Full circle — A bowl of oatmeal

by Kathy Larson

As a kid I ate a lot of oatmeal. Our family was large — eight kids, my mom and dad, usually a dog and one or two cats — and we were poor. Not destitute poor, or heartbreakingly poor, but with my dad being a Corporal in the Canadian Forces and my mom employed solely in the raising of us, well, there just wasn’t a lot of money.

Staple foods were a large part of our diet. Bread, potatoes, pasta, root vegetables, canned vegetables, hamburger, hotdogs, bologna, apples, oranges — these made up the base of many of our meals. And then there was oatmeal. Until I was in my teens and the financial situation got a little better in our house we had oatmeal almost every day for breakfast.

You’d think my brothers and sisters and I would hate the stuff, but there’s not one of us that does. For sure, they don’t eat it every day anymore, but in talking to them recently they all said how they love a bowl of hot oatmeal (with lots of brown sugar and milk, of course) every now and then.

The stuff my mom made was always the Quaker brand 5 minute oats — she could whip up a big pot of that in no time and we would all help ourselves from the pot as we filed downstairs each morning before heading out the door to school or play. The bag of brown sugar was on the middle of the table — a big old picnic table my dad had assembled in the kitchen — the only thing big enough to seat us all at — along with a bag of milk in its little plastic holding jug.

Bagged milk! Still sold in Ontario. Not sure about Manitoba where we grew up. It would be delivered twice a week to our door, two three packs at a time, and still we would run out in between. Eight kids — thats a lot of bones.

For a while after I left home I didn’t eat oatmeal at all. It was beneath me. Oh, the ridiculous ideas we have when we’re young. Then I got married and started a family of my own and oatmeal entered the picture again. It was the perfect food for a toddler — and I could put anything in it — bananas, strawberries, chocolate syrup — and my son would gobble it up. The only thing he wouldn’t eat in it was raisins. He would spit those at me every time.

Though I started out making the quick-cooking oats just as my mom had, one day I switched to buying the instant type oatmeal. It came in so many flavours and was so ridiculously fast to make that I couldn’t help thinking what a no-brainer it was. It was shortly after that that my son decided he didn’t like oatmeal anymore. And I had to agree with him, I no longer liked it as much, either. It didn’t taste like oatmeal should. It was gluey and salty and chemical tasting. I went back to making the stuff I had to cook myself, but the damage was done and pouring from a box was just simpler, so we switched to cold cereal. To this day I don’t think my son has ever eaten oatmeal again.

About 15 years ago my husband went through a phase of eating oatmeal. Every. Single. Day. He had read an article about what a super food it was and so once a month while watching Star Trek on television he would make up a month’s worth of little plastic bags of oatmeal mixed with raisins, craisins, nuts, dried fruit and artificial sweetener. Every morning he’d grab one of these bags, nuke his oatmeal in the microwave and eat it as he made the drive into town to work. We went through a lot of lost bowls during that phase. Eventually, he grew tired of eating the same thing every morning and those little bags of oatmeal languished in the pantry til well beyond the best-before date.

Despite not having oatmeal as a breakfast staple anymore I always kept a bag of it on hand. For cookies, to add to meatloaf, to add to bread when I baked it and for that occasional nostalgic moment when I longed for the feeling of comfort and home that nothing but a bowl of hot, brown-sugary oatmeal could supply.

Lately, I’ve returned to eating oatmeal most mornings. A couple of years ago my doctor prescribed cholesterol medication and that got me thinking about how to avoid having to take it. (Unfortunately, according to my doctor and a bunch of on-line research, avoidance isn’t good practice) so I grudgingly take it. Still, it made me take a hard look at what and how I eat and I’ve made changes. One of those changes is to include oatmeal in my morning routine.

Just about every day, after my morning glass of water and my first cup of coffee are out of the way, I make myself a bowl of oatmeal. I add a handful of seeds and nuts, some dried fruit, a teaspoon of brown sugar and splash of some form of milk alternative.

It’s not the same as mom used to make, but it sure is inspired by her.

