Tuesday, April 17, 2012

No relation.

Nothing like being elbow to elbow with my boy, eating ribs, and watching the game. I was so happy.

"Mom, why don't you sit over there?" The Little Bastard said, pointing his saucy finger at the chair across from him.

"Because then I can't see the TV... and this way we can watch the game together." I said, scooching further into the bench seat without taking my eyes off the screen. "OH NO! ... I hope they don't hurt Crosby's head!" I said, tucking into my chicken.

"Mom, Crosby's in the box already. It's hard to get hurt in the box." said the Little Bastard with a mouthful of fries.

"I know. I am just worried about his head. I think he has a soft head." I continued, taking a bite of coleslaw.

"AAAAH!" I screamed, moments later, as a puck went flying by the Philadelphia goalie. I'd seen him interviewed recently, and the poor schmuck appears to have a severe learning disability, or a permanent head injury. "I hate it when they score on the goalie."

"Mom, who else would they score on?" the Little Bastard said, looking over at the next table to see if they'd been as offended as he was by my outburst. "And, I thought you were cheering for Pittsburgh."

His tone was beginning to get on my nerves. If I wasn't knee deep in pork, I'd have stuck my elbow in his rack of ribs.

"I am cheering for Pittsburgh, I just hate seeing goalies get scored on." I said. "It's a goalie mom thing."

"That was a good goal" he said. "It wasn't the goalie's fault."

"If the puck goes past the goalie... it's the goalie's fault" I said. "Although you probably blame me, if a puck goes past you." I said laughing. "That's why I sit in the parking lot."

"Mom, there's no way the goalie could have had that shot. It was amazing." He said, defending the position he is all too familiar with.

"His poor mother. I wonder if she's watching?" I said, taking a slurp of my lemonade. "What time would in be in Russia? I wonder if she chugged vodka when she was pregnant, and that's why he's so stupid? They likely wouldn't have pre-natal vitamins in a country where you have to line up to buy toilet paper."

"What are you talking about?" My dining companion said, his Q Smokehouse Bad Attitude BBQ sauce rubbing off on his disposition.

"Baryshnikov... the stupid Philadelphia goalie." I said knowingly. "I'm just wondering if his mother..."

"You mean Bryzgalov?" The Little Bastard interrupted, correcting me. And he was using that tone again.

"Ya, whatever... I'm just saying, I wonder if he has fetal alcohol syndrome or something – although, I think your eyes are either side of your head – like a fish – when you have fetal alcohol syndrome. Like that fish... is it a grouper? Remember – we saw one at the Plantetarium in Monterey – and Baryshnikov's eyes are practically on top of each other they're so close together."

"Mom... you mean the AQUARIUM in Monterey? And you saw BRYZGALOV on TSN for like, 30 seconds." He said. "The guy's amazing. Maybe he just doesn't like answering STUPID questions." He said, with a look only a teenager can give.

"What are you talking about?" I said, starting to get pissed off.

"What are YOU talking about?!" He said.

"Did you see where Ovechkin is dating one of the pretty Russian tennis players. What is it with Russia – you're either really beautiful, or butt ugly. There's no middle of the road when it comes to Russians." I said, glancing at the screen. "OH MY GOD! When did Phillie score again? How did it get to be 4-2? Poor Sidney... although, I bet his mother will be happy to have him back home early." I continued. "Phillie have always been a bunch of goons. I remember, growing up, there was this guy named Dave Schultz – only they called him "The Hammer" – Dave the Hammer Schultz. No relation of course. I remember watching those games with my Dad. I used to get called "The Hammer" at school. Between "The Hammer" and Sergeant Schultz from Hogan's Heroes, and the family with the daschund named Schultzie that moved in next door to us in New Jersey – Jesus, my last name was a curse. No one attractive ever has my last name..."

With that, the Little Bastard wandered away to fill up his fountain pop, leaving me alone, wishing I'd ordered the lemonade with two shots of Jack Daniels, instead of fucking Splenda.

When he returned, I did a recap of the game: "The Phillie guy with the bad hair just accused the other guy of pulling his hair – but who could really blame him? I'd pull it too. He looks ridiculous with that hair. Is that a playoff thing like those cheesey moustaches poor Sidney tries to grow? He must get hot under his helmet. I think boys look so much better all clean cut looking – like Sidney. I hope you never have to try and grow a moustache, although I don't seem to have much trouble. Anyway he was complaining to the ref – but I think he's going to the box anyway."

