Christmas Kitchen Chaos
Life was full of promise in grade four. I would be an archeologist, a decorated soldier or a star skater for the Montreal Canadiens. Like roles in Major League Baseball or the Canadian Football League were also viable options. As was becoming a secret agent; my mother was always pleased with me after I’d wet-combed my hair and parted it like James Bond or Napoleon Solo. Trouble was, she’d then spit into a used lipstick Kleenex to wipe something from my face. This simply did not happen to 007 or the man from U.N.C.L.E.
I have three concrete memories from the fourth grade. ‘Monkey’ removed the Host from his tongue after Communion and did not get zapped into a smoking cinder. Miss Korb caught me dropping a pencil in front of her desk so I could crouch down and get a look up her mini-skirt. A girl in the class suggested that strategy. I still know her name. I sometimes wonder what became of you, Robin. And I remember an agonizing toothache. There’s nothing so, so awfully torturous as unrelenting pain in your head.
I blame Deguire’s by the 165 bus stop in the centre of town: pink logs of Bazooka Joe bubble gum, Aero bars filled with empty bubbles, Sweet Tarts, Rockets, slabs of icing sugar dusted gum from packs of sports cards, cherry Chiclets, cherry Danish pastries, jelly doughnuts, Juicy Fruit, Thrills, Caramilks, Turtles at Christmas, RC Cola, Nesbitt’s orange, Tahiti Treat, grape Crush, Wink, Joe Louis cakes, POM lemon tarts, Stuart mini blueberry pies, Jaw Breakers, Life Savers, strawberry Twizzlers, Glosset chocolate covered raisins, Smarties and MacIntosh toffee.
One of the two local dentists, a tall man with white hair in white scrubs who reliably married his assistants in sequence, extracted what was left of my sweet tooth. Later that evening I chewed my frozen lower lip into a balloon of pus watching a Habs-Bruins playoff game. I kept the rotten molar in a blue Birks box for a couple years. Down the road tobacco seemed like a better idea than sugar. Some days I wonder about the wisdom of that particular decision; however, governments need their sin tax revenues and it’s unlikely I’ll actually spend my credited health care allotment or collect a federal pension for any significant length of time. Comme ci, comme saw-off.
The house smells sweet, better than a bakery. Today is the start of the Christmas baking season. I do not eat sweets. I can’t, you should’ve seen that tooth. Ann and her niece are in the kitchen making shortbread cookies with fork tine patterns on top, ginger snaps sprinkled with miniature green and red candy beads, almond squares, frosted Nanaimo bars and caramel popcorn sticky with chopped walnuts. After typing that I just tested positive for some type of diabetes; might cost me a half a leg even though I’ll not graze or nibble on the homemade goodies. Anyway, since a gas fitter is in the basement working our furnace into January order, it’s possible that all of the baking will taste like dust and cat hair. That don’t matter much to me now.
The ladies are rocking ingredients in the kitchen and the Rolling Stones are on the iPod; singing lead for a rock ‘n’ roll band and dancing out front never occurred to me in grade four. Get down! Why can’t Christmas cooking be something I like? Red onions and green lettuce can be pretty festive wrapped up in a donair. Ripe red tomato slices and green lettuce on a bacon cheeseburger equally so. Festive red and green wreaths of relishes on a hotdog. Crisp red and green peppers on a sausage pizza.