My mom was born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In Canada. She's still Canadian, actually, choosing never to become a US citizen. She left everything and everyone behind when she met, eloped, and moved to the US with my dad. (They met when they were all of 20 years old while she was on vacation and he was on a mission with the Marines in Barbados. (Don't ask why a Marine was in Barbados on a mission. It's a secret.) It's a miracle neither of my grandmas died of a heart attack upon hearing the news.) Most importantly, she left her brother and her mom in Canada. My awesome Grandma Slade.
We only got to see Grandma Slade once a year when she came to Ohio for a visit. Oh how I wish it was more than once a year. Grandma was one funny lady. You never knew what was going to come out of her mouth or what she was going to do next.
|Grandma Slade is on the left. My mom is holding me.|
When we kids would act up, Grandma would grab a (clothed) boob and yell, "These are large for a reason. I am not afraid to hit you upside the head with one!"
While we were at the table eating breakfast, she would put a bowl upside down on her head and walk around serving us as if she were a Chinese man.
One year, instead of just staying home for her visit, we went on our one and only trip to Disney World. We met my mom's brother and his family there and had a riotous good time.
Out of so many great Disney memories, one I will always love is the day we spent by the pool. Throughout the day, she and my aunt had shared a bottle of wine. Combined with the heat, the wine made Grandma a little tipsy. I was chewing gum and blowing bubbles when she said, "I never learned how to do that. Can you teach me?" I spent an hour trying to teach her. She just kept spitting, and the gum kept flying out of her mouth. We laughed and laughed between gum spits.
Hours later, we were at a pizza place for dinner. I asked her where her gum had gone. Her reply? "Oh, it got stuck in my dentures long ago!" She wiggled her teeth around and once again tried to blow a bubble. She gave it all she had, but alas, never did blow a bubble.
Whenever Grandma came to visit, we did things we only did with her.
My mom would pull out the ancient juicer and make freshly squeezed OJ. And since the pulp about gagged us, Grandma would strain it for us.
We played Cribbage for hours and hours. She loved that game, and we loved playing with her. As soon as she left, though, the game was put in a closet. It lost its magic when she wasn't there.
She always brought us footed pajamas, and we had to wear them. At some point, when I was 11 or so, the one-piece full-body fleece Pjs finally came without the feet attached. There were slippers, though, made of the same material. With lovely, not-annoying-at-all elastics around the ankles.
In 1981, my mom took my brothers, sister, and me (At the age of 9, I was the oldest.) to Halifax to visit Grandma Slade. We got to fly in an airplane and everything. (Years later I found out how stressful the whole trip was for my mom. She had only been divorced a short while, and the stewardesses were threatening strike. She was scared to death that we would get stranded halfway to Canada.)
It's funny, the things we remember from our childhood.
Grandma lived in a trailer. I had never stepped foot in one before.
She hung her clothes out on a line, underwear and all. I had never seen someone air-dry her clothes. (And I was mortified when she did our laundry and tried to hang MY underwear.)
We were at a park near the beach, and I was trying to get a squirrel to eat out of my hand. I had no idea that there was another squirrel right behind me (though Grandma and my mom did) until it ran up my back, over my head, grabbed the food, and took off. I screamed while my mom and grandma laughed themselves silly.
I thought it was so cool that everything was written in both English and French. I had no idea that countries could be bilingual. In fact, I had never seen a single word written in anything but English. I bought a pack of Dentyne just so I could take it home and show my friends.
One night, we went out to a restaurant which had an all-you-can-eat seafood bar. My siblings and I had never eaten most of the kinds of seafood that were on that bar, and my brothers were most adventurous about trying them. After we left and were on our way back to Grandma's trailer, it was discovered that my five year old brother had something in his pockets. When told to empty them, he sheepishly pulled out handfuls of mussels. (To this day, that same brother cannot drive by an all-you-can-eat-seafood place without stopping in for a meal.)
We took a spin on a round-about for the first time ever. I was so impressed that my grandma could drive such huge, confusing circles like a pro.
While in Halifax, we went to Peggy's Cove. It is a huge cliff on the ocean, with a working lighthouse and rock as far down the coast as you can see. We ran around those rocks all afternoon.
|The one with the poopy-colored outfit and buck teeth is me. The adorable blond is my sister. Once again, I ask you, how are we related? Anyway, this was taken on that super-fun day.|
Amazingly, we each found one. So exciting. So mind-blowing, best thing that ever happened to us exciting. We were so proud of those shells. We took them to school for show and tell. We recounted our story of their discovery. We told everyone what good shell-finders we were, seeing as how no one else had such treasures. In our bedrooms they were placed next to our most special possessions. Mine was right in there with my track medals.
|This is not the actual shell, but it looked a lot like this, top and bottom. One of my kids broke it about 10 years ago.|
Did I mention that we were excited about the shells?
Skip ahead 7 years. It was Christmas. I was 16 years old. In attendance were approximately 20 people, including my boyfriend of one month (my now-husband) my mom's new husband, his children, and his children-in-law. Our fist holiday all together.
Somehow we all got to talking about our trip to Halifax when my mother said, "Oh, and do you remember those shells that Mom planted?"
Cue the record scratch that occurs when something is said or done to stop a party in its tracks.
All four of us yelled at the exact same moment, "What?!?!?!?"
Mom (with a horrified look): You didn't know?
Us (still screeching): How would we know that?
Mom (barely containing her laughter): You never questioned how they got to the top of a 75-foot cliff?
Us (still screeching): As a matter of fact, we did. Ever heard of a hurricane?
Mom (not even trying to contain her laughter): What about the glue?
Us (even louder screeching): What are you talking about?
I then went to get mine from it's prominent position in my room. Yes, at the age of 16 I still had it on display.
Mom (taking the shell and laughing so hard she snorted): All of this around the seam holding it together? It's glue. Grandma bought these at a tourist shop. When you guys were off playing, she hid them in the rocks for you to find.
As all of our guests howled at our stupidity, Mom continued her cackling and the telling of the whole story.
A honeymooning couple saw you guys and your shells and asked where you had gotten them. When you told them you found them on the cliff, they took off to find some for themselves.
Apparently Mom and Grandma had even more fun than we did that day, laughing until they peed themselves.
I am just so grateful that none of my siblings knew of the deception. If just one of them had figured it out and kept the rest of us in the dark, we would have looked 1,000 times more stupid.
Wonderful, silly, adventurous Grandma Slade died at the age of 61 from colon cancer. She had fought it once before, but the second time she refused treatment.
I know she is still with me. I know she is still watching over me. I can feel her.
I just wish my kids could, too.
I tell them stories. I show them photos. The problem is, when you only got to see someone once a year, there just aren't enough stories to tell or photos to show.
Have a lovely day!