Ice Ice Baby!

Each week on Wednesday night, I visit my mom in the city where she lives in a beautiful seniors’ facility. I call it Wednesdays with Memere.

Sometimes we stay in and after we share supper, she beats me at crib more often than not. Happily I don’t get skunked as much as I used to but often enough to keep me humble.

Sometimes we go to Chapters where she happily stocks up on all the paperbacks of her favourite authors that she can pile on her walker. Interestingly, while she tends to walk fairly slowly most of the time, she darn near flies through that store!  Like shopping with small children, it’s easy to lose sight of her as she whips from section to section, in search of reading material. Afterwards, we enjoy coffee at Starbucks while she rests and regains her strength and I catch my breath from chasing her. J

Sometimes, though, we go to the casino at West Edmonton Mall. One thing you should know about my mom is that she LOVES to gamble, be it bingo, lottery tickets or casinos.  And if you thought she could move fast at the book store, well, you haven’t seen anything until you see her maneuver through the slot machine aisles, in search of her faves.

She also talks to the machines. Mind you, most of the people there seem to think that the machines can hear them.  Maybe it’s just me, a casino newbie, who finds that a bit strange.  When we first started playing the slots together a few months ago, I must admit it was pretty Greek to me. She seemed to know how to play all the games, what won and what didn’t, instantly. I had a hard time concentrating with all the noise from the slot machines around us, including our own. Each time we go, I feel a little less awkward and more willing to try a new machine. What I am not willing to do is lose money but Mom uses her winnings as seed money for both of us (and my sister when she is in town) so I can happily play and lose my mother’s money instead of my own. (Don't worry - it's set aside as 'extra' - we're not using her lunch money or anything like that. LOL)

Mom is attracted to games like Zeus, Hot Shots and Mega and often has amazing luck.  I could take them or leave them until I found the machine that simply couldn’t be resisted…the Penguins.  They slip and they slide while giving you bonuses and when you win, the machine blares with the catchy melody and deep lyrics of Ice Ice Baby - a fun song made famous by Vanilla Ice and immortalized forever in this slot machine - and the penguins squeal 'wheeeeee...".

Clutching our twenties in our hands, we case the joint, waiting for a penguin player to tire and move to other slot machine delights. We clap our hands and hoot when we do well and pout and grumble when we don't. I find myself shrieking ‘yes!’ when the penguins leap off the cliff into the icy water (I presume it’s icy water, they are penguins after all) and doing my happy dance as the points rack up. While I still don’t like to gamble, my mom’s happy face to have company while indulging in her beloved pastime joined with the lyrics to Ice Ice Baby running through my head (which happen to be ‘ice ice baby’….go figure!) make it all worthwhile.

When we’ve had enough, we cash in our slips and the money goes back in Mom’s purse for the next time. We head home, happy and content. As I drop her off, I wave goodbye and consider it another  Wednesday evening well spent.  Ice Ice Baby! Wheeeeee.....

These lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer

Remember when we were kids and summers seemed to last forever? Hot, lazy days spent at the lake, camping, swimming, walking and fishing. Cool rainy days also spent at the lake, playing board games or penny poker, making tie-die t-shirts and other artsy projects with the Cold Lake art kids. The days were long as if time stood still for us to savour each and every sunshine or raindrop filled second.

As the years have gone by, it’s as if the hands of time are spinning faster and faster. Days seem shorter, nights even more so and weekends seem merely a blur. Even with spending our Saturdays in search of the best lemon pie in the area and consciously trying to live in the moment, time is still getting the better of us.

Our lazy, hazy, crazy days of summers past have been replaced by muggy, buggy  - and did I mention buggy? – days of summer present. Our wonderful hot days this year have been accompanied by small daytime biting mosquitoes that have put pause in our step and caused a small cramp in our usual summer stride. But fear not, we are Albertans and made of heartier stock than that! We do not go out with a whimper but instead don our protective cloak of bug repellent then tiptoe carefully outside and hope the bugs don’t hear us coming!

