Saturday, 29 June 2013

Highland Games and Family History

The second Saturday in June was the Highland Games in Georgetown. As the new clan convenor for Ontario, I ran a booth for the Henderson Clan while my husband and son competed in piping this year. Other than the fact that the powers that be positioned me downwind from the port-o-potties, it was a fun day. For the first time in years, the rain held off all day, and we got to hear fantastic bands and soloists. Friends and band members came to hang out in the tent to escape the sun. The cheese and onion pasty with mushy peas was delicious. The Iron Bru tasted like melted bubblegum (trust me, it's a good taste). And from the clan tent I could see the heavy athletics (tossing telephone poles, hoisting weights that would cripple lesser men).

The dogs lay under the table in the shade and darted out now and then to get crooned at and have their ears rubbed. My son checked in once in a while to spell me off and keep me company, tall and slim and handsome in his kilt. I had a display of everything Henderson I could get my hands on, with newsletters and histories and photos and books and membership applications. Though only a Henderson by marriage, I had studied up on interesting facts and stories to share.

Nobody came.

Well, my son informs me that while I was out scouting for an apple dumpling with caramel sauce, a bunch of Hendersons stopped by the booth and picked up business cards. But that was it. I never met another single one all day. Surely there are clan members out there somewhere. But none of them stopped by. I have two more Games to attend this summer, and hopefully traffic will be a bit better. It would be really embarrassing to finish my first season as a convenor without having spoken to a single clan member!

I know more about my own family history, of course. I was raised on stories and folklore, music and songs from my family history. Both of my parents are genealogy enthusiasts and I have spent many hours researching and writing ancestral history. I fell asleep at night to stories about Great-Grandpa Lonnie blowing up the school stove, Grandpa Waite hitting bullets with hammers, Uncle Owen sticking apples on the electric barbed wire fence for the cows to bite into. Mom didn't always like me to hear these stories when I was young and impressionable, but they gave me immense joy and satisfaction. And then there are the stories of the pioneers, my ancestors who walked to what is now Utah to escape persecution, the sacrifices and challenges they went through, their offerings that formed a wonderful legacy for me and my siblings. Their stories form the foundation of my own life, give me roots and bearings. Give me direction and hope.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

The $100 Gummy Bear

My youngest son just finished his first year of high school with great success, so to celebrate I ordered the world's largest gummy bear (5 lbs, something like 32,000 calories, 51 servings, and no, he isn't going to eat it all himself. He has friends to help him). The bear itself cost $39. The shipping cost $40. And then with the exchange rate, it came to another almost $17. That's $96 for a gummy bear. Even if it is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, it's still---er---hard to swallow.

I tried to order a book off of used book for under a dollar. The shipping to Canada would have been over $16, so I chickened out and didn't place the order. You can't tell me a paperback costs that much to send here. (Unless it's coming by Lear Jet and hand-delivered by the Archangel Gabriel.) I will find a new copy at the local bookstore and it will cost me maybe $11.

My parents were in Hungary for a year and a half and couldn't find chocolate chips at first, so I offered to mail them a couple of packages. The Post Office informed me it would cost $30 to mail them. So I took them home again, made cookies with them, and emailed Mom and Dad to say "They tasted great."

When my son in the Arctic found an ideal crib, the crib of which dreams are made, he was told it would cost $2000 by the time it was shipped to Thompson. They went with a cheaper one from the local Wal-Mart, thank you very much.

I went to the Post Office the other day - again - to mail a small packet. When the lady asked me how I wanted to send it, I told her as cheaply as possible. Slow surface. Like, by mule train. She didn't smile.

All I can say is, the scientists better come up with a teleporter soon, because I'm about an inch away from going "non-Postal."

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Sharing the Chicken Pox

A friend of mine came to visit from Utah last week. I've known her since kindergarten. We had chicken pox together. We had sleepovers together. We had our share of arguments and upsets, I'm sure, but looking back over the expanse of 41 years, the things I remember are the banana pancakes, the laughter, the Archie comics, and her cool poodle who could play fetch better than any other dog I've known.

