When your house whispers at you, instead

Modern technology has robbed me of much of my noise making ability.

It’s torn away my frustration outlets. It has taken all the loud, banging thumps and crashes that came with a satisfying door slam or phone hang-up and replaced them with sad-faced emoticons or one with a devil spouting tiny horns. There is no comparison.

I grew up with a black Bell phone on the kitchen counter. That sucker could have knocked out Mike Tyson if hurled correctly. Slamming down the receiver was not just satisfying, it sent a thunderous message throughout the entire house. It even gave a weak ring in the midst of the thunder, as if the phone cried a little and tried to duck, which is what I imagined whomever had forced me to such action was also doing.

Along came flip phones and I would watch people deliver a weak slap to that tinny flap, exasperation replacing anger.

Nowadays, it doesn’t matter how hard I push a button, the message received on the other end is the same. Call ended. Nothing to see here. I have never hurled a cellphone, though people in movies do it all the time. I understand why.

I cracked a phone screen a few years back; it shattered simply by falling to the floor from a table. What kind of wimpy phone does that? I hadn’t stuffed it in its kryptonite case yet, but I found myself wondering why they don’t just build them out of that stuff instead of selling me another layer that should have been there to begin with.

I just answered my own question.

Have you ever tried to slam a modern drawer? No matter what you do, the drawer rescues itself halfway in and gently tucks itself away. This is an upsell feature on many products: cupboards and drawers that are unslammable.

I have a toilet seat that does this, too, which I will admit is a blessing in the middle of the night when I am not rattled from sleep because someone chose this time to remember I like the lid down at all times.

My Dad used to make a lot of noise with his tools. Well, my Dad made a lot of noise all the time, but I grew up believing that the only way to work a tool box was to repeatedly slam the narrow drawers shut as you hunted for whatever was eluding you. I still do this; I like the zipping noise the trays make as they’re whiskered in and out, and it makes me feel efficient in a very inefficient way: the screwdriver I’m looking for is usually in the junk drawer in the kitchen.

I’m not an especially violent person, though I do love to toss on a pair of boxing gloves once in a while. It’s not that I want to end every phone call with a crash or find fault with a cutlery drawer. I just miss the household code. If Mom heard a series of drawers being opened and shut, she’d yell and ask what we were looking for and tell us it was in the laundry. If Dad sutured the front door shut with a shove after work, we’d know good day/bad day without a word spoken. A phone slam meant: don’t ask your kid how the relationship is going — or, maybe, do.

With an increasingly decentralized household — everyone has their own phone, most watch entertainment on their own devices, a shared dinner hour is often claimed by bashing schedules — I miss the subtle theatrical cues that modern technology keeps erasing.

I just realized how silently I typed this. I learned on an old Underwood and I threw that carriage return with intent.

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Tearing apart supermarket mysteries, and family lies

If I go grocery shopping, I fling what I know we need into the cart.

I make substitutions on the spot depending on what’s available, what’s on sale and whether they’re charging $87 for a head of cauliflower that all of a sudden makes people who don’t even eat cauliflower lose their minds.

I found a cauliflower for two bucks a few weeks ago and was so excited, I bought it. It’s still in the fridge, doing that thing that forgotten cauliflower does when nobody is looking.

When the kids do the shopping, I scratch down a list, imagining each aisle in my head. Sometimes they call me and they’re not at the store I go to, which means the list is essentially useless, like trying to defuse an atomic bomb with the instructions to a Lego Star Wars kit. In these times of crisis, I metaphorically throw up my hands and tell them to buy what they want, which no doubt was their dark plan all along.

Ari, 21, and his girlfriend Taryn announced the other night they were making a recipe. Recipe shopping is always their problem, not mine. If you want exotic things like cumin and ginger and rice, you’re on your own. I eat a lot of Shreddies.

“I need whole milk,” said Taryn.

“Good. I need a few other things when you go. Take my card,” I told her.

