Tell me again why I’m going?

It wasn’t a premeditated theft, though it was a crime of opportunity.

I was putting out my recycling when I spied my neighbour doing the same thing.

“Quinton!” I hollered. “Do you have a coffee table?”

He paused. “Yes.”

I’m sure he felt this was a safe answer.

“Can I have it for two weeks?” I asked.


And that is how a neighbourhood should work. I’d been told to make my house look pretty so prospective buyers could imagine their own lives taking place here.

I needed a coffee table I didn’t own to hold the vase I rarely used that was full of flowers I didn’t like. On the appointed day, Quinton indeed showed up, table in tow.

Pammy came in a few days later and pointed to the coffee table.

“That looks good. You should keep it,” she said.

“It’s Quinton’s. I have to give it back.”

“Maybe he won’t miss it,” she reasoned.

I’ve had the same thoughts with some of my sister’s linens. All this good taste might have a lasting effect.

What doesn’t have a lasting effect is flowers. I’d clipped a bunch from my own garden initially, Dad’s tulips. I do like tulips, and I like them even better when they droop over and die, which is a good thing because they do that quite promptly.

The tulips from my garden are also enormous, with heads the size of small cantaloupes. As they scattered their petals one by one, as elegant a death scene as ever played out on a larger stage, I liked them even more.

A real estate agent came by and suggested I might want to liven up the coffee table. With my own garden strip mined for flowers, I looked out my front windows.

I already had a deal with other neighbours, Jan and Catherine, to babysit the cats during open houses, but noticed that Quinton had a lot of tulips. I grabbed a pair of scissors and went outside.

Jan and Catherine were puttering in their garden.

“Quinton’s not home. Do you think he’d mind if I stole some of his tulips?” I asked them.

They shrugged.

“Probably not, but take some of ours, there’s more around back.”

Again, I have the best neighbours. I snipped a few here and a few there, figuring nobody would notice if I didn’t overdo it. The fresh recruits lasted a few more days, until the inevitable droop set in once again.

Scissors in hand, I headed over to Quinton’s again. He saw me coming and, I’m sure, went to lock his front door.

“Can I steal a few of your tulips?” I asked him.

“I have a whole bunch in back. Sure,” he laughed.

Behind his house, he had a dozen of the coolest tulips I’ve ever seen.

“What are these, Dr. Seuss tulips?” I asked him.

They had elongated petals and sprung out on long, bendy stems.

I loved them, and I clipped every one as he watched.

“Are you sure you don’t mind?” I asked when it was too late if he did.

I told him how good they would look on his coffee table.

“Take whatever you need,” he said. “Just don’t ask me to watch those cats.”

I trundled back across the street, tulips in tow. I pulled cat cages up from the basement to get ready for an open house.

And I admit I wondered, again, why I was leaving this neighbourhood.

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Motherlode becomes a stage mother, sort of

I have never bought a house before, unless you count the time my parents sold me theirs.

There were no real estate agents involved, no listing, no closing, no negotiating and no mortgage for several months.

Now I’m learning how it really works.

I’m close to listing, which means I haven’t slept in over a month. My back is killing me. Selling a house is a ton of work, especially when you’re clearing out more than five decades.

I’ve had Jeff, my contractor-slash-painter, here with me full-time for over six weeks. The place looks amazing, and I’m finally fixing, or getting fixed, all the little things you tend to overlook. Electrical outlets, deck rails, light fixtures, switches and, of course, the endless clutter that I stopped noticing when I was about 10.

My sisters were here to help me stage rooms. This is a fairly crazy lie perpetuated on the buying public by the endless television shows that make you think you can transform a rabbit warren into the Taj Mahal in an hour.

I learned some basic facts from a professional stager:

  • People only use white sheets and towels at all times;
  • Beds must have no fewer than 70,000 pillows on them;
  • Nobody wipes their butt — you must hide the toilet paper;
  • Nobody brushes their teeth — you must hide the toothbrushes;
  • Nobody uses soap or shampoo;
  • Nobody cleans their toilet — you must hide the brush (I’m surprised they haven’t found a way to hide the whole toilet);
  • Nobody has pets;
  • Having a bowl of 50 lemons and limes is normal;
  • Sixteen dollars buys a lot of green apples;
  • You are forbidden from having mats, photographs, medications or a sense of humour. (I will explain this one in a later column.)

