Let the Games Begin ~ part 2

I know we’ve come a long way,
We’re changing day to day,
But tell me, where do the children play?
~Cat Stevens

Continued from Let the Games Begin Part 1

We moved into our six-bedroom red brick bungalow in Barrie, Canada on Hallowe’en day of 1970.  An auspicious day.  I was four years old and extremely excited!  Our next door neighbours, The MacNeil’s, were a big family of eleven and Ben MacNeil was five years old — a built-in buddy right next door.  And buddies we were.  Within seconds of arriving Ben and I were fast friends and could be seen chasing each other around the outside of our new brick bungalow.  I was gonna like it in this house.

From that moment, Ben and I spent almost every waking minute together.  We played house and school and hide-and-go-seek.  Often, because of the sheer number of kids between our two households, we would have huge games of Red Rover and British Bulldog, or 500-Up in the MacNeils’ huge back yard.  One time, the MacNeils got a new game of Croquet.  We played it non-stop for days.

In the winter we would go sliding on the MacNeils’ very own sliding hill at the back of their house.  It was a perfectly steep hill which led into the parking lot of an eight-story apartment building that we imaginatively called: ‘the apartments’.  Sometimes there would be twenty or more kids out there in the dark, with just the reflection off the snow and a few parking lot lamps to light the path.  At other times it would be just Ben, my younger brother, Luke, and Ben’s two younger siblings.

The MacNeils lived in a mansion.  They had something like ten bedrooms, four bathrooms and a huge recreation room upstairs at the end of the house where parents never ventured.  Their dining room had the longest table in it that I had ever seen.  We would often do our homework at that table.  I would marvel at how neatly Ben did his assignments.  I aspired to be just like him.

There was also a piano in there.  We both took lessons but Ben went a lot farther than I, achieving levels of local celebrity status on piano. Ben’s older brother Noah was an idol of mine.  He always had the most incredible ideas about what we should all do together.  He would make up elaborate games or he would teach us how to be artistic.

Sometimes we would get to play hide-and-go-seek in their house on the second floor and sometimes, when Mrs McNeil wasn’t aware, even in the Attic.  There were secret hiding places and cupboards everywhere.  Ben’s room had a secret room inside his closet.  We spent hours in there.  Their house was so much fun!  During one game, we looked high and low for teen-aged Ethan who would have been the same age as my brother Mark.  No matter what we did, he was nowhere to be found.  Finally, we checked the cupboards that ran along the top of the twelve foot walls in the rec-room.  There he was.  I could never understand how he had managed to get up there.  I was impressed.  Playing with the MacNeils was so much fun!  We would never want to go home at the end of the evening, when it was time.  We would hear Dr. McNeil shout:  ‘It’s time for the Players to go home!”  We would quietly make our way home, back to our boring little bungalow next door.

The MacNeils had a cupboard in their kitchen that was stuffed full of cookies and sugary cereals.  At our house, we had gingersnaps, and that was on a good day, and then only two each and they were never just sitting in the cupboard.  They were hidden.  The cereal choices at our place were simple: puffed wheat, puffed rice or shredded wheat.  Sometimes, if we were good, we got plain Cheerios or Shreddies.

After some of my older brothers and sisters moved out on their own though, the choices got better and they almost always included Shreddies and Cheerios and then CornFlakes! I can still conjure up the feeling of extreme privilege that came along with that cereal. We also got real milk then too. 2%. Prior to that it was skim milk mixed from dry powder (blek!) which later became powdered skim mixed with 2% milk.  When it was just Luke and I at home, Dad started buying homogenized full fat milk. It was like drinking ice-cream.  That was sheer luxury after the watered down and often involuntarily gag-producing taste of powdered skim.  When Eva, Amy and Matt came back home for a supper meal, on occasion, they would comment on how spoiled we were now that we were being fed the higher quality groceries.

Mom bought groceries on a tight budget.  We had simple but good meals.  Things like sausages and tomato sauce, scalloped potatoes, shake-and-bake (the odd time), spaghetti and meat balls on Sunday night, Pate Chinois (pronounced pot-tay sheen-wa), which was my favourite meal) and we always had a green salad with supper, and then after all the plates were nearly licked clean, we were permitted dessert.  Sometimes Dad would still be hungry and would finish off our meals for us.  Other times he would angrily and loudly tell us to Eat Up!

About twice per month, we would have left-overs or home-made soup–basically a huge pot of soup made from everything left in the fridge before the new grocery order was bought.   We fondly referred to it as home-made poop because when you’re a kid, you don’t tend to like things to eat that aren’t completely decipherable.  All we could decipher out of Mom’s soup was a pea here and there and perhaps a piece of carrot.  The rest was left to the imagination.  One time I absolutely refused to eat it and found myself still staring at it, while it congealed and turned cold, at around 7 o’clock that night.

Supper had always started at 5:30 SHARP as soon as Dad walked in the door and sat down at the table, sometimes pounding the table with his fists – an indication of his hunger.

We tried to keep things calm at the supper table. Mom would bounce up and down from her chair getting this and that and, ‘Mom, while you’re up, can you grab me a glass of water?’

Sometimes Dad would tell stories about Schollard Hall and put on his falsetto voice imitating one of his teachers.  We would all laugh.  Usually our meals were not calm though, someone would spill a glass of milk.  Then Dad would pound the table and shaking his head and shout:

I HAD NO BREAKFAST,

A LOUSY LUNCH,

AND NOW I CAN’T EVEN EAT MY SON-OF-A-BITCH-OF-A DINNER!

The MacNeils had their groceries DELIVERED from IGA on a Saturday afternoon. Sometimes I would witness the arrival of the grocery truck backing up to the MacNeils kitchen door.  I had never seen so many boxes of great food in my life.  They even had a freezer full of fudgsicles and they didn’t even have to ask before having one.

In our house the groceries were pretty strictly rationed out.  Cookies and other goodies were hidden away in special places that only Mom could find.  Sometimes she’s hide something so well that even she couldn’t find it!

At Christmas time we had special food in the house.  We always got a crate of tangerines.  They were the really sweet ones all individually wrapped in purple tissue paper.  Mom would keep the carton under the couch.  She was pretty generous with them compared to other stuff.  We would also have a pound of real butter.  Mom would buy two pounds, one for shortbread cookies and the other for us to have with turkey dinner.  Wow it was good compared to the bright yellow margarine that came wrapped in waxed paper.

charlie brown

Christmas was great when Mom and Dad didn’t go to Florida.  Mom always bought us a huge jigsaw puzzle to work on as a family under the Christmas tree.  I’ll always remember how much I enjoyed that.  We would also sing Christmas carols and play all kinds of board games during the holidays.  Of course, most of the time, during the day, we would be outside in the snow or on the rink in the back yard.  Often the door was locked and we were forced to stay outside and make our own fun for two hours or so.

