Sometimes the people who made us smile the most left us for reasons we will never understand. But we must honor their memory by smiling in their absence so they know we kept the best part of them with us. ~SN
For the past month I have been
diligently somewhat enthusiastically following a strict regimen of caloric intake to participate in a weight loss challenge (#wlc) with my best friend and her husband. I have made many sacrifices and changed my shopping lists multiple times to adhere to the necessary guidelines of not eating food I should not be eating. After thirty days, we have all weighed in and, although I am proud of my accomplishment, Daniel won the battle.
The deal going in was that the “losers” had to eat what the victor had been using as nourishment during the challenge. Daniel decided to change the rules and we had to succumb, I’ll admit enthusiastically, to a double cheeseburger today. Once the arbitrary new guideline had been established, I hungrily began making my shopping list for dinner. I already had frozen burger patties in my freezer but the necessary garnishes were required to complete my meal.
I felt like a thief, looking over my shoulder across the parking lot, as I smuggled my contraband ingredients to my car. The jar of pickles, processed cheese slices and bun lay hidden in my grocery store bag as I tried to conceal my guilt on the way to my car. I have been known to cook several very upscale meals but, when it comes to my burger, my cheese of choice is
synthetic Kraft Singles and nothing else will do!
The burgers were cooked perfectly. The pickles were just as salty as I remembered and the almost-real cheese dripped from the burger patties just as it should have. My dinner was delicious and the anticipated two extra pounds were worth it.
As I say my “White Rabbit” three times tonight at the stroke of midnight, I can only hope luck will find me once again this month and continue the trend of shedding pounds. I may not be the biggest loser but I’m still a loser, and I’m okay with that.
I used to love carving pumpkins. I was one of those weirdos hoping to have the most creative pumpkin on the block, so I bought a carving kit and some patterns and locked myself in a room to avoid distraction.
Walls were spattered with stringy pieces of eviscerated pumpkin. Elongated strings of profuse verbiage slithered under the doorway, assaulting the ears on the other side of the door, and small drops of minor arterial spray infused themselves into the paint on the wall. But at the end of the painstaking process I achieved success! The copious amount of band-aids, blood loss and light-headedness were worth the effort. My pumpkins were the talk of the town. My then-boyfriend’s children (who I still refer to as my step-children) were even proud to acknowledge the creativity on our front doorstep.
After my first attempt, I became a little less guarded when it came to the carving process and the whole family would get involved. Where there were originally only two arms covered in pumpkin guts, eight sticky arms reveled in the joy of dissecting the large gourds and separating the seeds from the gooey mess. Each of us skilfully created our masterpieces and sat back with a smile as the toothy pumpkins returned our stares.
The house would begin to smell of the roasting pumpkin seeds and, after a massive clean up, we would light our pumpkins and snack on the seeds in the darkened living room. The memories of those nights of laughter and camaraderie are the ones I still hold close.
As the eve of Halloween approaches, I am slightly saddened that those years are so far behind me. I live on a street where no children trick-or-treat so there is no need to create any more scary faces. Perhaps this year I should take advantage of the fact that my digits are all still intact and drag out the carving tools once again. I’m sure my dog would like to sit in the dark with me staring at faces like these:
Happy Halloween everyone!
My mother and I never had a traditional greeting when we called each other. Instead of the banal “Hi Mom”, I could not help but deviate to the voice and the very unusual way Steve Martin used the word in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know what I mean. For those of you who have not had the pleasure of viewing this 1980’s masterpiece, allow me to introduce you.
When she was still with us, I would dial my mom’s number and when I heard her voice say hello, the first words out of my mouth were “Muther, muther”, doing my best to imitate Steve Martin as the classic character of Ruprecht. She would always respond with an elongated “yeeeessss”. It was our thing. It was something only the two of us shared and it made me want to call her all the time just to hear that extended response because it made my heart smile every time I heard it.
It’s been just over a year and a half since she left and I still find myself nonsensically picking up the phone to call her. There are still things in my life that I only want to share with her and, although I know she has all of the details of my life, I just want to hear her voice one more time.
I think back to all of the voice mails she left for me and I berate myself for not saving any of them. Even if it was the most trivial narration of what had happened in the dining hall, that simple communication contained the timber and gentleness of the voice I have known for longer than I have physically been on this Earth.
Sometimes I think I have been able to pull that sound from the vault of my memory but it will always be missing that special element. It will always be missing her, just as much as I am.
It is interesting to see how my life has evolved over the last twenty-five years. I’m certainly not going to tout that I walked uphill to school both ways in the snow in bare feet but there are some long-forgotten truths about things that happened when we were surviving our impressionable years, some that our parents were oblivious to…..and for good reason. Back in the days when not wearing seat-belts and driving under the influence were almost socially acceptable, there were some essential unwritten rules shared by siblings and friends. The most important being – “Things that happen in your teenage years, stay in your teenage years”.
But, after the Earth had orbited the sun a sufficient number of times, I felt a little more comfortable regaling my parents with a few of the stories that happened in the good ol’ days since I had a nice cushion of “time gone by” and didn’t think I was eligible to be grounded anymore. The sealed records had been expunged, the statute of limitations had expired and I was ready to open the locked vault that contained the evidence of our teenage shenanigans.
