a plastic sword.   He made sure many of my compositions were published in our year books.  He organized the Glee Club where we all sang our hearts out, even those of us who couldn’t sing.  He was the photographer at my wedding.  He passed away, and I regret that I never told him what a positive influence he was in my life.

Come to think of it, he was the one who counted the prom queen votes. 

After High School

March 14

After High School

After you graduate from high school it is not unusual for most young people to have some kind of clue concerning what to do next.  I was accepted by four universities but the prospect of chosing one and actually going there put me into such a grand funk that I could barely function.  I just so wanted to be done with school.  So why I suddenly decided to attend teacher’s college is a mystery to everyone involved, including me.  This was just before it became compulsory for elementary school teachers to have a university degree, and I think what appealed to me most was the fact that the course was one year long.  And I had a friend who was going and she needed somebody to live with.  So off we went.  I guess it crossed my mind that chosing this career path would make it pretty much a sure thing that I would NEVER be done with school, but a lot of things were going on in my life and clear thinking was definitely not involved.  For starters, I was going out on and off with four different guys.  It was hard to keep my social calendar straight.   I accepted a date over the phone once,  but I hadn’t really recognized the voice of the caller and had to wait until he showed up at my door to see which one it was.  (I had it narrowed down to two….my girlfriend did a lot of eye rolling and lectured me constantly.)  Once I was at a party with one of these guys and another two arrived and I just  promptly drank myself into oblivion rather than have to answer any difficult questions.   What can I say, I liked them all.  I’ve never been good at making up my mind.  I also had tonsilitis off and on for the entire year at college, was constantly on medication,  and kept losing my voice.   I spent a week-end in Toronto with one guy while telling various lies to everyone else – sick in bed, spending the weekend with a girl friend, staying home to study.  It got really hard to keep all my stories straight.  Some kind of role model I was going to be…..

Out of the three or four hundred people attending Teacher’s College that year I suspect I was the very least dedicated one of them all.  There were people there who had dreamed of being teachers all their lives.  They made me realize I was completely out of my element.  I had no interest in developing lesson plans or following a curriculum or making a difference in a child’s life.  We had to go out on teaching assignments for a week at a time and my main personal objective was to survive them. The only time I remember having any fun at all was with a grade one class, teaching them the concept of spheres.  After the lesson, two little boys drew excellent pictures of spears.  See how good I was?  I was okay with the little ones, but the grade eight classes scared me to death.  Kids know when you’re a phoney.   I managed to pass all my courses in spite of myself, and might have ended up with an actual full time teaching job and eventually died of boredom, but my story of course can’t be that predictable.  My mom knew someone on one of the hiring committees that came to the college to recruit teachers and he was supposedly going to hire me.  They had some little under the table agreement.  It’s always who you know.  But he had never met me, and he actually ended up hiring my room mate because we both had the same first name, we were from the same place, and he thought it was me.  How very ironic.  She ended up teaching in a horrible little community north of nowhere, and her teaching career lasted two years.  Part of the reason could have been my bad influence on her attitude.    That was also the beginning of a time when there were way too many graduates and way too few jobs.   So I made another rash decision, moved to St. Catharines with another friend who was attending Univeristy there, and joined the ranks of the substitute teachers from hell.  I think that might have been one of the absolute worst times in my life.  Never knowing if you’d be working or not – taking last minute calls, frantically searching a city map to see where you had to be, racing off to a day or two in a classroom where you had no idea what the routine was or what kind of kids you might end up facing.   It was another time in my life that I survived.  It also made me realize that I would never be a good teacher – a GOOD teacher has to truly love what they do.  There seemed to be nothing left for me to do but bite the bullet and go back to school.  Find out what in the hell I was good at, if anything.  A new start. 

And that’s exactly what it turned out to be, surprisingly enough.  The start of the rest of my life.  Where strange things happened that shaped my destiny.  Ha.  That sounds so dramatic.  But life is nothing if not little coincidences that point you in new directions.

