Monday, 30 April 2007

Lilac Watch

I promised to track some of the signs of spring.

As of April 30th, I report:

No trout lilies yet.

Spring peepers are peeping and sugaring is finished.

There are a few black flies and I have seen one trillium in bud. Black flies and trilliums arrive and depart together, usually.

The deer are grazing instead of browsing.

We have redwing blackbirds, American goldfinches in spring courting dress, and woodpeckers drumming.

The grass is starting to green up and the weeds are doing, as usual, a bit better.

And here is the lilac series.


April 25th

Stay tuned!

Thursday, 26 April 2007

In which my grandmother's china goes to a party

It may have come to your attention (on the several occasions when I have whinged about it) that I do a lot of volunteering. In fact, I have cut back the number of things I volunteer for in latter years and am now mostly involved with only two organizations. But last night I was working a one-off; a variety night, auction and dessert party to raise money for the Cancer Society. We who were suckered into being hostesses were asked to set a table for eight people, make desserts for them, provide them with snacks and drinks during the auction and serve them the dessert and tea and coffee after the program was over.

This event happens at a local golf club so we all have to haul the table settings, food and serving dishes into the dining room there, set it up, run home and change into fancy clothes and run back to be issued with a daffodil corsage and greet our guests. There is tacit competition over how nifty your table looks. A fancy table setup involves lugging, in my case, four plastic bins of china, silver, food and flowers into the dining room. Some people (those with tame husbands to carry for them, mostly) get even fancier and arrive with coolers, punch bowls and other paraphernalia. I use my grandmother's Limoges and my mother's silver plate and real flowers, but I do not rise to cloth napkins and placemats or to shrimp rings and fruit kabobs. I think I'm about in the middle. I am also not a creative cook and so my guests get pies plopped onto a plain plate, not three layer cake confections in presentation mode.

This is my table.
Almost all of us working this event are old and older retired folk. As are most of the volunteers I work with in all my volunteer activities. The same people appear over and over -- the Cancer society volunteers overlap with the Community Health Centre volunteers and the Hall committee volunteers. This is not one bit surprising: this kind of volunteer activity does not mix with working. What concerns me is that there is not an intake of newly retired boomers joining in to replace some of the 80+ crowd who really can't do a lot any more. At 65 I am one of the youngest members of all the organizations I work in. I've been on the CHC board for eleven years and there are only two board members younger than I am if you except the Baptist and United Church ministers who are there ex officio. When my peer group becomes too crocked up to be active participants, there may not be people who want to replace us.

All my life I have had the biggest bulge of the boomer generation, those born from'45 onwards, thundering along behind me. At each stage of my life, things seemed to change rather drastically a few years later when the boomers took over. An example: in 1960 women at my university obeyed (mostly) such stultifying rules as the banning of wearing jeans in the library and a 10:00 pm curfew in residence and did not question them; in 1969 there was a 'radical' campus political sit in at Sir George Williams (Concordia) that would have been unimaginable even five years earlier.

Those of you who are 40+ just qualify as the tail end of this 'generation' and your life experience has been very different from mine. Those of you who are younger yet (Gen X, etc.) have inherited a social climate that has built on that. I think you take part in such things as runs for charity, are environmental and social activists and are far more vocal and confrontational than my lot (I except people like Ann Cools and June Callwood) would ever dream of being. But you don't join the boards I find interesting, or take on the nitty gritty community activities that keep the wheels turning.

I have some fairly facile observations about why this should be. For one thing, a lot of you manage careers (as opposed to jobs) that you have been extensively and expensively trained for and which require a huge commitment of time and energy. You are having your children later -- mine were in school by the time I was thirty. You're a lot more mobile -- many of you live far away from the extended family that could help with child care and you may move from city to city, making your concept of community different and probably more diffuse. In Canada, the concept of what the state does and what the individual does has shifted a lot since the 1950's, and we pay high taxes to allow the 'welfare' state to manage issues like homelessness that used to be tackled only by private and church charities. More than that, 'charity' has become a four letter word. And that is just as well, I think. The 1950's were a lot more like the early decades of the 20th century than they are like the first decade of the 21st.

