Saturday, May 13, 2006

My Day with the Dumases -- Part 3: Back at the Ranch

"My parents never have company!" Carrie exclaims. She still can't get over the invitation - which I accepted of course.

The old folks and the tot arrive back at the homestead well ahead of Carrie and I. As we exit the car I'm reminded that I've never made it as far as their front door.

"Um - will the dogs be okay with me coming in to the house?" I ask.

"I dunno," says Carrie.

'You don't know!'
I say to myself, exasperated. 'How does one not know such a thing about their own dog?' But then I realize. It's true. They honestly never have company. And being so far out in the boonies they don't get any door-to-door salesmen or charity boosters or purveyors of religious enlightenment. This is truly a momentous occasion. Monumental even! I'm struck by the honor.

We weave between the various standing-water traps, remaining out of leash-range of big dog #1 and we make it to the front door. The little dog - named Zorro I find out - is very friendly. Very very friendly. Not leg-humping friendly but almost. He’s a skinny little short-haired thing, significantly larger than a (oh shit - how do I spell this?) Chihouhou - but I’m told he’s a cross between that and a terrier. He looks to me like some kind of Toy Fox Terrier or Toy Manchester Terrier. He’s all ribs and tail and nervous energy.

The door opens on to the kitchen where the five of us gather - six if you include the pooch. Only then does Zorro notice that someone new is present and he wiggles and trembles and hind-legs it to reach up my leg to say hello.

“Hello pooch-dog!” I say and I grab his little noggin and ruffle him up a bit.

The kitchen is big with a high ceiling and a rooming-house feel. There’s a kitchen table of almost Waltons proportions standing in the beams of no less than six chandeliers. There are pot lights over the counters as well. This is a bright kitchen. You could film a sit-com TV-show in this kitchen - and someone probably should. Something in the spirit of The Ozbournes perhaps.

There are three full-sized fridges in here, all running. I shudder at the thought of their hydro bill. They have a massive collection of tins. You know - cookie tins and the like. They’re displayed on shelves and above cupboards everywhere you look.
We take seats around the great solid wooden table. Vanian joins us too with her little toy models of dragons and griffons and such and a few little tubs of paint with which to paint said models. I’m wondering if this toy is age-appropriate or not but dismiss the concern. What do I know about three-year-olds, after all?

The little pooch takes a seat very close to me in a small fuzzy chair that was probably Vanian’s until recently. She’s only barely outgrown it. I look down at Zorro. He’s a cute sight. I like dogs very much. He looks up and notices me and throws a tizzy. The chair falls onto it’s back as he jumps up and strikes my knee with his little paws. He seems to want up on my lap where I’m keen to have him but my somewhat cultured manners put the ix-nay on that idea. He settles for running about in circles while I right the little chair.

Nancy has previously answered my questions concerning the late Ed Wildman, the much-loved writing instructor whos kind words and deeds still inspire the veterans of our writing group. For the article to appear in the group’s web site I still need to interview Gaetan and Carrie so I start with Gaetan. Nancy meanwhile bustles around, never leaving earshot and she feeds Gaetan most of his answers. I then interview Carrie and she’s a little more assertive. She manages to get some of her own perspectives across.

I see that Vanian has tired of the dragon model and is now studiously painting the kitchen table green. I loudly ask her if she’s allowed to do that. Grandpa turns to her, now enlightened.

“Don’t do that!” he barks. She returns to painting the little model.

We all sit down to do some writing. Carrie throws out a prompt.

“That was the most difficult thing I’ve ever…”

We write. Vanian wants to take part so she’s given a small notebook and a pencil. While the adults ‘follow the pen’ the little girl draws swirls and whirls and scribbles.

Ten minutes. Time’s up. Vanian goes first and recites her ‘story’. I can’t understand a single word. I assume she does - that she’s not just making random sounds - but I never really know. Sometimes mom or grandma offers a translation but not this time. She comes to the end of her dissertation - or pauses at least. We immediately respond with exhuberant applause.

Flushed with success and the overwhelming approval, Vanian decides she hasn't had enough. She launches into a spontaneous epilogue made entirely of words the English language never dreamed of. I notice she now has smears of green paint on her otherwise pink jacket. She receives another hearty round of applause and this spawns a further curtain call at which time grandma sternly remarks that this will be the last chapter. Eventually the adults get their turn to read.

At the intermission I head for the powder room. I discover that the main floor bathroom is actually a full bathroom, remodeled to include a shower stall in an annex once appropriated from a former hallway.

The result is a room full of interesting nooks and crannies - each of which plays host to some of the most spectacular cobwebs I've ever seen. If it weren't for the seven - yes, seven - lighting fixtures in the little room, I would have sworn I was in the lair of Shelob - spider queen from the borderlands of Tolkien's Mordor.

Nevertheless I did my business quickly and left, thoughts of man-eating arachnids hastening my step.

Back in the comfort and safety of the kitchen, I say to my hosts, "You sure have a lot of lights in here."

"That's because Gaetan's afraid of the dark," states Nancy.

'But not of spiders,' I think to myself.

"I am not!" barks Gaetan.

"It's okay," I say. "All writers are afraid of the dark. We have too vivid an imagination." I then try to change the subject. "I like your house. It has a lot of character. It feels like the home of creative people."

"Well you know," says Nancy, reading my mind. "Sometimes you have a choice. You can either do housework or you can write."

"So write!" I say

"Exactly," she says.

"We always wash the kitchen floor, though," says Nancy later, as I stand to leave, having thanked them for their hospitality.

"Yes, I see that," I reply, eyeing the bright white tiles. My eyes follow them toward my feet where I discover, to my mild amusement that I am standing smack in the middle of a puddle of liquid that is a distinct tint of yellow. I'm not alarmed. My shoes are on.

"Oh my," Nancy exclaims. "That was Zorro."

I stand very still, unsure of the protocols of social etiquette prescribed for such an occasion.

"That was Zorro," she says again, as if to assure me. As if worried I might be suspecting some other member of the family.

Luckily I'm only two giant steps from the door so upon Nancy's prompting I slip out without tracking too much piddle around. I thank them for the good time - which it certainly was. These are fine folk. A little eccentric but fine indeed.


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