There were always so many kids roaming around, it was easy to find something fun to do — climbing the snowbanks, rolling or sliding down hills, making a snowman or a snow-cave.  In all those years though, I can not remember one adult being outside with us to play.  We were completely unsupervised and it was only if we were bleeding or on fire that we would venture home to Mom who would take us in her arms and help us with our troubles.

Continued at Let The Games Begin Part 3

My Bro Jobe

Climbing out of his crib before he could walk, here is the story of my brother Jobe.

baby red headMy brother Jobe who was number five in the family line-up was a pure handful from the moment he was born.  He was a cuter-than-cute red-headed, freckled-face boy who even as a baby was making headlines around the bridge table as Mom would tell the other mothers how Job had climbed out of his crib already.  This was before he could walk.  It began there.

A couple of years later, when all was quiet and perhaps Mom was baking something in the small kitchen in the Willows (our crowded townhouse on the Main St of Walden, Ontario, ( Let the Games Begin 🏀 ), little industrious Job climbed up on the stylish chrome and Formica table in the dining room eager to touch the glass chandelier. In that same dining room sat our beautiful upright piano that Mom had stylishly mac-tacked with orange and purple-petaled flowers (It was the 70s, Man).  chandelierAnyway, before he could stop himself, and with little pink tongue clamped to the right side of his mouth, he systematically dismantled the whole intricate chandelier, but not a piece of glass would touch the floor.  Four year-old Job had very carefully clutched each glass piece in his little hands and put each one down on the table top he was standing on… in exact order of its place aloft.  He took a three-dimensional glass chandelier and made it one-dimensional.  All Mom had to do later was carefully hook it all back up.  She was fascinated by his ability to do this, and so were we.

One time, at the camp where all row boatnine of us moved for the summer months to be on the lake and running a tourist camp, when the lake was whipped up with white caps due to an off-shore wind, Jobe thought it would be interesting to push the twenty or so aluminum boats and canoes out into the water to watch the wind take them across the lake.  Imagine the spectacle that was.  A fleet of unmanned water craft afloat in a line across a choppy eight-mile lake.  Little Jobe was fascinated, jumping up and down, clapping and laughing devilishly and pointing a chubby finger at what he had done.  Mom and Dad and our four older siblings scrambled to get the boats back, some swimming out to them, some using a motorized boat to get them.  Who would think of doing such a thing…JOBE! Corporal punishment ensued.  (Corporal punishment was quite popular back then.)

In later years, Jobe would usually be the one getting into trouble and doing more and more high-risk things.  He would dive off the top of the diving tower and off Echo Rock and the Locks — these were all very high dives and more than a little dangerous.  Jobe was the only one of the seven of us to master the back-flip-and-a-half on the trampoline. Water-Skier - Version 3 And when it came to water-skiing, he was quite impressive – slalom-skiing beautifully and even starting from the dock or the water on one-ski, which took a great deal of strength, balance and coordination.  His physicality was confident and true.  He was physically gifted. Mr Laset attested to this fact when I called him last winter to casually affirm my Elementary school memories when forty years ago he had been our beloved coach.  In gymnastics, Job would fly off the spring board, catching tons of air before his hands met the leather box-horse and with high hips he would execute a beautiful hand spring.  trouble riverAt the lake, Jobe would even ski down the Trouble River a twisty-turny, black-watered mysterious river that we all thought of as bottomless due to scary stories that we would tell by the camp fire.

Some of Jobe’s escapades required funding that he just didn’t have, nor could he easily earn.  Luckily, he had worked out a solution for his shortfall.  But first, you need to know the layout of the cottage that we called ‘The Office’, because the layout was key.  The Office had two bedrooms on the main level.  In one room was Mom and Dad’s twin beds (stylish at the time, no idea why) and a crib where Luke would sleep when he was a baby.  The neighbouring room had a double-bed where I and one or both of my sisters would sleep, and then above us, up a rickety ladder in the hallway, was ‘the loft’ where the three boys would usually sleep: Matt, Mark and Jobe.  The sides of the loft were open, such that those up there could look down through the rafters into the two bedrooms below.  Privacy?  I think not.  In fact, now that I am writing this, I remember a game in which we would reach way over on the rafters and then swing down over the beds below and drop down with a squeal, landing on the soft mattress, or anyone who happened to still be in bed.  (This was a forbidden activity, so only done when the adults were out of the office.)

So…Jobe’s funding…right.  Well, the ceiling was open into the loft, and when Dad would be inevitably taking a nap on a warm summer afternoon or on a rainy day, or on any day really, Jobe would spy Dad’s seldom-washed polyester double-knits hanging on the hook by the bedroom door.  red head boy nrStealthily, hazel eyes rolling this way and that, with a fishing rod, and pink tongue stuck out just so, he would hook said pants and reel them up, ever so quietly, stealing glances down at Dad who was crashed out on the twin bed.  The pants would seemingly float up into the loft where he then would quickly reach his small sure hand into the right front pocket and take out the roll of cash from Dad’s polyester double-knits.  (Every summer, Dad would busily sell various items to campers: ice, worms, fuel – all for cash. Cash being cash, it was untraceable, so Jobe would help himself to a twenty or two (a small fortune back then) and he would be set for his next escapade.  Of course, his hazel eyes keenly watching Dad, face slightly flushed, he would then expertly reel the double-knits back down to the hanging place in Dad’s room, ensuring that any noise he made at all was made when the loudest cycle of the snore was emerging from Dad.  With the money, Jobe and I would sometimes go horse-back riding which back then was $5 per hour! Or, Jobe would buy gas to put in the Budd family’s motor boat tank for ever more water skiing.  We did get paid for chores at the camp, but not nearly enough for all that Jobe wanted to do.

boy with pipeOne of the chores at the camp was the daily picking up of garbage using the big red wheel-barrow.  We had to wheel over the gravel roads around the 21 acres to each of the campsites and to the nine cabins and ask at the door for their garbage.  Then, to the upper or lower field, often rolling over a large rock and accidentally dumping the whole mound due to its precariousness in the wheel barrow.  With gloves on (in theory). we had to then sort it: burn the burnables in a huge 40-gallon barrel and pitch the cans, jars and bottles into the old open trailer that Dad would take to the dump every few weeks.  Sorting people’s garbage was really gross and more than a little dangerous; so was burning it, especially in a field of dry-as-bone hay.  We were burning garbage in a huge barrel at tender ages.  I would have been seven or eight and Jobe would have been ten or eleven.  I have no idea how we didn’t all have 3rd degree burns or didn’t lose an eye because something would inevitably smash or blow up.  Of course Job LIKED it when something smashed or blew up.  He would often HELP it to smash or blow up and then he would exclaim, ‘Morgan did you SEE THAT?!’ or ‘WATCH THIS!!’…BANG…  It terrified me.  I was often cowering and inching away as Job had his maniacal fun.  A side note: Jobe NEVER smashed beer bottles.  They were refundable and provided yet another nice little stream of income.

