We are lucky enough to live near beautiful Frank Ryan Park. It’s a large park with play structures, a wading pool, basketball and tennis courts, a baseball diamond, and many woodsy trails. There are lots of old trees that are perfect for shading a picnic. In the winter, there’s a great hill for sledding, and a rink. There’s even a small area outside the rink flooded and maintained for skaters who are not up for the rough-and-tumble inside the rink. There are hay bales tied to trees and stacked up against the fence at the bottom of the hill to protect the skulls and limbs of the kids who go blasting down the hill (well, not just kids – I’ve enjoyed a few runs myself this winter). These stand in stark contrast to a harshly worded sign placed by the city that says it is not responsible for any injuries or loss of life caused by having winter fun – which I’m fairly certain everyone ignores. I know I do ….
After school yesterday I took Fiona and Bridget there to meet some friends. I laughingly introduced my skates as “the world’s ugliest skates”. That’s an exaggeration, but they were a Christmas present when I was fifteen – almost twenty years ago – and they are definitely the worse for wear. They’re mildew-stained in places because they were stored in a damp shed for a while. They’re yellowed and smudged. The metal hooks at the top have rusted, so the laces are rust-stained where they’re not dirty grey. The blades are rusty in several spots – one crater of rust is at least two inches long. But …. I can still skate in them. So I do. When I called them ugly, it triggered a memory of my mother’s skates when she was about my age. They looked exactly like mine do now. At the time, I couldn’t figure out how they had gotten that ugly, and why she still used them. My skates were always so white they glowed, and the blades were pristine. Like Fiona’s and Bridget’s are now. Now, I know why – if your feet aren’t growing, and your skates still skate, and your kids need new skates every year because they are growing like bad weeds, you don’t bother with new skates for yourself. Now that I’m in my thirties, I’ve got answers to other whys, too ….
I know why some of my mother’s clothes were nearly as old as her skates (though, of course, not as roughed up). I vaguely remember asking my mother why she kept wearing this one particular shirt that she had been wearing for years. I don’t remember her reply to my snotty question, although it should have been something along the lines of “what’s it to you, shut up”. Now, though, I get it. You just really love some items of clothing. You don’t care whether they’re in style. Sometimes you don’t feel like shopping, even if you need a new whatever-it-is. Just like the skates – you’re not growing anymore, and you still like it – and your kids need new everything, all the freakin’ time. I have (and still wear) a jacket that I wore in high school. I have underwear that’s older than my daughters.
I know why my mother fell asleep on the couch. My mother hardly ever stopped moving. She worked shifts at a hospital 45 minutes down the highway. She kept our house so clean that, most of the time, we could have eaten off any floor without ingesting anything other than our food. She made a great meal from scratch just about every day – and we had no dishwasher. She did nearly all the laundry, and hung it on the clothesline rather than use the dryer – even in the winter. She went for long walks every day. She sewed and read novels. At the end of the day, when she sat on the couch, she fell asleep. I snickered over this regularly. I once took a picture of her sleeping on the couch, chin on her chest, and printed a copy for her to treasure. Well, karma has officially kicked my deserving ass …. I’m now a champion couch-sleeper. I go and go and go – and when I finally sit down, I crash hard.
I know why my mother lost patience with our TV habit and evicted us from the same couch. Fiona and Bridget are squirmy little people. They can’t sit still longer than 45 seconds – unless they are in front of a screen. And it is, to say the least, mildly unsettling to see twitchy, wiggly kids making like catatonics in front of a flickering square for an hour or more. The idiot box is aptly named. Though I have to admit that it makes a great babysitter sometimes ….
I know why my mother had so much face junk. I remember thinking, in our tiny bathroom in my childhood home, that my mother’s make-up and other face junk took up a quarter of the counter space. What did she do with it all? Now, I know. Because I have two shelves’ worth of face junk myself. Eye cream, day cream (both tinted and clear), night cream, toner. Mud masks. Concealer. Two kinds of mascara. About a dozen half-used eyeshadows. My face never goes anywhere naked.
I know why my mother had all those perfumes. She had at least half a dozen half-used scent bottles on her dresser at any given time. When I was a teenager, I used to buy one perfume, and use it all up. Usually, it was something really awful, too – remember Tribe? How about Malibu Musk? I had the econo-size bottle of Malibu Musk. This has inspired me to take a trip down scents-of-the-nineties memory lane ….
Sorry for the sidetrack …. Back to the topic at hand. I was using a perfume. Then I got a Hudson’s Bay gift card for Christmas, which I used to buy perfume. Then I bought one while cruising through the duty free shops in an airport during a stopover. I saw that scents were on sale at Shoppers’ Drugmart, and took advantage. Then I really just felt like a change, and rummaged through the cluttered cosmetics section of Winners …. Guess what I have on my dresser. Yep – half a dozen half-used scent bottles.
Oh, and finally ….
I know why my mother’s mouth always hung open when she applied mascara. It’s because you can’t help it! It actually takes a conscious effort to keep your mouth closed while putting on mascara …. Scientists will begin searching for an explanation after they’ve halted global warming and cured cancer.
These days, I’m the mystery – to Fiona and Bridget. They shake their pretty heads over alot of things I do. Someday, though, they’ll be all grown up, and they’ll have their own list of finally-answered whys. They’ll look up from their cluttered bathroom counter at their reflection, already daydreaming about their next nap even though it’s not even noon, and suddenly it will all make sense. On that day, I hope I hear from them – we will laugh together at the joke that’s on all of us.