Tag Archives: 50th birthday

My Little Brother Turned 50 Today…Memories of a Big Sister…

I was three when I came home from a trip to my Grandma Shoots’ house to find that I was no longer an only child.  The usurper was ten lbs. of trouble topped by a giant head which had torn my petite mother stem to stern when it passed through (that was all from the Shoots side)…they told me his name: Jeffery Layne…we called him “Jeffy”.  I thought he looked like a little old man!

Jeffy wasn’t much fun for me the first year…he slept too much!  If I caught him asleep, I’d give him just enough of a poke to wake him up…unfortunately for me, Mommy caught me doing it more than once!  Later, he repaid me for disturbing his slumber by sinking his teeth into my upper arm: “Mommy, Jeffy bit me!” was a common complaint thereafter…

Jeffy was very cautious…I was walking at eight months, but it was well after his first birthday before Jeff was brave enough to take his first independent steps.  I remember him getting down on all fours and turning around backwards to negotiate any small change in the terrain.

My brother was the noisiest kid I’d every encountered in my short life.  He screamed constantly, not because there was anything wrong with him, but because he seemed to enjoy the sound of his own voice!  It’s a wonder I lived through the summers of 1964 and 1965…our poor mother used to keep the windows closed (in our 95-degree Ohio weather) so the neighbours wouldn’t think she was beating him!  Luckily, by the time he was two, Jeffy replaced screaming with singing (which he would often practice randomly at church, during Daddy’s sermon).  We have an audio tape of Jeffy singing his version of the theme from Batman: “Batman! Wah, wah, wah, wah.  Batman!”

Jeffy had curly brown hair, which endeared him to everyone who saw him in my parents’ arms:  “Oh, what a pretty little girl!”, they’d say.  Wanting to put an end to the confusion, Daddy took my brother for his first visit to the barber when he was two…Jeff never had curly hair again!  I think he must have been inspired by the experience, because when he was five, my dad asked Jeffy what he wanted to be when he grew up: “I want to be a barber,” he answered.  “I got REAL scissors!”

Three-year-old Jeffy stuck at the kitchen table playing with his balloon boat, while he was supposed to be eating his peas!

Three-year-old Jeffy stuck at the kitchen table playing with his balloon boat, while he was supposed to be eating his peas!

The year Jeffy turned five was a particularly memorable one: We moved to Canada that summer, and for his birthday, Jeffy got a brand-new metallic green bike with a banana seat, monkey handlebars, and training wheels (which would stay on for the next three years…did I mention Jeff was cautious?).  Jeffy also was sent reluctantly off to kindergarten, which in hindsight, I don’t think he was ready for…almost every day, I was summoned from my Grade Three classroom to come to the kindergarten, because “Jeffy’s crying again”.  He missed about half the school year due to tonsillitis, which was lucky for me…I had just enough time in my own class to pass!   I remember being jealous when Jeffy came home from having his tonsils out…he got to have ice cream!

Jeff with his brand new bike.

Jeff with his brand new bike.

That first year in Canada was also the year that we had our first cat named Tripper…Jeffy was particularly fond of him (and a decade or so later, named a second cat “Tripper”).  We started attending church in Trenton, where Jeffy and the minister’s son, James, became best friends, and engineered many wild adventures, which you can read about here: https://writerwoman61.wordpress.com/2010/05/11/our-first-year-in-canada-part-1/, and here: https://writerwoman61.wordpress.com/2010/05/12/our-first-year-in%C2%A0canada%E2%80%A6part%C2%A02%E2%80%A6/.

In 1970, our family moved to Rednersville, where we met our friends, Jimmy and Dougie.  Jeffy and Dougie were the same age, and Jimmy was a year older.  I used to organize plays and musical productions in our back yard, which the boys would ultimately get roped into.  When I was ten, I had mastered Bob Dylan’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” on the guitar, and recruited my seven-year-old brother to play the part of the girl picking the flowers.  I made a “wig” out of paper cut into strips, and plopped it on Jeffy’s head.  I played my song and sang, while he skipped around the back yard collecting the paper flowers I had carefully coloured.  The audience loved it!

Our dad built us a tree fort, and had purchased an old VW van, which he parked underneath it…the four of us spent hours playing in the van and the tree house.  We also had a path to ride bikes around the house, since we weren’t allowed to ride on the road until later.  One of our other favourite activities was a modified form of kickball, which we called “Running Around the Bases”.

When Jeffy was eight (and I was eleven), I suggested we get a paper route together…we had about 50 customers between us.  Jeffy did the closer houses, and I did the ones farther away.  Sadly, Jeffy had all the good tippers on his part of the route…jealousy reared its ugly head again!  The little bugger saved most of his money too, which I had great difficulty doing (although I did save enough to buy myself a ten-speed!).

We spent every nice day outdoors, which wasn’t always the best thing for my brother…Jeffy had inherited our mom’s hay fever in a big way!  I remember hearing him sneeze and sneeze and sneeze all summer, especially later on when he was picking vegetables for a living.

