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  Ellen Davignon: Lives of Quiet Desperation

Spring Song Gallimaufry

April 15, 2005

I gotta tell you…if there was ever a doubt in anyone’s mind that Felix Mendelssohn and I don’t have much in common - aside from the penchant for the piano, although, even there we differed markedly, he, with his delicate, fragile etudes, and me, without them – all such suspicion would be put to rest upon hearing my loud, and somewhat vulgar, ode to spring. Well, “oath” to spring might better describe what I recently had to say about this period of time that comes slap-bang between the complaints about the cold and the bitching about the heat, Yukoners never really being happy unless they have something to mutter about. Old Felix loved spring. Otherwise, he would never have written his delightful Spring Song, that exquisite melody, so evocative of sun and flowers and sweetness and light that you want to puke, looking out at the sloppy mess this last storm brought us.

Whatever happened to March roaring in like a lion and going out like a lamb, I’d like to know. Seems, more and more, that March tippy-toes in right after the Rendezvous thaw and then goes baling over into April, dragging along our well-chewed carcasses with every intention of using us to fertilize the May flowers that might, or might not, be coming after those April mixed-rain-and-snow showers.

Snow and muck and slop, mutter, mutter…

Okay, now I’m happy.

Weather aside, I’m feeling pretty good these days. Alright, the diet’s not going well and the hair’s a constant source of discontent. Christmas’s elegant ‘do’ is getting kind of limp and scraggly and lately I am reminded of one of Phil’s more eloquent malapropisms, that I am looking, these day, “like the raft of God.” But a quick call to Dede, the Miracle Worker up at the Cutting Edge, will take care of the raft thingie and a whirlwind of spring cleaning activities should add impetus to the care and conditioning of the old bod. All that stretching and scrubbing’s got to be good for something more than just removing a bit of soot and ash, right? And as the house emerges, shiny and clean, from its heaps and piles of winter detritus, I get that familiar and pleasant housewifely cramp that signifies a job well done.

And speaking of soot and ash, not to mention dust, small dead insectsand a few speckles of something gross and unidentifiable, all bound together with the greasy miasma of several years of frying bacon and pork chops, you’ll be glad to hear that I finally have dealt decisively with the Venetian blinds.

You’ll recall, from many other redundant lamentations on the subject, my difficulties, over the years, in the care and cleaning of those otherwise perfectly acceptable window treatments. After years of dusting, wiping, vacuuming, swiping, spraying, scrubbing, rubbing, straightening, bending, re-bending, and, so help me, ironing the damn things, last Tuesday, I’d had enough. How tough could it be to buy and put up new blinds? I worried a bit about perhaps having to replace the hardware that holds them in place, me being notoriously un-handy with screwdrivers and hammers and all, but decided I’d cross that bridge if, and when, I came to it. Burning my other bridge, I hauled down the offensive articles and hurled them, without ceremony, into the trash. Then, I measured and re-measured the windows, checked the catalogue for approximate prices and sallied forth on my quest.

Guess what? More stores don’t have them than do. The ones that do, don’t carry a whole variety of sizes or colours. The ones that do have sizes and colours want ten times the catalogue price plus they’d have to come and install them – for a little bit extra. Naturally, with my impeccable style and taste, I was mightily swayed towards these pricy little darlings. Reason prevailed, however, when I realized that eight dollars or eighty dollar, they were still going to be impossible to keep clean and it’s always easier to justify throwing out a cheap problem than an expensive one. I finally found what I was looking for and hurried home to rejuvenate my kitchen windows.

Inserting one end of a new blind, I found that the hangers fit the circumference perfectly, hallelujah, so I didn’t have to take them down and try to install new ones. But When I tried to slip the other end into…Oh,oh. No amount of effort or cursing helped! Those blinds were exactly ½ inch wider than my old ones.

I sat down with one of my chins in hand and stared morosely at my stalled work-in-progress. Dang! Now what?

