"Someday's gonna be a busy day..."

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Date Night, Someday Style

My friend Ruth and I have our wedding anniversaries on the same day. We both have two young children and know how precious a night out with our hubbies can be. Last year, a few days before my fifth anniversary and her eleventh, we were talking on the phone and comparing battle plans.

“What are you guys doing to celebrate?” I asked her.

“Oh, I think we’re going out for dinner to Bhima's and then to a movie. We’re going to try to get away for a weekend too. What are you and D up to?”

“Well,” I said, “We’re going to the Legion in Lucknow. They’re having a dance.”

It’s not often that I can make Ruth go completely silent. Most of my city pals have never darkened the door of a Legion, much less celebrated a special occasion by dancing there. What can I say? Date night in the country can be a unique experience.

Don't get me wrong; there is a wide variety of stuff to do up here, just as there is in the city. You can still take your sweetheart to a movie, eat out at a posh restaurant, or see a live show. The difference is that the movie theatre is cosy and has fabulous popcorn, you can probably get into the restaurant without making a reservation a month in advance, and you're likely to recognize a relative performing at the theatre. But why bother with these boring old choices when there are so many other opportunities to get your romance on, country style?

Take the dump, for instance. A place often relegated to husbandly duty, the dump was a revelation to me the first time I was invited to come along. Yes, the smell in the summer is fit to gag you and sometimes you see rotting stuff you wish you hadn’t. But there are so many good things about the dump that cancel out the nastier bits. Like the dress code. No high heels, Spanx or hairspray are necessary. I simply pull on my grungiest jeans, D’s oldest sweatshirt, my trusty rubber boots and I’m good to go.

Then there's the truck. Many Bruce County women own trucks, or are used to driving them regularly, but riding in - or better yet, driving - a pickup is still a novelty to me. Especially when D says, “Your turn to back ‘er up, Kimmy,” and I have to navigate the truck backwards to the (gulp) edge of the dump pit, which is a gaping hole in the earth that looks big enough to swallow three tractor-trailers whole. Nothing gets the heart pumping like the thought of demolishing your spouse’s beloved vehicle, and nothing makes a country boy randier than watching a woman back up a large piece of machinery.

To me, the best part of the dump is when I have to clamber over the tailgate to help chuck stuff into the pit. There’s something incredibly freeing about getting rid of all the accumulated crap that’s built up over a season by sending it sailing as far as your skinny arms can throw. I also get wicked satisfaction from tossing armfuls of the twigs and brush I’ve cleared out of the gardens in the spring and fall; it feels good to trim it, but it’s even more gratifying to pitch it into the pit. And don’t underestimate the goofy, childish high you get when you throw in something breakable that makes a glorious smash. When your man raises an eyebrow and remarks, "Good one, hon'," you know your country romance is going strong.

To be honest, I never really thought of going to the dump as a "date" until the second time we went and the friendly clerk said, "So, out on another dump date today, folks?" My husband looked sheepish. "Hey, if you're out together without the kids, consider it a date," she reassured us, handing over two of her trademark lollipops. I decided she had a point. With both of us working full time and two active little ones at home, time alone with D had become a rare commodity. A dump date was fine with me.

Motorbike rides are another outing with D that I never tire of. I wouldn't have dared climb on the back of his elderly Honda in the city, but it's more exciting to bump over fields and scare seagulls than it would be to putt-putt our way through Waterloo traffic. Plus, on a motorbike we can get up close and personal with the mighty windmills, or take a mellow drive under a canopy of trees on the lower shore road. It’s just not the same in the city. We have so many motorbikey memories here, anyway; D knows that for me, the best motorbike date is a trip to the lighthouse, where we reminisce about our engagement (he knelt beside his motorbike at the foot of the lighthouse), and end up at the restaurant in Point Clark for some fries and souvlaki. It’s simple, and perfect.

Beach dates are a given, especially with my aunt’s cottage so close by. Swimming in heavily chlorinated city pools was never a favourite pastime of mine; I much prefer a stealthy skinny dip in the lake to a noisy, crowded pool that makes my hair smell like bleach for a day. I took D to the Goderich pool on a date night, since he loves swimming and it too cold for the beach, but I just can’t find my lovey dovey vibe at a public pool. D isn’t much of a beach person, so I treasure the times when he relents to a long walk on the sand without the kidlets tagging along. There’s just something about the purr of the waves beside us, the stars twinkling out above and the soft sand beneath our feet that brings out the lover in me. Even when D insists on wearing socks and shoes.