Early Years 3

Odd SummerJobs

The first place I worked was a long skinny mom&pop diner in our small-town on main street.  It was sort of like the diners you see in movies, with a counter and bar stools all the way to the back on one side, and a row of booths all down the other.  Washrooms in the back.  Short order cook behind the counter.  Dark, dingy, greasy.  With regular patrons who came in every day for coffee and the ‘special’.  It was a summer job, I was just barely sixteen and I hated it with a passion.  I gagged when I had to clean ash trays and be polite to skanky old men.   I quit after a couple of weeks to go and work with a friend at the “Blue Water Tea Room” right on the beach.  Now, in comparrison, the tea room was heaven.  But as classy as it may sound, it was just a shack with a patio.  We sold a lot of french fries in paper cups, and foot long hot dogs and pop (no tea that I remember) and we were constantly sweeping up sand tracked in by our clientele wearing bathing suits and not much else.  So now there were skanky old men with beer bellies <sigh> but they invariably had teenage sons somewhere in the picture.  Our ‘boss’ was a grumpy old guy who sat in the back peeling potatoes.  Where I lived, meeting a lot of tourist-type guys in the summer was a very high priority, and this proved to be a great place to do that.  At our highschool, even if you were going out with someone during the school year you usually agreed on at least a temporary break up in the summer.  It was a tourist resort – the population easily trippled when people from the big cities arrived to take up cottage life.  My week-long romantic flings with interesting city boys began here.   Unfortunately, the grumpy potato peeler sold his business at the end of that season, and it eventually was made into a rather classy place that catered to the yacht owners.  But by the time that happened, I had moved back uptown. 

The remaining summers through high school I was employed at McK’s Dairy (name shortened to protect the guilty) on main street.  As the name suggests, we sold locally made dairy products, as well as fast food.  I loved it there.  Twelve girls were employed,  two teams of six working opposite rotating shifts.  Each of us worked at different ‘stations’ for two days at a time, going from kitchen (dishes and do-nut making), to grill, to first “U” (u-shaped counter – again with the bar stools) to second “U” to  ice cream to ‘floater’, meaning you could help wherever you were needed.  Which usually meant back to back sessions on ice cream where we scooped cones for hours.  There was a window open to the sidewalk as well as an indoor counter and people in the summer were insatiable when it came to ice cream.  It took me years to get over hating the milky smell that ice cream develops when you’re exposed to it for hours at a time.  We also developed the right arm muscles of weight lifters.  The best part of the job was the hours – we worked from 3 pm to 11 pm one day, and 7 am to 3 pm the next.  Then from that 3 p.m. to the start of your next shift at 3 pm 24 hours later, you had hours to spend at the beach with the guys you picked up serving them ice cream.  We all opted for pony tails in lieu of hair nets (how gross would that have been) and we all wore short little white uniforms and gingham aprons.  Truly gaggy, but strangely effective in the dairy bar business I guess.  The boss here was an incarnation of my first boss, middle aged, cranky and obsessed with turning a profit.  At one point he decided we were being way too generous with the ice cream scoops and gave us a scale to weigh the cones on.  Chintzy old bugger.   All that did was make us way  more generous, stuffing ice cream down into the cones so they weighed twice as much as they were supposed to.  I became a fairly accomplished short order cook working there.  Very limited menu of course,  but there’s a certain pride involved in turning out the perfect grilled cheese sandwich.  And I was not a bad waitress. Again, uncomplicated menu helped to make us very efficient.  We had to make our own milkshakes and floats and sundaes and banana splits.  We had to be good at adding up chits and giving the right change.  We pooled our tips.  The kitchen was an alternate steam bath from the dishwasher to grease fest running the do-nut maker.  Couldn’t eat a do-nut for a long time after working there either.  And this is how incredibly old I am – I can remember when we all got a raise and were making a dollar an hour, and feeling like we had hit the big time.  I don’t remember it being primarily about the money though.  Mine got spent mostly on clothes.  It was more about not being bored to death all summer long and meeting people and getting out and doing stuff.  There were some unspoken rules about picking up guys – or letting them think they had picked you up.  You never went off with any guy on your own.  We always ‘dated’ at least in pairs – he had to have a friend who ended up with your friend.  There was a dance hall at the beach with local bands and we went there in groups.  And we ALWAYS drove ourselves home.  I suppose in a way it was wild, but it was a controlled kind of wild, and mostly just a lot of flirting and fun.

I had a couple more food-industry related jobs in my life, one putting in time working the summer before I got married at a bakery that also served soup and sandwich type fare and the second a long time later as an administrative assistant to one of the owners of a family restaurant chain.  These jobs made me realize that this was not even close to what I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing.  Which was……………..I still don’t know.  

What I do know is that it is a little sad for me to go back to my home town where none of these places exist anymore.  Even our highschool is no longer, although the building has been made into some kind of a shopping complex and the ‘field’ is a parking lot.   The restaurant where we used to take off to and spend our caffeteria money on chips and gravy and smoke our brains out has been completely done over and looks nothing at all like it once did.  Even the beach is no longer familiar.  Its been improved beyond recognition.  There are still strange little diners on main street – I guess the tourists find them quaint. 

