Sisterhood of the Traveling Mom Jeans

My sisters and I used to wear each other’s clothing when we were teenagers. Occasionally, my brother was included. He was ten before he realized that tights weren’t the same as long underwear. The tradition of passing on clothes has continued, though unfortunately, Bill cannot be duped anymore.

My sisters and I, like every woman, have shrunk or grown over time, so the habit of passing along clothing has continued. My oldest sister has lost a bit of weight, whereas I have gone in the opposite direction. Lately, my clothes have taken to mocking me. ‘Really,’ they say derisively. ‘You’re going to force me over those hips again?’ My jeans in particular are very expressive. Sometimes they cat call from the closet, which is why I always sleep with the door shut.

I recently gave Linda four pairs of pants which no longer fit me. They were never nice to me, anyway, being the most scornful pieces of clothing ever worn. In turn, she gifted me with a pair of mom jeans. She’d gotten them from a friend, but they never fit so she passed them on. I haven’t worn anything like them since the nineties, when I dressed badly on a fairly consistent basis. I tried the mom jeans on just for a laugh.

When I looked in the mirror I saw my nineteen nineties silhouette. Like fly fishing waders, the bum joined the thighs in a continuous line. And yet there was a kindness to them. They practically purred as I buttoned them. The waist sat high, the relaxed fit gave them the feel of stiff pajamas. ‘You look marvelous,’ I heard them say. Having a kind, well mannered pair of pants went a long way toward soothing my self esteem.

The longer I wear them, the more I like them. It’s unlikely they’ll be seen outside the house unless I’m gardening or the apocalypse has struck and I haven’t had time to change. But its nice to have clothes that fit in a relaxed manner. ‘No pressure here,’ they say. And they mean it.

The next time you’re in a second hand store, find some khakis or jeans with the ‘mom’ look. Locate your size, then go one larger. Wear them at home for personal events like eating an extra big lunch, or working in the garden where you do a lot of squatting. You’ll love the feel and the complimentary nature of mom jeans.

Not everyone has conversations with their clothes, but as someone who does, let me say this. If your shirts or pants are too tight, you can be sure they’re making fun of you. Get the last laugh by throwing those bitches in a giveaway bag. Just don’t trade insults with them as you’re walking into the store. Not everyone understands the cruelty of a pair of Simon Chang yoga jeans. You can rest assured that I do.

I Remember Mama

My mother used to talk in tongues whenever I played the Beach Boys. She wasn’t speaking an ancient language. She was communicating with God in a very meditative way. And what she was saying was, ‘Man, I love this music.’

She said it during our road trips, and whenever we cut cotton for my babyTrekker business. At home, she loved gospel singers like Mahalia Jackson. With me, she reveled in the music from my teenage years.

‘They don’t make music like this anymore,’ she’d say, and keep on praying. Aloud. Sometimes she’d forget where we were and carry on, even while walking into a bank. But half the town would be dead by now if she hadn’t been praying, so I can’t complain.

She was not your average mother. When I was young, I wanted her to be like everyone else. Wear a house dress, stay home, and wait on us hand and foot. She declined to do that, and embarked on a nursing career, though she still managed to act like a house elf from the Harry Potter series. It was nothing for me to receive freshly ironed clothes, right before she left for work in the morning. There are other aspects of my lazy ways that I decline to share at this particular time, but let’s just say I was not the only child on the receiving end of things.

For years, I had this fantasy that I could go back in time and be a better daughter. I’d whip the other kids into shape, clean the house till it shone, and get excellent marks in school. My first novel was about someone doing just that. That story may never see the light of day, but it helped assuage my guilt. Which is another one of mother’s little helpers.

What mother doesn’t spend part of her life feeling bad for things she’s neglected? Maybe a few crackheads, but that’s about it. For the rest of us, guilt is an international past time. From time to time my mother would mention things she felt bad about. I’d get all indignant and say stuff like, “Are you saying I didn’t turn out well?”

She’d think about it. “Well, yes,” she’d say. She could be funny, too. A funny mom, a hard worker, a prayer warrior, a house elf, a refuge in times of trouble. The only unforgivable thing she ever did was to die. I think God must have heard one of her prayers, which loosely translated meant, ‘Please get me the hell out of here. I’m tired.’

You are missed every day, mom. And not just by your kids. Other people’s kids miss you, too. I know because they tell me all the time. So, happy Mother’s Day, mom. I hope you’re not working too hard up there, and I hope dad is finally teaching you how to dance. In honour of all our road trips, here’s a little something for you to enjoy. The words aren’t exactly the right sentiment, but you love the music. And the title hits home. Because I’d love to get you back.

