Snowy Day Memories

It was quiet this morning when I woke up. And calm, very calm. I could feel Harvey’s warm little body at the end of the bed, nestled against my legs. He loves sleeping in as much as I do. I stretched and opened my eyes. The daylight peeking through the blinds hinted at another drab winter day. Time to rise, no shine permitted today though.

I was very pleasantly surprised by what I saw when I stepped into the living room. Huge, incredibly fluffy snowflakes were swirling and twirling all around outside. The roads and rooftops had all been blanketed in crisp white snow. Watching it fall, fluttering to the ground in fat sticky flakes made me feel like I was inside a snow globe. It was beautiful, and about damn time.

snowy days

Our winter hasn’t been very magical at all this year. It’s been downright depressing actually. We’ve had barren, snowless grey days and bizarre temperature spikes, where it feels practically balmy one day then aggressively cold the next. We’ve had more rain than snow, and it’s been a bloody nuisance. I’d take snow over rain any day. It makes me so happy seeing actual snow, falling with purpose, taking off its coat to stay a while. My heart rejoiced watching the snow fall, unrelentingly, all morning long. There it is, there’s the winter I know and love. Winter is all about snow. I love the feeling of snow falling down all around me. Snowflakes sticking to my hair and coat. Tromping through the snow in thick clunky boots. Mischievously balling it up to toss at someone unsuspecting.

I remember winter stretching out forever when I was a kid. Long endlessly sunny and snowy days out in the burbs, my sisters and I laughing and playing with our neighbourhood friends. Building snow forts, making snow angels, having snowball fights, sledding down huge mountains of plowed snow in the library parking lot. Racing down the snow banks on our Krazy Karpets with reckless abandon. Being told to come in for a hot lunch, soup and grilled cheese, to warm us up. We’d come home, blasting through the front door like a pack of wild dogs, hungry and hyper from our morning adventures. Peeling ourselves out of our snowsuits, so impatient to be free of them. Boots, hats, mittens, socks, and scarves cast off and flung all over the foyer, Mom rounding up all those winter necessities and dispersing them throughout the house to dry over heating vents and radiators.

We’d scarf lunch down like we hadn’t eaten in days, recouping all the energy burned that morning. Stockpiling more energy, fuelling up, eager to get back outside again for more snowy fun. My imagination already a hundred miles ahead of itself, dreaming up an outlandish afternoon caper. That’s all you needed back then to be happy, a fresh snowfall, some pals, and your imagination.

I have fond memories of super special winter days when my dad would take us skating. He’d shovel off a sizeable patch of pond, over at the golf course, where nobody would bother us. My sisters and I had the whole pond to ourselves, around and around we’d go, skating until our legs were jelly. Skating until the sun started setting. Begging our dad for just five more minutes, please!

I remember a whole day spent sledding with my family, mom and dad, my sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins. Everyone was there. Again over at the golf course, at the back, off of the 16th or 17th hole I think. Where the snow was freshly fallen, completely untouched, not a track or footprint in it. Where nobody else would be, our secret sledding place. The hill was steep, so enormously steep. It was a long ride down and a difficult climb back up. Dad and the uncles would pull us kids back up the hill on the sleds when we whined about having to climb it, only to launch us back down it again once we reached the top. I watched with shock as my older sister went whizzing down the hill at an incredible speed, narrowly missing the trunk of a massive pine tree. A close call if ever there was one. I remember tripping up the hill, falling face first into it, getting the neckline of my coat full of snow. Being dusted off by my mom and sent back on my way. We all went back to my Oma and Opa’s house afterwards, to warm up by the wood stove and sip hot chocolate.

We still talk about that day at family get togethers. That perfect winter day following an enormous overnight snowfall. The sun was out and the air was crisp. The day primed for adventure. Everyones hearts overflowing with laughter and joy.

That’s the winter I know and love best, snowy and enchanting. Inviting endless possibility and glee, promising lots of lovely memories. I hope today that some lucky little kids got to have a day of perfect winter fun with their siblings and friends, like I got to plenty of times growing up.

My Cool Nana

I’ve got a cool Nana.

One of the things that makes her so cool is her youthfulness. She’s got that joie de vivre in spades.

