Ten months old and already part of the conspiracy

A peel of WHACK!s and BANG!s thundered from the living room this morning as I made breakfast. I investigated and discovered Jane and Alice hard at work with a set of wooden play tools.

Jane: We're workers!

Me: What are you working on?

Jane: We making a sign. It says, "No Daddies, No Mummies, No Henries."

Alice's eyes blazed with excitement, so happy to be part of whatever this madness of smashing was.

Me: Is that true, Alice?

Alice: Gah! (SMASH! SMASH!) Gah!

Eat from the points

"Can I show you something?" asked my dad.

My brother, who was probably six or seven at the time, looked up from his peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Two long purple lines of grape jelly smeared across both his cheeks.

"You need to eat from the points," explained Dad. "You're sawing that sandwich in half, and it's making a mess of your sandwich and your face."

John gazed at the two, sloppy bits of bread in his hands. "Where's the point?"

"Here," explained Dad, holding up the corner of his own toast. "Eat from the points, and you won't make a mess.

He took a neat bite. My brother did the same. The result: food in face, not food on face.

We made a big deal of these lessons, and pretended Dad had hundreds of them. We commonly referred to this one as "Dad Lesson Number 236."

My dad is a sniper of dry wit. As an obnoxious teen, I told a lot of stories of what I thought were my amazing adventures. Most people ate them up. Dad just listened quietly, smiled occasionally, and at the tale's end would quip something like, "You ever think maybe you're a little weird?"

I didn't realize at the time that was Lesson 237.

Henry and Jane now know how to eat from the points. They're very proud to trot this lesson out when Dad and Mum come to visit.

As we ate breakfast together last November, Dad popped up from the table to grab two halves of an English muffin fresh from the toaster. He held them together in one hand, smooth-side out. They immediately burned his fingers. He threw them on his plate.

"Can I show you something?" I asked.

He looked up.

"If you hold onto the smooth side of the English muffin, you maximize muffin-to-finger contact. That's why it's so hot. If you turn them cranny-side out, you'll find them much easier to handle."

He didn't say anything. I wondered if he thought maybe I was a little weird.

The right word

As I drove the third-to-last nail into the frame of our new deck this weekend, my hammering technique got a little sloppy.

Whack! Whack! Whump! ("Whump" being the closest spelling I can find for the sound of a hammer hitting flesh.)

Me: (sharp intake of breath)


I need a word. A good, sharp word to express how much this hurts.

I think I may swear. Yes, I'm sure of it.

This is well beyond 'damn.' 'Frig' just seems silly. The other 'f' word is so crude: more of an angry word than a hurt word. Could we be in 's' word territory? I think we might.

Wait. Are the kids nearby?

No. They're inside having a snack.

I'm going to say the 's' word. Not loud or anything. Just barely above a whisper. Such a pleasing, soft 'sh' followed by a precision 'it.'

Yeah. The 's' word.

Here goes.


Me: (barely above a whisper) Shit.

The sound of work stops. The two guys working with me drop their tools and turn to me.

Guy One: Did you hit your finger?

Guy Two: Are you ok?


Memories of Tomato Festival

The summer I was 19, my friend Devin invited me to take part in the single greatest adventure a kid from Leamington could ever have: to ride on the Zellers float in the Tomato Festival parade. I did not even wait to find out what would be required of me before answering.

Yes. Yes. A thousand times, yes.

And then Devin told me the one thing that could make the news better: we would be paying a musical tribute to Stompin' Tom Connors. And if you're toasting the Stomper in Leamington, there's only one song you need to do it with. The Ketchup Song.

"There was a guy from PEI we used to call Potato.
He met this young Leamington, Ontario tomato."

I showed up in the parking lot of the old Leamington arena wearing a straw hat and a plaid shirt with mother-of-pear snaps tucked into tight jeans. Devin had already set up on the flat bed truck with his snare drum and cymbals. I hoisted my heavy, 1960s-era guitar amp beside him, cranked the bass up as high as it would go, and prepared for the adventure.

"But he had eyes for other girls, and she was a little mushy.
So they said, "Let's get wed. There's no sense being buzzy."

Which is the silliest lyric ever. Why didn't he just say "..no sense being fussy?"

"Big size, French Fries: How they love tomatoes.
So dress them up with Heinz Ketchup -
Ketchup loves potatoes.
Ketchup loves potatoes."

The rest of the float comprised of a bunch of waving Zellers employees wearing Club-Z t-shirts. They sat in joyful expectation on bales of straw beside baskets of tomatoes. Before the parade began, I knew they would come to hate Devin and me.

"So he went down to Windsor town to buy a ring on Monday.
Saturday, they said, 'Ok, we'll cut the cake on Sunday.'"

The parade took a while to start. We were near the back, and there were many dozens of floats. The Zellers employees were getting antsy.

"Come on!" they yelled. "Play us a song to pass the time!"

"But Sunday came, and what a shame, they had no one to fetch it.
Without a cake they just sat and ate potato chips and ketchup."

So, we did.

"Big size, French Fries: How they love tomatoes.
So dress them up with Heinz Ketchup -
Ketchup loves potatoes.
Ketchup loves potatoes."

By the time we finished the song, our float had joined the parade. The sense of jubilation was palpable. This crew from Zellers was ready to rock.

"More!" they cried.

"Ok," we replied.

"And now that guy from PEI they used to call Potato,
he's got two boys and a little girl - two spuds and one tomato."

At song end, a few people on the float cheered, a little less enthusiastically this time.

"What else do you know?" they asked.

"Besides what?" we replied.

"You know, the Ketchup Song!"

"What's that?" said Devin. "Sure, we'll play it again."

"They romp and run around Leamington, and boy, when they get hungry
The bottle drips all over the chips way down in the Ketchup Country."

And we did, and we did, and we did, and we did.

"Big size, French Fries: How they love tomatoes.
So dress them up with Heinz Ketchup -"

"The Ketchup Song!" Screamed the crowds along the parade route. These were Leamingtonians, and this was THEIR song. I'm sure some of them wondered why the waving Zellers employees looked so grumpy.

Only Devin and I knew the reason.

"Ketchup loves potatoes.
Ketchup loves potatoes...

The Tomato Festival Parade route runs south along Erie Street from Wilkinson Drive to Seacliffe Drive. I'm not sure the exact distance. Far enough that I think we sang the song at least 2 dozen times.

"Ketchup loves potatoes!"

I have since become a much nicer person.

The trouble with reverse psychology

It works great in Situation A):

Me: Jane, do NOT eat those lentils.

Jane: (giggling, shoves them into her mouth)

Me: Oh, you make me so mad. I said, DO NOT EAT THEM.

Jane: (rushing to eat as many as possible, still giggling)


Jane: (plate empty, giggling too hard to eat anyway)

Turns around to bite you in Situation B):


Me: Ow! Jane, don't hit me with that!

Jane: (giggling, wielding a plastic golf club)


Me: Hey! Seriously! That really hurts. Don't do it.

Jane: (wildly thrashing the club about, still giggling)


Me: (realizing the monster I've created, searching desperately for logic a two year old might understand) JANE! THIS ISN'T ONE OF THOSE TIMES WHEN I SAY ONE THING BUT WANT YOU TO DO SOMETHING ELSE. DO NOT HIT ME WITH THAT CLUB!


I blame Dennis Lee.

PS. PEI is way nice. You should visit.