If I recall, my husband the dentist had the sweetest tooth in the family.
If I recall, my husband the dentist had the sweetest tooth in the family.
As I write this, it’s the first of October and already Christmas stuff is on the shelves. *Sigh* I remember hearing about how the show “South Park” got started. Apparently, the artists did a Christmas spoof using cut-out images of Jesus fighting Santa Claus in an effort to gain Yuletide supremacy. What a funny idea…and right on target.
As soon as Hallowe’en is o’er, we’ll be immersed in the commerce of Christmas. …and like everyone else, I’ll be right in there, buying my stash. I often wonder what Jesus himself would have thought of all this!
The yard I drew here was the yard in front of our house on Tally Ho Road in Dundas. We had a number of big leafy trees and the amount of raking to be done in the fall was overwhelming. The good thing was that they created a wonderful playground. We could bury Aaron and each other in the leaves. We rolled in them, used the leaf bags as beanbag chairs and enjoyed the crackle, the colour, and the smell.
This little one liner I used once before in a single panel cartoon, which I submitted to the Dundas Valley Journal. It was the first cartoon I had published in a newspaper.
As much as I wanted my children to learn about cooking, cleaning, organizing and how to talk on the phone, It was easier if they simply played at my feet and just let me do these things myself. Some of our most treasured moments, however, were when they did help, and these mundane household accomplishments were as rewarding as a good grade in school. It takes time and patience to let children do ordinary things- but when we do, we’re giving them lessons for life!
Kate and Aaron both slept with one stuffed toy. It was me who filled my bed with stuffed animals and slept around them when I was a kid. My favourite was a koala bear that my grandmother brought back from Tasmania for me. It was real kangaroo hide and I loved him until his fur was almost gone.
My brother stole him away from me once, insisted on sleeping with him, and then wet his bed. Mom couldn’t wash my koala because he was leather, so her advice was to let him sit on the windowsill and air out: “In time he will be less ‘whiffy'” she said. But he stank for years, so “Whiffy” was what I called him. I still have old “Whiff” in my china cabinet. He’s sweeter smelling, now, and still well loved.
I confess. As a busy mom, I went for looks. If things looked tidy, I was content. Likewise, if something looked clean, I left actual fumigation until it was really necessary. After an orange juice disaster that rendered every surface of my kitchen tacky with residue, Aaron (who thought the saying “cleanliness is next to Godliness” meant “invisible forces did the laundry”) suggested I wash the kitchen table when his cheek stuck to the surface. I took this as an opportunity for a learning experience…and asked him to wash it himself.
I couldn’t quite remember the short story Aaron planned to submit, but it did go something like this. After some discussion about creativity, responsibility and pride, I left my stubborn charge to face the wrath of his teacher. He returned home with an “F” on his paper…and was told it meant “Funny”.
“Next time,” Sheena Baker told me, “I’ll tell them how many words they have to write!” Aaron did well in Sheena’s class. She was direct and honest and had a wonderful sense of humour.
Every house on Eldon Road in Lynn Lake was close to the road, and folks could easily see into the windows. We had sheers over ours both for privacy and for the luxury of watching while not being seen.
As this strip was going to press, my brother Alan had started to go out with a lovely lady named Joan. I had been so close to guessing details about his relationships in the strip that when he saw this, he asked me not to have Phil and Georgia get married until after he married Joan!
Joan (aka “Georgia”) came into my brother’s life when my kids were in elementary school. Because we were living in such a remote area, they didn’t see a lot of Uncle Al, and didn’t have the opportunity to observe his relationships. I did! Knowing he would read all the strips which alluded to him, I openly needled him, hoping he would spill the beans and let me in on his plans for the future. He didn’t…until he was prepared to see it in the paper!
I think I was right on target, here. Joan was (and is) a beautiful girl. My husband commented often on how lucky Alan was to have met her and what a “find” she was. When I said I thought he had met his intellectual equal and that looks weren’t everything… the reply was (as I recall) “Yeah, but a good purchase needs great packaging!”
This is another glimpse from my childhood. My dad was the kind of guy who loved to build go-karts and tree houses and water slides on the lawn. Even though it wasn’t cool to do stuff with your parents, a day with Dad always ended with a trophy of some kind: something built or found or eaten. When we weren’t building stuff, we were hitting the dump or scrounging in the workshop and after that, we’d go to the Dairy Queen. The BIG cone cost a quarter and was almost too big to eat.
