Never Open My Freezer


My daughter wanted small animal skulls for an art project. Naturally she asked my brother, a perfectly reasonable request none of us considered remarkable. “No problem” he said. We promptly forgot about it for several months. Out of mind until he messaged to expect a parcel sent Greyhound express.

If I could bottle my brother the label would read “Essence of  decency, character, work ethic, empathy, moral fibre and principles”. A man of few words, words saved for storytelling delivered with mesmerizing cadence matched only by the twinkle in his eye. Stories of thwacking a bear on the nose while witching for water, sticking his hand down a drainpipe to extract a rattlesnake, plunging through alone in the wilderness pond ice under the weight of fur bearing animals, once and for all riddance of Saturday morning Jehovah Witness interruption courtesy a half skinned Marmot passed off as his cat. Trapper, water diviner, nuisance wildlife problem solver, woodsman and yes – provider of small animal skulls for an art project.

Not wanting to hurt his feelings I kept an open mind to caution our Greyhound parcel was perishable. “Do tell” seemed appropriate. “Wow, thank you” was all I could muster on hearing its contents. It would appear ungracious to point out she wanted “small” animal skulls, how could I argue with news of several Lynx skulls (skinned but not free of brain matter), raccoons, skunk, marmot and squirrel similarly stripped but not purged and one cougar head skin intact. Not wanting to be a ninny, I heard myself calmly remind him I lived in the city. What were we supposed to do?

No worries he said. Put everything in a large pot, boil until bits start floating to the top. It might take a while, if it smells disgusting throw in some bay leaves and pretend you’re making stew. OMG!! I’ll spare subsequent details, suffice to say it involved extraction of soft boiled tissue.

He would have been proud. Stoic, unflappable determination opened the package, assessed the situation, put all but the far too large cougar head in a pot set on boil. Congratulatory back slaps waned relative to ever growing gray pot scum.I couldn’t say how long it boiled, I can attest to the moment gag reflex stench recalled adding herbs to skull stew. Big mistake! Rubber gloves – check. Soft tissue extraction implements – check. Why aren’t these skulls coming clean? Where did we go wrong?

Suddenly my daughter shouts “abandon ship” – we rationalize postponement not failure. “it’s ok, we just ran out of time, we’ll try again tomorrow”. We carry the pot downstairs intent on flushing skull scum water down the toilet. Nothing prepared us for the last swirling toilet gurgle ejecting a rogue floating skunk skull – a spectacle so absurd both of us collapsed in hysterical stress release laughter. Composure returned with dutiful bagging of drained animal parts. Bag of drained bits back in  pot, punctuated with the satisfying clang of lid containment. Cougar head wrapped in another bag – both problems parked in a basement chest freezer.

That was five years ago, it goes without saying our one and only attempt would be the last.We don’t talk about that day, it’s far too awful. Guilt of wimping out is troublesome. Worse still, I can’t bring myself to deal with contents of the freezer for fear of disappointing my brother. We no longer use the freezer, it serves to preserve a pot of assorted par- boiled skulls and one glorious skin intact cougar head. I need help!! Anyone looking for a frozen cougar head?

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Hating Turkey


Hate is a big word, temper that to strong dislike. Strictly a holiday meal, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter demand roast Turkey and all the fixings. Nobody plans a dinner party in May with “hey, a Turkey would be great”.

The idea of Turkey eclipses reality. There’s a reason we say “I hope it’s not dry” – everyone knows it will be. Turkey requires gravy, cranberry sauce, or mayonnaise once it lands in a sandwich. Families believe size matters, holiday Turkeys linger for days. Soup is Turkey’s greatest gift, immersing that carcass in water means the end of Turkey for another year.

Restricting Turkey to once a year wasn’t easy. I blame myself, stuffing is practically a food group in my home. Nothing fancy, half bread, half sausage meat, onion, celery, and sage. Preparing copious amounts, even though the “cavity” only holds a few cups is lost on my family. I’ve tried to explain stuffing can be served anytime, pointing out almost all the stuffing is baked far from the demon Turkey. No good.

