Monthly Archives: December 2006

Grandma’s Rocking Chair

 

I know, it’s only a damn chair. 

I profess to NOT share my sisters’ love and passion for antiques.  Or my brother’s.  To me, most of the inherited things they have are just old, dull, unattractive stuff, no matter how ‘fixed up’ they make them.  My brother has an ancient pendulum clock that still works, and he and his wife use grandma’s old dining room table, chairs and buffet.  V. has a gigantic steamer trunk full of treasure, which includes among other things a rather ugly porcelain faced doll.   In Ann’s living room there is an old hoosier cupboard that she rescued from the back kitchen of the farm house before it was sold.  I remember it as an interesting old thing painted bright yellow.  It’s doors had latches, there were cup hooks inside,  and it had a flat drawer under a white-with-blue-speckles porcelain counter top.  Top left were doors that opened to reveal a moveable glass pane, behind which was a long funnel with a crank on it.  You put flour in the top, turned the crank and collected it nicely sifted in a container below.  Weird.  It also had a roll top door middle right.  That fascinated me for about five minutes as a child.  We stored winter boots in the bottom of that cupboard for years and years.  It cost Ann almost a thousand dollars to have that piece of furniture restored.  How insane, I thought when she told me;  but even I have to admit it’s quite a beautiful  piece now.  The wood grain is gorgeous, and the roll top works a lot better without all the crusty paint gumming it up.  Also in her living room (where normal people would put a coffee table) is a big old wooden chest that came across the ocean with our great great grandmother.  She has what I refer to as a ‘queen anne’ chair, simply because it’s hers, not because I know anything about period furniture.  There’s much more, too many things to itemize and mention.  My own daughter is mesmerized by these antiques.  She has a small wooden box that my mother gave her, containing several curious bits of junk.  She and Kenzie go through it and marvel at the things it contains.   I think the difference between the two of us in this regard is that I grew up surrounded by this kind of clutter,  and so I don’t appreciate it much and prefer things that are new.  When I say something to that effect she and her aunt look at me like I’m crazy. 

But I’m not a complete loss!  Although I don’t ever want my house to be full of antiques (it would be like living in a museum) I do have a few things in my possession that are as old as dirt.  (Besides W. )  I do kind of hate to admit how precious they are to me.  One is an old wooden butter bowl grandma gave me because I asked to have it.  Then I didn’t know quite what to do with it.  Eventually I sanded it, varnished it, and painted a little doll in an apron sitting in it’s sunken interior, complete with whimsical little leaves and flowers floating around her, thus completely destroying any antique value it may have had.  I also have a wooden container, but no one can figure out what the original use for it may have been.  It has slotted divisions into which old record albums fit perfectly – so guess what I keep in it.  It was painted black and used for books and magazines when we were growing up.  I’ve revamped it as well to make it presentable.  With a few magic mushrooms for artistic interest. 

 That thing on top was added later, in case you’re wondering.  For want of a better place to put it, is why. 

I have a strange bookcase that now resides at our summer cottage.  It’s about a foot wide and five feet tall with a glass door and not so sturdy shelves.  Someone probably built it to fit in a small, tall space.  It’s curious, with character,  and therefore greatly appeals to me – the same way my grandmother’s rocking chair does.  Grandma got it for a wedding present, so I guess it must be close to a hundred years old. 

 

Here it is with it’s original owner comfortably seated in it, holding my daughter in her lap, as my mom and I hover in the background.  By the time I first noticed the rocking chair, it had been painted barn red and was a cast off in our old shed.  My mother said it originally had a woven wicker seat, but that wore out and someone nailed a piece of plywood over the hole.  The rockers were flat on the bottom from years of use,  so when you rocked it made a loud clunk-clunk noise, along with a lot of groaning and squeaking from it’s old dried out joints.  As much as I love red, somehow I knew it didn’t suit in this case, and one weekend at mom’s, mostly from boredom, I hauled the chair to the house.  I was pregnant with D. and suddenly decided my unborn baby should have a rocking chair.  With paint thinner and an old rag I began the arduous task of removing the layers of paint.  What began to emerge was something truly lovely. Once I started, it was impossible to stop, even with my mother freaking out that the fumes could not possibly be healthy.  We didn’t have money to get the seat replaced, and to this day the nailed on plywood remains.  I kind of like it.  And it’s always covered with a cushion, so what’s the harm.  When I was finally finished, many weekends later, the chair still creaked and groaned and clunked, but it was functional, and charming in a strange way that I didn’t then understand.