One date night I never pictured myself enjoying was spending a Saturday evening in the barn, milking cows. Now that we have two little ones in our lives, I’ve decided that pretty much any time together alone with D is an opportunity for romance, even in a stinky dairy barn. Leaning in for a quick kiss as we pass each other on the walkway, belting out our favourite songs to an audience of cows and cats and the odd squirt-of-milk fight makes our time together in the barn pleasant. There's something to be said about working side by side with the guy you love, even if you're up to your ankles in poop

We still catch the occasional movie or have supper out. But the date nights that stand out in my mind are the ones that could only happen up here in Someday land: learning to drive a tractor while cutting hay at 1 a.m.; throwing brush into the gully on a hazy September afternoon (and clocking D in the noggin with a wayward branch); taking long snowshoe tramps in snow that shone like diamonds all around us. I'll never forget the morning I wandered out onto our bedroom balcony and looked down to find my name growing in the grass; my hubby had drawn it in triple 16 fertilizer early in the spring without telling me. Stuff like that just wouldn't have happened back in Waterloo.

As D and I twirled around the creaky wooden floor of the Lucknow Legion last year on our anniversary, enjoying the familiar sounds of the Glen Boyd Orchestra, I couldn't stop smiling. Ruthie may have been skeptical of our choice of date, but she’s just never experienced romance, Someday-style.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

November Heat

Ah, November. A glum, damp month. Not quite autumn, not quite winter, but definitely the type of month that makes you feel like staying indoors. It makes me long for the giant wood-burning fireplaces of my childhood home.

We had two of them in New Hamburg: an elegant marble one in the living room that glowed and crackled delightfully whenever we had company, and a more rugged looking one in the den that Mom liked to light for our movie nights.

At my place in Waterloo, I contented myself with a rather bland looking electric fireplace, since the house had no working chimney. Now, at Someday, we have a gorgeous stone fireplace with propane heat that keeps my toes warm on these chilly November days. But none of these heating devices can hold a candle to the wood-burning stove at Carman’s place in Blair’s Grove.

The big, black stove takes up half of Carm’s dining room and is positively medieval looking. It’s large enough to roast an entire lamb, or at least a really fat raccoon...but no one uses it. I had been begging the boys to put on a fire for me ever since my first winter visit to Blair’s Grove. They always refused with a handy excuse: the ashes hadn't been cleaned out, the chimney would catch on fire, we didn’t have enough wood, it wasn’t cold enough outside, you didn't bring your bikini, etc.

Then came the fateful November day when D and I were living there and the power went out thanks to 70km/hr winds. Having moved to what seemed like the windiest place in Ontario meant I finally got my wood stove wish.

Fire and wood stoves have been a part of my life as long as I can remember. I’m a sucker for the crackling warmth afforded by my Dad's modern stove at his cabin. It throws off just enough heat to make me feel pleasantly drowsy, and I love the camp-firey smell that stays in my hair and on my clothes afterwards. In New Hamburg, I used to spend hours stretched out on the orange shag rug in front of the aforementioned den fireplace, soaking up its cozy heat. I was not prepared for the raging, creosote scented inferno at Blair’s Grove that lasted eight hours and made me feel as though I was bathing in lava.

I should have suspected what I'd be in for when Carm marched up from the basement carrying two chunks of wood, each as big as my torso.

"You want a fire, eh, Kimmy?" he said, creaking open the blackened doors of the ancient stove and shoving the wood in as far as it would go. "Well, I'll build you a fire."

Fifteen minutes later, I was basking happily in the delicious warmth. I'd plunked myself in the rocking chair that sits in the corner of the dining room. With a book on my lap, the dog at my feet and a cold drink within reach, I was in November heaven.

Carm smirked at me. "So you're gonna sit in here, are you?"
"Well, yeah," I said, with a "duh" look on my face. "That's the whole point of having a fire."
Casting a knowing glance at the indoor thermometer, which read 22 degrees, Carm nodded goodbye and left to do chores. With a sigh of pleasure, I opened my book. Ten minutes later, I was opening a window and discarding my sweater and socks. The thermometer read 28 degrees.