She was rifling through the fridge, trying to decide what else they needed.

“What’s whole milk?” asked Ari.

“It’s a kind. That’s an American recipe, so just look for homogenized. When I was a kid we called it homo. I think they still do.”

He snickered on cue.

We usually buy one per cent, and a lactose free one for me.

“But there’s also two per cent and whole, or homogenized….” I heard Taryn talking as they drifted out the door.

When they returned, Ari was putting things away. He held up a slender red carton.

“This is only 3.25 per cent,” he said calmly.

I glanced up from my computer.

“Yeah, homo milk.”

I shrugged.

“I couldn’t find it, and it makes no sense. Taryn told me to go get whole milk. I’m standing there seeing skim and one per cent and two per cent, and then this 3.25 and I’m still looking for whole.”

I started to laugh, but quietly so he couldn’t tell.

“I walked down the entire milk aisle looking for 100 per cent milk. Whole. That’s what makes sense,” he continued. “But no, I get to 3.25 and it stops. I thought I missed it.”

By now Taryn had brought in the rest of the groceries, which Ari started putting away.

“I asked him to go get the milk. He was gone forever.”

“BECAUSE THERE WASN’T ANY 100 PER CENT MILK,” a voice bellowed from inside the fridge.

Last week, he discovered there are unsalted Premium Plus crackers. (“I mean, why even bother?”)

We have had discussions about unthawing meat for dinner.

And I cracked a 20-year family mystery regarding orange juice for him just last month. He thought there was a nutritional reason I buy orange juice without pulp; I told him we didn’t use to have a dishwasher and the pulp stuck to the glasses, so I never bought juice with pulp.

The look on his face was similar to when he found out his hamster, Cookie, hadn’t died of natural causes, unless you consider a cat who learned how to open a hamster cage natural causes.

If he asks me about the Caramilk secret, I’m going to continue to lie.

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Want to take that tone with me? Whatever

“Why do you text so weird?”

Only Ari had the nerve to ask me that directly a couple of years ago, but I know all four kids think it. They make fun of me.

From the time I sent my first text, about six years ago, they’ve been relentless. That first text arrived on Christopher’s phone as a long string of letters: I didn’t know how to put a space in between the words. It’s been all downhill since then.

I keep reading all these articles about how what you don’t say in texts and emails is more revealing than what you do, and I totally agree. I was never, ever a smiley face kind of person until I found myself grasping at that most annoying of little smirks to prove I’m not a bitch of the highest order. Tone is everything, they say. And while I staunchly refuse to LOL or C U LTR, I am not averse to throwing in many hehs or uhms.

There are sites you can visit that string together some pretty hilarious autocorrects — texts that end up being far outside what the original message was intended to be. Many of the best ones are between parents and their kids; some are sweet, but most are just mortifying.

I don’t have any mortifying ones on my phone, but mostly because I am so careful in what I send. I spell out each word, and I cautiously wonder how my words will be interpreted by my offspring or their mates. I never just say “OK” because I think that will look cold; I say “kk” and I know they laugh behind my back. They also joke that I put in hugs and kisses, I write I LOVE YOU in capital letters just for fun, and I tell them not to text and drive.

I use exclamation points in texts though I rarely use them when I speak or write.

I am not particularly jovial in nature, but I am terrified that my messages might reveal me to be dismissive or harsh. You can tell someone you’re grounding them for a month and taking away the car but if you follow it with an exclamation point, it doesn’t look so bad.

I don’t read as much into responses I get from the kids, mostly because I’m happy when they respond at all. If I’m away I text the girlfriends; only Pammy and Taryn will answer me and I’m sure it’s out of pity. The only expression I will not let stand is “whatever.”

Now, there is an answer that will send me down a surly warpath.

Disengaging, dismissive, all the disses.

I’ve kept letters from my parents and cards from old boyfriends; I’ve kept phone messages long after I should have deleted them, old phones with scrolls of texts, and I’ve buried emails deep in hard drives that will probably never see the light of day again.

