This Troll Is My Grandfather

20171007_120126Because he’s crotchety and barks at people for no good reason. Not really, my grandfather isn’t like that at all, for starters, he only yells with good reason. The following is an abridged and incomplete list of reasons that my Grandfather has yelled being:

  1. Making noise in the backseat
  2. Not learning how to ride a two wheeler fast enough
  3. Pinching your sister
  4. Pulling your sister’s hair
  5. Calling your sister “weasel elbows”
  6. Doing anything besides sitting silently next to your sister without touching each other at all
  7. Trying to swim in a flooded basement
  8. Yapping at the neighbour’s car (that one was the dog)
  9. Not eating the fat on a piece of meat (that was me, the dog will ALWAYS eat the fat)
  10. Showing inadequate amounts of enthusiasm for Granddad’s current interest that he is explaining to you at length
  11. Being in the wrong gear while cycling uphill
  12. Speaking above a whisper volume when Granddad has a migraine

As you can see from the list, my grandfather is both an extremely reasonable and even tempered fellow, not at all troll-like.

But yet, I’ve kept this troll doll for ages. Clearly because of its wicked hairdo; I wake up every morning with my fingers crossed that my own tresses will have formed such an awesome “just rolled out of the cave and off to bludgeon a mammoth” style of their own volition.

All joking aside, I’m not a sentimental person. Tex actually stopped me from sending my framed degree from my Bachelor of Science to the second hand shop. Yet, I’ve carted this troll doll with me across the country and through multiple moves- why? Because I love my Granddad.

My love for my grandfather runs so deep that this tchotchke and I have been together for almost thirty years. At first I kept it because it was a fun toy, then I kept it because it was terrifying and I had grand plans of playing “hide the awful troll” in the same way that my sister played “hide the beady eyed ostrich”, scaring the bejesus out of me when the ostrich surprised me in unlikely places. But most recently I’ve kept it because it represents my relationship with my grandfather.

While unpacking after our recent move, I realized that I kept the troll out of the fear of not being reminded of the stories that accompany it. This is the point in life where being a writer is almost akin to being a super hero, as I realized that I could record the memories, and find a new home for the troll doll.

My grandparents took our family to Walt Disney World. It was supposed to be just me and Diana but then my mother threw a hissy fit, stating that my Gran and Granddad had never taken her to Disney World. This was how my father, mother and uncle went to Walt Disney World. I’d say “with us” but that isn’t true, looking back at the photo album my mother has and the notes she made about the trip, my sister and I spent about 95% of our time with our grandparents while my parents and uncle shucked their parental and uncle-y duties all devil-may-care, in favor of exploring the theme parks.

The first time I visited the Magic Kingdom was with my grandfather. My sister was ill and stayed back at the hotel with my Gran while my parents went on roller coasters and drank endless shots of tequila. (That last part may be a fabrication, but they did really and truly delight in not having a five and seven year old in tow.) The wonder and joy I felt at walking into the Magic Kingdom is tied with the sense of happiness and security I felt at having my grandfather all to myself in that wonderful place. My Granddad enjoys recounting the story of me running at a wandering character and hugging them with all of my might on that day.

That trip was the first time I realized that my grandfather was a flirt. Actually, flirt is the wrong word, my grandfather is charming, utterly charming and engaging with everyone. He just makes a point of being more so with the female persuasion. Disney Cast Members all wear badges with their names. Upon returning to the hotel, I remarked to my mother that Granddad knew all of the cashiers’ names.

As much as my parents delighted in their independence, my grandparents delighted in my and my sister’s joy. They rode the tea cups with us countless times. Diana’s and my explanation to my parents upon entering the ride with them (while they were sobering up before their next tequila binge) was “You spin the wheel whichever way Diana wants, as fast as you can, until Granddad yells “I’m gonna barf!””

My grandfather loves history, especially family history. Growing up, my sister and I donned crowns with electric candles on them and would wander around family parties at Christmas delivering hors d’oeuvres. Seeing us dressed as St. Lucia and honoring our Swedish and Scandinavian heritage made my grandfather so happy that we continued to dress up even as teens if asked.

Thus the Norwegian pavilion at EPCOT, which in the early 90’s still offered unique Scandinavian products rather than all things Frozen related, was a kind of heaven for my grandfather. For starters, it was staffed with gorgeous Norwegian women who were obligated to smile at my grandfather’s stories which he imparted in detail to his blonde, cheerful listeners. The variety of Viking related goods gave Granddad many talking points to remind Diana and me of our heritage. To this day my grandfather never misses an opportunity to share the tale of our brave ancestor Stoingvald who fought to defend his country even after his enemies cut off his legs at the knees. Our visit to the Norwegian pavilion of course prompted said story, so Granddad acted out the battle with Stoingvald on the roof of his home for all the tourists and smiley Swedes.