"Mom, are you done?" The Little Bastard said. "Let's go, so we're home for the 2nd period."

"But you have a whole shitload of fries. Have some pecan pie, so I can have a bite." I said, pointing at the basket of handcut fries lying close enough for me to smell the greasy goodness.

"I ordered those as backup." He said. "Because you always eat my fries."

"I do not." I said.

"You do so!" he corrected me, "Which is why I ordered those."

"Well that's just a waste... you know I'm not eating carbs." I said.

"He looked at me like I was a moron, then he laughed, and said, "You ate an entire thing of microwave popcorn this weekend... those are carbs! Drink up, let's go."

"I think it's a flounder." I said, tossing my napkins on the table.

"What?" he said, getting up from the table – exasperation and Bad Attitude BBQ sauce, all over his face.

"The fish with the eyes on both sides of its head." I said matter of factly. "I think its a flounder, not a grouper."

We stepped out onto the street, and I put my arm through his. "That was delicious, wasn't it?" I said. "And fun. I'm waaaay too full. I really have to take up that challenge from those Evolve Fitness guys. They won't know what hit them when I roll in. It's fun to watch a game with you. Way more fun than watching it alone."

"I love you." I said, moments later, looking up at my beautiful boy.

"I know." The Little Bastard said, with a resounding sigh.

We approached the car, and I thought how lucky I was to have a boy. I can't imagine what we'd ever talk about if I had a girl.


Friday, April 13, 2012

There's no place like Home.

Raise your hand if you had any of the following growing up:

Personal trainer.
Semi-personal trainer.
Sport psychologist.
Sport physiotherapist.
Math tutor.
Chemistry tutor.
Nutrition coach.
Goaltending coach.
Tennis teacher.
Golf instructor.
Driving instructor.
Agent or "family advisor".

I don't know about you, but I had a pair of sneakers and loosey-Grey Goosey parental instructions to 'make my way home when the street lights come on'.

My family ski days meant escaping the warm, Marlboro Light confines of the station wagon, for the exhaust fumes of the ski hill parking lot – watching as my parents sped away as fast as they could. No helmet. No ski coach. Just a twenty dollar bill – Andrew Jackson – curled up in tip of my mittens.

Learning how to swim wasn't a multi-layered, badge winning affair. It involved being tossed into the deep end of the pool by my father – who, by the way – went golfing every Saturday morning, and never taught me, or my brother, how to swing a club.

What happened to those good ol' days?

This week, the Little Bastard called an emergency session with his math tutor, the evening before a test he would most likely fail anyway. This, after confessing his inability to listen to his teacher even after she'd moved him away from his friends, up to the front of the class. He suggested Ritalin. I suggested a whack on the back of the head.

Paying $30 bucks to a tutor, so he can fail a math test makes me grit my unstraightened teeth. Forking over another $10 so he can sip a venti latte whilst doing so, makes me want to shoot myself in the foot. Meeting the tutor for this emergency session also meant another hour of me waiting, while my child becomes a "well-rounded person" at my expense.

I don't remember my parents sitting around waiting for me to do anything except move out.

Besides, we had already stopped for a bite at one of those seedy strip mall restaurants – so this was looking like a $100 evening. Time hadn't been good to this establishment either, and I have never wanted to shower so immediately after dining anywhere – ever. Nevertheless, after asking for the table to be wiped, and sitting on my coat for fear of getting an STD – I choked back some haddock and a spinach salad.

The Little Bastard had a belly full of wings when I dumped him at Starbucks. And I had an hour to kill.

Pondering my options – given my location, and the impending darkness – I decided to hit Homesense – the graveyard of interior embellishments no one really needs. I only shop with purpose, and I currently have a client in need of a few rugs. You never know what you may find in the decorating dumping ground if you have time, patience, and someone else's money on your credit card.

By my calculation, I had roughly 15 minutes before the store started flicking their lights for last call. I headed toward the rugs at the back of the store, but got sidetracked – first by a display of hideous outdoor pillows – followed by a sudden, debilitating stomach cramp that may, or may not have been brought on by bad taste. The cramp passed, but returned with gusto in the fake flower aisle. A giant, rusty ceiling fan began whirling in my bowels, as I stood helpless between the plastic ferns and the door.

Did I have time to go home? I reached for my phone to check the time – my fight or flight response kicking in as I tried to ignore the tsunami pushing its way painfully through my colon. But no phone. And no luck ignoring the pan-fried haddock beating its way downstream.

