Monthly Archives: April 2011

Friday April 1, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

For me, making meals was one of the most challenging jobs on earth. A repast must be colourful and attractive enough to provoke interest, flavourful and aromatic enough to invite ingestion and healthy enough to support life. The local grocery stores (we had two) supplied fresh meat, but fresh veggies were another matter. I remember fighting over a wrinkled green pepper in Perepeluk’s just so we could experience the taste!

Aaron was not a fan of mushrooms, but if I could lay my hands on a fresh pack of mushies, by jove we were gonna eat them – and I wasn’t making a fungus-free meal for HIM! He had, however, a tongue that could locate and isolate a mushroom in any mix and he’d ring his plate with rejects faster than a dog spits out pills!

Today, of course, his palate has matured. He is an omnivore who, living in Vancouver, enjoys the best of vegetarian cuisine. I’ve watched him eat mushrooms many times… and it surprises me still that he does so – on purpose!

Saturday April 2, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

I have a hard time accepting compliments. As kids, we used sarcasm so often, it was hard sometimes to tell a sincere compliment from a jab. It was easier to let compliments slide than to take them seriously. I also have a hard time accepting gifts and feel I should give back double just to make sure I’ve been fair!

I guess there are worse things to worry about, and fortunately I have a daughter I can go to for constructive criticism. She’s usually quite positive – and that’s a real compliment!

Sunday April 3, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

I don’t know how many times I sat alone after some frustrating bout with the kids, wishing I had “done it better”. It’s hard to do something better if you’re doing it for the first time – and considering how many firsts there are in parenting, you’re bound to make a few mistakes along the way. Books, professionals, friends and family can advise you, but in the end this is your responsibility, your environment, your rules – and everyone has to learn to get along.

My philosophy is: no matter how much your child looks like you or Uncle Max or sounds like Dad or walks like great aunt Beulah…he or she is a stranger in your home. You have to accord the same respect and consideration to your children as you would to a stranger – and with this as a guide, they should (by the time they’re 20)…do the same for you!

Even so, I made some awful errors. I shouted, I cried, I fought and I did things that weren’t fair. The thing is; kids are resilient and understanding and an apology goes a long way! I remember some tearful times when I had to admit I had not handled something well and I told my children I was truly sorry.

Noisy and fanciful, naive and full of mischief, children are still people. They know what’s fair and what’s not. They can detect a lie; they can sniff out insincerity and they appreciate an apology as much as anyone else. I have apologized many times to my children and they have apologized to me. It’s not an easy thing to do – but the hugs, the comfort and the love that comes afterwards, make this humble sign of respect well worthwhile.

Monday April 4, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

We didn’t get a television until was twelve. Once the tube was in the house, I became hooked on classic movies and even soap operas. When it came to cartoons, I couldn’t get enough, so with both parents working it was tempting to feign an illness and stay home. I was good at looking sick, but it didn’t take Mom long to catch on. Every time I wheezed, coughed and begged to stay home, she did a thorough check up to make sure I wasn’t pulling a fast one. If she caught me, the punishment might be no TV for a week – or worse! Still, the thrill of the game was there and I played it until boys became more interesting than television.

Tuesday April 5, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

My kids always cried for MOM when they were sick. I tried not to call for mine! My mom had always wanted a career in medicine, so heaven help you if you felt under the weather. She had a remedy for everything. We went to bed wearing diapers pinned to our chests, spread with hot mustard. With towels over our heads, we breathed fumes from a bowl full of boiling water and camphor. We drank hot milk and rum, gagged on malt extract and cod liver oil, and when she was really stumped, there was always the dreaded enema! The good part, however, was that she really cared.

Wednesday April 6, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

Mom worked full time at the jewelry shop on Lonsdale, but if either Alan or I was seriously down for the count, she’d drop everything and stay home. I was never closer to my mother than when I had a bad illness and she was there to take care of me. During the 50’s we didn’t get vaccines for the flu – we got the flu!

The polio vaccine was newly available, diphtheria and whooping cough were also in decline, but mumps, measles, chicken pox and all kinds of other nasty bugs kept us in bed all too often. At these times, nothing was as soothing as having someone read to me. My mother read us wonderful stories from The Brothers Grimm to Rupert Bear, the Golden Books and Dickens. She read well, putting life and drama into everything. Sad to say that when my kids needed me at their bedsides, they preferred to watch television!

