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Fruit Salad, a tradition

Writing 101, Day 10 – Write about your favourite childhood meal

Thanksgiving, in our family, was the time of year when we gave thanks for the harvest and celebrated with extended family. October in southern Saskatchewan was usually still filled with sunny days, cornflower blue skies and autumn leaves colouring the landscape. My Pa and Grandma and Uncle Barry and Aunt Gladys would have just finished taking the crops off the land and vegetables up from the garden.Thanksgiving signalled the time that they could begin to slow down a little knowing that the year’s growing season was complete and the slumber of winter would soon take over the land.

My mother always turned out a dining room table complete with fine bone china and crystal ware that could have been in a magazine photo shoot. As soon as I was big enough to see over the edge of the table she had me help her set it. To this day, though I hate cooking, I love to set and decorate a beautiful table.

Turkey, pickles and beets, potatoes, green beans, carrots, lettuce salad, cranberries, gravy, shredded carrot in jello salad, (the dreaded) tomato aspic salad with the cold asparagus and whipped mayonnaise topping that I swear only my Pa and mom actually enjoyed, fresh buns and the dish that I lived for – my grandma Evelyn’s fruit salad.

Let’s call it what it really was, dessert! A heavy whipped cream full of grapes cut in half, mandarin orange pieces (from a can, not peeled), pineapple and pears (also from a can), shredded coconut, mini marshmallows, maraschino cherries and a few walnuts on top. The works was displayed beautifully in a heavy cut crystal bowl with a proper silver spoon to serve it with. She always made the prettiest design in the middle from some of the mandarin oranges and cherry pieces. It looked like a birthday present to me for some reason. I always had second helpings! And the leftovers were put out for breakfast the following morning.

My mother still makes it for me now that Grandma is gone. The aspic was Pa’s (her dad’s) favourite dish and I think it makes her too sad to make it since he died, but she still makes the fruit salad for me and I love her for it. It’s a tradition that brings back many fond memories of our family sitting together around the dining room table, laughter and stories being told, candles giving off a lovely aroma and a deep sense of gratitude for the life I’ve been afforded because of the hard work of the generations of farmers who are my ancestors.

 

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2015 in PonderQs

 

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Women’s lib, Men’s lib, Ad-lib

Writing 101, Day 9 – Write from all three points of view as a couple walk past an old woman knitting a red sweater

Mike and Jen were strolling through the park when they walked past an elderly woman who sat on a bench knitting a red sweater. The late afternoon light created a nostalgic tableau. Mike and Jen stopped speaking, slowed their pace and watched the woman. Mike began to cry.

‘Nan knitted Rexy a sweater just that colour,’ Mike thought. ‘If I’d used the leash like dad told me to a thousand and one times, Rexy wouldn’t have been hit by the car and we’d have been wearing our matching sweaters on Christmas morning.’ Mike sobbed harder.

‘Oh my god this is awkward,’ thought Jen. ‘Jesus, what should I do? I hate blind dates.’

Without lifting her head to stare, the old woman glanced over the tops of her bifocals to see where the sob had emanated from.

‘What happened to the days when men were men,’ she thought. ‘I hope my grandson isn’t going to be a weeping willow like that poor sod, but young people today are obsessed with their feelings … I hope he remembered to use the leash this time. That damn dog’s always running straight out into the street and wool isn’t cheap these days.’

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2015 in PonderQs

 

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79 Radcliffe Road – the corner of childhood and youth

Writing 101, Day 11 – Where did you live when you were 12 years old? Use various lengths of sentences to describe it.

I was 12 years old in 1984. Reading Orwell’s version of 1984 in his high school English class was my ‘Big Brother,’ but I was only interested in important issues like, “Who you gonna call?” Ghostbusters; ending child slavery with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom; exercising the right to be Footloose and fancy free; and at all costs, not being caught dead in front of the television with my parents present when Madonna sang ‘Like a Virgin.’ Not the ‘V’ word! How embarrassing. She might as well just sing, “SEX, SEX, SEX!”

