Thursday, July 10, 2008

Surviving the rocky routines of our summers

Hump Day
Moncton Times & Transcript
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Pg. D8

I really love Christmas, so it drives me crazy whenever I meet someone who doesn't. I just don't understand it. The lights. The decorations. The music on the radio that you only hear once per year. The parade. Visiting friends and relatives. The wrapping. The baking.

With that said, I guess I have to admit that I drive people equally crazy with my complete disdain for summer. What's good about it, after all? In my mind, not much.

For one, it's too darn hot. My energy bills are just as high in the summer as they are in the winter because of the air conditioning in my home. If I didn't have it, I would pretty much melt. Years spent without this luxury made me a miserable you-know-what in summer. (Not that I was Mother Teresa the rest of the year, but you get the picture.)

In the summer, routines are also way out of whack. Most of my favourite TV shows are in reruns and the schedules are all mixed up. I hate that! Work schedules are all confused, too, because so many people are on vacation. Ever try to get anything done in July and August? You can't! Everyone's away!

I suppose I'd love the summer if I could only get myself motivated to work in my flower beds, but that just won't happen. Despite my constant neglect, the bulbs that were planted by my home's previous owner continue to grow every year just like clockwork. The orange lilies are coming out this week despite being ignored by me. Some sort of other yellow flowers just bloomed, too. The one or two poppies that have managed to survive year after year lasted for only a few days a couple of weeks ago.

I desperately need to trim my hedge and the trees around the property. I'd do it myself, but I'm pretty sure that my post-traumatic stress would return from my so-called "Summer of Slavery" -- the summer of 1976, when my father decided to re-do the back lawn due to poor drainage.

My father's one of those men who always "knows a guy". Well, back then, when we needed a few loads of topsoil spread across the backyard in order to build it up to improve the water runoff, he "knew a guy" who brought over the so-called topsoil. Come to think of it, I think the name on the truck that dropped it off was Rocky Topsoil Inc. Its motto: "Keeping your kids in tears and busy picking rocks all summer."

Well, as you can probably tell, that entire summer was spent picking rocks out of the topsoil from "the guy" my father knew. To put it mildly, it was the worst summer of my young life. Hours were spent outside picking rocks out of that bloody mound of dirt. Needless to say, I whined the entire time. I know it's hard to believe since I'm such a jock now. (One word out of any of you, and...)

I spent that summer bent in half in the hot sun waiting for the vultures to come and scavenge my chubby 12-year-old body the minute I collapsed. Well, perhaps they were crows . . . or maybe really ambitious robins, I'm not sure. But I'm pretty sure they were drooling and I'm pretty sure I heard them discuss how they were going to enjoy picking the tender meat clean off my young bones the minute I fell to my knees. It's not every day that you see birds wearing bibs and licking their beaks in anticipation.

In fairness, my parents probably picked out most of the rocks themselves --- probably just to stop my sister, brother and I from constantly whining about how we wanted to be doing other things, like watching TV (at least in my own case).

I can still remember that summer like it was yesterday. On hot, dry days, we'd have to spend time picking those rocks out of the topsoil that "the guy" brought over. The wind would blow the dry dirt around, getting in our eyes and all over our clothes. To this day, I'd love to get my hands on "the guy" who delivered it. I'd wring his neck.

Oh sure, there were fun summer times, too --- at least when we weren't being forced into child slave labour by picking "the guy's" rocks out of the "the guy's" topsoil.

There were camping trips. Visits to my grandparents. Playing in the park. A few day trips here and there. Spending some time at the beach, as long as it was a free beach on the side of the road and not actually a good one that you had to pay to get into. I think I can count the number of times we went to a "good" beach on one hand. The rest of the time was spent about spitting distance from the side of the road in sand full of oil and broken bottles. That's living the high life, eh?

Oh I know, we're lucky to have been brought to the beach in the first place. There are starving children in Africa, etc. I still get a chuckle out of the horrified reaction of my grandmother whenever we asked her "What kind?" when she asked us if we wanted ice cream. "What kind???" she'd reply in quite sincere disbelief. In her day, ice cream was so rare that any flavour short of "Matted Monkey Fur Surprise" would have been gobbled up by any kid within a 100-mile radius without even batting an eyelash.

Since I've sworn off sugar -- and the artificial sweeteners in low-carb ice creams don't agree with me (maltitol is nasty stuff!) -- I can't even enjoy an ice cream cone in the summer anymore. That, at least, was a guilty pleasure during my high-sugar days. A plate of steaming hot cauliflower with a side of grilled salmon may be tasty, but it just doesn't have the same punch as a triple-decker cotton candy ice cream cone. With my luck, though, I'd end up buying a cone from my father's "guy" and breaking a tooth on a rock.

1 comment:

Monica Jaillet said...

OMG, the memories... For us one year it wasn't only rocks, but "baby" potatoes that fell through the sorter in the field. My uncle dangled a carrot in front of us - promises of going to a local carnival - to help motivate us to pick them. After slaving for a whole day, we still didn't end up going, because the adults were "too busy".

Thankfully it didn't scar me for life - I've grown potatoes in my garden a few years. LOL

I spent a month last summer voluntarily sifting and "picking rocks" from our freshly tilled lawn. Some of us never learn...