Taken July 1, 2008 with Canon PowerShot A550
Ruby wanted me to post a picture of snowshoes for this post. I would have, too, but I couldn’t find any snowshoes to take a picture of, and the ones stealable online were all too small to suit me. Besides, Ruby’s cherry tomatoes are gorgeous, aren’t they?
Ruby and I got talking about snowshoes in the spring (I know, I know – I’m SO behind in these posts!), when I mentioned that another winter had gone by, and I hadn’t bought snowshoes for the kid and myself.
I used to snowshoe in school, and on Cockburn Island with my Dad, but Ky would never even entertain the thought of going with me, until this year, when she took it up in school herself. And fell in love with it, just like I did. We never managed to get ourselves any equipment before the snow melted, though. Sigh…* Next year, maybe…
Anyhoo… The mere mention of snowshoes got a story going…
We used to snowshoe all the time in Northland, you know. We used those old catgut snowshoes – ever see them?
Me: Yes, I have. I used catgut snowshoes, too. My Dad had them on Cockburn, and I think that’s what we had in school.
Well, they don’t make ’em like that anymore. Now, they’re those lightweight aluminum things. Don’t take nothin’ to get those things going. The ones *I* used were heavier than *I* was!
Me: Yup. And if you don’t bang the snow out them every so often, you’ll get bogged down with the weight…
That’s right! You have be careful how you bang ’em, too, or you’ll end up on your face.
(I laughed hard at this – I remember ending up on my face more than a few times.)
I think we spent the whole winter on snowshoes, now I think of it. We wore them for syruping, too. Imagine hauling pails of sap with snowshoes on…! We did it, though. We worked hard, now I look back on it, but I don’t think it occurred to us that we were working. We were having too much fun!
Me: Did you ever just snowshoe for the sake of snowshoeing?
Of course! We snowshoed all winter. Everybody did – even the teacher. He boarded at our house, you know. Slept with my brother.
Me: Your school teacher boarded with you?! God, you must have hated that!
You’re telling me I hated it! I didn’t like that guy much. He thought he was funny, always joking around… Any time a man walked into our kitchen, he’d yell at me: “Ruby! There’s somethin’ in the kitchen with pants on!” He used to make me so mad!
(Let’s all take a break here, while I try to stop laughing…)
I teased him back, though, I guess. I got in big trouble with him over that once.
Me: What’d you do?
Well, he got sweet on this girl in our class one year. He wasn’t much older than us, after all, and he took a shine to this pretty thing that had her nose in the air all the time…
Me: Uppity, was she?
Uppity?! She wouldn’t even talk to the rest of us girls, that’s how uppity she was! Anyway, the teacher was sweet on her, and one day when us kids were all out snowshoeing on the ice, this girl was with us, and we started teasing her about the teacher. She got mad at us, and sat down on the ice and wouldn’t speak to us at all.
So we thought, “Oh, to heck with her,” and off we went without her. Well, when we come back around again, she was gone. We could see two sets of snowshoe tracks making off into the bush, and we knew the teacher had come by and they’d gone off alone together. We made fun of them back and forth to ourselves all the way home. I could hardly keep a straight face at the dinner table that night, with him sitting across from me, let me tell you!
Anyway, that night, my sisters and I were upstairs getting ready for bed, and I got singing…
“She sat on the ice, and she wouldn’t talk
When the teacher came along, they went for a walk,
(At this point, I must interject with the news that Ruby actually began to recite a ditty she’d made up over 70 years ago, and probably hadn’t thought twice about since…. I was flabbergasted. I daresay Ruby was too.)
Well! Didn’t that teacher hear me from down in the kitchen! He came barrelling up those steps – scared the bejeezus out of me! Told me right off, and I got mad at him! I said, “Oh, but it’s alright for you to say, ‘There’s somethin’ in the kitchen with pants on,’ every time somebody comes in!”
And he turned right around and never said another word.