Granddad bought me this troll that night. I kept it because I wanted to hold onto the love that I hold for my Granddad and that my grandparents hold for me. I kept the doll because it recalled a time when vacations were as endless as the hugs and attention from my grandparents. I kept it to remind myself of my grandfather’s foibles and the way they make me smile. I kept it so I would remember all those stories each time my eyes lit on the troll while in the rec room.

But love, memories and stories aren’t housed in objects, they make their homes in our hearts. It’s through retelling that the memories live on. I don’t need the troll to remind myself to retell the stories of its youth, I can keep a picture of it and pen the words it holds for me instead.

 

This post is of course dedicated to my Granddad from whom all my stories originate because he is the original storyteller of our family.

Advertisements

That Time My Gran Terrified An Olympian

My Gran can be pretty scary when she wants to be. Of course she’ll hide behind that fascade of pie making, dress-fitting, grandmotherly goodness but underneath, my Gran is as tough as nails. And when she wants to, she’ll remind you of this fact.

Once at Thanksgiving, she commented that I was looking slim. I brushed the compliment off saying “Oh it’s just because I haven’t put on my winter fat yet”. My Gran looked at me sternly and said with a thin lipped voice “You’re not going to do that again this year”. That winter, and only that winter, I didn’t put on weight; each time I met a donut I liked, I thought of my Gran’s expression and left it on the plate.

I wasn’t the first person she scared, nor I imagine, will I be the last but once upon a time, when the strap was still an approved method for teaching, my grandmother terrified the bejesus out of an Olympian.

It was a Canadian winter in the 1960s, which is to say that the drifts were up to your nipples and it was still snowing. This was a particularly bad night for weather, but in spite of that, the twin boys’ parents had gone out, leaving them at home with a babysitter- my mother.

My mother can be as flustered as my Gran is fearsome. And on this howling blizzard of a night, these two boys were taking advantage of that, running wild around the house, whooping, hollering, causing all sorts of mischief. Finally, my mother couldn’t take it anymore, she called my Gran, “Mom please come help, they won’t listen.”

As frightening as my Gran can be, she is always there for her family, so on went her sweater, her coat, her hat, her mitts, her boots, all this just to cross the street. Once she arrived, my Gran was at a loss, along with being an accomplished seamstress and cook, my grandmother keeps her home spotless. Not wanting to drag snow into her neighbour’s house and create puddles, my Gran opened the front door which my mother had left unlocked and jumped out of her boots into the house.

Seeing this tall, angry woman who had just walked across the street barefoot when it was thirty degrees below zero Celsius, the  boys stopped in their tracks. “Both of you, go to bed” my Gran said sharply. Supposedly they never misbehaved again out of fear that the woman who doesn’t need shoes in the snow would return.

My grandmother never laid claim to inspiring the one twin to shape up his act and begin rowing his way to the Olympics but she’s a humble woman. I’m just glad she never told me to do such a thing, otherwise I might have found myself backspringing my way across sweaty gym mats rather than in front of a computer telling my stories.

The Time To Say “I Love You” Is Now: Trying On My Grandma’s Shoes

When I was small, my mother would always say “When I grow up, I want to be like your grandmother.” Even before I recognized people as models, I knew that my paternal Grandma was admired by others for her character and for her generosity. Later, as a teenager and a young adult, I independantly decided that my grandmother was someone whom I aspired to be like.

My Grandma was into vintage before vintage was trendy, she was the orginal hipster; she would dumpster dive in her wealthy neighbourhood, looking for treasures that she could breathe new life into by refinishing or recovering. When my father would mention that my grandmother had rescued a chair that we were sitting on from the trash, the image of my Grandma upside down, with only her stockinged legs and good leather shoes poking out of a dumpster would pop into my head. This, among other actions of hers reinforced to me the importance of being a steward of the earth and reducing one’s impact on the planet. When my mother deplores my dirty hippie-isms, I remind her where they started.

My grandmother taught me to be resourceful. As a young woman on a tiny income with four children, my Grandma wanted raspberries but knew that she wouldn’t be able to purchase enough for her large family with three growing boys. So my Grandma planted rows of raspberry canes in her backyard, in addition to her large vegetable garden. I carefully observed my grandmother and learned from her. As an adult, it was this ability to stretch a dollar and find unusual solutions which allowed me to go back to school full time after buying a house in the same year.

