Tag Archives: brother

What Makes Things Go

imageMy big brother was always interested in things that ran, things with wheels, mechanical and motorized and intricately put together devices and how they functioned.  He loved mechanical sets and model airplanes and taking things apart to discover how they were assembled in the first place.  My dad often said if anybody could figure out how something worked it was him.

He wasn’t always a hundred percent successful.  I had an alarm clock with a face painted in a woodsy scene with two little elves moving up and down on a teeter- totter with each tick-tock.  I begged him to leave it alone.  And then one day, there it was, in a million pieces with my brother poring over the parts, happily working away on something that wasn’t broken until he decided to fix it.  The little elves never played on that see-saw again.

Not surprisingly, with all that practice, he became an amazing mechanic.  We learned to never ask him anything about our vehicles unless we wanted to listen to an hours worth of baffling diagnostic mechanical information.  Once he warmed to his subject there was no shutting him down.  Might as well grab a coffee and try to keep up with your eyes open.

There are a few of photos of me as a child with a cat draped over my shoulder.  It’s a mystery to me why a kid thinks a cat needs to be picked up and carted about, or why a cat allows it.  We always had outside barn cats, never house cats until we were adults.  I was afraid of dogs for a long time with a recurring nightmare of a big black dog chasing me.  No idea where that came from.  Anyway, there I am, confused by how happy my brother is to be making a little wooden tricycle go when there are cats to be lugged around.

Often we had cats of unknown origin on the farm.  They may have migrated from other farms close by or been dropped off in the country as discarded city pets.  They kept the rodent population in check and more or less looked after themselves.  Once we had a litter of all white kittens which we happily named Snow, Snowflake, Snowball, Sugar, Winter…every white thing we could think of.  They all ended up being called “one of those white cats” because we couldn’t tell them apart.  Later we progressed to more sophisticated cat names such as Spooky, Pooky, Donovan and Trigere.

In his last years on the farm dad had two almost identically marked cats he called Daryl and Other Brother Daryl.  He claimed to know one from the other, but I’m skeptical about that.

Despite all the cats, or maybe because of them, I never became a cat lady.  Although I suppose there’s still time for that to happen, if I ever get to missing a big furry body purring in my face.  My brother had dogs as pets his whole life.  Could be, compared to cats, it’s just much more interesting to figure out what makes a dog tick.

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Smile

imageNo, this is not a poster for toothpaste.  Or one for striped shirts or vintage wallpaper, although it could be all of those things.  It’s a Friday flashback to the 1950’s.

In which my mothers face says….

  • OMG I have two children, both dressed and with their hair combed!
  • Did I comb my own hair?  I can’t remember. I will smile BIG and no one will notice!
  • Please hurry up and press the shutter button so I can blink my burning eyes!

Of course I don’t know if she was thinking any of those things.  But she does look like a typical slightly frazzled mom, ready to jump up and get back to the million things she’s in the middle of doing.

The room was in our house, or my grandmas, or my aunts, or some other relatives;  I’m too small to remember any of it, or what is so fascinating somewhere up there on the ceiling.

I do remember how popular wainscotting was though.  Beautiful dark wood paneling half way up the walls.  I’m sure my grandma had it in her kitchen, so maybe that’s where we were.  But it was everywhere.  Perfect for banging your kitchen chairs or other furniture against without damaging the walls or wallpaper.  Not a great drawing surface for kids.

One of my mothers favourite qualities in any household item was its ability to “not show the dirt”.  Her choices for walls and floors and upholstery were firmly based on that.  She was aghast when my sister put champagne coloured carpet in her living/dining room.  It didn’t last long after their kids came along, but it was gorgeous when it was new.

And where has the house dress gone?  All the ladies I knew when I was growing up wore nothing but dresses for every occasion, covered up with an apron if they were doing something messy, to keep them nice.  They also covered up the good furniture with slip covers.  And put their out of season clothes in zipped up garment bags with moth balls.

We are influenced by the past, although I never once felt the urge to do housework in a dress.  I have a sort of faux wainscotting in my kitchen with dark paint on the bottom, light on the top, and a wallpaper border to separate them.  The spare room in the last house my parents owned was done up in green and white ivy wallpaper.  Maybe some things just never get old.  Although maybe they should.

Little kids in striped shirts with big smiles and a doting mom – that’s timeless.

