Getting to the Vet on Time – Is It Possible? Recycled Sundays.

It’s bad enough when my mailbox is stuffed with bills, requests for donations, and rejection letters, but I really hate it when my cats get more personal mail than I do.

Their veterinarian sends them postcards. At least, they don’t picture domestic cats lazing in the sunshine on southern beaches wearing sunglasses and sipping kittenaid. The postcards picture a cat with his dentures in a glass and a dog with an ice pack on his toothache. It reminds them to brush regularly (in our house that is as often as they crown a new monarch in London) and make an appointment to have their teeth cleaned. I guess I can do without those kinds of postcards. Then again, so can my cats since they can’t see two-dimensional pictures anyway.

Vet day in our house resembles a chase scene from the old Keystone Cops movies. Everyone tears around the place, upsetting things, making spectacular collisions, and accomplishing very little. Because of our three cats – Virgil, Patch and Misty – we must go through this three times a year. We learned the only way to catch Virgil is to offer him food. That cat would put his head under a guillotine for kitty snack.

However, Patch has to be cornered. Everyone must act nonchalant. The cat traveling case should be hidden out of sight. Whoever is chosen to catch the animal must behave as though he is only slightly interested in the cat, just pausing for a quick petting. The more interest is shown, the better Patch hides. Once he is apprehended, he pays us back by dropping hair the way a lizard drops his tale or an octopus shoots ink. I suspect he thinks if he sheds enough hair in one spot, we will be fooled and take that to the vet instead. Too many trips in a row and he’ll be needing treatment for baldness.

Misty is almost impossible to catch. Highly suspicious by nature, we must be doubly sly to fool her. She is not drawn to kitty snacks and could live very well without humans, thank you, as long as she had clean litter.  SHE decides when and where she will be petted and by whom. Catching her requires an ambush which must succeed on the first try or the next 20 minutes will involve slamming doors, moving furniture, Olympic leaping, and bandages – for the human, not the cat. Once captured, stuffing her into the travel case is like trying to put bubbles back into soda pop.

I grew tired of all this nonsense, so when Virgil had an appointment, I caught him 15 minutes early and ignored his yowls of protest from the carrying case. Unfortunately, I had promised my children they could come and, of course, their school bus was late that day. They were met with a barrage of commands. “Respond immediately and cooperate completely or you’ll be left behind.” They unloaded their school stuff and then piled into the back seat. I put Virgil in his cage on the front passenger seat. The clock was ticking. Everyone had their assigned roles. This would be a test of our teamwork.

When I parked the car in front of the veterinarian’s, my son jumped up on the sidewalk and dropped the quarter into the meter as ordered. My daughter locked and slammed the sliding passenger door and then stood back. I jumped out and raced around to get the cat from the front passenger seat. Precise drill corp! We were amazing!

 

 

Then, I realized the passenger door was locked. My purse was on the floor with the keys in it. WE had made it on time, but not the cat. He was inside his cat cage, locked inside the car beyond my grasp. Fortunately, our vet still used wire hangers.

First published in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-News, Sunday, January 24, 1993

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

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How to Provide Outside Entertainment for Indoor Cats – Recycled Sundays

When we brought our first two cats home from the pound, we were committed to keeping them indoors. I had vivid memories of the black tomcat named Fluffy from my childhood. He would disappear for days and then return looking like he’d escaped the dungeons of the Marquis de Sade. He was slashed, bruised, lost half an ear, blinded in one eye, and often infected. When he meowed on the doorstep, I hesitated, not knowing what grotesque sight would await me.

Fluffy

In addition, he was often ill from something he’d eaten – birds, rats, frogs, or garbage. He’d hack and gasp until finally discharging it under our kitchen table whereupon shrieks of, “I’m not cleaning that up.” would begin.

(I subsequently learned that outdoor cats pickup fleas, parasites and disease as well. I was not going to clean that up from my own cats either.)

One day, I realized it had been weeks since we had seen old Fluffy. We learned he’d been struck by a car and left in a ditch. When our three cats bite the dust, my husband wants the reassurance of verifying it. I’m not sure if this is sentiment or revenge.