Thursday April 7, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

With Aaron in school and Katie in daycare, we were exposed to whatever was going around. Having the whole family grounded with some barking, feverish, miserable illness was par for the course. At least I didn’t have to work outside the home. This was when my mother’s penchant for home remedies was re-inflicted on my own progeny. I didn’t resort to mustard plasters, but I did the Vapo Rub and the vaporizer and I used thermometers in both ends. Fortunately, the hospital was walking distance away and at least once a week we saw the doctors socially. We managed to pull through whatever came down the pipe (as they say) which makes me realize how lucky we are to be living today and not in the middle ages. If you didn’t die then from the illness, you were likely to croak from the cure!

Friday April 8, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

There’s no such thing as the whole family “coming down with” something – because one of us is always “UP”! As chief bottle washer, I remember cooking and carrying, flushing, wiping and running up and down the stairs, even though I belonged in the sack too. Funny thing, though; even if I’d had the luxury of live-in help I’d still have wanted to take care of everyone. I’d still have made soup, taken temperatures, wiped foreheads and watched them ’til they slept. Perhaps this is why I like hospitals. I actually like the smell and the bustle and the constant state of “need”.

I enjoy being with nurses and doctors and learning as much as I can about what makes us “tick”. I have never minded being a patient and, some day if I’m ever too feeble to live on my own I won’t resent being “put away!!” Maybe I’m practical or perhaps I’m just looking forward to being taken care of – guilt free!

Saturday April 9, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

Every woman I know has the ability to tough it out, even when they’re sick. If someone needs you, the strength is there. You don’t think twice, you just do what needs to be done. It’s second nature. I had a dear friend whose husband was terribly ill. She looked after him night and day and when he was finally able to go back to work, she checked herself into the hospital and had surgery. She’d been suffering with a cyst on her ovary and hadn’t let the pain register until her other fears were over. People will say they have never done anything outstanding, courageous or worthy of note, but examples of selflessness like this happen every day…and it makes the word “giving” really mean something.

Sunday April 10, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

Neither one of us was adept at fixing things, although we tried. In the north, if there were no spare parts, you had to wait for something to come in the mail or hope there was a similar machine at the dump. My kitchen appliances were that peculiar shade of yellow they called “Harvest Gold”… but it was closer to the colour of cottage cheese, well past the expiry date – which describes the appliances as well.

My stove had one of those ceramic tops – a source of interest and considerable invention. Not only did we try cooking directly on it, but I found that I could repair paperback books by running the spine quickly across the cooking surface to melt the glue holding the pages in and voila- no loose pages!

The oven was often used to dry wet winter boots – something you only forgot about once. The memory of hot felt and scorched rubber still comes to mind. Our washer and dryer worked overtime, as did the rest of our appliances, and eventually we had to decide whether to repair or remove whatever broke down. Because the future of the town was so uncertain, buying anything new meant that you might be removing it soon after it was put in. This made “duct tape and bailing twine” the preferred method of repair. I remember being quite miffed that the machinery at the clinic was always in top working order, but then again I could wait – and “patients is a virtue!!”

Monday April 11, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

After I was divorced for the first time (wow, I never thought I’d be saying something like that) I lived in my small house in Dundas, learning how to raise a baby on my own. Aaron and I survived on my freelance artwork until I got a job doing graphics for a packaging firm in Hamilton. Money was tight and when my brother said he was moving to town and wanted to stay with me, I saw it as an opportunity for companionship, some help around the house and perhaps some extra cash.

Alan was and still is a professional musician – a trumpet player. At the time, he was looking for work as an electrician while he scoped out possibilities in the Ontario music scene. I figured it would be an interesting time – if we had grown past the need to bicker!

Tuesday April 12, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

Aaron was too young to know what was happening and I had already given away poor Farley the dog (Farley was jealous of the baby and was beginning to get rough with him). My brother was coming to stay and I had to find space. My house was a tiny two bedroom bungalow with no basement, so the plan was for Alan to live in the garage. It wasn’t a great space, but it was winterized and the doors could be boarded over. I moved my car outside, cleaned and organized and made the garage as habitable as possible. It was going to be an experiment and we both hoped it would work out well.

Wednesday April 13, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

My brother’s love life, at the time, was not complicated. In fact I think he was on the loose and happy to be free! He was leaving Vancouver and moving to Ontario, which overshadowed everything else.

Later, when I wrote stories for FBorFW, I mixed up all kinds of things. Memories were used as resources and characters came from both my imagination and reality.