It was when we had grown up a bit that we stopped hanging out with Dad. We’d give him excuses for why we weren’t into making stuff or going out and it hurt him to see us change. I do remember him taking the neighbour’s kid out for an ice cream cone and wondering, “Why isn’t he taking me?” – knowing full well that I’d cut him out of my circle of friends. I just wanted him to be a dad. What I didn’t know was that he was being a dad and – he was exceptional!
The biggest obstacle to going anywhere in Lynn Lake was going outside. So much of the year was dangerously cold and just going across the street meant struggling into heavy snowsuits, hats, mittens and clunky boots, which made walking a misery for even the most capable toddler. Kate’s objection to day care was more about putting on the clothing than leaving me. After putting it all on, she had a 2 minute walk, and then had to take it all off again!
Katie had no problem going to day care and Aaron adjusted to it immediately, too. This scenario was based on tales I heard from friends who lived in the city. Some children felt abandoned, some moms felt guilty, and it was a difficult time all-round. I thought it was great material for the strip.
The truth is- I felt no guilt in taking Katie and Aaron to day care. They both thrived on the company of other children and enjoyed the change of scene. I too, needed a break – which, in turn, made me a happier mom. Happy moms make happy kids. For us, it was all good.
One of the most useful bits of psychology I learned in my mom and toddler classes was to use “I messages”. When you tell a kid how their inappropriate behaviour affects you, the exchange becomes a discussion and not an accusation. When you reword “Your whining drives me crazy! Why are you whining so much?!” and say: “I don’t understand why you’re upset. It makes me unhappy to hear you whining. What can I do to help?” You’re more likely to get a better response.
This is all very nice when you have your wits about you and can think of the right thing to say. Unfortunately “Oh for heaven’s sake, cut the crap and get ready for school, already!” can easily spill out. The thing to remember is: a hug will always save the day!
Up north, friends and family were our day care providers. Kate went to her grandma’s or to my friend Marian across the street, and was content with her regular stay in new surroundings. For the most part, the local moms took turns. Kids’ parties and afternoon craft days in private homes didn’t require the attendance of every parent.
We all knew how precious a few hours on our own were- even though we had nowhere to go! Just the freedom to grocery shop without the weight of a backpack or the awkwardness of a stroller was such a pleasure, we all made sure to share it! Some moms took advantage, leaving their kids too long and too often. Those of us who took in the children rarely complained, though. The free time wasn’t just for the mothers. We genuinely cared about the kids’ time off as well!
Katie had the ability to melt your heart with a simple look or a longing gesture. She could cry on demand. She could plead with such puppy-like innocence that it was almost impossible NOT to give in! Kids like this use theatre to such advantage that their siblings stop protesting and eventually use the thespian’s gifts to their own advantage.
Katie and Aaron were in cahoots on many occasions. Kate softened the enemy and her accomplice struck the blow. So many times they worked in tandem to get their way. It was hard to be angry. With a common objective, at least they were getting along!
Having lived in northern communities for most of my adult life, I have been exposed to the fur trade from the trappers’ point of view. It isn’t unusual to see samples of pelts made into rugs and some are pretty vicious looking. In fact, we owned one ourselves in Lynn Lake. It was a “cross fox” pelt which lay in front of our fireplace.
When this Sunday page appeared, I had quite a number of complaints from animal rights activists. They were understandably concerned. It’s just that this is the way it was for us and still is. Katie did ask how and why the rug had come to be.
I had purchased the pelt to support a family living in the bush – and I felt no guilt in doing so. This is not the best cartoon I ever did – it’s probably one of the more forgettable ones… but when you have a relentless deadline, you go with whatever you can think up and run with it. Then… you wait for the flack to come later!
There’s nothing like knowing all the rules to make you feel superior. I remember being told to let my brother win if I was teaching him a card game, but it was hard to do. So, I didn’t! Later, when Alan became proficient with chess, I asked him to teach me – but I never learned. Playing with my brother drove me crazy. Alan made sure that he always won!
