So goes the vintage saying, but actually, I scream when I see old Volkswagens (giving Practical Man heart failure, in the process) and occasionally, I scream for cows. Because, they have big teeth and even bigger, hairy tongues.
The other day, I zigged when I should have zagged during lunch and the resulting coughing fit caused my body to try to faint for nearly an hour afterwards.
Dear nervous system: you are seriously high maintenance.
But, I take medication so I can (mostly) avoid having things like this happen. That is, if along with the drugs, I live a careful, don’t zig instead of zag, I’m-basically-a-Jane-Austen-character-even-though-I-don’t-wear-corsets kind of life.
Here are the BAD things about being a fainter:
- I am not, actually, a character in a Jane Austen novel. Although, I can play the pianoforte (as they called it in Jane Austen’s time) and recite long-winded poetry (okay, Alice’s Restaurant is a vintage song not a poem, but it sort of counts). Not being a Jane Austen character is unfortunate because my waist would look much smaller if I had to wear a corset. Or, if I stopped eating Wispa chocolate bars, which I obviously can’t because being a fainter, one has to have some compensatory perks in life. It’s a yin-yang sort of thing. So there. And, I’m pretty sure Jane Austen would wholeheartedly approve (and subsequently write about how a true gentleman brings offerings of “delectable sweeties”, which everyone knows–well, at least Practical Man does–is Jane Austen-ish code for: Wispa chocolate bars.)
- I have landed with my head on un-glamorous things: like toilet bowls and berber carpet and my boss’s lap. Um, yeah.
- I got a large, oozing, rug burn wound on my forehead the last time I fainted, from fainting off our pillow-top mattress–which is tantamount to Olympic diving. Have you seen how high North-American beds are these days? I tried to tell people that the cucumber slice-sized mess on my forehead was from stealing jewels in my alter-ego life as a cat burglar but, apparently fainting goes hand-in-hand with fibbing and tall tales.
- There isn’t a frequent fainter’s club where I get sent free stuff. Y’know, an “every fourth time you faint, you get a trip to Paris” club, or something. I think that should really be a thing. Instead, it’s “every time you faint, you lose your driver’s license“. That club is not tra-la-la at ALL.
- When people compare you to a FAINTING GOAT. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “Hey, aren’t there goats on the internet or something that faint?” and get to marvel at being compared, yet again, to a farm animal that went viral because that’s just so very flattering and sweet. And, we already know how I feel about farm animals…like scary, scary cows. Jane Austen would not approve of my being lumped in with that feral lot. Neither would Mrs. Bennett. Think of the disastrous consequences to my marriage prospects!
- No one ever picks me up and carries off my teeny-tiny, waif-like, unconscious body, the way they would in a movie. I am 5’9″ and I eat Wispa bars whenever I can get my hands on them so, it’s completely sensible, of course, that people don’t try to heave me over their shoulder, because one doesn’t want to cause other people to have hernias but, I really think the faint-and-go-to-Paris (maybe, with Mr. Darcy) thing should be a thing, don’t you?
But, like other annoying life stuff, it’s not all bad. Here are the GOOD things about being a fainter:
- I feel very tra-la-la when I’m not fainting. As in, since I started taking medication, I don’t spend nearly as much time whacking my head on toilet bowls, berber carpeting or my boss’s lap. Um, yeah. Even better: I don’t spend nearly as much time WONDERING if I’m going to be whacking my head on toilet bowls, berber carpeting or my boss’s lap. This leaves my brain time to think of pithy banter I can exchange with Practical Man, a la characters in a Jane Austen novel. And, for him to roll his eyes, but never mind about that.
- When you get your driver’s license back and then Practical Man suggests that you buy the vintage car of your dreams, it is THE BEST DAY (even if there are no Wispa bars around.) Insert an ugly cry here (but don’t cry too hard because you may not know it, but, crying leads to fainting, which in turn leads to losing driver’s license and, well, this lovely circle of drama is how things go when one is afflicted with the tendency to swoon.)
