the other end of the pen

Behind the stories in The Fraser Canyon Express

Old Favourites

I thought you might like to read some of my short stories Here’s one of my favourites.

Mom Had It All Figured Out

My Mom was a genius. Not in the quantum physics kind of way, but in the how-to-live-a-quality-life kind of way, and to heck with what the neighbours thought.   Keep this in mind though- we lived in a big farm house in
Ontario in the 1970’s with our nearest neighbour at least a mile away.        When I was little, around 4 or 5,  I remember one warm summer day when it began to rain. My mom grabbed me, stripped off my little jumper, got buck naked herself and grabbed a bar of Ivory on our way out the door.  We had a glorious bubbly shower outside in the warm rain, and rinsed our hair in the barrel that caught the runoff from the eavestrough.  It’s my favourite childhood memory.   My Mom knew a few things that other moms didn’t.  Like how to make home made soap, how to cure an earache with a slip of fried onion, and how to go to the auction barns and bid on two dozen roosters, so that she got them for about 50cents each.  She penned them up in the dirt floored cellar for a few days so that the younger kids could play with them and we older kids could flip through recipe books to plan our attack.   Then on a memorable Saturday afternoon, she brought them out to the yard where we kids held their legs as she chopped off their heads, we  laughed and laughed as they ran around the yard squawking and flapping.  I was a farm kid, we didn’t have TV in those days so this was highly entertaining for us.  The one thing that really sticks out in my mind about that time is that mom had also won a bid on 80 pounds of celery, she got it for $2 or something.  For the next two months we ate rooster and celery soup, rooster sandwiches, celery salad, she even invented some kind of pate made from ground rooster and celery that we used as a sandwich spread for school lunches.  I seem to recall it tasting somewhat like today’s Spam.  I found out later that mom had spent our entire grocery budget on roosters and celery, hence our interesting diet.  It made for an incredible childhood memory and I like to think that she had that in mind the whole time.          Mom didn’t have many friends- she didn’t have much time for them.  But the ones she had were unforgettable. She had one friend that I will always remember, her name was Tracy and she starred in a TV show called “The Trouble with Tracy”.   Mom and Tracy would get together over coffee and cards and we kids would wander the streets of Tracy’s neighbourhood, a small town like one would only see in movies.
Tracy’s swanky apartment was over top of an ice cream parlour and the candy store was two doors down.  The “five-to-a-dollar” was just across the street and the beach, complete with a huge playground was a block away.  I am sure mom had scoped out
Tracy’s digs before she made friends, it was just too perfect.  Another friend was Ken, a long haired Tommy Chong look-alike who would speak about life and living in such glorious prose that we would sit with mouths agape. Mom let him decorate our plain white living room walls with incredible colourful murals done entirely in felt markers.  Ken later wrote a bestselling book, about life and living. His photo inside the cover shows an average 50ish businessman, but I still see Chong in his eyes.        My Mom was not what one would call a tidy housekeeper.  She had six kids for crying out loud, and never had two extra pennies to rub together.  I rarely had untorn clothes, and I can only recall having baths once every blue moon, or when we would go to my Grandmas who would immediately put us “stinkin’ little beggars” in the tub.   But boy oh boy did we have a childhood!    Her favourite author was
Erma Bombeck, and in fact, more than once I saw her pile all her dirty dishes into the oven when unexpected guests knocked on the door.      Mom had some pretty amazing catch phrases, “either pick something up or go outside and blow the stink off you” she would tell us if we were lounging around while she was trying to clean house.  We discovered early on that if she was busy doing stuff she didn’t like, we’d all get roped in.  As soon as she picked up the broom we scattered like leaves in the wind.   “I’m not heating Hells half acre” she’d bellow when we left the door open during our escape.        Surrounded by heaps of half finished ironing, Mom would be down on the floor with us showing us how to shoot marbles, or helping us assemble intricate HotWheels tracks that had cars weaving in and out of the table legs, across the dining room table, under the couch, out of the room and over a cereal box ramp to end with a final leap into the kitchen sink.  She would help us construct incredible Lego palaces that would stand for months at a time smack dab in the middle of the living room.   If she caught wind that one of our neighbours had bought a new fridge or washer/dryer, she would go over and haul back the huge box for us to make a fort. She would help us cut a door and windows and tape on pretty curtains. Then, she would make up a tray of crackers and peanut butter and crawl into our cardboard fort to share it with us.   If we didn’t have a box, she would allow us to gather the blankets off our beds and drape them over the kitchen furniture to create cozy houses underneath.  And all the while, the vacuuming would wait, the dishes would wait, and dinner would burn. But we didn’t care.   We were enjoying being kids and in the process, learning how to be parents.     When my younger brother Jay came to visit last year, I was just taking peanut butter cookies out of the oven.  They were burnt of course, because I had gotten sidetracked teaching my youngest, Danielle, how to do the jive.   I told him I would make another batch, but he just chomped them with a sigh. “Oh yeah,” he smiled, “just like Mom used to make.”    

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1 Comment»

  crystalk wrote @

Here’s some interesting follow up info on The Trouble with Tracy
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Trouble with Tracy was a Canadian television series produced by CTV for the 1970–1971 television season. It is widely considered to be one of the worst situation comedies ever produced.

The show was produced as a daily show, and aired weekday afternoons at 3:30 pm from 14 September 1970[1]. The economic and time pressures of producing 130 episodes in a single season (seven shows were filmed every five days) meant cheap, wobbly sets, no outdoor filming, a laugh track instead of a live studio audience, the use of single takes, the reuse of 25-year-old radio scripts, and other shortcuts that ensured a poor-quality product. Even flubbed lines and bloopers sometimes ended up airing, because the show couldn’t afford retakes.

Shot in Toronto at the studios of CFTO, the show was set in New York City and featured a newlywed couple. Tracy Young (played by Diane Nyland in a miniskirt) was the dishy wife to Doug Young (played by Steve Weston), a young advertising executive and exasperated husband. Other regular characters were Doug’s hippie brother-in-law Paul, who was constantly asking Doug for money, and Tracy’s nagging mother, Mrs. Sherwood.

The show was based on scripts written by Goodman Ace for the 1930 to 1945 American radio comedy Easy Aces, though the story was updated by making Tracy’s brother a hippie and the addition of other topical references.

The show aired Monday to Friday, with 130 episodes produced for its original run. These episodes were repeated in the afternoon time slot until late into the 1970s.

[edit] Ongoing influence in Canadian popular culture
Even into the mid-1980s, the show continued to appear on some Canadian television stations through syndication.

Barenaked Ladies frequently played a song called “The Trouble With Tracy” live in concert in the early 1990s. However, the song is not related to the show. A live recording is included as a B-side on the band’s 1993 CD single “Brian Wilson”; the song also appears on their rare early releases Buck Naked and Barenaked Lunch. The song was based on a poem by Steven Page called “The Trouble With Robon,” which can be found here:[1].

In March 2003, the Comedy Network, a Canadian specialty channel owned by CTV, announced that it would air a pilot for new version of The Trouble with Tracy, based on the original scripts, on April 1 of that year. If successful, this pilot would lead to a 13-episode series starring comedian Laurie Elliott as Tracy. Elliott and Nyland both participated in a press conference to promote the new production. This was, in fact, an April Fool’s joke and no pilot was ever filmed or aired; however, some media, including the Toronto Star and CTV’s own Canada AM, did fall for the prank.


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