Grandmas Were Not Always Grandmas

imageThis is my maternal grandmother, born in 1887.  Isn’t she gorgeous?  I’m guessing this picture was taken in her late teens or early twenties before she was married.  In the right lower corner there is a ghost hand about which she doesn’t appear to be overly concerned.  We believe the original photo was cut in half , so whoever was sitting opposite her remains a mystery.

I love her tidy dark hair, the high collared blouse and her high-waisted skirt.  That pensive gaze rivals the Mona Lisa.

And here she is, some seventy years later.

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Still gorgeous, still smiling, but with a little less hair to pull back with pins.  She is posing with my brother, my sisters and me (on the right), four of her twelve grandchildren.  After this fleeting moment in time she had a lot more years of her life left to live.  An unforgettable lady.

“The more we love the more we lose. The more we lose the more we learn. The more we learn the more we love. It comes full circle. Life is the school, love is the lesson. We cannot lose.”
― Kate McGahan

Bedtime Cookbook

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How far shall we flash back this fine Friday?  More than a lifetime for some of you, and just a drop in the time bucket for the rest of us.

What is more delightful than two recently bathed children with shiny clean hair all ready for bed?  Sitting together, sharing, being super good so bedtime will be delayed.

This was not a rare moment.  My mom often remarked on how well my kids got along with each other.  That changed for a while in their teens, but really, underneath the growing pains, they have always remained good friends.

I know it looks like the reflection of a halo on my daughters head, but don’t let it fool you.  She had her un-angelic moments.  And I never realized my son had such expressive toes.  I think that might be our polar bear hide on the wall in the background.  Hard to believe now we ever had such a thing.  But this is the NWT in the late 1970’s.  We didn’t know any better.  And that awful brown colonial furniture was in every government house.

One other thing I noticed in this faded photo is that the book they’re reading is not a kids book (although they had lots of those I swear). It appears to be a cookbook.  My poor children.  Is this what I gave them instead of reading them a bedtime story?  I can imagine the two of them pointing at the pictures saying – what is this yummy dish called?Mom has never made anything this awesome for us!  Maybe she doesn’t know how!  Maybe she doesn’t really love us!

Hey, they’re alive and clean.  Looks like it was a good parenting day to me.

Sharing My World 18

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Share Your World – 2015 Week #6

What was the last time you went to a new place?

That would be island hopping in Greece, almost a year ago.  Various family members made the trip to remember my brother, who  loved it there but never got the chance to go back.  So we went back for him.  I even drank a beer in his memory.  Funny thing about Santorini,  his favourite spot, was that travelling up and down its cliffs by bus scared the hell out of me.  Never mind the gondola ride on which I faced the side of the hill rather than look at all that water.  How in the world could you raise children that close to a cliff edge?  With donkeys running around?  Plus be surrounded by ocean everywhere you went?  Those Greek people are incredibly brave.  Maybe there’s something in the olives.

If you were or are a writer do you prefer writing short stories, poems or novels, other?  And what type of genre would you prefer?

I fancy myself a writer, because I write things and always have.  I have never published anything except blog posts, and I don’t think that counts.  Short stories work with my particular attention span.  And whether I’m good at it or not, I love writing poetry.  I have a big sheet of paper with copious notes about many different types of poetry with the mechanics and rhyming information.  One fine day I will get around to actually using it.  Time is running out to write novels, I’m afraid.  A plot would be an excellent start, but I’ve never come up with one.  Maybe I should just stick to Biography/Memoir.  Soon I will be able to throw in some historical fiction based on my actual life.  And that could slowly turn in to Fantasy if I live long enough.

Out of your five senses (touch, taste, sight, smell, hearing) which is your favorite?

I have five incredible grandchildren, and it would be just as mind-boggling to choose my favourite one in that group as in this one.  Seeing and hearing would maybe be missed the most if they were suddenly gone, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world.  If I didn’t have taste and smell perhaps I might enjoy my own cooking more.  Would losing ones sense of touch mean winter skin wouldn’t feel dry and itchy anymore?  That might be worth a shot.

If 100 people your age were chosen at random, how many do you think you’d find leading a more satisfying life than yours?

My life is 86% satisfying, so the answer is 14.  Well, I had to come up with something using my limited math skills.  But if all of these random one hundred people were asked to write down on a random scrap of paper their definition of a satisfying life, there would be a hundred different sized paper scraps, a hundred different answers, a hundred different regrets, and more than a hundred different reasons for each of them to celebrate the life they were given.  Satisfaction is all in your head.