But respond to me with “whatever” and I will seethe. I remember using the pejorative term to my own parents in full throttle teenage nastiness, but somehow, having it hang in print to be revisited instead of fade away with all of the other attitude is worse.

You may not whatever me. Or worst still, whatev. Don’t whatev me.

And that, ultimately, is why I don’t shrug off the articles trying to decipher how we communicate; it matters. I’ve saved notes the boys have written over the years because written words somehow always have more power, and can be revisited. The text on those phones is forming a written diary I didn’t have with my parents.

I think it’s valuable.

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To sleep, perchance to dream — ay, there’s the rub

I think of all the things that used to seem so illicit, the things people would smuggle across borders or hide from their significant others. The things parents would lie to their children about and the things children would lie to their parents about. I think about objects I have coveted and circumstances I have envied.

And now the only thing I would sneak, lie for, covet or envy, is sleep. I’ve also discovered it is not only my deep secret, it is dominating the landscape of almost every person I know. Hit a certain age, say goodbye to sleep. It was supposed to be once the kids were grown, you’d get it all back. Tell that to 3 a.m., staring at you in all its glowing judgment. Then 3:10. Then 3:59. Tell that to 6:30 when you’ve finally dozed off again, at 5:45.

My doctor has told me often enough that I have to retrain myself. Like sleep training a baby, I have to sleep train myself. I follow the rules and do all the things and still I’m reading in bed at four in the morning, various cats wondering if it’s time for breakfast.

I’ve blamed those creatures and mucked with their schedules. The cats don’t know who is allowed to sleep with me, or if anyone is, and I often drift off to a symphony of paws scratching on one side of the door or the other. I can’t remember who is in or out.

I spent 14 years with one cat sleeping on my feet on top of the covers, after a childhood of another one doing the same thing. When I travel I plunk a pillow near my feet so I can go to sleep. A cat slumbering in the room is like a nightlight or white noise machine. Cats do a thing where they all promise to behave if they can just stay in the room; they’re liars, of course and I kick them out, wishing just once one of them could sleep on my feet and not take part in the NASCAR race taking place under the bed.

I blame not working out enough, but I’m too tired to work out. I blame not eating properly, but I’m too tired to cook. Half the time I’m too tired to even eat.

If I wake up after a rare decent night’s sleep, I want to celebrate by taking a nap.

I stopped by my sister’s house the other day, and her daughter greeted me at the door shushing me.

“Mom’s talking a nap; she hasn’t been sleeping lately,” she told me, almost needlessly.

I work with a crew of teenagers who are usually yawning by the time we get to work at 9 o’clock at night. “What do you all have to be tired about?” I would ask them. One blinked shyly before admitting she was tired because she’d been up since 5 for a full day of classes, her other part-time job, and had then come in to work on the show until nearly 11 p.m. After taking transit to get everywhere. I stopped complaining.

My doctor has checked out all my moving parts and I’m a fairly healthy non-sleeping person. One friend suggested more vitamin D and some sun; I asked if it was working for him, and he yawned and admitted not much. Another suggested yoga, but the best way for me to fidget is to be told to lie still and clear my mind.

I’m debating taking my sister one of my cats, though I’m sure her husband would kill me.

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When the cost of saving money is too high

Let’s talk about the “sharing economy.”

You might be fooled into thinking it’s sorta like the old barter economy. You know, that thing where I’d watch your kids while you went to buy new bras because there is nothing worse than taking a 3-year-old into a change room and in return you’d pick mine up from after school care because I’m stuck in traffic hyperventilating that I’ll be charged a dollar for every minute I’m late, which is still cheap compared to having to hear that I love them less because I was the last mom to show up.

The sharing economy is not the barter economy. Trust me. The sharing economy — strangers in cars picking you up with the tap of an app, places to stay by checking in online — are convenient and a deal and at first blush, a fabulous way to circumvent The Man. Do we still say that? The Man? Is that still a thing?