When Fluffy was small enough for me to pick up – 1956 (age 3, me not the cat)

Indoor cats share, with outdoor cats, the peculiar instinct to eat whatever strikes their fancy. Our three have ingested elastics, Construx rings, rubber washers, and Barbie doll shoes. Patch chews any pen that has been previously chewed by my husband. Virgil eats anything that once contained food including takeout plastic ketchup packages.

Still, we try to limit what goes into their stomachs and provide them with a healthy lifestyle. We’ve given them opportunity to get outside without risk.

The first year, we tried a harness and leash in the back yard. While Patch was content to watch the butterflies, Misty worked herself into a fevered hysteria. Whenever a crow passed overhead, she raced in the opposite direction, choking herself on the leash and then scrambling and clawing free. I wondered if she viewed Hitchcock’s The Birds before we got her. Shouldn’t the birds be afraid of her?

We decided to try a cat pen. Since this might be worse than the harness and leash, we haphazardly slapped scrap lumber together and wrapped it in chicken wire. The neighbour’s children came to watch. Then the neighbours. The pen turned out larger than we intended causing someone to question whether we’d recently rescued a panther from the pound and failed to tell them. Afterwards, everyone dragged over their lawn chairs and we watched the cats try it out. I guess there’s not a lot of excitement on our street.

We doubted the wretched pen would make it through the winter. This summer, it was four years old. We decided to replace it and do it up right. We planned and measured. We used better lumber. This pen was going to last until the last cat died of old age. We made it a little smaller so I added entertainment. There is a long platform for stretching out in the sun, a cozy corner seat for privacy, a trellis for climbing, a swing for batting or daredevil tricks, a suspension bridge for working out Marine style, and the double thick scratching post. I’m still searching for a plastic tunnel for hiding and crawling.

My son wanted to know why we never built him such a neat playground. Afterwards, we watched the cats try out our three days of work. The neighbours didn’t join us this time. I guess their lives must have more excitement now.

Patch put one foot on the ground, stared around, then the second, paused, then the third. He left the fourth inside the window as a safety anchor until he started to stiffen up. The cats realize there was soft dirt with the old pan used to be. Immediately, to started to dig their way out. Ungrateful wretches! Patch touched the swing and then leapt straight into the air when it moved, frightening all three back into the house for a full 10 minutes.

When they returned, they sat in a row at one end of the pen and stared through the chicken wire as though a parade was passing by. That side had been boarded over before. They’d never seen our patio area. I don’t know what they expected the picnic table to do.

The entrance to the cat pen is through a barred basement window. The cats are just small enough to fit through the bars. We let them come and go during the good weather. Occasionally, they wake us up by fighting under our bedroom window but usually the disruption is from someone else’s cat allowed to wander.

I wonder what they are hissing and yelling through the chicken wire, “Ha, Ha, I’m free to run onto the road, kill the baby birds in your birdhouse, and mess in your owners’ garden.”

To which Patch replies, “Yeah, but you ain’t got a swing,” and Misty adds, “and all the Barbie shoes you could ever eat.”

First published in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-News, Sunday, July 25, 1993

Canadian Obvious – Recycled Sundays

A regular feature heard over a local radio channel is a quickie magazine excerpt type show called Canadian Living. Occasionally,  the host has interesting information or valuable tips to pass on. But more often than not I feel the show should be called Canadian Boring.

I wonder if the hostess doesn’t just take notes while she’s shopping, compiling the sales person’s comments until she has a three minute spot. She’ll talk about walking, cleaning your teeth, drinking water, anything. Although her information can be helpful, such as new research on sunscreen, she is an expert on the obvious. I’ve decided to save her a little trouble. I’ve lined up a few topics along her general style.

Screwdrivers – how do you decide which screwdriver to use on which screw. Plastic or wood, which kind of handle gives the best grip? Right to tight, left to lose, but how do we get the darn thing started?

Parking – Should your automobile face into the garage or out of the garage? The dangers of shutting the automatic garage door before shutting off the automobile engine. What exactly does that big black spot on the garage floor mean?