Sometimes, When we Limp

When my husband and I got married, I started hemming his pants for him. To my surprise, he had one leg a half inch shorter than the other. I sewed everything accordingly. It was only when he saw a chiropractor about four years later that we realized he didn’t have to live that way. After a couple spinal adjustments, I had to fix all those pant hems.

The other morning I was rushing to the door on my way uptown when I realized I was having the same experience. “Look!” I said to my husband. “My left leg is shorter than my right!” He thought I was faking. I was so freaked out, he finally started showing proper concern. We couldn’t figure out what had happened. I had no pain. No memory of falling (recently) or hurting my back. But I definitely had one leg at least an inch longer than the other.

I walked back and forth across the room, my hysteria growing. “What the hell?” I double checked my left heel, thinking that something must be stuck there, but there was nothing. Just a definite hitch in my gait as I walked back and forth across the room. “I’m not changing all my pants,” I declared, which was my  pathetic way of shouting into the void. Not that I believe in the void.To me, there’s always someone on the other end of the line.

We have a lot going on with our family at large. Some people very dear to me are facing big health challenges. Why not me, I thought. I’ve never been one to panic, but, dammit. “I must have a tumour on my heel,” I said aloud. I was preparing to take off my boot when I caught sight of my right foot.

I was wearing two different boots. In my defense, they’re almost identical, except that one pair is flat. I have never done this before. Never left the house with two different socks or shoes. I’ve occasionally worn a shirt inside out. The consolation prize was the five minutes of laughter we shared, and the relief that my leg was all right. The downside is, I’m definitely a person who’s not paying attention. Since I already know this, it doesn’t really hurt my feelings. But I thought I’d improved over the years.

Perhaps the slippery slope of distraction means I spend a little more time turning in circles while wondering what I’m supposed to be doing. When I experience stress, I stop paying attention. And life has a way of throwing things at us when we least expect it. For now, I’ll hobble along. Do my best to keep my brain engaged. It may not work every time, but you can be sure my boots will match.

The Cable Guy

I got a letter a month ago saying we had to surrender our old PVR. (DVR, for my American friends.) Apparently, Flin Flon has been stuck with analog television for far too long, and Shaw was bringing us into the 21st century.

The boxes arrived (three instead of one!) and I let them sit until the day my TV wouldn’t work anymore. The boxes had big ‘Self Installation,’ stickers on them, which I didn’t necessarily believe. When something technologically challenging comes along, Clarence is always out of town. But I got the first one unpacked, unhooked the old PVR and stuck the new one in place. The television listed a random message meaning, ‘No. I don’t think so.’

So I called the cable guy. And you know what that’s like. You’re on hold for so long, and when you finally reach someone, they accidentally hang up on you. At least, that’s my story. Anyway, at last I was talking to Dave. (Not his real name. I’ve forgotten it.) He informed me that I had to have the unit authorized. Well, why didn’t they say that in the letter? We got that done with the first machine. It worked. Then Dave announced that I’d have to call back if the others weren’t ready yet. “No, wait!” I shouted into the phone, and promptly put him on speaker mode.

“I’m taking you into the basement, Dave.” He was mildly interested in accompanying me there. I set the phone on the coffee table. After heaving around the furniture and mumbling bad words I hoped Dave couldn’t hear, I got the second PVR hooked up. It wouldn’t work. Both of us started feeling very frustrated, but he managed to keep calm. He said things like, are you sure the co-ax cable is switched to the PVR and not still on the TV? I checked. Then I lied. “Yep, but let me tighten it a bit.” We both cheered as we realized it was working. Two down, one to go.

I was heading upstairs to the bedroom when I realized I’d left Dave in the basement. “I’m sorry, Dave,” I hollered. “I’m coming back to get you.” He replied, but I couldn’t really hear what he said. I’d left the living room TV on Turner Classics, so the backdrop to all my stress was a deep baritone voice singing romantically in an old Errol Flynn movie.

I fetched Dave and we went into the bedroom. We couldn’t get this one to work at all. In the meantime, Dave, my cable guy, asked, “What’s that racket?” We were feeling quite comfortable at this point. “Some guy in an Errol Flynn movie,” I said. After that, he started talking a lot more slowly.

Now that I’d been relegated to confused senior status, we decided I should mail the broken one back. Fortunately, I came to my senses and realized we have a Shaw office in town. Exchange made. Problem solved. I feel I owe Dave a dinner, in spite of all his attempts to persuade me otherwise. Unfortunately, he’s never there when I call. In lieu of that, I’d be happy to phone Shaw’s head office and sing his praises, if only I could remember his real name. Oh Dave. Perhaps I’m watching the right channel after all.

