All Hail Cookie Owl

Appearances are very important to my mother. Whether it’s appearing to be a good hostess, mother or much younger than her years, my mother’s vanity has always been an entertaining part of my life. If only because in every instance, I often end up dashing these dreams of competency and youth upon the rocks.

Once upon a time, when I thought My Little Pony was the answer to all the world’s problems, I was in Brownies. It was a horrible, weekly event that I was forced into under the guise of “making friends”, “appearing normal” and “trying new things”. I resisted the group at every turn. In an effort to support my participation, my mother agreed to become one of the leaders. The first week that she joined, everyone sat in a circle and we were asked to give our new leader a name. All the leader’s names ended with “Owl”, there was probably justification for this but as I spent the majority of the meetings calculating how many seconds were left until my parents picked me up, I don’t remember it.

Anyway, so my mother sat there, next to Sleepy Owl, Happy Owl and Sneezy Owl. These weren’t actually the women’s “Brownie Names” but I don’t remember either the women or the names, so they very well could have been small bearded men for all I know.

Sneezy Owl asked the group whether anyone had any suggestions for the new Owl’s name. Ever the helpful child, I raised my hand. “You should call her Thunder Owl because she yells a lot” I suggested. My mother was mortified and gave me the kind of look that said that the car ride wasn’t going to be fun so perhaps I shouldn’t count the seconds this evening. She ended up being Cookie Owl, only the second most boring name after Happy Owl. Regardless, she could pretend to maintain the facade of being a perfect parent.

Although my mother denies that she yells, more often, she denies her age. The most recent example of this would be the name she demanded Mini-Tex call her. Everyone can breathe a sigh of relief, it’s not Cookie Owl. Even though her own mother became a grandma at fifty and willingly took on the moniker “Gran”, at fifty-eight, my mother decided she was to young to be a grandma and refused to be called any incarnation of the title, not granny, not buba, not grams. Instead she invented her own name – Gemma. She took the “g” and “m” from grandma and made a hip title so no one would dare offer her a discount on the early bird special.

One would think that denying the existence of a grandchild would be the pinnacle in narcissistic acts, but this week, my mother took it one step further. She chose to deny that she was a parent. No, she wasn’t parading around claiming that we were sisters, she chose to instead deny her role as a step parent.

Gary, a family friend and trusted contractor, made the jump last year to boyfriend status. My mother even upped the ante by having him move in with her. Since then, they have attended each other’s family functions, she routinely makes meals for his children and Gary’s sons often sleep over. Which led to the following conversation.

Unwashed – “So as their step parent”

Mom – “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold on. No one is anyone’s step parent.”

Unwashed – “I’m sorry, do they regularly sleep at your house?”

Mom – “Yes”

Unwashed – “Do you often make them meals?”

Mom – “Yes, but”

Unwashed rudely cutting her mother off – “Do you worry about how they’re doing in school and whether they’re attending.”

Mom in an obvious state of discomfort – “Yes, it’s different”

Unwashed obnoxiously talking loudly over her mother – “STEP PARENT!”

I’m not actually sure why my mother is denying her step children’s existence, they’re even teenagers so it would totally feed into her love of being mistaken for being much younger than she is. I think it’s one of those times where I just have to shake my head and smirk inwardly as everyone calls my mother “Cookie Owl” to soothe her ego. For the record, “Thunder Owl” is much more bad ass. It’s what a Hell’s Angel’s member would demand to be called if they weren’t too busy dealing cocaine to attend their children’s extra-curricular activities.

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Jesus Was A Bohemian Or A Dirty Hippie, One Of The Two, Regardless I’m Going To Hell Or Possibly Be Stoned To Death

There was sand in my hair. When I moved my head, grains fell onto my soiled clothes. The cupcake I had messily consumed two days ago in a fit of the drunken munchies was still smushed into my increasingly smelly tank top. I squinted through hung over eyes into the bright, morning sunlight of the church parking lot. In one hour and thirty minutes, I would be educating the handful of children who showed up on this beautiful July morning about God and Jesus.

