Love and Thunderclouds

“Are Grandma and Grandpa at my house?” my three year old asked me as I walked him home from daycare. His grandparents had appeared the day before and stayed over to help us with our upcoming move. Tex’s parents had dropped my son off at daycare but I had neglected to inform my little boy that Grandma and Grandpa wouldn’t be there when he returned.

“No buddy, sorry” I replied.

A grey cloud appeared over my three year old’s head and I heard a clap of thunder as his face darkened. “I want to go see them!” Mini-Tex all but stamped his little foot.

I felt badly, because I understood my son’s sentiments exactly. I was raised partly by my grandparents. Every other weekend when we were small, my mom would drive my sister and me to their house. What followed were the best two days of my week, filled with love, extra attention and fun.

As we got older and started school, my favourite moment was the school secretary announcing over my classroom’s intercom “Please remind Sarah not to take the bus home today”. That announcement signaled only one thing- that Granddad was picking up Diana and me from school, then he was going to drive us to his and Gran’s house.

My grandparents were present for every important event in my life, every performance, every achievement. My grandfather left school at grade ten and only later completed his GED, so education was paramount to him. My sister and I would proudly display every one of our report cards and he would fawn over our academic triumphs.

Christmas didn’t begin until we stepped foot in their house. It didn’t matter if it was the 27th or the 29th, to heck with Santa, as far I was concerned, Christmas at Gran and Granddad’s was the “true” Christmas. To me, if my grandparents weren’t there, it was as though I couldn’t totally celebrate.

The worst part of the year came after Christmas. Each January, Gran and Granddad drove down south for twenty nine months. Or at least that’s how their winter sojourn felt to my childhood self. Like my birthday wasn’t actually my birthday until they returned. Sure I enjoyed partying with my friends, but I never truly turned a year older until I received a hug from my grandparents and the completely unnecessary congratulations of living another year.

From the outside, my son’s scowl looked like frustration and anger but I knew better. It was an expression that said “I love my grandparents and they love me and we are accustomed to being together”.

As I apologized to my surly looking three year old, I did my best not to smile and in my head, I made a mental note to talk to my husband about when we could visit his parents next because even though I’m grown up, a part of me desperately wants to see my grandparents too.

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All of the Words That Go Unsaid

My sister is the inspiration for this series of posts which will be a departure from my normal humour. During the brief period that she tweeted, Diana expressed multiple times that our Granddad was her favourite person. Immediately after the first time she tweeted this, her next tweet was “How do you tell a person that?” My answer- you just do.

In these next couple of posts, I want to communicate the love and gratitude I feel towards my grandparents. I’ve chosen this particular set of people in my life because at thirty-one, I know I’m running on borrowed time. I’m one of the few people my age with no less than three living grandparents and I recognize how precious and special that is. So without further ado, let’s start with my sister’s favourite person.

Granddad, this post could have been entitled all of the words that go unheard. I love you, even though my voice falls within the exact range of hearing that you’ve lost. I love you even though since you’ve gone deaf, you can’t hear my stories any more. I love you because you are the one who molded me into a storyteller. You’re the reason this blog and all of my ridiculous anecdotes exist. I learned the craft of humour and exaggeration, of careful weaving of details while sitting at the dinner table listening to you talk about gypsy children in Europe. I learned that stories change over time and become better, hyperboles grow and become their own parts of the tale; the bear that the gypsy children led around became more ferocious. You taught me the power in confessing one’s own follies, your frantic gestures conveying your panic as you reenacted tossing coins at the begging children and their “pet”. From you, I learned that every problem is an adventure, and every adventure a story and the bumps along the way only serve to make the narrative more engaging.

Since you lost your hearing, you can’t hear my stories now, but that doesn’t matter because I’m still listening to you. Just as you taught Diana and I to do, because each time you gently beckoned “Come here, I want to show you something”, although the tone was light, it was understood that we were to come now and listen carefully while we were at it. You are teased, somewhat unmercifully for this habit, but even when those explanations meant that my math homework took 80% longer because my Granddad had to explain how nautical miles were calculated even though it was a basic subtraction question which had nothing to do with the speed of ships and had merely mentioned the terminology, I still loved every minute of it. I adored your descriptions of each ingredient’s function in a loaf of bread as you carefully added the warm water, then the salt, then the butter to your delicious dough. Try as I might, my bread is never as tasty as yours.