It felt like we were five years old again and no time at all had elapsed. We fell right back into conversation as if the long separation since my move to Canada had never happened. We remembered so much - and we have so many memories in common - that it was like a deep conversation with myself. I think I learned some things, too: that she had the same insecurities and fears, the same challenges and hopes that I do. I felt we understood each other instantly, without having to say anything - though we talked more in that week than I've talked in a month. I felt so good knowing she was willing and happy to come all this way to visit me. It's not every person who would leave five kids and come to a foreign country to help an old friend weed her garden. We're plotting how to marry our kids off to each other so we can end up in-laws and thus ensure we never will lose track of each other. (Are you reading this, kids?)

Ostensibly the visit was to celebrate our birthdays together, which are close together. In reality, it was to celebrate a lifetime of  friendship. Close together.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Really Going This Time

Son number two has decided he is going to join Son number one in Manitoba after all. He flies out tomorrow morning. The ticket is in hand, the suitcase is packed, my old black one I took the first time I left home for any length of time, when I went to Britain on a semester abroad at the age of 18. (How on earth did my mother let me go?) It doesn't quite seem real yet, but I'm sure it will tomorrow night when he isn't home for supper. When I pull the sheets off his bed to wash them...and don't put them back on again. When no one is home to let the dog out mid morning. Brio will miss him most of all, I think.

Maybe it's the openendedness of his leaving that upsets me. I don't know if he'll be gone three months, three years, or the rest of his life. We can't predict the future. All we can do is plan what we can and then muddle along as best we are able, playing whatever hand we are dealt as we go along. Actually, I guess that's true all the time, isn't it? Anyway, I've gained a new appreciation for what my mother felt when I packed up husband and baby and move to Canada twenty-four years ago.

I'm sure he'll be fine. I'm not so sure Brio will be...

Son Number Two, shipping out:

Saturday, 1 June 2013


Not a month ago, my husband told me he was feeling a bit overwhelmed caring for things and didn't want me to bring another thing into the house that needed looking after - not even a house plant. I was feeling a bit the same myself, still adapting to this hyperactive puppy I brought home last fall. And then last night...

My husband brought home a chameleon.

And a cage. And a light. And plants we have to soak with water spray. And crickets in a cage who also have to be dampened and fed and taken care of, so that they're fat and full of nutrients for the chameleon. And suddenly I'm the one feeling overwhelmed. It's not mine to care for, it's not my responsibility...but suddenly I have not one but about thirty new critters to worry about. Not to mention the few crickets who escaped while we were figuring out the system and ended up in the fireplace and down in the basement and who knows where else we'll find them.

He's a cute little thing, walking along his stick with great deliberation as if he's doing tai chi. What to name him? My son suggested Gene Simmons because of his astonishing tongue. I suggested Spock because of his funny cloven-looking feet. He remains as yet will the crickets.

He's really not that hard to care for, he's not too demanding, and he's fascinating to watch. I expect I'll stare at him more than at the TV this summer. So why the anxiety in my stomach? When I stop to analyze my trepidation, I realize it stems from two things: First, I was just gearing myself up to warp speed to keep up with my puppy, and then suddenly I have to decelerate to handle this tiny tai chi artist. It throws my equilibrium off. Am I meant to be speeding up or slowing down? And I worry that my inner tug is toward slowing down, letting myself stop and sit, which in my mind equals letting myself grow old. And I'm not ready for that yet. But at the same time, I worry that I can't rachet it up and summon the energy I need to face my future. Second: I was hoping to do some serious traveling soon, and it was hard enough thinking what to do with the dogs and the kids and the garden...and now the chameleon and the crickets. Is there a boarding kennel for reptiles? No neighbour or friend I know will want to handle crickets, quite frankly. It is a solvable problem, I'm sure, but just one more glitch to throw in the mix. One more thing to remind me how tied I am to this spot, this situation, this life. It's funny to think that a two-ounce little being can feel like an anchor.