Christmas 2011


Once upon a time, I was like most Americans in believing that Canadians were whiter, more northern and slightly more redneck versions of us. All I officially learned in school was that we fought Canada, indirectly, in the War of 1812, which my history teachers seemed to think we won although ask a Canadian and he/she will gleefully regale you with the bum kicking they gave us.  Everything else I knew, I learned from Bob and Doug McKenzie.

“Did you even know what a toque was?” Rob asked.

“No,” I said, “and I didn’t know what back bacon was either.  I thought it might be bacon from the back of the pig somewhere and, therefore, not really all that desirable a foodstuff.”

“Americans call it ‘Canadian’ bacon,” he says that with the disdain he reserves for the habit my countrymen have of laying broad claim to the term “American”.

When I was in high school, some of my classmates fixated a bit on Bob and Doug and the whole “Great White North” thing, peppering their speech with “take off”, “hoser”, “g’day” and “eh”.  I found the whole thing only mildly amusing because the parody seemed a bit far-fetched in an “Ernest Goes to Quebec” sort of way, and not really in keeping with the only other bit of Canadian culture knowledge I had, which was a book I read as a grade schooler that was set in Toronto. The author, it turns out, is a well-known Canadian writer and as a 9-year-old, I found her description of the city on the lake compelling enough to make me want to go there someday, which is something I’ve still not done.

“Do you know what a two-four is?” Rob asked me.

One of the lines in the song refers to a 6 packs of two-four.  Like most non-Ontarians, I had no idea.

“It’s a 24 case of beer,” he said. “When we bought beer, we’d ask for two-fours.”

“Well,” because now I was confused, “you were only 15 when you left Ontario. What would you know about a two-four?”

Chagrined, he admitted that perhaps his personal knowledge dated back a bit earlier than most.

It’s funny to me that Canadian English can vary as much as it does. At the grocery earlier this week, I was in the butter and cheese aisle where you can also find bacon and breakfast sausage and in less than five minutes no fewer than 3 different women queried the woman stocking the shelves as to the location of back bacon.

My most recent run in with language peculiarities was actually on Facebook. My friend Jade updated her status with a request for the number of a good plumber. When asked why she needed one, she replied that her garborator had vomited all over her basement. When I told Rob that she was having issues with something called a “garborator”, he replied,

“Well you had one of those in your old house.”

“I did?”

“Sure, in the kitchen sink. You scraped food into it to be chopped before rinsing it away.”

“You mean a garbage disposal?”

“Yeah, a garborator. You call them garbage disposals?”

“Uh huh because if you look at the name written on it,” I explained, “that’s what it says.”

You say garborator; I say garbage disposal. You say toque; I say winter hat. You say back bacon: well, okay, so do I … now. But we all still, mostly, say “Merry Christmas” unless we are really Brit-fluenced and then we say “Happy Christmas”.

So  merry eve and tomorrow morn to all and to all a good day.


A Christmas tree inside a home.

Image via Wikipedia

There are two tones the holiday letter can take – bragging to the point of possibly delusion or so much information you aren’t sure you want to ever see the author, or their family, in person ever again in this lifetime.  I would say that most fall comfortably in the middle with just enough rah-rah to promote gladness as opposed to jealousy and just the right amount of gossipy goodness to make it worth the time it takes to read it.

I am lazy as you know and go for the total slide show sappy approach, but when I do write about family, I tend to err on the side of “feed the voyeur troll” though not in a merry way.  TMI does not belong in a holiday greetings missive.

It is fair game for the blog though I will grant that some family don’t share my view on this.

The Brother

CB resurfaced not long after his scary low with a surprisingly yoga outlook for someone who doesn’t know a down from an up dog. He decided to cut ties with the Bay area and head back to the Sierra Nevada’s and Tahoe. Mountains stabilize him. He is like Rob really in that they both need to commune with the actual wilderness. Rob just gets grumpy within the confines of civilization, but CB’s doors come unhinged if he is away too long.

As of this post, CB has a snow removal job that is simply awaiting snow and call backs on a few contract gigs. Mother has even agreed to foot the purchase of a used vehicle which will in turn facilitate more employment. His kids and xSIL are spending the holidays with him in his new place atop Heavenly and I imagine that a bit of skiing and hiking is just what the doctor ordered right about now.

The Mother-in-law

The whole divorce and upheaval is becoming a bit of a testy issue for Rob and I. Her not being my mother means I am less subjective when he would prefer that I be more indignant for her. Like he is. But he is her son and I think mother/daughter relationships are not so blinkered. Maybe this is due to the fact that sons don’t typically separate from their mothers as violently as daughters do during the teen years, or maybe it is because at some point, mothers and daughters become “women” to each other and you know how judgey we can be. Whatever the reason, I don’t see the situation in black and white terms, and this is coupled with the fact that I can also clearly see the impact this marriage has had on our life over the last year, and how the fallout could inadvertently render us collateral damage in terms of clean up.

“She just needs time to come around to the realities of her new situation,” Rob told me during one of our many conversations on the topic of divorcing across international borders.

“If she were my mother,” I replied, “I’d have already spelled the realities out for her.”

“You can’t tell her anything,” he reminds me.