She gets her hair did regularly, and always has perfectly polished toes. She wears stylish outfits because she’s in the know. She’s got a beautiful, charming laugh that matches that knowing twinkle in her eye. When she hugs you, you’ll feel better, even if there isn’t anything bothering you. Because she loves you unconditionally and that’s all that’s ever really mattered. She’s funny and sassy, quick-witted and astute. She’s got a keen sense of humour and knows how to use it, much to everyone’s delight. Nana’s so with it, she even reads my blog! Encouraging, generous, compassionate, and wise. I could just keep saying adjectives all day… But simply put, she’s a cool fucking Nana; she’s the best.

my cool Nana

my cool Nana

When I was a puny little girl I always looked forward to the days when we’d all pile into the car and head over to Nana’s house. Going for the day was great, but a sleepover was even better. She had a big house out in the sticks, and a great big backyard with a rickety old swing set that we loved. Squeaky and rusting from the years of gleeful appreciation. And there was a sweet sandbox that housed all of our most inventive sand creations. We didn’t build castles, we built legends. If it was rainy, we’d spend the day inside. There was a pool table in the finished basement that we ran tag based games around. It was also a superb foundation for blanket forts! And there were trunks upon trunks of glorious toys down in the basement. The arsenal of toys within the many trunks had been amassed over the decades and were kept on hand for when her rambunctious grandkids came to visit. It was perfect.

Whenever I’m told to picture my happy place I picture myself, eight years old, on a visit to Nana’s house…

Top priority for Nana was keeping us fed the whole time we were there. And that suited me just fine. Nana loved to feed people, and I loved to eat! The time spent at her house, whether it was a couple of hours in the afternoon or a whole weekend sleepover, was an eating marathon. You’d get there, give Nana a hug, then tell her you were STARVING. At least, that was the first play I’d always run. And she’d happily agree that you were a skinny little thing and had better get some cookies into you quick.

There was a perpetually full jar of cookies on the kitchen counter, just waiting there for you. In the cupboards you would find a surplus of chips, crackers, candies, fruit snacks, and other such sundries that would have fed us through a nuclear crisis. The big old freezer in the garage was loaded with ice cream and popsicles. There would be trays of sandwiches made up for lunch. Tuna salad, egg salad, salmon salad, chicken salad. Anything that could be mashed into salad form for sandwiches was there. And an array of deli meats too. Bologna, turkey, ham, salami, etc. The whole gang was there! The sandwiches would be cut into fours, diagonally of course. To this day, I still eat my sandwiches that way. They must be cut into fours, diagonally, like Nana would do.

We’d eat, then play. That was what you did at Nana’s house. Eat. Play. Eat. Play. Eat. Play. Eat. Play. Then eat some more!

Nana was funny. She played with us, and goofed around a little herself. She’d clean us up when our adventures got messy. Then she’d encourage us to go have another one. She’d feed us whether or not our tummies rumbled. She taught us lots of jokes and games. And we learned lots of endearing colloquialisms from her too. Saying kitschy things like “Jesus H. Murphy”, “piss ‘n’ vinegar”, and “shakes of a lamb’s tail” she was a regular old poet to us. There wasn’t a problem in sight that Nana couldn’t solve. Nothing too big or too sticky that she couldn’t handle.

…what I wouldn’t give to go back in time and have one more childhood visit at Nana’s house.

I’d long ago forgotten one of my most cherished of Nana’s culinary delights, though. It just slipped through the cracks of my mind, evading recollection for many years. It pains me to have forgotten this at all, but I guess that’s just how it goes sometimes, when you’re growing up. You’re always pushing and being pushed forward. Forsaking the childishness of your past for pursuits more befitting your current age. But I still felt bad about forgetting.

My sister and I were talking, I’m not sure how it came up, but she mentioned Nana’s Pizza Sandwich. I was a little puzzled at first, brows furrowed, straining to grasp onto the memory. Then it hit me. It was if someone had reached into my head, grabbed the two halves of my brain, wrenched them apart, and blew all of the cobwebs out with a formidable gust of wind. Nana’s Pizza Sandwich.

OF COURSE I REMEMBER IT! I LOVE THAT SANDWICH!!!

We were picky eaters. Not Mar so much, she was more open. But Erika and I were, without a doubt, picky little bastards. I spent most of my childhood turning my nose up at the shit on my plate that I didn’t understand. It’s gotten better over time, it usually does. But there are some things that shall never grace my plate again. Things like broccoli, Kraft Singles or Cheez Whiz, lasagna, and scalloped potatoes. Shit like that, you know, things reasonably deserving of my ire. Because of our picky eating habits, Nana invented this slam-dunk sandwich. Sure to please even the pickiest of eaters. She knew that we were fiends for pizza, so this would be an easy victory.

And it was. We wolfed our pizza sandwiches down like mongrels. Then asked for seconds!

