Irreverent Mama

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Warning: Utterly frivolous, self-absorbed, totally girly post to follow. I honestly don't know what got into me today...

Here we have a black leather purse. A serviceable purse. A good-quality, reasonably expensive purse.

Here's why I bought it:

See all those pockets and zippered pouches and niches and cubbyholes? I just love that stuff. I am not a Bag Woman, one of those female with a purse -- excuse me, bag -- for every occasion and outfit. I have this purse. Summer and winter. It was not inexpensive, but that's okay. I anticipate it will, like its similar predecessors, last me five to eight years.


But somehow, this summer my faithful black leather purse began to see a bit ... heavy. Cumbersome. Wrong, overheated. Like wearing a wool sweater in August, tights to the swimming pool, drinking hot chocolate on sunny 30-degree patio . So for a while I was carrying this:

Not exactly the peak of style or dignified by clean, crisp tailoring, but light, summery. A gift from friends who had visited Peru. Entirely authentic. Well authentically Peruvian tourist trade... Bright (brighter than shows in this picture) and does the job of carting wallet and keys, etc., just fine.

Thing is, it is mostly orange and I am partial to red, particularly one flame-red wraparound dress. Brilliant orange and flame red? Eep.

It was when I found myself bunging the black purse and a book into this, and walking about with it slung over my shoulder like a purse that I realized I probably should admit that I needed a new one.

The Natural Food Pantry is a nice place and all, and I like their bags, but a Style Statement this ain't. Or rather, yes it is, and I don't want it to be mine. So off I went bag-shopping. I mean, there's Bag Woman and there's bag lady. Keep this up, and next I know I'll be carting my stuff around in a couple of old plastic Loblaws bag.

First stop, the shop where my daughter's friend had just bought a cloth bag with faux leather handles that I quite liked. Well, I liked the style and shape. I did not like the pattern. Being assured that there were "lots more like it", I went to the mall.

Nope. There was only the one fabric bag left. The others were all very faux leather in a range of colours and one style: overstuffed. I discovered in myself a Leather Snob. If I'm going to buy a bag that looks like leather, I want it to BE leather. If I'm going to buy an inexpensive, just-for-fun bag, then let's not have it pretending (poorly) to be leather.

These bags didn't look fun and clever to me; they looked like an ill-dressed poor cousin trying to sneak into an upscale club. Though I usually lean to smaller bags, a big bag can be a fine thing, but these looked less like bags and more like your great-grandmother's ottoman, all overstuffed and ruched. Some even had upholstery buttons on them.

So, never mind.

Matthew, who had come along on this entirely frivolous outing, suggested a store I'd never heard of. Assured me he thought I'd like it.

I loved it.

So many fun bags! All of them up to seventy percent off, because, this being late July, stores are pretending summer is over. Good thing, because I wouldn't have given them a second glance at their full-ticket prices. Good lord. Fabric bags, fun as they are, will not last more than a couple of seasons before they start to look ratty. I am not paying the same for a two-season bag as I would for an eight-year purse.

Are they NUTS?

But! Seventy percent off!! In the end I was torn between two. One would go with more of my wardrobe, but the other was just so much fun! Totally frivolous -- no, not totally, because it's big enough that one side can hold my purse stuff (change purse, card holder, sunglasses), one side can hold work stuff (small notebook and pen, any current documents, cell phone), and the center compartment can hold private and/or messy stuff and/or imporant-not-to-lose stuff (tampons, make-up,keys). I could easily fit this week's book in there. But it looks totally frivolous. And the pattern is too riotous to go with a huge number of things.

But! So! Fun!

But I have a purse, and I have that orange South American messenger bag. Two bags? That's plenty. Three if you count the Natural Food Pantry bag. Which I don't. So a new bag would bring my total to three.

More than I've ever had at one time in my entire life.

So. One more bag is MORE than sufficient.

Way more.

But which one?

And I dither and I hem and I haw. This is not the Laura of history. Not the Laura Matthew has come to know and love. Laura is a focussed, goal-oriented shopper. Laura goes in, sees what she wants, buys it and comes home.

Or she doesn't see what she wants, and she comes home. Extended shopping sprees are very rare. Once in a long while I get the bug and spend a day just shopping (and buying very little). But dither?

I never dither.

Matthew is finding this quite entertaining. He's never seen me go all girly before. In other arenas I can take a while to make a decision, but not this one. He's not impatient at all. He's too taken with the transformation. When, however, he can see that I'm getting exasperated, he asks the cogent question.

"How much would you normally spend on a purse?"

I tell him. He looks at the price tags with their bold red "REDUCED" stickers.

