April's Real Blog

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Settle in 4 the awful reminiscing

We're in for @ least a wk of this, I h8 2 say. And it cd B more, since we went such a long stretch w/out the reminiscing. Here's the l8est bit from Mike:

Formerly little sis. As mom, my lovely wife Deanna and Elizabeth sequester themselves together to discuss wedding plans; I was reminded of an occasion in my youth when mom went off by herself back in 1979 or 1980. Whenever that happened dad was responsible for all of us and he had to get his man chores done too. For example, he would strap Lizzie onto his back while he mowed the yard and Lizzie would hold onto his neck for dear life. Lawn mowers can be pretty loud and frightening things for little girls, but dad knew better than to leave me alone with Lizzie back in those days. I knew how much dad hated doing that, so I usually gave him a good excuse to stop. For example, I might yell, “Hey, Dad! When’s lunch? Can we go someplace? DAD!” That almost always worked.

I remember another time, when I was sitting on the counter right beside the stove as Dad was breaking eggs into a pan to get ready to make eggs. He was pretty awful at it, and would get egg juice all over the stove top and stove front. I knew how much dad hated cooking, so I usually gave him a good excuse to stop. For example, I might say, “How come ma went off by herself, dad? Why’d she go without us!” That almost always worked and I would get a peanut butter and jelly sandwich instead.

I remember another time, when I was munching on my PB&J, eating in our usual Patterson style, and dad was changing Lizzie’s diaper, when dad actually answered that question. He said, “Your mother gets the urge, now & then, to get away from the house. She says she needs to be herself. To be free, I guess…” There was something called “Free to Be You and Me”, which I guess mom would quote whenever it was that she needed to get away.

These things were confusing to me. After all, if a man is going to have a proper home, then he needs to have his wife at home taking care of things. But I had heard of something from distant lands which could be the source of mom’s unmomlikeness. I said to dad, “Is that what they call women’s lip?” I remember very clearly, dad had Lizzie in one arm and his other arm held her bottle as he answered that question with a snort and a chuckle.

Of course I was young when I asked that question. I did not know about women’s liberation with a B. But in the intervening time I have come to realize that my youthful self was full of childlike wisdom. After all, in Milborough, a woman’s lip is a much more dangerous thing than any organization for Women’s liberation.

Michael Patterson
C how ptless that story was? I guess it's supposta sumhow tie in w/what Connie was saying last wk abt when she and Mom were in their 30s and xxpected, according 2 Connie, 2 do it all (working*, kids, housework). Xxcept thoze times when Dad gave Mom "time off." Just like Mike sumtymez does w/Dee. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.


*And Mom wasn't working outside the house @ the time. And Connie was single.

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  • At 11:31 AM, Anonymous The Past said…

    April, I am the Past. Could you please ask your family to stop visiting me?

    The Past

  • At 11:32 AM, Blogger April Patterson said…

    sorry, "the past," but my fam does not listen 2 me.


  • At 11:33 AM, Anonymous The Present said…

    Hey, I don't want them!

  • At 11:33 AM, Anonymous The Future said…

    Me, neither!

  • At 1:44 PM, Blogger howard said…

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • At 1:51 PM, Blogger howard said…


    Thanks to the good sales of your brother’s book Stone Season, my boss, Mr. Gluttson wanted Portrait Magazine to do a series on persons who have known your brother over time. We did an interview with Mrs. Margaret Hardacre, who was your brother’s second grade teacher and I thought you might be interested in reading the interview.

    Interviewer: As you know, Michael Patterson’s book, Stone Season has been on the Canadian best-seller list since before it was published. You were Michael’s second grade teacher, is that right?

    Mrs. Hardacre: Yes. I taught Michael Patterson and his younger sister Elizabeth. I probably would have taught his youngest sister, April, too; but in 1998, my husband George suffered a serious attack of rheumatoid arthritis, and was left severely handicapped. I had to retire from teaching to care for him full time, so I just missed having April in my class. It would have been interesting to see if she was like her brother or sister.

    Interviewer: You could tell from an early age that Michael Patterson was special?

    Mrs. Hardacre: I could tell he had potential, yes. In fact, I used to pick on him in class, because he would rather entertain the class than get his work done.

    Interviewer: Even from the beginning Michael Patterson was someone who could entertain the class.

    Mrs. Hardacre: That is true. It is one of my two greatest regrets as a teacher that I did so poorly with Michael Patterson.

