Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Come on Sugar, Let Me Know

We had a horrible flood here in Calgary last week, and people are just starting to dig out and take a look at the devastation. JP and I went yesterday to help muck out the home of friends, on what Calgary firefighters have called "the worst street they've seen"-- which just confirms what my eyes told me. God, it was awful: six inches of sticky mud, everything ruined, gardens mauled, the indignity of having everyone gawking at the ruined contents of your home. Spent a few hours helping their team haul out sodden drywall, trying to find the right tone for comforting distressed people, wishing I could do something more. I returned home very tired, very sad, and very grateful that our own family had been spared this time. Rattled, shaken, lifted up, depressed, elated, and in need of a cold gin and tonic.

A million Big Questions occupied me all evening and well into the night. Unable to sleep, I got up and did what I always do: seek comfort in the Internets (specifically, friends in Europe). And I did! I did find that comfort--but not by spraching the Deutsch or trying not to gnash teeth in the Skype face of my friend in Rome.

Nope. I found it with Rod Stewart, thanks to a heroic Belgian radio station with, I trust, a proper sense of kitsch.

Specifically, I found it within the memory of 15-year-old me, hunched over in the cold, potato-scented basement of prim Jennie, my piano teacher, banging out in my be-pimpled, chubby and truculent way the melody of "Do You Think I'm Sexy?"

I haven't laffed that hard in about a decade.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Elves and Fairies

I volunteered my mom for everything. I assured teachers and coaches that her station wagon could comfortably fit 11--we had no need of seatbelts back that long ago, in the misty dawn of time. According to me, she was an expert papier mache artiste, a French chef (though her Lipton's French onion soup mix, in retrospect, didn't really qualify her for much more than "conscious, able to boil water"), a strong swimmer, a woman with hipbones sturdy enough to withstand 17 rounds of "Alice's Camel" at Brownie campfires, an accomplished pianist, and, above all else, a sensitive and elegant seamstress. Able to translate childy dreams of snowflake tiaras into a tinsely reality. To conjure from no more than flimsy gabardine and some pipe cleaners a witch costume that I'm certain still haunts the dreams of my former classmates.

To turn N. B. from affectionate neighbour and local dreamboat into elf with a vendetta, with no more than a pair of green leotards and some pinking shears. The Peter Pan knock off that kid was forced to wear one Christmas--to which he reacted tearfully thus: "just awful, horrible, the other boys will all tease me, how could you do this to me?"--was enough to forever dash all hopes of a dynastic marriage between our families. And N was a real catch: he knew about rockets, sure, BUT ALSO: the guy on 17th Avenue who blew himself up in his house? N's backyard had received the largest chunk of fiery detritus from that explosion, turning him via a blacked spatula into a schoolyard celebrity--until Phyllis's mom a few doors down found the man himself (or what was left of him) in their own attic, degrading N to second-place status. At least that's how I remember it.

I've been thinking about all this because I am currently making a costume for The Kid, who is to play Oberon in tomorrow's elementary-school version of "A Midsummer Night's Dream."How do you deck out a fairy king, whilst respecting a boy's inner dignity, sense of masculinity, homo-social decorum, etc., etc. The last thing I want to do is repeat my mother's sad history--especially because the victim in my case is my own son, and Thanksgiving is weird enough around here without my only child refusing to sit at the same table with me for the rest of my life. I can still remember the sulky, narrow-eyed glares that N shot at my mother in church for at least a decade. Glue-gun in hand, I ponder, ponder, the most reserved possible use of magpie feathers for Oberon's crown. Which are the least lustrous plastic leaves? I'll need those for his manly belt. Oh sure, it's a "dream," and all, and Oberon is the King of the Fairies, but still: let's not get carried away here. There will be no tears in this maternal sewing scenario. I have learned from history.

I guess I must not have told The Kid this sobering tale from my own childhood, or perhaps childhood is just a lot better now than it was then (boys seem better, at any rate) (although maybe it's because I'm taller than they are) (and also in love with one of their grimy number)--because he just wandered into my office, held up a paste garnet brooch that once adorned my grandmother's tropical bird fantasy hat and placed it. . . just so. . . in the center of his feathered tiara, patted my head, and told me to use my imagination.

"He's a FAIRY King, Mom. Come on."