Despite never being paid for a day of work my whole life, my grandmother worked tirelessly my whole childhood; she had countless charities that she supported. Alongside the eight graduation photos of my cousins and I, my Grandma keeps photos of her “adopted” children from other countries that she sends goods and money to. When I was little, she drove a couple of nights a week for “Meals on Wheels” after spending the day baking for the local youth shelter. On her trips abroad, my grandmother gathered the little shampoos and soaps and upon returning home, would take them, along with other goods that she had to the women’s shelter. My Grandma is the impetus for my own charitable acts, I continually try to live up to her example.

While I admire and aspire to each of these qualities, what I love most about my grandmother is that she’s brave. Most recently, she demonstrated this trait by moving into a retirement home. At almost 92 years of age, Grandma made the decision that she had cooked enough, cleaned enough and taken out enough trash for a lifetime, so she turned to my uncle and said the name of a retirement home she’d heard about on the radio. Next thing the family knows, badda-bing, badda-boom, Grandma is out of her house, mixing and mingling with other nonagenarians, and ever the young hunk loving woman, even some octageneraians. This willingness to break out of one’s beloved and familiar mold and bolding choose a different life captures my grandmother’s determined spirit.

For a time, I was worried about my Grandma moving to a new place, having a different routine, I wondered how she would feel no longer living in the same house that she spent the majority of her life in. But when I visitedmy grandmother at her new residence in June, I found her socializing with her tablemates as if they were old friends and pushing her walker about, on a mission to find the salon in the building. Even as an elderly person, my grandma continues to be brave, pushing forward with determination. As a mother myself now, I find myself repeating my own mother’s words to my little boy; “When I grow up, I want to be like your great-grandmother.” Those are some big shoes to fill though.

My Gran, the Stage Hand

One doesn’t so much see the stage hands, because they dress all in black and their job description dictates that they remain out of sight, as notice the stage hands’ work. Stage hands are the reason that productions like “Phantom of the Opera” and “Lion King” exist. They work tirelessly to make sure that props are in their appropriate place, that sets are rearranged, they might even work to help light the production, depending how small the play is.

My Gran is the stagehand in the life of our family. During holidays and special events, she works tirelessly, out of sight. And much like the underappreciated, unseen soldiers of a theatre production, she doesn’t demand accolades. Her food has been both the backdrop and center of every get together since I was born. At dinners, the turkey emerges, golden and beautiful from the oven, the bird and my grandfather, who would carve the meat, would star in the show entitled “Thanksgiving Dinner”. During lazy afternoons spent on my grandparents’ deck or sitting chatting in their living room, the plates of appetizers would sit unassumingly on the table. No one goes hungry at my grandmother’s house. And no one goes home with their belt buckled either.

In the same way that my grandfather taught me how to tell stories and star in the show of life, my grandmother quietly educated me on the value and joy of being in the background. It was from my Gran whom I learned my love of cooking. She taught me that the best cookbooks aren’t the ones from a store, but those published by groups of church ladies whose love of God only just trumps their love for their kitchens. Standing next to my Gran, chopping vegetables to help prepare dinner for our family, I memorized her favourite recipes. I watched the way that Gran always had one eye on the clock, coordinating seven dishes so that each would be hot and ready at the same time.

Gran is an expert in setting the stage; she taught me that a beautifully set table is a form of pageantry. My grandmother would painstakingly explain over and over again, for my fumbling left-handed brain, how to fold a plain square of a napkin into a decorative piece for the table. She sets the crystal into place settings with the same care and discerning eye that an artist uses while adding brush strokes to a masterpiece.

Although she is often unseen in the kitchen, busily working, unlike a stage hand, my grandmother does not dress in black, rather, her appreciation for a beautiful home extends to her own appearance as a hostess. My Gran is always stylishly and impeccably attired.

Like any background worker in a production, my Gran wears many hats, one of which is costuming. My grandmother would often share her sense of style and taste with her family, through her sewing machine. From the time I was small, the dresses and outfits that I loved most were the ones that my Gran sewed. The most important events in my life have been marked by the dresses that my grandmother created: every picture day from kindergarten to grade four; the day that my feminist mother finally agreed that my sister and I could wear bikinis, causing my Gran to disappear into the basement to produce two identical lime green two pieces; my grade eight graduation, in a blue dress my grandmother and I made together; my uncle’s wedding, again in a blue dress created by my Gran, a deep navy that I loved and wore whenever the opportunity presented itself, and most recently a pink number befitting a bombshell. Each time that I pulled one of these many garments over my head, it was a reminder of how deeply I was loved. I would appreciate the care that went into every piece and sometimes recall funny memories from when the articles were made, like when my grandmother yanked the pink fabric of the bombshell dress back and forth to make yet another dart, her mouth full of pins as she muttered “your mother is a cylinder”. In my mother’s defense, I’m sure that my Gran meant a shapely cylinder.

