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.

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

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!