She used a sandwich maker. An old, electric sandwich maker. You could hear a faint buzz when it was plugged in, starting to heat up. The most minute humming as it awakened. It filled the kitchen with a strangely delicious aroma. The smell of sandwiches past. Once it was nice and hot, the sandwiches would be popped into place, and the lid would close. You could hear them sizzling immediately, the blackened cooking plates pressing their magic into the bread.

Oh yeah, I remembered it all so clearly now.

A couple of weeks after we’d had that conversation I got an email from Mar, with an online coupon for a similar type of sandwich maker. I immediately printed it, and headed over to the Kitchen Stuff Plus store in my hood after work. With my coupon, I only paid 10 bucks! Even if my sandwiches turned out to be the biggest pieces of shit ever, it was worth it. For 10 bucks? You got yourself a deal!

I rushed home, beyond excited to test this bad boy out.

worth every penny

worth every penny

Basically, you’re just making a standard grilled cheese sandwich with a couple of slight variations. On the inside of the bread, I swipe some pizza sauce, add the slices of cheese, and then some pepperoni.

Nana's Pizza Sandwich in the making

Nana’s Pizza Sandwich in the making

Then you put it in the sandwich maker and let the magic happen. There’s no temperature setting. Just a red light and a green light. You put it in there and wait. Check occasionally to make sure you’re on track, and then take it out when you feel that it has been cooked through to your liking. I like mine just a little bit golden. Crispy, but not burnt.

The wait was agonizing. I was anticipating greatness, trying to recreate something so beloved from my childhood. And I was happy with the end result when I saw it sitting there on the plate, ready to eat.

hot off the $10 grill

hot off the $10 grill

gooey middle

gooey middle

But I was a little nervous, taking that first bite. I bit down gingerly, exploratory. For all intents and purposes the texture was exactly the same. It tasted good. But it wasn’t quite the same as the ones Nana used to make. It was delicious, albeit empty.

Probably because I was hoping too hard. Hoping for a taste of yesterday. Hoping to resuscitate a feeling, long since dead.

Am I crazy? What did I think was going to happen? That I’d take a bite of this sandwich and somehow travel through space and time back to Nana’s house? Back to eight years old? Come on Smash, you didn’t really think…?

Yes. That’s exactly what I’d been thinking. In a secret corner of my dorky little brain, right before I sunk my teeth in, I’d entertained those thoughts. But I guess there’s a little more to time travel than a $10 sandwich grill and some pepperoni. For 10 bucks though, it was worth a shot.

At least I’ve still got my cool Nana, and our memories. I know she remembers those days gone by, just as fondly as I do.

“Come Over, We’re Having a Decker”

We had plans last weekend. Big plans. Top secret plans.

There was a party at the vets club in Newmarket. A surprise 30th Wedding Anniversary party for two very special people. To call them “my buddy’s parents” is a passable description, but does not do them true justice. They’re so awesome. Gloria is so sweet and lovely. Glenn is hilarious and a remarkable judge of idiocy. He’s seen a lot of it from our crew over the years, so he’s a bona fide expert in the subject. They have a soft spot for their kids’ drunken friends. And if not for their deck I might never have fallen for D.

I met Hoben the summer of 2005, and we hit it off instantly. We bonded over a mutual adoration of John Belushi. We shared an enormous appetite for booze and antics. We got drunk, and we caused shit. We were always egging each other on. Who could be more outrageous? Who could get the most obliterated? It was fun. We were young, we were stupid, and it worked. We were and are great friends.

hoben

Hoben visiting my dorm, Sept. ’05

The following summer of 2006 we hung out all the time. I had just turned 19 in April, and Hoben would be turning 19 in June. We had to do something incredible to commemorate it. Or at least get really drunk. So we decided to put together a plan for the weekend. Hoben called me up on Friday afternoon, his birthday was tomorrow. We were going to hang out and plan something for Saturday. “Come over, we’ll have a decker”, he said. And by decker, he meant we’d be getting drunk on his deck all night. Sounded good to me, I didn’t have to work. I grabbed a 12 pack and went over.

It started out just us. And then people just kept coming over. The more the merrier, that’s how a decker works best. Someone would call Hoben, asking what was up that night. He’d say “Come over, we’re having a decker”, and they did. Some random 40-something neighbourhood dude named Steve even came over. Nobody knew who he was, he just popped his head over the fence and said we seemed like a fun bunch. He wanted to party and we didn’t have the heart to turn him away.