All in all, I think these differences are a good thing. The first half of the 20th century was paternalistic, short sighted (well, two world wars and the big depression took a lot of energy), conservative and timid. My high school curriculum , '55 to '60, had not changed at all from my parents', 1925 to 1930. My mother, with an MA, was a lonely little petunia. When she and my father were married in 1940, she was required to quit her job since her company did not employ married women. My school board requested my resignation when I got pregnant (oops!) in 1965. Customs like this gave us lots of time to volunteer for things. If you are like my daughters, you can't even really imagine that world, even though you still face barriers, misogynist attitudes and glass ceilings.

I look forward with eager anticipation to see what the boomer generation and following are going to make of their retirement years. The kind of stuff I do may just evaporate, but what will come to take its place will surely be more dynamic and probably more macrofocused. ('Is that a real word,' she asks herself. And Googles it to find out. And finds an article relevant to the point she was making two paragraphs up. Love this century!) I am like a kid in a candy shop as I surf around the community of bloggers I have found here -- you are articulate, caring and funny and you make me feel that the world is a better place than I thought it was and that it is in good hands.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Busy day, busy day, busy busy.............

I have just returned from Under the Mad Hat's list of wonderful blogs. There are thirty comments, most of which say that there is not enough time and too much pressure but the writer is really trying to keep up. To which I added 'Me, too!!'

I am also trying to keep up with the volunteering stuff, which is about to give me a very eventful few days. I must have 'Target' written on my back in big red letters.

I am going to try to get some pictures of tomorrow's event and post a description because it is really an interesting event. But labour intensive, oh boy.

I spent the afternoon with Little Stuff and her mother, buying summer clothes in a size four. That's children's 4T for Little Stuff and 4 for her mommy as well. Little Stuff was getting to choose her own clothes for the very first time and she was adorable and co-operative and obsessed with pink. Of course. But she also was enthralled by purple and very taken with turquoise and much enthused over a hoodie with little flowers all over it. I do not know what her father is going to say. Her mommy got a pink teeshirt too. Then she got chicken fingers and chips for her supper, which is a rare treat. A good time was had by all, and both my plastic card and her mommy's are somewhat melted. She is going to have a sundress made out of a scarf her aunt brought her back from Addis Abiba, too.

My feet hurt.

Monday, 23 April 2007

There was an item on the CBC news this morning describing a bubbly fruit drink for children that is being marketed as a party drink, complete with champagne glasses in the visual ads, and sold in liquor stores. It's called Robby - Bubbles. The Mothers Against Drunk Driving organization has issued a statement opposing the idea of this drink and the sale of it with liquor. My first thought was that MADD has no sense of humour.

And then I thought 'Wait a minute!' Do they have a point, of sorts? Do we want our little kids equating the drinking of bubbly with having a good time? And the following if/then proposition of no bubbly, no good time? Don't kids, seeing their parents enthusiasm about something, follow their lead? Then I thought of the 'Song of the Temperance Union' about fruit cake, which came to my mind the other day when I was told that a very strict teetotal business owner refused to carry a cookbook related to his business because some of the recipes called for liqueur as flavouring.
'We never eat fruitcake because it has rum,
And one drop of rum turns a man to a bum!
Oh, can you imagine a worse disgrace
Than a man in the gutter with crumbs on his face?
Chorus, 'Away, away with rum by gum…is the song of the Temperance Union.'

While I appreciate the grief and anger that seems to be the basis of MADD, I find a lot of what they have to say is way too earnest. I have always thought that to forbid a child something is to draw it to her attention and make it more desirable that it would have been if treated with indifference. And I tried to practice this with my kids, sometimes more in the breach than not, but I did my best. Specifically, with alcohol, they were allowed a tiny glass of wine at home if the adults were drinking it or in exceptional circumstances. The older daughter still shudders at the recollection of a teaspoon of sherry tipped down her throat at 1:00 am to stop a dry cough. (That would have been the cooking sherry so she is maybe justified.) My household and my parents' household has always used wine and the occasional shot of hard stuff, and been none the worse for it.