    Interviewer: Two greatest regrets. What was the first regret?

    Mrs. Hardacre: Have you ever heard of a man named Norman Baker?

    Interviewer: The Norman Baker?

    Mrs. Hardacre: That’s the one. My second year of teaching, Norman was in my combined Grade 3 – Grade 4 class in northern Ontario. He had been held back 2 years when I got him. He had terrible marks, and picked on other students, and sat in the back of the class and looked through a hole in his eraser. One day I picked up that eraser and realized Norman had been using it as a miniature telescope to see in class. I went to the principal and asked about vision screening and he gave me this bizarre response about how vision tests aren’t done on students in school because there was no optometrist in town, as if you could ignore school processes for such reasons. We managed to get vaccinations, after all. So, I convinced Norman’s parents to let me take him to an eye doctor in a nearby town. They only agreed to let Norman go if I went with him and if I paid for the glasses. In retrospect, I realize this was a foolish decision.

    Interviewer: Why is that?

    Mrs. Hardacre: Well, people’s vision don’t stay the same. After Norman got his glasses he was very happy with them, but a few years later, his vision got worse, and Norman came to me begging me to take him back to the optometrist. His parents still refused to do it, and I was trapped in a cycle of being responsible for Norman’s eye care.

    Interviewer: That certainly doesn’t explain Norman Baker.

    Mrs. Hardacre: No, it doesn’t. I should have seen what was coming from the day when Norman got his glasses. I was quite shocked when he stood up in front of my glass and started threatening people who called him 4-eyes. I should have realized that boys with vision problems usually don’t sit in the back of class making trouble. They usually try to sit closer where they can see better. There was part of Norman who was a bully, which had nothing to do with his eyes. I remember trying to get Norman to enjoy his new eyesight with an impromptu field trip. The parents and the school were pretty upset with me when I did that. That’s why I always told my class, if you ever become a teacher, plan your field trips in advance.

    Interviewer: That’s good advice.

    Mrs. Hardacre: Oddly enough, I remember Michael Patterson’s sister Elizabeth did not understand it. She said to me, “Mrs. Hardacre. Field trips with no planning sound great to me.” I tried to explain why it wasn’t to her, but she insisted, “Mrs. Hardacre. I will just have to teach the aborigines in the Northwest then. They won’t care if I don’t plan field trips.” I said to Elizabeth, “While I am pleased I am inspiring you to become a teacher, planning really is better.” I will never forget her response, “No. Mrs. Hardacre. I could never be inspired to be a teacher by an ugly, old woman. It has to be a young and pretty teacher, preferably handicapped, so I can feel sorry for her and impressed with her at the same time.”

    Interviewer: Getting back to Norman Baker.

    Mrs. Hardacre: Oh yes. Pardon my little digression. After my 5th year of teaching, I married my husband, George, who was a mining engineer, and I spent a number of years following him around northern Canada. I received a letter from Norman Baker telling me his vision had gone bad again, and he wanted me to pay for a new set of glasses for him. I sent him a nice letter back saying that had my own son and daughter now, and I couldn’t afford to keep buying him glasses. I think that was what sent to him on that killing spree.

    Interviewer: The great optometrist obliteration of 1960. So, you say Michael Patterson was your second greatest regret in teaching.

    Mrs. Hardacre: Yes, I realize now that I shouldn’t have picked on him in class to get his work done. If I had allowed him to be creative, then maybe things would have been different.

    Interviewer: How do you mean different?

    Mrs. Hardacre: Have you read his book? It’s practically copied from War Bride, except with a heavy dose of misogyny and self-important, big-word phrases.

    Interviewer: But the book has been selling well.

    Mrs. Hardacre: Who knows why? I read the book to my husband, who is practically paralyzed by rheumatoid arthritis, and he was trying to move away from me to keep from hearing the book. Listening to the book was actually more painful than his rheumatoid arthritis.

    Interviewer: Speaking of your husband, I have a note here that nursing was your childhood dream and now you have achieved your childhood dream, by spending your day very busy with full-time nursing of your husband.

    Mrs. Hardacre: What? Who wrote that note? Some veterinarian, used to working only with animals I would guess. No. Taking care of a husband with severe rheumatoid arthritis is not remotely the same as being a nurse.

    Interviewer: Thanks for taking the time to talk to Portrait Magazine.

    Mrs. Hardacre: You’re quite welcome.