Salad dressing – Should the bottle be shaken up before it is put on the table or before it is poured? Should the dressing be shaken horizontally or vertically, or should it be swirled?

Atishoo – Tissues versus handkerchiefs. Balancing the environmental impact, germ control, convenience, expense, and the yukkies.

Boiling water – kettle or pot? Copper or cast-iron? And where does the micro-wave fit in?

Breathing – How deep? How often? Expanding the tummy versus the chest. The great tragedy of mouth breathers.

Just to get her off on the right track, I’ll do a sample show:

This is Canadian Boring with Very Monotonous. Today’s show: 87% of Canadians are reading impaired. I’ll explain right after this.

Insert a commercial for tires that will keep the audience’s attention better than the main feature.

Recent studies have shown that 87% of Canadian adults do not know how to read a book properly. In one study, researchers (who are too unimportant to recognize here) found that 12% read the last page of a novel before reading the complete text. In another study, researchers (whose names escape me at the moment) learned that 32% turn the pages from the bottom thereby risking leaf injury. The same researchers also learned at 36% read with improper lighting.

The man at the  bus depot also informed me that a huge percent use proper bookmarks, from chewing gum wrappers to nose rings. And a shocking 22% never finish the book! That’s good news for writers to write better beginnings than endings. Other benefits include less wear and tear on books and used bookstores and more books being started. I’ll be back after this to tell you about tomorrow’s show.

Insert commercial for radio station contest in a feeble attempt to offset any decline an interest caused by Canadian Boring show.

Before you roll over in bed and adjust the blankets, some issues to consider tomorrow. For Canadian Boring, I’m Very Monotonous.

In the midst of an information explosion where the public is inundated with more scientific fact, world news, and environmental controversy and they could possibly handle, perhaps there is a place for Canadian Boring. I suppose it doesn’t hurt to spend a few minutes a day listening to advice we can handle. It’s harmless to actually feel competent on occasion. Here’s one more Canadian Boring tip. It takes fewer muscles to smile than frown. Catch you next week.

Chronicle-Journal/Times-News Regional Newspapers

April 25, 1993

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Homework – Recycled Sundays

As soon as the soft spring air is filled with sounds of robins seeking mates and feet seeking soccer balls, my children will begin counting the days until summer vacation. The older they get, the more I join in their relief when school is out. No more homework.

It isn’t that there’s too much homework or that it’s too difficult. Homework is just one more source of conflict. We have the typical arguments. “How can you be doing your homework with Brian Adams belting out his tunes three inches from your ear?” I’ll ask.

My daughter responds exactly the same way I did to my parents. “It’s just background music. It helps me concentrate.”

This spring I acquired new ammunition. Two different students did science fair projects on the effects of music on learning. Rock ‘n’ roll is not beneficial. Classics are. So, we’ve worked out a compromise. When the homework requires problem-solving or creating, my daughter listens to Vivaldi. When she’s colouring a map or drawing a graph, it’s Sting.

The second conflict is over where to do homework. I bought her a used school desk. It became too crowded. I gave her my desk. Now it’s equally crowded. I have yet to understand where most of the stuff on her desk came from, what it actually is, and how feathers and bubblegum jokes could possibly relate to homework.

So she works on the kitchen table unless it’s too crowded. Then it could be the couch, the coffee table, or her bed. Oddly, when home work is forgotten on the table it survives spilled milk and slopped lasagna. My bills though, adhere to old pizza sauce. I know if I put a desk in every room she’d still be doing homework on the floor and I still couldn’t find a clean clear space to write a check.

This year my son started having homework. He told me he was doing a research project.

“What on?” I asked.

“The world.”

“Mapping the world?”

“No. Just the world,” said my son.

“But what about it? Languages? Countries? Development? History? Animal distribution? Climates? Natural resources? What?”

“Yeah, that.”

“Honey, that’s impossible. You know the library books called The World Encyclopedia? That’s a project on the world. Narrow it down.”

The next day he said, “Mom I narrowed it down. I’m doing a project on North America.”

“But what about it? Languages? Countries? Development? History? Animal distribution? Climates? Natural resources? What?”

