Monday, June 28, 2010

Would You Like That With Mayo?

When I was in High School we lived on the Espanola turn-off right next to an Esso gas station that had a little restaurant attached. We ran the restaurant for one summer and the whole family had to get involved. My dad was still working in the mines so his contribution was to sit in the back room from time to time peeling potatoes. My mom was the one with experience so she taught the rest of us how to wait on tables, operate a cash register, and cook in a short order kitchen. She and my oldest brother, Richard, ran the day shift and my next oldest brother, Dave, and I ran the evening shift. Of course, if a busload of tourists or hockey players pulled up we could just pick up the phone and call next door for reinforcements.

It wasn’t a very big place but when it filled up things were hopping. That was the case one evening when Dave and I were on the job. The grill was sizzling and there was a buzz of conversation as I made my way briskly from booth to booth. We were definitely in our groove and everything was operating like a well oiled machine. Dave had several plates all lined up and ready to load in the kitchen with fish and chips in the fryer and burgers cooking on the grill. He was building a couple of club sandwiches when he reached under the counter for the gallon jug of mayonnaise we kept there.

What I heard was a heavy hollow sounding thump followed by an inarticulate bellow. All conversation ceased and I rushed into the kitchen with visions of severed fingers lending speed to my feet. What greeted my eyes was not nearly as lurid as what my vivid imagination had conjured up in those few seconds of panic. Even so it was bad enough…so bad in fact that I couldn’t stop myself sagging against the doorframe, completely overcome by the irresistible urge to laugh out loud.

Dave stood immobile in the centre of the kitchen with the empty mayonnaise jug on the floor at his feet, its lid still clutched in one hand. He was almost entirely covered in a thick coating of mayo. In fact the whole kitchen, which wasn’t very large, was covered in mayo. There were even splatters on the ceiling. He had grabbed the jug by the lid and swung it around and up to set it on the counter when the lid let go in mid swing. The jug hit the floor squarely and with some force but because it was plastic it didn’t break. Instead the entire gallon of mayonnaise was forcefully ejected out of its mouth like grape-shot out of a cannon aimed at the moon. Physics in real life. Dave slowly removed his glasses revealing two perfectly round patches of clear skin around his eyes. He grinned, teeth white in a white face. “I think we’d better call for reinforcements,” he conceded.

We made more than money that summer. We made memories and we learned that we could always count on each other. I thank God for my family.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Size Matters Not

My dad’s family spent a number of years attempting to farm on land just north of Alban, Ontario. Of course farming up there was a bit of a mixed bag that no one actually made a living at. One day his father came home with what sounded like an irate chicken in a burlap bag. He dropped the sack in the yard and its occupant struggled free of the muffling folds to take stock of its new surroundings. It was a little Banty rooster, only a quarter the size of the rooster the farm already had.

No mention was made of why there was any need for a second rooster on the place, especially one as diminutive as this one was. He would have ended up in the stewpot that very day if Grandma had had her way but Grandpa wouldn’t hear of it. I’ve often wondered if he might have won him in a bet but dismissed it as unlikely in that strictly Catholic household. Banty roosters were used in cockfighting and were known for their aggressive nature. This one was no exception. When the farm’s rooster crowed at sunrise the next morning the little Banty considered it a personal challenge and rushed to the attack. Dust and feathers flew and the short but intense battle ended with the farm’s rooster in full retreat. Within two days the larger bird was a silent and tattered version of his former self. He had learned that crowing of any sort would inevitably result in a sound thrashing by his tiny arch nemesis and the little Banty had become the undisputed ‘King of the Barnyard’.

When the Banty turned up missing soon after that there was a lot of speculation among the children about various forms of rooster revenge until someone recalled that the morning had been particularly still and they had heard the crowing of the neighbor’s rooster from the farm a mile up the road. It seemed unlikely but they decided it might be worth checking. Sure enough, within a half a mile or so they caught up to the little Banty strutting up the middle of the road, head up and feathers all puffed out, clearly making his way to face off with whichever rooster he’d heard daring to crow that morning.

That little rooster was more trouble than he was worth but Grandpa seemed to like him a lot. I think he probably felt a certain kinship with the scrappy bird. My Grandpa Landry wasn’t very big either. When I knew him he still walked with a spring in his step, shoulders back and chin thrust out. Most often I would see him with a twinkle in his blue eyes and a ready smile but I’ve been told he was quite a scrapper in his younger years. He had ambitions to become a boxer and actually fought in a few matches. He was quick and strong but he couldn’t manage to keep a cool head in a fight. His temper would inevitably get the best of him and ultimately it spoiled his chances of being competitive in the ring. Even so, he never could back down from anything. It was a quality he and the rooster shared. They never thought of themselves as small and that just might be worth remembering when I face the Goliaths in my own life.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Galaxy Gaffe

My husband, Bev, and I went to the movies last night. I love movies as did my mother before me. My dad was a different kettle of fish. I think he viewed the dimming of the lights as his cue to settle in for a good long nap. Even so, he wouldn’t dream of not coming along if we decided to head for the theater. He managed to sleep blissfully through the entire screening of the first Star Wars movie when it came out years ago. Completely oblivious to the roar of turbolasers and blaster fire, he sat with his chin resting on his chest and dreamed his way right through to the final credits.

As he got older they stopped going to the movies. I think he was finding the seats too uncomfortable to provide for a good two hour snooze. I finally convinced them that the new Galaxy Cinemas had seats to rival his lazy boy at home and we all went to see the Italian Job when it came out. True to form, he was a goner before the opening heist was even under way. We glanced over at his awkward slouch and the gentle rise and fall of his chest as he breathed. At least he wasn’t snoring. My mother and I shook our heads and smiled at each other in mild exasperation before settling back to watch the action on the screen. It was about three fourths of the way through the movie, right during the famous car chase scene with the three Austin Minis barreling through the storm drain, motorcycles hot on their tails, when my dad suddenly stirred and sat up straighter. He was a bit hard of hearing so the entire audience was privy to his question as his voice rang out into a momentary hush. “So…what’s this movie about anyway?”

Embarrassing? Absolutely! Yet it remains one of my favorite movie memories to this day. My dad is gone now but every time I sit in the Galaxy or watch my copy of the Italian Job I feel a smile tugging at the corners of my mouth. I imagine him there beside me and I miss him.