 Baby D., probably trying to keep still so those scarey noises don’t start up again.

We left the chair behind when we moved north, knowing it would not survive all our moving about.  I got to visit it when we were home for holidays.  Silly I know, but I always did check on it, and when we moved south and were finally able to claim it again, that was a source of quiet happiness that I couldn’t explain.  Grandma’s chair. 

A few years ago, W. was stepping back to look at something, tripped, and grabbed hold of the rocking chair to steady himself.  It sort of fell to pieces.  We were both surprised and dismayed and then W. fell apart.  Well, not litterally of course, but he just sort of broke down about it all.  Oh my god, your grandmother’s rocker!  He was so staggered by what he had done, he was the one who needed comforting.  I shrugged and told him it’s only a chair for goodness sake.  A bottom rung was broken, one of the arms had come off with spindles hanging and a rocker was badly cracked.  When I looked at it like that I wondered how in the world it had stayed together for so long in such a fragile state.  Thank god a guest didn’t sit on it and kill themselves.  W. sorted through the debris and vowed to make it right.  

The fellow we found to do the repairs was aghast at the responsibility of restoring a priceless antique.  It took a while to convince him that it’s value as an antique was not at all the point of the endeavor.  It has always been the sentimental value, never anything else.  All I wanted was to have it put back together.  He did an amazing job.  He replaced both rockers, thicker and sturdier than the originals I’m guessing.  He replaced a cracked arm rest and several of the spindles.  If you look really closely you can see they don’t all match.  He took out all the creaks.  Don’t ask me how.  He charged us an incredible amount of money which made W. rethink his madness momentarily.  We got it back with all the new parts blatantly obvious in bare wood, and were advised to take it now to a furniture refinisher to have it properly stained and varnished.  But I did that myself.  As lovingly as so many years ago when I coaxed the color from the old wood, I was able to make the new look old.  For the money I’ve spent on that thing I could have bought two or three brand new rocking chairs.  But I don’t expect anything shiny new would have the power to make me smile every time I look at it, not like this ancient pile of sticks is able to do. 

    

WHOA!!  Deja vu.  Kenzie rocks, but there is no sound.  Some things get better with age.

So yeah.  I say I hate antiques.  But just like every good rule has an exception,  I guess every good hate has a noninclusion.    

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So this is Christmas….

 

So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear ones
The old and the young
A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear

So what have I done?  My job I suppose.   As a wife, a mother, a grandmother, and a sort of half-assed dedicated monster-box-retailer employee.  Come to think of it, all my various roles are kind of half baked and slapdash.  I lack the ambition to change that.  I get through my day, I don’t kill anyone.  Some days I perform random acts of kindess if I remember and the opportunity presents itself.  I listen.  I give advice or I don’t interfere.  I make lists.  I misplace them.  I start over. 

This may seem rather pathetic to some people, blogging on Christmas day.  When I was growing up the day itself was rarely when we celebrated, except for getting stuff from Santa that morning.  We’d have our Christmas dinner whenever it was convenient for people to get together.  Once we waited until January – but only once.  That was a little too weird, even for us.  This year we had our turkey here on the 18th, and my family in Ontario will be celebrating on the 27th.  W.’s family will be celebrating on the correct day because for them there’s no deviation from the norm.  Our way certainly prolongs things and makes it possible to have a whole lot of smaller fits of festivity.