Connie did not exist. Her character was based on someone real, but had morphed considerably. Her crush on Elly’s brother, Phil, was just a fun idea and good fodder for the strip. I had no plans for where this relationship would lead – I let the story go where it wanted to go. In fact, Connie’s loneliness came wholly from my own experience as a single mother – everything she said came from some painful places I needed to visit again.

Thursday April 14, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

To go over the cast again: Connie lived across the street from Elly Patterson and Anne lived next door. Elly had a close personal relationship with both of these imaginary women – because all three were ME! Through Anne, I could explore the life I led as a woman whose husband had numerous affairs. It’s easier to believe the excuses than to deal with the truth. Through Connie I relived my life as a single parent. Both characters had things to say, and it felt good to say them. In contrast, Elly’s role in the strip was to play the humdrum, easygoing, happy housewife in between. Looking back at it now, I see this was something else I imagined!!

Friday April 15, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

This strip covers the sensitive topic of gossip. When is talking about someone a caring gesture and when is it mean? I confess that I am much better at keeping a secret now than when I was in my 30s.

I was always aware of my friends’ feelings and their right to privacy, but from time to time, the juiciness factor overshadowed my judgment and I’d tell. The spilling of the beans is always prefaced by “I don’t want to be a gossip – and don’t tell her I told you” but from time to time, the leak was discovered and the result was a real test of our friendship. I learned to say I was sorry, and I was. I regained their confidence and in return, I found out what they’d been saying about ME!

Saturday April 16, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

Back to live theatre. Both my son and I have “standup” in our genes. When it comes to storytelling, wild explanations, excuses and jokes, you can count on both of us to give it our improvised all. I recall sending Aaron to school when he was on death’s doorstep. As he grudgingly dressed for school, I could tell he was wondering how I had uncovered his scam. He had hidden the hot water bottle well enough that it couldn’t be connected to the high temperature he had, but I still sent him packing. How did I know? First of all, he played it too well. I detected a rehearsal. Second? The tap in the bathroom was still hot to the touch. The “heat the thermometer” trick was an old one…and had also been one of mine!

Sunday April 17, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

My kids negotiated their bedtime, as did my brother and I. With the passion and forethought of seasoned debaters, we plied our folks with every possible reason, suggestion and excuse for why we should stay up longer, always to no avail. Now it was my turn to set the rules.

Aaron was especially keen to see us give in. It was the challenge that made his entreaties a ritual. By the time dinner ended, he was devising yet another way to add a few more seconds to the deadline of eight o’clock and the ruses began with disappearance. Not one to be unnoticed, he would slip unto the basement to do “stuff” or head outside and down the lane where he’d melt into the network of sheds, fences and open back doors. This was particularly frustrating in summer when the sun went down around midnight and there seemed to be no reason to hit the sack in broad daylight. Bringing him home hollering “no fair” when neighbors were outside washing their cars and chatting over coffee seemed, well,… no fair!

Still, a tired kid is not something you want to mess with in the morning, so we placed quilts on the windows, begged the older kids to play elsewhere and hoped the dogs would quit barking long enough for blessed somnolence to kick in.

Aaron is almost 40 now. He’s still a night owl and often hits the sack well after two a.m. He’s convinced me that this is his natural rhythm, that he was never meant to go to bed at eight. Even as a kid, he tells me, he was awake until late into the night and that I should have let him stay up until he was tired. Perhaps he’s right. But he was a kid then, and parents have their rules – some of which are meant to save their own sanity!!

Monday April 18, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

I used to look forward to getting my report cards. I always knew what my marks would be: A in art and reading, and B in everything else but math and sports. In those I was lucky to get a pass. In the teacher’s comment column, I could expect “Excellent work in the subjects she enjoys, does not apply herself in math and sports. Does not concentrate. Likes to be the class clown.”

I could predict the outcome of my efforts every time and was content with status quo. As long as I could count and make change, as long as I could skip and run and ride my bike well enough to keep in line with my chums, I was content with my educational prowess – much to the chagrin of my parents and teachers who tried to persuade me to do better. After all, if I was good at nothing else, I could always draw for a living!

Tuesday April 19, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

Even though I drove them crazy, my teachers did like me. After I had pushed them to the breaking point, after I had been sent to the office, sentenced to detentions and made to take angry notes home, I always came around. I guess I had to test them as thoroughly as they tested us. My report cards, though not outstanding, were always pretty good and in amongst the admonishments re: math and sports there was always something nice. The best comment I can remember came from my grade four teacher George Stibbs, who said that I “made the class fun and interesting.” This might have made me even more likely to clown around, but I grew to admire him too much to make him angry.