My sister Roz artfully arranged shell-like things in a bowl my parents received as a wedding gift in 1956, because staging a house is when you finally use things you received as wedding gifts and promptly hid. I’d picked up the bag of shell-like things after wandering around HomeSense looking much like an alien in a sci-fi movie: these are not my people.

Meanwhile, my sister Gilly was upstairs turning one bedroom into the home office I’d always wanted, and then cloaking my beds in pristine white. The cats rather enjoyed this, though were baffled by the pillows that threatened to crowd them out.

I started a list of people I know who own vans so I’ll have somewhere to hide my life when we’re ready for an open house.

Another neighbour didn’t hesitate when I told him I needed his coffee table for a week; yet another has no idea my cats will be visiting for a few hours one day as I pretend I don’t own them.

My son Christopher, 25, popped over to take apart a computer tower for me. He took in the living room, with its new soothing colour palate and decorator pillows.

I dragged him upstairs to see the rooms.

“Are you nuts? Why are you moving?” he said, as we stood in the master bedroom.

For the first time in a long time, it looks like a person with good, if boring, taste lives here. Not to mention someone who keeps bowls of beachy things on their dresser instead of unmatched socks and the corner attachment for the vacuum.

“Wow. Is this new carpet?” he asked, as we stood in the empty rec room.

I laughed. This has always been the room he and his brother spent the most time in. All I did was throw them out, get rid of their junk and clean it.

I walked through my unrecognizable dining room after he left, and grabbed a green apple from the bowl.

Rules be damned.

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You can’t go home again, but you can take it with you

“So, how’s it feel living on your own?” asked a neighbour.

“How would I know?” I replied. “I’ve had a man show up here every day at 8:30 in the morning for six weeks.”

I see more of Jeff than his wife does, I swear. He is working on the entire house at once. He writes meticulous lists so he knows what is going on, and I offer to help in ways that are not very helpful. He’ll let me pull painter’s tape sometimes, and use a kid’s paintbrush to get at those little crevices where door jambs meet to smoosh some paint in there. The trouble with painting the dreaded beige over the “artistic” colours is that one missed spot stands out.

I’ve been sleeping in a double bed as the master bedroom gets worked on. It’s getting cramped; the cats look at me each night like, “we’re fine, but where are you gonna sleep?”

I’ve been shifting furniture around as we go, and forgot I’d plunked a full-length mirror across from my bed. I woke up and scared the crap out of myself.

I’m getting tripped up as I come across boxes and boxes of photos from the past, and as much I desperately try to stow them for another time, I can’t help it. There is no end to the revelations you unearth and it takes discipline that I don’t have to look away.

Christer and Ari are receiving a constant stream of messages asking if I keep or toss this or that. When they vote to get rid of once loved toys, I head to Facebook and give it all away.

My niece has moved out of residence and into a house, and I am happily bombing my sister with offers of shelves, dressers, dishes, tables and chairs. I have rooms so empty now, I could twirl around like Julie Andrews in “The Sound of Music” if twirling didn’t make me dizzy.

There’s been a steady stream of people in my now solitary life. A friend came and picked up a truckload full of interlocking brick, with a promise to come back for patio stones. I send Jeff home each night with random finds left over from previous renovations, often brand new tubes and coils and tubs of …. things. If I don’t know what they are, I highly doubt I’ll have a need for them.

But the best wrapping up is taking place outside, where Dad’s garden is blasting forth like it does every year. My message was simple: if you want some of Dad’s plants, show up with some pots and start digging. I already have shovels; I have many, many shovels because Dad believed you could never have too many. There is also an odd array of axes, so useful here in the city.

I have hundreds of hostas, and his beloved tiger lilies are running rampant. April is the month to transplant, and my friends and colleagues have taken full advantage, to my delight.