boys swimmingJobe’s temper was also famous.  He would often be a happy-go-lucky youngster, looking for fun and loving to laugh.  But, often, he was treated meanly by our father…he wasn’t the quiet, obedient academic-type that Dad wanted in a son, I guess.  None of his sons were showing signs of being university types (at this point, Luke was too little to show the signs of his future studiousness).  Dad could be downright mean with biting sarcasm and cruel comments. He would say things like, “Jobe, you could have been a good hockey player, but, then you got hard to handle.” Dad would also be quite physical, grabbing an arm, pulling hair or an ear to propel one of his children in the direction of his choosing.  One Christmas, Dad wrapped up a used dictionary and put it under the tree for Jobe.  On the inside cover he had written: Have a read of this once in awhile.  You might learn something. From Dad.

I believe this treatment didn’t help Jobe to find his way very well. His temper would flare more and more as he got closer and closer to his teenage years.  Perhaps he would be building something with hammer and nails, claw-hammer-wood-handle and if he missed that nail, there was a very good chance the hammer would end up in the lake and hopefully your noggin’ wasn’t in its flight path.

* * *

After Jobe got out of juvie, he went to live with our eldest sister Eva and her husband, Peter for a year due to he and Dad having serious personality conflicts. (A few years later, I would take a turn at living with Eva and Peter Not-So-Sweet Sixteen 🙏 )  While living there, we forever have the funny story of Jobe’s attempt at reeling a box of beer up to his upstairs bedroom (a two-four!).  Unfortunately, he was caught due to its visibility when passing the main floor window.  Peter looked up to see a box of Labatt’s Blue floating by and thought he had better investigate.  He found Jobe leaning out his bedroom window, just about to haul in his case of beer.  Peter put the kibosh to the beer party 17-year old Job was planning on having in his bedroom.  Good try though.

Nowadays, Jobe is a farmer out in B.C..  We definitely do not see enough of his big smile, good heart or jovial laugh but, we will always have these memories to cherish, laugh and wonder at.  He certainly made memories, did my brother Jobe.

boy with grin

(all images are courtesy of google images)

The Camp ⛺️

In the 60s my parents buy a piece of lake-front property north of the Muskokas in Ontario, Canada where we move to every summer to live bare-foot at the lake: fishing, swimming, sunning and doing chores each day…

In 1960, the year Mark was a born, my parents with my paternal grand-parents, bought a 21-acre piece of lake-side property north of Huntsville, Ontario.  The Camp, as we came fondly to call it, had ten cabins, each on private, wooded lots, most with their own water frontage and docks, on beautifully picturesque forested property beside the soft mineral waters of Eight-mile Lake.  The lake is part of a very long and historic river system.  The camp is still up and running but is now owned and operated (since the mid 80s) by my eldest sister, Eva and her family.

The Camp was an integral part of my childhood and it was instrumental in my love of the outdoors.  You see, as soon as the school year finished, Mom and Dad would have us packed up in the huge boat they called a car and we would move, lock, stock and barrel, up to the camp for the two months of the summer holidays.  We never returned to the city during the summer.  The City, in the summer, was a place where the less fortunate had to live.

marti-fish-bmp-2
Morgan’s first fish – age 3

Driving to the camp was always an undertaking.  There would often be five or six of us in one car at a time for two hours straight.  Once we were in, it was the lake or bust. Dad didn’t dare stop for anything.  He had already gassed-up the boat and if one of us had to pee, it would be at the side of the highway, no kidding.  That two-hour drive seemed to last forever, such was my eagerness to get there. Once we would pass Gravenhurst, we would be into The Rocks where the Canadian Shield would start to show its lumpy head.  The Rocks was the first milestone that proved we were making progress.  The Rocks we would say to each other and grin and point, then poke at each other in anticipation of all the fun the summer would surely hold for us.

The lake was the best place in the world to be in the summer and oh, how we pitied, for once, our neighbours, The MacNeils who only got to go on a short summer holiday somewhere closer to Walden.  One or two of the MacNeils would usually come to visit at the lake and stay for about a week.  Never the whole family though.

Once at the lake, life became a little simpler and a lot more basic.  We would shed our shoes and heavier clothing and run around for hours at a time in shorts, tee shirts or just bathing suits.  I can remember days filled with hours of swimming, canoeing, running back and forth to the trampoline, playing outdoor games and having the time of my life.  All of us became expert swimmers, canoeists,  fishers and water-skiers thanks to the black, soft water of Eight-mile Lake.  I was swimming by the time I was three.  I would spend hours in the water and became such a great underwater swimmer that people would often think I had drowned because I could hold my breath and swim underwater for so long.

The Camp had a built-in source of friends every summer.  Nine of the cabins would be rented out to various families who had usually made bookings for them in the winter months.  The campsites would also be filled up with people on vacation from the hotter, muggier climes of southern Ontario and of the northern United States. The odd time we would have customers from somewhere exotic like Europe.  We would make friends one summer and then see these same people and their families return for several summers to follow.  Together, my friends and I would explore the camp and surrounding area.  We would swim, trampoline, canoe or walk to town, go for a hike, go fishing, go bull-frog catching, play hide-and-go-seek and have amazing sing-songs around the camp fire and under the vast starry sky at night.  We were constantly on the go.  We had a lot of good times.  On rainy days we would play board games and spin-the-bottle above the work-shed that we called The Shop.  Dad didn’t like us to have friends into The Office where he was trying to conduct business.  (There were many fights about keeping The Office – our house where we ate and slept – professional and quiet.  It was very difficult to keep it so serene especially with the screen door always slamming on the way out.)

‘Slam it!’ Dad would sarcastically yell from his inevitably prone position on the couch, with the newspaper.  Conducting business was exhausting work.  Meanwhile, Mom had already probably cut three huge grassy cabin lots, cleaned and dug four grimy, foul outhouses and had nothing but an open-face sandwich, a cup of black coffee and a gingersnap for lunch.  A calorie deficit was often bragged about for some reason.