Dear Sigmund Freud

Please forgive the cliche, but I have a bone to pick with you. Back in the day, you suggested that the words we sometimes mis-speak are laden with some alternate meaning, usually having to do with sex. Some of us happen to disagree with you. For example.

I was at our church tea after community choir when a friend sat down at my table. I’d left practice early, so I asked a question of my fellow alto. “What did you sing after the hand job number?”

While the people at my table laughed, I began building a pretty good case against you, Dr. Freud. You see, one of the songs from Grease is called, Hand Jive.’ The fact that I called it something entirely different means nothing about my state of mind. NOTHING.

There are those of us living on the planet who happen to dwell in Freudian slip land. We frequently say the wrong thing. I once said, “Would you like some death with your soup?” to a little old lady, while handing her the bread basket. Honestly, bread and death both contain the letters ‘ea’ which almost makes them a slipdong. I mean a dipthong. (Think of a pair of tiny bikini panties. It helps.)

Meanwhile, some of us also like to use colourful descriptions. Like, ‘He was very thickheaded.’ This does not mean that your mind has taken a sexual turn. It just means that you’ve been singing the Hand Job song. (ha ha, just kidding.)

Once, at choir, a young French Canadian was struggling to sing her part. The conductor was trying to find her a good spot to stand in for the performance. Meanwhile, some of us (or maybe just me) were praying, “Please, don’t put her over here!” She had a strong accent, and tended to sing the words  a couple seconds after everyone else had finished. Anyway, she took one look at me and said loudly, “I cannot take the hate.”

I immediately, and guiltily, jumped in. “Nobody hates you. Of course not!” The other altos all had their eyes averted. I was swimming in the deep end, and it was up to me not to sink. (cliches were invented for a reason.)

“Not the hate,” she said, with great irritation. “The hate.” I was dumbfounded. And then I realized she meant, “I cannot take the height.’ She was short, like me, and wanted to stand in the front row. Another meaning for dumbfounded? Finding out you are dumb. That was me, in the moment. Regardless. Sometimes, Sigmund Freud, a cigar is just a cigar. Even for a heavy smoker like you.

Rambling

We’ve been on the road so much lately, I can hear Willie Nelson serenading us from the back of the car. I love seeing people, doing interesting things and being in the driver’s seat. My brain is so much more creative out on the open road. I could solve half the world’s problems if I only had a machine to record my deeply profound thoughts. (Lois, I know my phone would do it, but I’m not good with those apps and can’t remember my apple password.) And I never think of it until I’m driving. Oh, the solutions that come to mind! I can’t recall even one.

Our car journeys have begun to resemble our lives. Because we live so far from everything (all northern readers, please join me in a deep sigh) we bring too much with us. For reasons I can’t share (in the interests of my marital future) our car resembles one of those overloaded buses you see in India. I’m a tiny part of the problem. If he disagrees with this, my hubby can write his own blog. (hahah…it’ll never happen!)

I have a friend who never eats in her car. Her life is attractively minimalist, but in a very put together way. If she ever died in the woods, she’d have on the perfect outfit, her hair would be done, and all the animals would leave her carcass alone out of deep respect for her togetherness. ‘Namaste’ they’d whisper quietly, and skirt around her.  She’s that kind of woman.

I am not. My car is a reflection of the way I move through life. There are no chicken bones littering the floor, but I have a tendency to bring big lunches, many different coats, and much footwear, everywhere we go. (Damned climate change. We used to be able to count on a cold winter.) My husband also brings too many things. I swear he had a pair of winter boots with us in Houston. He complains about the big lunches I pack, but I’ve noticed him enjoying them later.

I’d like to try paring down a little on the over preparation. Like, I always have to leave my house clean in case I die while I’m gone. People have told me that this is tempting fate. Apparently, the grim reaper is always waiting around the corner. And I’m saying, ‘come on in and, please, bring your scythe.’ But I’m a nah nah, boo boo kind of person. It’s another way of saying, ‘I defy you, stars.’ That Shakespeare…what a show-off.

My husband and I have a pretty good travel relationship. I’m not much help as a navigator, but I excel at spotting danger. I just wish I could do it in a more composed fashion. This last trip, he was changing lanes, and a car coming onto the highway didn’t notice. I started screaming a bad word over and over again. It would have been better if I’d shouted, ‘Horn! Horn!’ You know. To let him know what action to take. He managed to swerve in time, but I still felt bad about all that swearing. Being the passenger can really take it out of you.

Another thing we agree on is what to play on the radio. We like CBC. It’s only when we lose the signal that we switch to music. We’re both in love with Leonard Cohen’s latest album, “You want it Darker.” To that title I say, “Yes, Leonard, I do. And how did you know?” It’s the perfect music for troubled times, and perversely, makes me feel better about everything. I’m kind of mad that he’s dead.

