Sit back and listen

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I have blogged several times about my Winnie The Pooh and the fact that we celebrate our birthday together every year. My mother made him from a 1960’s McCall’s pattern and gave him to me on my first birthday. He has seen me through every happy and every sad time in my life. It may sound strange that an almost fifty-year-old woman still has a stuffed teddy bear, but I can’t imagine my life without him.

Though Pooh has undoubtedly been scarred by some of the trials he has witnessed me going through, nothing could have been as devastating as his physical altercation with a Woozle, known to humans as a Black Labrador Retriever. I was not there to witness the carnage but I came home from work to the aftermath. The trail of foam that led upstairs to the discovery of Pooh’s ravaged face made me burst into tears. I was twenty-one years old and called my mother in hysterics because Pooh had been assaulted and he lay in pieces in front of me.

(circa 1976 – Long before the incident)

(circa 1992 – post surgery)

After some amateur plastic surgery, thanks to my Nana, Pooh had a new face and a new outlook on life. He had survived what was arguably his worst day and had come out on the other side. He now resides on a shelf above my bed. It’s not quite the one-hundred-acre wood he was accustomed to but he seems to have acclimated.

Last night, I watched the movie Christopher Robin starring Ewan McGregor. When Pooh asks how old he will be when Christopher Robin is one-hundred and Christopher Robin answers ninety-nine, the tears started. That is me and my Pooh. He came into my life on my first birthday and my mother knew my fondness for a silly old bear of very little brain would lead to a lasting relationship.

Pooh is my constant. Regardless of what life throws at me, he represents my past, he remains an ongoing part of my present and he will stand beside me going into my future. For being a bear of very little brain, his intelligence speaks volumes. He will forever have the wisdom to just sit back and listen.

 

Hey Mom, what’s for dinner?

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A child rarely considers the impact family dinners will have on their life. When I was younger, I never thought for a moment I would be in my fiftieth year and have to go back into the vault of my memories to conjure up images of my family enjoying a meal together. There are still days I struggle with the reality that both of my parents are gone. Yesterday was one of those days.

We were having a trivial discussion at work about meatloaf and meatloaf always makes me think about my mom. She made a killer meatloaf and every time she told me she was making one, I always asked her to make one for me. I am pretty proficient in the kitchen, but my meatloaf never, ever turns out to be as delicious as the one my mom made. Although she gave me the list of ingredients she used, there were no measurements so my end result is never as tasty as what she would produce. (I’m sure she did that on purpose and also left out one or two ingredients)

When I walked into the grocery store after work, I was almost certain that I would be trying, once again, to duplicate her recipe but other memories quickly sabotaged that idea and random ingredients found their way into my shopping basket. When I reached the cashier, I recognized all of the ingredients for my mom’s Hamburger Stroganoff.

(image credit)

Perhaps my brain will forever deny my taste buds any chance of my dinners tasting as good as the ones my parents used to make, but the way my house smelled last night disagrees with that rationale. I was fifteen again. I had just come home from school and the smell of Hamburger Stroganoff permeated the air. I could almost feel my parents’ presence in the kitchen. I could see my mom blush as my dad patted her on the bum, knowing that I caught that loving touch in my peripheral vision.

To say my dinner was satisfying doesn’t come close to what it was. My dinner last night transported me to a time when, even though things weren’t perfect, things were perfect. And though I will never be afforded the opportunity to ever again yell, “Hey Mom, what’s for dinner”, I can still try my best to make those meals that will freeze those moments in time, if only for a while.

 

Is the omission of truth really a lie?

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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 what felt like 100 pounds, was pushed out, righted and driven away with minimal damage.

acadian

(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.

Will the real magician please stand up?

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There is something about magic that forever binds us to our childhood. We recall birthday parties with the guy who retrieved the quarter from our ear, had a continuous cloth of many colors that he miraculously pulled out of his mouth and live animals he made disappear and reappear. These are the tricks we talked about incessantly when we were young and kids today are still engaged by those people who have the gift of magic and who can keep the illusions alive.

Every Thursday, we have a magician come to the lodge to entertain our guests. He has been a staple at the lodge for many years and the kids are always wowed by his pre-show antics during dinner. He hooks them with his sleight of hand, rewards them with a token of his wizardry and has them lining up to see his full performance when dinner has ended.

One particular night a few weeks ago, I received a text message from a co-worker. It was a message I never thought I would read and it simply said, “Frank forgot his rabbit”. The finale of his performance, the only live part of his show, was in a travel carrier and left at the lodge with nowhere to spend the night. I asked my co-worker to drop the bunny off at the staff house and we would deal with him in the morning.

The next morning came and the only place safe enough for the bunny to be harbored, until Frank could return, was my office. As cute as the bunny was, I was quickly pulled back to my childhood when I learned I was allergic to rabbits and the rest of my day was not so magical. Frank could not pick up the bunny until after his shows had ended and the bunny and I spent the day acclimating while he adjusted to being stuck in his travel cage and I adjusted to itchy, swelling eyes and sneezing.

Regardless of my allergic reaction and my utter disdain for the smell of his travel cage, that bunny became my hero. The more time he and I spent together, the more I laughed, because the more I laughed, the more I realized he held powers far beyond the cuteness of his twitching nose and his soft fur. That bunny, after years of being the victim of a disappearing act, had finally fulfilled his lifelong wish and made himself the star of the show by making the magician disappear!

The things I should remember

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I have been thinking about my parents a lot lately.  For a person my age, it is sad I have to talk about how they used to be because they were taken far too early, both victims of the serial killer known as alcoholism.  I have written many heartfelt posts telling the tale of what my perspective was like growing up as a child of alcoholic parents.  But the more I read those posts again, and cried again, I realized I had been doing them a grave injustice.

So, I went back to the beginning – back to the days before that serial killer lurked in the shadows of my house, back to the days when life was great and back to the days when no elephant existed in any room in our home.

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My mom and dad were a lot of fun. My brother and I had many parties at our family home and my parents would remain in their bedroom allowing us full access to the house to host our friends.  But at the end of the night, the number of our friends watching TV with my parents in their room far outweighed the number of our friends in our living room.  Those were my parents.

They played strip ping-pong with the neighbors.  They ran naked from the neighbors’ sauna to roll in the snow and then back to the sauna.  They enjoyed life, they made the most of the good times and they truly loved each other. My mother summed it up completely in the caption of this photo of the four of us, “Happiness is Port Carling”.

When I began to think of what they were like as a couple, I couldn’t help but smile remembering how my dad used to look at my mom.  If my mom was within arm’s length, his hands would make contact with whatever part of her he could reach.  He would pat her bum as she walked by him.  He would kiss her every chance he got.  And when he grabbed her hand, I could see his hand physically squeezing hers several times in a sworn gesture of being smitten by her.  It was all about being able to touch each other, just to remind each other that they were there for the right reasons.

I had long forgotten those moments.  I was so marred by the effects alcohol had on their relationship I failed to remember the beautiful connection they had with each other.

And now that I have blinded myself to the painful memories, I will embrace the images of their fingers intertwined without realizing they were holding hands.  I will cling to the thought of how my dad just wanted to be close to her.  And I will forever hold close the knowledge that a simple touch from someone who means so much can change everything about your day.

After so many daily thoughts about so many things that don’t matter, I finally realized…..these are the things I should remember.

 

Soup’s on

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Summer is a crazy time for me. The lodge is busy and I have the knack of having a multitude of side projects in the works while surviving my busy summer hospitality job. Some days feel like a smooth paddle on a calm lake and others feel like a roller coaster ride through Hell. By mid-summer, I am physically and emotionally drained and I need something to make me feel centered again.

Writing is a good place to start the process of realigning myself. Writing is cathartic. Typing words onto a screen makes the rest of the world fade slowly into the background until there is nothing left but me, my laptop and my imagination. The minutes and hours I spend writing make me happy and bring me to a level of calm that is somewhat hypnotic. There is only one other thing that can take me beyond hypnotic to being completely detached from reality and that is cooking.

It is 38 degrees today with humidity and my gut told me that it was the perfect time to make a summer corn and zucchini chowder. When my parents were still alive, the times we spent in the kitchen together were some of the happiest moments of our lives. My mom was the queen of baking sweet treats for everyone and my dad loved to cook. My brother and I inherited his passion for creating tasty dishes and homemade soups. My dad was never one to use a recipe, unless he was making Martha Stewart’s Shortbread, and his food was almost always delicious…..I will save the story of his scrambled eggs made with eggnog for another day.

To me, there is no greater satisfaction than creating something from a bunch of random ingredients. Individually those ingredients can taste good, but when you combine them in a way they compliment the flavor of the others, that is sheer bliss. The bacon is fried, the onions are rendering in the bacon fat and the rest of the ingredients are ready to be thrown in. The result will be a tasty summer chowder that would make my dad proud.

At the end of the cooking process, I will sit down to a comforting bowl of soup for dinner and feel thoroughly decompressed. My mind will be back in its happy place and I will relish the memories of my mother calling us for each and every dinner, regardless of the menu, by saying, “soup’s on”.

 

 

 

 

 

Getting to know you

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Last night I tried to delve back into writing book number two. The story is still in my mind but the characters have shied away slightly since I have been absent of late. Coaxing them to let me back in was like being on a first date. I wanted to reach out and hold their hands but they shied away not wanting to get too close too fast.

The writing process is a very unique thing for each writer. I don’t have an established outline to follow. I know the story, I know where it begins and where it will end but the characters are the ones who will tell the story and take me along for the ride.

When I sat down at the computer, I tried to put myself back into the mind of Shane Armstrong. When I described the scene when he went to relieve himself, his words spoke louder than mine and I changed the line to say he took a leak. Clearly, Shane and I will have no problem communicating as long as I listen to what he tells me. He will introduce himself to me and I will get to know him on his terms, not mine.

ONE ELEVEN is going to be a bumpy ride for a while but, once we establish a chemistry, Shane and I are going to craft a gripping tale of a man who can travel through time to different points in his past and his future to help catch a serial killer he knew when he was a child. Until recently, Shane had forgotten all about what Karl did when he was a kid but those memories are going to come flooding back with a vengeance and Shane is going to be the one who ends his killing spree and I’m the one who gets to tell his story.