I finally had the sense to dig out the digital recorder. I turned it on, fully expecting her to balk, but…
Ruby sang! When I asked her if I could blog it, she actually agreed. “But,” she said, “You should put up a picture of catgut snowshoes. I’ll bet most people that read your blog have never seen snowshoes!”
Ruby’s tomatoes will have to do, though. I’m more excited to share her voice with you. Check it out.
“Knickety-Knackety” – Ruby Daniel, 2008
Click it! Click it!
Random Song-for-the-Day: “I Kissed a Girl” – Kerry Perry
Matthew Mansel Falls
From the time I moved out on my own, right up until my parents moved into the first retirement home, I received a unique gift from them at the end of every summer: enough vacuum-sealed fillets of whitefish to last until the next delivery a year later. 22 annual deliveries, by my calculation. That’s a lotta fish.
My dad raised kids, and vegetable gardens, and sunflowers, and honeybees. Sometimes he raised the roof. He could raise hell, too, when he wanted to.
He wasn’t the kind of guy who said “I love you.” I used to wonder how he proposed to my mother, without saying those three little words, because I’d never heard him utter them, not to her, nor to any of us kids, nor to my daughter. When we said “I love you,” to him, he would reply, “Okay. Goodbye, then,” or, “Here, I’ll get Maude (my mother) on the phone.” He never said it, but we always knew, mind you.
He’s been in and out of hospital for several years, now. The first time that we all knew he was dying, and all the kids came home, I was sitting beside his bed with Un-Brother Ken. Dad was all talked out for the time being, and we sat there in silence for a long time, when he suddenly said, out of the blue, “I’m not afraid.”
I don’t know if he was talking to me, or my brother, or maybe it was himself. After a bit, Ken answered him, saying something to the effect of that being a good thing, then. I couldn’t say anything, myself. I was certain it was my last visit with him, but glad, nonetheless, that he was okay with… It. That day, when I left the hospital, I kissed my dad goodbye, and said, “I love you.”
“Okay – are you taking the bus home?” was how he replied. I think he meant “I love you,” though.
And he got better.
Several hospital incarcerations later, as my mother kissed him goodbye, she said “I love you.” I’d never heard her say that to him before, although she says it to me all the time. I remember thinking then that maybe my mom knew she would never get another chance to say it to him.
And he didn’t hear her – his hearing aids were in the bedside table. So, when she was halfway to the door, he called, “What was that…?” And my mom giggled a little, and called back a little louder, “I just said ‘I love you.'”
“What’s that? I can’t hear you.”
And so, from the doorway, laughing, my mother yelled at him.
“I said, ‘I LOVE YOU!'”
And they both laughed. And then he said it back. Out loud. I heard him. And I knew I’d never see him alive again.
But he got better.
The next time he was dying in hospital, I kissed him goodbye, and said “I love you,” as usual.
And he squeezed my hand, kissed me back, and said, “I love you, too.” Out loud. I heard him. And I knew I’d never hear that again, but that was okay, because he’d actually said what I’d always known anyway, and I knew that he knew that he’d never see me again, and that’s why he said it, finally, just in case I was wondering, maybe…
But he got better.
We’ve had many more chances to talk since then, and we’ve made the most of it. I’ve gotten a lot of wonderful bloggable stories of his life, and those that haven’t been told here yet, will be in future, I promise that. My dad was a great storyteller.
We talked, too, of what it was like to be near the end. He was pleased with his life. He’d done almost everything he’d wanted to do (“…and some things I didn’t know I wanted to do, but I did them anyway,”), and he didn’t have any regrets that he could think of.
I’m comforted to know that near the end of things, my dad was able to look back on it all, and feel content that he’d had a full life. And that he wasn’t afraid. But I think it’s also important to remember that from his standpoint, “It sure went fast.” I imagine, if we all live to be 87, we’ll feel the same. So, if we want to do something, we’d better get at it. I would hate to look back and wish for things to be different.
The last time I saw him, in a different hospital, eating a piece of pie, with a non-cooperative, trembling hand, I realized he might never get any more pie. He wasn’t supposed to have this piece of pie, but there comes a time when restrictive diets just don’t matter anymore, do they?