My parents, older brother, black and white toy poodle Muffy and I lived in a spacious two-storey house on the busy corner of Radcliffe and Oberlin roads in the community of Fort Richmond. The south end of Winnipeg was comprised of quiet suburban neighbourhoods close to the University of Manitoba. It bored me. I wanted to go downtown.

I had a room that many little girls would only dream of. I know, looking back on it, that I was doted on, quite spoiled!

The shag rug in my bedroom was the colour of grass, which was perfect for playing with Smurfs on. I chose wallpaper with a small rosebud motif. The walls were separated into upper and lower sections. The lower half had a secondary wallpaper pattern creating vertical lines and the illusion of wainscoting. I collected plush wall and ceiling hangings – an acrobat, a hot air balloon, a clown sailing into the air with a fist full of balloons – that created three-dimensional texture and fairy tale fantasy that I stared up at from under the bed comforter.

My parents bought me a three-piece bedroom set in all-white wood with gold-coloured knobs. My paternal grandmother embroidered a white linen runner edged with lace with pink, yellow and bright blue flowers that sat on the vanity. In summer, a mourning dove cooed from its nest in a backyard pine tree outside my window.

In 1984, I was transitioning from child to teenager. My parents created a room perfect for a princess but I was a tomboy with a penchant for punk rock and social justice. I tucked a ghetto blaster into the white, wooden headboard so that I could reach up at night and play my mixed tapes through foam ear phones until I fell asleep. Upon the walls and wicker rattan wall unit, two worlds began to collide – little girl knick-knacks and teenage mementos.

Out with Pete’s Dragon, Raggedy Ann and the Muppets. In with Purple Rain, Girls Just Want to Have Fun and Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go! A child of the 70s becoming a youth in the 80s.

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2015 in PonderQs

 

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A pike a perch and bass went fishing

Writing 101, Day 7 – Write a post comparing and contrasting two things using dialogue

Zoinks! Tough challenge …. but I’ll try.

 

Johnny, Tommy and Bobby are fishing in a boat in Lake of the Woods, Ontario.

After a long battle, Johnny finally pulled his fish alongside the boat and said, “WOAH! Look at the size of that Jack, man!”

Tommy shot back, “You mean snake.”

“What,” asked Bobby, “That’s a northern pike, losers.”

“Shut up,” said Johnny, “A jackfish is a jackfish is a jackfish and one of you is taking a photo of me with it and then I’m  throwing it back. No one has enough time to try and de-bone that muskie.”

“IT’S NOT A MUSKIE,” Tommy and Bobby chided Johnny.

“Talk about a fish tale, for god’s sake Johnny. It’s just a nice northern,” said Bobby.

Tommy yanked his rod to set the hook and as he reeled in his catch shouted,”WOOOOOOOOOO, YEAH! Look at that pickerel!”

Johnny said, “What’s the matter with you, man? That’s a walleye.”

“Are you both idiots,” said Bobby, “It’s a perch, cousin to the European pikeperch.”

Just then, Bobby felt a familiar, gentle tugging at the end of his line and watched the end of the rod bob up and down. Then it went still. He waited patiently. All of the sudden there was a solid hit on the line and he hauled back on the rod with a snap.

“That’s a smallmouth bass for sure,” Bobby said. “They might be small but they fight like the devil. WAY more fun to catch.”

“No way, man,” said Johnny. “That’ll be a jack for sure. They bite hard like that, like they’re taking down a loon chick or something, eh.”

Tommy said, “Whatever J.You and your snakes… B’s got a perch for sure. Five bucks says so.”

“You’re an asshole. It’s a jack,” Johnny said.

“Remind me never to fish with you guys again,” huffed Bobby, the line screeching as the fish dove for the bottom, “One – perch are topside fighters and two – jack’s don’t play like this. They’re too dumb to know they’ve been hooked. Only a smallmouth puts on a show like this.”

The rod heeled over and touched the surface of the lake and then snapped to neutral.

