Sunday, March 2, 2008
(Puzzle piece number 10 of 38.)
In “Unearthed,” my first post, I mentioned that my parents were not cut from matrimonial cloth. Rather, they wove an erratic web of discontent. Like pants that were too tight: they kept crawling up each other’s butts.
Their ubiquitous disharmony far surpassed light moments, and their periods of silence superseded even mundane conversation. So one way Mom communicated with Dad was through subterfuge—with a creative streak.
About a year after Mom discovered her sewing machine (see “Secrets”), Dad accepted a transfer from Wisconsin to Minnesota. Mom and I were not thrilled in the least about leaving Nana, her mom, and the comfort of having her nearby. I had just started kindergarten and depended on Nana to walk me across the street to her home on school days. Nevertheless, before winter break, Dad cemented our plans to move from cold to colder.
The first winter in western Minnesota was excruciating. It snowed almost all the time and the frigid winds blew drifts so high, we were able to climb onto our roof. It was that winter when I discovered there was no Santa Claus—even I couldn’t get my little buns down our chimney.
Months after settling into his new position as branch manager, Dad decided to buy a ranch and raise beef cattle—his lifelong dream, Mom’s and my nightmare.
We didn’t live on our ranch; in fact, I wonder if we lived at all. We worked. We all had full-time jobs in addition to being full-time ranchers. Dad ran the loan company, Mom managed an appliance business, and I functioned as student, homemaker, maid, and referee between parents.
We lived in town close to my elementary school and commuted ranchward to care for our cattle, horses, and cats. Workaholism is one of our family addictions (laziness is a sin).
On weekends, Dad practically lived on the ranch. He’d erect fences, build structures, plant oats, wheat, and alfalfa, care for the animals, and expel flatus. Mom would keep her distance as much as possible, thinking of ways to torment my father.
When a person feels the call of nature while in a field or in the woods, one doesn’t run to find a biffy, as Norwegians called the loo. If the person is male, relief is all the easier. So Dad unzipped his overalls, but found no opening in his boxers. Feeling a flood of desperation, he quickly reached to the back of his shorts, figuring he’d put his boxers on backward, only to discover another sewn seam.
Under his breath, he muttered, “That wife.”
Yes, Mom and her sewing machine. What a stitch.
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