Zero to Sixty – the next installment

asphalt dark dawn endless
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

It’s been a busy month. I’m finally getting around to the next few achievements in my life thus far. It’s tough thinking about your life — what you have and have not done with it. I re-read my previous posts to get an idea of what I’d already written about and I was pleasantly surprised. My life has been a good one.

Here goes with some more of what sticks out for me:

36.  Taking a road trip to Arizona with Tim, and my brother and sister-in-law Rick and Connie. We drove to Vegas, then to Sedona. The scenery was breathtaking. We stopped at the Grand Canyon — truly as beautiful as the postcards make it. I can see why Canadians flock there in the winter.

37.  Going by motorcycle from our home in Bon Accord, AB to Dartmouth, NS. We were gone for three absolutely incredible weeks. We drove through every major city along the way, followed the Loyalist route and King’s Highway through Ontario and Quebec, had a lobster roll in Shediac, NB, walked the ocean floor at the Bay of Fundy, saw Stephen King’s house in Bangor, Maine, ate deep dish pizza in Chicago, drove by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cincinnati, slept like the dead in Toledo, and along the way we met some of the nicest and best people – on both sides of the border.

38.  Taking our son to Disney World for his 10th birthday. This was the only flying holiday we ever had as a family. We had so much fun on that trip — we also took in Universal Studios — Ghostbusters, The Jetsons, Indiana Jones; went to Sea World — hand fed sting rays, pet sea urchins, got splashed by Namu; and went to Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Science center – Tim and Landon were completely in awe of all the space craft and the simulation command center.

39.  Being elected President of our Local Union — SSD#24 Local 4625. I held this position for 7 years and it was one of the most rewarding and personal growth opportunities I’ve ever had. I learned so much about people during that time — and how important it is to be involved and knowledgeable about how work works.

40.  Summer holidays spent in the back of a station wagon when mom and dad would take us home to Ontario. No air conditioning, eight kids — one in front with mom and dad, two in the back and five in the middle. My sister and I would be on the floor with pillows behind the front seat and the other three would share the seat. Dad telling stories about the Indian braves Falling Rock and Sharp Shoulders. Black flies, no-seeums and mosquitoes. Dad teaching us to skip rocks. The sound of loons in Northern Ontario when we were camped for the night. Mom making baloney sandwiches while dad drove — soft white bread, a slice of baloney and mustard — the best sandwiches ever.

July 20th & 21st

Days 202 and 203 —  Yesterday — rainy and cool so decided to do more housecleaning.  Took on the main living room.  Got up close and personal with the upper windows and am looking at some re-caulking work and painting before winter.  Those window really need to be replaced, but. . .

Am continuing on my clean and purge routine.  It’s such a great feeling!  The wall unit in the living room where I keep just about everything under the sun was a big job.  I threw out a a TON of outdated manuals and junk that had accumulated over the past 23 years.  I can’t believe how much crap we stick in drawers!  I also packed away some things that just didn’t need to be collecting dust anymore.

When I got to the bottom cupboards I discovered the photo albums we used to put all our pictures in.  Looked through them quickly, got a little teary and though my intent had been to pack them up, I just couldn’t.  It’s wonderful to look back on all those pictures and see the young us.  Tim, fresh-faced with a look of eagerness and excitement in his eyes; Landon, so young with all those beautiful red curls he had as a baby and toddler — and always with a big, beautiful smile.  And, then, there’s the young me.  Looking, I thought, often far too serious, and much, much thinner.  I had smiles too, though, and it made my heart ache (just for a moment) for all those years gone.  I love my family.  I love that I have these pictures of us.  I now have a pile of pictures that need going through and placing in those albums.  Another rainy-day project.

Today was quiet.  Tim had to work and I just putzed about.  At noon I went and picked up my youngest grandson and had him come visit for the afternoon.  We worked in the yard and then I made us strawberry milkshakes.  After we played UNO and he beat me.  Four years old and already a card-shark!  I loved having that one-on-one time with him.  Doesn’t happen very often with any of them anymore.  I’m going to have to work on changing that.