Same with Stuart Mclean. So, dear Leonard who art in heaven, please. Look him up. He’s a fairly new arrival, and he’ll have you feeling better in no time. Get him to tell you the story of Dave going through the carwash while riding on top of the car. Or the one where he and Morley stay in the wrong cabin and do major renovations. Two Canadian icons gone, just when we need them the most.  (Long moment of sadness.) Now, back to my theme.

Car journeys, aside from the great music and CBC radio, provide some big AHA! moments for me. Like, my life might be easier without so many jackets. Or I’ll think of a great twist for my latest novel. Other times, I’ll come up with the best plan, EVER, to save the world. Seriously, it’s on the tip of my tongue. And, if I find a way to record that revelation, I’ll be sure to write about it. Watch for future titles such as, “Polar Bears Saved…All is Well!’ Or, “Peace on Earth at Last!’ Something along those lines. You’re welcome.

Dear People of Houston

Thanks for the warm welcome to your lovely city. Y’all are so friendly that even the teenagers are talking to me. One asked me to weigh in on the purse she was picking out for her mother. Such confidence in a complete stranger! I hope I didn’t steer her wrong. (This is a pun. It was a very western looking purse.)  Some of my other favorite things:

1. The museums are fabulous. I’ve spent days at the Natural Science, Fine Art, and the Houston Space Center. I still haven’t seen the American Cowboy Museum, the Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, or the Beer Can house, which may take us all day. For some reason, beer tastes better here. Maybe it’s the patio life. People really like to sit outside, and with all the beautiful flowers and trees, it’s easy to see why. I’m not sure how they talk themselves into going home.

2. People dress casually, like in Vegas, but without the constant gambling and scent of desperation that leaves me feeling anxious. At any given time there, I’m the least fun person in the room. I like myself better here.

3. The airport. The friendliness goes up a notch, and in Houston, that’s saying something. I don’t think we’ve ever been called baby, before. Certainly not by airport security. I have to confess, I was expecting pat downs, dire warnings and some frank political talk. Perhaps a stern warning about behaving myself. Nope. Just sheer friendliness.

4. There are a lot of good looking men here. Like, seriously good looking. It’s hard not to stare. Even in Whole Foods, where I was this afternoon, the hot guys completely outnumbered the balding hippies (and I say this with no disrespect to balding men, one of whom I love.) I’m surprised I didn’t faint at the Rodeo, the other night. All I could think was, Yeehaw!

5. The weather. It’s the rainy season, but even so, the temperature feels warm to someone from Canada. My only discomfort happens inside the buildings. The museums aren’t too bad but the restaurants are freezing. The maxed out air conditioning causes the reptilian part of my brain to assume I’m in danger. Which sane Canadian allows themselves to get this cold? None of us. I spend a lot of time calming myself down. No, I say firmly, you are not going to freeze to death. My daughter has been converted to the Houston way of life, and really likes it cold. I wear fur slippers and my warmest pajamas at her apartment.

6. The Rodeo. So fun, and please don’t tell my friends at P.E.T.A because I especially loved the Bronc Busting. The horses win way more than the cowboys do. And I loved my giant drink, in spite of being a little embarrassed to be seen with it. It was like wearing a huge sign saying, I AM AN  ALCOHOLIC.

7. I haven’t seen a single gun. It’s true that I’m not very observant, and I confess I was a little petrified coming here. But the people are just regular folks, going about their business, a little friendlier than the rest of the world. If I lived in Houston, my chances of seeing guns would go up. But as a visitor, I have to say, well done. Keep hiding those holsters. Your tourists thank you for it.

8. The food is incredible. I didn’t know barbeque could be so good, and in spite of my gall bladder begging for a break from all the fat, I simply can’t resist. I’ll be good again when I go home. The drinks are also fantastic, though I’ve seen aquariums smaller than these marguerita glasses.

9. The bats down by the Bayou. Every evening they fly out from under a bridge and glide up into the sky. Even more startling are the hawks that swoop down to eat the bats. It’s like gladiators at the coliseum in Rome. You can’t look away, even if you want to. The bats are not interested in people, so I like them.

10. My daughter’s work place. She has a corner office with a beautiful view. I feel like Don Draper in there, waiting for my secretary to bring me some scotch. Disappointingly, they don’t seem to drink at work, and the way she hustled us out of there made me realize that, like parents everywhere, we’re continuing the fine tradition of embarrassing our children.

I’m sure there is much more to see. Meanwhile, our 30 oz. steak dinner and fish bowl drink are waiting. Thank goodness my daughter doesn’t own a scale.