Stay tuned for part two, where I get real jobs (where persuing the opposite sex is not the main objective.)  And don’t really like them.  And quit and try something else.  Its not an employment history I’m necessarily proud of and looks pretty flighty on a resume,  but I’m one of those people who prove that the days are gone when you picked one career and stuck with it until you retired.  Plus, I’m the female half of a marriage from the generation where even if you did have a career it would take second place to your husband’s job opportunities where moving was involved.  That has actually suited me well, being the wishy washy type who lets people steer me in different directions.  I love learning new things and new skills.  Hopefully that will never stop. 

Elementary

I suppose everyone is waiting with baited breath to learn more about my early years.  Please refer to previous blog for definitions of sophomania, egomania and typomania;  you can search for examples of all those things in what I am about to write if the subject matter gets tedious.  Although I can’t imagine that happening.  Well, on second thought, yes I can.  So I’ll try to be brief and hit the highlights only.I attended a one room school house from grade one to grade eight.  No, I’m not ninety…we lived on a farm in southwestern Ontario – there were little towns all around us in every direction, but I was off to high school before someone got the bright notion to build bigger central schools and bus country kids to them.  I don’t remember there ever being any more than 30 kids total attending that school, and the most kids ever in my grade at any given time was four.  Mostly it was just me and my best friend going from grade to grade – and moving in a westerly direction on the seating plan until we finally ended up in the big desks.  There are some good things to be said about one room schools.  You were able to listen in on every lesson for every level – but you also learned great powers of concentration to tune that out and focus on your own work. You got to read a lot.   You learned to amuse yourself when your work was finished, because you never seemed to be the teacher’s top priority more than once or twice a day. You got to read some more,  and make valiant attempts to find the right answers on your own.  You were able to help the little kids, and you had to create recess games that included a wide age group.  And did I mention you got to read A LOT?  We had a travelling library, which wasn’t called a book-mobile then, but same thing – and I read every single book in the rotation I think.  And some twice if they showed up at our school again. 

There are also bad things to be said about a one room school.  You interacted with the same small group of people every day.  It was a finite little world.  There were no extracuricular activities to speak of, because there just weren’t enough people to make them feasible.  You had to help haul wood from the woodshed and keep the wood stove fired up in the winter.  We had a caretaker who would come by and get the fire going in the morning, but it was up to us to keep it going.  Sometimes it was smokey and often it was freezing cold depending on the direction of the wind. Most of us walked to school, and mitts and hats and boots and outer pants had to be hung close to the stove so they’d dry out before you had to walk home.  If you have never smelled kids snow suits drying by a fire,  count yourself lucky.  Oh, and for all you spoiled little bus riders out there, it was a two mile walk, uphill both ways.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  Okay, I admit we rode bikes most of the time.   We had ‘hot lunches’ during the winter, which consisted of the teacher heating up soup or canned peas or creamed corn on a hot plate and serving it to us in cups.  (To supplement the lunches we brought with us, of course.) Scorched creamed corn always reminds me of my childhood.   We never once had a teacher that stayed longer than one school year – there was always somebody different every fall.  I’ve often wondered how they ever found people to take the job, even on the short term. 

I thought the Dick and Jane type books were incredibly stupid.  I wanted to read comic books.  Lessons that said things like ‘colour the apple red’  or ‘draw six circles’ made me positively itch to grab that purple crayon, or make the circles into smiling faces with ears and teeth and other interesting details.  I had to learn to make perfectly shaped letters and numbers and stay on the lines – all tedious.  To this day I don’t take directions very well.  And singing songs where you couldn’t make up your own words?   – my creativity was stifled at every turn.  And that was just grade one.  I learned, like every child eventually does, to conform and behave and fit in.  Not that I didn’t disagree with a lot of things – like religious instruction which taught us absolutely nothing about any religion other than protestant.  And having to make the thank-you speach to another small school who invited our school to play baseball against them.  Really, I wasn’t thankful for it.  They beat the pants off us, and after that humiliation I had to stand up in front of them and lie about having had a wonderful time.  Interesting that the teacher chose such a seasoned tale-teller for the task.