Wednesday April 20, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

My parents loved fantasy. When it came to things like tooth fairies and Santa and the Easter bunny, they went all out. At Easter, our tradition was the “bunny box”. Dad would find a cardboard box at the store that was the right size and depth. He would cut it so that one long side was high, the other long side low and the two short ends were cut in an “S” shape to form a fancy display container. We would then decorate this with crepe paper, ribbons and anything else we thought would entice the “E.B.” to leave us something special. It didn’t matter if there was a dubious side to the story of a magic rabbit – the lure of chocolate and perhaps a small gift was enough to keep this tradition alive for years.

Thursday April 21, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

My folks were ingenious at keeping the fantasy going. Both could concoct stories that kept us wide-eyed and gullible. Dad reasoned that rabbits were everywhere, but never seen – which was true. They certainly did a number on our garden. My mother, though eager to teach us everything about science and nature, went far beyond the old “as long as you believe, he exists” thing and asked us to prove the Easter Bunny did NOT exist…which, until we were at the skeptical age of eight, was pretty hard to do. The fact was that it was fun to believe and it was fun to prepare and there was always the fear that if the spell were broken, we’d have no chocolate at all!

Friday April 22, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

Tootie, our teenaged neighbor next door, had chickens which she raised as pets…and for experimentation. One spring, after corn soaked in food colouring failed to colour the eggs, she dyed the chicks instead. Like tiny wind-up toys, blue, pink, green and orange balls of fluff ran about the wire enclosure. Alan and I were thrilled with them and were at the coop every day until the colour wore off and their stubbly brown adult feathers started to grow in.

One day, Tootie let us watch a hen lay an egg. We were both fascinated and appalled.

“Is THAT where they come from?” we asked. It was our first introduction to the mystery of birth and we were keen to know more. Unwilling to tell us too much too soon, our parents explained that this was where birds came from – and as far as we were concerned, that was information enough. This was one truth that really was stranger than fiction!

Saturday April 23, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

Colouring eggs was one of the best things about Easter. Mom would boil up eggs, soak them briefly in vinegar to erode the shells and then set out dishes of dye for us to dip them in. The dye kit came with a small metal wand, looped at one end to hold an egg. If you were careful, you could dip one end of the egg in dye, turn it over and dip the other end in a different colour. Not one to do things without a flourish, Mom helped us draw on the eggs with white wax crayon which resisted the dye and left our doodles and designs the colour of the shell.

We applied stickers and feathers and plastic eyeballs to our coloured eggs and when we were done, they were put in the fridge until Easter night, when the Easter bunny would hide them, along with chocolate and candy eggs as well. In the morning, after the hunt, we’d put them in the “bunny box”. Already in the bunny box was a chocolate bunny for each of us, which we’d eat before breakfast – ears first.

Alan and I found out where the eggs had come from (as demonstrated by Tootie’s chickens) but this was no longer an issue. The magic and the fantasy always returned with flying colours!

Sunday April 24, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

These are the thoughts I had as I sat in church with my mother, listening to the Easter morning service. Our Anglican minister put a heavy focus on the death of Jesus and we were all made to feel responsible!

“It’s because of YOU that he died! You are all SINNERS!!! You nailed Him to the cross!”

I was eight years old and I thought…”But, I wasn’t there! I wasn’t responsible! I wasn’t even BORN yet!”

Years later, when my children asked to know more about the Easter story, I tried to tell it in a way that they could understand – putting the blame on a time when people were unjustly condemned all the time. I think this helped to separate them from a tragedy that occurred two thousand years ago and allowed them to focus on the message, the meaning and what was achieved.

This cartoon was done after Aaron and I had watched a movie together – I think it was “Ben Hur”. He was so moved by the crucifixion that he wished he had been there to prevent it. It was an exceptional moment that we shared together and we talked about it for some time. This is one instance when I had an opportunity to talk about some really serious concepts with my son, and I hope used it well.

Monday April 25, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

In 1973, Alan moved into my small house in Dundas and settled into the garage, which I’d tried to make as habitable as possible. Aaron, sensing a kindred spirit, was immediately on Al’s lap and I could see I was immediately outnumbered. Over the years Alan came to visit often but this was the one time, after a deadly sibling rivalry, we arranged to try cohabitation once more.

He moved what little he had into the garage and, as they say, we lived for awhile in “interesting times”. I had also sublet Aaron’s room to a geologist friend who was working on her master’s thesis and who had offered to help pay the rent. The dynamics of the three of us under the same roof with a baby made us all get to know each other perhaps a little too well!