A wise woman once told me perennials are just weeds that someone decided to love, and to see these perennials go into so many other gardens makes me happy. Many said they feel like they know my dad after all these years, and he’d be thrilled to know his garden lives on in their yards as much as he lives on in my words.

I have a vested interest in giving away these plants, these legacies. Whenever I’m settled, and wherever that happens to be, I’m showing up to these many friends’ yards to take back cuttings and start over again.

I’ll bring my own shovel.

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The sale of houses, the cycles of homes

When we moved into this house, Christopher, now 25, was just 4.

It was his grandparents’ house, so he was of course familiar with it, but the idea that we were moving here for keeps was a very big deal. It was a big deal for another little boy, as well.

Across the street, a 5-year-old name Michael watched the trucks. I’ll never forget what his mother told me later.

“They have a kid!” Michael had yelled.

It is the siren call of children everywhere whenever a house changes hands.

Michael had a little sister, Sarah; Christopher, of course, had a little brother, Ari. Those four are still fast friends and have been from the day we moved in. There were years they pretended not to know each other in the school corridors, but the gravitational pull of the kid next door or across the street is always strong. Ages and interests may blur the lines of interaction, but geography is strong.

I was talking to my sister, Roz, about it the other day. Our family moved here in late 1963, just before I was born the following year. She was turning 5.

“You want to know my first memory?” asked Roz. “We turned into the court, and there was a huge pile of snow beside the driveway. Mom and Dad pointed out our new house, and perched on top was a little girl in a red snowsuit. It was Lynnie Eichenberg. And to this day I remember whispering to myself, ‘oh yay.'”

We grew up with the Eichenberg kids, five of them and four of us. Mark would be born a few weeks after Roz spied his sister on that snowbank, and I was born just a week after him. Gilly and Annie came along a couple of years later, just a month or so apart, the rest of the kids slotting in like the knuckles on a hinge.

Our mothers fed lunch to whomever was at their tables, and I remember many occasions sharing breakfast at the big horseshoe booth in the Eichenberg kitchen. Our mothers would just count heads and put out the plates, knowing this is the essence of neighbourhood math. Children rambled in and out of the houses at will, toys spread across the properties, bikes and roller skates tangled in piles.

My dad would give gardening lessons to any kids that showed up to his tutorials, and come and rescue birds that had stunned themselves flying into windows. We’d bring him every wounded creature we found, and watch as he carefully decided what could be saved. We’d have solemn funerals for what couldn’t, learning that all lives have a meaning, but also a cycle.

Christer and Ari and Michael and Sarah have also shared their moms; Ari once showed up on Jayne’s doorstop holding some ripened bananas, asking if she’d make him a banana cake. She did and I was glad because I can’t make banana cake, and every kid should have banana cake. He would take his tattered knees to her because she would kiss the Band-Aid she applied, leaving behind a lipstick smooch, which we all know speeds the healing.

Whoever buys this house will have no idea how many generations of hamsters and fish and birds are interred in these hallowed grounds. I hope they’ll see the hockey nets and the skateboard ramps and the baseball diamond that sports the sewer cover as home plate.

I hope they’ll see, and maybe add to, the generations of children who have flourished here.

Here’s to the new kids, discovering the joy of their new best friend sitting on a pile of snow, buried in a pile of leaves or dancing through the sprinkler.

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Cat scratch fever and the great escape

Two of my cats are rescues from Egypt. They are nuts, especially Mark, who is huge and lean and retains much feralness deep in his DNA.

Egyptian street cats should not be adopted here in Canada, no matter how adorable they are as kittens. Trust me on this.

I’ve been working in the yard and they are begging to come outside. They climb the screens.

A few days ago, I let them on the back deck. Cairo immediately plopped herself in a sunbeam. Mark ran the perimeter of the yard, howling at the top of his lungs. All was fine as I raked and weeded, talking away to both of them, who answered like the small unruly children they are.

Mark found a breach in the fence, gave a single curious yip, and dared me to come after him. He looked at me and blinked slowly as I hollered for backup after spotting my neighbour, Sarah, pull in from school. She volunteers at the local animal shelter and is also my cat sitter. She loves the little lunatic.

