Monthly Archives: November 2015

‘Tis the Season

Something strange comes over me in the month before Christmas. A restlessness. An inability to view my surroundings with anything less than creeping dissatisfaction. The benefit of this emotion is that I get things done. Tree up. House cleaned and decorated. But there’s a less beneficial side effect. I call it the ‘Can’t leave well enough alone,’ syndrome. For example.

When my sister Cindy lived in Flin Flon, she was unhappy with her living room carpet.  It was old. She longed for a clean, bare floor. One afternoon, she pulled up a corner and, lo, there was hardwood. Within minutes, (somehow, we drew my mother and sister Susan into this madness) we were ripping the carpet away from its underlay. We had it neatly rolled and were carrying it out of the house under our arms, when my brother in law came home from a long, long day at work. He looked at us with such tired eyes. I felt like a thief in the Christmas movie, Home Alone. Deserving of a slippery banana peel or brick to the head.

Other years, I’ve satisfied myself with sewing a Christmas table cloth two hours before dinner was ready to be served. Or painting our rumpus room on Christmas Eve. Though we started at eleven in the morning, I can still remember my sister Linda saying, ‘Really? But I’ve never painted.’ ‘Here’s your chance,’ I answered, shoving a brush into her hand. By four o’clock, everything was lovely. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care.

I’ve done other harebrained things, but this year has been the worst. Yesterday, I got the brilliant idea that I should paint the inside of my entrance door red. I’ve always wanted a red door, and why not have it done in time for Christmas? Clarence was in Winnipeg, so there was no one to talk me out of it. Within fifteen minutes of making the decision, I was at Canadian Tire. I bought a small can of paint, and a little tray and roller. I had washed the door just before leaving home.

Filled with delight, I quickly assembled a drop cloth and small ladder. When I opened the can, the smell hit me right away. I had purchased Tremclad, since this was a metal door. It’s an oil paint, which, in my enthusiasm, hadn’t occurred to me. Within minutes of applying the paint to the door, I felt dizzy. Fifteen minutes later I had a headache the size of Montana. By the time I finished and was making lunch, I was staggering around the kitchen like I’d just drunk a forty of tequila. Volatile organic compounds. It’s tequila with a side of brain damage.

I immediately checked with our family paint advisor, sister Joni. After berating me in an appropriate fashion, she advised letting it dry, then priming it over with latex and repainting with the same. It might help, she said darkly. And, what were you thinking? Well, Joni.

Alas. I wasn’t. Enthusiasm for my latest project drove all common sense away. So today, once I’ve passed the twenty-four hour drying minimum, I’m repainting. Even if it didn’t smell so bad, I’d have to, anyway. Because, though I did a good job, it looks terrible. The door actually seems possessed. There is something menacing about it, even without the odor. A malevolence. Like killer children should be waiting for me at the end of a long hallway. Or Jack Nicholson with an axe.

The downside is, I had to redirect my bookclub to my generous friend Kate’s house. The upside is, I no longer want a red door. I’ve often admired them on other people’s houses. But in my tiny foyer, it practically slaps your face as you walk by. So, lesson learned. Sigh. Now to finish gyp rocking the basement ceiling. Just kidding, honey. You’re not coming home until tomorrow, right?

Nick Nack, Paddy Whack

There are two kinds of people in the world. Nay, three. First are the collectors. They spend their lives searching for the perfect addition to their vast hoard. The missing piece. The finishing touch. Nick nacks reproduce in the dark of night, popping out baby nick nacks and expanding their territory so that every time you go to the bathroom, there is another vase sitting on the shelf that wasn’t there before.

This kind of multiplication seems to happen most with people in the second group. Those married to collectors. Just when you think you have a handle on things, up springs another piece of art, an elaborately carved mother and child, a bowl hewn from Amazonian wood. “A real collector’s item, honey. You don’t find those just anywhere. They don’t make them like that anymore.”

This may be true. But if so, then why does Value Village have an endless supply? They’re like black holes, pulling all kinds of things onto their shelves, ready for the next collector to come along. Which they always do. Those of us married to such enthusiasts spend a lot of time crying over, I mean, arranging things.

The third type have taken a vow of emptiness. No clutter violates their clean, barren spaces, the carefully arranged book shelves holding only books read the day before. Their bedrooms hold the basics, beautifully done in minimalist themes. Spare. Bare bones. No extras.

I am in the second camp. The lucky receiver of collected goods. The holder of many vases. Occasionally, the breaker of a few. There is a reason that people like me are married to collectors. It’s because we don’t have the courage for the bare space. We cannot contemplate a world without nicknacks, even though, deep down, we’d appreciate a few less. Not for us the empty shelves and barren dresser tops. The half empty linen cupboards (Judy, these quilts are antiques!)

On the other hand, if I were married to the third type of person, my sense of superiority would fly right out the window. I would be shamed daily by my inability to get rid of favorite items of clothing that no longer fit. The broken jewelry box I got in Italy. The Vase from Venice. The miniature chess set from India.

It’s better to be on team two. Smug in my sense of order, feeling mighty good about my ability to manage. Nick nack, paddy whack. Give this girl a bone. She’ll find a nice spot for it.

It’s the Apolcalypse! And Yet…

I hate the idea of being afraid. Of running for my life for any reason at all. Catastrophic climate change. Nuclear war. Zombies. But aside from the potential for slow starvation or my inability to outrun anything with legs, there would be certain advantages.

Like, never doing my hair again. I’d get one of those buzz cuts Charlize Theron sports in the latest Mad Max movie. Sure, I’d look like the scariest version of myself. But life would be so easy without all the brushing and drying and conditioning. Especially with water being in short supply, which is a given during any decent apocalypse.

I would stop fussing about my calcium or Vitamin D levels. Ordinarily, this kind of thing haunts me, but I simply would not have time for that kind of worry anymore. Also off the list would be probiotics. I’d probably settle for chowing down on some garden dirt, or kissing the neighbor’s dog. (All endorsed by certain unnamed guests on CBC radio.) Trying not to die would be the only prescription I would follow.

Having my teeth cleaned would be out. Instead of a trip to my dental hygienist, with its follow up lecture and emotional spanking, I would make do with a twig from a tree and a quick scrub. Perhaps I’d find dental floss in an abandoned Walmart. Either way, my choices would be limited, so I wouldn’t have to feel guilty.

Wardrobe choices would be minimal. Since I hate to shop, I could reprise my wardrobe from the 80’s and 90’s. Baggy sweats and long, loose fitting shirts, plus the most comfortable, unhipster-like shoes I could find. In a real pinch, I’d borrow things from Clarence, like I did when I was pregnant. Men’s jockey shorts, ladies. So comfortable!

Cleaning the house would no longer be a problem. Dusting, vaccuming, washing the sheets? Not anymore. I’d find some plastic or one of those space blankets to cover me while I cowered beneath a bridge or made myself at home inside a large culvert.

No more blogging, or writing of any kind. My hand has long forgotten how to work a pen and because of massive, world wide power failure, computers won’t work. What will I do with all that time on my hands? Well. The world as we know it will have ended, so time won’t be on my side, anyway. Problem solved.