I’m still grappling with the fact that at this stage in my life it’s just another day and I’m no longer responsible for the happiness of my children on Christmas morning.  I no longer have to agonize over finding the right gifts and a million stocking stuffers.  I don’t have to sneak presents from Santa underneath the tree and act surprised and delighted in the morning.   I did that for over twenty years – the last time was the first Christmas for the grand-babies and the last time my kids slept here on Christmas eve and spent Christmas morning with us.  They clung to that tradition perhaps longer than most young adults would have done.  But with families of their own it was finally time to make their own celebrations blended with the traditions of their significant others.  This year they’ve done the biggest blend of all so far and both families are on a ski holiday in B.C.  Staying in the same condo together, five little kids and all!  I wonder how that will turn out.  I hope they have a wonderful holiday and come home with precious memories.  The only way we’ll know for sure that it worked out is if they attempt the same thing again next year.  It makes me very happy to think of Kenzie and Kale spending this time together.  They’ve always had a special bond as cousins.  I don’t think I’m imagining that.  I hope it lasts a lifetime. 

Both our kids and their spouses offered us their concern about spending Christmas ‘alone’.  Some day they’ll understand what a joyous freedom it is, to be relieved of the responsibilites that they have so recently taken on.  It was a great ride, but I’m happy to step down from the merry-go-round at last.  Waving from the sidelines suits me just fine. 

So this is Christmas – of the very adult kind.  And what have we done?  We’ve contributed financially, because we can.  Because it was easy.  And because, having been parents ourselves,  we know how very much appreciated that sort of gift can be.  The knowledge that our families, young and old, are happy and safe and having fun is the very best present we could ever hope to receive, and it will be the one we wish for every year. 

Well, before this deteriorates further into sentimental inane babble (although I don’t know how it could get any worse) I’m signing off.  I have some serious Harry Potter time to deal with.  We are watching all four dvd’s, one after the other.  W. promised.  It’s his Christmas gift to me, no whining allowed. 

Peace.  Out.  Happy Christmas.  

    

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter….

…..by Kim Edwards

From Publishers Weekly
Edwards’s assured but schematic debut novel (after her collection, The Secrets of a Fire King) hinges on the birth of fraternal twins, a healthy boy and a girl with Down syndrome, resulting in the father’s disavowal of his newborn daughter. A snowstorm immobilizes Lexington, Ky., in 1964, and when young Norah Henry goes into labor, her husband, orthopedic surgeon Dr. David Henry, must deliver their babies himself, aided only by a nurse. Seeing his daughter’s handicap, he instructs the nurse, Caroline Gill, to take her to a home and later tells Norah, who was drugged during labor, that their son Paul’s twin died at birth. Instead of institutionalizing Phoebe, Caroline absconds with her to Pittsburgh. David’s deception becomes the defining moment of the main characters’ lives, and Phoebe’s absence corrodes her birth family’s core over the course of the next 25 years. David’s undetected lie warps his marriage; he grapples with guilt; Norah mourns her lost child; and Paul not only deals with his parents’ icy relationship but with his own yearnings for his sister as well. Though the impact of Phoebe’s loss makes sense, Edwards’s redundant handling of the trope robs it of credibility. This neatly structured story is a little too moist with compassion.

People do the damndest things.  And although this story was an interesting and sometimes compelling one,  which began with a truly riveting life-altering incident in the lives of three people, I have to agree with the last couple of sentences in this review.  I just wanted to give a few of the characters a serious shake and tell them to get over themselves already.  I get it – you’re sad, you can’t undo the past.  But hello – you COULD try to let it go.  Life does go on.  There was way too much descriptive narrative for my liking as well, delving way too deeply into setting the scene, getting the ambience just right, making you feel that warm summer breeze, making you hear the wasps buzzing, feel the sand on your hot thighs,  smell the acrid smoke from the photographs burning and blah blah blah.  I felt constantly impatient for the author to just get on with the story.  And for me, the ending was just too neat and contrived.  Schmaltzy comes to mind.  Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for any of it. 

But I did read the entire book.  I wrote this little review.  I admire the author for putting so many words down on paper and trying to get inside so many heads. 