Within half an hour, she was questioning her love. We were down in the muck unsuccessfully bribing a cat. He stayed just out of reach, then finally took off. I sent her home, and went inside to consider that I was now a two-cat woman and may actually have a new lease on life.

I glanced into the yard an hour, later in time to see Mark strolling on the wrong side of the fence. I gingerly approached him, and he hesitated. I leaned over and grabbed him, and was rewarded with a deep scratch on my chest. I will be wearing turtlenecks as we head into summer.

My sister Gilly stopped by a little later; she also volunteers at the animal shelter. As we spoke, she pointed to the shed. Mark had climbed to the top of it. I very calmly yanked open the screen door.

“Marco, Marco, you’re going to die, get down!” I screamed.

Gilly laughed.

“He’s a cat, he’s fine,” she said, as he dove over the fence into another yard.

She started giving me rescue people tips while I planned my life with just two cats. Cairo sat at the back door, yelling her head off at her stupid brother.

We eventually spotted him at the fence line, crying.

The fence is high. My neighbours weren’t home. I ran and got a lawn chair and told Gill to keep talking to him.

“You’re going to go over the fence? Are you bendy enough?” she asked me.

“I’m fine. I can do this,” I replied.

“You’re wearing slippers,” she said.

I stood on the lawn chair and slung myself to the top rail. Mark and Gill both watched as I heaved my decidedly more-bendy-in-my-dreams body over. I clucked to Mark, who took off like a balloon across a parking lot on a windy day. We both called to him, trying to corral him.

I eventually got my hands around him and tossed him over the fence.

Gilly handed me the lawn chair so I could get home, and took Mark into the house. I got stuck on the way back, my feet exactly one inch too far apart as I straddled danger and safety. Praying nobody would choose now to look out their back windows, I finally collapsed into my yard.

Gilly came back, and we both stared at the lawn chair in the neighbour’s yard. Our surreptitiousness would be sorely challenged if we left behind such a big clue.

Using a two-by-four, I tried to lever the chair over. It came maddeningly close and fell.

Gilly got a rake, we managed to get the chair up into the air and grab it.

Mark yelled from the back door and Cairo swatted him in the head.

Free to a good home: hellcat.

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Back to beige

I’m painting the house beige, again.

It was always beige on my mother’s watch, because she liked things to match and be nondisruptive.

I do not do beige. I used to do all the painting for her because my father refused to do anything on the interior of the house. He’d rather have felled a tree than oil a squeaky door hinge, and thus it fell to me to build scaffolding out of step ladders and two-by-fours, risking life and limb in high stairwells as I broke every building safety code. My mother would clutch me around my calves, begging me to be careful and telling me I’d missed a spot.

I stared at a wall of paint chips a few days ago, a realtor’s words ringing in my ears: it’s not for you, keep it basic. When he’d first spied my place, his eyes had widened.

“Oh, I can see you’re artistic,” he said with a straight face.

I know now that is realtor code for “so that’s who buys that.”

My walls are fierce with colour and yes, I know it makes rooms look smaller, but they’re my rooms and I paint with love and emotion. I looked at the beige array before me now, small chips taunting me with their nothingness.

I spied one in the middle, slightly darker (or less beige) than the others, called Saskatchewan Prairie. I cannot tell you how much I wanted to buy this paint. I wanted to lob one last blast from Dad into this house, to sell off his life’s work with a nod to his birthplace.

I dutifully bought the more beige sampler, something called Buckskin, but still clutched the Saskatchewan Prairie paint chip hoping I could talk my painter into seeing it my way.

I’d forced Mom out on a limb once, convincing her we could lean a little green when her furniture had delicate uses of the colour. She eventually agreed, though the colour was more like a vat of white paint with a breath mint dropped in it.

When we were young, my Dad only bought paint that was robin’s egg blue for our bedrooms. If our rooms got repainted, it was the same colour. Over and over. I can still see tiny glimpses of it deep in the closets sometimes, and it reminds me that if Dad actually had done a little more inside, maybe my crazy colours wouldn’t seem so foreign.

