Tag Archives: Parents

Rent or Buy

There was a rule in our house about movies: you could only rent or buy movies you hadn’t seen. Renting or buying movie you’d already seen was a wanton waste of money, precious resource that it was, stupid.

So, what happened? Nothing but the inevitable: we watched the rented movies that we liked as much as possible before returning them (ostensibly forever; never to see them again), and we bought a lot of movies we only watched maybe once, maybe twice.

There is a sense here of wasting time as well as money. Yet, my parents remained firm. If you saw something once you never needed to see it again, did you? It’s been spent, over and done with. Rent or buy.

(There was no room here – no accounting for taste).

It was like they wanted to eat their cake and have it too, but also not have it to eat it.

Actually, it feels like it was a kind of test, which we failed, miserably.

Or maybe not.

Maybe we surpassed all expectation, if only because there was really no accounting for taste, no reason for or against it.

Waste not, want not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Family, Entertainment, THE PAST, Movies, Time, Childhood

La Chasse Aux Canards

Growing up, my parents, my mother especially, periodically had fits of home improvement that often manifested in schemes to re-decorate the house.

One time, it was all new lamps (i.e. all the lamps in the house, replaced, with new ones).

One time, they let my aunt’s idiotic boyfriend spray-paint the kitchen cabinets so that they looked like stone – the dark grey textured type you’d find inside derelict amusement park rides (jungle themed or the like), or a poorly drawn cartoon.

One time, they decided paint was passé and wallpapered all the bedrooms, including mine.

My parents. They were (and remain) the “Children are meant to be seen and not heard” type. Which meant they picked out the wallpaper and did not consult us or take any protest on our part either seriously or at all. Which was fine with my siblings and I because we’d long resigned ourselves to living in a cramped house with loud tastes where everything, invariably, clashed. An amusement park ride, of sorts, of its very own.

You had to laugh. You just had to.

They wallpaper my parents picked out for me had dogs on it, at least.

“You like dogs. I got you dogs,” my mom said. “There,” she said, a word with as much finality in our house as, “So, there” or “The End.”

I did like dogs (I do). And was actually surprised that my mom had made such a concession in her decorating on my behalf.

Except. Interspersed with the dogs (a trio of spotted hounds) across the beige and brown background of the wallpaper were long cattail reeds, ducks in various stages of flight and men with guns. Muskets, actually.

A duck hunt frozen mid-frame repeated ad nauseam and plastered across the four walls of my bedroom. I would not have known what to do with such a scene – such a substance as that wallpaper – had I known beforehand that it even existed. But then, just like that, it was in my life and would remain so until we moved from the house, many years later.

I often think about my childhood bedroom as a sanctuary (I had a lock on the door and was generally left alone when in there). But then I remember the wallpaper and remind myself that freedom can be as much a luxury as it is a joke. Concessions can be their own intrusions, dogs or no.

There were men on my wall shooting at ducks.

Sometimes I imagined the ducks got away; other times the dogs or men got them. Eventually, I learned not to see men or ducks or dogs and just let the wallpaper be wallpaper.

Come to think of it: I never thanked my parents for the wallpaper. A part of me thinks that that’s only fair, but then we were never talking about fair, not here or anywhere even remotely close to it.

Were we?

 

 

 

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Filed under Animals, Birds, Change, Family, THE PAST

3 Ghost Stories

1. Bannister

The first house my parents ever owned was haunted. They lived there for a year then moved before I was born. Whenever we drove past the house (a two story derelict Victorian), my mom would point it out and say, “That’s our old house. It’s haunted.”

She knows this because every night she lived there she dreamed of an old woman who beckoned her from the bottom of the stairs.

Follow me, the woman commanded. Follow me.

It took her entire strength of will for my mom to resist, clinging with all her might to the bannister even as she felt herself irrevocably pulled towards the woman. It happened every night. Every night, the struggle, the temptation.

Sometimes my mom is convinced that it wasn’t a dream, though she never doubts that the ghost was there, real as anything.

Lesson: Better safe than ever sorry.

Sorry, not sorry.

 

2. Bathroom

My aunt often told us the story about how when she was a little girl, she was terrified of having to go the bathroom at night. There were toilet ghosts, you see, that grabbed at her or which appeared in the mirror or in the corners of the room. They stared and laughed at her and ran the length of the ceiling, disappearing behind the toilet and into the walls.

Most nights, this would happen.

Eventually, she learned to hold it until morning. She advised us to do the same, because who knows?

Lesson: Anyone can learn, given the right incentives.

Also: anything can happen if you decide to go wandering at night, even the ridiculous impossible. Even in your own home. Especially in your own house. Ghosts can do more than just beckon.

 

3. Bedroom

My siblings and I shared a bedroom for the years we lived at my grandparents’ house. A multigenerational household it was too (our family of five, my grandparents, a few aunts and an uncle), though for me that just meant dealing with a lot of overbearing bodies: too many talking, jabbering heads, befouling the air around you; too many pairs of hands and feet, taking up space. There was a lot of tension, living in that house, and no escape from it.

