Normally I have this Mother's Day thing pretty well aced.
I know this is a week or more after the fact, but it's hard to write about something when you don't know in advance what's going to happen. If that's difficult to grasp, I understand.
Other Half isn't that demanding when it comes to observances of this type. Other women might want to be taken out to fancy restaurants or a night on the town or to a show at the Gordon Pinsent Centre for the Arts (that, of course, is in Grand Falls-Windsor — you may have other similar facilities in St. John's or Corner Brook, or elsewhere).
But not OH. She enjoys those things, mind you, but not for Mother's Day or her birthday or our anniversary. She's a little different that way. Although raised in an urban centre — just a block or so down the street from the Waterford Hospital — my influence on her has been so profound that very little of the urban gloss remains on her.
She is as down to earth as my Grandmother Penny in Great Brahah or my Grandmother Smith in St. Anthony or her cousin Bertha in Muddy Cove East.
Thus it is that over the years, instead of wasting money on glamorous outings and fancy clothes and the like, we have decided to spend our hard-earned dollars on horse manure and kelp. For those of you who are not impressed by the niceties of language when one is talking about natural raw material, I promise to say the proper and most appropriate word for manure before the end of the column.
Anyway, this is a difficult time of year for me. Over the years, I have watched friends make plans to go out to dinner or take in some interesting event in another community as part of Mother's Day celebrations.
When they talk about this, I have tried to melt into the background, because as sure as there is manure in a dead duck, they'll ask where I plan to take OH.
I shuffle my feet in the dirt — which is quite a feat (no pun intended) for me now — look up and down and sideways and mumble something about manure and fertilizer. While this is being absorbed by my listeners, I throw in something about seaweed from Oxford's Lower Place. Someone always picks up on what I say.
"What was that? What did you say you were doing, Smitty?"
"Well, I usually take her for a ride in my van, and, you know, do different things."
"OK, we're going to get some horse manure and kelp for the garden. Satisfied?"
"Holy crap, b'ys. He's taking Marion shovelling shit on Mother's Day! Can you believe that? Is that cheap or what!"
If there are any women within earshot, there is evidence of low muttering with a scattered "Poor Marion" thrown carelessly on the winds blowing. In my direction. When that happens, I am driven into defensive mode.
"But it's not my idea! It's what she wants to do on Mother's Day. Get several buckets of manure from my friend's stable and a few buckets of kelp from the beach. We mix it all into the ground. And that's what makes her garden grow."
That's greeted with, "Sure, b'y, sure. Whatever you say," etc., etc.
But it's the Lord's own truth. I am fortunate that way. She likes nothing better — other than kelp and manure gathering on special days — than to find some suitable spot on some woods road and have a boil-up.
The details of this little expedition are firmly established by tradition. Bacon fried good and crisp in a frying pan over an open fire. The grease poured off into the fire. A can of beans — only beans canned in pork and molasses sauce — mixed in and spooned onto tin plates with homemade buttered bread on the side. A large can of strong tea brought to a boil three times completes the feast. Someone who's really lucky gets to scrape out the leavings in the frying pan.
If you're not salivating like a starving bulldog by now, I can practically guarantee you were not born and raised in this lovely province.
The fortunate thing, too, is that we have raised four offspring who are almost as fanatical about it as we are. The one who lives and works in Manhattan is as bad as her mother. But that's understandable because she doesn't get to do it that often. Having a boil-up in the middle of Times Square Is liable to get you arrested.
Happily, she has a partner born and raised in the Big Apple, who takes to the Newfoundland lifestyle like trout to a cold running brook. They'd move back here in an instant if circumstances would allow. Circumstances aren't always kind.
Before we had a friend with a horse stable, we used to go searching for manure anyplace we thought a well-fed horse or cow might have wandered by. Then we take a couple of Billy Boot garbage bags (because they're so strong), a square top shovel and go on the search.
This was fine until we insisted that the girls go with us on these poop-finding expeditions. Even that didn't cause much of a ruckus until one day when they were about 12 or 13, one of their friends innocently came along and found herself busily picking up dry horse poop somewhere down around Harry's Harbour. It was shortly after that that the two older girls rebelled. I think word must've gotten out about the Smith version of Mother's Day appreciation.
This past Mother's Day, the lift that gets me up into the van wouldn't work, and I had to stay home and watch the ballgame while everyone else went “shovelling.”
It was the first time in our family that Mother's Day and Father's Day came on the same day.
Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.