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

I can’t remember what happened yesterday, never mind last week.  Oh, wait!  My son turned 39 on Saturday.  I also don’t remember what happened when I was that age myself for an entire year.  I’m sure it was a good time.  This weekend I’m looking forward to a visit from the far-away four grandchildren, and the Valentine’s Day birthday of the closer-to-where-I-live one.  She will be fourteen on the fourteenth.  Time is flying by at an alarming rate.  I’d better get going on that memoir.

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The Twentieth Day of May

santorini wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ia_Santorini-2009-1.JPG

Where in the world am I today?

Santorini!  This is the spot I’m most excited to see, because my brother liked it the most when he visited Greece.  And this trip was lovingly planned for all of us to remember him.

I’ve heard the red wine in Greece is an acquired taste, so I will do the polite thing and try to acquire a taste for it.  Because Canadian tourists are supposed to be known for how ridiculously polite they are.  I would not like to disillusion anyone about that.  No hanging over the balcony railings here!

 

Walking to Grandmas

 

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It is the early 1950’s.  Not a hundred years ago, but in this old head it feels like it could be.  Mom wipes some flour off her house dress, tucks a stray lock of hair behind her ear, and hands us a basket of apples with a handle big enough for two little hands to share.  She tells us to deliver this to grandmas house.  Together, remember, mom tells my brother.  Keep your little sister with you, wait if she gets behind, don’t walk on the road, watch for cars.  No stopping!  Grandma is waiting for you, so off you go.  Dad and I will be over for supper soon.

That’s  lot of rules and instructions, and I’ll never remember all of them.  Neither will my brother, but that’s simply because he choses not to.  He bends and breaks rules all the time or makes up his own.  I admire him greatly and trust him implicitly and will do whatever he says.

Grandmas house is easy to see from ours, even though it’s a bazillion miles away,  up a winding laneway at the top of a hill.   I love to go to grandmas and I’m thrilled to be big enough at last to walk there with my brother.  I like to keep my eyes on our destination as it gets closer and closer with every step.  I like how the dry gravel dust puffs up and coats my shoes.  Ron likes to stop and dawdle and kick things, and jump down into the ditch for an amazing stick or a funny rock.   I am on the look-out for big bad wolves.   If I tell him this he’ll just laugh at me, so I don’t.  I imagine the house of Red Riding Hoods grandma looking just like this.   It is made of stones and has big white pillars holding up the roof over the  porch where one corner points in and another juts out.  No one else outside of a story book has a veranda of such magnificence.

There are big white outdoor rocking chairs waiting to be climbed on, and the wonderful smell of flowers cascading from buckets and beds all around.  The last leg of the laneway is very steep  and the basket is ten times heavier than when we started out.  I am dusty and thirsty and hot.

Grandma always whoops and fluffs up her apron and acts completely surprised to see us when we land on her doorstep.  She says funny things like ‘land sakes’ and ‘mercy’ and is always calling out for Will.  That’s grandpa.  He never answers, but eventually he will show up from the barn or the field or the woodshed quietly going about his business.  Grandma is never quiet.  She’s the very opposite of that.  It’s always crazy and noisy wherever she is, with banging pots and clomping feet and non-stop out-loud thinking.  Years later when I learn about ‘inside voices’ I realize that grandma never had one.

She takes the apples and plops herself into a chair.  Fetch another sharp paring knife Will!  Don’t you children touch these knives!  Oh, the apples are grand! Apple Brown Betty for supper, there’s nothing better.   Will, fetch some kindling for the cookstove!   And the stove is where that stick you brought into my house is headed,  she tells my brother.  No sticks in  my kitchen, and empty those rocks out of your pockets young man, they belong outside on the road!  Here’s the dipper.  Go out to the pump and get yourselves a drink of water!  Run along now!  Shoo!

Ron and I escape back out into the sunshine, drink as much cold sweet water as we have the energy to pump,  and then go looking for garter snakes in the long grass.  Grandma thinks little people should be seen and not heard, but she talks so much that we never really have to say much to her, so that’s one rule that’s pretty easy to keep.

When night comes and I curl up in my little bed with my tummy full of sweet Apple Brown Betty, sleep comes easy.  The long walk on short legs, all the sunshine and fresh air, plus a head full of grandmas random exclamations have done me in.  I want to go again tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that!  I want it to be summer forever.  I want to always have dust on my shoes.