So my walls are going beige — sorry, buckskin — as we speak. It’s boring, but I’m keeping in mind my imaginary nonartistic buyers who won’t know nor care what lies beneath, or maybe one day will scratch the surface and gasp in horror.

We slapped up the buckskin on a few walls to see how it looked, and I said it looked beige. Jeff, my painter, pointed out the differences in tone from hallways to rooms depending on the time of day and lighting. He said a bunch of other things, but I was still holding Saskatchewan Prairie and making a crabby face.

“I’ll do what you want,” he began, but I stopped him.

I knew it would be too dark, and I knew I’d be wrong to choose now to flex my painting expertise. I ran around holding Saskatchewan Prairie from wall to wall, as if the few square centimetres would tell me a different story in a different place.

It didn’t. There is a time and a place to paint with love and emotion, and this isn’t it.

Maybe I’ll leave a small speck of robin’s egg blue in a bedroom closet.

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Murphy Brown had it right: find yourself an Eldon

I found a husband on Facebook.

He’s actually somebody else’s husband, but he’s working out quite nicely. He does floors and windows. Right now he’s in my garage sanding cupboard doors, while I’m inside sanding and painting the cabinets. When he comes in, he tells me I’m doing a fine job even though we both know I’m not.

After my whining on Facebook that my bedroom windows were all falling down, Jeff showed up. We’d never met, but had mutual Facebook car friends. The fact that his wife Linda is a Motherlode fan may have helped a little.

He offered to drop by to take a look at the windows, first explaining that he’d renovated many places and had all his own tools. I may have swooned. A few weeks ago in this column, I mentioned my Internet window tool fiasco.

He knocked on my door and I showed him my Internet tool, which isn’t nearly as hot as it sounds. He thrust up my window — also not as hot as it sounds — and watched as it shuddered in a collapse worthy of any high school, Shakespearean Lear.

“All the windows do that,” I explained.

It was true. My parents had them installed a million years ago, but they’d never worked properly and if I was cruel, I’d name the company that installed them. I’m not and I won’t, but if you buy something that costs a ton of money, make them come back and honour the warranty. Just sayin’.

“I have to source parts for them,” said Jeff.

My ears perked up. I’m fond of someone else doing the research. And the ordering. And the fixing.

“Leave it with me, and I’ll email you what I find out. But I really think it’s an easy fix.”

Like lightning striking or unicorns skidding on their butts down rainbows, a light bulb went off in my head.

“Do you do other things?” I asked Jeff.

Again, not as hot as it sounds.

“I need my kitchen cupboards painted. I need a hole in the dining room fixed. I need three doors hung. I need an outlet replaced. I need six rooms painted. My yard is a mess …”

He held up a hand and smiled.

“Let me find out about these windows,” he said.

“I’ll give you my Visa card,” I replied, lunging for my wallet.

I actually thought there was a very good chance I’d never hear from Jeff again, no matter how much Linda might enjoy reading Motherlode. I’ve pushed my limits with more than one man, and while I like to think it’s the overwhelming amount of work my house needs that seems threatening, I admit it might actually be it’s owner who can be a bit much.

Jeff came back. Jeff fixed a hole in the dining room. Jeff fixed the windows. Jeff built a custom landing rail. Jeff has sorted out a flooring issue. Jeff has custom fit a folding door I bought 20 years ago.

Jeff is transforming the kitchen cabinets and I am helping, though I have a niggling suspicion my help is much like when a toddler helps you do anything; it takes twice as long and you fix it when they’re not looking.

I handed him a mug of tea one day.

“You’re like a husband without the sex,” I laughed. “You ever watch Murphy Brown?”

If you’re of a certain age, you remember the show. Murphy had Eldon, who truly was the perfect man. He fixed things and painted things and gave her advice. Every woman I know wants an Eldon.

When all this is done, I think I owe Linda a dinner.

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Food is love: take your adult kids grocery shopping

I called Christopher, 25, to see if he wanted to come grocery shopping.

