The magic of paper crowns

“I’m bored,” I said.

My mom looked at me for a few heartbeats then turned and grabbed the scissors off the counter. Then she rummaged through a pile of stuff in the Art Corner and pulled out some pieces of paper.

Snip, snip, snip…

Then the squeak of a permanent black marker.

Finally, some Scotch tape.

“Voila,” said my mom, “crowns for everyone!”

She tied a blanket around my shoulders for a regal robe. We placed the crowns on each and every one: Ernie, Bert, and Kermit. Now I was suddenly in a magical kingdom.

I ran and sat on my throne. I placed my Royal Subjects around me. Dad, my Royal Photographer, took a picture. 

Now I was ready to rule…

My blue blanket

Some of my earliest memories are of a blue blanket. It was soft enough, but it had a slight woolly scratchiness to it. The colour reminded me of skies.

I remember taking that blanket with me everywhere. It was especially essential at nap time. I couldn’t fall asleep properly unless I wrapped my index finger in one of the corners of the blanket, then rubbed my wrapped finger against the side of my nose while I sucked my thumb.

My blanket didn’t have a name. And for someone who liked pink so much (as seen by the pink from head-to-toe in the photo), I wonder why the blue blanket? 

The blanket played many roles. At one point I tried to make a hammock out of it for my dolls by stretching it between the knobs on a coffee table. There was a r-r-r-rip! I was mortified at the thought of almost destroying my blanket friend.

Eventually Blue Blanket suffered from holes and spots so worn, it was like cheesecloth. Blue Rag was more like it. Tattered, pilly, and well-loved. 

I’m unsure of Blue Blanket’s fate. Probably thrown out when I was “too old” for a blankie.

These memories were unearthed from the photo; when I think of it, I have yet to run across a blanket similar in colour and texture.

A one-of-a-kind, I guess! 

Stoves and Christmas Joy

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This is a picture of me, on the left, when I was three years old. On the right is my brother, who would be a little over one.

I look pretty darned happy. We got a homemade, wooden stove for Christmas that year. I can’t remember if I had asked Santa for one or if it came as a complete surprise. In any event, looks as though it didn’t matter!

I do remember that stove, though. The knobs could turn ’round and ’round, and there was a clock in the centre where you could move the hands to change the time. The oven door opened up to what to me was an enormous cooking space.

I remember playing with it a lot.

I remember it smelled of fresh paint and the surface had a slight striped texture from the bristles of a paint brush. Someone made this stove by hand. At some level, even at three years old, I understood this and it made the gift all the more special and exciting. It was a one-of-a-kind. My stove. (Well, my brother’s too, I guess, if I was in the mood to share.)

I wonder what my own kids will remember of their own Christmases past?

The only hand-made Christmas gift my kids have received so far are scarves I knitted. My son saw me knitting a scarf one day and asked if I could knit him one, too. So there is one under the tree for him. And there’s one for my daughter…if I can finish it tonight!

A scarf is not as exciting as a toy stove, I can admit. Maybe they’ll remember visiting the fire station to drop off toys–which has become a yearly tradition–and getting to sit in the fire trucks if the firemen weren’t busy. I’d bank on my kids remembering at least something about that.

In any event, may your holiday season be filled with warm memories!

Now I’d better get knitting…

 

A special coffee date

It was a Wednesday evening. It was too cold and dark to play outside. “Let’s go out for coffee!” I suggested to my 3-year-old daughter. Her eyes grew wide. Coffee with mom?! 

We drove to the coffee shop humming to Florence and the Machine. We parked and held hands as we entered the shop. I stopped when we were a few steps in the shop. “Smell that,” I said to my daughter. I closed my eyes and deeply inhaled. “Books and coffee. Mmmm!” When I opened my eyes my daughter had her eyes closed and was taking in a deep breath. “Mmmm!” 

We stepped up to the counter and placed our orders: a decaf Americano and a kids’ hot chocolate. The barista winked at us as she wrote our names on our cups. Then she asked my daughter, “Can you promise me something?” My daughter nodded her head. “When you’re all grown up,” the barista said, “promise me you’ll take your mom out for coffee every so often.”

My daughter stared back. “That’s a fabulous idea!” I replied. 

My daughter and I sat across from each other at a tiny table built for two. She peered at me mischievously from over the copious whipped cream atop her hot chocolate. Soon she had a copious whipped cream moustache atop her lip.

Time slowed down, for just a little while, and we were able to just enjoy each other.

Dad’s ties

I remember Dad having a lot of ties. I would peek into his closet and see them all hanging up side-by-side in a neat row. I would pinch one gently between my thumb and finger and run my hand down, feeling the silky, slippery cloth. Sometimes there would be bumps and textures depending on the pattern. There were lots of colours, too. A dark-ish rainbow that matched his suits perfectly.

