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Last week, a terrible wind and rain storm blew into town. Devastation everywhere.This coming week, Gill blows into town. I’m hoping for something less volatile, but you never know. My preparations (some similar to tornado readiness) have begun. You know — stocking up on food, water, liquor. Some items on the ‘disaster list’ are more specific to Gill.

But, oh, it will be so good to see her in person and enjoy three weeks of her company. Three weeks of lovely morning chats over coffee, three weeks of discussing the newspaper headlines, three weeks of doing fun things together. I can hardly wait…

Wait a minute. This is Gill I’m talking about. I must have mistaken her for someone else — someone who’s cheery first thing in the morning, someone who’s a constant ray of sunshine, someone who never complains and is not inclined to the bitchy side of life.

MY Gill won’t mutter a word (unless it’s a snarl) until after her first cup of coffee and any and all attempts at having meaningful dialogue with her before 10 a.m. (even when she’s standing in front of me) are met with a stare so bone-chilling it could curdle the milk on your cereal.

But a mother is always ready. And since it’s summer, tornado season, I’m halfway there. I thought to myself, if it’s good enough for a tornado, it’s good enough for Gill.

The shelves of the local supermarket have been denuded of its Italian coffee supply. Said supply now awaits Gill’s arrival on the shelves of the garage. Large boxes of no-name Cheerios stand at the ready…as does a month’s stock of soy milk (non vanilla flavoured). This Thursday I will hie myself to the local farmer’s market to procure five pounds of her favourite Mennonite sausage and some fresh hamburger meat. It must come from the vendor on the north side of the building, middle stall on the left hand side, the ones with the sign declaring their products to be drug free. If I lose my way, it’s right beside the middle Eastern food booth. Right before the fresh donut place where, if I’m smart, I will stop to procure several delightful, deep-fried goodies to throw Gill’s way (food to calm the beast, as it were).

The blackout curtain for Gill’s room must be found so she can have a good sleep the first night…trust me, EVERYONE wants Gill well rested. Alert, we don’t care so much. Rested, we do.

I have warned the lifeguards at the pool of her arrival. Both Gill and I have spent so much time at the pool the past few years that these kids are like family. It has been with their help that I have been able to conduct a recon mission on the pool this year to determine the Best Possible Swim Time for Gill. Early morning is good (except for The Splasher who swims next to me). But since Gill does a PROPER crawl (unlike myself attempting my flail/breast/side stroke manoeuver), The Splasher’s antics won’t disturb her. The next best time is 1 p.m. This is immediately after lessons end and the kids are water-logged and will remain so for an hour …or until their mothers kick them out of the house, saying:”Go to the pool! The lifeguards want you there. I need some peace and quiet. Don’t come home ’til six!”…Which brings us to the optimal time for swimming. Everyone returns to their homes for the delicious homemade meals (Domino’s pizza or KFC tidbits) their moms have prepared. This is the Prime Opportunity Target. It lasts for approximately 30 minutes until the young families come for a dip and splash. It is with this itemized schedule that I have managed to avoid, for the better part of many summers, the phenomenon of the CROWDED POOL. In fact, I often have the huge pool all to myself. Gill will appreciate my diligence in ferreting out the details.

I have become so renowned for my accuracy in gauging the number of pool inhabitants that the guards joke about it. And they know that, five minutes before the pool officially opens for business, the flip flop of sandals they hear around the corner of the office will be me. But I threw them for a bit of a loop last night when I appeared, on the dot of 6, for a swim in what amounts to my private pool. One of the guards noted, “Perfect timing, Laurie! You’re the only one.” I heard a bit of chatter from the office and a minute later, one of the guards popped out and commented, “We think you have a private security camera hooked up from your deck so you know the PRECISE moment the pool is empty. Care to confirm?” I laughed…I’m not telling. But I know Gill will appreciate my efforts.

So I’m almost ready for her arrival. Her schlumpy robe is cleaned, hanging on the back of her door. Important newspaper clippings and other documents needing to be dealt with (she will look at them and, especially if they involve any government agencies, hand them back to me, muttering “Deal with this, huh, Ma? Please…”) Homemade peach pies are in the planning stages. Piles of notepaper are in place on the kitchen table, ready for our non-verbal morning communications (i.e.: What do you want for dinner…full-on banquet or something charred to cinders on the barbecue? I have things planned for today…let’s discuss. Or why are you making that surly face? Can you, not even once, wake up with a cheerful face? So nice to have you home.)

To which I can almost hear her reply: “Right back at you, Ma!”

And yet, oddly, I can’t wait for Gill’s arrival.