Saturdays were the worst days of the week at the camp.  Saturdays were turnover days.  All of our friends would be leaving and because we had so many chores on Saturday, we often didn’t even get a chance to say our good-byes.  From the crack of dawn, we would be tasked with cleaning the cottages, picking up the garbage, cutting the grass, painting and making repairs.  Of course, we had many of these same tasks on a daily basis but on Saturday we had a new element involved: time constraint.  We had to have it all done before the new customers would begin to arrive and would be expecting their cabin or site to be absolutely sublime.  When I was little, I would work closely with Amy, Eva or my mom on cabin cleaning.  I would marvel at how quickly and efficiently they could complete a task.  I would wish and wish that I was older and more capable, and I would try very hard to keep up with these experts but, I was a child and had the attention span of a child so I would find myself wishing I were swimming instead.  Mom knew my love of the water and so would give me a task that would take me down to the dock.  I would be given a large blackened kettle to scrub with sand or told to sweep off the dock!  A few years later though, I was in charge of cleaning some cabins on my own, or with Luke as my assistant.  Wanting to do the very best job, we drew up a list of the various tasks that would have to be completed in each cabin.  It went something like this:

Make the beds. Wipe the bedroom furniture down. Sweep out the bedrooms. Clean and sanitize the fridge.  Remove any left food and bait. Organize the cupboards. Blacken the wood stove and empty the ashes. Sweep down the cobwebs. Clean and sanitize the sink. Clean out the outhouse and drop ashes down the hole. Sweep and mop the floor. Sweep the porch. Sweep the dock. Tidy up the outdoor fire-hole.

Dad was very proud of this list that we drew up and he would show it to some of his friends and they would all have a chuckle over it – especially the sweep down the cobwebs line.  Even now, when I sometimes (actually very rarely due, sadly, to living a few provinces away) help Eva with the cleaning, I mentally run over this list as I lovingly go about the task of cleaning those rustic, very special but ancient cabins.

Minnie

Dad had a few nicknames that were given to him by the older boys: Cheapskate, Tightwad, Lard-ass, Oaf, Ogre, Moose and Minnie.  Moose and Minnie were the ones that stuck although, on occasion, when Job was mad about something, and he was often mad about something, he would refer to Dad as that cheap tightwad or that Lard-ass or something akin to that. Nicknames were big in our family.  From the second my Dad laid eyes on me he nicknamed me.  I had all this black hair and my skin was a little brownish in colour.  I was not cute.  I became known as Petite Laid, meaning little ugly and later this was shortened to just Titty.  I can still feel the humiliation, as a young girl, perhaps just starting to develop, Eva would holler across the aisles of Woolworth’s, Titty, come over and take a look at this.  Just the other day, when on the phone, long-distance with Eva, she slipped and called me Titty.  Oh my God, where did that come from? she asked.  We just had a chuckle over it.  Now, a few of decades later, I think it is a cute nickname.  Back then, we all had a nickname, except for Eva who only got one when she met her hubby who called her Tuda.  Amy was Doobie and Big Sweets.  Matt was Feebert and then Feb.  Mark started out as Goobie-Goo and then got Bert (except for the summer he was Manic and got ‘Skeletor’ due to not eating or sleeping).  Job got Bert as well.  I got Titty and then Ditch.  Luke got Bert then Bertrum Brothers then Buttox.  Mom was Big Bubbles.  She used to leave the kettle on until there were lots of big bubbles and Dad used to goad her about that calling it a waste of energy.

Flying Bacon

Raising a family of seven kids, on a teacher’s salary, means that frugality is necessary.  One day, at the lake, My brother Job 🧡 climbs out of bed and down the ladder from the loft.  He decides to cook up some breakfast before starting on his morning chores.  Noting that Dad is on the riding-mower out front, he decides to take some extra time and savour the peace of being alone in the office. He can just about taste the crispy bacon and eggs he will make.

Job pulls a pound of bacon out to the fridge, takes one look at the generic brand, and is so disgusted by how fatty it is that he flies out the screen door and whips the pound of bacon at Dad on the riding mower.  The pound of bacon hits Dad on the back of the head while Job yells, Minnie you’re such cheapskate!

Dad would try very hard to stick around The Office most of the day.  He liked to be there to collect the mail and to answer the phone and to sell a bit of ice and worms or gasoline to the customers.  Of course whoever paid in cash made him very happy.  Dad had a perpetual role of twentys in his pocket and would often get one of us, especially me, because I was honest, to count it for him.

Anyway, during the warm afternoons while the Northern Canadian sun danced on the large south-facing windows of the office, and the house flies buzzed angrily on the fly-catchers, Dad could invariably be found snoozing on the couch with his newspaper on his chest.  Dad had bought a couple of massive, partially rusted deep freezers second-hand and they lined the north-facing exterior walls of the office with ICE printed on front and each sporting a Yale pad lock.  Dad would tediously freeze huge blocks of ice in discarded fridge crisper bins.  He’d then put the bin up on its edge on the kitchen table and it would begin to thaw and drip on the kitchen floor and then finally, it would yawn and tumble out.  Dad would most often be there to stop the block from smashing on the floor.  Here we go kids, another couple of blocks of ice to sell.  Make sure to tell the customers that we sell ice down here at the office.

Dad would then, almost lovingly, wrap the blocks in old newspaper and sell them to the customers for a buck or two, as inflation dictated.  Dad seemed to enjoy the process of making and selling ice and could be seen smiling dreamily as he slid the beef-laden freezer baskets out of the way and lay another completed block in its bed in the bottom of the massive freezer.

One afternoon, while Dad was snoozing on his back on the couch, a slim, curly dark-haired, handsome seventeen-year-old Mark decided to have a steak dinner.  At that point in time, Mark was on the outs with Dad and was staying in one of the unrented, less popular cabins.  Mark or Job and even Matt were often on the outs with Dad.  Usually it was over a lack of respect.  Personally, I don’t think there was much respect flowing in either direction in these relationships.  Mark sauntered up the office screen door, to verify what he suspected would be the scene at that point in the afternoon.  He then whipped out a screwdriver and proceeded to work the screws out of the latches on one of the freezers.  He was successful.  He opened the freezer.  Squeak, the old hinges complained loudly.  Oh Shit!  Sure enough, Dad had heard his freezer door opening when it had been locked.  He was up and he was mad and he was coming out of the screen door.  Mark had already snatched a couple of steaks and was running through the trailer park up into the camp and yelling, I got some!  I got some!  Dad never saw those steaks again.  Dad didn’t like to run and especially didn’t like to make a scene in front of the trailer park.

The Pattersons

The trailer park was located beside the office on the way up to the rest of the cabins and other wooded camping sites.  There was one older couple who used to always take the first site and were, therefore, closest to the office.  The Pattersons were excellent fishers and liked to be close to the office dock where their boat and motor was tied.  Every time we would have an argument or a kafuffle in the office, which was usually a couple of times a day, Dad would say: Keep it down, The Pattersons will hear.  One of these fights got pretty bad one day.  Fights were about money, nick-names, laziness, poor grammar and lack of respect.  This time the fight involved Mark and got extra bad and very loud.  Lots of harsh words were screamed in each direction and, of course, Dad said: Shut up! The Pattersons will hear.  At that point Mark flew out the front screen door, slammed it loudly, jumped off the porch, ran down past the shop and right past The Patterson’s tent-trailer and screamed, at the top of his lungs,

FUCK THE PATTERSONS!