No, the sharing economy is about those of us who aren’t The Man battling it out to be among the worst paid, least protected and most exploited workers in the country. We’re essentially volunteering to work under conditions that people before us fought long and hard to eradicate.

Let’s say you have an arrangement with a handful of your neighbours. One owns a snowblower, someone else has the good weed whacker, another has a chainsaw. Nobody needs to use all of these things all of the time, so you’ve all sorted a way to share. You’ve made it work, because the idiot who used everything but contributed nothing finally moved.

Now, take that arrangement, and have a new neighbour move in and say, “I’ve created a schedule for you so we can determine where the tools should be. I will let everyone know when things are available, but you can continue to purchase the tools and maintain them at your own cost. But because I’m streamlining this and providing a central information hub, everyone is now required to pay 10 bucks a month into the kitty.”

The kitty is Hub Guy.

The problem isn’t with the neighbours who tell this new neighbour to stuff it; it’s with the fact that more and more business models look like this and people think it’s a good thing. Hub Guy isn’t on the hook if the chain snaps on that chainsaw, or someone runs the wrong fuel mix through your lawn mower. He’s not on the hook for anything. You are. It’s like some corporate evil has hijacked the meaning of community and found a way to profit.

All you know is that you want something cheaper, and now you can get it. You can cut out some layers of bureaucracy and get a ride, a hotel or a handyman cheaper. Except that ride is probably not insured, that hotel is probably not licensed, and that person in your home might not be bonded.

It’s like the whole world has become a temp agency and we wonder why nobody has a stable income, benefits or a future.

You’d think, especially in Hamilton, that we’d know better. You think we’d understand the dangers of workers hurt on the job, and the necessity of safety nets and oversight. You think we’d understand the race to the bottom takes quality along with price, as we eat fruit shipped from China instead of our own Niagara region. I mean it — go read that label.

Every time you circumvent some system you hate instead of working to fix it, you defeat yourself. By all means adapt new economic models, but require it is done in a way that protects both workers and consumers.

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When the readers do the writing – this one’s for you, Katie

A couple of years ago a young woman wrote to me and asked me for advice.

Her father had passed away suddenly at a terribly young age; she was pregnant and her question to me was as raw and torn as an open wound: how could her unborn child ever know him? How would she remember her father?

She doesn’t know it, but I cried over that note. It was like blowing on embers I thought had gone out. Ari had just turned 2 when Dad died and Christopher would have his fifth birthday just a few days later. How would my sons know a man they would never be able to remember?

I thought about that new mother, her joy entwined with her sadness, and told her the one thing that could make losing her father remotely bearable: write about him.

I told her you don’t have to be a writer, you just have to be disciplined. Every time you remember something he said or did that made you laugh, write it down. Every time someone mentioned something you’d forgotten or never knew, write it down. Every time your child does something that reminds you of him, write it down. Prose, poetry, song lyrics, random thoughts; stuff everything in a journal and begin a history of things you don’t ever want to forget.

I told her I’d been lucky in ending up having the job I do. I had no clear path to these pages, it just sort of happened and in the beginning I was terrified of disappointing readers or my sons, and eventually myself.

And then the beauty of life unfurling in real time took over, and almost inadvertently, my sons have a history of their grandparents I could never have hoped to cobble together on purpose. It took the shifting of time, the changing of moods, all the wonderful and terrible things that have happened since Mom and Dad have gone to form the backbone of this narrative that has a life of its own.

Write, I told her. Write because our minds are slippery shape shifters, chameleons so capable of making you believe the changes they’re undertaking are of your own volition when they’re not. Memory is a victim: of time, of mood, of cynicism, of laziness and of pain. You won’t remember to put it down later, and if you do, it won’t be in quite that way.

And you get better at it. At first, you write the hurt and the loss and the anger. Finally, you break through to the gold, those moments that make your kids happy to be told, “you remind me of your grandpa.”