- Fainting seems vintage, somehow. As in, the manner of swoony women from times gone by. This sometimes makes me feel vintage and lovely (a la Jane Austen) and sometimes makes me feel vintage and pathetic (a la Jane Austen). When it’s pathetic, I console myself with images of highly-trained, stoic male and female soldiers standing on parade and keeling over. Or, that guy from The Wiggles. I remind myself that fainting is a non-gendered, training and stoic-ignoring, international activity. Plus, in the hierarchy of diseases, this is pretty darn minor. I could be allergic to chocolate – quelle horreur! There, I’ve found my happy place again.
- I get to be sanctimonious in the manner of ex-smokers, ex-wheat eaters, ex-aerobic exercisers: because no doctor ever harasses me about high blood pressure. In fact, when they’re finished looking alarmed at how low my blood pressure is, they proceed to order me in a stern voice to “eat more salt”. Obviously, I can’t be in the middle of ages, because what chubby, 40-something human from a G10 country is told to “eat MORE salt” in this day and age? A woman living the faint-y life of a Jane Austen character, that’s who. I am also grateful that my neuro-cardiogenic syncope syndrome hasn’t been diagnosed as “female hysteria” or “neurasthenia” which, if I lived in Jane Austen’s time (or even mine, in select locales), would be a certainty.
- When you get your driver’s license back (I can’t quite emphasize this one enough) for the umpteenth time, it is THE BEST DAY AGAIN, even if there are no Wispa bars or vintage automobiles around. Although, as every frequent fainter knows, this losing/getting back/losing thing gets old really quickly, so maybe some Wispa bars will be required in the future. Or the get-a-free-trip-to-Paris thing. Yes, that one, pretty please.
- I am medically required to have regular ice cream. I am not medically required to have Wispa bars but, lucky for me, the doctor told me that ice cream is apparently loaded with sodium. Sodium: as in “eat MORE salt”. I am pretty sure that means that ice cream counts as first aid and preventative medicine, for me. Not only that, but, I’m positive that eating ice cream WHILE IN Paris WITH MR. DARCY (aka Practical Man) will cure me of fainting, forever.
I’m almost sure of it.
I am not brave.
In fact, I’m fairly sure I can easily be classified as a bonafide ‘fraidy cat.
Cows scare me (all that eye rolling surely leads to stampeding or something ominous with their big teeth.)
Revolving doors give me pause (I do quite enough spinning on my own, thankyouverymuch.)
Even the letter “X” can cause a shiver (seems a bit pointy, at times.)
Like I said, I am not brave. And I’m a diagnosed swoony, fainty type, so really, I should have been born last century or in a Jane Austen novel.
It’s as if I’m of another era, so maybe that’s why I find myself loving and buying antique vehicles.
They’re not easy or economical or practical (kind of like me). But Practical Man loves me and I love them, so he overlooks these points. Not to mention, spends hours and months fixing and maintaining them.
Meanwhile, I’m twirling, making flowery seat covers, and taking pictures of the cute-shaped hunks of metal (Beetle, Fiat) or fiberglass (Boler). Tra-la-la!
Because, that’s what antique vehicles are for, right?
I used to have a 1973 Beetle.
It didn’t look scary with its chubby shape and cheery yellow and white paint, but it terrified me at first.
You see, the rule is, if you’re a swoony, fainty type: you can’t drive.
Probably a good rule.
But, I had finally got effective treatment and was allowed, after 15+ years, to get my driver’s license back. I had to take my final driver’s test and parallel park and blah, blah, blah to get my full license but I am good at tests, so fairly shortly thereafter, we bought the Beetle. But, my time behind the wheel of any car, let alone one with old car idiosyncrasies, had been very limited.
I remember driving the Beetle back to our house from where we purchased it (about 2.5 scary hours away). My hands were sweaty, I found myself grinding the gears and shouting things into the wind out the sunroof (bad words don’t count if you shout them into the wind–or in German). Practical Man drove behind me in the chase car, seemingly unfazed by my driving or bad, German words. Meanwhile, I was having 17 heart attacks, especially when I accidentally ended up on the Big Fat Scary Speedy Highway.
