Archive for June, 2016

Story Time

I was very excited to spend the weekend watching my  grandson Max and his two brothers Sam and Duke (giant, drooling yellow labs) while his parents ran a marathon race through mud and fire. Racing through mud and fire is a walk in the park compared to juggling full-time jobs, a new house, a three-year-old, and two giant drooling yellow labs.  Max is a typical three-year-old, full of silliness and enough energy to light up the night skies, and to add to the fun, is smack-dab in the middle of potty training. Since I was assured by his mommy that he goes to bed fairly early and sleeps until eight on weekends, I was planning on a quiet evening of watching House Hunters  instead of Thomas the Train and a leisurely morning  thinking about what in the heck I’m going to write for my weekly column. He stayed up way past his bedtime, which was fine with me, and was awake and ready to play at 5 a.m. That was fine with me, also, since I am an early riser. By afternoon, the skies were darkening, and I promised Max some computer time, which in the universal language of grandmothers, means “Grandma needs  a rest.”  Yes, I know he is just three and can’t even use the potty yet, but he could probably program a computer better than I could any day of the week. Mother Nature gave us a spectacular storm with wind and rain and blowing leaves and a few falling branches. I was just checking the weather report to make sure there were no tornado warnings when the lights went out.  I expected nothing less,  as the electric often blinks off and on during summer storms, but this time, there was no off and on to it, just off. Try explaining that to a three year old who wants his computer time…NOW. We opened all the window blinds to let some light in, but it was still too dark to read. Max didn’t want to play in his room, “Too dark!” and kept trying all the light switches. I couldn’t find the flashlights, but it was still light enough outside that it didn’t matter. The lights should be on soon, but we waited and waited some more. I had a lot of suggestions.  Me: “Do you want to color?”  Max: “Nope.”  Me: “Do you want to eat something?”  Max: “Nope.” Me (with a note of desperation in my voice):  “Do you want to go potty?”  Max:  “Nope.” Since I spent every childhood  summer in a cabin without electricity, TV, or computers, I tried to think of SOMETHING to do  that was entertaining. Me:  “Would you like me to tell you a story?” Max:  “Ya!”. (He’s already getting that Minnesota accent.) As we stretched out on the couch together,  I told stories of little boys named Max who went camping without electricity and little trains named Thomas who went to the potty by themselves and only wore diapers at night.  Max told a story, too,  and although his pronunciation skills aren’t quite developed yet, it was also about a potty and a little boy. I used to tell my daughter about princesses and peas, but  if potty stories make this kid happy, so be it. After two hours, the lights finally came back on, along with the TV and computer.  Me: (clapping) “Yay! Max, the lights are back on again!”  Max: “More, stories, Geema,  more stories!”  So Grandma turned the lights out, told more stories, and they all lived happily ever after until one of the dogs threw up in the middle of the new carpet. 

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I used to earn a few bucks each summer picking berries and picking wood ticks off the dog. Dad paid a penny for the small ticks and a nickel for the fat ones, plus anywhere between a dime and a quarter for berries, depending on the size of the cup.  I disliked both jobs, but he believed in making us earn some of the our own money to spend on candy at Gram’s Kozy Korner or  on the Tilt-a-Whirl and hot dogs at The World’s Largest Wild Rice Festival. Hopefully, the hot dogs would be eaten AFTER the tilting and the whirling . I saved my allowance for weeks. That, plus my tick money, gave me enough so I wouldn’t have to whine for more money for at least a day. My local readers don’t need an explanation, but my readers from around the country (even as far away as Fargo) need to know that The World’s Largest Wild Rice Festival is probably also the World’s ONLY Wild Rice Festival.  I’m digressing, though, so back to the story of Jack and the wood ticks. My dad and his hunting cronies stayed at our cabin every fall, and every spring, we would find another empty bottle of  Yukon Jack on top of the old Hoosier cabinet. Yukon Jack is a rather sweet liqueur made from Canadian whisky and honey, and is said to warm even the coldest hunter from his lips down to the tips of his toes during an icy cold northern hunt.  One year,  there was a little leftover Jack in the bottom of the bottle. Instead of drinking it, Dad decided to put all the wood ticks he had picked off himself that summer into the bottle.  I know you have two questions here. First, why would there be any leftover whisky after a cold Minnesota winter  and second, why in the HECK would someone put wood ticks in a perfectly good bottle of whisky?  I must admit that I don’t know the answer to either, and I doubt that I ever will.  I do know that my sister and I were in charge of cleaning out that cabin after my parents passed away, and I was in charge of the empties, which I sneaked to the recycling center under cover of darkness, certain that someone would notice me dropping off a large box full of empty whisky bottles and think that I was a closet guzzler.  This is a small town, after all, and you just never know about those Lutheran church council members. We decided to keep the bottle of pickled wood ticks, if for no other reason than we are a couple of sentimental fools and inherited our dad’s rather strange sense of humor.  I still pick a few ticks off the dog each summer, but I don’t make any money doing it. I pick berries only when I have to, and I don’t ride the Tilt-a-Whirl any more.  Gram’s Kozy Korner is long gone, except in the memories of a generation of small-town kids, and believe it or not, The World’s Largest Wild Rice Festival is still going strong and in its 68th year.  Even after all these years, the wood ticks are still in that bottle on the fireplace  mantle of our cabin, floating around in a pool of Yukon Jack and looking almost as good as new. It  makes a good conversation piece, anyway, even though cabin visitors look at us a little strangely when we tell the story.

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