“Canada, United States and Mexico.”

“Honey, that’s still too much.”

Then he pulls out the discussion stopper. “The teacher said I could.” I had as much chance of changing his mind as of climbing the tallest mountain in Canada.

He handed in a project in North America. The teacher liked his information, maps and postage stamps, but she said the topic was too general. No kidding.

I especially enjoy the, “I don’t know” homework. My daughter told me one Wednesday that she was unable to find much information on food in Thunder Bay. She and her group had to present it Friday. This was Wednesday. I wanted to know if she meant food now, in the early 1900s, or at Historical Fort William.

“I don’t know.”

Was she researching a particular ethnic group?

“I don’t know.”

“When did you get this assignment?” I asked.

“I don’t know.”

I demanded a guess. “Last week, I think.”

“Last week,” I hissed. “Why didn’t you say something earlier?”

“I don’t know.”

I wrote a groveling letter to the teacher asking for the weekend to bring my daughter to the library. The teacher informed me that the students already had two weeks to do the assignment. My daughter never mentioned that she was having trouble.

I confronted my daughter. “Why did you let this go so long?”

“I don’t know.”

Geography homework is a challenge. Not only does Africa change names and borders with every new leader, but now the former USSR is mutating daily. For her homework, the names need to be translated into French as well. Do you see why I want to pack my bags and head to Timbuktu when my daughter asks what’s the capital of Uganda in French? All I can say is “I don’t know,” turn on my Rolling Stones music and try to find a clean spot to work on my article about Asia.

Chronicle-Journal/Times-News Regional Newspaper

May 24, 1992

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Potato Peel Treasure – Recycled Sundays

I am pleased to see the city is selling compost bins. I could never understand the logic behind the disposal of compostable trash. First the consumer purchases plastic bags in which to store kitchen and yard waste. The plastic, of course, means drilling for oil, transporting the stuff, and processing it, damaging the land, air and water. Then the taxpayer-consumer pays someone to haul the trash away (in gasoline run vehicles) and dispose of it by digging (in gasoline run vehicles) up the countryside. Of course the same consumer may then drive in a gasoline run vehicle to the local Plaza to buy fertilizer and compostable manure for a garden.

I’ve been composting since we bought our first home and have finally reached the stage where the operation runs smoothly. This is not to say there haven’t been challenges along the way.

My first heap wasn’t covered and I lacked the manure for quick decomposition. I learned that, despite the most valiant effort, the deposits of neighbours’ cats and dogs wouldn’t do it. I tried bag sheep manure only to realize that it was already sterile. I complained to my husband that what we needed was someone with the grazing farm animal who would share its bounty. A coworker of my husband had a horse. When he brought home a large box for me described as “something I’ve always wanted” I had enough suspicion not to unwrap it indoors.

Also by not covering the heap, I had the most fertile weed and wild growth patch on the block. I think I know where the last pygmy lemur went.

Composters are great for disposing of leaves and grass clippings but it is best to let them dry a bit first. Too much green waste means no one will eat at the picnic table. The smell of rotting grass can even overpower the stench of burning hamburgers. Corn – the husk and the cob – are indestructible. When we moved out of our first home, the cobs I’d thrown in four years before were still fairly solid. Even the compost box we built had rotted more than the corncobs. I suspect when I’m long reduced to ashes those cobs will still be hanging tough.

If we want things to be biodegradable we should put the guys who make oven mitts in charge. Nothing disintegrates faster than an oven mitt still in use.

I store kitchen scraps, little by little, in an ice cream bucket in the freezer part of the refrigerator. Sometimes when things get hectic I may not make it out to the compost heap for a while. I’ve learned not to let the bucket overflow though. When my husband brought a new guest home for a little nip and nibble, my compost bucket had fairly exploded with banana peels and potato skins. An impeccably dressed, precisely articulate lady asked me for more ice in her drink. Her smile wavered for a second when I had to push aside a watermelon rind to get to the ice tray.

