Raising Aaron

In addition to being middle aged, menopausal and muddle headed, I am also mom to Aaron, now 16 years old. It’s not always easy; as he tells me, I’m older than all his friends’ parents. Actually I could be his grandmother. But I’m not. I’m his mother, and the fact that there is a lost generation somewhere between us makes for some interesting parenting.

I like to think of myself as cool and ‘with it’ where Aaron is concerned. After all, I did teach for many years, and wasn’t I 16 years old at some time in history? However, nothing could have prepared me for raising a son from age 10 to 16 as a single parent. He was embarrassed when I told him that I had joined Facebook, but not half as badly as when I forced him to add me as a friend. Actually I wanted to find out what he was up to. So one day after he had gotten an exceptionally good report at school, his status on Facebook said, “Anally raped the report card!!” I’m not sure what that means, but I couldn’t say anything about it or else he would block me and then I would be out of his loop. So I had to suck it up.

Once I tried to go on his computer to see what he was up to, but when I got to the password part, something came up that said, “Get the hell off my computer”. There were only the two of us living in the house.  I guess that was for me.

On one of the rare occasions that we actually had a conversation in the car, we were talking about religion and he said, “Mom, I’m an atheist.”

Why? Why my son?  How utterly embarrassing! No wonder I had to pay him five dollars every Sunday to come to church.

I didn’t mind his long hair and thought that I was one modern momma for saying nothing for months on end as it got longer and longer. It was also getting dirtier and greasier, covering his face, and causing incredible acne eruptions. At one point I insisted that he get it cut. Amidst many protestations he went for the dreaded clipping. I guess I liked it too much, because the day after that he went and asked a friend to shave his head. I should have said nothing. What’s a mother to do? I thought I’d use some reverse psychology, so I told him that he had a cute bald head and very expressive eyes, something I couldn’t see before. I had thought that my approval would make him grow it to a decent length again. Not so. He kept a well shaven head for two years, so I did get used to it. What else could I do?

The other day we were discussing schoolwork, tests, assignments and marks, and I was expressing my concerns with his performance.

“Don’t worry Mom”, he said, “I own the school.”

Now what on earth does that mean? He owns the school? Maybe it’s time to get out my Urban Dictionary and figure it out.

Getting Aquainted With My New Digs

Most people would agree that moving to a new town can be a traumatic experience. Having moved several times to various Canadian locations makes me a veteran at this. I always said that it takes a year to get a feel for a new place: finding your way around the grocery store, getting a new hairdresser, knowing your way around town, and most importantly, finding out where all the bargains are.

Last January I moved to Coldbrook, Nova Scotia, in the beautiful Annapolis Valley. Newly married, I was not only finding out about my new locale, but also my new husband. I thought that wading my way through the tax system, getting my car licensed and inspected, applying for health care and getting into the system, finding a doctor, and all those other bureaucratic red tape things would make me an authority on the way of things in Nova Scotia. Not so.

I learned that there is such a thing as “Nova Scotia time”, which is never “on time”; I learned that the people are incredibly friendly. After spending 27 years in Quebec, I found this amazing. Here, you get honked at, smiled at, waved at and hello-ed by everyone, and I mean everyone, you come in contact with. What a difference from Quebec where I started out not being able to speak the language and when I did, I found that people were just not that friendly.

My mom always said you have to join something in order to make friends and become a part of the community’s fabric. I think she’s right. First I joined a church not far from the house. I diligently went there every Sunday but didn’t really meet people until the day I went into the kitchen to wash dishes during a Mother’s Day Tea. Well, you could say I was baptized into the soapy waters. All the action in the church comes from getting involved. What a novel idea, I thought, as I started to make some new friends.

I decided to try out the Wolfville and Area Newcomers Club. I went to the first meeting in the hallowed halls of one of Acadia University’s buildings. I had been told to be prepared to be snobbed because, I heard, Wolfville is a snobby town. Well, I thought, I can snob as well as the rest of them, and haven’t looked back since. At that first meeting, since I was the new person, I was given two tickets to a play at Center Theatre in Kentville. It was great! I go to the gourmet dinners which are held once a month, and participate in the book group, the writing group, and the quilting group. Hey, they even asked this transplant to be on the executive as a greeter and welcomer (it must be my friendly Newfoundland roots).

I was thinking of getting a job in order to meet people, but with all the newcomer activities, craft shows I’ve been in, and the writing course I am taking at Acadia this fall, I don’t have time to do my dishes, never mind something else.

So last week I sold divorce fudge at the Horton High Craft Fair, and I ran into people from church, people from the newcomers club, people from other craft shows, and people I met through Dave. Not bad for this newbie….

I think I’ve arrived

I think I’ll stay

I think I love it!