The best meals for my dad always ended with a piece of pie, something he would complain about to my mother, if she didn’t provide it. He was known to say to company around the dinner table, “Gee, I’m awful glad you’ve come for supper. If you hadn’t, I wouldn’t have got any pie.”
And here he was, eating what might be the last piece of pie in his nearly 88 years, and his damned hand couldn’t catch it on the spoon. So I tried to help, as best I could, guiding his hand to scoop it up, and he said what I was certain would be his final words to me, knowing, I imagine, that we would never get the chance to speak again.
“Hey, you. Quit tryin’ to steal my pie.”
As last words go, they were good ones – if you knew my dad.
But he got better. Sort of. He said many more things to me, but right now, I can’t remember any of them.
He had a few more set backs, but he did get out of hospital, and he did get more pie. He never quite got back up to himself again, though.
And this morning, at 5:15, My Brother the Trespasser called to tell me he’d gone in his sleep. I imagine his last words would have been to my mother: “Goodnight, then…”
If I could have been there when Dad breathed his last, I like to think I’d have had the nerve to say, as my goodbye to him, “So long, and thanks for all the fish.” It would have been a way to let him know I appreciated everything he’d done for me over the years – which was a helluva lot. More than I deserved.
It would have made him laugh, too, even though he’d never seen the Hitchhiker movie, nor would he have read the book, or ever even heard of Douglas Adams. But he’d have remembered all that whitefish, and he would have laughed, I know. And to go out laughing would have been just his style.
Instead, he made me laugh, with “Quit tryin’ to steal my pie.”
I think, though, that what he meant was, “I love you.”
Parade Girl – 1956
It didn’t show up in the photo, so Ruby’s sister, who took the original picture back in 1956, wrote what the sign said with a ball-point pen, on the copy she made for Ruby. Yes, that’s Ruby with the mask, goggle eyes and bathing suit. Ummm. Yeah. That’s a bathing suit.
Ruby had no qualms whatsoever about handing it over for bloggery mischief – in fact, she hunted it out on purpose for me in March of this year.
Sorry, folks. This post is a few months late.
* * *
Did I ever tell you about the time I marched in the Community Day Parade on the Island?
Me: No! When was this?!
(laughs and claps her hands together) Wait’ll you see this!
She disappears into her spare room and comes out with the above photo, at which I, of course, laugh.
Me: ‘Splain to me this, Ruby.
Ruby (eyes just a twinkling): Do you think that Mushy-fella will like this?
Me: I think he’d rather no mask.
Ah, well. He’ll have to suffer the mask, then.
Me: So, what’s with the sign? Were you protesting?
Kind of. But we were more making fun, I guess.
Me: Who were you making fun of?
The Town Council, that’s who! A couple years before this, somebody on the council got the bright idea, that if they made a sand beach along the waterfront on one side of the Island, that the tourists would come in droves. There was fighting and voting and more fighting and more voting than you ever would believe over that beach mess, let me tell you!
Me: Looks as if the town wanted it, by the sign…
Nope. Just the opposite. Most people in town didn’t think it would work at all. They figured Lake Huron would just wash the beach away in a couple of years, and wouldn’t that be just a waste of sand and money?
Me: I guess it would.
Your darn right it would! But Council won out, and they must have spent thousands trucking in sand in big trucks and dumping it. They made a right nice beach, too.
And the very next Spring, Lake Huron melted and hauled the whole works away to God Knows Where! (laughs for a long time) Town Council was pretty red-faced about that, lemme tell you!
Me: And so you marched yourself down Main Street in the Community Day Parade with that get-up and a sign, just to make fun of the Council? I wouldn’t have thought you to be so mean, Ruby!
(I said this ADMIRINGLY, though, you must understand….)
Ruby claps her hands together in laughter again….
I won First Prize!!
Random Song for the Day: “Nobody Told Me” – Puddle of Mudd