Composting requires patience. I generally have two or three bins on the go giving them time to break down naturally before using the mix rich mixture in my garden. I don’t use pesticides or insecticides but I’m probably kidding myself. When I throw in the fruit and vegetable leavings previously sprayed with chemicals, I wonder what they may be do to my soil.

The neatest thing about a compost heap is that, properly fueled, it can decompose weeds. The invaders who challenge my lettuce are rotted and turned into the soil for next year’s crop. Talk about karmic justice. Too bad I can’t put meat scraps on the pile. At any given time, I know where six dozen tent caterpillars are just begging to be composted.

Chronicle-Journal/Times-News Regional Newspaper

June 21, 1992

Back When Tracing Your Ancestry Meant Hands on Research – Recycled Sundays

My family tree was a fascinating project, though not nearly as easy as I thought it would be. (Intrusive note: This was before the Internet provided historical information and genealogical lines. Everything had to be done by snail mail.) Originally, I was apprehensive about finding skeletons hidden in our family closet. It can be both humbling and a source of pride to learn your origins. It gave new meaning to the phrase, “You’ve come a long way baby.” when I learned one great grandfather was a gelder.

My husband doesn’t seem to have inherited many of his ancestor’s characteristics. One of his great-grandfathers was a scavenger and yet I can’t convince him to wash out the milk bags for reuse. Several were blacksmiths, yet he’ll only put a carrot on the fence for a horse because it slobbers when it eats from his hand. One great grandfather was a lighthouse keeper, which may be why it was so easy to convince him that changing burned-out bulbs was his job. Then again, several were domestic servants and that skill seems to have gone by the way of the dinosaur.

Many of my ancestors were well known for the determination, strength of character, and powerful tempers. A great grandfather used his squaring axe m split the bar of a local tavern with one massive chop. I guess the beer was warm. He was well known for the quality of his work and his temper. My husband always nods when I share these discoveries and makes no comment. They were laborers of the earth, miners, farmers, and lumbermen. This may explain why I keep digging up portions of the lawn for new areas to grow weeds.

One thing that always scratched at my mind was, why did the different lines in my family come to Canada? Don’t get me wrong. I love this country. I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. But leaving a small island with hundreds of years of family history for one of the biggest wildernesses in the world seems rather drastic.

My family started arriving in 1775. No one came for Klondike gold. They would have been happy if the mice had left them a few potatoes. This does give me leverage with my son. “Eat your vegetables, dear, and be grateful you didn’t have to fight the mice for them like your great great great great uncle did. You could be reduced to eating boiled beech leaves instead.”

History offers some hints as to why they took the great risk. The Highland closures, the Napoleonic wars, and widespread famines may have encouraged them to ride overcrowded and under stocked ships. What would it take to make me leave my home for a wild, strange place where people did not speak my language? Yonge Street doesn’t count.

I would have to resign myself to be permanently lost. I still use a city map when I venture off the main roads in my own city. I’d have to build up those walking muscles, since I couldn’t carve a canoe out of a tree without power tools and probably not even with. My family would have to get used to living off lettuce, beans, and zucchini since those are the only vegetables I have any real success growing.

One thing I would do though, is leave a record of my birthplace for future generations. Genealogists know that family lines are also often lost when emigration occurs. In Canada, a country where provinces are generally larger than most European countries, a movement from west to east can even cloud the trail. I truly appreciate that back in the days of letter writing, people generally wrote the full date in the place the letter originated from. Today’s generation isn’t as meticulous. Their great-grandchildren will not thank them for.

“Oh, look,” one will say. “A letter written by great Nana so-and-so. September 5. Most of it is smudged. Written with the blue felt marker. She mentions treeplanting. Do you think that’s when she lived in the country? Or during her protest years?

More and more people send letters by computer. Unless the recipient prints them out saves them, as unlikely as Sea World setting Shamu free to live with Willy, there will be no record once the delete key is pressed.

Remember 45 records and tapes and singletrack Betamax? What if you want to access something that is recorded on these devices? You shrug, that’s what. The hardware is becoming nonexistent. What will happen when our descendents want to access all the family records now on Mac and Apple and IBM?

“I saw an actual disk drive at an antique sale,” T.J. Jones IV will say. “If only I had access to some old-fashioned electricity.