At that precise moment, it dawned on me. I was about to shit my pants. In Homesense.

Biting my lower lip, my mind went toward the exit, but my gut headed to the back of the store. Surely a place flogging fluffy white towels and toilet brush holders had a washroom. If it was locked, I was screwed.

Sure enough, after dashing back and forth in full survival mode, I spotted a matching set of His and Hers washroom doors, and pushed through one of them – my ass making contact with the porcelain just in the nick of time. Fearing splashback, and sweating like I was in labour, I took off my coat and settled in, praying no one would feel the urge to share the premises, at least until tomorrow.

Or the next day.

My first thought was relief, followed by awareness: a lack of toilet paper, and nothing to read. You'd think there'd be decorating magazines in a home decor store washroom – but given what was currently happening down south in my rec room, I wasn't about to complain. Instead, I started to laugh. I laughed because at least this was a night out. I laughed, and wished I had my phone, but there likely wouldn't be reception, and the sound effects would be horrific. And, who would I call? I sat and held my head, and giggled, while nature ran its course. I looked at my feet: Converse sandals and Smartwool socks. What does that say? I examined my sad looking fingernails, and remembered this was Red Tent weekend. Maybe I should spring for a ticket – to be charitable and social – and get a manicure while I was at it. Red Tent is the annual fundraiser in support of The Marguerite Centre – a refuge for women recovering from addictions and abuse and loose bowels. (I made the last one up.) Then my feet fell asleep, and I wondered what the hell time it was, and how long had I been in here? I wasn't in any shape to be leaving just yet, but it had to be nigh on closing time.

I pictured myself locked inside Homesense, and I started to laugh again. I envisioned giving myself a much-needed sponge bath with rose scented soap from the scented soap section. I imagined drying myself off with 100% supima cotton towels, and wrapping myself in a child's twin sheet like a toga. I'd make a comfy bed out of goose down duvets and leopard skin dog beds, and I'd feather my nest with sateen percale 8000-thread count Egyptian cotton. An array of hideous throw pillows and a bedside lamp from the lighting section would make my temporary home worthy of HGTV. Finally, I'd shake up a mocktail with some stale margarita mix from the kitchen section, and drink it from a plastic patio glass. If only I could Jack Bauer my way into Best Buy and borrow a Plasma TV, I'd be all set.

Every woman deserves a safe place to call home.

But I had to pick up my boy.

Fearful of drawing further attention to myself, or the bathroom makeover I'd performed in stall number two – I somehow managed to get myself up and out of the store – gracefully – without cramping up, or breaking into another laughing fit. I zig-zagged my way out, slowly, casually – past picture frames, dog-eared cookbooks, and naked backyard statuettes – straight into the parking lot. I felt like a shoplifter who'd dropped their pilfered load.

Moments later, I pulled in to Starbucks to see the Little Bastard close his books, and fork a fistful of cash over to his tutor. He jumped in the car and asked me where I'd been – and I started to howl. I didn't even apologize for being late, as I attempted to recreate my Homesense adventure. He didn't find my story nearly as hysterical as I did – but I guess you had to be there. In fact, the Little Bastard was having such a good time watching me crack up, I decided to do it more often.

I babbled and laughed all the way home – making absolutely no sense, whatsoever.


Red Tent is the primary fundraiser event for The Marguerite Centre, and it's happening Sunday, April 15. Tickets are still available by clicking here. Please spring for one, even if you don't go, or try your luck at the Silent Auction by emailing Linda at alexanderleonard@ns.sympatico.ca.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The break up.

It's not you it's me.

We don't laugh the way we used to.

I think we should see other people.

Can we still be friends?

The break up was inevitable. Two people thrown together by circumstance, clinging together for survival through thick and thin. Although, had that been us on the Titanic – you would have jumped in the lifeboat first – and I would have let you. I have always loved you Jack, more than life itself.

But, who am I kidding? It was bound to get monotonous. After all, this has been the longest relationship I have ever been in. And let's face it – I haven't been the easiest person to live with – so hat's off to you for sticking around. Mind you, I've been the sole breadwinner while you flitted through life, blowing my hard-earned money like a horny salesman in Vegas.

But my love was unconditional.

So what finally pushed us over the edge? Was it the vacuum of nothingness created by a sudden excess of free time. Or was it simply, The Clash of the Titans?

I do recall it went something like this:

"I really want to go to a movie, but Sam has to work, and no one else can go." He said, flopping down on the couch.

