Like a Stone

William Powell Frith - Sleep

William Powell Frith – Sleep

March 23rd Daily Prompt:  Mr. Sandman 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A House Full of Doors

grandmas flowers 001

Weekly Writing Challenge: Collecting Detail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Purple Dress

Pullip in purple dress

Pullip in purple dress (Photo credit: Hegemony77 doll clothes)

I am nine years old the first time I defy my grandmother.

Everyone is always saying how much they love her, what a kind and generous soul she is, always doing things for other people with never a thought for herself.  It’s true, no one leaves our house without produce from the garden, preserves from our cellar, a well read book, some little knickknack, a few cut flowers or a potted plant. Grandma gives and gives.

This particular day grandma decides to do something nice for my younger cousin Audrey. She rifles through my closet,  pulls something out and holds it up.  Audrey will look lovely in purple, she declares.

I am aghast.  It is the purple dress I love to death and haven’t yet outgrown. I try to protest but grandma isn’t listening. She tells Audrey to try it on.  If she likes it she can take it home with her today. Won’t that be nice?

I think it will not be nice at all. My head is suddenly black with childish rage. I scream NO, rush between them, pluck the dress from their hands and turn and run away with it.

I am clutching my dress and sobbing in the kitchen to my mother at the unfairness of it all.  And to top it off, now I am no doubt in deep trouble for being so selfish and for disrespecting grandma.

But mom surprises me and says I’m right.  Grandma should not have tried to make one person happy at the expense of another. The dress is not going anywhere until I’m ready to give it away on my own.

It’s the first time I’ve ever known a kid to be right and an adult to be wrong.  I feel empowered as I tell grandma how her thoughtlessness made me feel.

Well why didn’t you say something, she asks with a shrug.  Then off she goes to find something else she can give away.  This time with a little less drama.

trifecta button
Trifecta Challenge Week 105:  Between 33 and 333 words using the 3rd definition of the word “pluck”

1: to pull or pick off or out
2 a : to remove something (as hairs) from by or
as if by plucking <pluck one’s eyebrows>
b : rob, fleece
3: to move,
remove, or separate forcibly or abruptly <plucked the child from the middle
of the street>

4 a : to pick, pull, or grasp at
b : to play by
sounding the strings with the fingers or a pick

Eff Words

Yesterday was a bright sunshiny day. It was also day 5 of a 6 day work week for me, and about -17 Celsius with a brisk wind.  I looked outside in the morning and said EFF THIS, or words to that effect. This is March for the love of all that’s holy, not January.  It wouldn’t have been so disappointing to get all this snow if we hadn’t been seeing bare roads and snowless walkways and little tiny hints of spring.  Now they’ve disappeared again.

Looking down our driveway.  Wanting to run back inside and sleep for about six weeks.

Looking down our driveway. Wanting to run back inside and sleep for about six weeks.

 

The front of my house.

The front of my house.

My neighbors front lawn.

My neighbors front lawn.

I know I should not be saying bad words, not only because they don’t sound very nice, but also because they have no power to change the weather.

I will blame being tired of working, and maybe also the fact that muttering ‘oh dearie me’ like a proper grandmother just doesn’t cut it sometimes.

So for future reference, I have strung a few Eff words together and tried them out for effect:

Efface yourself you effete efficacious effigy of effusive effluvium!

Nope, it doesn’t make any sense, but neither does the real F word in about 99% of the ways in which it gets used.

So if I can just remember to repeat that little sentence with a lot of feeling, maybe kicking something at the same time, and without having my top front teeth go through my bottom lip, somehow I think the situation will seem ever so much better.  And as an extra bonus, I won’t have to be so careful about what comes out of my mouth when there are small children about.

I want to wear my effing effusively fun spring coat.  Really, is that too much to ask for the middle of March for crying out loud?  I promise I will be in a better mood once I’ve had a couple of effectual days off.  But right now, if it’s spring where you are, I effortlessly don’t like you very much.

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Pictures From Moms Kitchen (Part One)

The end of our wedding day, in moms kitchen doorway.

Finding a few favourite pictures taken in moms kitchen has turned into a treasure chest of memories.  We spent a lot of time there whenever we went to visit the farm.  It’s a place we didn’t appreciate enough when we were growing up, and then a place we could hardly wait to return to after we moved away.  It was where our family (which grew) sat down to eat the best meals ever.  It was all about us, until it became all about our kids.