I chose a new book.  It’s Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King.  A summer just isn’t a summer if I don’t get at least one SK book in.  He is my writing hero.  This book is a collection of short stories — novellas, really — and I just finished the first one.  1922 is a grim little story about being careful about what you wish for.  Vintage Stephen King.  I loved it,  though some parts were a little squeamish — but then, that’s why he’s the master.

And now, it’s off to bed.  Hope I don’t have nightmares.

Monday, March 8, 2010

It’s been a good day.  I took the day off to get some Union stuff done — and I got it done.  Yay, me!

Heather and I went for a walk in Gibbons this afternoon.  It’s lovely along the river path — slippery as hell in some spots, but very nice.  Spring really is just around the corner, but not before we get blasted with cold and snow one more time. 

March came in like a lamb, so you just know it’s going to go out like a lion, right? 

That old saying has stuck with me since Grade 3.  I remember doing some little craft in school with cotton balls.  One side of the picture was a lion roaring and blowing icy cold breath all over, and the other side was lambs and sunshine and flowers.  Why that’s stayed with me, I’ll never know, but when ever I think of March I think of that picture that tiny little me made all those years ago. 

Speaking of nostalgia. . .

I kept lots of Landon’s school work — something from every grade.  Every once in a while I pull it out and look through it, just to remind myself that once upon a time he was small and he made things that brightened my day, my life. 

Now he’s all grown up and he (and his lovely wife, Jennifer) have made me three beautiful grandchildren.  Like he once did, they make me smile and give my life purpose.  I’ve started collecting little things they make, tacking them to the fridge and putting them away in notebooks and albums.  Someday, not all that far from now, I’ll be able to look at those things and remember the joy they gave me.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to share them with them, and the things their daddy made, too. 

Having these little connections to the past, to who we were, who we believed ourselves to be, is so very important, I think.  My husband goes on about history, as it pertains to family, and sometimes I get frustrated with him, because he’s always lamenting that it’s dying. 

I don’t think that kind of history ever dies, as long as you hold on to the little things, the things that make you smile, make your heart ache when you think on them.  Whether it’s a tiny little hockey coat, or a Christmas card made of construction paper and coloured crayons, these are the real artifacts of the life we live, the life we share, the life we celebrate as family. 

Family, as if you couldn’t tell,  is it, as far as I’m concerned. 

Once upon a time, in my wilder, misguided days, I didn’t think so.  In fact, I was often heard repeating what a very good friend of mine often said:  Family is over-rated. 

I didn’t understand then, just how stupid that was.  Now, when I look at those words I can’t believe I ever said them.  Because, to me, my family is what defines me.  It places me in the world, gives me a reference point, it roots me, stabilizes me, makes me feel I matter. 

And mattering, that’s what life is really all about, isn’t it?  Some are lucky enough to matter on a grand scale — think the Olympics, or the Oscars, or Pulitzer prize winners.  But most of us, including them, matter on a much smaller, far more intimate scale. 

Knowing that there is a group of people to whom your existence matters is like winning a prize each and every day of your life.  And collecting all the tiny bits of stuff — the pictures, the handprints in plaster or play-dough, the scribbled pictures, the favorite story and the stained sleeper — all these are the very best kind of trophies. 

The history of family never dies as long as you keep it out, keep it visible.  We have a cupboard in our kitchen filled with a bunch of old toys, and bits and pieces of stuff that came from Tim’s parents’ house after they died.  Whenever the kids come to visit they always want to look at those old, faded, chipped and broken toys.  I take them out and let them hold them, tell them a little story to go along with each one. 

Or they go to my collection of miniatures that Landon and Tim have been buying for me since Landon was little.  “I want to hold the bird bath, Grandma.  Why did Daddy give you a bird bath?”  “I like the puppy.  Can I hold the puppy?  What was the puppy’s name Grandma?”  

I never get tired of showing them, or answering their questions.  I just hope they never get tired of asking them. 

History, family, it’s what you choose to make of it.