Saturday, January 28, 2017

@ Home on the Range

Not everyone enjoys cooking. For most, it's something we do out of necessity. But now that our kids are grown, I've found that I don't mind cooking meals. After raising a family, making dinner for two is easy. My stove ,er, my range and I are old friends. I'm quick, too. With no fanfare at all, I can have a decent dinner prepared in twenty minutes or less.

My husband has a different approach. When planning a meal, he likes to announce his intentions a week or two ahead. "I'm going to make clam chowder soup," he'll say importantly.  The purchasing of the groceries requires serious planning. But after buying the food, days can go by before the actual meal is made. You see, he likes to spend a certain amount of time building himself up. He treats the event like he's embarking on a triathalon, or about to swim the English Channel. He prepares with lots of self talk. "This is going to be the best clam chowder EVER!' My job is to offer words of praise and keep the eye rolling to a strict mininum.

Prepping for the main event is everything. There is no time for the chef to tidy, or wash pots after each stage of the procedure. All his energy must be saved for the creation of his masterpiece. When dinner is finally ready, it's my job to do the drumroll, have plenty of backpats ready, and then simply enjoy dinner. The cleanup comes later.

His finest performance to date is a stew he made in Calgary for the Faktor family. Simmering bones, short ribs, and some kind of secret sauce were just a part of his recipe. My daughter said it was delicious. I'll take her word for it, since I wasn't there, and she had to clean the pots by herself. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to that clam chowder soup. It's due any day now. (light clapping, a mild cheer.)


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Could I Get a Little Help Over Here?

 When I was kid, there were times when I realized I was not in charge of my situation. These moments would appear out of nowhere, like snakes hiding in the grass. This may be less true for children today, what with helicopter parenting and being tethered to the house.

When I was young, we were shoved out the door in the morning, either for school or for playing. If it was the latter, it was understood that you didn't have to come home until supper. A late return was encouraged by parents with too many kids. In those days, that was everybody.

Here is a list of things that worried me. Stray dogs, (which were everywhere,) unknown bullies, (because the ones you knew, you could avoid) running into a bear in the bush, and mud puddles. The last one was a fear born of experience, because I knew myself so well. To me, they were simply irresistible.

After a good downpour I'd be wearing my rubber boots and actively searching for trouble. There was a certain coyness to my approach, and I would feign surprise at the puddles appearing at the bottom of our back road. If I was with my sisters or brother, things had a way of turning out. But when I was alone, calamity usually struck. I would stomp around in the middle of the mud puddle, which was large enough to swallow a deer, until that epic moment when I would become completely glued into place, and unable to move either of my feet.

At this point, I'd look around casually, like everything was okay. I don't remember being approached by grownups, or even a car driving up the back alley. Picture a nine year old female, four feet tall and sixty pounds. It was simply impossible for me to pull my boots out of the muck. Eventually I'd jump out, leave them behind, and end up walking home in my socks, usually after doing a face plant. I'd return to the puddle with one irate parent or another so they could rescue my boots. In spite of that, I never refrained from my next, hopeful, mud puddle approach.

This story is not going to encourage helicopter parents to be less vigilant, but it should. The lessons learned during those lonely, stuck moments, or cautious approaches to a bush trail, or the exhilarating but scary walk to Phantom Lake, all helped me to see myself as a survivor. I might not do well, but I would do. Many times, I could rely on my siblings, or kids from the neighborhood, for help.They might pick on me at home, but out in the wild or on the long trek to Phantom, we had each other's backs.There was a code, and most kids followed it.

We were allowed to light fires, sword fight with sticks, balance on a board over a rolling barrel,) while my mother hollered, 'If you pinch your toes, don't come crying to me!') and raft across the pond behind what is now the Victoria Inn. The fear of drowning was overcome by the sense of victory, and the sheer fun of it all. Like women forgetting childbirth, I would leave behind the feelings of helplessness, and see myself as independent and victorious. Until the next birth...er, adventure.

And now I must apologize to my own children for the level of hovering, for the times I didn't trust in their common sense. (Full disclosure, this message may not apply to teenagers.) I'm sorry, kids. I hope you had fun, anyway. At least we lived by the bush. And if you did have the occasional crazy adventure, please share. I promise to be thrilled for you.