Tante Denise Cooked Her Goose

Ahhh…such an extraordinary feeling to see my name and story in an actual published book! Christmas Chaos has been launched, so I am no longer a writer wannabe; I am a writer! I’m sharing my story with you here – it’s a true story that actually happened in St Eustache some years ago. Enjoy!!

Tante Denise Cooked Her Goose

I remember Christmases growing up in Newfoundland. They were pretty much the same from one year to the next, and it seemed the only thing that changed were the gifts and the fact that we were all getting older. But the day always unfurled the same way: kids get up first, empty the stockings, wait for Dad and Mom to get up, unwrap the presents and eat all day long. These events all led up to the main event: The Turkey Dinner. And what a dinner it was! Turkey, stuffing, mountains of potatoes drowning in gravy, sweet cranberry sauce, peas, beets and carrots were the standard fare. All this was the precursor to dessert, which was brought into a dimly lit dining room where Dad solemnly lit the brandy soaked Christmas pudding.

When I found myself living in Quebec, and with a family of my own, I continued the tradition of my parents so my children could enjoy the same routine. That is, I continued to cook a big turkey dinner with all the trimmings every year. I did this until 1990 when I decided to break with tradition and cook a goose for Christmas dinner instead. How hard could it be? And didn’t a goose resemble a turkey? Weren’t they both fowl?

That year we were having a houseful of people for Christmas. My husband’s parents were coming, as well as his single cousin, Pierre. Not to be left out, Tante Denise was coming with a friend all the way from France. I so wanted to impress them all by cooking a goose.

The only problem with cooking a goose for Christmas dinner was that I had no idea how to do it. Wasn’t there something about a goose’s layer of fat that had to be considered? I asked around for advice.

Pas de probleme!” Tante Denise said. She knew exactly what to do. All I had to do was buy the bird, and she would take care of the rest. I bought the biggest goose at Loblaws. It must have been close to twenty pounds.

Christmas Eve dawned to a beautiful sunny day and the arrival of all our guests. The goose was thawed and ready for whatever Tante Denise had in store. She opened her sack and took out, of all things, pitted prunes! That was not all. She had brought a tub of liver pate. The idea was to stuff the prunes with the liver pate, and then to stuff the goose with the prunes. I thought it must have been some exotic French recipe straight from Provence. Anyway, we stuffed the prunes, and then we stuffed the goose. It was ready.

After opening gifts and eating a hearty Christmas brunch the next morning, we all settled in to the serious task of preparing Christmas dinner. The scene could have come straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting: Christmas music playing, happy children, hungry adults, snowman in the yard, beautiful decorations and a table that was so well laid, we could have been receiving royalty. The potatoes were peeled and in the pot. The  peas, beets and carrots were ready to go. In fact, everything appeared to be ready except for one thing: the stuffed goose. It was still sitting on the counter. Not my department, I thought. But still, I had to ask.

Tante Denise said in a very nonchalant voice, “Oh don’t worry, you just put the goose in the oven at four hundred degrees for about twenty minutes.”

Say what?! I couldn’t imagine.

At the appointed time, the goose went into a disposable aluminum roasting pan that I had left over from Thanksgiving’s turkey dinner. Then it was put into the four hundred degree oven. After some time had elapsed, I opened the oven door just to sneak a peek. Oh no! All the fat had melted off the goose and seeped through an invisible hole in the aluminum pan. In fact, the fat at the bottom of my oven was smoking in a fashion that told me it was just minutes away from igniting. We turned off the oven. Someone took out the goose and found a new pan. We waited for the oven to cool down so we could clean up the grease. Much, much later, the goose went back into the oven. We were starving, and the vegetables were getting cold.

When Tante Denise said the goose was done, we took it out of the hot oven. I mean, she knew how to do this, didn’t she? I obediently removed the liver pate-stuffed prunes from the smoking cavity of the bird and doubtfully piled them into a serving bowl. Tante Denise carved the goose, and we all waited with bated breath and rumbling stomachs.

La piece de resistance!” Tante Denise said, as she brought the platter to the table.

“It looks a little dry,” said my oldest son.

“Where’s the gravy?” asked Pierre.

The others said nothing. They just piled their plates with a little of everything that was on the table. While Tante Denise looked around expectantly, waiting for compliments, they started eating. We sampled the goose. It was a little hard to cut. We chewed and chewed, but that goose was about as tough as boot leather, and it would not go down without copious amounts of wine. Finally, admitting defeat, Tante Denise conceded that it was a little tough, and so we were relieved of the obligation to eat it.

Thank goodness there were a lot of prunes!

The Christmas of 1990 went down in our family’s history as the one when we ate liver pate-stuffed prunes and mashed potatoes for Christmas dinner. The story gets told every year, and with each retelling, it gets better and better. But we have never let Tante Denise forget the Christmas she cooked her goose.