In the same way that one begins to read the credits at the end of a film as you age, to appreciate the work of those whose voice is only heard through the setting of scenes and camera filters, through my late teens and twenties, my appreciation for my grandmother’s subtle storytelling grew and I looked forward to hearing her thoughts and viewpoints on a given subject. Though different from my grandfather’s showy, dramatic tales, slowly in my eyes, my Gran became a star in her own right.

Grandma Getting Arrested Was Not My Fault

It wasn’t so much that she was arrested as dropped off in the middle of the night by police. Despite what everyone will tell you, it wasn’t my doing. Really if anyone should get the blame it’s my maternal grandfather, he was the one shouting at the bouncers. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

About a decade back, my Dad took my whole family on vacation; me, my sister, my Mom, my Dad, my Gran, my Granddad, my Dad’s mom and even my boyfriend at the time, we all went to a resort.

The vacation was exactly like this. Only substitute all the kissing and racy bits with shuffleboard. (Photo Credit : amazon.com)

The vacation was just like this. Only substitute all the kissing and racy bits with shuffleboard. (Photo Credit : amazon.com)

If you’ve ever seen “Dirty Dancing” this resort was exactly like that, only without all the interesting sexy bits and desperately attractive men lurking in every corner. Also I never once saw Patrick Swayze. Not exactly a place where a teenager would go to have fun for a good time. However Diana and I were with our family so we were happy. Though I must confess the evenings were quite slow. One night at dinner my family decided that we would all go dancing.

This was around the time that my Mom’s parents used to go out and win West Coast couples dancing competitions. My parents would also attend said competitions but didn’t podium. My boyfriend and I, inspired by watching these two couples had begun to take ballroom dance lessons as well.

Unfortunately Diana was only eighteen at the time so my parents were unsure whether she would get into the bar at the hotel. Exasperated my Gran blurted out “You MUST have a fake ID.” And not surprisingly, Diana did. It was passed around and scrutinized by every member of my family but my grandfather who was in the washroom at the time. After everyone inspected the Northwest Territories driver’s license, it was deemed an acceptable fake.

After dinner everyone returned to their respective hotel rooms, except for my sister and I who always want to spend more time with our maternal grandparents. We sat on their bed chatting merrily while my Gran and Granddad got dressed in their matching cowboy dancing outfits and my Granddad donned one of his impressive western hats. The mood in the room was jovial and excited.

Walking over to the bar with the prospect of spending an evening with his family and getting to dance with his two granddaughters, my Granddad was his extroverted self. Seeing the bouncers’ hackles go up at the sight of Diana and me, he waved cheerfully. “It’s ok boys! They’re my granddaughters.” Grabbing Diana’s shoulders he proudly added “This one’s eighteen!”

“Granddad!” Diana and I shouted indignantly in unison. “What?” My grandfather asked stopping in his tracks. In Manitoba, where my Granddad grew up, the legal drinking age is eighteen. In Ontario it’s one year older.

Kicking at the ground Diana turned on her heel and left in a huff. Walking into the bar Granddad’s shoulder were hunched “I didn’t know, I didn’t know.” He repeated sheepishly. However soon the music started and the mood lightened as the couples began to dance.

A group of three men a little older than me stood awkwardly around the bar. Thinking of my sister who was probably sitting in the hotel room bored to tears while my eighty-four year old grandma knitted an afghan, I had an idea.

“Hey do you want to keep a hot girl company?” I asked. The boys shrugged but then listened eagerly when I told them my room number. They left the bar soon after.

In the mean time, after realizing that she wasn’t going to spend the evening cha-cha-ing with her family, my sister had found another under age youth sitting on one of the resort’s rolling hills. Together they sat in the darkness and shared bottles of booze that the young man had pinched from who knows where.

The three men from the bar, having given up any hope of finding fun in a place filled with middle aged people dancing the East Coast swing, headed over to my family’s hotel room. They knocked on the door.

By this time my grandmother had changed into her nightgown and was getting ready for bed when she heard a rapping at the door. The sight of the three lumbering young men inquiring if there was a hot girl inside ( I hadn’t bothered to give them Diana’s name), spurred my elderly grandmother into action. “No. Only me.” she replied curtly, “Now please go home.” Then, strapping on her fuzzy slippers, my grandma walked off into the night in search of Diana.

This entire time, the hotel police were parked a distance from the hill that my sister and her new friend had been illegally drinking on. The officers were well aware of the illicit goings on, however the amount of flack they’d receive from the patrons of the hotel for busting the privileged teenagers for the offense was greater than the good that would come from stopping it. At any rate, my sister and the young man were not causing any harm.