"You can but both these for less than that."

You can see why I love him, no?

So now I own this bag:

Which has long, black, nicely structure over-the-shoulder straps. The bag ends up clutched between elbow and waist.

And this:

WOW, huh? It's also ENORMOUS. I've never owned such a large bag. It's wild, it's gargantuan, but I love it.

I now own FOUR bags.

I think I've become a Bag Woman...


Saturday, July 19, 2008

You know how, when you get a song running through your head, and you just can't get it out of there?

Maybe you just have to go with it...


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

There's something soothing about plunging your hands into hot water. More so in winter, when, at least for me, the intial sensation often sends a rather pleasurable tingle down my spine and into my arms -- if it's particularly potent, right down to my calves. No idea what that is, but I like it.

The tangy citrus scent of the dishwashing liquid as it enters the sink and churns to a froth under the pouring stream. And that froth! White and clear, yet somehow studded with blue and red and green and turquoise iridescence. You could get lots in the colours.

Swirling the wet cloth across ceramic plates, working it along the tines of a fork, those are tactile experiences, experiences to be savoured. The undulation of the cloth in the water -- visual sensuality. Even the sounds, the muted rattling of cutlery under the water, the tap of china against glass bring pleasure.

And then, pulling the dish, clean and dripping, from the water, watching the water curl across its surface and away, the steam rising, the plate newly-minted and angled perfectly amidst its peers in the drying rack.

If you think about it the right way, it's a glorious medly of sight, sound, taste, touch and smell.

I tried.

I really, really tried.

But I still hate doing dishes.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Yesterday evening, returning home from an evening with a friend, I scoop one of the blue boxes in front of my house, and set it on the porch.

(Blue boxes, for those of you not in the know, are large plastic bins into which we toss our recyclables: plastic, glass and aluminum, primarily. These are set at the curb and collected the same day as the garbage. Alternate weeks, we set out our "black boxes", which are filled with paper and cardboard. In the summers, blue box week is also garden waste week, and we set out bins or bags of lawn clippings (assuming I had such a thing as a lawn), leaves, weeds, etc.

It's a fine system.)

There is another blue box still at the curb, still full and awaiting the morning's collection. So why is this blue box, formerly full, now empty?

We have yet another recyling option in our fine city. (Actually, I think this one's provincial.) You can still toss your empty booze bottles in the blue box, but you can also take them in to the Beer Store (yes, that's really what it's called) where they will be re-used. Not only is this arguably more efficient, (and saves the government some money, likely; I seem to be feeling parenthetical today) but you get paid a small premium for each bottle returned.

Having no car, I'd long ago arranged with a neighbour that when they returned their bottles, they'd take mine, too. And were welcome to the two or three dollars profit that might result. To that end, bottles were accruing in a spare blue box on the shelf in the back porch.

They were accruing, that is, until my son, not aware of the system, noticed the extra blue box and put the bin of bottles out at the curb a few weeks back.


Or maybe not. For that night, some while after dark, I heard the distinctive clinking of bottles. In the shadows is a fellow, a little down-at-heel. He's astride a bicycle which has a clever little hand-made trolley behind it, a trolley which houses a large black metal bin. He's tipping the bottles into his bin.

A recycling scavenger!

Well, that's cool. I won't have to impose upon my neighbour. I need only to put my bottles at the curb with enough time for the recycling bike guy to come by. A symbiotic relationship: the bike guy gets the proceeds, I get rid of the bottles, and they end up where they should be, the Beer Store instead of the recycling depot. Perfect. I rather enjoy the nice, tidy balance of it all.

Upon conversation with neighbours, I discover that this is disapproved of. That others on my street have been known to chase him (and his colleagues; there are many of them) away, like raccoons out of the trash.

I am a little appalled. They are not expressing fear for the security of their homes. They do not fear they're being checked out for future burglarization. These people coming round, quietly in the evenings, do not make a mess, they are not intrusive, except for the clatter of bottles. The objection is territorial: my neighbours do not like these outsiders (these, let it also be noted, evidently poor outsiders) messing with their stuff. Even when their stuff is being discarded.

They object to their appearance. Not because they look potentially criminal. Because they are shoddy.

Shoddy? They are clean, they are appropriately dressed for their task in jeans and t-shirts. They are simply not dressed in the styles, colours, and labels of the affluent.

Some of my neighbours sneer at these people. "Losers."

Losers? They bike for miles, they haul loads of bottles each week, they appear to be pretty systematic in their rounds. Couldn't this be viewed as laudably entrepreneurial? Seems to me they're working pretty hard for a paltry few dollars. And if that's pathetic to you, that's only because you've been privileged enough never to be in a situation where a few dollars really matters. What's pocket change to you might be fresh vegetables on the table for these people.