Running with scissors would have been a much more acceptable behavior and a much easier tale to share over a cocktail or two but my folks took everything in stride, just like I knew they would. All things considered, after leaving a 19 and 15-year-old home alone while they went to Florida, they were not as shocked as I thought they would be to find out why the kitchen linoleum had tiny burn holes directly in front of the stove (it wasn’t the bacon) and why the giant satellite dish was perched at a precarious angle at the top of the steep hill behind our house.
My brother and I, for all intents and purposes, were respectful human beings and responsible kids. My parents knew our friends well and we were trusted to roam about town in our pimpin’ ride – the Pontiac Acadian. If I had to guess, I would say my brother had a Rum and Coke held firmly between his legs (maybe not so responsible) when the little blue car crested the hill. It was winter and the steep decline was more than treacherous. All of the defensive driving techniques my dad taught us could not have prevented the outcome of this evening. The momentum carried them down the hill and my brother strategically maneuvered the tiny car as it tipped on its side and wedged itself between a tree and a telephone pole at the bottom of the hill. My brother impressively “stuck the landing” and all of the occupants were completely unharmed. The car, that only weighed about 100 pounds, was pushed out, righted and driven away with minimal damage.
(ours was a 4-door, but you get the idea)
After spilling the goods to my parents, a little bit at a time, they seemed unnerved. I always wondered if they had known these things all along and were just waiting for us to come clean. Was the omission of truth a lie? Were we terrible children for wanting to shield our parents from the horrors of the real world? Was it wrong to want to keep them in their safe little bubble? Only time will tell.
Now that they have both passed and have access to all of the details of our lives, my brother and I may eventually be in for a long overdue time-out when we are all together again.
There’s a lot to be said for the joy the holidays bring – or any celebration, for that matter. Whether it be a birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas or a reunion, the ease of the conversation, the steady flow of wine, the melodic sound of laughter and the joy of being with a close-knit group of people is unequalled. There is an undefined comfort level that allows us to become absorbed in the festivities that surround us. The fact that we can gorge ourselves and have an excuse to eat everything in sight with only a few fleeting moments of guilt is sublime.
The molecules change in the room when family and friends get together for a holiday celebration. There is something intrinsically sacred about holidays and the memories that are created within those moments. Time has a way of strategically obliterating those precious seconds as it marches on at a frantic pace, but our memories have a way of stopping that clock, if only for a few moments.
Holidays are a portal. They can freeze time and create a vortex that allows us to travel back and relive certain periods in our lives. The memories wrap themselves around us like a blanket and soothe us with the warmth of the times that have engaged us and truly breathe a bit of life back into our frenzied lives.
Although many holidays have passed and are collecting dust in the books of my hallowed history, watching my brother “float” his dinner in gravy brings back a rush of nostalgia, and that, to me, is what the holidays are truly about….personal moments that any other person would find arbitrary but, to me, define my holiday experience.
Our Canadian Thanksgiving begins today and the glaring items that will be missing, as always, will be my mom and dad. I know they will be with us in spirit, especially during the making of my brother’s always spectacular turkey dinner which may be delayed by a week this year. Undoubtedly, they will be looking over his shoulder, whispering secrets into his ear, so he can make her stuffing just the way she used to and carve the turkey in a way my dad would heartily approve.
Embrace your family, enjoy the moments and get stuffed with those memories. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.
Working in the hospitality business goes hand in hand with working strange and long hours. I can adapt to the hours but my dog is the one who takes the brunt of my lifestyle. I will never leave her outside on a chain to battle the elements – she is firmly ensconced in our home, lazily spending her hours watching the wildlife from the comfort of my bed. I have several people who are more than willing to come over and let her out during the day because she is such a happy dog and, for me, having her be the excuse to leave work for thirty minutes is wonderful. She is never a prisoner in her home – she is akin to a wealthy home owner with servants to look after her every whim.
During these long days, I often wonder how she bides her time. Is she going through kitchen cabinets? Has she mastered the satellite remote? Does she inventory my refrigerator? But each day when I get home from my struggle to survive my sometimes 10-14 hour days, she is there to greet me and nothing in the house seems out-of-place. Until a few months ago…..
I returned home from my usual work day and I was greeted by the reassuring excitability that I have come to expect. The house, as usual, was completely intact. The garbage was untouched and the serene ambiance wrapped its arm around my shoulder and pulled me into its embrace to welcome me home.
My attention was immediately diverted to the duvet cover and what seemed to be a single article of clothing bunched up in the middle of the bed. It wasn’t shredded and remained intact, however the entire shirt was extremely damp. She had been licking my shirt for the better part of who knows how long, focusing on the remnants of deodorant I had left behind. The baffling thing was, had I not known where the shirt was originally, I would never have known how she got to it. My closet is masked by a cloth shower curtain that poses itself as a makeshift door. Somehow, she was able to remove the shroud of the curtain, gingerly lift the shirt from the pile of laundry in the basket and replace the curtain so nobody would catch on to her devious plot.
As much as I miss her during my day, it struck me at that moment how much she truly missed me during her day. The writing was on the wall, or in this case on the bed. My scent comforted her during her lonely day and it made my heart ache to realize that fact. We have a very close bond and one that she feels as much as I do.
I can only take solace in the fact that my work days will soon become shorter and more structured. My time with her will increase and perhaps her need to be close to my deodorant-saturated shirts will abate somewhat because I will be here in the physical form and not just the odoriferous form.
And who knows, perhaps in the meantime I can save myself a fortune on laundry.
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