“Oh no, man. That’ sucks,” said Johnny.

“B…” and Tommy buried his face in his crooked elbow to try and muffle his laughter.

“It was a smallmouth. I know it was,” sighed Bobby.

“Here man, have a brewski. That seriously sucks.”

Johnny, Tommy and Bobby reset their hooks between sips of Canadian that they pulled from the ice water conatiner in the bottom of the boat where the rest of their catch floated half alive; one fin in the lake and the other on the barbecue grill.

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2015 in PonderQs

 

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A welcome invasion of privacy

Writing 101, Day 6 – Who’s the most interesting person you’ve met this year?

* Maybe not THE most interesting but definitely a curious experience!

I stood quietly suffering and trying to recall what the guy on Super Soul Sunday with Oprah said yesterday about embracing your pain and just being in the moment with it to learn something deeper about yourself.

“Oh wow, I didn’t know that you could give 2-year-olds vitamins,” a woman said next to me.

I looked at her and she was alone. I was the closest one standing to her and she smiled at me and pointed back at the box on the shelf. I demanded my brain to resurface from its deep dive into physical misery and engage with this woman. It hurt like hell to speak.

“Can you,” I croaked, groping for something to add, “give vitamins? I know we took Flinstones but we were school age.”

I didn’t really have anything to say about the topic but she was lovely and maybe talking to someone would help me through the next 15 minutes while I waited for the prescription to be filled.

It’s amazing how some people take opportunities to connect with others everywhere they go and how trusting and open they are. Generally, in my culture anyhow, this is seen as an imposition at best and a violation at worst of personal space and boundaries to force a stranger into conversation without invitation, but I kind of admired her.

The vitamin comment was nothing more than a way to get started. She quickly pointed out her swollen, infected finger and then chatted on about her children and grandchild and best friend’s family and the burdens of being the eldest of 19 kids and what it’s like to be a single working parent… I only needed to nod and add supportive sounds once in a while to show I was engaged.

She was slightly taller than me, say 5’8″and healthy looking. She had a fine, strong face with distinct cheek bones and jaw line and her eyes were bright, brown dancing pools behind modern glasses. Her hair cut was what I’d refer to as the ‘soccer mom’ style but it suited her and she did seem like the mom you’d see on the sidelines of every soccer game cheering the kids on. But it wasn’t stiff. So often women who wear that short cut deaden it with gel into army helmets, which maybe they need when they’re in charge of armies of small children. Many aboriginal women have really long, shimmery black hair that I’m certain must feel like silk running through their fingers. This woman’s hair had the raven black shine but her short locks were thick, wavy and even curly in places. It framed her face nicely and the motion and liveliness of her hair equalled her personality.

I tried to pinpoint her age, something I good at, and based on the description of her kids and all, I decided she was in her 50s. Her skin was flawless with the odd freckle and the signs of age were just beginning to show in mild crinkles around her eyes and mouth when she laughed about giving her kids the gears for not having had more babies yet. Apparently one grandchild is not enough!

The only aspect that seemed to date her was the cream-based, old-lady-pink lipstick that she had obviously put on hours ago. The natural reddish-brown of her lips showed through at the edges of her mouth and I thought that she had chosen the wrong lip colour for her skin tone. She’d be a knock-out in a deep red wine lip colour and chocolate brown top. Under the grandma jacket I could tell that she had the curves of a woman who lives in balance between food and physical activity.

“Shannon?”

“Oh, that’s me, sorry,” I said and left her to go pay for my antibiotics. We were just getting into the part about the burdens placed on her friend who was the eldest of 19. I felt rude to abandon her just then. And I wanted to tell her about my dear friend who is battling cancer with the very real threat of leaving her four young children motherless hanging over her head. This was a woman who would listen and almost surely have something wise to share with me.

After paying for the prescription, I turned to leave the pharmacy. She was looking down at her hands.

I waved my hand to get her attention and she looked up. “Take good care,” I said for lack of anything better.