All of us remember, I am sure, adolescent escapades involving illicit drinking, our own and those of our contemporaries. At my school the 'acting up' kids started first, much to the gossipy awe of the rest of us. Most of us will have been drunk and disorderly at least once or twice, regretting both the behaviour and the hangover the next day, as young adults. And most of us learned from that to be sensible about drinking. There's a certain type of person, alas, who continues to treat drinking almost as a sport; the kind who boasts about how much he drank at the party or tells stories about adolescent excesses in an admiring tone. Many of us will have a friend or a relative who consistently drinks too much as a mature adult and will know someone whose life has been devastated by alcoholism.

What I wonder is this: would people in the adult problem categories have developed this unfortunate relationship to drinking if they had been brought up differently? Do the children of the 'look what I drank' boasters grow up to drink more than the children of Temperance Union types? I do know that peer pressure is likely to be the cause of the youngsters' experimentation but I don't know if parental influence counteracts this in most sensible grown-ups. I think it does, but I can't be dogmatic about it.

I read that a genetic predisposition to addictions such as alcoholism has been identified. I have also read that First Nations people may lack a gene that enables alcohol toleration and therefore have a higher proportion of problems with it than those descended from Europeans. I am quite sure, however, that there are more people with the genetic triggers and lacks than there are alcohol abusers. So what makes that difference? I figure it has to be a combination of good influence and common sense, and I wish I could prove it.

My approach seems to have worked with my kids. As an adult, neither of the daughters drinks much at all, even asking for water or a soft drink in high end restaurants if she is driving. And they had friends, as teens, whose preoccupation with drinking made me very nervous. I don't know if this is luck or good management, but I don't think that a glass of Robbie-Bubbles (or whatever) or advertisements for it would have made one bit of difference.

Saturday, 21 April 2007

Sod's Law Revisited

There's a pair of very annoyed robins in the yard this afternoon. We woke up this morning to find them bringing grass and twigs in to start a nest on top of the light outside the bedroom door. They do this most years, and the only cure I have found is to tie a bunched sheet of tinfoil to the top of the light. One year I tried the flashing plastic strips that are recommended. Unfortunately they melt.

I have just been out helping JG slide some sheets of plywood down out of the rafters in the barn. He was up the ladder and I was receiving the tipped sheets as he slid them to me. I ended up with a mouthful of mouse droppings from a nest they had made between two sheets separated by 2x4s. Sigh. You would think at my age I would have learned to close my mouth.

This got me to thinking about what other words of wisdom I have accreted in sixty five years of being on the receiving end, secrets of successful living that I could pass along. So -- Mad Mary McGarrigle's Maxims follow.

!.) When catching things from above you, keep your mouth shut.

2.) Nothing cures a toothache faster than making an appointment with the dentist.

3.) When travelling with small children and/or dogs, always take a barf kit.

4.) Sand on beaches will always migrate into every orifice you own, including your new camera lens.

5.) If you have a really good book, you will also have visitors. Ditto if you run out of coffee or tea, or are half-way through painting something with oil base enamel.

6.) If your child is reversal dyslectic, she will read 'dog' for 'God' at the most inopportune time you can imagine.

I just had to go and pick more mouse droppings out of my bra. So I will post these and hope that you will add your own hard-earned warnings to the list.