A few years later Mr. Patterson died of a heart attack while seated in his lawn chair.  He had been looking out at the lake.  His ashes were scattered over his favourite fishing hole.

Let the Games Begin 🏀 part 1

Thunder only happens when it’s raining. Players only love you when they’re playing.
~Fleetwood Mac – Dreams 1977

Dad was coaching in a huge high-school basketball game the night I was born in March of ’66, in Oshawa, Canada, the sixth of seven children. Dad was a Gym and French teacher hailing from a tiny northern company town.  He was a successful hockey player who would have had a career in the NHL but, alas, there wasn’t much prestige in it back in the 50s and he chose to be a family man instead.puck

My mother’s brother, Uncle Reid, and my dad were close friends and playing for the Walden Colts’ Junior ‘A’ hockey team.  Uncle Reid was from a neighbouring company town.  Periodically they would go home together.  Both my mother and her sister, Do, vied for the attentions of my father who was quite the charming young man and who had a very good fashion sense.  They met and started dating.  Mom was Dad’s biggest fan.  She loved to cheer for him at his games.  It wasn’t long before they were married and my oldest sister, Eva was born.

just married

Hockey would always play a big part of our childhood lives.  There was the skating rink every winter in the back yard and there were the mandatory shots on net that Jobe, Mark and Matt would have to take before being allowed back indoors.  I can remember screaming in agony as my bright red toes thawed out after peeling off my too-tight, hand-me-down skates.

Then there were the times when my three big brothers would play hockey and would get me to play too.  One time Matt said to Mark that he would check me.  I didn’t realize until minutes later that checking someone involved a good deal of pain.  After that I never forgot it and still have flash backs when I watch professionals being rammed up against the boards.  Those childhood games usually ended with one or all of us bawling.

hockey

My earliest memories are of us living in a rented town house on Main Street West in Walden.  Luke wasn’t born yet, so I would have been younger than three and a half and would have been the youngest of six then.  The town house complex was called The Willows and ours had two floors, three bedrooms and one bathroom.  Part of the time we were there, Mom and Dad slept on a hide-a-bed in the living room, while Amy and I slept in a double bed in one room, Eva had her own room and the three boys were in the large second bedroom.  In another configuration Eva was behind a screen in our parents’ room, Amy and I were in the tiny room and the three boys were in the big room.  The bathroom was busy a lot of the time, with so many family members.

It was then that Amy and I used to have fun sneaking around after the lights were out.  Actually, it was Amy who would challenge me to sneak downstairs, past the living room where Mom and Dad were reading or watching TV, to steal an (gasp!) orange out of the crisper.  I had no concept of the danger I was in if I were to be caught.  Food was strictly doled out in our house of many mouths to feed. Besides that, I was supposed to have been fast asleep by then.

When I would come back, Amy would be wide-eyed and relieved sitting on the bed waiting for me.  She loved to roll the orange around and even toss it at the wall to get it all soft and juicy.  Then she would take a bight of the peel from one end and we would squeeze all the juice out into our mouths until the orange was nothing but pulp.  The best part was next:  she would then split it open and we would sink our faces into the pulp until every last bit of the orange was devoured, and only the white and peel remained.  I loved sharing a room with my fourteen-year-old sister whom I affectionately called, Amy-Wee-Wee.

Going to bed was full of adventure and good-night stories and Amy would talk about how she was going to be a singer and guitar player when she got older.  She would often sing me a song in her beautifully soft, soothing voice.  She loved to sing, In the Ghetto by Elvis and or Billy Don’t Be a Hero by Paper Lace.

Mary Hat was Amy’s best girl-friend and she used to come over to our house quite a bit.  I would sit and listen and watch as they discussed boys and hair styles and length of mini-skirts.  Often, when Amy wasn’t watching, I would steal her nail-scissors, go out into the hallway, take a lock of my hair and snip it off.  I did this so often that one day, Amy noticed that my hair was much longer on one side than on the other and I had to confess to cutting it myself.  I was scolded, but, not very badly.

Amy was so sweet to me and spoiled me rotten.  We are now heading past middle age and we are still close siblings and friends with multiple calls, texts, messages per week.  It’s only when I receive an email rather than a phone call from Amy that I know I’m in trouble.  Too outspoken or too impatient with our brothers will get me that email…

Anyway, continue reading these childhood memories at Let The Games Begin, Part 2

 

 

(Thank you to Eva Player for the feature photo. Thank you to those on google images for the remaining photos.)

Make Work Your Favorite

‘Make work your favorite, that’s your new favorite, okay? Work is your new favorite.’
~Elf, The Movie

I bet I was the only ten-year-old kid who knew that the address of The Toronto Star was 1 Yonge Street, Toronto.  I knew this piece of completely useless information because at the tender age of five years old, I had a paper route – The Toronto Star.  I exaggerate slightly.  The route was actually my older brother’s but, I had been given the responsibility of delivering a single paper to one out-of-the-way customer:  Mrs. Wilson– about ten doors north of our house.  I got paid a hefty 5 cents per week for this.  It was much to my embarrassment though, when the phone would ring while all nine of us were ensconced at the supper table and Mom would look at me and say, Martha, did you deliver your paper?  Invariably I had forgotten.  I would have been too busy at play to think of it.  I had to then drop my fork and run off with Mrs. Wilson’s paper.  As the years went by I was given more and more of the route to deliver and customers to collect from and one day I found that the whole route was mine – handed down from Matt to Mark to Job and finally, to me.

The Saturday Star was so heavy that, in order for me to be able to deliver all the papers from one load, I had to lug the bag to the top of our front, concrete stoop.  I would sit on the third step and back into the head-sling of the loaded paper bag and then, leaning way over until my nose was almost touching the ground, I would stagger forward and allow the full weight of the bag to sit on my back. Not a parent-figure in site to worry about me injuring my neck.  I often wondered how badly off I would be if I were to just fall the wrong way?  Or, if I were to stumble, out-of-control onto the street, would the car that hit me be damaged by the sack of papers on my back or would I just simply be crushed beneath them?

Most of my paper route, thankfully, was in an eight-story apartment building, just down the hill from us that we imaginatively called, ‘The Apartments’.   When I was still quite little, I wasn’t able to reach the buttons for the seventh and eighth floors on the elevator’s button panel.  Alas, I had the ultimate solution.  I would lumber into the elevator and somehow drop my paper bag off my head, without wrenching my wee neck, and stand on the full paper bag in order to reach the button for the top floor.  I would then deliver the papers on the descending floors, using the heavy bag to hold the elevator door open as I progressed.  When the bag was no longer heavy enough to hold the elevator door open, I would carry the bag, deliver the papers and then take the flight of stairs down to the next floor. The whole process was quite an art.