Mother Daughter

I love this picture of my maternal grandmother.  She was quite an attractive lady before she turned into an old battle axe.  Sorry grandma, I’m just kidding.  But life does take away our youthful beauty and some of our sweetness and most of our innocence.

Such a beautific, pensive, day-dreamy expression seems to suggest contemplation of the future somehow.  Did she ever imagine that this little person would be part of it?

 

This is my mother, one year old, 1918.  She was an incredibly special little girl, as all little girls are.  First grandchild on both sides of the family, and the only one of her siblings to have had a professional portrait taken.  Funny how parents do that – it gives the subsequent offspring an incredible inferiority complex, but, the fact is, you just have different priorities as the family grows.

 

And suddenly, here she is, with babies of her own.  That’s newborn me, 1949, over half a century ago.  Time flies. 

Me, baby D., broken camp chair, cool pants.  1974.

Fast forward to the year 2001.  D. and newborn Kenzie.  She’ll soon be six years old and my mother will be 90.  I don’t understand where the time has gone and why it rushes by faster and faster until you’re positively dizzy with the fleetness of life.  I want to slow it all down and replay it scene by scene.  It doesn’t seem fair that when your own personal tempo reaches the sluggish point that time gets lost in a wild blur. 

So I’m going to hang on tight and enjoy the ride for however long it lasts before I reach the end stages of battle-axedness myself.  May the mother daughter thing continue ad infinitum.

Reindeer Games

Ho Ho Ho. 

That was a good movie, by the way.  Even though the story was completely bizarre.  I have this thing for the Ben Afleck type,  and Charlize Theron is always amazing, no matter what the script.  But that’s not the kind of reindeer games I was going to talk about.  What kinds of games do reindeer play, anyway?  Christmas raises so many questions.  I’m happy to have found an answer to at least one of them. 

This makes me wonder where they take pee breaks.  I read somewhere that’s where icicles hanging from your eaves originate.  Yuck. 

The ‘deer in the headlights’ thing has been done to death, but it’s still kinda funny.

Proof positive that there can be more than one real reason for something.

And that when you live at the north pole you have to make your own fun.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll think of something important to write about.  Like why kids take so long to question all the deluded notions that Christmas entails.  It’s fun to believe and be a kid again, though, isn’t it?  That’s the biggest reindeer game of all.  I don’t want to stop playing.

Coffee, Liquor, Snowmen, etc.

Mmmmmmmmmmmm.   Coffee.  I think I prefer it over booze.  Unless there’s booze in my coffee, in which case I have captured the best of both worlds.  Sort of the way Starbucks did with their Cream Liquor, which, by the way, costs a flaming arm and a leg, something I didn’t notice until I was going through the check out.  And that was no ‘pay per post’ endorsement.  There are similar products out there that are just as good and cost much less.  They maybe don’t have so much of a coffee taste, but that’s where your real coffee comes in.  And of course if you have enough of whatever you’re drinking, you eventually don’t even CARE what it tastes like.  

Today I can finish the last of my shopping for Christmas.  All the gift shopping is a done deal, now it’s just those last few small things for Christmas dinner.  Like a turkey.  I always vow I’m going to get a small one to avoid left-overs, but anyone who knows me can tell you it just never happens that way.  So I will also be purchasing a whole lot of extra disposable plastic containers with tight fitting lids suitable for freezing.  Then in the next several months I can wonder what the hell is in them and throw them out without feeling too terribly guilty.  I also have my daughter fill some up and take them home with her, where perhaps they eventually meet a similar fate.  I really don’t want to know. 

So this blog is just a big exercise in procrastination.  I don’t want to get dressed and start my car and find a parking spot and deal with the insanity of the Christmas Shoppers from Hades and beyond.  But I will, because I love my family.  And they love my stuffing.   And either coffee or booze will be my reward when I’m done, depending on the degree of pandemonium I encounter.  (See, if you expect the worst, it’s possible you might be pleasantly surprised when things aren’t as horrible as you imagined…..)  (It’s also possible that aliens will abduct the cat.)