I screamed the whole time I was trying to merge on to the highway with my 1600 cc engine (and basket of old/new driver insecurities).
Fast forward 10 years and here I am again, nauseated, sweating and in full ‘fraidy cat mode.
The classic Fiat500 is soooo very cute.
But, it makes a very, very expensive lawn ornament. And, I don’t yet have my glassed-wall garage where I can admire the vehicles from the comfort of our living room.
Hence, the little Fiat must be driven.
Practical Man has been wrestling with the engine on it for a while now. It got new stuff added by a mechanic and came back broken but, Practical Man used his superior problem solving skills and stick-toitiveness and problem solved and stuck to it until he got it working.
But, it was a false alarm until he used more of his superior problem solving skills and stick-tuitiveness (and possibly some Seafoam in the engine) and now, yes, it is really working.
Except…that means, ahem, I actually have to drive it.
Not just sew it fun seat covers and stuff to hang from the rear view mirror.
I went out this afternoon on a solo mission. If that makes me sounds like an astronaut, it’s because I felt like one.
You see, it’s an old and very simple little car. (Not unlike its owner, actually.)
There is no glove compartment or radio or even a gas gauge.
Hedgehug has a very tiny engine (only 2 cylinders), standard transmission (with no synchromeshing so, you need to double-clutch between each gear when you shift), a manual starter lever, a manual choke, and a 1970 gearbox.
Today, I stuck to the country roads and took deep breaths and tried to calm the rapid, fluttery sensation around my heart. I said nothing in German, but , there was some gear grinding and one stall, as Hedgehug and I tried to learn how to get along with each other.
There will be quite a few more of these days before I am brave enough to grind gears and stall it in the city. Then, it will be October and time to put it away for the winter. And come next May and Old Car Goes On The Road for the Summer Day, I’ll have to be brave all over again.
Honestly, it’s enough to make me faint.
Luckily, I take medication for that now.
There was a message on our voicemail the other day.
“Good morning,” said a little voice.
Then, “How are you?”
It was a very polite little voice.
It’s strawberry season in south-eastern Ontario and my fairy godson, age 2 and 3/4, was calling to invite me out for the picking.
Or, as he knows it: the eating.
I like strawberry picking, except for the bending and standing up (which makes me feel faint-ish) and the turning-my-head and picking (which makes me feel spinny-ish) and of course, there is The Nature to contend with.
But, how could I resist an invitation from someone who calls me “Auntie Kiss”?
Oh sure, my name is “Chris” and you might think this is his 2 and 3/4 year-old way of pronouncing my name, but even when he’s 14 and possibly slightly stinky and drama-tudinal, I like to think this will be my fairy godmother name forever.
(As in: one who gives kisses and loves to receive them.)
Is there a better name for a fairy godmother than that? I think not.
So, after the lovely invitation, I met Fairy Godson, his Kitemama and baby Fairy Godsister at the patch.
It was soggy and muddy from all the recent rain, so we wore our rubber boots (one of us had new and very exciting firefighter rubber boots!) and squelched around in the mud in the parking lot.
Squelch, squelch, squelch.
You know how The Nature can get sometimes. Verrrrry squelchy.
Then, we waited for the tractor to come and pick us up to take us out to the part of the patch we were picking.
It was a “big, DEEN TAK-TOR with a bucket!” and someone wearing new firefighter rubber boots was pretty excited. We hopped on the wagon with our empty baskets and the giant, DEEN TAK-TOR tires squelched around the muddy trail to our patch of the strawberry fields.
Squelch, squelch, squelch.
Then, we squatted in the field and searched for bright, red pockets of sunshine to put in our baskets.
Fairy Godson had two baskets because he knew to look for the “really red ones”. He also knew how to deftly remove the stems, fling them into the plants, and pop the “really red ones” in his mouth.
Squelch, squelch, squelch.
As you do.
