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My Grandma went to Alaska and all I got was this stinkin' poop

My mother- and father-in-law just got back from a trip to Alaska. This past Saturday they regaled us with stories and descriptions from their trip. My mother-in-law might have said other things, but what I heard most was: it was cold.

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?"

More silence.

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.

Pregnant pause.

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.'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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Kyla said…
I was born in Alaska. Good things come from Alaska, clearly.

I once got an ACTUAL moose poop necklace as a gift. I think it was lacquered or something. I might still have it somewhere. Oh, gag gifts.
Anonymous said…
Trust me, moving to another country is not all it is cracked up to be. But I bet ALASKA is fantastic and better for your health.
flutter said…
I kind of love it when joke gifts go awry.
kirida said…
Ooh I've seen the poop gifts but didn't have the courage to check it out because I really thought it was poop. And I have enough of that in my house. FOR FREE.
Mr Lady said…
Every year, my kids get a handful of mini marshmallows in their stockings. Snowmen poop, of course!
Annie said…
Awww - poor patience - but what a good child she is?!

I can't watch much of Ice Road Truckers without getting all anxious for how much their wives must worry.
Anonymous said…
That's too funny! I've always wanted to go to Alaska - although, like your mother in law, I don't love the cold...But I survived Iceland and would totally go back - so I figure I can handle Alaska.

In my last job I got to work with some great people at the Anchorage CVB. They do a "road show" for meeting planners every year. And they have this very funny bit on Alaska stats. They would say that there were 5 men for every 1 woman in Anchorage (although I hear that's not the case anymore) so if you're a single woman looking for a man, "the odds are good, but the goods are odd." Love that joke.
SciFi Dad said…
When I was eight, my grandparents went to Florida. They brought me back a t-shirt that said "Damn seagulls" and was covered in fake bird poop. I thought it was the greatest thing ever, even if my mother wouldn't allow me to wear it to my (Catholic) school because of the swear word.
SciFi Dad said…
Oh, and Alaska is #1 on my list of US states I want to visit.
Anonymous said…
Ice Road Truckers is an awesome show!

But winter is LONG up here. It's doable but when it is still snowing in April and the Sears Summer catalogue arrives in early May with the fall issue hard on it's heels in mid-June (and coincidently I just got the Christmas one today) - you might wish for something a tad warmer.

It's fall here already, you know.
~TigereyeSal~ said…
Your posts are fantastic, and you are clearly a great mother.
crazymumma said…
Patience and I would get along soooo well. So earnest and sincere and easily fooled.

However, I have a feeling she is much wiser than I.
painted maypole said…
hmmmm... i wonder where you'll be off to? hopefully someplace healthier and with less hurricanes.

snow man poop. Patience's reaction was PRICELESS.
Sukhaloka said…
LOL, when I read the title I thought you were referring to the poop on your car that day :P

Gosh, a videotape of Patience's reaction would have been priceless! :)
jeanie said…
Don't you DARE laugh, Julie - I can imagine the horror going on in her mind!

Me - give me heat ANY TIME.
Robert said…
Well, at least grandma gives a crap. Er, poop.
Robert said…
And by the way, I love the cold, too. Though Texas just made the radar screen for my school search... no, not Austin. Not necessarily, anyway.

And for Kate: they use the same joke about most Tech colleges, Georgia Tech especially (since they have a three to one ratio).
Anonymous said…
I can certainly understand Patience's perplexity - good thing she didn't reply something like "so glad you gave a sh*t", 'cuz I bet the adults would have so *not* gotten the joke.

As far as moving north: I have threatened to retire to the area around Jackson Hole, Wyoming. With my cameras and a (smallish) RV. Alaska might be fun, but I am not sure the cameras would make it. So, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Utah... that's where I'm heading one of these days.

Anonymous said…
I love ice road truckers! Are you sure we never met when you were up here????

Poor kiddo. We are so honest with our kids. A joke is tough on them!
we_be_toys said…
Poor Patience! You know how literal kids are - evidently Grandma had forgotten!
Alaska sounds mighty nice right about now...
love, your fellow polar bear
Mad said…
She was likely also thinking, "adults are making poop jokes. My world has been turned upside down."
Florinda said…
I saw the Inside Passage and Juneau on an Alaska cruise nine years ago. Gorgeous. Would love to go back - and hopefully I will, but it won't be on a cruise. My husband (not the one I went on the cruise with, the current one) gets motion sickness, so we'll have to travel some other way.

This one turned out much better than your last poop-related story, I must say :-).
I'm a fellow gypsy prone to wander. We're gypsy folk, a place lives out it's mystery and excitment. I've a hankering to move to the pacific ocean.
Unknown said…
I prefer Deadliest Catch myself...

Your daughter's reaction reminds me of the time I received a knit neck warmer for skiing (I had never skiied--still haven't) and I swear I thought the guy had given me a tube top! I'm sure I blushed beet red and looked stunned because he finally told me what it was. I'm just glad I didn't try it on before I knew what it really was!
Anonymous said…
I knew someone once who thought their poop smelled like peppermints... wish I had had one of these to give them :-)

Kat said…
Oh what a sweetie. Trying to think of how to say thank you for poop. hehe

I love Ice Road Truckers. I hope Alex is okay. Love him. ;)

If you are interested in Alaska you should read the blog Motherhood for Dummies. Her pictures and stories of living in Alaska really make me want to move there. It sounds absolutely beautiful. And where she lives it sounds like we experience colder winters in Wisconsin than they do there.

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