Eh?

I’ve itched to get back to my writing.  You poor people are the benefactors of my fruit.  I appreciate your faithfulness, ever patient while I restructure my life around holidays, diet and exercise.  Just kidding.  The exercise bit hasn’t been working out very well.  Get it?  Working out?  I crack me up.

800px-Map_of_Minnesota_highlighting_Kittson_County.svgThe holidays, you ask?  Well we went up north, as Midwesterners are oft to do.  We go waaaaaay up north.  Bubba has family up there, and as such, they are as good as kin to me as well.  It’s a trek, but the road trip is nice.  There are several hours (about 7 to be exact) where there is nothing but the two of us exchanging meaningful conversation and healthy snacks.

Yeah . . . just kidding again.

Actually, Bubba turns up the tunes, we do a little head-banging until I have something to say and he politely turns it down.  He nods in agreement, waiting to see if I’m done, and when I go back to checking out Messenger, Snapchat, or Instagram, he turns it up and we return to the head-banging.

BIARw5OCcAEdFlh

Nelson Bros Bakery:  Donuts on top are life-size. Rolls on the bottom are gimammoth. Yes, they are so big they require a new word.

In Clearwater, Minnesota, we stop at the Travel Plaza and buy a muffin from the Nelson Bros. Bakery.  It’s tradition.  They boast cinnamon rolls the size of your head, and they aren’t just bragging.  One of those things would feed a small family.

We listen to podcasts like TED Talks, Freakonomics, This American Life, Radiolab, and sometimes I can get him to listen to Savage Lovecast.  Then we stop to let Bubba and the dogs pee on some secluded back road.  We switch command posts, me taking the wheel while he naps.

Our route takes us through Fargo, until at last we settle in a little Minnesota town a stone’s throw from both Canada and North Dakota.  At first glance, it’s a quiet little place with not much going on.  But then the Canadians come to visit.

Bubba’s late mother came from Canada.  I never met her, but she lives in the pictures and stories that surround the place.  Once a year, the Canadians come down from parts north.  They bring with them Coffee Crisps, homemade wine, and border stories.

Coffee Crisp

Coffee Crisp (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bubba loves Coffee Crisps, something that until recent years, had not been found this side of the Canada/US line.  As I write, he brushes the crumbs from the last one off his beard.  The new dog, Mosh, climbs up to check for remnants.

I, however, love the homemade wine.  And roast beast with gravy, and potatoes, and jello salad, and Christmas cookies.  And conversation.  I must let you know that no Canadian conversation, in my experience, is complete without a good border story.  It starts out innocently enough.

“How was the border?”

“Not too bad.”

“You got through pretty good, eh?”

“Yeah.  Pretty good.”

“Not like that one time, eh?”

English: U.S. border station at the canadian b...

U.S. border station at the canadian border in in 1991. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And then we’re off.  Homeland security only adds another layer of interest to the ever-increasing buzz.  It doesn’t matter that I’ve heard the stories before.  I love to listen to them talk.  I imagine they like to listen to us, too.  There was a moment when we had to clarify that a parking lot was the same thing as a parkade, neither of us fully understanding the other.  Call me a word geek, but I love those moments.

The “eh” is something we laugh at or joke about, but they use it the same way we say either “huh” or “ya know,” which is just as strange to say when you think about it.  I wonder if they laughed about the way we talked on the way home?  I really hope so.

My grandparents were from Saskatchewan, Cananda — they talked a lot about Moose Jaw, Saskatoon and Regina.  Gramma used to say Regina like it rhymed with Vagina, and my mom would purse her lips, shake her head, and correct her.  I don’t remember Gramma saying “Eh” very often, if at all, but Grampa used that word regularly.  He lost most of his hearing in the war — the artillery going off too close to his ears — and he would interrupt us mid-sentence with a loud, “Eh?”

Gramma would often whisper something completely inappropriate in his extra-large ear, to which he would reply, “Eh?”  Then before the hair on the back of my neck could fully stand, it was out.  Gramma, taking a breath of air, and speaking as loud as her tiny frame permitted, would announce something like, “I said . . . It’s very sad how large that woman over there is.”  And she would point.  And he would stare.  And I would try to hide in the neck of my shirt.

Grampa also used it in place of an exclamation point at the end of a sentence.  “The thing with kids these days is they’re all doped up . . . eh?”  That was not a question.  That was a statement that you were meant to a agree with or suffer his resignation from the conversation.

But mostly, he kept quiet, trying to look interested in what was being said.  He had hearing aids, which only helped a bit.  He complained of the background noise, and still halted conversations by interjecting something completely off topic, followed by “Eh?”  I suppose it was a lonely place — amongst family and still alone.  I used to believe he was a man of few words, and only spoke when he had something to say.  Looking back, I think he was doing a lot of lip-reading, and waiting until he thought he might have something relative to say.

DSCN0909

Butter Currant Tarts

Listening to the Canadians made me wish I knew my distant relatives that still live up there.  We are ghosts to one another, linked only by those who came before us.  Still, every Christmas I make the Butter Currant Tarts from the recipe that Gramma passed down to me.  And occasionally, you may see an “Eh?” in my writing.  When you do, that is not a simple verbal interjection.  That is me waving my Canadian flag, singing “Oh Canada!” — incidentally the only two words I know from that anthem — and saying, “Hey Grampa and Gramma, I haven’t forgotten.”

Peace . . . Eh? . . .

 

 

 

Advertisements

About Jean

Trying to make sense of it all and . . . for the most part . . . doing it. View all posts by Jean

8 responses to “Eh?

  • insearchofitall

    Sounds like you two have some interesting trips. Not where I’d want to be driving in winter months but I’m a sissy that way. I like Canadians. So far, they are all really nice people. Sounds like you are finally catching your breath too following the holiday rush. Take care, eh. 🙂

  • Willow Feller

    Oh, Jean—butter tarts?! My mouth waters. I lived in Alberta for almost ten years a long time ago. This post brings back so many memories. The Regina pronunciation cracked me up. One of my Canadian friends told the story of when her 4-year-old daughter ran ahead of her to open the door when an elderly family friend came for a visit. My friend reported that she had just answered some rather delicate questions that her little daughter had been asking in the bathroom, and so, before she could stop her, my friend’s little girl opened the door and asked the elderly gentleman if he had a vagina. My friend said she was mortified, but at least the old guy was hard of hearing. He said, “Huh?” When the little girl repeated the question the man said, “Regina? No, I’m not from Regina—I’m from Saskatoon!” My friend said she felt extreme relief right then and later coached her daughter on what NOT to ask people!

    Wonderful story, Jean. Thank you so much for stirring up my memories of Canada. You’ve made my day!

  • dragonflyzia

    I always get so excited when you are back! I chuckled quite a bit through this one. I love to hear about your memories and your Bubba stories. Happy New Year Jean. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: