Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .

Saturday, December 1, 2012

I Know What You Did Last Friday . . .

A few years ago, my Husby, a slightly Santa-esque man, was asked to play Santa Claus at a local party.
He discovered that he loved it.
The rest of us discovered that he was very good at it.
A new career was born.
He offered to pay for the materials for a, to put it into his words, nice suit.
I complied.
The next Christmas, he asked if I would be willing to make myself a matching 'Mrs. Santa' outfit.
After a bit of head-scratching and a trip to the fabric store, I again did as he requested.
Mrs. Santa appeared.
And the two of us have had fun with it ever since.
Each year, our portrayal of the famous couple gets a little more . . . detailed.
This year, he began to grow out his hair.
In August.
Then we made a trip to the hairdresser to get him, and myself, dyed white.
Oh, the sacrifices he makes!
The breathing apparatus and nose plugs were his idea!
Definitely lighter . . .

But the rewards are incalculable.

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Bed-Making Game

I have just realized that Mom was infinitely more patient than I am.
It's a bit of a painful discovery.
A moment of silence, please.

Now I will explain . . .
When I was four, I used to follow Mom around as she went through her morning routine.
This was before she really expected me to be of much help.
Though I did try.
I should mention, here, that about the time I became a valuable helper, I no longer wanted to follow Mom around.
Oh, the irony.
Back to my story . . .
I watched Mom clean the kitchen.
Pick up clothes and discarded items.
Vacuum and/or sweep.
And scrub bathrooms.
But my most favourite activity . . .
The one I waited patiently for . . .
Was 'the making of the beds'.
Because Mom never just made the beds.
That would be boring.
No, what Mom would do was 'make me in the beds'.
I would snuggle in and she would pull the covers up and proceed to make the bed.
With me in it.
I would lay quietly until she said, “Okay that's done. Time for the next bed.”
That was my cue to squeal and sit up abruptly, totally negating her efforts.
She would pretend to be flabbergasted. (Oooh. Real word!)
And I would laugh uproariously.
Then she would order me from the bed and make it again.
This time without any stowaways.
And we would move on to the next bedroom.
And the next bed.
Where the routine would be repeated.
I don't ever remember Mom making a bed just once.
That's something other mothers did.
Moving ahead fifty or so years . . .
Several of my grandchildren were staying over.
Everyone had finally crawled out of bed.
And were awaiting breakfast, which Grampa was cooking.
I took advantage of the interim to make the beds.
I decided to teach them the game I used to play with my mom.
“Hide in the bed,” I told them. “And don't move.”
They crawled in.
And managed not to move.
But giggling was definitely optional.
I made the bed, then said, loudly, “Well that's done. Time to move on to the next bed!”
Three kids suddenly sat up. “Gramma! We fooled you!”
I pretended to be shocked and ordered them out.
Then I made the bed a second time and we moved on to the next bedroom.
“Can we hide in this bed?” they asked.
I looked at it.
Then thought about having to make it twice.
“No. Once is enough,” I told them.
“Awwww . . .”
“Next time we'll do it again,” I promised.
They were happy.
And I had made two conclusions.
My first was that being the made-ee was infinitely more fun than being the made-er.
You know, my Mom used to play that game at every bed.
Every bed.
My second conclusion? She was much, much more patient than I am.
I'm sure you agree with me.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Woman Inside

Mom being Mom

My Mom was amazing.
She was the force behind:
Meals appearing at clockwork intervals.
Soiled clothes in hampers being replaced by clean, folded clothes in neat stacks in drawers.
Floors scoured to a mirror finish.
Dirty dishes disappearing from the table.
Clean dishes appearing.
Yummy snacks, (ie. Puddings, cakes, pies, pastries) showing up with amazing regularity.
Gardens stretching, lush and weed-free for miles.
Lawns being mowed.
Pets fed and cared for.
Kids travelling to and from school.
Deadlines met.
Bills paid on time.
New, hand-made outfits appearing.
Hired men cared for.
Doctor's appointments kept.
Sewing and other women's clubs attended.
Bedtime routines honoured.
Sicknesses nursed.
Arguments refereed.
Church attended.
In fact, she was the driving force behind every facet of our daily life.
Always there.
To me . . . just Mom.
When I was four, she bought me a pair of skates.
Sat me on our front step and strapped them on my feet.
Then took me across the yard to the ice-covered street and taught me how to skate.
Once I got my balance, she skated along behind me for a while.
Encouraging, instructing and safe-guarding.
Finally, when she was sure of me, she struck out on her own.
Swooping and spinning across the ice like a bird.
I stopped and watched.
This was the woman who spent her days 'looking after'.
For the first time in my four years, I realized that there was more to my Mom than what I had always seen.
Here was a woman who had been talented enough to skate competitively.
I later discovered that she had also been invited to play ball professionally.
Offered a scholarship to university.
And many other opportunities.
All of which she set aside for my Dad.
My siblings.
And me.
I watched her as she spun in a tight circle.
Going faster and faster.
Coming to a final, breathless halt.
And skating smoothly away.
My Mom.
She skated past me.
She spun and looked at me.
“I'm hungry.”
She smiled. “Time to go in, dear?”
I nodded.
Immediately, she stopped and reached for my hand, helping me carefully back across the yard to our front step.
Mom was just 'Mom' again.
But just for an instant, I had caught sight of something else.
Someone else.
The woman inside.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Do You Want Fries With That?

Sears Craftsman Router Model 315.174710 25000 R.P.M.,
A thing of beauty . . .
in a totally  non-food way

Been listening to Christmas music all day.
Let the Christmas memories begin!!!

For our first Christmas as newly-weds, I dutifully asked my new Husby what he would like.
I did it sneakily.
I thought.
In July.
His answer?
A router.
Okay, first, I had to surreptitiously find out just what a 'router' was.
I discovered that it had everything to do with home woodworking.
And nothing to do with computers (which at that time in history, really only existed on Star Trek).
The men at the hardware store knew exactly what Husby had been talking about.
And placed before me a perfect example of router-ness.
On sale.
The day was mine!
And soon, so was the router.
Gleefully (real word/emotion) I carried said router triumphantly to the car.
And duly hid it at Husby's parent's place.
Then I waited.
Closer to Christmas, Husby forgot all about the router he had asked for and announced that what he would really like was a deep fryer.
For a few frantic moments, I considered taking the router back and replacing it.
But, reading the receipt, I could see that that possibility had expired.
A couple of weeks before Christmas, with a heavy heart, I wrapped his present and placed it under the tree.
Some time later, he picked it up and shook it.
It rattled.
He smiled.
What he had taken for a 'deep fryer' rattle was, indeed a 'router' rattle, but I said nothing.
And he was happy.
We both waited for Christmas.
Christmas morning, the first gift he went for was his 'deep fryer'.
He was already talking about the fries he would make.
The corn dogs.
I held my breath as he tore off the paper.
His mouth dropped open and his face was a perfect picture of surprise as he stared at the router box beneath.
“I totally forgot I asked for this!” he said finally. He opened the box and began removing parts. “I've wanted one of these forever!” He was growing more and more excited.
No more mention was made of a deep fryer.
I heaved a sigh of relief.
That particular gift went on to make tables, cabinets, houses, toys, more tables, and at least one picture frame.
Of far more use than a piece of kitchen equipment.
No matter how many fries it could have made.
I chose . . . well.
I should mention, also, that this was also the only Christmas when I managed to surprise my Husby.
Oh, he tries to 'act' surprised when he unwraps something.
But I know that he knows.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Bumper Prize