“Oh yes.You too. Take good care,” she said back with that winning smile.

The woman now standing in my spot beside her looked from me to her quizzically. I left wondering if my nameless friend would start a conversation with that woman too and if that woman would embrace the invasion of privacy or shut her down instantly. I admit, I felt a pang of jealousy and hoped she shut her down. I kind of wanted that experience to be special, like she’d only done it as a gift for me.

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2015 in PonderQs

 

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Pharmacist vs Virus

Writing 101, Day 8 – Go to a public place and write about it without the use of adverbs

* This happened two days ago. I’ve been too ill to keep up with the writing so I have a few days to go back and finish, but let’s start with Day 8!

Parents trying to temper whining, coughing children, women without make-up and wearing sweat pants, men unshaven and wilting waited in a loose mass rocking from foot to foot or pacing short distances, each locked in their own bubble of ill health. It wasn’t lost on me that the room looked like a human version of a Petri dish. We had become a mob ready to attack, the very viral infections and bacteria our bodies harboured.

I imagined that if you magnified a Petri dish, you’d see us – cells getting ready to attack the host – except in this case we (a collective virus) watched with raw desperation as the pharmacy team (the immune system) raced about behind the counter working to fill our prescriptions. Who would win?

Waiting for meds feels intolerable when all you want is your PJs, a box of tissue and that ‘go-to’ movie that you can listen to with eyes closed while you loll on the chesterfield and not miss a thing because every scene is etched in your brain for having seen it so many times.

“Shannon?”

BLAM! My virus took a direct hit. Relief, albeit brief, welled up inside as I moved forward through the crowd of sufferers and paid for my antibiotics. A quick stop to buy Popsicles and in an hour from now I’d be in my PJs, tissues at hand, lolling on my chesterfield listening to Lord of the Rings as the scenes played out across the back sides of my resting eyes.

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2015 in PonderQs

 

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An Irish hot toddy

Day 5, Writing 101 – Write about a random letter on a path that you discover in as few words as possible

The sky, so blue only minutes ago, had unleashed hell on me. I ran, staggering left and right, at the mercy of the wind buffeting me one second then dropping dead the next only to whip up and slam me from another angle. Head bowed low with chin tucked to chest and holding one forearm ahead of me to try and deflect the stinging rain pelting my bare face, I ran helplessly with no real destination in mind. I’d been caught out walking in a meadow at the edge of town.

At last, I reached an out-of-service phone booth on the outskirts and threw myself behind the Plexiglas. It wasn’t much of a refuge but when I turned sideways it sheltered my head and torso enough that I had the chance to catch my breath and consider my next move.

A water-logged envelope with the trademark airmail red and blue edging was stuck to the side of the booth being pelted by rain. I pried it free and worked at the torn end with cold fingers until the two sides separated and inside I found a simple note folded over a recipe card. Though blurred because of the water damage, it was still legible:

Clare,

Here is Great Grandad Michael’s recipe for the family hooch. I managed to get a copy of the ingredients from mom’s second cousins when I travelled through Galway.

Enjoy! (just not too much or all at once – haha!)

Molly xo

I scanned the list of ingredients before awkwardly shoving the papers into a pocket, my hands now moving with the dexterity of blocks of ice. I heard an engine and looked up to see a minivan appear like an angel from heaven. It rolled to a stop and the passenger window lowered.

“You MUST need a ride! We got caught in it too. Hop in,” a half-drowned looking man called out. A soggy border collie peeked over his shoulder from the back seat.

An hour later back at home, after I’d taken a long, hot shower, I remembered the recipe in my jacket pocket and dug it out. I smoothed it flat on the kitchen counter top and proceeded to make myself a batch of the Irish liqueur following Great Grandad’s instructions to the T and added it to a mug of coffee.

The whiskey warmed the last of me and chased the storm away for good. I bottled up half of the batch and wrote a note to go with it. Tomorrow I’d head the three blocks over and swing by to properly thank my minivan angel for his act of kindness.

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2015 in PonderQs

 

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