This is a great way to spend time with your sort-of adult children. We talk, we laugh, they lift, I pay.

As they all move out, my grocery bill has tumbled and I’m doing what my mom used to do — taking a little of the pressure off young budgets. They jump at the chance and I pretend it’s because they want to spend time with me, though we both know it’s because they want to get the good cheese.

Christer came with a list that Pammy had given him, because letting a man/boy wander around a grocery store when he’s hungry is a good way to ring up many, many things that do not remotely signal meal planning or nutrition. I giggled when I saw she’d written “romance lettuce,” and will now never call it anything else.

“She just wrote yogurt. What kind?” I asked Christopher.

He shrugged. I called her.

“Does Pammy still like this kind of soup?” I asked him 10 minutes later.

He shrugged. I sighed.

“Oh! I know what I want. Pickles.” he said. “But just normal pickles.”

He was peering at an entire section devoted to everything but normal pickles.

Zesty, garlic, baby, dill, sweet, this brand, that brand, he stared at them all.

“These are on sale,” I said, which made them the right kind.

He put them in the cart.

I glanced at the list and saw that Pammy had listed four dates with X’s beside them.

“She’ll be working so I have to fend for myself,” explained Christopher.

He tossed some chicken pot pies into the cart.

“Wait, they have better ones on sale,” I told him. “Put those back, and we’ll get one of the big ones instead.”

His eyes widened when I showed it to him.

“This is perfect for when she’s gone,” he said.

“That is big enough for a family of four. You can’t eat all that,” I told him.

“Well, I’ll just have it for lunch and dinner one day,” he reasoned.

The list had no snacks on it, something that my son managed to correct in nearly every aisle. Both my boys know I like to spoil their girlfriends, because neither girl ever asks for anything and both are always grateful if I remember their favourite things.

Ari and Christopher have both mastered getting what they want into the cart by telling me Pammy or Taryn wants it.

As we unloaded at the checkout, Christer held up a bottle of bathroom cleaner.

“Oh, and this whole grocery thing? Do you wanna know what’s really crazy?” he asked me.

“How much you have to spend on things that aren’t even food. It’s nuts,” he said, shaking his head sadly.

I had a flashback to his brother, Ari, explaining that he didn’t have to clean the shower, because it was getting hit with soap and water all the time, so it was essentially self-cleaning. I’m not sure if I’d told Taryn this story, but she’ll find out soon enough. They move out next week.

“No kidding,” I said to Christopher.

“All those things you used to laugh at me for stocking up on when they went on sale. See?” I added in my older and wiser voice.

“Toilet paper!” he continued. “Do you know what a ripoff toilet paper is? It’s like wiping your butt with money.”

The woman at the checkout chose now to look up. I pretended I hadn’t heard him.

I glanced at the chocolate Easter eggs he was putting on the conveyor belt.

“What? They’re Pam’s favourite!” he said.

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Sometimes we forget how lucky we really are

When Dad was alive, he used to play the lottery.

Not every week, and never more than 10 bucks. He had a foil pie plate he kept in the dining room. He’d taken a narrow strip of left over trim from some project somebody started and never finished, sawed it into 49 little squares, and marked a number on each with a black Sharpie. I can still see his handwriting.

Every time you came in the house, you couldn’t leave until you’d pulled a few numbers. None of this machine-generated quick pick nonsense for Dad. We would tell him we didn’t want to choose numbers. We’d tell him to pick his own numbers. Mostly we’d pray for there to be a child around because children love doing this kind of thing. Children, and Dad.

I’d watch him sitting at the table, peering over his glasses as he scratched in the numbers on his sheet. It was odd, really. My father was the last person on earth to do anything by chance, yet here he was getting a chuckle out of trying his luck.

He was not a lucky kind of man, if you discount the fact that he got my mother to marry him and had some awesome daughters. Everything he got was hard fought and harder won, and I’m not sure if he played lottery numbers because he had a belief that his luck was going to change in one fell swoop, or because he could make us all do it with him.