I found out much later that my parents, grandparents, my aunts and uncle believed that 1) our bedroom was, indeed, very haunted (specifically by a being that liked to sit on you and draw your “essence” away from your body, as they each in their own turn had experienced), but that they also thought 2) it was OK for us to sleep in the very haunted bedroom because “the ghost won’t bother the children.”

The fact that we knew not to listen to ghosts, the fact that we stayed in that bedroom all night without compliant was proof of that, wasn’t it?

Lesson: The cost of a reprieve can be invaluable if you don’t have to pay for it yourself.

“The ghost won’t bother the children.” They seemed so sure of this. More, it seems that despite their own beliefs, the adults had no trouble transferring the responsibility of their fear to us, of saddling us with the burden of keeping things in check.

I had believed hauntings to be many things. I had not known until then that they could be also be convenient. Expedient to a point, and to a fault.

 

 

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Filed under Family, Ghosts, Interruptions, THE PAST

Browbeaten (Black & Blue)

I don’t know when my dad started losing his hair, but it was early on in both our lives.

He tried many things to stymie this most unfathomable loss, but in the end had little recourse but to stop cutting it, to just let it grow and then to start, kind of, creatively sweeping it across the great expanse of his head, precious resource as it was.

He also started dyeing it the instant he found his first grey hair, to a shade I think would be rightly called “Permanent Marker Black.” Or perhaps “Sharpie Gardens” (“Bic Dreams” also works rather well).

I am not making fun: it was actually refreshing to see my dad colouring his hair as we came home from school or work; there was no furtive shutting of bathroom doors or nervous sleight-of-hand over a splotched-over kitchen sink when it came to my dad deciding on that day to annihilate his greys.

He just did it.

***

(I always thought mustaches were cool because of my dad. His was both proud and stately. Now everybody thinks mustaches are cool, but my dad had nothing to do with it.)

***

My mom despised my dad’s comb-over – how it splayed, was mucked-over his scalp – a hatred which intensified in direct proportion to the comb-over’s sheer magnificence over the years. It was an on-going Thing with them; a continual war in which battles were attained by each side, but never quite won.

A witty retort here, a scathing comment there, some handwringing, a lot of empty threats and many unmet challenges: nothing ever decisive, nothing that would bring about a lasting, peaceful co-existence. Only a kind of peace, a tepid cease-fire that freed up at least some of the day for errands and housecleaning and maybe an hour or so of prime-time TV.

That is. Until.

Until the day my dad came home from my aunt’s salon with not one hair on his head.

Not. One.

No comb-over, no mustache. No eyebrows.

I have no memory or idea about what could have precipitated this. All I remember, all I know, is that one day my dad had hair on his head, and the next, he didn’t.

And something else: “How about now?” he asked my mom on that day. That fateful day.

My mom shot him that look, a look that over time was so perfected as to be drawn on.

In fact, it was drawn on.

***

Mom came home from my aunt’s salon with her eyebrows tattooed in place one day and so long ago they have since turned blue.

Over time, black tattoos will go blue, unless you get them re-done.

But why? The tattoos, I mean, not the fact of their fading to blue.

“Because,” Mom said. Makeup costs money and this also saved time. We didn’t have much of either, in our house. It made a lot of sense, and aligned perfectly with my mom’s brutal practicality.

She did it for us.

If my dad had something to say about that, we never heard it.

***

(I always thought Mom’s eyebrows were fearsome because of my mom. I’ve not seen many people with them done, though I suspect on some level that my mom may have something to do with it. She is just that capable.)

***

The time my dad shaved off all his hair (including his mustache, including his eyebrows).

It was either shortly after or shortly before.

In fact, it was both.

***

My mom was in the ICU, recuperating, drugged. The surgery was long, but the prognosis was good. We stood there, my sister and I, hovering by her bedside, not sure of what to say. Finally, I said the I only thing that seemed worth saying in that moment: “They’ve gone so blue.”

The way her eyebrows rested on her face, the sheer blueness of them…her expression before us was one of severe, unmitigated reproach. It was as if she could hear us talking; it seemed that even in sleep she was aware, alert and admonishing.

Mom.

“Yeah. She looks super pissed off. And very blue, actually,” replied Dolly. Mom’s natural pallor, whether it was from the ordeal of the surgery or because of the weird off-color lighting of the ICU, had gone decidedly indigo. Her arched blue brows did nothing to dispel the illusion. “It’s like two sharks colliding,” Dolly remarked, matter-of-factly, and we were both reassured.

Everything would be OK.

(Dolly is excellent with the facts of matters great and small.)

The ICU nurse overheard us and said nothing. It’s not hard to wonder what she probably thought of the scene playing out in front of her. It’s not difficult to surmise that she likely kept quiet not for our benefit, but for hers. Why risk that look herself? Why ruin what, by our standards, was a perfectly good reunion? No need to impose, to interrupt.

How dare she?

My dad’s eyebrows had grown back by then, as did some of the hair on his head, but he didn’t regrow the mustache, which I think my mom always hated anyway.

The night before the surgery, in her hospital room, he bought her a flower from his garden, which she also hated (it also being rather overgrown and quite unmanaged). But she accepted the flower.

My aunt was there too, but no one mentioned the salon.

 

 

 

 

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