You find permission to acknowledge imperfections and you find the power to forgive someone for letting you down. You find your own voice through the noise and you find the power to forgive yourself, too.

People who know me know I’m still devastated I’m not a daughter anymore. Life has kicked me in the head enough to understand time spent focused on things I can’t change is time wasted, and to also understand none of us have that kind of time to waste. I like a good wallow as much as the next person, but I find it a luxury of those who haven’t a loss that cuts clear through to the bone.

That young mom wrote to me last week. She’d written a beautiful piece reminding everyone it’s Heart Month, but her message was wrapped in a story about her Dad. She captured his humour, his spirit and their love.

She wrote it.

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Fooling around on the most important person in your life

I texted Pammy, Christopher’s girlfriend, to ask if she’d come to the mall with me.

I’ve read it is better to take a seasoned guide when you’re going to places that are unfamiliar and possibly dangerous.

My request immediately put her on high alert: “What do you need that is actually making you go to the store to get it?” came her reply.

She’s right. There is nothing I can’t order online and then wait patiently for it to arrive. I wear stretchy things or leather things, I know my sizes, and my colour palette spans all the way from black to black. I will not lie; my UPS man is one of my closest friends. We discuss whatever I’m driving that week, and he usually comes up the driveway laughing as he says, “Let me guess, a pair of boots you just couldn’t live without.”

And here I thought I maintained an air of mystery.

Which made it all rather odd when Christopher began working for UPS over the holiday season. Things got weirder still when he found out his route was the area around our house. I sneak boots into the house like teenagers sneak in dope or girlfriends. And now here was my son about to discover the sordid truth about his mother.

Soon after he started, I asked if he liked it.

“I like it. People are happy to see you,” he told me.

“Well, of course they are. You’re bringing them boots,” I replied.

I was pleased when he got the job. His last one had been as a bouncer in a strip club.

It’s hard to meet up with the other moms you’ve known since preschool and lead with that.

Before every shift I’d stand on the stairs and kiss him on the forehead and tell him to hide behind the big guys. And every time he would sigh and remind me he was the big guy.

At UPS, the biggest challenge had been finding him a uniform that fit.

I’d overlooked one salient fact when he started. He was working in tandem with a driver — my driver, of course. As they headed down a side street one day, the driver said he had a delivery for one street over. Christopher said, “Let me guess, 1234 Sommerfeld St.” (that is not my actual address, though when I die the city should totally consider it) and laughed as his driver thought he was clairvoyant.

Between all members of this household, we are “known to UPS” like some people are known to police.

My sister Roz is not much better. I’m sure her postman knows she’s a Sagittarius who loves to cook and likes one of her cats more than the other. They chat most days and he could probably fake her signature if he weren’t a bonded professional.

She and her neighbour got into a bit of a tug at Christmas over what they’d given him.

“I gave him homemade truffles,” said Sandy.

“I gave him a gift card,” replied Roz. Smugly.

Dude cleans up on that street.

With the holidays over, things inevitably got quieter on the delivery front. I stopped asking Christopher to hide deliveries in the garage if I wasn’t home, and even Ari started getting fewer deliveries from Computer Heaven or whatever they call it.

My text to Pammy was about going for jeans, because everyone knows searching for the perfect pair of jeans is basically a unicorn hunt unless you’re built like a swizzle stick.

Roz called me laughing yesterday.

Her postman asked her if she’d been seeing someone else.

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When the cat starts gas-lighting you

I’ve been having time issues lately. Little slipknots in an otherwise linear day, tiny burps that are just enough to make me question my consciousness if not my actual sanity.

I do wonder if sometimes the butter is slipping off the old noodle, but I can usually find an explanation I can live with.

When the clocks went back in the fall, Christopher had already moved out. He is the only one tall enough to reach the giant clock in the kitchen, so it has defiantly been declaring the wrong time ever since. At Christmas, his Aunt Roz grabbed him and made him change it. I was not aware of this and continued to add an hour to the time when I saw it. This produced some problems.