I wonder if he’ll force his children to eat their food crystals by saying, “Clean up your plate and be grateful you didn’t have to face an actual checkout line to get it like your great great great great grandmother.”

August 1, 1993

Chronical-Journal Regional Newspaper

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Little Car Trip on the Prairie – Recycled Sundays

I spent a day my children probably consider a waste of good summer weather traveling to a town on the Minnesota Prairies with a population of 650. It wasn’t an obligatory visit to relatives, the usual excuse to head into the boonies. The person I wanted to see lived there are about 100 years ago. I never met her but I feel as though I have known her all my life. Her name was Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I must admit the four hour journey past field after field of corn and potatoes was in stark contrast to the excitement of Minneapolis. But it put us in the proper frame of mind, distancing us from the noise and crush of a big-city. In Laura’s day, one would not pass countless silos. Even large barns would have been scarce. Hours of flat green, all the same shade, makes one appreciate an gnarly, dark old jackpine.

It is difficult to imagine Pa taking a horse and wagon all the way from Walnut Grove to Sleepy Eye and then to Mankato. Mile after mile of farms certainly put my family to sleep.

“I don’t want any complaints,” I warned them. “We’ve spent the last four days going to zoos and amusement parks and doing everything two kids could want. Today, I get to do something that interests me and I expect you to be patient and pleasant.”

They tried to amuse themselves. When my daughter went cross-eyed from reading and my son’s Game Boy batteries died, they asked to play the sign game. We start with A and find the letters of the alphabet. The first to Z wins. But signs were almost nonexistent. Everyone became stuck on Q. Of course, there were no Queen’s Highway signs or French translations containing the word “que” and not even any antique shops which dot the rest of Minnesota. We’d have been busier than gophers if we’d been counting Lutheran Churches.

We didn’t see a single fast food place, or restaurant, for that matter, during the whole journey. Plenty of roadkill. Minnesota small mammals must be very slow moving since the highway was single lane traffic minimal. Perhaps they throw themselves in front of vehicles out of boredom. Could it be a form of Minnesota chicken adding some excitement to prairie life? Prairie chicken?

Radio music was limited. What station you get depends on which silo you pass. Unfortunately, you’re very lucky to hear two consecutive songs before the station buzzes is one.

Needless to say, the children were bored by the time we got to Walnut Grove. While I was fascinated with the quaint community Museum dedicated to the Little House on the Prairie books; the kids were craving french fries. They were not impressed when we took them on the driving tour of “sites of Laura’s life.”

“Look,” I announced. “That’s where Ma and Pa took the children each Sunday. ”

My children stared slack-jawed and bewildered at the three-bedroom frame house and then back at me.

“The church is gone now,” I continued. “There’s a little sign on the lawn verifying this was the actual site of the first Lutheran Church. Next we are going to see the new church where there’s a Bell that Paula helped by, instead of boots. It still rings today.”

They nodded in unison assuming it was better humor me. Perhaps if they were silent, I’d finish sooner.

There was a small spark of interest when we examined the Ingalls’ homestead on the banks of Plum Creek. Would there still be leeches in the water? How about the giant toe pinching crab? The water was disappointingly peaceful and clear.

The collapsed sod shanty, now a grassy mound, and the top of Laura’s thinking rock earned at least five seconds of interest before the mosquitoes interrupted us. As we left the community of Walnut Grove, I expressed regret that we could not be there for the next day’s town pageant and visit from the actor who portrayed Nelly Olson on television. My children stiffened. I lamented the fact that we had hotel reservations for hours north. There was a collective sigh of relief from the back seat.

They soon relaxed. After all, I had resisted the urge to buy a genuine prairie bonnets. Neither had I driven the 20 miles out of town to inquire about spending the night in our authentic sod house. All in all, they were rather lucky. It only took two hours for me to read aloud the new book about Laura’s family. At least they were polite enough not to snore.

Chronicle-Journal/Times-News

September 27, 1992

Water, Water Everywhere – Recycled Sundays

“Rain, rain, go away. Come again another day.”