It’s already the middle of July and fall clothes are making their way into local shops.  We need to make our summer sing and sparkle and shimmer so that when we think back to it in the dead of winter (and we will!), it will be rife with memories of hot and lazy days. Bugs be darned, we've got to make the most of every single moment, every single drop of sunshine, every single drop of rain. Breathe deeply, live slowly, savour completely. Maybe that way, time will slow down a bit and let us catch up.

Just don’t forget the bug spray!

The End of an Era - Saying Goodbye to Harry

This week, the final movie in the Harry Potter series opens, culminating in the good versus evil showdown between Harry and Lord Voldemort and bringing to an end ten years of waiting with great anticipation for the next book to be made into a movie.

I purchased the Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone book in either late 1998 or early 1999 after reading reviews about this magical book that enraptured the imagination. After voraciously devouring every page myself, I actually held off sharing it with our two children, wondering if they were too young for it. After a few months, I decided to take a chance and see how they would like it. I started reading it to our seven year old son as a bedtime story and his older sister soon joined in. The magic of those wondrous words spilled off the pages and into their wonderful imaginations, conjuring visions of Harry, Hermione and Ron and making them an integral part of our lives. As the books are long, they took many an evening to read, discuss and enjoy. The Chamber of Secrets followed and by the time we got to the Prisoner of Azkaban, the kids were reading the books themselves, each with their own copies.  As each new book was published, our collection grew by two until the final book graced our shelves.

The movies, starting in 2000 became a family ritual. Each was anticipated longingly, tickets purchased for the first movie on opening day (even if it was school day!) and the movie dissected, compared to the book and a proclamation made of thumbs up or thumbs down.  When the movies came to DVD, they were watched repeatedly as a family and whenever any of us felt the need for a little Hogwarts magic in our lives.

Eleven years, later, the children are all grown up – both mine and those in the series. This weekend, my husband and I will attend The Deathly Hallows Part 2 together, sans children. We won’t go on opening day but on the closest day we can manage to that.

It is with mixed emotions that I will watch this final Harry Potter movie.  I am happy to see the resolution of the series and Harry’s triumph over Lord Voldemort but I am sad to mark the end of the era of shared family memories, words lovingly read and absorbed, the magic of good storytelling binding us together in a common vision.

Our daughter moved to Newfoundland a few weeks ago, leaving behind her set of Harry Potter books. I carefully gathered them, with fraying covers and well thumbed pages and placed them on the shelf in my home office. While she may be done with childhood things, I am not yet willing to part with these well-loved mementos of time well spent.

Thank you, Harry, for the magical memories you have given our family. The tears I shed this weekend are not only for your triumph but for the part of our life that will also be over when the movie’s credits roll.  Bittersweet memories, indeed.

O Canada, O Perfect Day

Today was one of those rare and beautiful perfect days.  Not just because of the weather although the sun was shining, the sky was Alberta blue and the breeze light enough to still be a breeze but strong enough to keep the bugs away but also because for a few scant moments, the world was in harmony.

Visited the St Albert Farmer’s Market and it was amazing. Crowds of happy people just like us, out and about enjoying the day and what it had to offer. Delicious smells, wonderful street music and lots of wares to sample and buy. Came away with peppers, green onions, Thai pesto, fresh bread and a freshly baked pie. Oh and icy cold freshly squeezed lemonade to quench our thirst.

Hiked for 10K along the Sturgeon River, enjoying the songs of the birds mixed in with the sounds of summer. Everyone was pleasant, happy to be out in the fresh air, lapping up the sunshine and warmth. Leaves rustled as the wind wove in and out of the branches, lush greenery telling the story of our rainy spring that has blossomed into enchanting summer.

All in all, a perfect day. Thank you, Canada and Alberta. Proud to be Canadian and proud to call Alberta home.