Or, as one neighbour pointed out, a pack of cigarettes. So? Your pocket change buys you the wine you sip on your porch most evenings. How is that so very different? -- except that these people might well have to do without their personal vice were it not for your discarded bottles and their hard work.

It's so easy to be superior. Why does it seem so hard to be kind?


Monday, July 07, 2008

Oh, dear.

There's stuff going on. Family stuff going on. Stuff that I'm not quite ready to write about. It's all too, too dreary and wearying right now, and I'm quite, quite sure I am not yet capable of making it entertaining in the very slightest.

It may never be entertaining.

Suffice it to say that some of my stepkids have revealed themselves to be not only insensitive, but among the most vicious and malicious people it has ever been my misfortune to have in my life.

You know how I've said before that, for all the small conflicts and stressors, we've been remarkably lucky with our teens, that we've never had the pure unadulterated hatefulness and hostility some parents experience?

I can't say that any more.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

When was the last time I was so angry?

Hmmm... I'm not sure. I'm not a woman prone to anger. I don't really enjoy stewing in righteous rage, not, at least, as a way of life...

But tonight?

I'm furious.

Diva Daughter, the eldest stepdaughter ... you know, the one who has had NOTHING to do with us for over a year because we dared to suggest she might attend a family dinner without the boyfriend of three weeks attached to her hip? The one who, despite having lived with the boyfriend for six weeks (a whole three months after that conflict -- the girl was not letting any grass grow under her, er, feet) was NOT having sex with him? That step-daughter?

The other stepkids are with us for a couple of weeks. They are chatting at the dinner table. And they tell us such funny stories about that daughter. She's just so funny, that girl. She tells the funniest stories. Her favourites, it seems, told "hundreds of times" to all sorts of friends and family, revolve around conflicts I had with her middle sister. Conflicts which had me in tears, most often. One of which had me in tears on the floor, that's how much fun I was having.

I tried so very hard to make connections, to be a resource in their lives, but this particular child (a child who has, over intervening years, become quite a delight) had NO interest in a positive connection with me those first few years. This child was determined to be in conflict with me, and nothing, I gradually learned, was going to prevent her from doing so. Not promised treats, nor coaxing, nor firm discipline. It was a matter of loyalty. Mommy was queen, and thus, I had to be The Enemy. (Mommy said so.)

It was not a happy time for me. Eventually, after a more than a few heart-breaking episodes, I learned to disengage. Thus, instead of becoming the Crying Stepmother, I undoubtedly became the Remote and Evil Stepmother. I'd call that being caught between a rock and a hard place, me.

And now, years after the fact, years in which I have formed a good relationship with the formerly problematic middle daughter, years in which the eldest daughter turn nasty (to her dad; by then I'd learned to keep out of these things); turned nasty and eventually left, I learn that eldest stepdaughter has been using these long-ago, miserably unhappy episodes as opportunities for the spotlight, as comic anecdotes for the entertainment of (hostile to me) friends and family.

Just warms my heart, that does.

And her siblings? Her siblings are too STUPID AND INSENSITIVE to know that telling me of these stories, repeated many times down the years, to know that I have been the butt of malicious jokes and embarrassing stories, many times ("hundreds of times") over years, would be at all hurtful or embarrassing to me.


I held my tongue. I did not retaliate. I did not laugh, mind you, but I did not burst out with anything hurtful, either.

But I fantasize. I imagine telling an equally "funny" story about how my son's then 17-year-old friends would ask before coming over, "Is your step-sister going to be there? The fat one? Because if she is, I'll come another time. I don't really want to have my leg humped today."

Because a couple of years ago, the eldest step-daughter had some flirtation/hormonal issues, and was a serious embarrassment to herself. We tried to direct her away, gently, but subtlety was not her forte. So my son's friends,knowing what awaited, simply avoided the house when she was around, so intense and persistant was her desire to have their attention and desire.

But I did not say, "Oh, that's so funny! Hey, that's almost as funny as when D's friends wouldn't come around if his oversexed step-sister was likely to be in the house. Because they were afraid -- oh you'll love this -- that she'd be humping their legs! Yeah, they actually SAID that!!!"

Isn't that HYSTERICAL, kids? Just as funny, EVERY BIT as funny, as knowing I've been mocked and ridiculed by your BITCH of a sister for YEARS. Ha, ha, ha, fucking ha.

I didn't say that, because I am the grownup. Just barely, today.

And when might I expect THEM to grow up?


Labels: , ,