Family Matters Are You Kidding? Column # 7

“Christmas time is here….happiness and cheer…” Really? Let’s look at it from a woman’s perspective.

1. You fought through crowds last Boxing day to buy cheap wrapping paper, ribbons and tags for next year. You threw them in the back of a closet. This Christmas, you can’t find them.

2. Know the size of clothing, shoes, colour preferences and will-die-if-I-don’t-get gifts and give the best ideas to grandmothers who want you to buy them if they send you the money.

3. Stare despondently at magazines in checkout line-ups showing fabulous holiday crafts and decorating tips that you will never do and can’t afford.

4. Decorate with very familiar and miserable old things.

5. Make cookies with children who are interested at first, but then fight and hit each other with dish towels. Make your grandmothers fruitcake recipe that costs a fortune in ingredients knowing full well no one will eat it.

6. Resist the urge to punch the self-satisfied friend who crows about finding the last (fill in the blank) in the city. The only toy your kid wants.

7. Buy all the Christmas cards. Write all the Christmas cards. Mail all the Christmas cards. Write only your name on the bottom of every card because you are the only one who does this odious chore.

8. Buy all the gifts months before after careful and deliberate consideration. Wrap all the Christmas gifts. Send all the Christmas gifts. Hide all the Christmas gifts. Watch hubby roll in on Christmas Eve to wrap his few items he just picked up on the way home from work.

9. Rush around at the last minute to buy the forgotten gifts … for the teacher, gift exchange at school, bus driver, babysitter, newspaper boy, math tutor, White Gift Sunday, etc.

10. Clean the oven and Javex the teapot and tea towels in anticipation of Grammy’s visit over the holidays, or just clean the whole house. It’s easier.

11. Buy all the kids nice outfits with shiny new shoes for the Christmas concert. Watch as your kids disappear completely behind four rows of other similarly dressed children. Know that none of these outfits or shoes will fit next year.

12. Hold the ladder, flashlight, staple gun, light bulbs and extension cords for hubby on the coldest and windiest night of the year as he curses and whines about the one lousy chore he has to do.

13. Plead with children to dress nicely for church. Plead with children to dress nicely to visit relatives. Plead with children to stop making an issue over who is going to sit at the card table with the cousins from hell.

14. Buy the turkey, stuff the turkey, cook the turkey, carve the turkey, eat way too much turkey, try to find a place in the fridge for the leftover turkey. Try not to think about turkey leftovers.

15. And lastly, be ever so grateful you have a family to do this for.

Lesley Crewe is a writer, only because her miserable kids left home and apparently aren’t coming back. How this affects the family dynamic is a quagmire of epic proportion. Living with a retired husband doesn’t help. My thoughts on this situation will inspire, or make things 10-times worse.

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Family Matters. Are you kidding? Column # 5

I’m going to rat myself out this year and admit that I absolutely hate Halloween. I hid this fact as best I could from my kids in their childhood years, and I’m proud of myself for doing so, but now that they are adults, I can tell them the miserable truth.

First of all, I grew up in the city, and have horrific memories of being leered at by the pervert up the street, scared out of my skull by a bully named Jacques who lived two doors down, and being chased by a rabid corgi for a block and a half. Plus the time my mom threw our candy out over a razor blade scare. It was ridiculous.

Secondly, I’m not crafty. I can’t sew, use scissors or glue. The best Halloween costumes I made for my children were sheets thrown over their heads. That worked when they were two. After that my son was a hobo until he realized how little effort that required. I did get creative one year and stuck a cowboy hat on his head. My daughter was Ariel once, only because I had a friend who felt sorry for her and made some fins. My neighbour up the road was a Halloween wizard. Her daughter always looked like a perfect My Little Pony, Polly Pocket, or Cabbage Patch doll. I wanted to strangle her…not the kid…the mother. (I’m kidding, Judy.)