Thursday, 19 April 2007

April 13th, 2007

April 18th, 2007
'Quite a difference', she said cheerfully. I have a decent stitch of two shots off the deck this time. Used the deck railing as a tripod. It isn't a perfect register, but it works, and the program melds the grass colour so that the shot gives a reasonable representation of what the back field actually looks like. What it does not show are the streams of water overflowing from the pools left by the late and unlamented foot of wet guck we got on Monday. Everywhere I walk, I squish. JG says it is a pity Little Stuff is not here today, as she loves to splash around in the puddles in her red ladybug boots. But I can almost see her stomping around out there, truly. It is that kind of day.
Andrea is longing for trout lilies. Although we call them 'dog toothed violets' around here, I know what she means and I intend to search the warm niches and crannies until I find the first ones to post for her. I am also looking forward to the hepatica, and the feral violets along the edges of the mowed part of the field. Next after them will come the trilliums (trillia?) and with them the blackflies, but I'll haul out my bug shirt and try not to scratch. Then lilac and apple blossom. Oh my! Every spring I tell myself not to anticipate and to enjoy each day for itself, and every June I blink and wonder how we got to summer so fast. This gets worse each year; I find that time is speeding up for me, and that the seasons tumble over themselves and the baby is ready for school before I am ready to let her go. If I could ask for one wish from the genie's lamp it would be for one of the endless summers I enjoyed as a child, I think. Summers that stretched on past the end of imagination, summers of sun and blue sky and crying gulls, wind and water, long timeless afternoons and walks on the beach in the dusk, running ahead of my parents, finding treasures on the sand.
There are four days of blue sky and sun forecast for here, with progressively warmer temperatures. Joy, bliss. Good-bye white winter skin and itchy wool socks. Tomorrow I will open the windows, hang the duvet over the deck railing to air, fill the clothes line with laundry and enjoy the trickle of spring puddles draining. Or I would, if I did not have to go to the Grand Opening of the CHC extension, and be polite to invitees from the Ministry who would not fund it. Well, even vegetable trays and too many speeches can be improved by an April day. And if things get too predictable, I can scoop up one of the groggy hornets just now staggering around after their winter of hibernation, and drop it down the chairman's neck. With apologies to Geoffrey,
Whanne that Aprille with his shoures sote
The droghte of Marche hath perced to the rote...
Than longen folk to washe and to rede.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Last Night I dreamed....

I hate guns. I live with a man who has a locked metal cabinet full of them. I have a daughter who has been extensively trained to use them. My neighbourhood becomes a shooting gallery each fall during deer season. I have a neighbour whose solution to any animal predation is to shoot the predator. It is all profoundly discouraging, especially when the morning paper and evening television news are both full of the aftermath of the desolation at Virginia Tech.

My first experience of this kind of tragedy took place in 1975 when a highschool student in Ottawa went on 'a shooting rampage' at St. Pius X High School. A coroner's jury in this case recommended that all school lockers be searched randomly every semester. I was a school board trustee at that time, and it was clear to the board that this idea was not practicable. The jury also recommended a ban on pornography and severe restrictions on gun sales. Those recommendations were also found to be impractical although some tightening up occured. The coroner advised that there was a need for research into what makes such a person reach 'such a tragic state' without being detected.

That's a good idea, but the putting it into practice is pretty complicated. Even if you detect the mental aberration and the tendency, what do you do? It is obvious to say that you keep the person away from guns, but how do you do that when they are readily available on the black market. It is also obvious to say that the person should have counselling, but you cannot make someone profit from that. Nor can you lock him up on the supposition that he could become a shooter.

I don't have any answers. I didn't at the time, and I still don't. My husband, daughter, and neighbours are not going to become insane revenge shooters and they get a lot of pleasure from their hobby and avocation. They would not thank me for taking away their guns. But, today, I really wish I could. If I could do it, I would bury every weapon in the world in a deep, deep pit and cover the pit with steel reinforced concrete a yard deep. And have a night's sleep untroubled by horrible dreams.

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

A little Dab'll do you.

Monday Mission -- on Tuesday because we just got the electrical power back.

Saturday, 14 April 2007

Hippy birdy, and all that

Tomorrow I will be sixty-five. An accredited senior. Old. What is really weird is that I do not feel any older, wiser or more senior than I did twenty years ago, or even forty. Although when I was eighteen or nineteen I thought I knew everything, a few years after that having two daughters in fifteen months taught me that I surely didn't. I wonder if there will ever come a time when I rest on the oars and look around and decide that I have crossed a finish line. Certainly the horn is not going to sound tomorrow.