A lesson plan would have been helpful that day, but during the summer I was responsible for my own curriculum. Ordinarily this lack of required content was a good thing. It allowed me the freedom to create fantastic lessons wherein I would construct a whale out of a giant blue tarp and a tent, teaching the story of Jonah from inside the structure. Or using costumes and an extensive set of props, the children would act out memorable stories from the Bible. My favourite project was the 8 x 6 foot multimedia mural recreating the genesis story which incorporated Styrofoam, fabric, beads, paint, cotton balls, feathers, sequins, anything and everything under the sun that could be glued to paper and two things which couldn’t. It was so heavy that staples couldn’t hold it up.

On the seventh day of every week, I would arrive bright and early at the church, with only the faintest wisp of an idea in my head that I would transform into a memorable hour long activity for my students. By contrast, on that day, slumped in the driver’s seat with not even a thought beyond my imminent need for water and sunglasses, I knew I was in trouble.

For the record, it wasn’t supposed to have happened like this. I had a plan; I was to drive from my home town, to my university to party, drink and carouse on Friday night, then return Saturday afternoon, leaving myself with enough time to recover. That clearly didn’t happen.

Instead, I arrived on Friday to a barbeque, then I drank, danced and wrestled.

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I am gifted at wrestling and definitely won this match.

In essence, had a ripping good time and afterwards fell asleep on the floor. When I woke up, everyone decided to go to the beach. A sane person would have recognized that they had only packed enough clothing for one day, were operating on four hours of sleep and their nutritional content in the past twenty hours amounted to a hot dog and four cupcakes. But twenty-somethings are rarely sane, so off I went to the beach where I was sandblasted in an unexpected windstorm.

A responsible person might have headed home after this, or at least tried to rinse their sunscreen, sweat, sand and cupcake covered clothing, but I didn’t. Dancing, drinking and wrestling has been so much fun the previous night that I decided to go for round two, swearing to myself that getting up at six and driving the two and some hours home negated showing up to church looking and smelling like I spent the night in a dumpster behind a liquor store. At the time I was elbow deep in Laren Stover’s “Bohemian Manifesto” and was obsessed with the lackadaisical but determined logic of dandies which encouraged them to “seize the day” so this new plan somehow made sense.

I’m not sure what happened in that hour and a half that followed that pained, thirsty moment in the car, nothing productive for certain because when the children tramped down the stairs from the service they found me lying on my back, on the carpet, propped up on my elbows, basking in the sunlight. Sensing that something was awry, my pupils entered quietly and sat a distance away from my odiferous self.

I struggled to sit up, after an unsuccessful attempt, I stayed in my partially supine position. In lieu of the Lord’s Prayer, I looked at my expectant little charges and said “Boys and girls, repeat after me- “Carpe Diem”, “Crap-pay digem” the children obediently parroted back to me, while wondering when this was going to get good. I closed my eyes and felt the sun’s rays warm my cheeks. “You know” I pondered aloud to the small Christians “I think Jesus was a bohemian”. And with that I released the children back into the wild. Well not quite. They ran around the church basement and painted everything that stood still including themselves while I lolled about on the carpet.

When I arrived home, after being directed to the washing machine and then the shower, I informed my mother of the morning. She was understandably horrified. While Lauren Stover and I considered Bohemians to be restless, artistic souls who should be admired and praised for their lifestyle, to the rest of the world they were dirty hippies. And everything I had done that morning confirmed this fact. My mother sat chewing her mails while awaiting the reprimanding call from the United Church Women’s group. Happily it never came, and I stopped calling Jesus a dirty hippie after that.

Although, as evidenced by all the times I showed up partially clothed to church and the day I lost one of my students during a particularly excellent game of hide and go seek, I never did become a better Sunday school teacher.