All day “don’t overcook it”, “I hope it’s not dry”, “are you watching the bird”. It’s a damn Turkey! Have you ever had one that melts in your mouth? Turkey is an obligation, if it rocked our world we’d be roasting them all year long.

Trouble


Trouble doesn’t necessarily mean “trouble”, it can mean sit down and enjoy the ride, hold onto your hat because the wind is picking up, or holy crap – this is unexpected. Trouble can mean the start of a very good day; a bat shit day of wild abandon – troublesome only for those who reluctantly find themselves in a ring side seat.

I knew it was trouble when I booked a flight to visit my sister in a few weeks. It isn’t that I’m trouble or she’s trouble; the truth is – we’re trouble. We don’t mean to raise our families eyebrows or make too much noise at 3 AM – we just do, we can’t help ourselves. We are polite middle aged women who inexplicably turn into giggling morons if left alone too long. We dance, call bullshit on each other and collapse on the floor in fits of laughter.

This may not sound like trouble, yet assure you it’s troublesome to those in our path; we become idiots for reasons only we understand. In all honesty, we can’t understand what happens; what’s important is – it doesn’t matter.

I’m the little sister by ten months – she wasn’t even walking when I was born. If I was oil, she was water; two people couldn’t have been more different. We started school the same year, were known as the “sisters” and secretly loathed each others presence. We were always fighting or competing; she – outgoing, me – painfully quiet and shy. We drifted apart to the point of not even speaking to each other for years.

I couldn’t pin point the moment our lives changed; the moment we opened our eyes and looked at each other again. All I know is she’s trouble; the kind of trouble that makes me feel young and stupid, the kind of trouble that leaves us feeling sheepish as we apologize for disturbances in the wee hours of the morning. I don’t know who’s crazier, nor does it matter. Life is over in the blink of an eye; pondering irrelevant details is a waste of time – I’m perfectly content knowing trouble’s name is “sister”. Somehow, a week with her makes all my troubles go away.

Gift


A remarkable gift from Dad rests quietly on my desk. I didn’t tell him how much it meant, and doubt words could have formed a fitting sentence. Unwrapping it two days ago still feels like a dream, placing it gently on my desk provided a whispering pinch,  I was awake.

There I am on the upper left surrounded by my siblings. My beautiful older sister tilts her head cheekily, below her a brother whose faded image still shines with a “head up shoulders straight”  no nonsense approach in life. Below me little sister exudes mischievous joy as baby brother looks faintly down from above.

Dad’s gift took me home. Home isn’t where we live, it’s where we came from. A vine, twisted and permanent without demands of explanation or regret. Sometimes the greatest gift is a reminder of sinuous tendrils that bind us.

My gift rests where it belongs; a enchanted corner of my world that beckons without remorse. This is my family, thank you Dad.

 

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Adventure Day Four


It wasn’t forceps at birth, the unfortunate placement responsible for virtually no vision in one eye – never knowing anything else, she managed just fine. A “good eye” was more than enough – published writer, poet, artist, teacher – she saw more with that eye than most people absorb in a lifetime. Her vision allowed others to see – she used language to evoke wonder, transforming everyday ordinary into extraordinary. Infectious, she enveloped people lucky enough to glimpse the world through her good eye.

She lacked depth perception – no big deal. Never an issue, nobody expected her to drive at night – we couldn’t truly fathom her difficulty. None of us saw the demise of “good eye”. In hindsight, I’m certain she  fought with stoic denial for years. None of us took it seriously – the car accident, followed by a immediately revoked driver’s license got our attention. It seems “good eye” had developed holes – Cone Dystrophy to be precise. Degenerative, irreversible, incurable – imagine having only one good eye, ponder losing that eye to growing holes across your field of vision. My mother is legally blind.

I can’t give sight, criticize depression, shrug off bouts of despair or begin to comprehend her increasingly dim reality. That said, I refuse to coddle or patronize – as long as she’s able to stand on her own two feet, I’ll give her light. Adventure day four delivered.