My career as an earner started then.  I was a papergirl until I was 15.  I started to baby-sit at the age of 12.  I worked as a bus-girl at The Crock & Block Restaurant at the age of 15 while living with my sister Eva.  I then had various serving jobs: Lafayette, O’Toole’s, Silky’s, and July’s Restaurant for five summers until joining the army at 19. Dad did not believe in giving us an allowance.  We had to earn everything we ever got.

It was at Fancy’s in Barrie that I experienced working for the most dysfunctional couple of crazy people I have ever encountered.  I hated working there because of it and dreaded each shift.  Tom, the chief cook and owner would SCREAM at his wife, Darlene all the live long day:  BUTTER RIGHT TO THE EDGE OF THE BREAD FOR FUCK SAKES! RIGHT TO THE FUCKIN’ EDGE!!! AND GET IT OUT HOT!!! YOU BLOODY STUPID BITCH.  Oh Lord did I detest that place.  The tension should have been on the menu because it was the most abundant item they produced. I just now googled the place.  It is still open.  Unbelievable.  The food was good fairly good though, unfortunately.

Why work there?  I was in grade 12 and needed a job.  My sister Amy had helped me get the job through a friend of a friend and I was ever so grateful.  Amy always had so many connections made through her work as a hairstylist. By this time, Mom was living in a tiny apartment with her alcoholic boyfriend and working as a server for minimum wage at cafeteria-style restaurant in Woolworth downtown.  I would go visit her and she would look so tired.  So worn out.  Oh god.  It would break my heart. This was her reality after raising seven children and keeping a wonderful home for us for 26 years.  She did not come out of the divorce nor the annulment well. I could not ask her for a penny.  She worked so hard and made so little.

At that time, my younger brother and I had a bedroom each in the basement of our bungalow and Dad was upstairs. I had been getting a couple of shifts per week at O’Toole’s Roadhouse Restaurant, but, it went bankrupt and it wasn’t long before I was without money.  One particular day, having spent my savings, I had to ask Dad for money for necessities: menstrual pads.

He turned my down.  He would not give me five bucks for pads.  I was seething.  I hated him.

I was forced to use cotton t-shirts cut into rags.  Nice.  God I hated him.  It was incredible how much I hated him.  I feel that hatred even now, decades later.  And not giving me money, when he had plenty of money, for necessities, was just one of his many faults.  The others were worse. Like when he would come barging into my room, even though my door was closed, and catch me half-dressed or naked but with the old sorry, sorry.  I didn’t know you were dressing.  Or he would forcibly hold me down and lick my face with his very wet, gross, warm tongue – his bad breath washing over me as I would struggle — I just want to give my daughter a little kiss.  Or, he would comment on my developing body you’re getting rather hippy, Martha, you better watch it, you don’t want to get fat.  Or, he would routinely reach out and touch my bum as I would be walking past him and then exclaim yippee in a falsetto voice.  Then there were the many times his robe would mysteriously open and there would be hairy, wrinkled member for all to see.  Oh god.  I would be mortified when he would inevitably do this with teen-aged Kelly and Sally visiting.  Show us his penis, by accident, of course, and then giggle about it as he would sneak away back to his fart-stinking room.

With all that I have read, learned and experienced in life regarding body image (see The Body Positive 🙃) and now as a parent, here is one truism: never comment on a child’s body except to say how lucky we are to have one that does so much for us.  Our body is truly a marvel which should be loved, respected, adorned, nourished, cleaned, clothed and loved some more.

So, my relationship with Dad was love / hate for sure.  At times I would love him for his silliness and his zest for life and enthusiasm about certain topics: sport, recreation, small business, celebration.  Dad loved to laugh.  He would often have us all in stitches at the supper table, recounting his Skollard Hall days in a falsetto voice.  He liked that falsetto voice.  I do truly think he was doing his best to father us the best way he could, considering the factors at play in his upbringing and his generation and with the added factor of the Catholic guilt monitoring all that he did.  Another factor in the break down of his marriage was mental illness.

Mom had been a classic Bipolar 1 (Definition: A person with bipolar 1 will experience a full manic episode usually leading to psychosis).  When she was pregnant or nursing, which was a lot of the time until she was 42 and weened Luke, she did not have symptoms of mental illness.  But, then it hit and it hit hard.  She was hospitalized with full on psychosis several times in the seventies.  I remember waking up around age six and walking around looking for mom.  No one would tell me that she had been taken to the hospital: 5C – the psyche ward. (Who would know then that in thirty years time, I would have my first big struggle with mental illness: Locked Up in D.C. 🔐 )   She was there for weeks.  We would go visit her and it was like she was a different person.  She was in a fog.  It was heart wrenching.  I missed her so badly. I just wanted my mommy back.  I would cry myself to sleep missing her so much. She would sometimes be smoking when we visited.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  (Back then you could smoke in parts of the hospital.)

In the summer, at the lake, Mom would become more and more manic.  Her manic energy was put to good use with cleaning and maintaining the ten cabins of The Camp ⛺️that we moved to every summer.  Lock, stock and barrel, all nine of us would move two hours North to the camp and live on the lake all summer – running the tourist resort – as it used to be known.  It was truly beautiful there: 21 forested acres, half-mile of lake frontage, only 2 miles from a village for supplies, ten antique, rustic cabins on private lots with tall trees, most cabins on the water with their own dock and a sandy beach.

Jaden and frog

For many years we even had a diving tower and trampoline over the water.  Dad’s idea.  Dad being a teacher, had envisioned the need for a business and an escape from the city. (We would have killed each other staying in the city all summer.  No doubt about it.) It was pure genius and is one of those things I loved about my Dad.  He had these great ideas at times.  We enjoyed idyllic summers – running around barefoot, swimming, boating, water-skiing, canoeing and socializing with all the campers.  Yes, we had work and chores, but, we were paid for them as a business expense and it was just a couple of hours a day.  Our summers at the camp were the envy of my friends.  In fact, many of my friends would come to the camp, either to stay with us in the office or as paying guests and stay in a cabin or tent.

Marti-fish.bmp (2)
Martha’s first fish, age 3.

 

I remember waking up early to find mom’s twin bed empty.  She would already be out there working.  Dad was much more sedentary.  He would do all of the business-end of things: letters, bills, payments, promotions.  All this to say, that mom’s mental illness was raging on, unchecked for several years.  From reading I have done, because I too am bipolar 1 (Crazy Train 🚂 (part 1)…All ABOARDCrazy Train 🚂 (part 2) ) the more episodes there are the more easily an episode will occur.  The brain makes these pathways that become easier and easier to follow and so sanity slips further and further away.  So, to be fair, it could not have been easy dealing with this major impediment.  When Mom finally went on lithium, and stayed on lithium, things were so much better.  She was stable.  Stable is good.

