May 10, 2009
spelling america with a 'k'

Spent the weekend in Watertown. Now that it's over, I'm having trouble remembering how it all fit together. I've had a cold for a week, which isn't too serious but comes with a runny nose and perpetual headache, both of which slow my thinking and scrub my memory.

I know it started with a dead mouse. When I came home from work on Friday, I found a mouse in the kitchen trap, its back half hanging out the side. Awesome, I thought. (You wouldn't be sentimental either if you knew that they were using your son's highchair to get to the counter or if you had to wash shit out of your pots every time you wanted to cook.) For some non-psychotic reason, I wanted to take a picture (vindictiveness?) which was when I discovered that my autofocus was busted and my latest point n' shoot was useless right before a vacation.

This was not the worst part, though. That came a few minutes later, when I emptied the trap in the park right behind my house as a gift to the scavengers and it started to twitch. Traumatic. I watched in horror as its convulsive twitching brought it a centimeter from where it was dropped; then my courage broke and I fled to the house, locking the gate behind me. Mason ended up using a garden shovel to put it out of my misery, which surprised me because I was the one who had to deal with the skinned squirrel that appeared in the backyard last summer.

Getting out of the city was a hassle. Mason couldn't find his passport, I had That Headache, and what with anxiety and irritation the packing took twice as long. We didn't get out of town until 6:15, which sucks when you have a four hour drive ahead of you. But we were fed, watered and walked, so we were able to go straight through. We got there at 10:30 or so, Blake sleeping in back and the two adults singing along to the radio to stay awake.

Preacher & Martha were waiting up for us, and we quickly initiated Mason into the Watertown diet, which relies heavily, if not exclusively, on beer and cigarettes. The only downside to the diet is that, by the time we were all ready to pack it in, it was unconscionably late for two sets of adults with very young boys. Blake proved this to be true just before 6 the next morning, when he arrived at my side, wet and repentant from soaking the bed. I let him dress himself, which was amusing, and it was about 10 before I was able to drag myself out of an allergy-swollen sleep to join the party.

It was Saturday morning, showing Mason the newly-restored historic downtown with the boys in a wagon, that I noticed Preacher & Martha's boss camera. I got my tax return last week, and after the car repairs got whacked off and I decided to put off a tattoo yet again, I found in me a deep desire for a spanking new camera. Preacher explained the awesome pictures that could be taken with this model; Martha poured fuel on the fire by extolling the bargains to be found at Sam's Club, and it didn't take much convincing before I resolved to take the plunge.

As we brought Mason from site to site and I looked at the ready-to-go wrought iron fountain, the still-crumbling Masonic lodge (my future home) and the Tiffany stained glass window that was completely blocked off before the library's restoration, I found myself calculating the views as one who would soon return with an awesome camera. Watertown's epic combination of the glorious and the crumbling are the photographic subjects of the gods, the exact thing to make my heart go pitter patter with voyeuristic lust.

Lunch was at the Crystal, where Mason confirmed my faith in him by falling as deeply in love with it as I. But poor Blake was sleep-deprived from his late-night arrival and early morning bedwetting, and a chocolate milk to one unused to such luxuries was not the best balm to his spirit. When he ran out before the food arrived, he demanded another, and by the time my tuna melt had arrived he'd had a little meltdown of his own. I spent a fair amount of time at lunch trying to coax him back inside the restaurant, asking him to sit down, reminding him to eat, hugging him when he cried and fending off his attempts to relieve his bruised feelings by throttling me. Preacher made a big deal about how slowly I finished my sandwich which earned him a caustic reply softened by a smirk; yes, I'm a slow eater, but if anyone else at the table wanted to hug Blake and risk the sudden choking, I didn't see any hands go in the air.

It was at some point at lunch when the subject of my mouse-ridden house came up. Preacher & Martha offered me their cat, a sweet tempered blue who has been unhappy ever since the puppy moved in. At first this was a joke: ha ha, an allergic couple is bringing a cat across the border! Then Martha offered a new litter box and the chance to return her in a month if it didn't work out. "Ok," I said cautiously, "but if I want to give her back, I don't want to hear any sassmouth."

"With us there's always sassmouth," Preacher replied. He picked up the cheque, and the deal was sealed.