Our baby daughter with my brothers oldest son.

Only at grandmas could you get away with crawling around on top of the kitchen table.
The kitchen wall paper was faux brick for a lot of years.  I think my love of red and orange must have come from my mother’s side of the family.  It was a strange old house – on the other side of this window was the built on “back kitchen” where mom put the old blue cupboards after she got new ones, and all kinds of old tables and cabinets and chairs that were almost worn out.  You never threw anything away until it was completely worn out.  It got shuffled off to the back kitchen where it could sit for years, waiting for that to happen to it.

My daughter, my brother, his boys.

I love the look on my brothers face – he was a man who loved his sons.  I don’t think it was ever a difficult thing for them to love him back.

The back-splash of orange flowers I remember  vividly.  Because it was vivid.  That space between the top of the cupboards and the ceiling was always covered in a hodge podge display of things that weren’t useful but were just too nice to throw away.  Gifts from well-meaning people and antiques belonging to grandma.  There were ceramic roosters on the other side.  I don’t need a picture to remember those.  Sometimes on a visit we’d climb up there for mom and wash and dust everything and check out the names on the bottom of things.  Grandma was great for writing the names of her relatives on adhesive or masking tape and sticking them on things she thought they might like to have after she was gone.  It’s a great system – certainly easier than writing it all down on paper.  Mom carried on that tradition.  My own cupboards go right up to the ceiling with no space on which to put things.  There are some traditions that aren’t that hard to give up.

Little sister, grandma and W, with nephew Andy bottom left: Christmas dinner circa 1974

I can tell it’s Christmas because of the plastic holly and the tree shaped candle.  But every meal at moms was like a Christmas feast.  Small people were supposed to sit on the bench on the far side of the table, but obviously on this day we got a little mixed up. Funny, no matter how many people showed up to eat, there was always room at the table, and  left overs for later.  It was a magical place.

Astute Observations on Goddamn and Crap

English: Overlooking Inuvik with the fall colo...

English: Overlooking Inuvik with the fall colors in the foreground. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When we lived in Inuvik (circa 1980) W thought it would be a lot of fun to put together a dog team, so he did.  The frustration and hard work involved in raising and training the dogs far outweighed the fun I’m afraid .  And the dozen or so dogs didn’t just disappear with the snow.  They required care throughout the long summers,  when the town became a sweltering dust bowl in the heat, and a slippery filthy mud hole in the rain.

 

One muddy Inuvik afternoon my daughter and I had this conversation:

Mommy, goddamn is a really bad word.

(Yes it is, and telling me that is not an acceptable way to get away with saying it.)

Little kids should NEVER say goddamn. right mom?

(No, they shouldn’t, so now would you please stop saying it?)

But mom, its okay for dads to say goddamn.

(Really? Why do you think it’s okay for dads?)

Because there’s GODDAMN DOGS and GODDAMN MUD!

She sounded just like him.

**********

Fast forward about twenty-five years to a conversation I had with my granddaughter when she was three or four.

crap

crap (Photo credit: matiasjajaja)

Crap is not a nice word, grandma.

(Nope, it isn’t.  So let’s not say it, okay?)

But sometimes you can say crap and its okay.

(Really?)

Yep.  Like when you’re feeling sick, you can say “Mommy, I feel like crap.”

(Ah.  I see.)

But if your mom looks at you when you’re sick and she says you look like crap, THEN its a bad word.

(Huh. You are your mother’s daughter, and I totally get your point.)

Grandma Tarot Gives Good Advice

Junon, card II of Tarot de Besançon, 1818, Str...

Junon, card II of Tarot de Besançon, 1818, Strasbourg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m subscribed to an app on facebook that sends me Tarot Card readings in my e-mail every day, and some days it’s like receiving random sage advice from an ancient relative, like my grandma, for example.  She was very free with her advice even if it didn’t make a lot of sense.  Once she told me that if I ever poked myself with a sewing needle I should make sure it was threaded so that it would be easier to pull out.  I’ve never had to heed those words of wisdom, but I’ve certainly never forgotten them either.This new substitute grandma I’ve adopted is rarely that confusing, and sometimes borders on inspirational.  Everyone could use a little stimulus and motivation in their lives.  And it’s easier to accept these words to the wise when they’re not repeated six times and followed by are you listening to me??