I think I was more aware of 'aging' when I was in my forties. I did things like take up sailboarding and scuba diving to prove to myself, I guess, that I could still do things. I went back to school at forty-five and managed to find myself a job in my new avocation, even though the teachers at the college I attended warned me that I was going to have to really fight to get a position. I only kept it a year though, because my mother became really ill, both mentally and physically, and my father couldn't handle it. After I got called at work a certain number of times by him to come and deal with my mother, I resigned. She died a few months later, my father needed me, my aunts needed me and I spent the next decade looking after the older generation.

On my fiftieth birthday I decided to get into better physical shape, and did a few things like enroll in a stop-smoking program, set up a walking program, stop eating trans fats. At sixty I gave all of these fairly useless resolutions up and decided to enjoy myself, buy a size larger in pants and not be embarrassed by reading silly novels. This proved to be a more useful set of rules to grow old by, especially the elastic waistbands. Then one of my daughters, who had already provided me with two fascinating step-grandsons, got pregnant. After lugging a lot of pounds of squirming infant up a lot of sets of stairs, a little physical fitness became, once more, a priority. I got a small lap pool installed in the basement and, four years later, I can still haul a quite solid preschooler around when needed. The knees do not like it, but they bend.

So, what have I got? White hair and wrinkles, honestly earned. No hint of a waistline, alas. Arthritis, vision newly sharpened by cataract surgery, weird fingernails and dry skin, daughters who are my friends and a husband who rarely notices what I look like. I don't think a housewife ever retires, I run a small graphics business out of the house, I volunteer a lot (anyone want a cookbook?) and I have some good neighbours. I am slowly learning a few bits of html code, and learning a lot about the group of bloggers I have found and stretching my mind in a new way. I don't like to get up in the morning, but I don't have to do it early any more. Mostly. Tomorrow I have to get up at 6:00 am and go and run a posse of volunteers at a pancake breakfast for charity.

I have all my teeth but one and most of my brain still works. Not bad. Bring on tomorrow. At least, being Canadian, I am about to get paid for being old.

Friday, 13 April 2007

Grama versus Blogger -- Round 3

I was really pleased to be named with a just post award by Jen of One Plus Two and Under the Mad Hat. Flattered, too, as I am not sure I am really in the swing of things yet and I am really awed by the company I am keeping. I gather that the idea is to put the icon in your blog margin and link it to the post. And I have just spent an unhappy half hour trying to figure out how to do that. And not succeeding. I will have to go and dig around in Blogger Help again, but I am just too tired tonight. Too many fundraising meetings.

Up under the blog title I have just changed the picture. I love photographing birds. My daughters would say I have an obsession with photographing birds. I have walked off the edge of docks, got sucked into swamps, fallen over backwards (to their teenaged embarrassment), and been eaten by every insect that frequents beaches, bogs and blinds. Some of the pictures I am even proud of. This heron shot is one of them. It has just caught a small fish and it is looking so smug about it all.

If you look very carefully you can see a very tiny gull in the shot of Little Stuff by the river -- off in the upper left hand corner. That shot is about the twentieth try. I love digital cameras. Bird photography used to be a much more expensive hobby with colour film. Especially when you're like me and never do exactly what you tried for.

Or remember people by the right name. Crumb! Sorry Mad. Just fixed it.

Thursday, 12 April 2007

It's looking a lot like.......

a soggy, mushy mess. This was the view outside my back door this morning. It is pasted together like this because I took three shots from the door, not wanting to wade through six inches of the stuff in my slippers. I have a 'stitch' function in my photograph editing suite, but it only works if the shots you want to meld are lined up fairly well horizontally. Anyway, there it is and that is my back yard. The grass in summer gets cut with a riding mower! The piece that shows way in the back is actually quite large; it's the angle that makes it look like a narrow strip. We have about the same amount of space to the left side, and on the right the laneway extends over to all the outbuildings.
It is a truth universally to be acknowledged that all Canadians like to grouse about the weather. This lovely white blanket was over six inches deep. We live at the end of a gravel road, which, because the township has not deigned to grade yet this spring, is a minefield of potholes. I think the champion hole is probably a yard wide and two feet deep. (Note that I am an unreconstructed, lamebrained Canadian who has never mastered metric linear measurements.) Now, cover this with six inches of slush so that the location of the potholes can only be guessed at. Imagine yourself picking your way along at 2 mph when you look up and see the school bus bearing down on you. Not fun. No, precious, no!
Anyway, it certainly was pretty before I had to go and drive in it. Even if admiring it is an unCanadian thing to do.

