April's Real Blog

Sunday, October 14, 2007

No Sunday break from the past

Mike wrote in last nite w/this:


Formerly little sis. After the events of yesterday, where you usurped my wife’s traditional annual birthday party for my daughter; I was quite gratified when my daughter admitted to me her favourite part of the day was when I took out the old photo album and told her yet another story of my past life based on pictures.

I started out saying, “I remember one day when my mom was vacuuming…” This may seem like an ordinary lead-in for a story about my life, and the truth of the matter is that when it comes to my mom, fully 50% of her early life with me revolved around vacuuming. I sometimes think it affected me, so I get odd feelings whenever I see my lovely Deanna hunched over a vacuum cleaner with its long tube. Fortunately for me, Dee has never been able to recreate the look of absolute hatred and revulsion mom always seems to have on her face when vacuuming, and I think that helps.

Anyway, on this particular occasion, it was before our house had a central vac, and mom was using the portable vacuum, with her usual grimace on her face as if she were in great pain. The vacuum made a “RRRR” sound and the hose made a “Tinkle” sound, while Lizzie spent her time experimenting with different ways to electrocute herself using the vacuum cleaner cord. These were the days before there was child safety equipment for plugs and the like.

I, of course, asked mom “Have you seen my Batman ring, ma?...It’s about this big.” And I used an unusual finger gesture where it appeared one of my fingers was dislocated in order to show the actual ring width, as least as best I understood it at that age. My daughter said, “Why is the carpet blue, daddy?” I said, “Back in those days, daughter, our house contained many strange colours. I think it was before mom hired a professional colourist to work for her on Sundays. You may have also noticed the Canary yellow wall on the right.” My daughter said, “Yuck.” I said, “Life was hard when I was young, daughter.”

At this point I interjected in my own picture showing and said, “Mom was just trying to clean the house when..” My daughter interrupted and said, “Daddy. You just said she was vacuuming. I know you vacuum to clean.” I realized I had interjected in my own story about the picture in order to state something I had just stated in my prior interjection. It was unnecessary interjection interjection. It was a little embarrassing, but perhaps not as embarrassing as those people who don’t seem to realize that it is unnecessary to repeat yourself.

Anyway, the picture I showed my daughter was a man in a purple outfit. My daughter said, “What is this guy?” I said, “Vacuum repairman. He’s the man mom never called, except in an emergency.” My daughter said, “Was it an emergency?” I said, “Let’s look at the next picture.”

In the next picture, mom is playing with the bottom of the vacuum (as it throws dirt everywhere) saying, “No wonder this vacuum isn’t picking anything up---it’s plugged somewhere.” My daughter said, “Let me interject, daddy.” I said, “OK.” And then my daughter got a very thoughtful look on her face, and I could tell she was thinking of Grandma Elly looking the end of the tube and saying, “*!@*% machine!” I can tell you formerly little sis, there is nothing like the angelic look of a granddaughter thinking of her grandmother cursing like a sailor.

You may not have been aware of this, formerly little sis, but our mother actually had so much lung power, she could blow an engagement ring out of a vacuum hose. With a massive breath, which left her looking very red, she thought to herself, “Michael’s *@* Batman ring!...How I hate these little vacuum-clogging toys.” It is an impressive feat. When the same thing happens to me, I have to stick a stick down the pipe to get things out.

The next picture after that was a real blast from the past. Mom had removed Lizzie’s arms and put her in a stroller, while she was shoving a long sleeve shirt on me. The thoughts written for her on the picture said, “…can’t waste another minute---got to rush downtown before my bank closes…” My daughter said, “Why did Grandma Elly say that daddy?” I said, “Back in those days, they didn’t have ATM machines.” My daughter looked thunderstruck. I said, “Believe it or not daughter, but if you wanted your money from the bank, you could only get it at certain hours of the day, and if you didn’t get it then, you didn’t get it.” My daughter said, “Poor daddy.” I said, “Yes, daughter. Those were primitive times.”

The next picture showed mom at a bank teller with Lizzie clinging on to her for dear life, and my little tousled head in the bottom of the picture. The picture captions show mom thinking, “It must be my imagination—“ Then the bank teller caption is “Thanks, Mrs…er, Patterson…” My daughter said, “What is that?” I said, “Those were bank tellers. They still have them in some banks. You had to get your money from them, and it was not uncommon for them to mock you for you inability to handle your money, or to fill out banking forms.” My daughter said, “ATM machines. Thank you for ATM machines.”

The next picture had a little bit more of an explanation for the prior picture. In it, mom had apparently managed to leave little perfectly-rounded circles of dust around her left eye and mouth from dealing with the vacuum. In the picture, Lizzie looks at it strangely. Mom has a caption for a thought which says, “Ever since I left the house…people have been staring at me!!” My daughter said, “Where did those circles come from?” I said, “Remember, mom looked in the vacuum hose with her left eye and she blew through the vacuum hose with her mouth. That’s why those circles are there.” My daughter said, “Daddy. If it was that dirty, her whole eye and her mouth would be black.” I said, “It is best not to question these pictures, daughter. I certainly didn’t question things back then, no matter how ridiculous they were. I actually liked the bank tellers, because they made fun of mom and they gave me suckers to keep me from telling mom they laughed at her.” My daughter said, “Good ATM machine. I hope they still have them when I get older.” I said, “As long as at least one person remembers how rude the bank tellers were, then we will always have ATM machines.” My daughter appeared to be quite happy to hear that.