Except for odd vivid memories of one sort or another those times are now pretty much a blur.  I managed to survive those eight years without any irreparable damage that I’m aware of.  So much for being brief about it.  But there IS one more story of some interest.  Out of the blue one day in grade four or five I decided it was high time I had a boyfriend.  I remember looking around and mentally assessing every elligible male.  Too old, too ugly, too stupid, too mean, my brother,  too young……and then there was Harvey.  Stupid name, but he was kinda cute.  Next grade to me, blonde curly hair, had never hit me that I could recall…..what the hell, he’d do.  Seriously, there was not a whole lot of choices, and I made up my mind about him about that fast.  And promptly wrote him a love letter.  Our relationship did not get off to a good start, because Harvey was mortified.  I had no idea someone could blush right up into the roots of his hair.  But I was nothing if not persistent, and eventually he started writing cryptic notes back.  All the while we were passing notes in class, we studiously ignored eachother on the playground.   I played goal for the boys in shinny hockey and froze my feet just to be near him.  We held mittened hands and skated together at all the skating parties.   I went to his hockey games.  (They happened to be my brother’s too.) It made my day for him to turn around in the player’s box and search me out in the crowd  (I use the term loosely – is 20 people a crowd?) so we could gaze longingly into eachother’s eyes.   I guess he finally tired of the inuendo, or maybe he just developed writer’s cramp after all those notes;  at any rate, he  made his big move and suggested that we get it all out into the open and proclaim our love for eachother to the world.  Well of course I had to dump him.  I have to admit,  I loved the secrecy more than I loved Harvey.  That, and the fact that my mother found some of his more romantic scribblings and was going to go and talk to his mother about it,  before I was forced to admit that I had started the whole thing. Somehow that fact didn’t surprise her.  Shortly after our break up, Harvey moved away with a broken heart.  The broken heart is pure conjecture on my part.  Every time I see a Harvey’s franchise to this day I think about him.  Not that he has anything to do with them that I’m aware of.  I think he might be one of those guys who writes jokes about women and the strange things they do that you can never figure out.  Its just a feeling I have. 

Early Years 2

February 26

Scenes From My Childhood (Part Two)

For a long time I was very jealous of my sister.  She was little and cute and everyone made a fuss over her.  Our older brother hated both of us, and then we all in turn got annoyed by our baby sister.  Apparently its just what siblings do to some degree or other.  And then if things turn out the way they should, you all eventually grow up and get over it. 

Mom must have felt at one point that she couldn’t wait that long, and that drastic measures were needed to end some of the madness.  One day she handed me a book and told me to read the story she had marked and then come back when I was finished and we’d talk about it.

So I take the book and I’m reading – big sister, little sister, little sister is sick in bed, big sister is obliviously playing, little sister asks repeatedly for a drink of water, big sister is flippant and rude and can’t be bothered….blah blah blah…..I can see that my mother is attempting to point out my bad behaviour to me….blah blah blah….

And the next day, the little sister died.  I cannot believe my eyes.  I read it again.  AND THE NEXT DAY, THE LITTLE SISTER DIED.  Big sister is all remorseful, but unfortunately she does not ever get another chance to be kind to her sister.  I am devestated.  I sob to my mother “She killed her sister!  I HATE this story!”  (Of course she didn’t kill her.)  “Yes, she did!  She DIED!  Her sister killed her!”  (She was already sick -she didn’t die of thirst. Honey its only a story.   I just don’t want you to grow up with a sister who doesn’t want to be your friend because you were always so mean to her.)  So do I understand?  Well, sort of.

The next day my sister races into the kitchen yelling “MOM!  Make her STOP!”  My mother turns and glares at me as if to say, have you not learned anything?  And I really don’t get it, because I’ve been trying so hard to be nice.  “She keeps asking me if I want a drink of water and I don’t and she keeps on BUGGING  me!”   Mom doesn’t even crack a smile – she just hugs us both, tells us to please get along, and turns back to what she was doing. 

You are so ungrateful, I tell my sister.  I AM NOT!  Yes you are.  NO I’m NOT!  Are so….AM NOT!    Our mother turns around and yells at us.  “GO AWAY!  GO…..climb a tree or something!!”   That seems a rather abrupt change of mood, so we take it outside.  My sister turns to me and says “Mommy is so ungrateful”.  I know that’s not the right word, but I agree with her anyway.  

The Early Years

February 25

Scenes From My Childhood (Part One)

I have sincere empathy for strange and confused children, having once been one myself.  I don’t blame my parents for how I turned out, they seemed pretty normal at the time, and you can only do so much with what you’re given.  They did their best.  My mother once told me to please get some idea or other “through my thick skull” and I worried for weeks that there must be something very seriously wrong with the bone structure of my head.  My sister told me that moon glue held the moon in place and I believed.  Neither of us could understand why, if we had grass hoppers, we didn’t also have alfalfa hoppers.  I (more than once) told my dad I loved him like an old old old old pig.  I thought Lake Huron was there so that you could wash your dirty feet.