  Does anyone besides me become alarmed at the menacing side of the holidays?

Like, doesn’t this smiling snowman appear to be ready to whack you upside the head with his candy cane or his broom, or both?

Okay, I have to go.  My day is evaporating before my eyes.    

I know it’s December

Just in case there’s some confusion out there with me posting pictures of the beach, here’s a nice wintery one of me and my brother in keeping with the season.  That look on my face is something that got passed down to my daughter and her daughter.  Sort of a snarky little smirk.  There must be a dominant female gene for that somewhere in our family.

The story I have about winter happened a few years later, when I was four or five but there’s no picture of that day.  Obviously my mother, unlike me, didn’t race for the camera first whenever disaster struck.  That’s okay, because my memories of that day are larger than life.   I told mom once what I remembered about that day, watching the look on her face change from frowning confusion,  to bemused,  to snorting with laughter.  The conversation went something like this.

Remember when Ron and I went all by ourselves way across the fields by the riverbank to go toboganning when we lived on that farm beside grandmas?  (You went by yourselves?)  I don’t remember anybody being with us, or even close by.   Ron had a new toboggan and we pulled it across the frozen river and up a steep bank.  He’d find a good place to slide and I’d get on behind him.  He told me there was no way I could be in front because he had to steer.   It was SO much fun, climbing up, sliding down.  (I would never have let you go to the river by yourselves.  You must mean the creek beside the house. )  Oh.  Well anyway, Ron found a place with a really steep drop off and he set the toboggan at the top of it, he got on, I got on and we were teetering on the edge.  He leaned forward and WHOOOSH!!  We went straight down.  We hit the bottom, I banged into Ron, he cracked his face on the wooden front, and I went tumbling off into the snow.  When I got up there was blood everywhere!  I started to scream blue murder!  (I do remember that now.  Ron had a nosebleed.)   I kept on howling, even when I saw dad coming to rescue us.  Ron was really quiet, holding his snowy mitten over his nose.  I think I felt like I had to make enough noise for both of us.  Dad thought I was the one that was hurt.   He picked both of us up under his arms and headed for the house.  I didn’t stop wailing because now I was watching my dad’s boots crashing across on chunks of ice over the raging river.  (Lin, it was just a creek.  Maybe six inches deep.) Are you sure?  Because I remember later seeing a picture of Paul Bunyan and thinking, wow.  That’s exactly what my dad looked like the day he saved us.  (Snort.)  What?  That’s how I remember it!  He was my HERO!  (That’s a great story.  Tell it to your children some day.) 

I give her one of my best snarky smirk looks and tell her I will.  Paul Bunyan image, raging river and all. Because that’s how it happened.    

The Beach People

Port Elgin beach, circa 1953.  Two aunts in the back, two cousins in the middle, brother sister and me up front.  Bathing beauties all.  It’s still a great beach, although the cars have changed.  I guess it’s kind of amazing that I never liked the water or learned how to swim.  I certainly got good at sun tanning and building sand castles.  And even some kind of vague-rules beach football much later, where running around in the sand wearing as little as possible was all that was really expected of you.  The water was shallow and warm for a long way out, so wading was fun and pretty much all we were allowed to do under mom’s watchful eye.  Digging holes that filled up with water kept us mesmerized for great lengths of time.  There were swings and slides and tourists.  The hot sand stuck between your toes.  Sunscreen was pretty much unheard of, but no one in this picture has yet developed skin cancer.  I guess we didn’t stay out in the hot sun long enough – or maybe the sun was kinder way back then.   Mom almost always brought some kind of a picnic lunch so that her children could learn the true meaning of the word sandwich.  And have you ever tried to brush the sand off yourself so that none gets in your car?  It can’t be done. 

Isn’t it strange how you don’t truly appreciate something until it’s gone?  Those were happy lazy days, having fun in the sun.  There sure aren’t beaches like this where we are now.  I sure don’t look that good in a bathing suit anymore either, so perhaps it’s just as well. 