Sometimes, after Dad came home and loosened the tie around his neck, I’d ask him if I could wear it. “Sure,” he always said with a smile. He would take it off and place the big loop over my head. He would gently make it smaller around my neck until the material barely brushed my skin. I could smell his aftershave. Always a happy, comforting scent of home.

If I was lucky, Dad would come home from work carrying suits from the dry cleaners. He would lift off the thin, clear plastic and start tying it in knots. When he pulled the first knot as tight as he could, a bubble would emerge. I’d place my hand over it and squeeze. POP! We’d laugh. Then he would tie another knot, pull it as tight as he could, and another bubble would appear. And I’d squeeze it. POP! Over and over again until what was once a wispy sheet of plastic became a tired-looking ball of knots. I don’t know how many bubbles I popped per sheet of drycleaning plastic, but Dad was patient enough to keep tying knots until the ends were too small to make any more.

No matter how many times I watched Dad tie a tie, I could never get it quite right. Not that Dad was a bad teacher. But maybe because at some level I wanted him to always tie it for me.

Baking cookies with Daddy

“Hey, Dana, want to make some cookies?”

“Yeaaaaaaaahhh!!” 

I drop my Lego and race into the kitchen. Daddy was setting out all the stuff onto the counter: flour, eggs, butter…

“What kind do you want to make?” Daddy asks. “Rolly cookies or chocolate chip?”

“Rolly cookies!” I exclaim, jumping up and down.

Daddy takes out the rolling pin and a few cookie cutters. We start to make the dough. I’m the dumper: Daddy puts the stuff in the measuring cup and I dump it into the big bowl. I’m also the egg-poker: after the egg goes plop into the bowl I poke it with a fork and it goes all oozy over everything. When all the ingredients are in the bowl Daddy mixes it all up. I love to watch him mix it up because he does it so fast and strong. Around and around, super fast! The fork scrapes the bowl in a constant rhythm as it goes around and around.

Now comes a really fun part: I get to squish the dough in my hands! I grab a fistful and squeeze. I like to see the dough flow slowly, slowly, like doughy worms out from between the small space between my fingers. Daddy sprinkles and spreads flour on the counter. I plop a big blob of dough on top. Now comes my favourite part: the rolling pin!

Daddy helps me start. I grab the handles of the rolling pin and Daddy puts his big, warm hands around mine. Pushing down gently, we roll back and forth, back and forth. I love to watch the dough get flatter and flatter, and bigger and bigger. I take a big metal cookie cutter in the shape of a heart and press it into the dough. I lift it up and, viola! A heart! “Good for you!” Daddy exclaims. “That’s a good heart.” I smile and I feel warmer inside.

Daddy does all the stuff with the oven because it’s very hot. When the oven beeps we know the cookies are done.

Beeeeeeeeeeep!

“Hooray!!” I cheer. Daddy takes the cookies out of the oven. They look pretty much the same but they are puffier and a bit brown around the edges. “Perfect!” Daddy says.

After a few minutes they are cool enough to eat. “I’d better try one to make sure they’re okay,” says Daddy. He plucks a circle cookie and pops it into his mouth. “Mmmm!” He chews and swallows. “You’d better try one too,” he says to me.

I find the big heart cookie that was the first one I made. I pick it up. It’s warm against my fingertips. I take a bite. Butter and sugar all melty in my mouth. “Mmmm!!” I hum with a mouthful of cookie.

Cookies with Daddy always tastes perfect.

My friend Miss Piggy

It’s time for The Muppet Show! I race to change into my cozy pyjamas that my Grandma made and my fuzzy slippers. I grab my favourite blue blanket and my little friend, Miss Piggy. She is the size of a finger puppet but in my imagination she is much bigger than that.

I crank the big knob on the TV and launch myself onto the couch. I hold Miss Piggy out towards the TV so she has a perfect view, like me. I will hold her like that for the whole show. Mom comes by and props up my arm with a pillow. But even though my arm gets a bit sore from holding Miss Piggy that way, I don’t mind. This is our TV-Time, and I want Miss Piggy to see the TV show, too.

The Muppet Show is my favourite. It’s funny. And I get to see Miss Piggy. I like her because she has long blonde hair, nice make-up on her eyes, and she dresses pretty. I like her long, purple, silky gloves she wears. She is a bit loud but that’s okay. Sometimes I imagine being dressed pretty like her with long blonde hair.

Once The Muppet Show is over it’s bedtime. That’s okay because I’m tired and my arm is tired.

Cooking with Grandma

Tonight is a special night. I’m going to help Grandma make dinner! And we are making something very exotic: Chinese food.

