Clouds

A couple of weeks ago, I was having lunch with my mom on the Tsawwassen – Swartz Bay ferry when we sailed past these clouds. I stopped eating and ran onto the deck with my camera. In L.A., the sun melts clouds away so I was very happy to see these “ice cream castles in the air / And feather canyons everywhere”. Joni Mitchell, I could drink a case of you!

We were on our way to visit old friends in Victoria, former Winnipeggers who now live on the Island. I was excited to see Terry and Bob, who were newlyweds when they first moved into the house across the street from my childhood home in Waverley Heights. My parents would occasionally send me across the street to visit Terry and Bob, who knew how to entertain me: the crawl space in their basement was filled with toys and books so that young visitors always felt welcome. As I enjoyed doing menial tasks, they would give me piles of receipts to sort before tax season. I amused their accountant by drawing cars on the envelope which held their car expenses. Each Christmas, we would dip cherries, nuts, and caramel in melted chocolate before placing them on cookie sheets to harden outside on the snow-covered deck in their backyard. Terry and Bob liked having a kid around enough to have Spencer, who is now fourteen. He is such a nice kid. Terry likes to tell the story of why she calls Spencer “the kid”: my dad used to refer to me as “the kid” whenever they talked, so once Spencer came along it seemed natural for her to call him “the kid” too.

I had renewed my friendship with Terry and Bob when I was first engaged to be married, but my mom had not seen them since my dad passed away ten years ago. Being kindred spirits, we picked up where we had left off and reminisced about my dad’s endearing eccentricities. He used to scour garage sales for tools he already owned so that he could lend tools to neighbours without worrying about them ever being returned. For fun, he cut a sunroof into a car once. He and Bob would disappear into our basement and listen to Mahler or Bruckner symphonies with the volume cranked so high that heavy furniture on the main floor would shake. My dad was an audiophile who built his own speakers: we owned the first CD player on our block in the mid 1980’s. It was a Philips.

Terry had given me and Scott “The Artist’s Way” and “The Joy of Cooking” as wedding presents. “The Artist’s Way” had influenced her career as an artist so I understood why she wanted me to have my own copy. Scott and I had assumed that she chose “The Joy of Cooking” as a handy reference guide for us newlyweds. It wasn’t until she showed me her hardcover edition of the cookbook in Victoria that I understood its significance: on the first page my dad had signed his name in Chinese and in English, and stamped his old address at St. John’s College. Terry had bought my parents’ copy of “The Joy of Cooking” at our garage sale years ago. As we sat in Terry’s kitchen, my mom confided that she had received the book as a wedding present, but had decided to sell it before we moved out of Waverley Heights when I was fourteen. Whenever we had guests for dinner, my dad would cook so my mom didn’t feel the need to hang onto the book. It looks well-used and I’m glad it has such a good home.

We had a lovely visit.

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    • Terry Vatrt
    • May 14th, 2010

    I feel honoured by your posting, Helsa. Isn’t it wonderful to have these shared memories?….you reminded me about the Christmas chocolates. I had forgotten about us doing that.

    I also think I encouraged you to come over to our house, as I was sometimes lonely with Bob working long hours. You were great company for me.

    Beautiful cloud image.

    Like

  1. Thanks, Terry! I remember you stockpiling small boxes all year for your Christmas chocolate making.

    Like

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