"I'll go!" I said, excitedly, already tucking into my mental bucket of large popcorn, double layered with real butter. I haven't had a carb since January, and I was already drooling. "I haven't seen a movie in ages!"

And that's when it happened.

"That's okay. I'll just play Xbox." The Little Bastard said, reaching between the cushions for the controller.

The unsinkable hit the iceberg.

"So... you'd rather NOT go to a movie, than go to a movie with me?" I asked, intercepting the invisible beam that travels from the sofa to the Xbox. "Is that what you're saying?"

The Little Bastard looked at me, then he tried to look around me.

"Listen, Scooby Doo... do you have any idea how many brain cells I have destroyed over the past 16 years, sitting though your stupid movies?" I asked, point blank.

And out it came.

"Do you think I actually liked Flubber? Because, remember when you were all cute, and covered with red dye from an $11 box of Skittles, and you said, 'Mom, wasn't that funny?' Well, I lied. I hated every stupid second of Flubber!"

I was just getting started.

"I hated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The Fockers. Cody Banks. Snakes on a Plane. Clifford's Really Big Stupid Movie. Thunderbirds. Daddy Stupid Daycare. Fat Albert!" They were beginning to flow like fake topping on a kiddie pack. "I bit my tongue all the way through Eddie Murphy screwing up Doctor Dolittle? How stupid do they think children are!? Big Momma's House?!"

"That wasn't Eddie Murphy" he said. "That was Martin Lawrence."

"Who cares?!" I screamed. "I sat, no I tried to sit through Rugrats Go Wild – completely sober – and practically had a breakdown pacing back and forth in front of the concession stand." I was beginning to sweat. "No one... not even I have to pee 14 times during a 90-minute movie!"

I wasn't done yet.

"The Santa Clause. Spy Kids 3D. Oh! And what about MVP: Most Valuable Primate? A hockey playing monkey? You loved that piece of shit!" I hollered at the now stone-faced seed of Chucky. "I don't remember that little cinematic gem walking away with any Academy Awards."

But the night was still young.

"I sat through fucking Pokémon for fuck's sake. Pokémon: The Longest Most Plotless Movie EVER! I sat through that Japanime retaliation for Hiroshima desperately trying to make eye contact with other parents, with hopes of sliding out to the parking lot to drop acid. And let's not forget The Rescue Heroes. Baby Genuises. Inspector Gadget!" I spat.

And I wasn't finished.

"Alvin and the Chipmunks! Kung Fu Panda! Snow Dogs! Air Bud! Digimon! Mr. Popper's Penguins! Thomas the Stupid Gay Fucking Tank Engine! And what about that insipid waste of film with the stupid metal giant." I crescendoed. "I only went to that piece of drivel, because you said Vin Diesel was in it. And it was animated!!!" I said, waving my arms around.

"Iron Giant." he muttered.

"You owe me a movie, you ungrateful little shit!"

I was exhausted, and quite frankly I couldn't drag any more film titles out of my suppressed emotional data base.

Or so I thought.

Just then, a flashback to a place in time more horrific than childbirth, suddenly reeled its ugly and enormous breech head – and with my last dying breath – I screamed, "SPONGE BOB FUCKING SQUAREPANTS!"

And with that, I left the room.

I fell to my knees in the living room, and went about building a fire – crumpling up old newspapers and last semester's chemistry notes. I caught a glimpse of Movie Times in The Chronicle Herald and reached for the Bic lighter.

"Want me to do that?" The Little Bastard had come a grovelling. "Need me to carry up some more wood or anything?"

"No, I'm good." I said, forever stubborn.

"Mom, if you really want to go to a movie, let's go." He surrendered.

"Okay." I said, meekly. "Maybe there's something we both want to see."

"Wrath of the Titans starts in half an hour." He said. "It's a sequel."

I just stared at the smoking kindling.

"Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is playing at the Oxford." I said. "Lots of leg room in the balcony. You like fishing."

And with a whoosh my fire ignited, breaking the awkward silence that had fallen over the room.

"You know what, I don't really feel like popcorn. Let's just stay in." I said, tossing in a log.

And with that, the final sparks of a beautiful relationship flew up the chimney – and I faced up to something I'd known for a really long time.

The little boy who used to spill his $7 dollar Mountain Dew reaching his chubby, buttery hand over to find mine – in the dark, during the scary parts – had drifted away. Soon, it would be Home Alone 5.

Time to find my own lifeboat.