The couple of recent posts about cookies have reminded the wife and me about an ex-neighbor. Far from stupid, she just suffered the all-too-common affliction of not noticing and not thinking. A stay-at-home mother like the wife, she sometimes visited back and forth.
The first odd thing we noticed about her was strange eating habits. She claimed to be Scottish, but no Scots ever acknowledged her. Scots are frugal, for they’ve not got a lot to be frugal with. One of her favorite snacks was to burn, not toast, two slices of bread. Then she would slice pickled beets, and make a sandwich of them. Maybe this treat had originated because of a need to consume food which would otherwise be wasted.
Perhaps a precursor to today’s entitled generation, she wanted what she wanted, Right F**kin’ Now, without the bother of work, or study. Long an accomplished gardener, the wife had the entrance to our house nicely landscaped. Liz complained that her place was so plain and bare. The wife instructed her how to prepare a garden area, and told her to plant flowers in it. She and her 14-year-old son prepared the bed, then she picked up some marigolds at a local nursery and planted them.
When the son came home from school, his first question was, “Mom, where are the flowers’ legs?” She had buried them in the ground, up to their little chins – stems, leaves and all. The little garden looked as if someone had plucked the blooms off and strewn them on the earth.
Next, she decided that she wanted a hanging basket like we had, and another neighbor went with her to the nursery and helped her pick out a nice one with petunias in it. The nursery staff instructed her to pinch off mature seed-pods, to encourage continued blooms. She complained to the neighbor that the stupid flowers bloomed at night when she couldn’t see them. Turns out, she’d been pinching off all the ready-to-bloom buds.
Like our Chiropractor, her favorite cookies were ginger snaps. She had to go to hospital a couple of times for extended treatments, and the wife visited with a can of cookies for a treat. She pulled several of them from the tin, and stacked them within her fingers, like poker chips, all the same size and perfectly round. She looked at the cookies, and then at the wife. “I hate you.” Like me and my Jeep parts, when you’ve made three-quarters of a million of them, you get consistent.
The wife instructed her how to make them, at our house. After a miserable failure at home, she accused the wife of leaving out some ingredient or preparation step, so the wife agreed to visit her place the next time she wanted to try. The mixing proceeded nicely. Then she took out one cookie sheet, because that was all she had. The wife has four aluminum sheets used only for cookies. They are so clean and shiny that you can use them as mirrors.
Her only sheet was steel, and had been used for everything from baking squash, to roasting meat. It was about the color of the dark-chocolate cookie buds. Oh dear! Well, if that’s what we have, that’s what we have to use. When the oven came up to heat, the wife opened the door to insert the pan, and looked at the single rack. It was down as far as it could go. “Of course! That’s where the heat is!” says Liz, and still didn’t understand why she had burned all the previous variously sized/shaped cookies. The only baking she had done was to make Angel Food cake mix, and that is always baked on the bottom rack.
Her second husband was a police officer. He went to work at 11 PM on a winter’s Sunday night. At about 12:15, he got a radio message to call home. Before cell-phones, he plugged a quarter in a pay-phone and called her. She told him that the house was getting cold, as were the three kids. She thought something must be wrong with the furnace. He asked, “Did you check the fuse-box?” She answered, “Oh Gord, don’t be stupid!” He managed to locate a technician who made emergency calls, got him out of bed, paid him almost a week’s salary, and sent him over to the house.
For the week’s pay, the guy took her fuse, and screwed it into her fuse box. “But Gord, it’s a gas furnace! How was I supposed to know it ran on electricity?”
When pre-aged, stone-washed jeans were the rage, he decided he wanted some, but the store he went to was sold out. How a mere man might know, is a mystery. Perhaps one of his drug informants gave him the info. You can pre-age bright blue jeans with bleach. He bought two pairs of very expensive pants in regular finish, and gave them to her with the instruction to soak them with “a bit of bleach.” She put both pairs in a large pail, poured an entire gallon of Javex bleach on them, and left them for a week. He got back wet, pale-blue Kleenex.
A fun friend, and a nice companion to my house-bound wife, she was also the source of considerable unintentional humor. When they sold their house up the street, she told the kaffee-klatch that it had gone to “The Curries.” Oh, you know their names already?! We discovered some unexpected racism when she explained, that was another term for “PAKIS– duh!” Both families have moved several times and we have lost track. The wife and I are still trying to decide if that’s a good thing or a bad one.