All of those lessons are ingrained in Diana and me. Every time I mount my bike, I relive your lectures on bike safety; “Let me show you something” pointing to the various road signs, explaining their meaning. It was you and Gran who decided that eight was too old to be riding with training wheels anymore, so the two of you spirited Diana and I away for a weekend, then spent forty-eight hours gripping the backs of our bike seats, running behind us. Not to mention the countless rides we made as a family; you, Gran, Mom, Diana and I traveling along a path towards a picnic spot. To this day, I still hear your voice shouting at me as I approach a hill “Gear down”! Gear Down!” Is it any wonder that I prefer my silver Trek bicycle that you chose for me to a car any day?

I never learned how to dance well, but that didn’t prevent me from delighting in your and Gran’s skill each time that I watched the two of you dance together in the living room, the garage, at the Coyote Cave, or on television when Mom would painstakingly set the VCR to record “Club Dance”. I felt so special and grown up, attempting the steps you would repeat as we moved across the dance floor. I sometimes joke that “Baby Likes To Rock It Like A Boogie-Woogie Choo Choo Train” is the soundtrack of my childhood because I heard it so often. That lesson of life long activity and dedication to one’s passions has stayed with me.

Granddad, I love you, and you are one of my favourite people in the world for all the reasons I mentioned and hundreds more. And even though my son bearing your name probably tipped you off to that, I still wanted to write these words, because you are important; I am so grateful and blessed that you chose to take such an active role in my life.

Armpits, Ponies and Mystical Training Bras : The Unsent Cards of Valentine’s Day Past – The Countdown Continues

My family’s nickname for me is “bitey-scratchy” because supposedly I can be difficult to get along with. It was more of a concern when I was younger because allegedly childhood and school are about socialization and learning to be nice to people. Lucky for me, school systems gave up holding people back otherwise I might have spent many a year in kindergarten for being a unsocialable curmudgeon.

I loved this post because it contained elements of that as well as the timeless experience of having to give Valentines to people you don’t actually like or know well. Only one more day of the countdown to my three year blogiversary.

Armpits, Ponies and Mystical Training Bras : The Unsent Cards of Valentine’s Day Past

Every February, without fail, I would painstakingly write out all of my classmates’ names and then sign my own on the Barbie/Ninja Turtle/ Rainbow Bright pre-cut Valentines my mother bought. It was a painstaking process. Mostly because I didn’t like the majority of the people I was giving them to. A fact that concerned my parents, “Unwashed, we’re sending you to therapy, you don’t have any friends, so you need to learn how to play nice.”

The biggest problem was that I didn’t want to play nice. However that argument didn’t work on the playground or in heart-covered, impromptu, paper bag mailboxes. So every year, I dutifully wrote out all my classmates’ names on individual tiny cards and signed my own.

Here are the Valentines I wanted to write.

Nothing says affection like crime fighting reptiles and bad puns. (Photo Credit : tumblr.com)

Nothing says affection like crime fighting reptiles and bad puns. (Photo Credit : tumblr.com)

To : Jimmy

The sound you make when you blow your nose is super gross. Also please stop putting your used Kleenexes in my desk, that’s grosser.

From : Unwashed

I never figured out whether it was dye or some sort of life threatening disorder that made the horse's mane multi-coloured. (Photo Credit ; pinterest.com)

I never figured out whether it was dye or some sort of life threatening disorder that made the horse’s mane multi-coloured. (Photo Credit: pinterest.com)

To: Janice

I like your pony bracelet. I liked it less after you beaned me with it. I hope ponies bite.

From : Unwashed

To: Joshua

My feelings for you are ambivalent- my mom made me write this card.

From : Unwashed

Poor Josh, he didn't even warrant a brand name card. Only I would have crossed out the love and wrote "from". Don't want to give him any ideas. (Photo Credit : ivillage.ca)

Poor Josh, he didn’t even warrant a brand name card. Also I would have crossed out the “love” and written “from”- wouldn’t want to give him any ideas. (Photo Credit : ivillage.ca)

To : Ainsley

I noticed you wear a training bra. Is this because you have breasts? How did you grow them? Please send me instructions.