Michael Patterson

Gah, Mom and vacuuming. Sum things never change, eh?


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  • At 8:48 AM, Blogger DreadedCandiru2 said…

    It's all her own fault that happened to her, you know. Not only was she too big a deal to actually turn off the vacuum and listen to what Mike was saying, she wouldn't have listened to him if she had. Also, she didn't do the smart thing and check for clog-inducing things in the first place. Knowing her, she thought she could hoover up any old thing and not have to worry about the hose getting gummed up only to be proven wrong again and again. Because she didn't make the time to do things right, she was (and still is) running around in a blind panic, doing everything at the last minute.

  • At 9:46 AM, Blogger April Patterson said…

    yeah, mom's gotten older but totally not ne wiser, u know?


  • At 2:16 PM, Blogger DreadedCandiru2 said…

    Or any tidier. Remember why she objected to putting the central vacuum in your old house? She realized she couldn't get away with only cleaning the parts people saw.

  • At 12:58 AM, Anonymous michael patterson said…


    Formerly little sis. I know you are probably anxious to continue telling the exciting story of mom and Connie Poirier regaling Iris with stories about how Connie used to be a slut when she was younger, but I think I have even better news than that. My publisher for my first novel Stone Season, finally sent me copies of my book which, as you may or may not be aware, is the first sign a published author gets that the publisher has taken the time to print their book. I have been waiting for this moment ever since I finished writing the book on Christmas Eve last year. The delivery man came to the door of our house and handed me the box, and I yelled with excitement so everyone could hear, “It’s HERE! My book is finally here!!” Naturally my daughter said, “Open the box, Daddy!” and my son came running with his Super-Teddy in hand (his current favourite toy, thanks to me).

    My lovely wife Deanna came into the room wearing some kind of outfit, which looked vaguely medical in nature. It took me awhile to realize it was her pharmacist outfit, which I don’t think anyone has seen her wear for years. Despite her unusual appearance, Deanna said, “It’s sure late!” which I am sure was a statement designed to confuse me. You see, formerly little sis, you may remember back when I got the contract for the book, the publisher said the book would come out in their fall lineup . Well, fall means September, eh? At least that’s the way Deanna was thinking. But if she had been reading my old monthly letters carefully, she would have realized I said in my March, 2007 letter:

    I signed my contract with Reiner and Browne, after making a few alterations and deciding on a title. The book will be called Stone Season and it will be published in paperback and will hit the shelves by October.

    Clearly I did not anticipate the book until October. Of course, now I read my monthly letter again, I am confused by the fact I thought it was going to be published in paperback, when the book in the box is in hardback. Nevertheless, I managed to open the box and I was a little surprised to find it was one of those cardboard boxes, which only has 2 sides to its lid. Most times cardboard boxes have 4 sides to them. I think only having 2 sides should be considered an homage to the strength of my novel itself, and not an indication that my publisher is too cheap to ship books in decent boxes.

    I stared at these white circular things in the box for quite some time, and neither I nor Deanna nor my daughter knew what to make of them. My daughter said, “Lemme see! Lemme see!” with such gusto and enthusiasm, I simply had to comply. I later discovered that my son had managed to pull two copies of my novel out of the box without the three of us seeing him, we were staring so intently at those white circular things. I think we would have still been there staring, had my son not said, “It only gots a picture on top! How come der’s no pictures inside?” I think I would have answered my son, if I had not been taken aback by his suddenly acquired Chicago accent. Instead, my wife replied for me, “It’s a novel, Robin. A novel just has words.” My son replied, “Oh.” It was then we realized he had taken the books out.

    I went over to get my novel from him and I could see his little chin jutting out (in a very Grandpa Jim-like fashion), shaking the book up and down as if he were trying to shake the words out of the book. He later told me, he was really thinking, “That’s why it feels so heavy!” My son has apparently come to the conclusion that words are heavier than pictures, possibly because he is familiar with the phrase “A picture paints a thousand words”. If you do the math with that, then you get 1 picture = 1000 words, so if a novel was made up completely of words and only one picture then that would be 1 novel’s words + 1000 words. On the other hand, if you took one of my son’s picture books, which might have 30 pages of pictures and words, then that would be just the caption words of those pictures + 30 pages X 1000 (=30,000 words). That’s a lot of words in those pictures, so obviously my son’s picture books are heavier than…um…I think I am doing the math wrong.

    Regardless of physical weight, I can’t wait until I see how my novel weighs in on the book-selling scale. I just know it is going to be a best seller and declared the great Canadian novel. In the meantime, you should come over to our house sometime and look at these circular white things which were in the box with the books. They are interesting to watch, and sometimes I think they move.

    Michael Patterson


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