Around the time that Diana and her companion packed up their bottles and headed back to their respective rooms the hotel police received word that there was an elderly woman wandering around the property in her nightgown. Off they sped in their cruiser to avert disaster.

Diana arrived back at the room just as my parents and I did. Everyone was confused as to where my grandmother had gone at twelve o’clock at night. Then for the second time that night there was a knock at the hotel room door. My father opened it to a squad car with its lights flashing and an official looking man in uniform standing next to his mother. “These nice men gave me a ride back” said Grandma as she stepped past my father into the hotel room.

Although I technically did send a group of strange young men to my family’s hotel room searching for my sister, I still contest that Grandma wandering around in the middle of the night and being dropped off by security is NOT my fault. Clearly its Granddad’s lack of awareness around Ontario’s drinking laws and his overactive bladder.

 

 

My Week In A Rolling Prison

Canada is a vast and beautiful country, emphasis on the vast. Sometimes the elderly drive across it in enormous camper vans. Last summer, along with my grandparents, I decided to take part in one of these pilgrimages. The following is my record of the adventure.

Day 1: Ontario, Somewhere in the Kawarthas

7:00 AM – Whoo Hoo! Road trip with Gran and Granddad. With my grandparents, two Harry Potter books and the whole back of the RV to myself, in essence have the whole world. Also, Granddad hinted that may be able to drive the RV. Am so excited that even the sixty pound poodle half sitting on me in a territorial fight for the seat can’t dim my enthusiasm.

11:00 AM – Stopped for lunch. Was instructed to take both the standard poodles for a quick walk while Gran prepares lunch, is possible that the poodles did not receive the same instruction as both are actively pulling me back towards the RV. Perhaps am just a bad dog walker because is more like a drag.

4:20 PM – Suffering from an extreme case of numb bum. No matter, shall delve into a magical fictional world where the only concern during long trips is broomstick crotch.

5:00 PM – Have stopped for the evening. Granddad insisted on instructing me how to connect the poop hose to the site. May need to shower forever. Will never eat again.

5:20 PM – Gran’s spaghetti! Will have to live with knowledge that delicious pasta and sauce may contain poop particles. Remind self that dirt and therefore feces are good for immune system.

Day 2: Ontario, Sault St. Marie

7:00 AM – Have been told I can drive the RV! Very excited; partly for opportunity and partly because will not have to share my seat with a disgruntled poodle. Am still very excited about trip itself, is uncommon to see such savage beauty whizzing by window.

10:45 – Numb bum has returned. Harry Potter’s world only partially distracting from discomfort.

2:01 PM – Is my moment of glory! Granddad has vacated driver’s seat. Am going to drive forever, may drive all the way to Manitoba, perhaps may drive all night!

2:59 PM – Have been told to pull RV over and that my turn is finished.

3:05 PM – Notice that phone was noticeably silent and without any messages during my hour long absence. Realize that have lost signal.

4:10 PM – Made mistake of looking at GPS. Said three thousand and eight more hours of driving until arrival. Ok possibly not THAT long but was close. Cell phone a useless paperweight. Am effectively cut off from everything.

6:00 PM – Pulled into the loveliest, leafiest park ever. Hiked all of the trails while Gran made dinner. Took poodles who went willingly. Suspect they only came because saw potential for a jail break by simultaneously pulling my arms in opposite directions while dashing for the river.

Day 3 : Ontario, Thunder Bay

8:00 AM – On road again. Granddad promised to relinquish the steering wheel this morning. Have lovely fantasies of flying down the road for hours and hours until arrive at Aunty Betty’s doorstep. Am still enthused by landscape however majestic rock faces are beginning to look a bit alike.

10:02 AM – Granddad has just moved over! Perhaps will be allowed to drive all day!

10:59 AM – Was just informed my turn is up.

11:00 AM – Pulled over and took the poodles for a drag. Either my arms are becoming stronger or they are walking more willingly.

12:50 AM – Ride seeming impossibly long. Forcing myself not to look at GPS because feel as if may have to live in RV forever.

1:00 PM – Lunch! But am sadly not hungry, it seems boredom kills appetites.

2:00 PM – Fear that feeling may never return to my posterior.

3:00 PM – Must not ask when we are stopping for the night. Am an adult, will handle boredom accordingly.

3:01 PM – Poodle has sat on my foot in such a manner as to indicate that it’s looking for a fight. It seems all of the natives are restless.