Time Slips Away

This is my first ever (and perhaps my only ever) attempt at a slide show.  Whew.

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It took a considerable amount of time to put this together, even without captions, so I’ll just add one sweeping comment at the end here to say “What?  Doesn’t everybody put balloons on their Christmas tree?”

Rocks

rocks

A couple of days ago, Michele at Life As A Garden ….(she has a beautiful blog – you should check it out) (go ahead, I’ll wait right here)…..wrote this comment on one of my posts:

“You could be talking about rocks and I would find the reading interesting and entertaining.”

After reading this one lovely little sentence there were so many thoughts tumbling around in my head that I was unable to form a coherent reply.  Although that’s nothing new.

I love getting comments, by the way, which I read mostly on my phone, thinking I will go back to them later when I’m on my laptop and reply to them properly.  But time goes by and I don’t get around to it and I feel bad about that, so I try to convince myself that the commenter by now has totally moved on and maybe doesn’t even remember what he or she said, or more likely who I am, and how embarrassing would it be to post a reply now, RIGHT??  So it’s not personal.  It’s just me being a super procrastinator.

But back to those tumbling thoughts I mentioned.  Here’s a few of the highlights.

1.  Holy cow, somebody finds me interesting and entertaining.  Yay!

2.  Huh – she’s right.  I rarely write about anything earth shatteringly important.

3.  And, I’m not about to start doing so any time soon, or most likely ever.

4.  Because my best posts are quite often about completely stupid things.

5.  Hey! Wait a minute!  I have a story about rocks!

Way back in 1969 or somewhere thereabouts, my dad was Reeve of our little Ontario township and got invited to go to a Good Roads Convention in Alberta, all the way at the other end of the country.  He and mom decided it would be a great idea to take their three daughters on a road trip.  We would travel to the convention, and then continue on all the way to the west coast.  We were all excited to see the Pacific Ocean for some strange reason which totally escapes me now.

We borrowed my brothers car, because he was a great mechanic and always had cars that could be trusted to drive clear across countries getting great gas mileage and not breaking down.  For me, travelling has always been something one endures in order to leave one place and arrive at a completely different place.  I’m getting better at enjoying the journey, but not much. I should have taken lessons from my mother when I had the chance.

She loved every single minute in that car, pouring over road maps and reading aloud every sign we passed, calculating how far we’d go and where we’d stop for breaks and gas and where we’d sleep.  She wrote down what we spent and the weather we encountered and what we had for breakfast, for all I know.  And every time she stepped foot out of the car, she picked up a souvenir rock.

We were all encouraged to appreciate and exclaim over the special characteristics of each unique chunk of the landscape that mom tucked away in the trunk or under the seats or in the glove compartment all the way to the coast and back. I thought she should write on them so she’d remember where they came from but she said that would spoil them.  I didn’t know that was possible, but I guess that’s how you spoil a rock.

The other thing we collected was a glass bottle full of Pacific Ocean water, complete with some kind of goopy green seaweed and a few shells and some sand.  If we had only kept the bottle sealed we might still have it hanging around somewhere looking all murky and mysterious.  But a couple of weeks after returning home we realized it smelled really bad and dumped it down the laundry tub drain.

You may be wondering what mom did with all those precious rocks she collected, and the truth is, I’m wondering too.  I’m wondering if the fun was in the collecting and she really had no firm plan for them at all.  Maybe she lost track of their numbers or just got tired of hauling them out of the car when we were unpacking.  Or she may have meant to go back for the rest of them and never got around to it.  (I did get a few of her genes).

My brother brought dads car back and picked up his own and drove it home. He probably took it to a car wash to clean it off and vacuum it out, because it wasn’t too long before we got his phone call, wanting to know why the hell his car was full of rocks.

Well you really couldn’t pretend not to know.  We told him they were moms, and he should bring them back, because she worked so hard to gather them up and haul them thousands of miles.  But Dad told him to just throw them out, so that’s what he did.

The funny thing is I don’t know where the rest of them ended up – did mom take any of those rocks out of the car?  She certainly never mentioned them again in all her ‘wonderful trip’ stories.  I guess it’s just one of our family mysteries which will remain forever unsolved because probably no one but me even remembers it.  Hey, it’s a story about rocks.  I didn’t say it was going to be exciting.

Anyway, thank you Michele for your inspirational comment.  If you never say anything to me again for fear of getting me started,  I totally understand.