I’ve helped Grandma make pies and cookies and wash strawberries, but I’ve never helped her make Chinese food before. “I’ve never made Chinese food before either,” Grandma confides with a wink. 

I guess Chinese food needs lots of vegetables because we cleaned mushrooms, peppers, and something called “bok choy.” I like saying that. Bok choy, Bok choy… I have a feeling it tastes like spinach, but maybe a bit crunchier.

Now we need to clean the carrots. “Hold the peeler like this,” Grandma explains. I hold the peeler in my hand and she holds my hand in hers. Her hands are so warm and soft. She helps me drag the peeler along the carrot and the skin lifts off. Magic! “Now you try,” she says. She lets my hand go, stands behind me and watches. I like standing near Grandma because she always smells so nice. Like flowers mixed with fruit punch. I drag the peeler along the carrot and more skin comes off. “Yes, just like that,” Grandma says. I glance up and see her smiling. “I’m a good peeler!” I say. Grandma laughs. “Yes, pet, you are!”

I see a jar of something on the counter beside my pile of freshly peeled carrots. “What’s that?” I ask.

“It’s called plum sauce,” says Grandma. Then she leans in closer to me and whispers, “Want to try some?”

I look up at her eagerly and nod my head. Grandma takes a spoon out of the drawer, then twists the cap off the jar. It opens with a pop! She scoops out a spoonful and hands it to me. It looks like jam. I open my mouth, close it around the spoon, and taste it. Sweet, tangy… Grandma takes the spoon out of my mouth. “Do you like it?” Grandma asks. I nod my head again. She whispers, “So do I!” And she takes a big spoonful and she eats it. She scoops out some more and hands it to me. Down the hatch! A small blob had dropped onto my chin and we laugh.

We cook the vegetables in something called a “wok.” Grandma lets me stir the vegetables around and around in the wok, and I hear them sizzle and see them steam. Their colours get darker. We have a few more spoonfuls of plum sauce.

By the time the Chinese food is ready there is only a little bit of plum sauce left. We sit at the table and I can’t wait to try our fancy meal. Grandpa takes the jar of plum sauce and his spoon clink-a-clinks as he scrapes the bottom of the jar to get the last of the sauce out. “I thought I bought a whole jar of plum sauce,” he wonders out loud. 

“You did,” Grandma says, and she winks and smiles at me.

Some Halloween memories

Can’t forget those ’80s plastic costumes with the masks that made your face sweat profusely.

Almost fell off a neighbour’s porch when he answered the door in a werewolf mask and shouted, “BAAAAARRRGGG!”

Nothing beats full chocolate bars!

Dancing down the street with my best friend dressed as Milli Vanilli right before their lip-syncing scandal. We made wigs and everything.

You know anyone who actually eats (and likes) those Rocket candies??

The girl with pussywillows

She reached out her hand to touch the delicate grey fur of the pussywillows. The grey, furry buds looked like small rabbit paws in a straight line marching up the branch.

“Here, want some, pet?” Grandpa asked. The girl nodded. “Yes, please!” Grandpa reached into his pocket and took out his jackknife. He was always with his jackknife. It came in handy in so many circumstances. Like cutting open the small, individual-sized cereal boxes they had this morning for breakfast. They knew they were for camping but why not have some on a Sunday morning?

Grandpa sawed the woody branch. Back and forth and back and forth until the branch snapped free. He handed the branch of pussywillows to her with a smile. “There you go, pet.” The girl smiled and grasped the branch with a grip that said these are all mine! With the other hand she took a finger and stroked each of the little grey buds, acknowledging each as a single mini bunny-paw.

The girl skipped along the beach in her brown, fleece-lined rubber boots. “Oats, peas, beans, and barley grow,” she sang. Although grow sounded more like trow. “Oats, peas, beans, and barley trow…” Grandpa strolled behind her, whistling along to her tune.

The cold breeze pinched her cheeks but she barely noticed. For she was a fairy with a magic wand, and if she said the magic words then the pussywillows would turn into real grey bunnies. She stopped singing and whispered, “Seashell,” and she imagined grey bunnies skipping alongside her.

“What would you like to be when you grow up, pet?” Grandpa asked.

The girl stopped and turned, her cheeks a flushed pink, her eyes like stars. “A belly dancer,” she exclaimed, not missing a beat.

“A belly dancer!” Grandpa chuckled. 

“Yes, with a pink, frilly dress.” The girl did a twirl.

“Oh, a ballet dancer,” Grandpa chuckled again. “I’m sure you will make a great ballet dancer.”

The girl giggled and skipped off down the beach. “Oats, peas, beans, and barley trow,” she sang.

That girl was me. Although I didn’t become a ballet dancer, I still hum that tune. And I still think pussywillows look like little bunny paws.