Today, I lost my crown.
There was no ceremony.
Few tears.
And an audible sigh of relief.
Maybe I should explain . . .
In the main drive of the ranch, there was a light/electricity pole.
A large one.
I’m not sure whose idea it was to place it thus, but there it stood.
In the centre of the circular drive.
Any drivers had, of necessity, to be vigilant when negotiating our driveway.
Even though said pole had stood there, unmoving and in the exact same place, for years.
As a permanent resident of the ranch, I had always known of its existence.
I knew the exact place where one had to turn the wheel in order to miss it.
And just when to swing around when parking.
But this one day, I was . . . distracted.
Have you heard the ads on TV where they caution you not to drive while distracted?
Listen to them.
Ahem . . .
Without thinking, I shoved the gear shift of our large red and white Chevy Beauville 12-passenger van into reverse.
And started backing up.
After a few feet, I felt a rather large thump.
And the van made a sudden stop.
Frowning, I turned to look behind me.
Oh, right.
Sheepishly, I pulled ahead.
Then got out to inspect the damage.
The bright silver bumper had been neatly creased just to one side of the center.
A deep enough crease to force both the top and the bottom of said bumper . . . umm . . . out.
Quite effectively preventing the back door from opening.
I must admit that when my Husby saw it, all he could do was laugh.
Then saw the top point off the crease so the back door would open.
And laugh some more.
That was twenty years ago.
He has been laughing since.
But today, I heard another bumper story.
A better bumper story.
Told by my good friend, Jen.
Jen was backing out of her garage.
It has been sleeting and freezing and her drive way was a sheet of ice.
She backed out cautiously.
After a few feet, the vehicle stopped moving.
Stupid ice.
She pressed harder on the accelerator.
Still no progress.
Just a bit more.
Suddenly, the bumper of her vehicle popped off.
The whole thing.
Right off.
And it was at that precise moment that she realized she hadn't, as she had thought, been slipping on the ice.
Her bumper had snagged on the garage door.
The door had won.
She stopped the car and got out to survey.
Then, abandoning her travel plans for the afternoon, she went back into the house and stayed there.
Some time later, her Husby and his dad came to inspect.
Jen watched them as they shook their heads and muttered to each other.
Finally, they picked up the bumper and refastened it.
With cable ties.
It has been 10 years.
They are still driving that car.
And that bumper is still attached.
I happily pass the crown to her.
She’s earned it.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Fifty Cents

Fifty cents used to be a lot of money.
And gave you the ability to do amazing things.
Let me explain . . .
That wonderful day of the week when one didn't have to dive frantically from their beds, feverishly dash through a morning routine, and drive frantically to catch the school bus.
On Saturday, one could leisurely climb out of bed.
Enjoy a healthy breakfast.
And spend the morning . . . diverting.
Okay, well I don't know about the rest of the family (ie. Mom), but I could.
And the best part of Saturday?
Talking Dad into taking me and my siblings into town for the movies.
Remember, we lived twenty miles away.
On sketchy 'gravelled' roads.
Sometimes, it took a great deal of talking.
When we were successful, he would pull up to the theatre, hand each of us fifty cents, and wave as we scrambled for the door.
The smell of freshly popped and popping corn would wash over me the instant I stepped inside. Clutching my money, I made a dash for the admissions counter and handed over half of my precious coins.
Then I took up a post in front of the all-important concession and eyed the limitless possibilities.
After several moments of tempting myself with mouth-watering indecision, I made my choice.
Inevitably, Grape Crush and a bag of popcorn.
With a nickle for a package of red licorice.
Then, clutching my booty and my ticket, I would approach that magical doorway to infinite worlds and possibilities.
The door-keeper would tear my precious ticket in half with a grin and an, “Enjoy the show!” and I was inside.
The curtains, deep green velvet, would be tightly closed.
Hiding the magic behind them.
Reverently, eyes glued to them, I would slowly make my way down the sloping, creaking wooden floor to my chosen seat.
Somewhere near the front.
Preferably in the first two rows.
Then, one hand stuffing popcorn into my mouth, and the other clutching my precious bottle of pop, I would settle back.
Waiting for the magic.
Waiting to be transported to another place and time.
Suddenly, the house lights would dim and a bright beam would shoot through the air and snare the green curtains in a noose of light.
They would slowly begin to part.
I should mention here that, for years, I thought that the thick, heavy curtains actually became opaque.
And that the beam of light was shining through them from the back.
Yeah. So, an Einstein, I wasn't.
Moving on . . .
For the next two hours, I was somewhere else.
Watching the lives and/or exploits of someone else.
It was magic.
Occasionally, reality would intrude for precious seconds.
Especially if the projectionist was a bit slow in starting the second and/or third reels.
But mostly, my immersion was happy and complete.
Another world.
Another time.
Another life.
Complete with yummy snacks.
All opened to me for the paltry sum of fifty cents.

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