Living in rural Homeville meant you had to take your kids trick-or-treating in the car. I’ve been stuck in a few ditches in my time. When my kids were older they would run around the darkened streets of Port Morien with their friends. I was the mother who hid behind bushes to make sure they were safe, which was clearly a mistake. I have a lumpy ankle to this day.

Halloween and the teenage years were fun. “Who are you going with?” “How are you getting home?” “You will wear that French maid costume over my dead body!” “Bring back those eggs!”

Thank goodness their father was the one who carved pumpkins with them. They’d still be waiting if I was in charge. The seedy slime makes my skin crawl. (Not really, but I had to tell them something.) And let’s not forget the year that their father and I became reckless and ate a few too many of the good treats out of their bags after they went to bed. You’d think we murdered someone! They still talk about it!

The only thing I ever liked about Halloween was that I had a lot of crap to put in their lunch boxes for a few weeks. Nutritionally it was a disaster, but it made my morning easier. Perhaps if I’m a grandmother, the love of Halloween will come back to me. Their parents can do all the hard work and I’ll get to take pictures of the world’s most beautiful babies and post them on Facebook!

Family Matters. Are you Kidding? Column # 4

This is the time of year when mothers everywhere are expected to kick their offspring out of the nest. Animals and birds have this down pat. Humans are melodramatic and needy.

“I only gave birth to him eighteen years ago! I endure hours of hard labour to bring him into the world and overnight he suddenly leaves without a word of warning!”

What are you supposed to do when your only reason for living is having a great time drinking and cavorting in some dorm room hundreds of miles away? Suddenly it occurs to you that all those healthy meals of pureed organic carrots were for nought. He is killing the brain cells you carefully nurtured without a tinge of guilt. And you have all the time in the world to think about that as you stare at the ceiling in the middle of the night wondering why you should get out of bed in the morning.

Now obviously there are the exceptions. Parents who can’t wait to see the little rotter go. But even these people go to great lengths to get them ready for the journey. The amount spent on getting Johnny out the door is equivalent to the money you would spend on a nice vacation. It’s a time honoured tradition to buy them new clothes, new computers, new appliances, new furniture and set up a bank account so that you can keep shovelling the money into their endless wants.

And while you might resent that to some degree, you know it’s part of the bargain that you made when you hopped into bed without a condom two decades ago.

You are definitely going to miss him. You’re going to hate not seeing those size 15 running shoes thrown on the stairs. You’ll get teary when the ten cans of Axe deodorant spray are no longer cluttering up the bathroom. And you’ll find yourself crying into a bowl of his favourite cereal, Captain Crunch.

He says he’ll Skype, email, or text but he doesn’t. You deliberate on how long you should wait before you get in touch. It’s safe to say that he’s busy, so you shouldn’t bother him, but then you remind yourself that you are his mother and you can call him whenever you darn well want. You have a list of reasons why you’re calling, so it isn’t obvious.

“How’s the weather? I hear there’s a hurricane coming?”

“Your sister wants to know if you took her tablet? She says she’ll kill you if you did.”

He knows why you’re calling. You can hear the bemusement in his voice. “Mom, I’m fine.”

“I love you,” I squeak.

“Love you too.”

Good God…this is only day one! How will I handle day two?

For what it’s worth, I’ve always found Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups help.

Family Matters. Are You Kidding? Column #3

I don’t care who you are, the minute that nurse puts your baby girl in your arms, you’re planning her wedding. You can see it unfold before you in a matter of seconds. Yes, you want her to be strong, independent, wise and true to herself, but you also want to dress her up like a Barbie doll.

This past weekend our daughter Sarah became a bride and it was the best experience of my life, mainly because she and her husband planned the whole thing themselves. I slaved away in a hot kitchen for eight hours making jars of strawberry jam for her guests, but that was the extent of it. Although since I’ve never made strawberry jam, it was a pretty big sacrifice. I’ve never cursed so much in my life.