How many children have chanted that song with a skipping rope, chalk, picnic basket, or baseball in hand? It’s been around for generations. Every wet weekend I suspect a few adults chant it under their breath as well with their golf clubs, paddle, gardening tools, or baseball in hand.

The second line in the rain chant is most interesting. Were the children of Mother Goose’s time more tied to the earth and in tune with the water cycle? Or did the adults insist that the children qualified their request in case the listening earth gods brought drought? I suspect, instead, the children knew a good thing when they heard it. Rain brings water. Yes children love sunny days, perhaps less now that the behavior of their elders has made it necessary for them to be smothered in sunscreen, long sleeves, and wide rimmed hats and most of them would rather dress like Tarzan and Jane. But they also love water. Instinctively. Passionately. Until a child has a frightening experience with water, he is drawn to it like Ben Johnson is to performance-enhancing chemicals. He disobeys adults and heads to the creek or the dock or the ice flows on the lake. He just can’t seem to help himself even when he knows it’s dangerous, he’ll probably be caught, and he’ll be in “really big trouble.”

Consider the following. As soon as the dreary drizzles of spring end, before the grass is even dry, the children drag out the garden hose. They hook up wading pools, Slip N’ Slides, Water Whirls, Super Soakers, and even lawn sprinklers. Most parents need double income just to pay the water bills.

Children will run through water naked or fully dressed. They mix it with soap, dirt, candy, toys and slow pets. They wet down everything and everyone in sight, including the car, the neighbor’s house, and any pedestrians below the voting age. They fill balloons and deliver them at high speed to anyone wearing dry-clean only clothes. They turn temperature-altered toys different colors by filling the sink with hot water, dipping the toy, showing everyone, and starting over. This is the Children’s First Water Cycle.

Under duress or bribery, they will enter a bathtub provided it has more plastic toys per volume than actual water. Before you know it, they reached the age where they can bathe alone. The water is then rerouted. It no longer pours from the tap into the bathtub and later down the drain. First it gushes from the faucet at the highest possible velocity to the highest possible level. Using his body for displacement, the water is partially emptied by the scenic route (over-the-top, across the floor, out the door, and through the furnace vent). Showering provides a more direct circuit when the curtain is hung outside the tub. This is the Children’s Second Water Cycle.

Also under duress, they will use water to brush their teeth. It isn’t the contact between the brush and the teeth that’s important to the child but the contact between the water and the drain. This is the Children’s Third Water Cycle.

Perhaps when children chant, “Rain, rain, go away. Come again another day.” it is more a statement of faith. By the time they are able to memorize the rhyme, they’ve seen huge quantities of water, and go, most of it by their own little hands.

Chronicle-Journal Regional Newspaper

June 6, 1993

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

The Pain of Golfing – Recycled Sundays

I spotted a T-shirt the other day that read, “Those who can, golf. Those who can’t, golf anyway.” I imagine many of us can identify with that. I certainly can. I have golfed less than a dozen times, but last year I moved up a rank. Not because of a better score – I still reached the counting limits at most of the holes – because I now have my own clubs.

I’m hoping the close proximity of this athletic equipment might soak some awareness into my subconsciousness. So far, all I know is that the fat club is for teeing off, the putter is for the green near the hole, and some club in the middle is for everything else.

I’m always amazed at how serious people take a sport that is so charming. Basically, it’s one level up from schoolyard marbles. And how many other sports do you know that involves puppets? Oh, I know, the pros don’t call them that. Professionals say the little sockies over the clubs are supposed to protect them from banging against each other. In my case, that seems a little redundant. It’s okay to whack balls, tees, clumps of earth, and the occasional tree, but I mustn’t let them bang against each other.

I’ve seen these club socks come in various shapes and sizes. One woman had the entire Muppet set, I swear. I think perhaps they should worry more about the puppets banging together. What if they reproduce? Soon, there won’t be enough room in the bag for all the clubs, balls, tees, drinks, bug spray, sunscreen, tissues, rag, coin purse, sunglasses, scarf, and car keys. I can envision Animal and Piggy tossing things out at the bag every time a golfer turns her back.

