I love cold. I love it.
My mother-in-law said that Alaska weather reminded her of the time she made that mistake and came to visit us in Boston in late March. I love Boston in late March. It's usually brisk. That year was no exception, with some snowfall lingering still. We decided to tromp around Cambridge---Harvard Square---because my favorite book store was there. My mother-in-law had slacks, a sweatshirt, and a windbreaker, with low-heeled loafers. She was frozen. Near to death. I, on the other hand, was doing a fair impression of Julie Andrews singing and dancing my merry way across the slush in about the same amount of clothing, minus the flats. I had on hiking boots.
"You and winter," said my mother-in-law, segueing back from the Massachusetts trip to the Alaska one, "You would have loved Alaska."
It was universally agreed Alaska is my kind of place.
I confessed two things right then and there: I currently have a secret desire to live on the Alaskan peninsula and I think Ice Road Truckers is one of the coolest shows on TV.
My in laws all stared at me in collective surprise. Maybe more like shock.
I explained: while watching an episode of Ice Road Truckers we saw what it was like (well, okay got a vague impression of what it was like) to live on the peninsula. Very few roads, isolated, harnessing green power, lots of rain, relatively cool frequently and bone deep freezing cold often...
I said "Alaska just seems like such an awesome place. I imagine it's a life of 'you get what you get and you don't throw a fit' don't you? Doesn't that sound...wonderful?"
After a minute, my sister-in-law agreed and said Sitka had appealed to her.
The family froze for one more second, but then moved on.
My sister-in-law has been a reliable person. My husband and I, on the other hand, have been known to Fly the Coop on a Mere Whimsy. You never know with us. We might just pack up and move to another country some day. People think the children have grounded us (bwahahaha) and maybe they slowed us down a bit (we've managed to stay in one place, more or less, for four whole years!) but now they are older and we're all feeling restless. Yes, I said all.
Today Patience said, "Mom, I think it's about time to move again. We've been here a while and it's getting a little old and boring."
Hello my lovely little apple, come to Mama Tree.
Patience is known for her forthrightness. But we have been working diligently on Tempering Our Words and Using Them Appropriately, along with our Manners.
I saw this lesson in perplexed action on Saturday when my mother-in-law handed Patience a gift---a souvenir from Alaska:
"Do you know what it is?" my mother-in-law asked, smiling. She was waiting for the laugh; we all were.
But Patience clutched the tin in her hand and bit her lip.
"What do the words say?" I prompted.
"It says, 'Alaska snowman poop,'" she said. The adults all giggled, then abruptly went quiet when we realized the intended recipient of the joke was not laughing at all, not even smiling.
As everyone waited for Patience's reaction, I saw her tense up and furrow her brow. A beat later I realized: oh my gosh, she's taking it literally. It's a nice tin with printed words and usually labels on tins are indicative of what's inside. My sweet girl thought her grandmother had brought her a tin of poop.
I could just imagine the inner monologue:
Oh no, it's a present, and Mom said I am to say thank you for presents. But...it's poop. Why would she bring me poop? Do snowmen poop? If so, how? And why would anyone gather it up and put it in a tin for little children in Texas? And why in the world would Grandma bring me a tin of snowman poop? What am I supposed to do with it? Oh no everyone's watching, what am I supposed to do? What am I supposed to say? I'm supposed to be grateful and say so. What's the proper etiquette for thanking someone who brought you poop?I took pity on my girl.
"Oh, honey, it's a joke," I said, "It's not really poop. It's mints. See the little words on the snowman? It's just those little candy mints. But they're round and white so the joke is they are snowman poop. Let's open it up and see."
So, with her audience still waiting, Patience and I opened the tin, and she checked out the mints.
"Ohhhhhhh, mints," she said, "Thank you Grandma." She smiled at her grandmother in relief, her faith in Grandma's sanity and love completely restored in an instant. Also, then, Grandma handed her a book about sled dogs. The real gift.
Me? I think that reaction was much, much funnier than any laughter at a poop joke could ever be.
Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert. Do not reprint or reproduce without permission.
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