Rituals! Rites of Passage! These rituals have a beginning, a middle and an end (Thanks Victor Turner – my old favourite mad anthropologist)! Maybe my Phoenix will find a flight path in remembering rituals!
When I turned sixteen, long before I knew what a Phoenix was, one of my brothers took me for a drive in the family’s beige Lada – the Russian car of the eighties that my brothers and I were not supposed to tell my Polish expat Toronto relatives about (We lived in a small Ontario town, Sioux Lookout, which is WAY past Barrie, so they would never find out). My brother solemnly announced (in a Monty Python solemn kind of way – the same tone and demeanour he adopted years later when he showed me how to do a Tequila shot) that he was about to teach me how to drive. My first lesson would consist in a time honoured ritual, an important skill and a heck of a good time among Canadian teenagers of the time: pulling donuts in an empty, snow covered parking lot.
I lament the passing of the donut. Or maybe it has not really gone away. Maybe I slipped into those non-cool years of my life where I am not privy to the adventures of teenagers in parking lots.
That came out wrong. I mean – never mind. Can vehicles do those anymore? Donuts, I mean? With all that anti-lock blah-biddy-blah tech stuff going on? (If you’re a used car salesperson, you probably want my email address now). I confess. I have, once or twice, tentatively attempted a donut in my mini van, without success. I’m not sure what the problem has been. Maybe I should have opted for Steppenwolf, ACDC or The Who as my soundtrack, instead of the Cowboy Junkies. I have started to forget, sometimes, how important those details can be.
NEWSFLASH (to me). I have JUST texted my man who assures me that you can, in fact, perform a donut in a Grande Caravan. So. It IS me. Plus, now I have to rethink my post. And perhaps limit his driving privileges.
No matter. THIS, I know for sure: You CAN draw a platypus with a Grande Caravan.
Fast forward to me as a momma Phoenix.
Birthdays have always been a big deal with me and my kids. There’s the birthday day, and there’s the day of the party, in whatever form that takes. Sometimes the birthday falls on a week day or something, so we have a big hullabaloo on the weekend.
Except this year.
My oldest turned eleven this month. She has been worried about it for weeks now. She’d love a sleepover party with her friends, and she’s torn. Dad’s house is in the swanky area of town. It’s big and freshly painted. It’s clean (I don’t have my aging mother to clean up for me and cook and do laundry. Also I have always sucked as a housekeeper. Things are even worse now). My house is a “cute” (read needs renovation) raised bungalow in the part of town where Ladies do NOT lunch. I have dishes from last week, laundry piled everywhere (clean of course! Even I have standards) and more black dog hair balled up on the vintage hardwoods than should be canine-ly possible.
She’s embarrassed. That’s okay. She’s a kid. I love my little house in the ‘Hood. She has other dreams. So she doesn’t want to say it but I know. She’d like her friends over at a “nice” (by her standards) house. But let’s face it – my house is way more fun. Because I’m in it. Crazy and all, I’m just way more fun (when I’m not ranting about the mysterious location of the house’s only hair brush, or raging about the stuff moms rage about when they suck at house keeping).
Okay then. She’s with me on birthday day. We will go out for dinner as a family at someplace cool. I know. Bills, right? Well we don’t have groceries anyway, so off we go for a little splurge.
I have to stop at the mall to actually go into a bank for cash. I can’t go to drive through, because of a little mishap with my accounting last week. Yeah. Let’s call it that. My privileges have been “limited”. The kids are all growly and hungry, and I leave them in the parking lot to wait with Lawrence (my sweetheart).
I return, cash in hand, to find that a miracle has happened.
Everyone in the car is, what? Happy. They are talking so quickly and loudly that I can’t understand what’s going on. Something about a platypus. What?
Show her Lawrence! Do it again!
Lawrence obliges. We head to an empty area of the parking lot. Lawrence stops, abruptly and reverses the van a few feet. Then he puts into drive, turns the wheel and moves. A few feet. He does it again and the girls are ecstatic. We are making some kind of crazy pattern in the parking lot.
There is a man in a dump truck parked near this event. I fix my gaze on him, although I don’t think he can really see me. I can’t hold it. I’m not as cool as I thought. I’m embarrassed. But I’m cool enough to let it unfold.
We’re finished now. Everyone piles out and looks at the pattern. Lawrence has drawn a platypus with the van. Perry the Platypus from Phineas and Ferb. Cool. We pull away and I look again at the dump truck driver. I still can’t make out his expression, but if I were him, I’d be smiling.
Dinner is at a family favourite restaurant. Lawrence mispronounces food on the Mexican menu and we all laugh when the waiter corrects him. My littlest spends most of her time under the table, but we later “puppy tango” (family joke) together as we get up to leave. My middle one is taking selfies with Lawrence.
Birthday girl is happy. I give her a modest gift, wrapped in the colouring pages my little one has made while waiting for food. She loves it.
We spend time, then, hanging out on Whyte Avenue (Edmonton’s hipsterland), looking for old comics in our favourite vintage store. We don’t find any. We don’t buy anything. We forget to buy a birthday cake.
And it’s a great day. I think we may have to do this again. I think this beginning will have a plot line we can all look forward to in the future. We are creating our rituals, our stories, together. And it’s awesome.