And I know that. You can’t tell my mother anything either, but that doesn’t mean I don’t tell her when she is being unreasonable, or when her choices come loaded with the high probability that they will impact me negatively in the near or far future.

Sigh, I do love my mother-in-law, but I can’t pretend that I am unaware of why things are as they are.

“If something happens to you,” I asked him. “Do I inherit her? Or is she like an heirloom to be passed on to the girls?”

“Funny,” he replied, but it’s not.

I share the responsibility of my mother with DNOS and not equally. Because she is on the ground and I am a thousand-ish miles away, DNOS is a front line defender should something happen.

Rob is his mother’s only line of defense by default.  DNOS has me.  Rob can count on a zombie apocalypse occurring before one of his siblings lifts a finger to come to the aid of their mother.  And that sucks.  For Rob.  And for me.

How things will turn out is still an unknown. As Yoda once said the future is difficult to see because it is always in motion. So many things in play. Future xFIL included.* I will not be amused though if this ends up costing us significant time or any more money that it already has.**

Baby’s Corner

I was chatting with DNOS the other night when she mentions her recent encounter with our youngest sibling.

“She called Mom to come get her when she had a flat, but of course Mom can’t see to drive in the dark anymore. So she had to call N1 and his dad. They got the tire changed and brought her to Mom’s.”

“How was she?” I asked. My interest in Baby is even less than DNOS’s interest in CB.***

“She’s looking old,” DNOS clucked.

“Well,” I said, “I thought she looked tough when I saw her over the summer. She can’t have aged more in such a short period of time.”

DNOS sighed, “Oh gawd, yes.  She looks older than either of us.”

Which is sad because she is just 43 and I looked pretty damn good at that age.

“How’s LawnMowerMan?”

“He lost his job when the farmer sold his cows and his back is too bad for him to work,” DNOS chuckled. “Baby says he’s been approved for disability.”

“That’s bullshit,” I replied. “It takes at least two years to get on disability for something like that.”

I know because I spent 10 months getting my late husband approved for disability and he was dying. LawnMowerMan will likely die younger than he should but he’s nowhere close at the moment.

But DNOS went on to say that Baby is working full-time at the nursing home and is supporting them both, which is ironic because Baby’s back problems are easily worse than that no account drunk she lives with and defends with the all the passion of Michele Bachmann at a rally for the sanctity of marriage.

It’s funny how nothing much changes with Baby. I was just recalling for Rob a Christmas about 20 or so years ago when she forced Mom to invite her boyfriend Len to the Christmas Eve festivities. They were “living together” and by that I mean they were couch surfing his wide circle of acquaintances, carting everything they owned in paper grocery sacks from hovel to hovel. Sadly, Len was probably the nicest guy she ever knew. Far as I know, he was the only one who never hit her. Early thirties, a bit punch drunk and missing his upper front teeth, she left him when he refused to have a baby with her.  She wanted to go back on welfare.  N1 kinda owes his existence to her laziness.

N1

The California experiment was a failure. N1 is back in his grandmother’s attic. And that’s really all I know, but CB spoke to him last week and remarked, “I don’t think much has changed.”

Speaking of Change

Last Christmas the front half of our home was just barely rehabbed from its total gutting. Today there is a brand new kitchen and living area. Silver and xFIL were newbies, and now Silver is a permanent fixture and xFIL has been kicked to the Arizona curbside.

In Silver, and with the addition of Mick’s fella , Dare, I have inherited interesting dining challenges via one’s gluten intolerance and the other’s deathly nut allergy.

We’ve also encountered the interesting phenomena of Christmas musical chairs as we struggle to nail down day and time for our holiday gathering. Rob finds it perplexing because he is old enough school to have been simply absorbed into his wife’s family and holiday time-table, both times. That’s not really the way it works for all men but most bow to the wife and her family traditions.

Silver’s family usurped our Christmas Eve tradition and Dare’s mother has claimed all day Christmas.

“Boxing Day?” Rob asked.

But there was no way that Dee could hold out on opening presents until Boxing Day. She barely made it ’til Christmas Day last year.

As of today, I know only that I am cooking meals both days and whoever shows up will be eating them. The business of the gifts is yet to be decided.

Epilogue

And so we come to the end of the anti-letter, which is not to say that the year was so heinous that it deserves one, but to remind that there is dark and white meat on every bird. My life is no different from anyone else’s. There are highs, lows and inbetween’s.

Happy Holidays to all and if you missed the year-end pictorial, it’s right here.

*He’s written letters to everyone who knows MIL, pleading with them to help him patch things up.  I still don’t dislike the guy.  He reminded me of all those things about my dad, which were sharp-edged and old-school.  That kind of man is not to my personal taste, but I am not 70 years old either. Older people marry for reasons that go beyond the romantic love and sex that drives younger people. This is not to say that they don’t experience it, but companionship, someone to take care of you and a pooling of resources enter into it in probably bigger ways than it does with younger couples.

** They came as a couple last Christmas and we put them up in a hotel for a week, which xFIL never offered to reimburse us for – even a little and there was the whole “moving” thing in August.

***DNOS would never admit to it, but she loves to get news about CB. She adores family gossip.