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Lifeline - On Blogging (3)

Just got off the phone with the wife of a friend who has a new diagnosis of prostate cancer. The friend has not told his children and friends and so his wife has no one to talk with about their struggles to choose the most appropriate treatment. Except, he did tell me. And so when, this evening, she felt as if she really needed to talk to someone, she sent me an email and I grabbed the phone immediately I got it. And we talked for an hour and a half and at the end of the conversation she said to me that she really relied on women to talk to, when she needed support.

This made me think again about why I started this blog. It's a place where I can talk about what is interesting me or bothering me at the time I fire up the computer. And after I started reading some of the other blogs, I believe it is a place where I am talking to my fellow women as friends. It is a terrific relief to have this outlet; over the past few weeks I am not sure I could have maintained my equilibrium without it, even if what went up on the post was a rant about pink frills or intransitive verbs.

But when I sit down and try to order my thoughts and write something, my mind seems to focus and when I finish, I feel as if I have accomplished something, however minor, of my own. Also, reading some of the really excellent essays and photo essays and humourous anecdotes that pervade the mommyblogs is as good as a new book by a favourite author, accompanied by a large bar of chocolate and an evening free of the need to do anything else but consume both of them.

Thanks, all of you out there.

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

I'm a Dodo

Worse than that, I'm an anachronism. I have another song running through my head, Dolly Parton this time (take that up with me later, okay?), repeats of a line that says 'Every night as I lay down.' Each time, I have to stop and correct the wretched thing to 'lie down.' Snarl. Curse. Cuckoo spit!

I was once a teacher of English grammar. I had to inculcate by precept and example such rules as the transitive and intransitive verb. 'The hen lays an egg,' is an example of a transitive verb. 'I lie down on my bed,' is intransitive and does not have an object. Are you all following this? Wake up over there. The verb 'to lie' is cased as 'I lie, I lay, I have lain', 'to lay" is 'I lay (the table), I laid, I have laid'. This distinction is now obsolete in 21st century English. Think of the number of young minds I burdened unnecessarily with this precious jargon.

There are other constructions that have developed in the last few years that I hate just as much. 'Jump off of', for example, or 'meet up with'. I mourn the loss of the admittedly vestigial subjunctive. ('If you were to agree with me, you would probably be as old as I am.') And the distinction between 'You may' and 'You can' is a useful one; pity it is being lost. I can only clutch my copy of Fowler to my heaving breast and mourn.

That having been said, I am reading the most delightful book, all about how language is learned and has evolved. Any parent of a child who says' I goed' and when corrected then says 'I wented' has got to enjoy it. The book is called 'The Language Instinct' and I enjoyed it in spite of the fact that Steven Pinker went to McGill. It is really funny at times, informative (he almost explained Noam Chomsky well enough for me to follow it) and comprehensive. Not your usual romp through the Angles, Chaucer and William the Conqueror, this book talks about how kids process language, how mothers talk to kids ('Motherese'), what constitutes language, and a lot more.

And there's not a high school grammar rule in it. I promise.

Monday, 9 April 2007

Party Piece

This is my version of Andrea's Monday Mission. It must have been Meant. Take a look at some of the other MM's at Write about Here, Mad Hatter's 'Show and Ah Hell, it's Pell Mell, and Flutter's Light.

Marge/Mom/Nana is having a party for her ninetieth birthday. The family is planning to gather in a private room at the back of a local restaurant at 6:00 pm to enjoy a buffet dinner at 6:30. The daughter and son who live locally have arranged for this and the other son and his wife, the grandchildren and great grandchildren are coming variously from Toronto and eastern Ontario. The eastern contingent were all going to drive but one of the granddaughters is coming off two consecutive eight hour flights from overseas and won't get home in time to do that. She and her sister will fly on the morning of the party, rent a car at the airport and barrel down the QE to the small town where their Nana lives.

