It all began when Gill and I decided to make a trip into the country.She offered to drive, again ‘to practice my driving so I don’t get rusty’. (What actually happened was that she grabbed the keys and announced she’d drive –perhaps a foreshadowing of the time I’ll be too old and crippled to drive and the kids will take away my car keys for good.)
In the car, she asked, “Which way, Ma?” To which I groaned.
“After 30 years of going to the country property, don’t you know how to get there yet?”
“Well, no, because I never drive there myself. I’m only a passenger.”
“For someone who thinks of herself as a careful observer of things and people, you don’t notice much, do you?”
“Well, I know the general route…it’s just that some of the details are a bit fuzzy.”
“Really? Which details in particular?”
“For starters, how do we begin? Do we turn left or right out of the driveway?”
“Seriously?” I pointed left.
When we got to the first traffic light, she asked:”Do I go straight through or turn left?”
“Straight. Then turn at King St. and then right to Northfield.”
“Ma, you know by now I don’t do street names. Is that the one where the convenience store is that sells the wonderful Indian samosas that our neighbor brings us every Christmas ? The store for which she won’t disclose its location? ”
“The what, now?”
“You know, just past the big mall and the spot where The Pig threw up a couple of winters ago and we had to stop and throw her blanket into the ditch?”
“OMG! How are you even allowed to drive with those screwy directions? I’m surprised your license hasn’t been revoked because you have no clue where you’re going. Our dogs know this city better than you!”
We drove for a bit until we passed those places and suddenly, Gill yelled,”Look, Ma! There’s the Bent And Busted! (That’s what she calls it — it’s a barn selling salvaged wood, doors and hardware from demolished old buildings.) I love that place. Maybe, if we have time, we can stop there on the way back for a look-see?”
I almost expected her to veer in on the spot but she resisted. “Why? Are you looking for an old door to take back on the plane to the U.K.? No, don’t answer that. But sure, I guess we can do that. We might even stop in for a bite of lunch. Did I tell you they’ve changed the old chicken coop that was on the property into a nice restaurant? They call it, appropriately enough, The Henhouse.”
“Hen house? They have a hen house? I love hen houses…and chickens!”
“I know you do. And no, I am NOT putting up a chicken coop in our yard. You have to quit asking me that. I have enough trouble controlling the flock of mallard ducks, the birds, squirrels, chipmunks and now the groundhog. Soon I’m going to have to register myself as an animal hoarder…or zoo keeper.”
We drove until we came to Elora and then Fergus. She DID remember that the Tim Horton’s in Fergus was our usual pit stop for a coffee and Timbits. As we sat eating them, we thought of the many times Poochie, Elvis the coonhound and The Pig (L’il Sis’s beagle) had been with us and helped us demolish the timbits.
As we got close to the turnoff for the property, I told Gill, “Turn right at the red farm house.”
“What red house? I don’t remember any red farm house!”
“Well, I would have told you the road number, but I was trying to play your game! How can you not remember that farmhouse?”
“Nice try, Ma. Points for that. But it only works if I’M the one deciding on the relevant ‘markers’. Random landmarks picked by other people are almost as bad as street signs…don’t remember them.”
We enjoyed some time in the country and then drove back, stopping, as promised, at The Bent And Busted.
Exiting the car, we seemed to be in the middle of an old, abandoned auto repair yard and garbage dump. There were bits and pieces of farm equipment, stone posts, rusty gates, rocks. Gill was enthralled. “Oh, Ma! This reminds me of the basement…and our garage. I feel so at home here.”
She was excited to wander around…and then she saw it: the old Ali Baba steak house neon sign. It was a fixture in our city for decades, the letters announcing one of the premier eateries in town. And it was for sale for a paltry $6400! I knew what Gill was thinking before she squealed.
“Ma! Look…the old Ali Baba sign! I must have it.”
“But, but…oh, I know I can’t but it’s so great! I’m putting this up on FB to see what will happen.
Sure enough, the photo brought many nostalgic comments from old high school friends. Everyone wanted to have it.
We wandered slowly around the inside of the barn, the smell of fresh wood in the air. It was wonderful. As Canadians, it is practically in our genes to love the smell of wood. Then I played ‘touchy feely’ with all the gorgeous tables the carpenters had made from hunks of old trees. Now it was time for Gill to calm me down:”Ma, I know these tables are lovely and I understand that you want them all, but if I can’t have the neon sign, you can’t have the tables.”
“Okay, but a girl can dream…”
And so another of our expeditions ended with us both trying to figure out how we could justify the money needed for the sign and the tables — not to mention the space to put them in.
Gill has always threatened to scatter dozens of plastic pink flamingoes on our lawn to surprise me for my birthday so I half expect her (with the help of her friends) to buy the neon sign and put it on the lawn instead. Now THAT would be a coup!