If there’s one thing that goes with a fine ($11.99) bottle of red wine, it’s peanut butter M&Ms. There are colored, candy-shell pieces between my keyboard buttons as I type.
But that’s neither here nor there.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about time and memory. I think it’s because a patient asked me recently how old my nephew, Chase, is. After a moment of arguing with the math, I said, “he’ll be turning four in a few months”. FOUR. That blows my mind. He was just a jaundiced, little wrinkly gnome called “Peanut” who looked uncannily like grampa. He was just adorably mispronouncing my name and calling me auntie “Ho”.
[It is worth noting that he actually did just stop calling me this. In the beginning, everyone’s name was mispronounced in normal baby fashion. But long after “opa”, “grammy”, “mommy”, “daddy” and various relatives and barnyard animals achieved their correct title pronunciations, auntie Heather was still “Ho”. This provided endless entertainment for the extended family, as you can imagine. ]
I can still remember moments of being four years old…
[And I, like my darling mother, have the memory of a goldfish.]
…We lived in Curling – a posh, 1980’s suburb of the booming megalopolis that is Corner Brook, Newfoundland. I was standing on the front step of our little green house with my sister and our babysitter’s daughter, Naomi. Desperate to impress these older girls, I decided it was a good time to say my first curse word.
I said “dirtbag”. Specifically, I said our neighbour was a “dirtbag”.
This was a huge moment. This was the worst word we knew. And it was so out-of-character bad-ass of me. I still remember the lightheadedness and the conflicting guilt/pride of that moment.
To think, Chase will soon be remembering things; carrying moments into his adulthood.
Two things have hence gripped me:
#1. I really need to stop swearing around him. And pretty soon “mother-fuaaaaaather” just isn’t going to cut it.
#2. The reality of Time and Her ephemeral ways. And the flood of memories…
She’s Not Pretending to be Daddy, That’s Really Her Voice
I guess I was about three years old. I don’t recall the exact details but my parents decided there was something wrong with me. I think the fact that I talked like Joan Rivers with testicles threw them off. Voice-wise, I was mannish for such a wee child. Sure enough, I had “singer’s nodules”; blobs of uselessness on my vocal chords. This meant two things: 1. My career as a Bette Midler cover singer in Vegas was out the window, and 2. That shit had to be hacked off.
Obviously I don’t remember the surgery. But I remember being in the hospital. I remember having a band-aid from my IV. And I remember being devastated when it was taken away. I remember that.
[No one (except Nelly) has ever loved band-aids as much as I did (do).]
The story ends there. I just think it’s crazy that I was three and I still have flash-backs of being that version of me.
[Also, when I overdo it with singing now, my mutilated vocal cords still break down and I wake up sounding like I sucked helium.]
I guess I was about six years old. Grade one. I went with my sister and her friend deep in the woods looking for tadpoles in big puddles. I really had to poop. I almost made it home.
I don’t wanna talk about it.
Dame Edna Does Poetry
I don’t think I have ever been as motivated in my life as I was at elementary school speak-offs. And I can still remember the grade four event. This was more than a poetry contest. This was do or die.
[My archnemesis, at the time, went on to become a Rhodes scholar. So I feel my sense of threat was legit.]
Despite being a good student and having an unbreakable, competitive spirit, I had the poetic cunning of a poodle. Hence, my choice of poem: My Dog, by Emily Lewis. Sweet? Sure. Ammo for a big win? Questionable.
Unless you enunciate to the point of having a British accent.
Which I did. And I think the judge/teacher and my classmates were so shocked by a nine-year old reading something as trivial as “…hide your mats and put your meats upon the top-most shelf” like the Queen Mother, that it was Heather for the win.
[You may have won the Rhodes scholarship, Paul, but there’s a cardboard participation ribbon that says that, for a hour of an afternoon in the ‘80’s, I was better than you. And also a flamboyant, British monarch.]
Old People are Cool as Shit
I guess around the same time as my public speaking victory came my realization that my Grampa was the funniest human alive. I never hid the fact that I was obsessed with our grandparents’ pliable skin and old teeth. I recall running to Grandma immediately, at one visit, blatantly ignoring her customary questions and comments, rolling the skin on the back of her hand between my fingers and asking her, matter-of-factly, “are you gonna die?”.
And their teeth. They were my favorite. Grandma’s, for her one black tooth. And Grampa’s for their perfect falseness. One day, cool as a cucumber and without warning, Grampa said, “I’m a cash register”, pushed his nose with his finger (“ding!”), and shot out his lower dentures.
Jennifer screamed, ran away bawling and remained utterly horrified for quite some time. I had never been more impressed. I may have peed a little. This, I knew, was comedy at its finest.