So here’s some excellent guidance that I’ve received in the last little while, which I can take or leave on a whim and nobody’s feelings get hurt.  In real life I tend to have very selective hearing so I’ve carried that over to the printed word and picked out only what I consider to be the good parts.

1.  Keep your attention on the positive.  (Yep, negativity can kill you.)  (I’m totally serious, it can.)

2.  Give yourself a day off if you can.  Get some rest. (I would like to take this to heart every single day for the rest of my life but if I don’t win the lottery, perhaps I’ll have to settle for every second day.)

3.  Don’t try to push things that are not important.  Don’t let minor arguments or misunderstandings get under your skin.  (Hmmph. Easy for you to say.  Hard for me to do.  So I’ll just not allow the fact that you said that to get under my skin.)

4. You just may surprise yourself with how well you do under pressure.  (Or, you just may surprise yourself with how completely you freak out and then crumble into a weeping mess.  It’s a toss up.  But try to remain positive. And get up off the floor for heavens sake.)

5.  Get out there and play like a carefree child.  You need to get out of the house and have some fun right now.  (Go away, I’m playing word games on my I-Phone.)

6.  There will be wonderful news and exciting possibilities coming your way through different forms of communication.  Information about the past will be a benefit to your future.  (Really?  Are you suggesting that I shouldn’t have cancelled the newspaper?  I must admit I was a bit miffed when they wouldn’t let me put a five month vacation stop on it.)

7. You are even hotter today than yesterday.  Unforgettable energy is pouring from your love sectors.  You will attract attention no matter where you go.  (HAHAHA!  YES!  I will be laughing so hard about that one all day that many people will begin to watch me carefully while questioning the state of my mental health.) (I will later google love sectors to find out what the hell they are.)

8.  Don’t be a stick in the mud.  (I’m not.  I’m looking up love sectors, aren’t I?)

9.  You may find that your creative talents provide an unexpected spiritual outlet.  (Huh. That would be nice.)

10.  You feel that you are being misunderstood right now by just about everybody, no matter what you say or do.  (No I don’t!  Shut up!) You are tempted to sneak quietly away and never come back. (I’m running away from home as we speak,) But will that change anything? (YES! ) Probably not. (Oh.)  Don’t give up on your dreams just yet. (Okay, fine. As if you know everything.)

Thank you adopted grandmother Tarot.  You are one smart cookie.

Family Gatherings

What are your favourite types of family gatherings?

All the ones where we keep it casual. That’s why we have families, so we don’t have to get dressed up and act normal. (Except maybe for weddings and funerals, so those are my least favourite kinds of get-togethers.)

The best times are when there are no time lines, no pressure, nice weather, great food. Little kids pulling on my arm yelling ‘grandma grandma grandma!’ and my son pouring me a big tall spiced rum and coke on ice. Watching a movie together and getting popcorn everywhere. Sitting in the sun. Making a million pancakes for breakfast. Walking in the snow, in the dark, with a flashlight. Drinking coffee and watching the sun come up. Sitting by a fire. Doing some kind of messy craft and laughing at the process as much as at the results. Asking what’s for dinner and being delighted by the answer.

Not being together for Christmas this year kind of sucks. The closer it gets the more I realize how much I’m going to miss everyone and all the craziness. But we’ll make up for it soon. Anticipation is half the fun.

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My Own Restaurant?

Maybe I’d call it “chez grandmalin”.

When I picked grandmalin as a ‘user name’ all I was doing was putting grandma together with Lin. Seemed innocent enough until someone who knows a lot more about the French language than I ever will wanted to know why I called myself grand malin, or “big malignancy”. Sigh.

‘Malin’ can also translate to ‘clever’, so maybe somewhere in the back of my brain in that tiny little cluster of cells where my french is stored, I thought I was being grandly smart.

Anyway, I don’t want to own a restaurant, and I sincerely hope no one can make me do that. Nor do I want to scare off French-speaking people with duplicitous names.

I think a small coffee shop might be something I could handle, or that I could get other people to manage and run while I sit around drinking coffee all day. And since I seem to have French in my head at the moment, maybe I could call it The French Press. And then people would come in looking for foreign language newspapers.

Buzz Because. Would that work? Please don’t tell me it translates into something sinister in Greek. I don’t care.

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