Hobs and I had been drinking since 2:00pm. But he had to leave to work his 5-9 shift at the bulk barn. So he left me and a couple of other buddies to keep the decker going in his absence. And we did.

By 10:00pm I was just the right amount of hammered. Hoben had come back from his shift, and had been in touch with more people. They were on their way over, some cool peeps that Hoben said I would dig. Three dudes opened the gate to the fence and strolled over to the deck. The first two walked over, cracked drinks and sat down. The third dude hung back a second to close the gate. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. I watched him close the gate and walk up to the deck. Casually, calmly. He was short, and a little stocky. He had a 26 of rye, he was here to party. He was dreamy, and he sat down next to me. I was too drunk to notice it then, but every stride he took across the deck was reeling me in. It was D, and I was powerless to stop myself from falling for him that night.

A little while later Hoben’s parents joined us. Hoben is basically a clone of his dad, so we loved Glenn instantly. He wasn’t shy about zinging us dumb kids, and slayed us with many well-timed one-liners throughout the night. And Gloria was the epitome of class. She was well-dressed and not a single hair on her perfectly coiffed head was out-of-place. She sat down gracefully while lighting a smoke. I loved her immediately too. She was welcoming and warm, bubbly and fun.

We were too effed up that night to stick to the plans we made for Hoben’s birthday the following night. We had this incredible idea for a toga party that never came to fruition. We just got drunk at our friend Curt’s house instead. But we’d never forget that very first decker, what an awesome night.

There were many more deckers to follow over the years. Deckers became the standard summer party for our crew. If someone had a deck and it was free, it didn’t take long to pack some coolers and haul them on over. They were always fun, but they were limited to summer.

one of many great summertime deckers, July '08

one of many great summertime deckers, July ’08

That is, until last weekend. D and I were reunited with all of the Hobens again for the first time in a couple of years for this party. Hoben’s little brother and sister were there too. And I’ve had plenty of fun times with them over the years! They can party just as hard as their big brother can. They were the evil geniuses behind this party for their parents. We were all buzzing with excitement, waiting at the hall for Glenn and Gloria to show up. And the blissfully wedded couple were completely surprised. They had no idea, no suspicion whatsoever that anything fishy was afoot. It was such an amazing thing that the Hoben kids did for their parents. Surprise!

There was a lot of love and happiness in the air for Glenn and Gloria’s anniversary. So many people came to share in their joy. All the memories of the fun times we had on that deck were coming to the surface each time D and I were introduced to another party-goer. “This is Smash and D, and they met on our deck almost seven years ago! And they’re still together,” Gloria proudly exclaimed with each introduction. We felt important, and we felt cherished. Our story was another legend of the Hoben deck.

Everyone partied and everyone had fun. When it was time for the bar to close down, there was this collective feeling amongst us all. A feeling that the party wasn’t over yet. It couldn’t be.

All the cheap drinks we’d imbibed had stirred up a longing for those simple summer nights. Nights spent on the deck, drinking and laughing. The weather was absurdly mild for a day in January. So why not? Why couldn’t we have a decker for old time’s sake? Glenn gave the official nod of approval. To the Hoben deck! And off we went in our respective cabs, racing back to the Hoben deck to keep the party rolling.

I set foot on the deck and was immediately transported back in time. I was 19 again. Working some shitty summer job that paid peanuts. Hanging out with my friends, just goofing around. My only care in the world if my beers were cold enough yet. Pure happiness.

Just enjoying the January decker with Ally and Shan

Just enjoying the January decker with Ally and Shan, January ’13

This decker will become the stuff of legends in time too. Remember guys? That time, after Glenn and Gloria’s anniversary party, we had a decker in January? Yeah, those were the days.

While sitting next to Gloria, I asked her if there was any secret to their marital bliss. She told me, “He makes me laugh every single day.”

Congratulations Glenn and Gloria! You’re an amazing couple and I will consider myself very lucky if D and I end up as happy as you two are in so many years.

Glenn and Gloria dancing to their wedding tune

Glenn and Gloria dancing to their wedding tune, January ’13.

This post is dedicated to another great couple, my Aunt Carrie and Uncle Tom. They graciously let us crash at their place on Saturday night, so we could go full blast at the party. They’re totally awesome party animals, and we always have a lot of fun when we’re hanging out with them. I have an amazingly terrible photo of them from when they first started dating posted on my fridge. I could post it here, but I’ll spare them the embarrassment. That photo hangs on my fridge to remind me to be awesome 24/7. And that the style in the 90’s really isn’t as chic as I remember it to be…