Our gorgeous morning turned grey as we ate, and we hurried home to avoid the rain. Martha & I left the various boys to their various devices & went off to buy a camera. At Sam's, the only D60 left was the display. Not being particularly snobby about getting a product pre-smirched by little fingers, I asked about a discount. What they knocked off the sticker price was enough to pay for a carrying case & a smoking memory card. I was ecstatic. I floated through the rest of our errands, buying sheets and allergy meds but dying to get to an outlet and begin The Charging. After The Charging would follow The Insertion of the Memory Card and then! The Taking of Many Pictures.

But. My beautiful new (slightly sticky) camera would only take two half-pictures before the shutter quit completely. I was crushed. I walked out to the backyard, where Preacher and Mason were in the early stages of a bbq.

"My camera is defective," I announced. "I need a beer and a cigarette."

There were many consoling hugs, and promises that it would all get sorted out tomorrow after church. We decided that I would do a straight-up return/refund; later Martha offered to check out the Sam's Club near her church. These things being tomorrow's problem, I shoved aside the disappointment and we concentrated on getting supper into the boys with a minimum of spray, crumbs, dawdling and breakaways to fetch small toys. After dinner we piled into the cars and went to Sackett Harbour for ice cream cones, the final element in my comfort triumvirate (tri-comfor-ate?). And also, when the boys were put to bed, I had the added joy of the fire pit, a perpetual memorial to Preacher's mom that, not un-coincidentally, gives light, heat & primal soothing.

The next morning, still vaguely smelling of woodsmoke, Mason, Blake & I got ready for church. My original plan had been to walk, but it was cold and wet and Mason appeared to have sprained his ankle the day before. I didn't push it. Since we were a half-hour early, we decided to drive around and see if we could find any more fun features of Watertown. We managed to stumble across Thompson Park, which was worth it (if terribly chilly), and got to church – ta da! – two minutes late. Blake consented to visit Sunday School (which I thought terribly brave), and this was the best Mother's Day gift I could get, as it freed me to sit next to Mason and soak up Preacher's rather uncharacteristically casual sermon in peace. Breaking the usual rule of polite distance, I found us some kickass seats near the front and I could laugh, snort and gesticulate in response to Preacher's storytelling. I caught hell for it during the Peace, of course.

"Don't ever laugh at my sermon again," he warned me as we hugged.

"I was laughing with you!" I protested. (And I'm sure he wouldn't be able to handle complete humility from a girl who once went after the wafer with not so much as a by-your-leave.)

After church (and the obligatory snacks), I went off to return my first camera. We met back at the house, all of us more than ready for a late diner lunch at Sh(hhh)orty's (I told Blake & Good Hank that the extra 'sh' is to remind you to be quiet; this isn't Yellington's, you know.) I packed as quickly as possible, knowing that we'd still have to come back for the cat. Preacher and Sally looked at each other, clearly figuring out who was going to break the news. Uh-oh, I thought. They've finally decided to stop letting us come visit. But it was the cat; they'd had a moment with her the night before and decided to keep her. I was both relieved and crushed: no worries about allergies, but who was going to chase my vermin? It's probably better this way. I guess.

At the diner Blake managed to soil two shirts with his spaghetti & meatballs, and was taken to Best Buy with a hand-knit wool sweater zipped up to his neck. My new camera was the next model down, as it was on sale and still more expensive than my pre-smirched Sam's Club special. I resolved to be patient and not think about how long it would be until I was home and my battery charged up.

It wasn't until we were home, catless and yet laden down with much NY pale ale, new sheets, Ontario fudge and enough dirty clothes to choke a fish, that I realized my lovely new camera case (and my even lovelier unused memory card) were still in Watertown. And I cried.

Still, I hear that cases can be mailed, memory cards can be purchased locally, and Watertown will still be there when I have all my ducks in a row. It was a wonderful weekend, full of old favourites and the joy of introducing them to a new love. It was a rollercoaster of camera elation and crushing camera disappointment. It was Blake's joy in a new pet, and then the reality of saying goodbye to a cat we'd never really had.

Good thing the kids have tomorrow off; I'm just not ready to lead the youth of today in useful pursuits. As I said in September when I pulled in the parking lot on the first day of school, "I'm just coming here to come down."

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Don't make me send out the Blake. He doesn't listen to *anyone.*