Another ten minutes passed and the thermometer hit 30. I contemplated putting on shorts, but couldn't lift my sweat-soaked body out of the chair to find them. When the temperature hit 32, I called up to the farm. My mother-in-law laughed at me. "Are you warm enough?" she asked. I could hear Carman chuckling in the background.

I’ve never been very good in the heat; I’m more of a fall-winter person than a summer person. If the temperature rises past 25 degrees, I bypass irritable and go straight to beast from hell. So there I was, trapped at Blair’s Grove with the angry stove, trying to get as far away as possible from the fire I'd so desperately longed for. Neko had long since retreated to the bathroom and wisely had her head up against the cool porcelain toilet. Since there wasn’t enough room there for both of us, I crammed myself into the far corner of the living room with the window cranked all the way open, pummeled by storm winds while I gasped for breath.

D arrived home from work after a scary drive through the storm. He took two steps inside the door, threw his arms wide open and said, “Ahhhhh!” The man loves his heat as much as I detest it. It’s probably good we live in Canada, where we can both be happy with the weather for at least half the year.

He threw off his coat and stretched out on the couch, basking in the 34 degree roasting pan that was Blair’s Grove. “Ahhhh,” he said again, smiling his lovely creased smile. “Kimmy, it’s the perfect temperature in here. Shut that window, would you?”

I think it's the only time I've declined to cuddle with him on the couch.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

A November Rose

Last week, I was beaten down by a combination of illness (nasty gastrointestinal flu), kids' illnesses (same), holiday overload (a rainy, solo-parent Hallowe'en) and my own middle age (attempted to play hockey for the first time and ended up with a full-on migraine and two pulled neck muscles). Not a stellar seven days.

Consequently, I woke up yesterday feeling like I'd been run over by a truck. Mondays are daycare days, which means that after I help D load 'em up, I'm kid-free until 4:30. I try to save Mondays for householdy-type chores, so after going back to bed for twenty minutes with a heating pad on my neck, I ran some errands, went to the doctor and chiropractor, picked up groceries, ran a few loads of laundry. And then I was seized by a strong urge to get a coffee, go to the cottage and walk on the beach.

Beach walks are not your typical November activity. It was a shivery day, still and somber-skied. We had our first taste of snow last week, and it won't be long before the sand freezes and the lake begins to turn sluggish with chunks of slushy ice. Even now the beach is a rugged, forlorn place. The cottages are all boarded up, snow fences - those spiky, unwelcoming-looking things - have been erected and there's not a soul to be seen. It was a weird place for me to end up, when I could have been slumped in front of the fireplace with an Advil and my heating pad.

But as soon as I trudged down the slope from the cottage to the shore, I knew why I had come. Because Rose was there, and she took my hand and led me off down the beach to pick stones and watch birds.

I've spoken of this phenomenon before, and I don't know if it's real, or just grief mixed with wistfulness after the hangover of a bad week. Honestly, I don't care. I felt my daughter there with me, and who am I to question the validity of a feeling?

Sometimes when I feel her presence, she has tousled brown curls, the same as her father's. Other times, she has perfect blonde hair that looks like silk...nothing like Jade and Dylan's wild, honey-coloured mops that defy brushing and seem to grow an inch a week. But in my mind's eye, Rose shares their flash-quick smiles, and that brand of energy that makes them skip and jump instead of walk.

We never talk, Rose and me; I'm just content to know she is beside me, and imagine the feel of her fingers clinging to mine. A few times, I swore I could feel the weight of her arm in the crook of my elbow, as though she'd become a teenager in the course of three steps. She is good company.

I stooped and picked up the stones that caught my eye, watched a loon dive and resurface, took great gulps of chilly November air, and basked in the presence of my daughter. I thanked God for life, for family, for writing, for birth and death. For once in my chaotic life, I was thankful for just that moment.

I know it's probably weird to write about this here, instead of keeping it safe in my heart. I just...wanted to. Rose has her place in this foolish little diary of mine, along with all my other snippets of daily life, of sickness and health, of milestones reached and howls of laughter, of costumes and candy and rainy nights and fevers. She is with me every day, even when I don't remember she's there. And so she belongs on these pages, with the rest of my life's story.