Actually, I view the club socks as one more thing to lose. I can imagine myself retracing my steps, asking people if they’d seen my Lambchop or Grover. I often lose my tees, more often than my ball, and I swear the hole keeps moving.

How come, with one swing of my club, I can drive the tee inches into the ground, but after a dozen swings with a hammer, I still can’t drive a nail? I play most of the game as a “teetotaler.” If I’m more than a little out of whack that day, a bruise will start forming on the palm of my hand from slamming the ground instead of the ball. I know it’s cheating, but I’ve started to use the tee on most of my strokes. I figure the greens-keeper appreciates it. Better a few more dozen broken tees than divots.

An acquaintance once told me I could improve if I used the seven iron near the green and choked up on. By that point, I not only want to choke it, but hang, draw, and quarter it as well.

Occasionally I do have a decent game. Inevitably, then, the gods laugh and send thunder and lightning to celebrate. I’ve never considered a par four worth dying for or even having my belt buckle permanently fused to my belly button. But there are those who would play through if Noah started building an ark on the sixth hole. I prefer the safety of the club house where I discovered there are more golf magazines printed than bridal or homemaker issues combined. Unfortunately, my hands were too sore to turn the pages.

The Chronicle-Journal /regional Newspaper

May 2, 1993

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

So Close It Hurt – Recycled Sundays

 

If I counted the hours I’ve spent filling out entries for sweepstakes and draws and multiplied it by minimum wage, then added in money I’ve spent on tickets, I could probably pay for my dream holiday: a cross-country balloon ride.

But the lure of winning some thing still draws me like a gape- mouthed, bug-eyed bass waiting to be clubbed. The chance to win an unusual prize is irresistible. It’s pretty senseless, considering that even when I win, I lose.

The first competition I remember winning was an environmental poster contest in grade 4. Mine illustrated the damage caused by litter to wildlife. I won a set of fishing lures, which I never dared use because I might actually catch a gape-mouthed, bug-eyed bass and have to club him on the head.

A month before my wedding, I correctly guessed the weight of a gold brick and won two enormous blue glass ashtrays. Not only do neither my husband nor I smoke, but our home is a no smoking zone. We used the ashtrays as candy dishes for a few years before selling them for $.25 at a garage sale.

My children seem to have better luck. My daughter won a poster contest which provided her with more chocolate than I like to see her eat in a month. Then, in a final round, she won her 85th stuffed toy, a four-foot-high Peter Rabbit which continues to trip me to this day.

My children have won books, small toys, and theater tickets over the years. This inspires me to keep trying for the big prize: air fare to Toronto for a weekend of theater, or a train ride through the Rockies, or the primitive thrill balloon ride which has fired my imagination since I first read Around the World in 80 Days. At least it did until Canada Day, 1990, a date that lives in infamy.

We attended the anniversary celebration at Chippewa Park. With Anne of Green Gables style enthusiasm, I entered my name for a draw. Not just an ordinary draw. The draw of a lifetime. Four lucky winners would be picked to go for balloon ride. Not up and down on a rope, but across country, riding on the wind. Unfettered, free, gloriously at one with the elements.

“Would you like to enter?” The woman behind the table asked my children.

“Sure,” they replied.

A week later, I received a telephone call. My daughter’s name had been drawn for the balloon ride.

“The handwriting looks like a child’s,” said the young man.

“She’s 11,” I responded.

“I thought so,” he said. “Sorry, but she’s disqualified. She has to be 18.”

I explained how she had come to fill out the ticket. That was too bad. I offered to take her place. No substitutions allowed. I offered to pretend to be her. Sorry he had already selected another name. Why then had he phoned? He thought we should know.

Of course. Just like we should know that french fries have too much cholesterol, taxes have not reduce the national debt, and areas the size of France have been clear-cut in British Columbia. I live for the joy of acquiring this kind of knowledge.

I still haven’t given up on contests. Charitable draws and lottery tickets still find their way into my pockets. I figure after such a cruel twist of luck, the fates owe me. Now if I could just suppress the need to pop every stupid balloon I see.

November 10, 1991.