Our town was so small that a kid could be found in minutes. A short walk or a phone call would produce the offender and it was always a short walk home. Even so, I worried when one of my children was out of sight for too long. One day, I went looking for Katie. She had been in the back yard with a couple of neighbour kids, but had disappeared. I went out and found her playing in the house across the lane.
Three children under the age of five had been left in the care of an eight year old while her parents had gone down to the pub. The eight year old was holding a rifle which had been removed from its mount on the wall and her little brother was singing; “I know where the bullets are! I know where the bullets are!” I brought Katie home. I told her she had done nothing wrong. I said her friends were welcome to come to our house at any time, but she was never to go there again. It wasn’t the kids I didn’t trust- it was some of the parents!
My parents had much less control over my brother and me than I had over my children. Mom and Dad both worked in our shop on Upper Lonsdale – a good half hour walk from home. Al and I were on our own a lot. We could do just about anything as long as dinner was ready by 6:00 and nothing in the house was busted or burning. I became the cook at about age 10 and Al just had to keep out of my way. Life was complicated. I knew what it was like to be “grown up” in my head and a kid in stature!
When I was 12, I saved up enough money to take my family to Vancouver for dinner and a movie. It was my Christmas present to them. It cost everything I had been able to save. It cost me $12.00. We took the bus and ate at a Hastings street beanery. We saw “Danny Kaye in Hans Christian Anderson” and I paid for everything. My parents were so proud. It was the first “big” present I ever gave- and I still think of it as one of my best!
This happened to me outside Woodward’s Department store when I was small. My folks were standing close to the curb, watching for the bus to come. I was next to the window checking out the Christmas display and watching the Salvation Army Santa. He wasn’t doing much, so I started to ask him questions (not in a disrespectful way) and he barked at me! This was very un-Santa like behaviour. My mom explained that this wasn’t the real Santa, just a helper in a red suit and beard. Even then I was aware of bad advertising and felt that Santa should know he was being misrepresented!
When we began to question the logistics of Santa, the folks left it up to us to find explanations. By then, our reasoning far surpassed anything the folks could conjure. We came up with complicated intercontinental business dealings and covert works with the military. We decided what could be done by magic and was actually done by hand. We talked about houses without chimneys, apartment buildings and all the other obstacles to delivery and figured stuff just “went in”. We knew one thing for sure: as long as we believed in Santa, he would come.
Before my folks took over Shore’s Jewellers in North Vancouver, my dad worked for the main store on Hastings Street. Every morning he’d walk to the bottom of Lonsdale and take the ferry into the city. Like clockwork, he’d come back on the return ferry at 5:30 and be home on the dot of 6:00pm. We knew exactly when he’d be home. Alan and I would wait like two giddy, wagging dogs, ready to pounce on him. His arrival was a big part of the family routine. It heralded a call to dinner, then (after homework) an evening of board games or TV.
We’d watch something like “Gun Smoke” or “Walt Disney Presents” before going to bed. How lucky we were. I still remember the smell of my dad’s raincoat as I buried my face in it. I remember being picked up so I could look directly into his eyes and thinking it must be wonderful to be so tall. I remember him kissing me and hugging me and swinging me around when he came home. When I drew this strip, I thought about how much I loved him and how love never runs out.
This short vignette was done after I discovered that Aaron had taken a toy from a shop in town.
I stole a small purse once. I took it from Orek’s department store in North Vancouver. I wanted it, I didn’t have the money and I took it when no one was looking. When I got it home, I hid it in my closet so nobody would find it and ask where I got it from. I knew better. I had been given all the lectures. I was in the church choir and Brownies and I certainly knew the commandment “Thou shalt not steal”…but, I did it anyway. I never returned it. I was too embarrassed to do so. I kept it without ever using it, as a reminder of something I’d done for the fun of it, but had never enjoyed. I had it until I left home, and the guilt still lingers.
Whenever I was with a group of kids, the temptation to shoplift was greater. There was a thrill to be shared and safety in numbers. My chums were more likely to talk about it than to actually do it, but once in awhile, one of us would give in. After a hasty escape and covert examination of the booty, the accusations would come and the “winner” reduced to the level of common thief. I remember sneaking back into Orek’s department store to return an object after we had stolen it- and I have to say, this was more fun than taking it!