As soon as I could walk and fit into the smothering, “If you keep your head tilted up you can breathe.” bright orange life jacket, I have been heading north. It was inevitable after bringing cousins, and an eclectic assortment of schoolmates, that I would one day request the company of testosterone. My parents were able to be spared the dreaded “Can I bring my boyfriend?” until I was a freshman in college.
In retrospect, heading to Canada is the perfect litmus test for potential suitors. You take three showers a day? Strike one. Is there something else you are willing to do besides read professional journals? Strike Two. You expect me to shave my legs and wear eyeliner in the woods? You’re out. I had none of these concerns with my boyfriend from Ohio State. In fact the only concern I had about my outdoorsman, 6’5” Frank was that I was going to have a heck of a time getting him to come back to reality. He was a flannel shirt and Levi guy. I’m certain his Honda motorcycle made my surgeon grandfather do a 360 in his grave. Frank was going to be just fine without electricity, running water and wieners on the fire.
Things were going so well. My Dad got a sidekick of maleness. They continually joked about being “real men”. When asked what they would like for breakfast they responded with a hearty “A loaf of toast, a dozen eggs and a slab of bacon!” Please.
I decided to humble my overly confident woodsman wanna-be by rigging up a can filled with stones and attaching it to a fishing line. My Mom and I placed the can under his bed, ran the line out the window along the side of the cabin, thread it through my window into my room and waited for the black of night. Later that evening I waited until I was certain that Frank was in REM sleep. I pulled the string and in the penetrating silence the stones sounded like a huge hairy being dwelling somewhere within the house. Frank emerged in his jockey undies (another wonderful way to see if a man is for you ), holding the rifle we kept but never used, above the door in full blown, “I may turn these whitey tidies yellow but I will protect you” mode. In fear of a misfire we quickly told him of our prank. Thankfully humor prevailed even though it took a few Molson’s to find the “funny”.
I was always reminded by Gram that “If you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen.” We had a great night on a small island near our place. There is nothing like a dinner made on the fire under the stars. When we returned my Mom and I began our nightly pilgrimage to the outhouse. Thankfully, although a bit awkward, it was a two-seater. We opened the door to find a silhouette of the form of a man. He had a familiar flannel shirt and a pillowcase over his head with one opening for an eye. I screamed and in my peripheral vision I could see my mother’s mouth open as if it was to snap off the hinges as a scream somewhere deep within struggled to release itself. Very funny. The old “put a dummy in the outhouse” ploy. Cute.
The dummy who we fondly named “Jason” since the movie “Friday the 13th” gave our men their in-spiration, stayed in the outhouse for a few days. My mother insisted we move it because it was beginning to have a stench that can only be described as putrid. She had Frank lean it against the cabin to air out.
Evening once again arrived after a day of fishing, kayaking, and perfecting the art of doing nothing. My mother had second thoughts about our “Jason” placement. She informed me as she walked into the cabin to make dinner that the thing was giving her the creeps. Unbeknownst to us, Frank had removed the one-eyed pillowcase from Jason and placed it on his own head. He was wearing his usual flannel attire, so when he tossed Jason and stood in the same spot, it slipped by without notice. The woman who gave me birth walked by unsuspectingly as my soon to be former flame reached out and grabbed her.
It was at that moment that I discovered that you actually can wet your pants out of laughter and in this case fear. The rest of the night my mother sat at the kitchen table. I was a bit concerned because after one beer she does a great Miss Alabama impersonation. I had no idea what she was planning to do with the bottle of Yukon Jack she was firmly holding in her right hand. Her left hand was grasping a large glass full of ice. I can still see her planted at that table, the sound of the ice clanking in her glass as she continued to pour what she soon referred to as Yummy Jackson. She kept asking and answering her own inquiries as if in some possessed state. “Are you ever going to ask a boyfriend here again?” NO! “Will you ever think about asking? NO! “If you think you’re thinking about thinking about a boyfriend coming here, will you ever think that?” NO!
Needless to say, “Nature Boy/ Jason Lover” and I didn’t make it. A word of caution: If you are asked on a holiday with “the family” of someone near and dear, leave the flannel shirts and pillowcases home.
Mary Helen can be reached c/o email@example.com