The Great Bishop’s Weed War of 2014

August 29, 2014

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I loved my grandfather’s garden when I was a child. There were brick walkways under grape arbors, a fish pond surrounded by waving grasses and weathered little outbuildings. It was a magical place to play. I have fond memories of the Bishop’s Weed that was captured between the driveway and the house foundation. Please note that word: “captured.” And not only was it captured, but its roots were regularly frozen solid during the harsh Illinois winters. Read more

Laughing all the way

July 31, 2014

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Jack and the ice cream man. Uh, woman. Truck. Small open vehicle.

I recently wrote an article about the overhyped tests that you can take to find out how old you really are. Who needs a test? While watching my 32-month-old grandnephew Jack a few weeks ago, I easily found out how old I really am, and discovered the same about him.

I am 8. Jack is 52.

Jack is a very smart, thoughtful and cautious child who went directly from observant silence to sentences like, “Mom, did you play with dollhouses when you were a little girl?” and who often begins conversations with, “Mom, I have an idea …”

I watch him every Tuesday for a few hours, and on that day several weeks ago, the stars aligned, the Summer Gods smiled and the ice cream truck came to our neighborhood while I had him. Jack was at the kitchen table eating blueberry yogurt when I heard the unmistakable sound of summer treats approaching. I popped up from my chair and cried, “The ice cream man! The ice cream truck!” Jack looked up from his yogurt. “Jack! The ice cream man is coming! The truck is on the way! Can you hear it?”

Jack heard something all right: me, yelling at full volume from three feet away.

Grabbing some money and heading out the door, I asked The Sainted One to keep an eye on our charge. I ran down our steep driveway and looked up the street. The truck was stopped at a cul-de-sac north of us, and our Good Neighbor to the West and her Lovely Daughter were paying for their purchases. I ran back up the hill, grabbed Jack from the porch where he was now waiting, and tugged him towards the street, but before we could get there, the truck took a tight turn and puttered away from us.

Hearing my wail of dismay, Lovely Daughter chased it up the street and around the corner but had no luck finding it. At the same time, The Sainted One was backing down the driveway to go to the store. Or so he thought. His new mission was to follow the sound of the truck and bring it back.

Jack and I hurried up to the main street so that we wouldn’t be bypassed, with me jabbering the whole way about summer and ice cream men and trucks. Within minutes, the truck slowly approached us with my husband in the car behind it, pushing it along like a sheepdog herding Merino sheep. Jack solemnly held my hand as the parade approached. I could almost hear his thoughts:

“I’m pretty sure that’s not a truck. I can’t define precisely what it is, but it is not a truck.”

“That is not a man. I distinctly remember hearing ‘ice cream man,’ but that is a woman.”

“That is not ice cream as I know it. Where is the ice cream? I see only frozen treats.”

Because Jack remained mute, I followed the suggestion of the ice cream woman and bought him a cartoon character Popsicle featuring bulging blue jawbreaker eyes that scared the hell out of him. He wouldn’t touch it. The next Tuesday, I chopped it up, put it in a bowl and gave it to him with a spoon. He liked it just fine.

 

You can reach Pat Detmer — who also used to get very excited when Santa came by in the fire truck — at patdetmer@aol.com.

 

Laughing all the way

July 2, 2014

CSI: Newcastle

I’ve said it here before: If The Sainted One ever tried to build a house, he would bleed to death from unintentional stabs and slices.

He is the Official Family Chef, but has knives that can’t cut through gelatin without effort because I won’t let him have anything sharper. There’s a secret spot in the garage where I’ve hidden a  Japanese hand hoe that will chop the most stubborn greenery into submission, and although I could use help in the garden battling the weeds, I love him too much to let him near it.

Even the simple act of checking out a bed frame …

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Safe, but not secure

June 6, 2014

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My sisters and I are a cautious lot. My mother was a careful, self-reliant German Midwesterner, and my father — German as well — was an insurance adjustor, cleaning up after accidents, tornadoes and fires. We heard all of the horrific possibilities that life could serve up while we were at the dinner table. Read more

A mighty wind

May 1, 2014

In September, we rented a large houseboat on Lake Roosevelt with my sister Susie and her husband. After taking possession, we cruised up the lake and found a perfect spot for the night: a protected little bay, embraced by wooded peninsulas. The Sainted One ran the boat on shore and we tied up.