It was only the two of us who picked out her wedding dress. No big entourages for us, since we are very unfriendly people. I vowed I would only say “yes” or “it’s beautiful” every time she opened her mouth and that strategy worked like a charm. My job as mother of the bride was to hug, wipe tears, and decide how many hot dogs we needed for the rehearsal party barbeque. And to take the world’s biggest clutch to the wedding to hold her glasses, Tylenol, Tums, phone, Kleenex, lipstick, and powder.

Since it was a morning wedding, we had adjoining rooms at the Lord Nelson Hotel so she and the girls could get ready and be at the Public Gardens for pictures at eight a.m. To do this requires a hairdresser who shows up at 5:30 a.m, and a photographer who turns up at 6:00 a.m. The chaos of lingerie flying, the hogging the bathroom mirrors and shouts of “Where are my shoes?” are still lingering in my ears.

I will never forget the sight of her standing on the corner of Spring Garden Road and South Park St., holding her bouquet of flowers and balloons, with her posse of gorgeous girls around her. Even the doormen at the Lord Nelson were gobsmacked. People honked, waved and some German tourists insisted on taking her picture. It was a scene out of a movie. This is the moment mothers dream of.

I didn’t want to escort her up the aisle with her father. I wanted to see her and her dad come towards me. Naturally I tripped over a rock from our beach that was part of the decoration as I sat in my seat, but that was a given. Dainty I’m not.

We arranged it so that Sarah faced me and the groom faced his mom. To me that only makes sense. Who wants to see their backs? They looked at each other the entire time and then she looked at me. This was the face I had envisioned in the first moment of her life. My precious baby girl.

Family Matters. Are You Kidding? Column #2

Have you ever bumped into children you haven’t seen in a very long time? As far as you’re concerned, they’re still riding bikes and playing dress up. A young woman stopped me at the grocery store the other day and said, “Hi, Mrs. Crewe.”

She looked familiar but I couldn’t place her. I went to my default response. “Hi honey, how are you?”

“You don’t recognize me, do you?”

“Well, I am menopausal, not to mention old.”

“I’m Amanda.”

“Amanda?!! My gawd!” There are two children with her, one in the grocery cart seat and one hanging off the cart, with a snotty nose. “These aren’t your children?”

She nods.

“But, that’s not possible! You were in my sons class!” Since I can’t add anymore, I mentally count on my fingers. My oldest must be thirty-three! When did that happen?

It’s a shock to your system to realize your kids are not kids anymore. I know intellectually that they’re adults. I mean they do live in another city, they have jobs, they drive cars and plan vacations without me, but that doesn’t mean they’re grown-ups.

I can still tell what kind of a mood they’re in just by hearing their voices on the phone. Nothing cheers them up more than my cookies. I insist on giving them gas money, and they insist I don’t. Once in a blue moon they relent if I say, “Go and get a treat,” as if they were five and going to the corner store with Dad.

Now I understand my mother when she would give me unwanted advice. She wasn’t doing it to be a pain. She was just a mom who thought I was still her kid at the ripe old age of forty-five. It’s like we mothers can’t help ourselves. We have the right to stick our nose where its not wanted, because of our pain during labour and delivery. Milking this drama sometimes helps, but it can backfire. “I didn’t ask to be born!”

The cool part about having grown children is that you can call them for advice. Anything to do with the computer is their territory. We don’t even try and figure it out, or we do and make the problem ten times worse. The kids are remarkably patient with us, but I suppose they want to be included in our wills.

My daughter now takes me clothes shopping the way I used to take her. She throws me in dressing rooms and convinces me that a particular outfit looks great, even though I’m sure it doesn’t. “Stop arguing with me!” she cries. That sounds vaguely familiar.

Having kids in their twenties and thirties means you always have a best friend. When no one else is around, you can call them and they’re obliged to listen to you. Of course, I am the only one who uses a telephone to communicate with them. That’s how quaint I am.

Family Matters. Are You Kidding? Column #1

I am writing a column called Are You Kidding? for the Chronicle Herald, in an insert called Family Matters. Be on the lookout for it. Lots of great columns for parents of all ages!