Wanna Dance? No? Oh, You Have a Girlfriend? And She’s My Sister. And You’re Dancing with Her Right Now? Oh… Wanna Dance?
In elementary school, the most happening events on Friday nights were Cabrini dances. Cabrini was an abandoned high school from the ‘70’s/80’s which wreaked of catholicism and poltergeists. It was an ideal place for pre-teens to have socially acceptable boners and jam their hands in each other’s back pockets for three minutes of a Guns n’ Roses ballad before retreating to the canteen for a bag of Humpty Dumpty chips and a Big Turk.
I don’t know if you’ve read my earlier blog entries, but… Despite having healthy calves and confident sideburns, I didn’t always “have someone to dance with”, per se. And it didn’t help that the man-boy I had a heart-on for was taken. By my sister no-less.
And so I remember, clear as day, slow-dancing with Jennifer and her “boyfriend”, Bubba. The song was More than Words can Say, by Alias. I couldn’t make this shit up.
There is, again, no real reason for telling that anti-climatic horror story other than to say, “holy shit. That happened. And I can’t, for the life of me, seem to forget it.”
Who’s That Scarlet-Lipped Beauty?
…Is what I had to convince myself the other kids would say when they saw me on my first day of junior high school.
I was twelve. And I may or may not have slept in my sister’s bed until I turned thirteen (or high school) because I was afraid of the dark.
The night before my first day of junior high was full of excitement/anxiety. As we lay in bed, I kept singing to unleash some of my pent up energy. Jennifer, a year older and way cooler, wasn’t having it.
[In her defense she told me to shut up at least eight times. And she may have even given me the heads up that the punch was coming. But that didn’t stop me.]
I don’t remember the song. But I remember the hit. It was skull numbing. She got me with a deft back-hand. The swell-burn spread quickly and I thought my face was melting. Not realizing the impact, Jennifer didn’t even bother turn to see where she’d made contact. And, stubborn as shit, I didn’t say a word. I waited for her to look at me.
Clearly, I thought, my lip is bleeding. God knows, I can’t feel my mouth. Once she sees my bleeding lip, oh…she’ll feel bad.
I lay there for quite some time, unable to move or to cry because I was determined to have her look on her own time. And when she did, the result was even grander than I had hoped.
I’m pretty sure she screamed when she asked, “WHAT IS THAT?”.
“You punched me in the face!”. It felt so good to finally say it, although it seemed my mouth-coordination was not on par with my in-ya-face attitude.
“There’s no way I did that”, she retorted.
Suddenly her genuine panic registered with me. I dove out of bed and ran to the mirror. I was not ready for this.
My entire lower lip was one giant blood blister. A pocket of face blood is so much less cool than active bleeding.
End of story. Obviously I survived day one as well as every other day of junior high school. I know, my story-telling here is the shits. I guess memories are often simply moments – sights, sounds, smells, sensations – and don’t always make for ground-breaking narrative.
I Know The Police
…is was dad once said when a boy called (Jennifer) in seventh grade. I still remember listening on the upstairs phone and wanting to melt into the floor.
Are you Beyonce?
No. No you’re not. So don’t dye your fuzzy black hair blonde and hope good things will come of it. But I remember looking in the mirror that first time. And falling in love with my RuPaul-esque sexuality.
Sewing My Wild, Spanish Oats
Having buried myself in books my whole life, by the ripe old age of 18 I was dancing on my fair share of speakers. But the universe quickly put me back in my place and stole my ticket to par-tay. Literally.
At the time I was shocked and mortified. But in hindsight, perhaps it makes sense that the Halifax bouncer didn’t believe I was a black woman named Susie Payez.
I should have practiced that signature.
It was then that I decided it was time to return to Newfoundland and nuzzle back into the familiar nook of the textbooks.
And the craziest thing of all: that last one was twelve years ago. Jeez…
I now say things like jeez. And take naps daily.
Sometimes I get lost in the clouds of memory. And panic a little when names and faces start to blur. But that’s a silly tendency because the only thing I have for certain is this moment. Right now. As I type this.
More than I hope that Chase will carry these moments into his adulthood, I hope he’s stoked by this very moment. And if it’s past his bedtime (it’s Newfoundland, afterall), I hope he’s having one sweet-ass dream where he’s tall enough to reach the cookie cupboard.
So in honour of carpe-ing the shit out of the diem, I’m gonna close this laptop, top up the vino, suck the life outta these M&Ms until the peanut butter melts, and stare at the fire.
And yes, I’m listening to “More than Words can Say” by Alias right now.