That was the night the Seahawks game was delayed due to a freak windstorm, and to get to Qwest Field, it had to get across Eastern Washington — and Lake Roosevelt — first.

It was hot and still when we retired early, so I was pleased when a breeze blew through the open stateroom window until that breeze grew into something less appealing. Staggering out of our staterooms, we had to hold onto the walls to keep from hitting the deck. We turned on our phones and they began simultaneously ringing: High wind warning, the messages from the marina said. Batten down the hatches, because something wicked this way comes.

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Not a very pretty picture

April 3, 2014

You might come to believe by reading this column that my life consists primarily of going to parties, drinking, and then doing something that I regret, and honestly, you would pretty much be right.

This particular column has to do with a recent “Paint and Sip” adventure. You may have heard of these: “paint and sip” or “paint and pour” or — my favorite moniker — “Arts & Carafes,” where a group of people recreate a painting under the tutelage of an artist and under the influence of alcohol.

For Christmas, my nephew gifted my sister Barb with tickets for one of these evenings, paying also for myself and our other sister Susie. It had all the elements for potential fun/disaster: my sisters, alcohol and a task best done sober, Jackson Pollock notwithstanding.

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At last

March 5, 2014

I don’t consider myself to be unlucky, but I also don’t think of myself as someone who wins a lot. In fact the only thing that I can remember winning was in grade school: an Easter bunny cake that the nuns raffled off to benefit poor people in China. I was thrilled when my name was chosen, but less thrilled when I realized what a month on display in the sunshine atop the radiator does to a bunny cake. The coconut fur was the consistency of steel wool, and you needed a circular saw to carve yourself a piece.

In time I became familiar with defeat, and always attempted to be gracious and magnanimous, so I feel especially comfortable in Seattle, the bridesmaid but never the bride, close but no cigar, loud but no Lombardi. The Sonics left, the Mariners disappoint and the Seahawks … well, the Seahawks …

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Dog gone

February 6, 2014

When we moved to Olympus almost 24 years ago, our Good Neighbors to the South (the GNS) were already ensconced in their brand new home. Randomly Loud Son was a toddler, and Lovely Daughter was yet to be born. And sometime in the early 2000s, there was another addition: a puppy, a black Corgi mixed with Some Other Brand. His name was Lenny.

Lenny was the only dog in a string of three homes that included the GNS, ourselves and the GNN (Good Neighbors to the North.) He was generally a benign addition. I can’t remember ever chasing him from the yard, or replacing an upended plant or shoveling up his leavings.

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Laughing all the way – Life of Pie

January 2, 2014

During the holidays, I make pies. When my mother — an excellent baker — passed away, I inherited Christmas Eve and pies. I don’t how that happened, but my sisters are nearly as useless as I am when it comes to food and domesticity, so it may be that as the eldest I felt a misplaced sense of responsibility.

Knowing that we all sucked at it, 20 years ago we videotaped Mother in the kitchen making pies. I transcribed the session after the fact so that we would have 3×5 recipe cards for reference. In doing so, I literally wrote out exactly what Mom said as she did her demo, thinking it funny and assuming that we would remember what it meant. “After adding the water,” she said (and I carefully hand-printed on the cards) “Go like this.” The videotape has long been lost, and so whatever “this” is has been lost as well.

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Giving a spit

November 12, 2013

Long ago, our fraternal grandmother told us that our great-great-great-grandfather was the famous Cherokee Yellow Bird. Of course she also told us that my grandfather discovered radar but that his secrets were stolen, which explained why there were no statues of him in the town square.

That should have put me on my guard, but I craved a more exciting background than the one provided by our known German/English heritage, which was filled with brewery workers and pattern-makers and was as boring as sturdy shoes and white bread.

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