***

I wasn’t the first in my family to work at July’s Restaurant up at the Lake.  My older sister Eva had worked there a decade prior to me.  Eva would sometime recount one of her most embarrassing moments while working there.  This man would come into the restaurant almost daily.  He would take a seat beside the coffee maker in the kitchen in the mid-afternoon when it wasn’t too busy.  He would just sit and chat up the kitchen staff and the servers as they would come and go from the kitchen.  So, Eva walks into the kitchen this one day and slaps Buddy on the back and asks him how the heck he is doing today.  That would have been all fine except that when she slapped him on the back his toupee went flying off his head and landed a few feet away on the kitchen floor.

Silence.

You could have heard a mosquito outside the window.  After a split second hesitation and with a very red face, Eva quickly grabbed the toupee off the floor.  Put it back on Buddy’s head.  Smoothed it out.  Told him: ‘You have very nice hair.’ Then, turned on her heel into the dining room.

A & W Days

Four of my siblings work at the same fast food place. There are some bumps in the road but also a happy ending…

Part-time jobs were an absolute necessity in the my family. We each had one, early in life, and a paper route.  There never seemed to be enough money to go around…at one point in the 70s, my eldest brother Matt was the manager of the A&W fast food joint in Barrie, Canada. He would have been 17 at the time. While in that position, he managed to hire three of our siblings: Eva age 19, Amy 18 and Mark 14 (Mark lied about his age). So, four of us were working there and those were the days of delivery to the car window by waitresses in uniform. The tray would hang off the window and would be filled with the order of those in the car: root beer, burgers, fries, that kind of thing.

One time, Matt was working with Mark and with a friend, who is now deceased due to drugs, Byron Hedgeman. Hedgeman had been cleaning the stainless steel counters with a mixture of bleach and water when a bus pulled up and there was a massive order placed. Everyone was working madly to fill the order. Sadly, the javex and water combination got wiped up in a rather cavalier way. Then, Matt slid a burger to Hedgeman who put it in the bun and the burger must have gone through the javex. The next day a man came into the front of the A&W and this man’s face was green. He had ‘bags under bags under bags’ beneath his eyes (My brother Matt tells this story and his huge sausage fingers come up to form the semi-circle under each of his eyes indicating just how sick and tired the customer appeared to be — whenever Matt does this we roll laughing because of his sausages and because of the unfortunate look on his face).

The man then tells Matt that he was deathly sick, throwing up all night, after eating the burger from A&W. Matt looks at Hedgeman and they are sure of what must have happened to this man’s burger. The javex! Matt offers the guy a couple of coupons for free burgers. The man looks at Matt and says: are you kidding? I will NEVER eat in this effing place again!! 

One very good thing came of the A&W days…Matt met June and they have been happily married since June was 19 and Matt was 20. They have two adult children and four, grandchildren.

A little while after meeting and falling in love with June, it became apparent that Dad did not approve of the relationship. Matt would spend hours talking to June on the phone. He had a basement bedroom in our family bungalow on Pearl Street in Barrie. Matt was serious about his phone calling so he got himself his own extension phone, a trick we all thought was quite outstanding because at the time, teens NEVER had their own phone.

In his day, Dad had been a very skilled hockey player and that was before the players wore helmets.  His nose was broken a handful of times and was nearly flattened to his face because of it.  Dad lived for hockey and he had an ambition to produce another serious player from one of his four sons. To that end, Dad and Mom would make us a back-yard rink every winter and Dad would force the boys to take a hundred shots a day. Of course there would always be broken kitchen windows and neighbours’ windows too, sometimes. Almost all of us could skate, holding a chair, before we could walk.  Luke was quite little but he managed to memorize hockey stats and NHL teams and rosters.  It was impressive. How’s that for true Canadians, eh? So, Matt had been doing well with his hockey. Dad bought him a new pair of CCM Super Tacks skates.

SUPERTACKS

These would have been very expensive on a teacher’s salary who has seven children. Whenever these skates were spoken of, a hush would fall over the room. They were absolutely the ticket to the NHL. They were the very best skates to own back then.

Dad, not approving of Matt and June’s relationship, sat Matt down one day and said he wanted him to move out. Matt was 17. Matt asked why. Dad said Matt was a bad influence on the other children. He then took back the skates. Matt asked why he would do that. Dad said he knew Matt wasn’t seriously into hockey if he was going to take up with a girl. Matt said it was crazy to take them back but, Dad did anyway. He took them back and put them in a well-known hiding place: under the head of his bed. Matt found them a few days later and took them back.

So Matt and June found a small apartment in a really old house in downtown Barrie. They paid $70 per month rent and Matt was making that much in one week at A&W. Matt could see that he would be needing to do something more lucrative in order to live a more comfortable life. While living in that first apartment, Matt had a pair of leather shoes, just one pair. He would wear them to work. Soon, the sole started to come unattached from one of the shoes. Always a quick problem solver, Matt found a thumb tack to hold his shoe together so he could still wear them to work. One day, he couldn’t find this all-important tack for his shoe. He was running around with his shoe sole flapping yelling,  ‘June, help me find my tack!! I’m gonna be late!’  He finally found the tack and got off to work just in time.

Matt went on to get his papers in Electrical Contracting. He worked for decades in downtown Toronto and all over the city in commercial Electricity making a very good living. He worked hard and he always had lots of work. June managed the business office and, in so doing, had the flexibility to be home to raise their two children. Sam was a honeymoon baby and ended up playing in the show (yes, the NHL – Dad got his wish but one generation removed). Sam now does commentating and consulting. Sally is a restaurateur and city counselor for her city. All this wonderful success happened due to the A&W days.

And here they are now. Such a wonderful couple who are the best of friends.

Pigs CAN Fly

A road-trip with my big sister comes to a hilarious, um, outcome.

My two big sisters were Irish twins — born ten months apart.  They had the most awesome bedrooms down the basement of our little red-brick bungalow in Barrie.  Their faux wood paneled walls and wall-to-wall carpeted bedrooms were not only super cool and trendy, but they were adjoined so that if you wanted to go into Eva’s room, you had to first walk through Amy’s.  Eva had a single bed in her room with an afghan on it that she crocheted herself.  She was (and still is) very creative and multi-talented – always making something, or writing a poem, baking, painting a paint-by-number or organizing a get-together.  Eva’s zest for life is contagious.  People flock to Eva, wanting to be apart of her exciting and enthusiastic life.