I have owned many cats, but the current crop includes a pair of kittens so boisterous and badly behaved we call them instead something that rhymes with kittens. Just a year old, they show no signs of slowing down. Cairo, the girl, likes to sit on my bedside table. She also likes to hit the buttons on my clock radio.

One morning my alarm didn’t go off. She had changed the time on the alarm. Other days I’ve heard music wailing away from my room midday; she’s hit the button that plays music for an hour before you sleep. She has turned the volume button way up. She has turned it way down. I know it is her because she sits beside it staring at me, wondering when she will get her reward for mastering electronics at such a young age.

I already have sleep issues that would rival the greats, like Van Gogh, Abraham Lincoln, and my Dad. If you’re a normal person and you miss a night of sleep, you’ll be a groggy bear. If you’re bipolar and you mess with sleep patterns, it’s like jumping into a volcano.

I balance the beast with a predictable life and a tiny white pill every night. Sometimes that doesn’t work, especially since the arrival of the rhymes-with-kittens. Where my father would roam around the house at 3 a.m. and peer out the blinds looking for loiterers and foul play, I burrow into my bed and read while the cats determine if I can be tricked into feeding them.

The other day I thought lying down for an hour with a book would help offset back-to-back bad nights. I never, ever fall asleep in the day so I figured it couldn’t hurt. I promptly fell asleep, but didn’t know it. I dreamt that I’d broken my bedside lamp and had gone online to find a new one; I dreamt I’d made dinner; I dreamt I folded laundry.

I’m not half that industrious when I’m awake. I also dreamt I’d managed to get eight winter tires into the trunk of an Elantra, which tells you right there I should have known I was dreaming.

When I woke up and figured out I’d been asleep, I spent the rest of the day being grateful my lamp wasn’t broken, making the dinner that hadn’t magically appeared, and folding laundry. No tires were required to be crammed into any trunks.

I went up to bed that night determined to sleep through. I made the bed so I could get in it (don’t ask), and hauled open my laptop. Then I looked at my clock and realized it was already after 11. Cursing a day that had managed to get away from me, I popped a sleeping pill, catching a glance of the computer screen as I shut it down: 9 p.m.

There’s nothing wrong with my noodle; my cat just plays roulette with my clock.

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Mom’s keepsake sparks memories of my first boyfriend

Some anniversaries are more bittersweet than others

When my mom knew she was dying 16 years ago, she spent a lot of her compromised energy worrying about what would happen to the things she’d spent a lifetime accumulating. Always tidy and meticulous, she did a good job dispersing nearly everything. What would the things I chose to keep say about me?

I tugged open a little-used drawer on my dresser a couple of days ago, and spied familiar brown leather. My mom’s keepsake box, where she kept her never-worn earrings, clips of white-blond hair from her daughters’ first haircuts, and tiny silver bracelets we’d each received as babies. I scanned through a collection of birth announcements, but stopped short on a clipping I hadn’t seen in years. Just a few lines, clipped from some paper, announcing the fatal crash of my first boyfriend. Mom’s familiar writing, “Jan. 81″ in one corner. He died 35 years ago this week; it’s like she was putting it into my hand.

The fact she kept this for 19 years tells you a lot of things about the boy. We were never destined to be more than teenage sweethearts, but Allan was always more than just that. Like most of my friends, I’d desperately wanted to have a boyfriend though I had little idea of how to actually have one. Allan was open and kind, full of romantic gestures that seemed sprung from some fairy tale I was still young enough to believe.