3:07 PM – Do not wish to be an adult anymore, want to stop driving and run into the bush which looks exactly like the wild brush from a couple of minutes ago which is identical to the brush from a thousand kilometers ago. Screw up determination; am going to really appreciate wild beauty around me.

3:08 PM – Rock, rock, rock, rock.

3:09 PM – Tree, tree, tree, tree.

3:10 PM – Lake.

3:11 PM – Tree, tree, tree, rock, tree.

5:00 PM – Have stopped for the night. Take dogs for a walk then take advantage of Wifi which is inexplicably fast despite there being no cell phone signal to speak of.

Day 4 : Ontario, ?????? (Somewhere is the north, this province is endless- we may never get out)

5:45 AM – Wake ridiculously early and go for a stroll so legs won’t forget how to walk after spending four years in RV. Discover magical park with up ended picnic tables which look like they enjoy galloping around in the night. Pretend to be a ninja observing secret life of picnic tables.

I am one with the galloping picnic tables. (Photo Credit : Gran)

I am one with the galloping picnic tables. (Photo Credit : Gran)

7:30 AM – After Granddad disconnects poop hose, a task which was mercifully excused from helping with, we are back on road in my gigantic rolling prison.

7: 37 AM – Press face against window and think happily about a time when the world didn’t move and used to do things like run around. Turn cell phone off to save it from uselessly searching for a signal.

8:30 AM – Start to read Harry Potter but even J.K. Rowling can’t fight this much ennui.

9:30 AM – Resist urge to start marking days and hours on RV wall with butter knife.

10:30 AM – See something strange in distance, is weird and rectangular shaped, like a rock face but with ninety degree angles.

10:32 AM – Is most definitely not a rock face nor the Canadian Shield because there is nothing growing out of it.

10:34 AM – Is gigantic building! Have reached civilization. Would drop to knees but would squish poodle that has taken up residence at feet if did so.

10:44 AM – Watch as building approaches.

10:54 AM – And approaches

11:04 AM – And approaches. Had forgotten it was the prairies, the place where people watch their dog run away for three days. Fall back into despair again. May never leave the RV.

1:00 Pm – Gran says are only an hour from Aunty Betty’s! Is such good news cannot believe it. Cell phone signal returns.

2:30 PM – Difficult to say who tumbles out of the RV faster- me or the poodles. Throw self to the ground so happy to be freed from RV and not in a moving vehicle any more. Was beginning to get bedsores from seat belt.

2:35 PM – Hug Gran and Granddad goodbye, say thank you for driving and wheel my suitcase into Aunty Betty’s house. Success!

Shelf Theft and A Lack of Character

I’ve found myself fantasizing about hard wood lately. Now before any of my readers get some big ideas and start sending me dirty pictures, allow me to explain. Having recently moved houses, my possessions have been dramatically rearranged. For example my books, which once called a series of shelves home are now in piles on the floor of my dining room. The plan was to put them in the giant glass front cabinet from my grandmother’s house, however there was one issue, well two if we’re being exact. The first is that I had no car. The second problem could not be solved by a trip to the local Enterprise; I have no muscles. Or rather I have insufficient muscles to move a piece of furniture that was made when people didn’t move often and shelves came from a local, swarthy carpenter and not from a machine in Sweden.

I could have acquired a bookshelf from a big box store, but as I mentioned before; I’ve been dreaming of wood. Mahogany, red, oak, I’ want them all, and the heavier the better. If only I myself had been born a large, male, swarthy carpenter, then moving such a well made shelf would not have been an issue.

I had plans, big plans. Plans that involved my father and one other large man moving the shelf from my grandmother’s house two hours away to my cozy dining room. Alas it was not to be. Despite having promised the shelf to me, my cousin, who at six foot seventeen, or some other height that is equally giant, spied the shelf in question, liked it and took it.

Two possible conclusions can be drawn, either my grandmother tired of parking her Corolla next to fifty years of exquisite workmanship while the shelf waited in the garage for me to retrieve it or somehow, without meaning to, I royally ticked my grandmother off. Seeing as my track record includes having my Grandma hauled home by the police and nearly killed (two separate incidents if you can believe it) I’m leaning towards the second option.

To better understand why there is a literary mountain piled next to my china hutch, I’ve decided to create a list of all the possible ways I could have POed my dad’s mom.

An Incomplete Collection of My Faults and Shortcomings Compared to my Enormous Perfect Cousin

I frequently appear at my church half naked or only partially dressed: If you would like to read the accounts of all of the times I’ve managed to flash the elders in my congregation they are available

Here

Here

And here

In essence getting dressed in the morning is obviously not my strong suit, whereas my monstrously tall cousin, not only suits up for Sunday morning services, but he also has been known to attend Bible study. Point for giant cousin.