Eva also had throw cushions on the bed with hand-stitched whimsical hippos, frogs and turtles.  Her room was so interesting that I would love to just sit and look at everything and wonder at how she must have made it.  Eva was twelve years my senior, my God-mother and I adored her.  I was so lucky.

Amy’s room sported a double bed and a walk-in closet that had its very own light and light switch.  As a little girl I would imagine it to be my play house and I would wish I was big enough to wear some of Amy’s great clothes.  Amy is a very gentle soul. She has many friends and many we call Amy’s Men.  She listens well and can empathize with just about everyone she meets.  She hears her clients all day while she expertly works on their hair and makes them feel good about themselves.  People love Amy from the moment they meet her and look into her beautiful blue, kind eyes.  She is one of those soft-spoken, nice people that everyone wants to associate with. Amy 11 years older than I and I also adored her, she was the most beautiful woman, on the inside and out, that I knew and I was very proud to be her little sister.  Amy and Eva pretty much raised me from the time I was a tiny.

One night when I was seven years old, I was curled up beside Amy who was reading her homework assignment to me aloud. She was attending the Barrie School of Hairdressing at the time.  I shared Amy’s double bed with her. Eva walked in, all excited, and announced that she was going to Windsor to attend Mark’s graduation from Law School.  Mark was a school friend of hers who lived down the hill and who just loved Eva.  He wanted her as a girlfriend but, unfortunately, Eva really never could muster up those kinds of feelings for him.  Eva however, still really liked him as a friend and was looking forward to the adventure of going down to Windsor to attend his grad.  We would, of course, stay with our relatives and not at his apartment (which he shared with some other guy).  I guess I was a type of chaperone for this mission and would keep Eva, my big sister that I was in awe of, company while she drove.

We started out early in the day in Eva’s new, green, 1974 Maverick –“The Mav”.  The plan was that we would pull off the highway about once every hour so that Eva wouldn’t be too tired by the time we got there.  It’s about a 6-hour road trip to Windsor and sure enough we pulled off for a break each hour.  Eva would buy us a treat and we would sometimes gas up the Mav and then we would be on the road again.  The trip took us on multi-lane, fast 400-series highways all the way to Windsor which is situated on the border with The States.  We sung all kinds of great tunes.  Eva is a talented singer and loves to entertain.  We sang Band On the Run, Country Roads, Out on a Date, Maggie May and more.  My big sister Eve was so much fun!  I could hardly believe the adventure I was having and how lucky I was (compared to my four brothers and Amy who had to stay at home).

We arrived in good time and I was amazed at the absolutely largest bridge I had ever laid eyes on.  Eva said that was the bridge to The States and that it was a mile long.

Holy Cow! I thought.

We found Mark’s apartment and he and his roomie welcomed us in with open arms.  There was lots of smiling and some cute flirting going on.  Eva was an expert joker and loved to wittingly poke fun.  Mark would get all shy, blush, wave his hand and say,

Oh Eva!

He opened the fridge to offer us a refreshment.  Eva politely declined but, I couldn’t help but notice that all of their food, even the peanut butter was in there.  Yuck! Cold peanut butter, I thought.  We were big peanut butter eaters in our household.  Mom would buy peanut butter by the gallon bucket and it would be gone in a week.  We would usually find a butter knife in the emptying bucket.  One of us had just left it in there.

We NEVER put peanut butter in the fridge!

I had to ask.  I was so curious.  Why do you have all that food in the fridge?  It turned out that their apartment, which was actually in a really old huge brick house, probably out of the Victorian era, had bugs – cock roaches.  Keeping food in the fridge deterred these pests.

Suddenly I had to use the toilet.

Eva said she would come in with me to freshen up while I used the toilet.  As we walked into the bathroom I noticed that the bathtub was different from our late 70s model in our brick bungalow at home.  This tub had feet.  Everything looked different and old, but really neat at the same time.  Eva explained antiques to me as she applied some blush, mascara, then some blue eye-shadow and a bit of pinkish lipstick.  I can remember feeling like I was learning a lot on this trip.

I did a poop, wiped, and hopped off the toilet, yanking up my jeans and turning to look at it.  There, in the bowl, was the biggest, fattest poop I had ever produced, or seen produced, in my young life.  It was huge and it curled all the way around the toilet bowl!  I was pointing at it and saying:

Wow, Eva, take a look at this!

When I noticed the look of utter horror on my big sister’s face.

Flush it, Martha! she ordered, before it stinks up this place really bad!

I reached over and pulled on the ancient flushing lever.  I couldn’t figure out why my oldest sister wasn’t as amazed by what I had produced as I was.  The massive, man-poop was going to be gone in an instant so I watched it closely as it was going to disappear down the hole.  Around and around and around it went but…

it…

did…

not…

go…

down.

Instead it proceeded to float up higher to the rim of the bowl.  Geez! I was amazed at its size and bulk.

Eva hadn’t been watching.  She had been brushing her long, dazzling hair.

Look Eva, it’s not going down.  I said.  I wasn’t the least bit disturbed by this.

Oh NO Martha, she said in dismay as she pushed her shiny, straight brown hair behind her ears, They’re gonna think I did that! indicating with her head nod my big prize poop.

 So?

Oh never mind, you’re too young to understand.  We’ve got to do something before they wonder what the heck is going on in here!

Eva looked frantically around the bathroom until her eyes fell on a scoop beside the toilet that had been fashioned out of an old bleach bottle.

The rest of it happened pretty quickly.

She opened the window.

She grabbed the scoop.

She fished out the huge poop coil and,

she tossed it straight out the window!!!!

When I looked out to see where it landed, there it was: a large brown lump, below the window, on a small roof, about ten feet away from my wide-eyed wondering face.

Eva simply closed the window and the curtain, took one last glance in the mirror and quickly washed her hands. She then plastered a somewhat nervous looking smile on her face, took my hand and opened the bathroom door.

Years later, after recounting this story to my best girl friend Kelly, she was doubled over laughing then stood straight up and while smiling widely said,

Who says pigs can’t fly?

We both laughed some more.

*********************

When in Australia in 1994, I told this story to a group of women with whom I was working at a tomato and garlic farm.  (At the time, Dean and I were doing our best to make money in order to be able to continue our travels to Nepal and India.)  We were standing in a circle around a huge wooden crate of fresh picked garlic and we were cleaning it of it’s extra layers and roots.  It was mind-numbingly boring work, but better in the barn doing this work than out under the scorching sun.  Anyway, I asked the ladies if they wanted to hear a story.  Of course they did and said, ‘Ah mate. Let’s hear it!’.  A few minutes later they were bent over double laughing at this story.  Some manager came over to ask if everyone was okay.  They all waved at him that we were fine, breathless with hilarity. I was quite pleased that they found it that funny.  Anyway, I will never forget relating this story to those ladies in the Ozzie barn.