From : Unwashed

To : Damien

Farting with your armpits is only funny sometimes. You don’t seem to understand this based on the daily fake flatulence symphonies our class is treated to.

From : Unwashed

I would have added the words "Once a week, maybe twice but only when pretend to fart the flight of the bumblebee." (Photo Credit : pinterest.com)

I would have added the words “Once a week, maybe twice but only when you pretend to fart the flight of the bumblebee.” (Photo Credit : pinterest.com)

To : Jordan

You scare me. Sometimes I wish that a piano will fall on you. All the other times I run when I see you coming.

From : Unwashed

My eight year old thought process "I'm not sure whether the Power Ranger tattoo with make Jordan more or less scary. At least this one is temporary, however that is one kid that is destined to be covered in ink." (Photo Credit : blog.samuraicast.com)

My eight year old thought process “I’m not sure whether this Power Ranger tattoo will make Jordan more scary or less scary. At least this tattoo is temporary, however that is one kid who  is destined to be covered with ink.” (Photo Credit : blog.samuraicast.com)

To : Austin

I like you. I think our wedding should be teddy bear themed.

From : Unwashed

After three sessions I decided I liked talking to the therapist even less than the kids at school, so I cut a deal with my parents that I would make friends if I didn’t have to go to therapy anymore. I think this process wouldn’t have gone nearly as well had I expressed my true sentiments through my Valentine cards.

Thanks for Joining Our Company, Here’s A Dead Baby

When I was ten years old my father quit his job at a chocolate company and started working as a marketing manager for a business which sold tea. This meant two things; our house would no longer be filled to the brim with delightful cocoa related goods- instead my father insisted on stocking our cupboards with old person drinks because what child guzzles Earl Grey? The second thing was that my tenuous grasp on any semblance of popularity from living in a house filled with candy bars was gone.

Life went on and before I knew it, Christmas was upon us. Previous years my sister and I had been packed in our snow suits and shuttled to the chocolate company’s Christmas party. The fete not only featured Santa Claus but the giant allergen that was the company’s mascot as well. Diana and I would take turns standing next to the costumed people for pictures. This would be followed by a draw in which every child was given a gift then we would leave with a loot bag as large as ourselves after being stuffed with candy, brownies and cake. In essence the chocolate company’s Christmas party was every child’s vision of heaven. I used to picture going there after I died.

This year of course there would be no company party, not for the children in my family at least. My mother and father dressed to the nines early in December and left my sister and me at home with a babysitter. The next night my mother presented Diana and I with a box. “It’s from the tea company’s Christmas party, your Dad said we should bring it home to open as a family.”

It wasn’t a garbage bag full of sugar but it was something. Furthermore after initially questioning the wisdom of his career move I had been buoyed up by a phone call my mother had made to me while on a business trip with my father two months previously.

“Guess where I am girls?” she cried ecstatically into the phone. Sitting at home with our grandparents Diana and I had a vague notion that our Mom and Dad were very far away but not exactly sure where.

“Scotland?” we said in unison.

“No! I’m in the bathroom!”

“Um” was our confused and faintly grossed out response.

“The bathroom in the hotel room is as large as our bedroom at home and there is a phone by the tub!” My mother’s excitement was contagious and I began to forgive my father for leaving his lucrative candy coated job.

As Diana and I unwrapped the small package I could tell we were both thinking of the enormous hotel bathroom with a telephone in it. If this new company had provided something as fabulous as that for the employee’s families on business what sort of wonders had they packed into this little box?

It was a dead baby. Or to be more specific; half a dead baby. The lower half of the infant was a ceramic bell while the upper half was dressed in what looked like a nubby, hooded ceramic jacket. Without a doubt the gift was the creepiest, most homely Christmas ornament I had ever seen. The entire tchotchke was beige coloured except for the eyes which were painted blue, giving it the appearance that someone had dressed the baby crossed bell in a coat then thrown it in a snowbank to freeze to death. “Well, that’s um, nice.” said my mother looking at the ornament skeptically. The baby’s eyes stared back, sinister and unblinking.

Without looking at my sister, I knew what she was thinking “I would have preferred a bag of chocolate.”