    That’s it. I thought it was interesting, and since it mentioned your brother, I thought I would mention it to you.

    Howard Bunt

  • At 8:43 PM, Blogger April Patterson said…

    thanx 4 sharing that interview, howard. weird, mike never told me abt mrs. hardacre. i'll tell him he shd buy the new issue of the mag and hold on2 that interview as a ref in case our fam's reminiscing ever gets 2 when he was in grade 2.


  • At 10:01 PM, Anonymous jeremy jones said…

    april, innerestin’ convo we had w/ur dad. since the women in ur fam r all off sumwhere plannin’ ur sis’ weddin’, it wuz kinda diff 2b in ur house w/just ur dad there. i mentioned ur bro’s story 2day & i sed, “dr. p. ur son talked ‘bout how u took care of him & ur sis while ur wife wuz off sumwhere learning 2b free 2b herself back in 1979 or so. no offence, but i always thot ur wife did all the housework & took care of the kids & u were kinda the model of a lazy dad.”

    ur dad sed, “april can tell u that there’s a big diff between wut my wife sez she duz & wut she actually duz & it’s been that way 4 a long tyme. if she wunts 2 say husbandz r lazy pigz & that women carry everythin’ on their shoulderz & thass y they have big hips, then thass ok. if thass wut it takes 4 her 2b in a good mood, then i say more power 2 her. thass way better’n unhingin’ her jaw & screamin’ thru the neighbourhood & throwin’ thingz @peep’s heads. b-sides, ne1 who knows nethin’ ‘bout my fam, knows that elly haz spent mosta her life tryin’ 2 find sumthin’ 2 do outside of the house, where she wudn’t hafta take care of the kids all the tyme. so wut duz it mattah, if she sez stuff that isn’t xxactly completely true. it duzn’t hurt me 1 bit.”

    it wuz kinda weird 2 think ur dad wuz like a regular kinda dad 4 a change. ‘course he did spend the rest of the tyme playin’ w/hiz model trainz while u & i were…um…u know, studyin’.

  • At 2:42 AM, Anonymous michael patterson said…


    Formerly little sis. One of the things I miss from the days when Lizzie and I were both at home with mom was the way mom would occasionally bow into pressure and let us help. I remember very well, the first time mom let us help her do the dishes. She said to me, “Michael. I am going to run the water in the sink and when the water gets high enough, you turn off the water.” Of course, I didn’t know what “high enough” meant, but I soon found out. Mom had to let a little of that water out, but there was still plenty left. In fact, I discovered if you drop a dirty dish into the dishwater, the soap suds can achieve a pretty good velocity and distance. After mom noticed how good a job I was doing putting the dirty dishes into the soapy water, she asked me to stop and help Lizzie find something to do.

    I opened up two of the cabinet doors by the sink. In one cabinet there were big stainless steel pots and pans and in the other cabinet were containers of cleaners. Well, the choice was obvious. The cleaning containers were much more colourful and attractive to someone Lizzie’s age. Stainless steel can be so dull and gray. I pulled out a nice yellow cleaner and said to Lizzie, “What colour is this Lizzie? It’s yellow. Can you say, ‘yellow’?” Lizzie was too little to notice the colours, but mom wasn’t.

    She told Lizzie to play with the stainless steel pots and pans. Then she said to me, “Why don’t you help me by drying the dishes? That way I can keep a closer eye on you.” Mom would wash the dish, rinse the dish, and put it in the dish drainer to the left of the sink. I would stand on a stool and dry the dishes and put the dry ones to the left side of the dish drainer. I dried until I got one towel completely wet. Then I dried until I got another towel completely wet. Then I was out of towels, so I decided to use my shirt and pants instead. I was doing great until mom noticed me using my shirt and pants to dry the dishes. She started shrieking about it, and just about that time Lizzie discovered that if she were to slam together 2 lids of 2 stainless steel pans, it would make a pretty loud noise. Mom jumped at the sound of this, lost her footing on the wet floor, and then crashed her head into a cabinet. It was great fun. Lizzie shrieked and I said, “Again!”

    However, mom just laid there with her eyes wide open. It was until later that I learned that this is called “shock”, even though there was no electricity involved. I was having such a good time I said, “Can we do the dishes together again sometime, Ma?”

    It was a long time before I ever did dishes again. That’s another of those things that made that first time with mom doing dishes so special.

    Michael Patterson


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