Monday, February 25, 2008

As long as old men sit and talk about the weather.

I love old men.

I don't love them in the little-blue-pill sense of the word (I prefer my Viagra to be used recreationally, in a cocktail of vodka and redbull, instead of taken furtively, with a swallow of tap water and a prayer to the baby Jesus, if Jesus is indeed in charge of boners).

I just find them rather cute.

My grandpa takes cute to the next level.

It's so sweet how he has "indoor slippers" and "driving slippers", and how he walks around looking constantly sheepish, and how his suspenders curve around his pot belly, and how he likes to tell us "stories", which are actually off-colour jokes, sometimes so off-colour that my grandmother blushes and hits him.

And I love how he has one solid memory per person. It's like he's purging his memory bank, culling nearly 80 years worth of material, and distilling it to just one essential fact about everyone he knows. He always recalls how my mother once dumped a pot of caramel over her head. That's what he chooses to remember about her, out of all of her accomplishments, of all the things she's done, the obstacles she's overcome, her most passionate pursuits....and he just chuckles about the way she licked herself clean. About me he likes to tell how he and I would two-step together in his foyer when I was a very little girl. Actually, I still like to tap my toes in there, because it has a resonating echo that just can't be beat.

Thinking about the danciest foyer I've ever clicked my heels in reminds me of other family gatherings, where the grownups would sit around the table, playing cards and gambling for coin. My grandfather would dip into his earnings to give us each a penny to get a gumball out of the machine downstairs. He also had a peanut machine, but that one didn't require money, you just pulled the lever and out came a handful of lovely saltiness.

I'm pretty sure that damn peanut machine made me fat.

It also made me better at math. I would sort my peanuts obsessively before eating them. The ones that came out unscathed, one side still clinging mightily to the other, I would cherish and sweep aside, saving them for last. The ones that were sadly unmatched I would count, and then divide into groups and munch quickly, indiscriminately. Notice how OCD was hardly ever diagnosed back in the 80s.

I believed that peanut butter was invented some time around 1985.
I believed that tiny babies were housed inside traffic lights and controlled the green, amber, and red.
I believed that jelly bracelets went well with everything.
I believed that my budgie and my great-grandmother were keeping each other company in heaven, even though Polly was buried in our garden and Granny was not.

Maybe things were just easier to believe in back then. The 80s are not normally known for their naivete, and I hope I am not either, but everyone comes from a simpler time, a time when your thermos is reliably filled with zoodles and your underwear has the days of the week printed on them, and someone else does the towelling when you step out of the bath.

But I hope that those days are not irretrievably behind me. I think that they are not, just as long as I still dance for the heck of it.
As long as my mother still craves her caramel.
As long as old men sit and talk about the weather.
As long as old women sit and talk about old men.

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