At 2:00 pm Mom's daughter phones her sister-in-law to find out if her daughters have arrived and to ask, "Would you go over to the restaurant and check that the flowers have got there and that there will be enough food and that everything is nice?" SIL drives over but the restaurant isn't open yet. She phones back with this news and the reassurance that, in the interval, the errant granddaughters have arrived. SIL drives back to the restaurant at 4:00 when it opens and positions the big bunches of pink flowers and an unruly bunch of helium balloons that the hellions have purchased en route. The buffet table looks laden. She phones back again with this reassurance. Daughter says 'Oh, good.' There is a lot of noise in the background. Another contingent of grandchildren has obviously made it from Toronto.

At 5:00 Marge/Mom/Nana is ready to go, dressed in white with sparkly pink trim. She and the resident son clamber into the car, which has not been washed, much to her dismay, and go to pick up her late husband's cousin. The cousin has a new digital camera and, at almost eighty, is chattering about learning to use it. They are first at the restaurant but groups of children, grandchildren and great grandchildren arrive almost simultaneously. The eldest great granddaughter pins a pink corsage onto her Nana's jacket. There is a lot of hugging, but the corsage remains intact. The noise levels are rising.

At 6:30 elder son starts herding people into sitting down at the big round tables. He announces that all the granddaughters will sit with Nana. That, with the addition of the youngest great granddaughter who is clinging to her mother like a limpet, fills one table. The elder offspring, plus some grandson-in-laws (grandsons-in-law?) are directed to a second table, and the lone great grandson-in-law plus an escaped GIL and the rest of the great grands fill a third. An opulent buffet is consumed with much chatter. The youngest great granddaughter asks for a second helping of beef, which her mother announces as an Event.

After even the sixteen year old great grandson has stopped returning to the buffet, the Cutting of the Cake is announced. Son, daughter-in-law, grandson-in-law and the octogenarian cousin leap to their feet and grab their cameras. Marge/Mom/Nana has a server thrust into her hand and the flashes start to go off. The whole family crowds in behind. Then the elder son starts marshalling people into categories. 'All the granddaughters,' he cries. More flashes. "Mom, look this way." "Smile, Nana!" "All the great grandchildren." More flashes. More demands.

Tall and slim, taller than all but the great granddaughter in 3 1/2 inch heels, Marje/Mom/Nana stands very erect in the midst of a kaleidoscope of variegated offspring. One of the granddaughters notices that the DIL is photographing, not posing, and grabs the camera away, shoving her into the picture. 'Smile, Mom." 'Look this way, Nan." "Look up, Mom." "I want to take another one, kids. Stay there." "Nana, look over here." When all the photos have been taken, the DIL and the eldest great granddaughters move in to cut and distribute the cake.

Marge/Mom/Nana looks down. She has not just been posing with the knife. With every new shot, she has cut another slice across the whole slab, and it is now almost entirely sliced. The first slices are generously wide but they get progressively narrower and the last few are almost ribbon thin.

"Oh dear," she says. "I didn’t make a very good job of that!"

Thursday, 5 April 2007

I'm off to my MIL's 90th birthday party, about a six hour drive from here. With gifts. Back Monday. Sigh.

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Prose Poems

I have some clear time to work on the computer this morning, and instead of getting on with the myriad editing and writing jobs I have stacked up on my desk I have been playing on the templates page of Blogger. Herewith the results. I like neat layouts, with plenty of white space and muted colours, and this template has that. I am not rising to the heights of glory of Attack of the Redneck Mommy, whose new dress you should really go and admire, nor have I done much template editing. But I guess I am slowly making my page reflect my taste.

I've put a book link in, as well, because the premises and the way this author tells his story really impress me. I've always been fascinated by social anthropology; I probably misidentify a lot of what I read into that category. I took a degree in English Language and Literature with a minor in (wait for it) Latin. I've always thought that the best parts of the course work were the linking of what the authors said into the lives they lead and the communities they lived in. This in spite of the fact that some of the professors demanded that we read the texts in isolation, unsullied by biographical chaff. Snort. Ever try that with something like Shakespeare's Henry plays? Or Dickens? Or Scott? The best course I had was a self directed reading course in the English novel. Mind you, by 'English' my university meant 'England' -- we had in our last year an optional half course where we could choose between Canadian literature and American literature. Which is why I know more about historical London than I do about any other city and why Johnson's research on cholera in Victorian London is so real to me.