On rare occasions he’d win $10, which meant that like most gamblers, he figured he was breaking even. He’d say he was plowing his “profits” back into the pot, which meant putting the purple tenner in the metal pie sheet full of broken bits of wood back on the dining room table. Mom loved this kind of decoration in her immaculate home.

I got stuck behind a woman in a convenience store the other day who had a system that rivalled NASA’s rocket launch program. I watched her fiddling about for an eon before remembering what a psychic told me decades ago. He said I’d never win the lottery, and it was a relief. It was like when Mom let me quit taking piano lessons. It gave me time to go and be good at some other thing, or at least stop being bad at this one.

When I’m with American friends, the ultimate conversation stopper is never about Canadian politeness or free health care; it’s about the fact that we don’t pay taxes on lottery winnings. They may envy many things, but none so much as a government that doesn’t take a wrecking ball to their powerball.

There was a time – before the psychic – when I thought a lot of money would solve a lot of my problems. Age has put the boots to that silliness; I know now if you can throw money at your problems and make them go away, you are lucky.

The truly heart-wrenching stuff, the things that really matter, take a different kind of currency. I swear that in a parallel universe, they’re playing their own carnival game where my heart is in a glass box and people get three swings for a buck.

I asked Dad once why he mucked about with splintered bits of numbered wood, if he really thought he was going to win the lottery. I’ll never forget what he told me, because it’s as true today as it was when he said it 40 years ago.

“Honey, you were born in Canada. You already won the lottery.”

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When you have no money for the beer getting place

“I still can’t find my wallet,” yelled Ari, 22.

Now, how is this my problem? It’s not my problem. But in the same way nobody in the house may rest if I can’t figure out how to scan something in the printer, nobody can rest if Ari can’t find his wallet.

We used to do this to my mother. It’s like ovaries are actually sonar detectors. I used to call Mom when I didn’t even live at home anymore and ask her where I’d left things. In my own home. She knew me so well she could usually figure out which coat pocket I’d left a set of keys in, or where I’d set something down while talking on the phone. It seems I got her hands, her smile and her ovarian sonar.

“Go out and check the cars,” I told him.

“I’ve already checked the cars. It’s not there,” he said, mildly exasperated that I wouldn’t believe him. I gave him that look that reminds him he’s a lot closer to being born yesterday than I am.

“Go out and check….”

He was heading back out to check the cars, because he knew I wouldn’t even begin to help until I’d seen with my own eyes that he’d ruled out the cars. He came back in holding his wallet.

“Told ya so,” I said.

“I couldn’t see it last night. And I wanted to go buy beer,” he said, ignoring my credit-taking initiative.

“Poor baby. A Saturday night without beer,” I laughed.

“Oh, I got beer. I just called Sarah.” I gave him the look.

Sarah lives across the street. Together with her brother, the four kids have grown up together. When we moved in, Ari and Sarah were not quite two years old. They all looked so much alike when they were younger that when I had all four of them with me, people assumed they were siblings.

Their lives have been entwined ever since, two mothers fluidly overseeing mealtimes, cottage trips, school runs and parties. The line is so blurred that to this day, if someone asks Sarah how many brothers she has, she says three.

“You mooched beer from Sarah?” I now asked Ari.

“Well, Taryn was at work and you were out. I really looked everywhere and couldn’t find my wallet. Everybody was meeting on line for a game, and I wanted beer. So I called Sarah.”

“And asked her what?”

“I told her she had to come with me to the store and buy me beer,” he explained patiently.

I pictured what I knew had happened. He’d called Sarah, explained his predicament, and she had sighed. She’d then put aside whatever she was doing and come over and got in the car to go with him to the beer store.

This is the same girl who, when the two were away in residence for their first years of school, coordinated each of them taking first day of school photos to send to the two mothers, who were no longer be able to take them.

Have I mentioned how much I love Sarah?

“I can’t believe you did that,” I told him, though of course I believed he’d done that. “You make sure you pay her back today.”

“She said not to worry about it,” said Ari.

“You pay her back now!”

I might have yelled this.

“I already did! Geez!”

The only thing better than your mom finding your wallet is your friend buying you beer.

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