Kitemama and I got going with the bending and standing up (which makes me feel faint-ish) and the turning-our-heads and picking (which makes me feel spinny-ish) and of course, The Nature had made everything sort of soggy but I was having a great time picking berries and squelching in the mud.
Fairy Godson guarded the berries for me, polite child that he is and soon, the DEEN TAK-TOR came to pick us up for the ride back.
Squelch, squelch, squelch went the TAK-TOR through the mud.
There was a little sprinkling of rain from The Nature but, we didn’t mind as we were already soggy and our new firefighter rubber boots were muddy anyway, and with a belly full of strawberries (at least one of us), we got off the tractor and lined up to pay.
And then, I had my annual, mild heart attack at the price of 8 scant litres of fresh, local strawberries. But, I also remembered about the bucolic, vintage pleasures of the tractor ride and how good the “really red ones” taste and how many were in the belly of a small helper–and no doubt, countless other helpers across the field–and I opened my wallet and handed over the money.
After a stint driving the play structure TAK-TOR at the entrance, we carried our treasures to the car.
Bye, Bye Kitemama and baby Fairy Godsister.
Bye, Bye Fairy Godson.
Bye, Bye, Auntie Kiss.
Squelch, squelch, squelch.
Not the mud, that time.
They say you never forget your first love.
Mine was a yellow and white 1973 Volkswagen Super Beetle.
Practical Man found the Bug for me online and thought we should buy it. I had finally been successfully treated for a fainting disorder that had plagued me (and my driver’s license) for 15 long years. No more keeling over, it seemed. So, I could finally drive again.
It was time, Practical Man said.
I protested a bit. It was a luxury…not a necessity. And by the way, I said (hands on hips, as that is how I pretend I am momentarily practical), a classic VW Beetle definitely isn’t practical: no heat for Canadian winters, only usable half the year (or less), liable to rust out from under us, blah, blah, blah. It wasn’t remotely “utilitarian” (one of Practical Man’s necessities in a vehicle) and it definitely couldn’t carry a sheet of plywood in the back (that’s one of Practical Man’s tests to measure those flashy, practical-wannabe vehicles that act like they’re oh-so utilitarian but hah! can’t even carry a sheet of plywood in the back).
Despite its exuberant hue and uselessness at Home Depot, Practical Man insisted the Bug was meant to be mine. After all, he said, classic Beetles were among my favourite cars, daisies were my favourite flower and this BEETLE was yellow and white, LIKE A DAISY.
Then, he used the eyebrows on me.
I can’t resist the eyebrows.
You have to trust me: these are magic eyebrows.
So, we bought the non-practical Beetle and I loved it with all my heart for nine summers. I rejoiced every Spring on the first day of driving and I pouted a bit every fall, when it went away for the winter. I drove it to work every day and I never, ever took for granted a single moment of not just–finally, finally having my driver’s license back but, also, also–driving that car that made me and everyone around us smile.
Then, there was a fire in the winter storage building and what remained of the Beetle went off to be re-born as (hopefully) a Mini Cooper S…or something else fun. Hey, that car did good deeds. It didn’t deserve to morph into something that carries plywood.
Now, there is a new (old) car in town. A 1970 Fiat 500. We were busy re-building after the fire and then, there was a winter with higher snowbanks than two classic Fiats stacked on top of each other, and then some work to get it road-worthy, so tomorrow will be the Fiat’s first day being back on the road.
It’s tiny, tiny, oh-so-tiny. Here it is, next to our (new) Fiat 500, which is a small (new) car but looks pretty large compared to the (old) original:
It also looks diminutive next to its classic car counterparts. So small, in fact, that it has an exterior luggage rack. Yes, that’s because you can’t even fit luggage in the back, let alone a sheet of plywood.
Not utilitarian in the least.
But, that Practical Man seems to have a broad definition of practical.
As in, if it makes my sweetheart full of tra-la-la, then it’s practical.
(Excuse me while I sniffle a little.)
So, the classic Fiat is here to stay. It has a choke, a starter, no gas gauge or synchromeshing between gears, not even a radio. It’s not utilitarian or sensible or large.