I couldn’t learn to love the water,  but there was never a problem loving the swings.  How’s this for a child safety swing seat?  And I expect the reason we’re still in our clothes is because, as every mother in the 1950’s knew for a FACT, you would die from severe abdominal cramps if you went into the water even one second before two hours had elapsed following having had something to eat.  That rule drove us all so insane, we finally gave it up.  I think there was also some kind of rule about not feeding the sea gulls, but such persistence is hard to resist.  

So there you have it.  The wind, the sand, the sun, the crashing waves, and the cry of the gulls;  a little piece of heaven on earth. 

Return of the Granny Gown

Long ago…..long LONG ago, when I was somewhere in my teens, I had a lovely pink flannel nightgown that I loved dearly.  It went right up under my chin and right down to the floor, with sleeves that stopped about mid fingertips.  My sister and I shared an upstairs corner bedroom in our old farm house where we slept in matching spool beds, covered in layers of quilts so heavy it was hard to roll over underneath them.   Winter nights could get chilly and some mornings I was sure I could see my breath in the frigid air.  There’s nothing quite like hopping out of a warm snuggly bed and putting your bare feet on a cold linoleum floor.  Let’s just say it wakes you up quickly and completely.   We all fought over the upstairs bathroom where the heat came up directly from the furnace.  It was sort of like going from the deep freeze to the oven.  I wonder why we didn’t all have pneumonia.  I don’t wonder why I loved that nightgown and wore it every winter start to finish until it was practically threadbare.  I had it SO long, in fact, that I took it with me when I got married.  W. was aghast.  “What the HELL is THAT thing?  It looks like something your grandmother would wear!”

Hmmmph.  Did I make fun of his favourite hockey long underwear??  Well….yeah I did, but that’s completely different.  This was like mocking a person’s emotional connection to a cherished childhood keepsake.  I was very hurt.  I almost cried when we finally relegated it to the rag bag.  Of course by then we had a thermostat and heat and eachother, so justifying hanging onto such a thing didn’t really seem worth the effort.  Life goes on.  I have fond memories of it – he can’t take that away from me.

Yesterday, completely by accident, (this is usually how the most wonderful things happen to us), I came across a floor length red plaid flannel nightgown with a soft cotton ruffle around the neck, the long sleeves and the bottom edge.  It has six round shiny little red buttons down the front.  It is unbelievably soft and fuzzy and OMG.  What can I say,  it was love at first sight.  It is warm and comfy and I feel like Little Red Riding Hood’s grandma when I’ve got it on.  Absolutely the best feeling I’ve had about an article of clothing in a very long time.  I knew W. would hate it, and he does, but I’m at the point in my life where I’m beyond caring what he thinks.  HAHA!!  Just kidding.  When he started to shake his head and roll his eyes, I threatened to try to find him a flannel nightshirt like my grandpa used to wear,  so he just said ‘jeeeeezuz’ under his breath and left me alone.   I’m a grandma now – I can be eccentric and he can kiss my flannel covered butt, right?  And, you know,  I do have respect and consideration for his feelings on the matter.  So I might not wear it EVERY night for the rest of my life.   

Egg On Your Face

My 5 year old grandson got teary when his mom said she was going to kill two birds with one stone.  To him it must have sounded like a rather horrible thing to do.  Some of our figures of speech are downright silly.   I think I’m going to try to eliminate these from my vocabulary.

– get off your high horse

– beat a dead horse

– keep your shirt on

– happy as a clam

– out like a light

– jump ship

– bury the hatchet

– get it through your thick skull

– break a leg

– hit the hay

– bag of bones

– talk the hind leg off a donkey

– scare the pants off someone

– be a stick in the mud

– be a cheeky monkey

– climb the walls

– a pig’s breakfast/a dog’s dinner

– a piece of cake

– down in the dumps

– on the wagon

– look like something the cat dragged in

– lost his marbles

– in the dog house

No wonder kids get confused.