Dear hearts and gentle people, I’ll tell you now what! It is not for nothing that I am the daughter, and also the mother, of carpenters and the wife of the original Mr. Fixit, with strong ties to a couple of master mechanics, and not forgetting a son who is pretty useless in the home repair department but intrepid in most other areas.

After five minutes of doubt and deliberation, I marched to the store room, found Phil’s ratty old electric jig saw, laid my four brand new blinds across the kitchen sink, whacked that extraneous bit from each header and hung them up. Well, I say ‘whacked’ but in fact, I sort of jiggled and chewed those inches off, nearly losing a digit or two in the process… you’ll remember my disclaimer about screwdrivers, etc…but ‘whacked” or chewed, they fit. And they look great.

Next on my list, tarpaper repairs to the old tool shed. It means getting up on a ladder but I can do it. I can.

And while my sons are always giving me the fishy eye when I tell them I don’t always need them to come and bail me out, there’s a little group of people I could always depend upon if I needed a little shot of hero worship. They are my four oldest granddaughters: Deanna and Nicole Schonewille, Amy Davignon, and Torie Gerard. They spent a lot of time when they were small, cooking or cleaning, hiking, crafting, or simply being, together. After we moved to town from Johnson’s Crossing, I instigated a monthly get-together that they dubbed a Grannie Party.

Phil would run scared and find comfort with one of the boys while we’d have a supper of pizza or hot dogs and fries, and watch a Disney movie and sing silly songs and play games and eat snackies until midnight. They’d all sleep together on our big Dania-Down duvet on the front room floor and in the morning, they’d roust me out at some ungodly hour and we’d eat hotcakes and bacon and I’d take them home and send Phil the All Clear. As they got into their teens, they maintained their strong ties with me but the Grannie Parties got to be a thing of the past.

Last month, Nicole phoned one night and “booked” me for the following Friday night.

“I’d like to have supper with you, curried chicken, please, but make lots, I might bring my friend, Greg.” In the next several days, I got wind of the truth, that three of the girls (Torie being away at university) were coming for a G. P. and truth to tell, I was a little apprehensive. These were young ladies now, in their late teens and early twenties, and though I see them all the time, I had not had the pleasure of their undivided attention for quite a number of years.

The curried chicken I could do but the drinks had me a bit baffled. Pop? Beer? Coolers? And what about a video? And what else would we do?

I gotta tell you, I should never have worried.

The girls arrived laden with food and drink and games and goodies. After scarfing down the best part of my big batch of chicken and rice, we cleared off the table and launched into an hour of the deadly and hilarious Spoons, then chose up sides and segued directly into the only slightly more decorous, Cranium

About this time, their favourite uncle, Keel, crashed the party and added a manic air to the already jovial tone. In his free-wheeling style, he began the directing of pace and content of the game until at last the girls had had enough. Tying a knot in his male arrogance, they took him down and directed him to fixing chips, with salsa and cheese, and blending up more drinks. With Keel relegated to menial kitchen chores and out of our hair, we finished our game and settled down to talk about work and relationships and the situation in Iraq and Iran and look at old videos of the JC years and tell stories on each other.

They didn’t stay over. Amy had to work in the morning; Nicole had early-the-next-day plans with Greg and Deanna had promised to meet her guy at the bar if it wasn’t too late. The Dania-Down duvet had long since gone to someone who’d needed it more than I did, anyway.

After abundant hugs and kisses, I waved them goodbye around midnight and went in to ponder the passing of time. It just didn’t seem so long ago that they had been little girls, squabbling over who got the red crayon or which one got to be next to Grannie while we worked or played or walked or who got to ride on Uncle Keel’s shoulders if he came with us on our nature hikes. Now, they are independent and interesting young ladies who could bring their own crayons, if required, as well as their own drinks to a party; who still want Grannie’s to be on their team; who are perfectly willing and capable of tying that knot in their Uncle’s or anyone else’s arrogance, should it be necessary.

Maybe I should ask them to come and help with the tarpaper.

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