But, I have a feeling that, like my Beetle, this little Fiat will also hold a very large place in my heart.
Kind of like Practical Man.
I can’t wait to get to know you better.
Today’s mission is to encourage you to spend a sunny afternoon having a picnic in a cemetery.
Oh, now, why are you making that face?Didn’t your mother ever tell you that your face might stick like that? And besides, don’t knock a cemetery picnic ’til you’ve tried it.
Until that lovely day arrives, please, please trust me (have I ever led you astray?): cemetery picnics are great!
We’ve always loved cemeteries in my family, what with our nostalgia thing (on my dad’s side) and our spring cemetery Decoration Day thing (on my mom’s side) and making up outrageous stories about people who lived long ago thing (oh wait, that was me).
Also, I have young parents and they had young parents and they, in turn, also had young parents (that would be my great grandparents now, are you keeping track?) so there’s a lot of living history.
Not to mention birthday cards.
I was lucky, lucky, lucky because my great, great Grandma Jo (that would be my Grandpa Lou’s grandma) lived until she was almost 104.
I was 11 when she died. That’s 11 rare years with my great, great grandmother: the woman who chased my grandpa Lou around when he was a baby.
In the 1920s. Practically yesterday, to Grandma Jo.
She was born in 1876.
That’s a seriously long time ago before world wars and evil, control-top pantyhose and we got to hear all about it, from someone who was there.
How cool is that?
Grandma Jo told stories about her parents and grandparents (that would be my great, great, great grandparents and my great, great, great, great grandparents. Are you keeping track?) and she had pictures because she was the somewhat privileged daughter of a miller/judge.
Who needs ancestry.com when we had Grandma Jo?
Did you know that people in the olden days weren’t all grumpy? Cameras took ages to take the picture and it’s actually really difficult to say CHEEEEEEESE for that long (and besides, their mothers had probably told them that their faces might stick like that).
Also, they had to wear corsets. So, some of those frowns might have been due to a little grumpiness after all, as it strikes me that a corset might be even worse than control-top pantyhose.
Grandma Jo also had a time where she was a frequent fainter, just like I am.
My doctors always say, “you’ll probably live until you’re 100, you’ll just faint a lot”. Little do they know, if my great-great grandma was any indication, I could still be around in 2073.
Wacky to think about. I hope I still have teeth.
Or, at least the ability to eat tomatoes. I lo-o-o-o-ve tomatoes. And goofy hats. I’m definitely wearing goofy hats in 2073.
Anyway, old stuff (and people) don’t freak us out the way they do some families. Hence, the cemeteries.
There is a lovely one, in nearby Prince Edward County, Ontario. It’s right next to equally stunning Chadsey’s Cairn winery (which is currently for sale, so if you’re really inspired by this post, you might want to wander up there for a look-see.)
I picture my friend Pippi spending eternity next to the grapes. Me, I’m more of a water view kind of a gal. I can’t afford it in this life but I’m hoping that by 2073, the afterlife will be cheaper (especially if I agree to share my graveyard with jaunty picnickers.)
The vineyard graveyard was just begging for a picnic but we didn’t have a corkscrew or a lovely bit of fancy cheese, the last time we were there.
I think homemade cinnamon-sugar doughnuts from the stand down the road should count as a picnic, don’t you?
My first almost-grown-up cemetery picnic occurred when I was 15. It was under some big, beautiful trees at Trinity Church, on Wolfe Island, with my friend Gretchen (not really her name). Gretchen lives in Germany where everyone seems to plant their loved-ones’ individual plots completely, which I think is really nice (not to mention tidy) but, not conducive to a picnic.
Wolfe Island is not technically one of The Thousand Islands but it should be, because it’s right next door. It’s just a short ferry-ride from downtown and a picnic in a cemetery is always made even better when a ferry ride is involved.
Gretchen and I sang “In a Country Churchyard” by Chris de Burgh, slightly off-key but enthusiastically, and ate our sandwiches on the grass next to the tombstones.