Tuesday April 26, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

Alan’s life hadn’t really been this exciting. He had been working in construction while trying to get a music career off the ground and had moved to Ontario to see if the grass (yes) was greener in the east. Still, I was jealous of his freedom and his casual ways. I had become a mom and a homeowner who had little to live on, and I was determined to carry my own load. If I spent more than $20 a week on groceries, I’d be unable to pay the mortgage, which at the time was $147 a month.

My friends who rented apartments and had no kids thought I was rich. This, of course, was far from the truth. Along with the mortgage came the taxes, repairs, maintenance and other bills – all of which meant that I was living at or below the poverty line. My friend Fran was renting a room, which helped a lot. She also took care of Aaron and did much of the cooking, but we were far from solvent. When Alan went out for groceries one day and came back with a few cases of beer, I knew that our living arrangement was going to come in for review.

Wednesday April 27, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

Jumping into the future, here, these strips come from our time in Lynn Lake when Alan came to visit. The stories in FBorFW were always a blurry mixture of then and now, of my own childhood then and the lives of my two young children now.

In order to bring reality into the strip, I relied on every memory I had filed away. When I was writing about Michael, I would have to be the same age he was, thinking the way he did and behaving like a child. This is not to say that I ran about the house flailing my arms and refusing to eat cold peas. I would be in a trance, writing, talking to him, being him and talking back. Likewise, I would try and think the way my brother did: a bachelor, being crawled on by kids and expected to know something about family dynamics. Alan loved Aaron and Katie, but he was always keen to burrow into a book or fly the coop when the noise and the chaos got the best of him.

Thursday April 28, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

Our house in Lynn Lake was a large, three-bedroom split level home with a finished basement. This is the house the Pattersons lived in – but I had already established the outside of the house to look like the one I had in Dundas. The Dundas house was one level, so when the strip started to take shape and I wanted to keep some continuity I had to combine the two houses, which I did with difficulty. In the Dundas house, we’d have had to play musical beds. In the LL house, there was room to spare.

Because it was more fun to have the kids vacate their space for Uncle Phil, I let the story go in this direction. Anyone really scrutinizing the floor plan of the Patterson house might have asked why – but there was still too little information to work with. And besides, once you start an idea, the deadlines force you to carry on no matter what!

Having Uncle Phil take over Elizabeth’s room would provide more opportunity for comedy, and I hoped the muse would bring me something funny to write about!

Friday April 29, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

Now, we shift back in time to when Alan lived in my garage. As a musician, his schedule was 24 hours on call. If he had a “gig” somewhere, he might come home around two in the morning, all enthused after a night of jazz or rock or whatever had been “going down”. Trumpet players are often like freelance artists. You join a group that’s looking for a horn player, practice for awhile and blend in. Al had regular performances, too. He played classical and Baroque and when he wasn’t playing for an event, he practiced.

It wasn’t unusual after a performance for him to practice in the garage well into the morning hours, and if I asked him to lower the sound, he used his mouthpiece. This made a Donald Duck kind of “kwakking” sound – which was fine if you were awake and sensible, not so cool at the bewitching hour. We had a number of tense discussions about this and I think I won. I don’t remember. You lose some of your faculties with the lack of sleep.

Saturday April 30, 2011

Lynn’s Notes:

I think it’s safe to say that a mother’s morning starts around the crack of dawn. Aaron was always up and ready for breakfast around five a.m. My job in the graphics dept. at Standard Engravers began at eight, so I had time to get clothing organized, get lunches made and make sure the car would run before I dropped him at the daycare at 7:30. My kitchen door led into the garage where my brother lived and I tried to keep the noise down so I wouldn’t disturb his sleep.

There were times, though, when I thought about him blissfully slumbering, unencumbered by household chores, bosses and babies and it really ticked me off. I had never lived on my own. I never had the luxury of falling into an unmade bed at midnight after a night on the town, then spending the weekend doing whatever I darn well pleased. Like many girls in the 60s I got married at the tender age of twenty and moved from my parents’ home to an apartment where I assumed the wifely role of “caring for my man”.

Now divorced with a child to care for, I imagined my brother’s life to be ideal. It’s funny now to talk to him about this time in his career and he remembers it differently. For him it was unsettling to be living in my garage without a steady job and something to show for his 26 years on the planet. He felt lost and lonely and wanted the stability I seemed to have. We thought we were communicating at the time, but we never said what we were really thinking.