 

I love my kids.

They left us ten and eight years ago, respectively. At the time I was too stunned to register it was happening. They weren’t really going because most of their stuff was still in our house. They’d be back for it. After a decade, it’s clear that I will be staring at hockey trophies and Beanie Babies until I die. Granted, they are in the basement, so I don’t have to look at them every day, but whenever I open a suitcase it’s stuffed with kid memorabilia. Every drawer in the house has left over mitts, goggles and ski pants belonging to one of them. Every spring I resolve to throw stuff out and every spring I don’t.

After such a long time, hubby and I are now in an enjoyable routine. We have a rhythm to our days. Retirement really does rock. I very rarely cook anymore. Hubby takes care of his own dinners because that’s what he likes. I love the fact that I can have crackers and cheese and call it supper. We can eat in front of separate televisions if we want. Occasionally we eat together at the table, but I’m usually reading the newspaper and he’s on his computer checking to see if the kids sent an email. Life is good.

Then the call comes to say one or both are coming home for the weekend. I get very excited. My family together again! Then it occurs to me that I have to cook. Rats. They both want homemade pizza when they walk in the door. It’s tradition. It’s a lot of work. I’m not used to work. Crap. And then come the requests for Dad’s barbeque and Mom’s macaroni and cheese. Fine.

I now have to change the sheets and find clean towels. I have to sweep. I have to vacuum cat hair out of the spare room because my girl has developed allergies since she’s been gone. I have to make them breakfast because this is what they came home for, Mom in the kitchen spoiling them. And I love it, I do. But it seems I’ve become incredibly lazy over the years.

And incredibly fussy. Their stuff is everywhere. There are three half-empty Diet Pepsi cans on every end table in the house. They just ate the last of the good cookies I was hiding. There’s no hot water left after showers. My daughter still leaves wet towels on the bed and it still drives me nuts. My son inevitably has a crammed clothes hamper with him.

And then it’s over before it even began. We hug and kiss them and yell to drive carefully and call when they get home. They wave until we can’t see them anymore. I pout for the rest of the day because the house is too quiet and I miss them like crazy.

But then I realize I can have popcorn for supper while I watch Love It or Leave It and that makes me feel better.

Our movie is coming to Sydney, thanks to the wonderful fans in Halifax. We were sold out on the first weekend at the Cineplex in Park Lane and are now being held over! I’m trying to think of the words to describe what it feels like to watch the theatre fill up with people of all ages, most of them with popcorn, drinks, winter coats and hats clutched in their arms, all of them coming to see my little story, but I’m failing miserably. Awesome is such a puny word now. Thrilling is close.

It was the kind of situation where people were asking other people if they could move over. One couple separated to sit in two stray seats in the middle of different rows. The rest were hurried to the very front. I always feel sorry for these folks, from my vantage point at the very back.

I’m supposed to sit in the seats saved for the movie people, but there was no way I was going to miss my son’s reaction to the film. He missed it at the Atlantic Film Festival, so I made him sit beside me. He laughed when he was supposed to. Big relief.

My best friend and her hubby from Fredericton were dragged everywhere with me the entire time. She’s the real Susie in my life. Has always been Lexie’s best bud. Life imitates art. I tend not to spin out of control when she is around. Susie remembers everything, so I only have to look at her and she tells me who I’m talking to, where I have to go next, and the directions to the parking garage. I also have a husband to do that. John comes in very handy when banners, posters and boxes of books need to be lugged around. He also drives me everywhere, which is a good thing since I would not have attended the Halifax release if I had had to drive in that miserable weather this past weekend.

I can’t believe that people came out despite the weather, despite the parking ban, despite the one-lane roads, the snowbanks, the ice, and the slush. My admiration for these intrepid adventurers knows no bounds! I am beyond grateful to all of you because now I get to show my peeps in Sydney what the fuss is all about.

THANK YOU HALIFAX!

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