I have been known to say what I’m thinking: This character trait would work better for me if I had nicer thoughts, as it is the words “Your baby looks like a homely Steve Buscemi” never go over well. By contrast, my cousin is one of the nicest most genuine people I know, book case stealing aside. Point for my cousin.

I cannot grow facial hair: Apart from the occasional absurdly long chin hair, I can neither grow a moustache nor a scraggly beard, on the other hand, at Christmas my cousin’s face did a remarkable impression of Farley Mowat’s when he emerged from a two month stay in the woods having subsisted on roasted mice.

Clearly my grandmother admires the wild-man look and lifestyle, point for my cousin.

It would seem that I am deficient in all aspects of life, from grooming to character, little wonder that my cousin is now stowing his worldly possessions in a gorgeous glass front cabinet, while I am pondering a trip to the local IKEA.

March Sweat Showers Bring April Flowers

I smell like a den of raccoons, I’m also sopping wet. In the grand scheme of life, this isn’t an unsolvable problem. It is however affecting my popularity with family members. This sort of issue has happened before, well, ish.

You see it’s a packing problem. I suck at packing. If there was a packing Olympics I would be the lonely, small country of Estonia. This miniature country tries really hard and packs with all of its might but in the end, it’s really only good for being the spot that future Polish grooms fly to for wild bachelor parties.  No one ever hears about Estonia going to the packing Olympics. Or any kind of Olympics. That’s me. I’m terrible at packing. Although that wasn’t a very good analogy because I’m not good at throwing wild, naked parties either.

Once for a nine day long trip, I packed two pairs of underwear, twelve shirts and no pants. This would have been fine if I was headed to a partial nudist camp for a week or maybe to one of those wild, naked parties I never throw, but as it was my grandparents were a little alarmed by my lack of clothing. My grandfather ordered me out of the house and to the nearest Walmart on the third day to purchase extra items to wear.

I’m visiting my grandparents again and to be honest I’ve done a bit better this go round; I packed twenty-six pairs of underwear, three shirts and one pair of neon tights for my overnight stay. Tragically I’ve forgotten antiperspirant. For normal people this wouldn’t be an issue but for me whose underarms did a convincing impression of Niagara Falls from the ages of fourteen to twenty-two, this is a problem.

My armpits put on a fantastic light show. (Photo Credit : globeholidays.net)

My armpits put on a fantastic light show. (Photo Credit : globeholidays.net)

Having exited puberty, although one could no longer shower in my sweat, I still produce a lot of it. Hence my grandmother and I are once more being sent forth to the local Walmart in the interest of not wringing out my shirts every couple of hours.

*Also don’t be upset or feel unworldly if you haven’t heard of Estonia. The only reason I have heard of Estonia is because I went on a cruise with my grandmother and three thousand other old people.

When my grandmother was booking the trip, the travel agents asked “Do you want to stop in Estonia?” to which my grandmother replied “Pardon me?”, as she had never heard of the country. The agents took this as a “yes” because “pardon me” is a great deal better than “Where the heck is that?” which is the standard response to that question. Hence my grandmother and I stopped there, and learned all about their Polish bachelor party industry.

Also the grooms might not be from Poland, I wasn’t listening very well to the tour Estonian tour guide because I was too busy trying to figure out where I was.

Indistinguishable Mondays

After the success of Death By Frozen Tundra, I’ve come to the conclusion that people like photos.

This does not bode well because generally speaking if a photo appears on my site it’s because someone who loves me has taken it. As a rule aside from images taken from the internet, the photos are either captured by Gordy or my Dad. On occasion I do take photos but they have a habit of being out of focus, poorly framed, or part of my hand.

But it’s a new year. And all of humanity is caught up in making resolutions. And I realized I don’t have any. So I’m starting up a new feature on the Great Unwashed- it’s called Indistinguishable Mondays.

Basically I will take a photo. And then post it. The idea is that my camera skills will improve. This is highly unlikely given how bad they are. It’s a known fact with my family. Once on vacation my ninety year old grandmother and I were on sitting, waiting for my Dad to come around with the car and a nearby family asked if I would mind taking their photo.

Although the spritely young person normally is the obvious choice for any task over an elderly person resting on a bench, when I sat down afterwards, my grandmother turned to me and said “You should have told them that you can’t take photos dear.”

These are from a wedding I recently attended

Such beautiful memories

Such beautiful memories

Apparently people are supposed to face the camera

Apparently people are supposed to face the camera

I would argue this one isn't my fault really.

I would argue this one isn’t my fault really.