It was peaceful.
You’re making that face again.
I hope it doesn’t stick like that.
I have heard it told that in every relationship, someone is the gardener and someone is the flower.
Apparently, in our house, I am the…can you guess?
But wait! I think you’re wrong.
So, try again please…I beg you to re-consider.
Which do you think I am?
The gardener? or…
…REALLY? That’s your guess?
If you guessed the flower, you are not alone.
I don’t like being the flower, even though a woman being the flower does harken back to something rather vintage. All that “the fairer sex” stuff. My Grandma Verna actually told me recently that when my Grandpa Howard had an accident at work in the ’50s, one of the doctors wrote in his report, “the patient’s wife is a seemingly intelligent woman.”
Seemingly intelligent. Because you know, intelligence is often suspect when it comes to the fairer sex.
Anyway, being the flower is new for me. I’ve never been the flower before. In past relationships, I was always the gardener; the very determined gardener, trying to get a (large and I was sure, misunderstood) weed to magically transform into the beautiful sunflower I just knew it was inside. I am a people-pleasing, care-taking, co-dependant, gardener sort of gal.
Still, I conducted a little survey among our friends. An innocuous little survey about gardeners and flowers. Traitors that they are, they all agreed that when it comes to Practical Man and me, I am definitely the flower.
Positively, definitely, no doubt about it, they said.
Harumph. Who needs friends anyway?
Well, fine then, if I must be the flower, I like to think I’m a daisy. They’re my favourites. They look so cheerful and they’re very natural (that is, not high maintenance at all) and of course, vintage, if you look at any wedding bouquet photo from 1972.
However, even I can admit that sometimes, just occasionally, I am less like a daisy and more like the 40+ kinds of roses Practical Man used to grow in our yard when we lived in suburbia. Or, the rose in one of my favourite books, “Le Petit Prince“. That is, just a teensy-tiny bit high maintenance.
Just, the odd time. For example:
1) I am afraid of cows, like in a shrieky sort of way (not an especially handy quality to have when you live in the country).
2) I can’t drink alcohol or I’ll faint.
3) I can’t get too hot or I’ll faint.
4) I can’t stay up past 9:00 pm two days in a row or I’ll faint.
5) I can’t shriek or I’ll faint (see cow problem above).
6) I can’t go on an airplane or I’ll faint (and cause an international incident where I’m almost banned from flying even though I’m thousands of miles and an ocean away from home in a German airport all by myself with somehow, unfairly, NO Ritter Sport chocolate bars on my person, but that’s another story).
You may be sensing a theme. There’s more but the long and the short of it: I’m like one of those fainting goats. Well, not so much recently because I take medication that actually works, thank goodness. But, that medication came about because of astute observations made by Practical Man which in turn, helped doctors finally figure out, after 17 years of swooning, what was wrong with me. Once again, proving that I am (darn it!) the flower.
7) You already know how I am with The Nature.
8) But you probably don’t know that I have a thing about chewing. Can’t stand to hear it. Even three rooms over. If I’m ever captured and tortured for state secrets, all they have to do is chew raw carrots in my vicinity and I’ll spill the beans (and possibly some of their blood) immediately.
9) Also, I must eat my potato chips in a certain order (broken ones first, then ones that are misshapen, then ones with bubbles until I finish with one perfect chip). I don’t know why. But, I realized a few years ago that my mother does the same thing so I’m pretty sure there’s a potato-chip-ordering gene that scientists haven’t quite discovered yet. There should be a study and then me and my mom will be vindicated (I can hear you mocking us even now) because the potato-chip-ordering gene could help solve important world problems, I’m sure of it.
10) I can’t tilt my head more than 20 degrees in any direction without getting spinny. I know, I know. You already heard that I was fainty. But, see, this is spinny, not fainty. Spinny and fainty are totally different sensations but I’m pretty sure that they both add up to the same thing.
That is: that I am the flower.
Luckily, like my Grandma Verna, I’m also seemingly intelligent.