In him, my mother found the perfect boy: one she could feed endlessly. He would come to the cottage and happily sleep in a bunk bed far too short for his 6-foot-3 frame. Allan was a big brother to Gilly; he would show up at Roz’s apartment and she would — what else — feed him. The entire time we dated, none of my friends needed to call parents for a ride home. He would blow up his long-distance bill to call me, drive an hour each way to spend my lunch hour with me, and bring me flowers every Sunday. My father replaced a father he could never please, and after our relationship ended he continued to come around. When you date a Sommerfeld, you date all of us, and this was something I learned from Allan.

He was goofy and sweet and genuine; he could leave his tangled early years outside our door and long after we broke up, I realized he may have adored me but he needed my family. I was in grade 11 and Allan was in grade 12, but age wise, I was only 14 to his 18.

My parents quashed the whole idea but Allan slowly won them over by just being who he was, not who he thought they wanted him to be. That our bond outlasted a high school romance reminds me every day why I’ll never underestimate young love.

I stared at the clipping my mother had kept all these years.

Allan has no way of knowing how he has lived on in this family for 35 years after his death. My own kids know of him as a kind of footnote, usually in the context of why I don’t downplay when they fall in love and in my cautionary tales about drunk drivers. My youngest is now older than Allan ever was, and I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge twin pangs of regret and relief.

Maybe they’ll wonder more one day, though. When they go through the box in the basement with cards and letters and dead roses, and the small yellow clipping that I, like my mother, have held onto all these years.

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Sorry for being slightly less thrifty than you were, Mom and Dad

At least I feel guilty: on not following the ways of my parents

The corner of the kitchen where I work is cold. Old double brick houses aren’t famous for their insulative qualities, especially on the north side. My Dad used to keep the heat turned down to something in line with a penguin habitat, but I don’t; I refuse to be cold. Every time I consider this, I think about all the things I do that would make my parents wince.

I’m not particularly wasteful. I turn off lights behind me, but I also leave one on over the stove until we’ve gone up for the night because I hate walking into a dark room. In some ways it’s lazy — I could just hit the switch on the way in — but it’s more philosophical: I want the comfort of that glow in the heart of my home.

I keep the screen on the front door open a bit in the summer because the cats like to look out. I have the air conditioning on at the same time. I am cooling off the great outdoors, Mom. I know. I’m sorry.

I buy expensive food for my cats. Christer calls it câté. My father used to give our cat, Nooly, hunks of gristle and say it was good for his teeth. The silly cat ate anything Dad gave him and lived forever and I know my father would be rolling his eyes as my feline warriors wait for a tin to be opened twice a day. I’m sorry Dad, but once you’ve seen a cat do a butt scoot across the carpet from a UTI, you’ll spring for the good stuff.

My Mom clipped coupons and price matched and drove around to get deals. I admired her for that; I don’t do it. I like shopping as much as a cat likes a UTI and getting me into even one store is a minor miracle. I’ve been known to make lists, but I have never once actually had the list in my hand when I get to the store. I send the kids to shop and trust me, there is nothing more random than grocery shopping done by a hungry boy with his mother’s debit card.

I do a lot more laundry than my Mom did. If I can’t decide the provenance of a towel or sweater, into the wash it goes. It drives them nuts, but quite frankly, kids are gross. My Dad used to hang clothing on hooks all over the place — the door to the garage, the basement, his closet — because he could “get another wear out of it”. My mother would have to grab them when he wasn’t looking to sneak them into the wash. Kids aren’t the only ones who are gross.

Of course, both parents had a lot of do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do moments. I don’t think anyone bought more sheets and towels than my Mom. I’m still using some of them and she died nearly 16 years ago. She went into bedding stores like some people go to animal shelters: she was merely finding them all a good home. My mother could cross-border shop like it was an Olympic sport and whereas I declare anything I bring back, my mother would tell us wearing six layers of clothing and a piece of duct tape over our mouths was normal.

My Dad would shake his head as Mom wasted gas heading to the mall, but he would drive for hours going nowhere on a Sunday. It’s probably the one thing my Dad and I would agree on; he’d curse the temperature of my house, but he’s still riding shotgun on all my restless drives.

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