This started me thinking about how the (exclusively male) poets treated babies -- from Shakespeare's 'infant mewling and puking in his nurse's arms' to Wordsworth's

not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing
clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home;
Heaven lies about
us in our infancy!

Note the 'nurse' who looked after Will's kids -- whom he left behind in Stratford -- and WW's quick glance into the nursery at an obviously sleeping baby.

Well, people would say, is there anything more satisfying and adorable than a clean and sleeping baby? Yes, there is. The wide awake one who graces you with her first smile. The triumphant one who finally gets the spoon into her mouth instead of her ear. The delighted one who manages a stagger across the room into your outstretched arms. The sophisticated young miss who greets you after her nap with the welcome words 'I dry grama'. The sober young scholar who, after hearing it only ten times, reads an exciting version of 'The Gruffalo' to her stuffed animals, holding the book carefully upside down. ('I will read it myfelf, grama') And last, but not least, the rapt and pink cheeked Birthday girl, with the light of four candles reflected in her shining eyes.

There isn't much classic poetry about moments like that -- no mommy poets. One of the things I really like about this part of the blogosphere are the prose poems written about children, their ways and their days. As far as I know, it's a first time ever record by women actually doing the job, while they're doing it. Unique and wonderful.

Monday, 2 April 2007

Red-faced, and not from hanging upside down.

I found this in today's a garden of nna mmoy. 'This week's mission: to write a post in the reverse of traditional blog format. Instead of anecdote-epiphany-rumination-resolution, try resolution-rumination-epiphany-anecdote.' And I am about to try a post this way.

I am just going to have to try harder, that's all there is to it. Starting by phoning to apologise as soon as I finish this upside down post. Um, there I go again.

I don't know why I dread making phone calls. I do know that because I dread it I put off doing it. I worry that I will catch the person I have to call at a bad moment, so I set a time later on in the day to make the call and then 'forget' to do it at that time. I send an email instead. I wait for them to call me. I try to unload the call onto someone else. All of these things are childish, foolish and downright chicken hearted. Other people don't seem to have this phobia. Leaving a voice mail, yes, but making the call -- no. The reluctance to pick up the phone waxes and wanes with me. Sometimes I can do it with not a lot of effort -- other times I can stretch the amount of time I stew about it over days and make a mess of things.

I managed to do just that this weekend, and I now have a couple of people on the Hall Committee where I work quite annoyed with me, and another one shaking her head at what an idiot I am and yet another one in the soup because I made the annoyed people angry with her, too. But it is only this morning that I realized that the phone call phobia was the cause of the problem.

I think I have said that I am involved in a fundraising effort for our local Community Health Centre. We're selling cookbooks at present and I was due to set up and sell them at a dinner at the community hall where I also volunteer. We had a function there on Friday and I left the boxes of books at the hall afterwards, so that I would not have to lug them home and then lug them back. But when I got to the hall yesterday afternoon, the books were not there. One of the hall regulars had found them, thought they might be mine but couldn't reach me by phone (and hates voice mail) and so had taken them off to the home of another one of the volunteers to keep them safe.

This really annoyed me -- he could have just locked them into the secure cupboard -- so I trundled off to retrieve them, only to find that the woman he took them to was not home. So I got miffed and went home. No cookbooks were sold, and the job that I usually do, dishwashing, was short of workers. They could have used me, and I got all sulky and childish and didn't do what I was supposed to do. Plus I ended not explaining the posters I had with me to put up for another function, thus leaving a co-worker hanging out to dry because she got blamed for putting up the posters without telling anyone. If I had just called the hall, either in the morning while they were setting up or even after I got home, I could have prevented the whole mess, or at least half of it. And here I was mad at someone for doing pretty well exactly what I had done too. How petty can I be? Pretty bad.