If only the task was to make every subject look like a Dementor from Harry Potter, with black holes for eyes and a fuzzy look around the edges, I’d probably be crowned king of the photographers.

Death By Baby Oil

It’s grievous bodily injury week here at The Great Unwashed and we’re celebrating with vigor. Remember the story of the old lady who swallowed a fly?  I’ve always thought that woman was crazy after reading that she swallowed a spider, a cat, a dog and so on. However after what happened the other day I can now empathize with the old lady. Sometimes when things go bad the only option is to make them worse.

I’m attempting to stain a fifty year old dining set. I say attempting because currently I’m on my third try after two failed coats of varnish. My grandmother was upset with me when she heard that I had been attempting to spread the finish with a rag “Use a brush otherwise it’s a waste of stain and rags- Grandpa’s underwear doesn’t grow on trees you know.”

That's a horrible mental image. Almost as bad as the day I spent holding onto Grampa's underpants.

Grandpa’s underwear tree. That’s a horrible mental image. (Photo Credit : Giraffopia.com)

Ok she may not have said the last part, but it was implied by her incredulous tone of voice upon hearing how I had been attempting to refinish the table.

Armed with Grandma’s advice, the refinishing job was going splendidly until I needed to wash the brush.

Now as a former lifeguard and a self confessed safety aficionado I am normally all decked out in personal protective equipment; goggles, masks, ear protection, gloves, the whole nine yards. However using a brush meant that my hands were not touching the stain, hence I didn’t wear gloves. So when I went to wash the stain out of the brush I thought to myself “Water washes things, why would I need gloves to wash things?”

Which was how I ended up with stain coated hands. A veteran of being covered in gook  I went immediately to my supply of baby oil gel* and smeared it all over my hands.

It's also useful when you're stuck in a tube slide. (Photo credit : blog.prettycity.com)

It’s also useful when you’re stuck in a tube slide. (Photo credit : blog.prettycity.com)

Baby oil gel will remove most dyes, all temporary tattoos and wax. Unfortunately I discovered what baby oil gel will not remove is varnish. Now my hands were stained brown with a top coat of baby oil. The tub was rapidly being coated in stain as well at this point.

That’s when I decided to get the borax. Tragically I store borax in the cupboard with a glass doorknob, which would not turn because my hands were coated in grease. So I grabbed a glove that I should have been wearing at the beginning of all of this and put it on to open the door.

Sprinkling the borax liberally I began to scrub the now “Mission Oak” brown bathtub with a gloved hand. Suddenly the latex started to get very warm and I realized that a chemical reaction was occurring between the stain and the borax. Remembering the slew of detergent suicides in the media, I threw open our front door and the window hoping to air out the room. The borax worked a little bit but kept heating up so I tried regular soap.

Unfortunately following an afternoon of unsupervised science experiments all of the soap in our house looked like this.

 

 Soap is prone to exploding when exposed to science because science is great. Not quite so great when you need it to clean things though. (Photo Credit : klce.com)

Soap is prone to exploding when exposed to science because science is great. Not quite so great when you need it to clean things though. (Photo Credit : klce.com)

So it didn’t work very well. And now the wonky shaped soap had a coat of “Mission Oak” stain too.

After all of that the tub was clean. As long as the lights were off and you squinted it looked almost white. I was on the verge of being late to meet a friend so I hopped in to shampoo my hair and shower.

The ensuing shriek as I slid down and sideways out of the tub could be heard four houses away because the front door was still open. The tub was white (ish) but the borax and science experiment soap had not cut through the layer of baby oil.

The only way I could shower was by crouching, which didn’t work well as the drain was clogged with a mixture of stain, borax and oil. While I shampooed my hair, the tub gradually filled with water and there was a grimy layer on the top.

So I had to walk the fine line of staying crouched enough so I wouldn’t slip on the baby oil but not so crouched that my lower half got coated in the varnish and borax combination floating on the surface. Although the words “I preserved it just for you” are very sweet I don’t think shellacking my kootch and bum would go over well with my husband.

I realized that I was going to be late when I emerged from the shower dirtier than when I went in. Texting my friend  “Late. Have story.” I grabbed a bottle of dish detergent from the kitchen and took another swipe at cleaning the tub. The Palmolive cut through the baby oil and I was able to shower standing up this time to get rid of the film that had formed on my legs.

In the future I’m going to ask my grandmother what to do after completing a staining job. I have a feeling it will involve gloves and more underpants.

*My friend upon hearing this story said “Why do you have so much baby oil gel?” which I thought was a silly question given how often I end up covered in some sort of dye thus it seems obvious why  we would have bottles and bottles of it lying around. But there is one other purpose for baby oil gel which I will cover in another post.