At some point in the first three or four years of my life I over-heard someone say that baby chicks hatched from chicken eggs. You could make this miracle happen by keeping the eggs warm.  Eggs that were kept in the fridge were cold – they would never hatch.  Something needed to be done, so give me full marks for initiative, I did something.  I rescued two future chicks from the cold and searched the house for a suitable warm place for them to hatch.  What could be warmer than a child’s snow boot?    Mission accomplished, I promptly forgot all about them.  Until some time later when  my mother told me to put my boots on and I started screaming.  Fear of the unknown, I guess – would my foot break an egg or crush a chick?  That’s the first time I remember my mother asking me the question  “What is wrong with you?” and not by any stretch of the imagination the last time that I couldn’t come up with a good answer.

I once took a roll of hundred dollar bills off my dad’s dresser.  I had never seen so much money before in my life,  and to make sure no thieves would take it, I put it in a safe place;  under my pillow.  I was oblivious to the frantic search for it later until dad asked me if I had seen it.  (Yep.)  Where?  (It was on your dresser….don’t you remember where you left it?)  Do you know what happened to it?  (I hid it.)  Where?  WHY?  (I put it under my pillow so no one would take it…..)  Slowly it began to dawn on me that “someone taking it”  had already happened.  He made me promise to let him in on any future plans I might come up with in regards to protecting our valuables from robbers.  

I never had an imaginary friend, but my sister and I had an imaginary baby.  His name was Yortz.  We had an old beat up stroller and we used to take him for wild rides.  Poor Yortz.  The stroller hit boulders.  It smashed into trees.  It toppled over in the soft dirt in the garden, and it went flying down the embankment into our pond.  We took it up onto the roof of our shed once and …ooooops!  let it go.  For some reason or other Yortz never grew up.  Scarey to think that my sister and I both did, and eventually became  real mothers.

One Christmas I decided to find out once and for all if there really was a Santa Claus.  So I told only my aunt, no one else, that I was doing an experiment.  I was secretly asking Santa for a Red Riding Hood doll, and if I got it, without telling anyone important that I wanted it, I would know that Santa was real  (and  that you could send him messages by mental telepathy I guess).  I don’t know if my aunt was insulted that I didn’t think she was important, but obviously she thought my faith in Santa was worth something.  My parents were informed about my little test,  and I got the doll.  Too bad for Red Riding Hood.  I never really liked dolls much.  Once I had removed all her clothes and lost them,  and given her several hair cuts so that she was satisfactorily naked and bald, she had  pretty much served her purpose.  Oh, well,  not quite.  I also gave her a few ball point pen tattoos.  My mother threw her out.   My brother still has a beloved teddy bear.  My sisters both have cherished toys from their childhood.  All I have is a wax apple that belonged to my grandmother with my teeth marks in it. 

Hmm.  I think I need a story here to prove I was a little girl who did little girl things.   I loved playing with paper dolls!  I designed horrific outfits for them.  I liked to color!  There is nothing wrong with blue faces that I can think of.  Purple pumpkins.  Polka dot cows.  I liked to play cards!  But I was a terrible cheater.  I learned to play the piano.  Loudly.  I loved to read, and to write my own stories and poems.  I liked to make the books I owned better, by adding comments in the margins, or subtle alterations to the pictures.   A few bubbles here and there with extra witty dialogue.   And seriously, everyone in a story-book should be wearing large round glasses and sporting matching  handlebar mustaches – why didn’t the original author think of that?

Okay, I give up.  I was a little horror.  The sister nearest to me in age was (and is) quite beautiful.  As a child she had gorgeous dark brown eyes, blonde ringlets and a Shirley Temple smile.   My hair was dark and poker straight and my face was covered in freckles.  I used to make her stand in front of mirrors with me so that we could decide which one of us was better looking.  She wasn’t allowed to leave until she decided it was me.   I told her she was adopted, and that our parents had had her shipped over from China.  I told her our dog had rabies and that if she touched him she would probably die.  I told her wild animals climbed up on the roof outside our bedroom window and looked in at us hungrily while we slept.   My parents taught her to say to me “That’s an outrageous lie” whenever something I said upset her.  Well, they all needed to get a sense of humor, didn’t they?   

Stay tuned for Part Two.