Terry the trooper

. March 15, 2013.

Terry and I met in Lamaze class. We were pregnant
with our first children and immediately gravitated
toward each other. It may have been her kind
face or the fact that she was the only other woman
in our class employed, over eighteen and married.
Either way, from that day on, we have been
sharing childcare, laughter, and remedies relating
to insect bites to the best way to dislodge
Playdough from cat fur.

Terry and I have different playbooks on
how we tackle life. She is a highly organized
career woman with a color coded calendar system.
I have a tendency to, well, “wing it.” My
child, who did not fall far from the tree, would
hand me crumpled permission slips and school
newsletters that had been on the bottom of her book
bag. Being a mom with closet ADD, I would put them
somewhere “special” or better yet “safe.” I would
later be in full panic mode when Terry would drop
by carrying crisp white copies of what I was searching
for, knowing once again that my “special” place
would be easier to find than nylons that actually fit.

Terry gets things done and there is no greater
blessing than to take a worker bee to a Canadian cabin.
I took Terry to our newly purchased wilderness retreat
thinking we could relax with intermittent moments
of manual labor. She quickly reversed the order of
priorities. I kept inquiring where “berry picking” and
“sunbathing while sipping Chardonnay” were on her
lengthy to-do list.

Showered with problems

We did manage to have fun though. One night we
were asked over to our Canadian neighbors for dinner.
The “boys” (my Dad and Ed the neighbor) were
permitted to eat on TV trays in front of a hockey game,
while we “girls” (my Mom, Terry, Judy and I) were
banished to the kitchen. I thought Terry was going
to explode. First from suppressing her comments on
gender bias then from laughter as Judy brought out
a teapot draped in a dusty knitted cover. She looked
at me and whispered, “What the heck is that thing?”
Judy, not as hearing impaired as we once thought,
curtly replied, “That’s a tea cozy!” I leaned over and
told Terry that I bet that it’s kept other “unmentionables”
warm during the cold Canadian winters! It was
then that Terry and I recalled the little 10 gallon water
heater in the shower house and thought we would
head back to the beat the eclectic rush for hot water.

We said goodnight as Judy held back her “super
sized” dogs. We stumbled back in the cold dark air
to our cabin firmly grasping my daughter’s “Little
Mermaid” flashlight. We arrived to discover that
my Dad, who has an over active “security gene,”
had locked the cabin door. Freezing and filled with
thoughts of a hot shower, we quickly decided to head
back to the neighbors for the key. Good idea until we
heard Dundee and North Star barking somewhere in
the thick darkness. I love dogs, but Dundee and his
buddy look like they could carry a pack of Eskimos
across the artic or devour a seal in one gulp.

It was then that I remembered that my Dad had
lit a kerosene heater in the shower house so it would
be warm when we got home. Surely, the little shower
house would be unlocked. It was, but when we
opened the door, it was apparent that instead of turning
the heater down before leaving, “Mr. Magoo,”
as my Mom affectionately calls him, cranked it up!
Black threadlike soot was hanging from the ceiling.
The good news: We got there before serious damage
occurred. The bad news: We now had to wait in the
frigid darkness until my parents arrived home an hour
and forty-five minutes later. Little noises in the dark
went from, “Oh it’s a squirrel.” to “OMG, that’s a wolf
or a moose in heat!’

My Dad was the first to arrive on the scene.
Peeking in the shower house door he firmly commanded,
in, “I think Mom may be onto us after spending three
hours earlier today bleaching this place!”

Memories for a lifetime

Believe it or not, “Terry the Trooper” and I returned
to Canada to vacation with our children. There are
very few friends that you can squat in woods next to
and or head out to Maple Lake for a skinny dip. Of
course, our children have told us these images were
enough to throw them into therapy.

Terry has given me, as my family calls them,
“memory making moment.” She lost both of her parents.
I can’t imagine what that is like. I was always a
generation or two away from loved ones who were,
and are, my walking historians of shared times. Since
she is motherless, one of these days, I am going to get
around to telling her that she is doing a good job, no,
make that GREAT job in all she does. I am going to
have to sit her down, let her soak up the sun, and take
care of her to-do list. I left it in a “special” place. Now
where the heck did I put that thing?

Mary Helen Darah has been in marketing and development
for nonprofi t organizations for the past six years,
but her greatest role is being a mom to three amazing
and diverse young women. Mary Helen has an innate
ability to fi nd humor in her trials, and hopes her writing
will give others comic relief and insight through the challenges
of parenthood. Mary Helen can be reached c/o
Terry the trooper
Memorable trips to the
Canadian cabin by Mary Helen Darah