If a more spectacular late December day transpired, I must have been out of town. Weather reports promised sunny and cold, we weren’t advised of perfection. Boarding the 9:30 AM ferry to Langdale on the Sunshine Coast, we catapulted into the realm of fairytale light.

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Mom at Ruby Lake

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Adventure day four deserves more than a few pictures on my phone. Like taking a picture of the Grand Canyon – it simply doesn’t work, you have to be there. The truth is – it doesn’t matter. Light cast a spell, it’s part of me now. Light’s greatest gift went to my mother – light allowed her to see long shadows, exquisite hues and reflections. Even if only in her mind’s eye, it’s part of her now.

 

Mother’s Day Letter


With Mother’s Day on the horizon, I wanted to re-post this from last year.

notestoponder

I couldn’t settle upon tonight’s ponder until I commented on a post by wordpresser sakshivashist. Her words allowed me to remember a letter I had written to my mother as she was packing for a move across the country.

http://cruisingthroughmylife.wordpress.com/2013/04/20/behind-locked-doors/

With Mother’s Day just around the corner, rather than ponder, I decided to share. We seem to forget that mothers, fathers, grandparents, and siblings are all people – just like us, and doing the best they can. Instead of building impossible expectations based on story book characters, lets all take a moment to see the people in our lives as beautifully flawed. The characteristic that makes us interesting, and gives dimension to what would otherwise be a flat, predictable world.

 

When I sat down to write this I thought about writing a thank you , I love you, and will miss you note. While all those are true, and…

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Kinder-Egg Travesty


Why can’t toy manufacturers leave well enough alone? Without a doubt, toys are divided along gender lines – fair enough – in principle. Little girls like caring for baby dolls, boys love pushing trucks through the sandbox. Between these poles lies a vast world of gender free play and imagination.

What baby didn’t have a set of wooden blocks, floating bath tub toys or stuffed animals; gender neutral beginnings, understandably parting ways as kids get older. My daughter loved mermaids and unicorns, my sons trains and trucks; perfectly natural, part of growing up. My ponder takes no issue with gender based toys – at least not in this post. My irritation stems from that sea of gender neutral fun that once nestled between the two. Ingeniously simple play, accessible regardless of gender.

Etch-A-Sketch, Slinky, Play Doh, Lego, Kinex, Brio, Playmobil, and Kinder Surprise – examples of non specific gender marketing – simply great toys. Toys that didn’t have to be pink or blue, toys that any kid played with. I’ll be generous by forgiving pink Etch-A-Sketch or Slinky; attempts to jump start sales in a ToysrUs, mega-store era. I’m not sure what was wrong with Mr. Potato Head but suddenly there was a Mrs. Play Doh began marketing gender specific “play sets”, Lego introduced “Lego Friends”, specifically for girls – gone was square head Lego man – replaced by ridiculous plastic bimbos, kittens and puppies.

Kinder Surprise for girls was too much; the travesty responsible for pushing me over the edge. Kinder eggs began in 1974, the brain child of Ferrero – put a toy inside a chocolate egg. Billions sold, thousands of different toys inside the yellow capsule – really cool surprises waiting to be assembled. High quality, clever little gems – often silly, but never totally lame. You never knew what that yellow capsule would give up – one thing for certain, it wasn’t guaranteed to be a ring, hair accessory or plastic princess. At least not until Kinder for girls came along.

We always buy Kinder Surprise to put in Easter baskets and Christmas stockings. My kids are adults now yet they still look for that foil wrapped egg. My husband had no idea of Kinder’s gender split when inadvertently picking up eggs wrapped in slightly pink foil – they keep their gender packaging subtle. Horror gave way to outrage as egg after egg revealed disappointing centers.

The logic behind gender specific everything eludes me. Girls liked square head Lego man, and took no offence with Mr. Potato Head. Girls don’t need pink paper or ridiculous depictions of girlish nonsense at every turn. There used to be a realm of toys children played with because they were great toys. Once upon a time, a world of non-gendered fun entertained generations of kids. I wish someone would tell marketing nit-wits to leave well enough alone.