Jeff and I at the Sandbanks, ca. 1972.

Jeff and I at the Sandbanks, ca. 1972.

My mom had gotten a job by the time Jeffy was eight, so we were left to our own devices after school, which often led to bickering…one time, he was chasing me, so I ran into the house and shot the little slide bolt on the door over (our only lock).  Somehow, the lock ended up getting broken!  Another time, I thought it’d be funny to put icing from the beaters onto Jeff’s nose…he apparently didn’t share my opinion!  He chased me upstairs, and pushed me backwards into the bathtub!  We rarely fought physically, but that incident has always stuck in my mind.  Usually, I’d claw him with my nails if he started hitting me (he used to bite me, remember?)…our parents were not impressed!

When Jeff was thirteen, our parents gave us some money they’d saved for us, probably about $1500 each.  Jeff bought himself a lawn tractor from Sears, and soon had lawn mowing customers from all over the neighbourhood (I started a candy store).  He was a hard worker, and earned enough money to buy his first car from the proceeds, a Renault that he’d drive around our fields because he wasn’t old enough to have a license yet.  Jeff tried to teach me how to drive it, but I never mastered the art of letting the clutch out slowly enough not to stall the car!

Jeff got his driver’s license soon after he turned sixteen…I didn’t have mine, so my brother became my new driver…I think our parents were glad to get a break!  We took a memorable trip to Ohio in a borrowed Honda Civic with our mom one summer: https://writerwoman61.wordpress.com/2010/03/24/the-kilbourne-vine-caper/

In the summer of 1982, Jeff was working for a market gardener picking produce, and got me on to the all-male crew…that was one of the funnest jobs I’ve ever had (and a lucky break since I’d been laid off from my job at the photo lab because I’d had to take six weeks off for my college internship!).  It was in those cornfields that Jeff had some of his most spectacular sneezing fits!

Jeff on his way to work on the farm...

Jeff on his way to work on the farm…

I left home in 1983 and moved to the Maritimes…Jeff stayed at our mom’s house for several years and helped look after her (she and our dad had divorced in 1985, and she was chronically ill).  Later, he took a soldering course at Loyalist College.  Jeff’s first job after finishing school was at Leigh Instruments in Carleton Place, where he met and later married my sister-in-law, Bev (I like to think he picked her because she’s a lot like me).

In 1994, my niece, Taylor Dawn, was born.  Jeff was a doting dad and taught Taylor useful things, like how to fetch beer for him and play golf.  She inherited his love for classic cars (and beer), but she turned out all right anyway!  Jeff, Bev and Tay visited my family in Moncton, New Brunswick, in the summer of 1996.  We took them to the Magnetic Hill Zoo, which featured a small train to transport visitors around the property.  We were all riding on the train, and Jeff stuck his head out the window to look at something behind us…he pulled it back in, just as we came to a signpost along the tracks, which was disturbingly close.  When Jeff realized that he might have been decapitated had his head been out the window for another split second, he freaked out: “I could have been killed!”  He talked about it for the rest of the afternoon year..I don’t think he appreciated my uncontrollable laughter at the situation…it made for a good story, though.  Jeff’s always been a master storyteller!

Today, Jeff is still working at what is essentially the same company in Carleton Place (its third incarnation is called “DRS”).  He spends his spare time riding his motorcycle, working around the house and yard, and fishing small dead animals out of his back yard pool.  Jeff has also organized a regular summer “Cruise Night” for the other classic car lovers in the area, which has raised several thousand dollars for the local children’s hospital over the years.

Jeff and Bev on the bike...they wear helmets when it's moving!

Jeff and Bev on the bike…they wear helmets when it’s moving!

Happy 50th Birthday, Jeff!  I tease you a lot, but you’re still my brother and I’m very proud of the man you’ve become!

 

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A Getaway, Gorgeous Greenery, and A Get-Together…NEW POST!

Note: This is a post I started last Tuesday…I’m only just getting back to it!  Pretend you’re in the Twilight Zone while you’re reading, if that helps…

After a LOOOONG week at work, I was very happy when Jim picked me up late on Saturday afternoon for a mystery getaway he had planned for my 50th birthday on Sunday (the 17th).  I only knew that we would be away Saturday night, and back Sunday night, because we needed to travel to the Passport Office in Fredericton on Monday to get passports for Jim and I, and Anna and Hope (Devin and Brianna already had theirs).

Our first stop was Comeau’s, a legendary seafood restaurant near Pennfield, NB.  There was a bunch of people standing and sitting in the entryway when we arrived, so we amused ourselves during the 20-minute wait by looking at some of the items displayed for sale: toilet gaskets, aluminum siding, fishing licences, dulse, and date cookies were among them (Twilight Zone, remember?).  Jim had called that morning for a reservation, but Comeau’s doesn’t do those apparently.  The people coming in were quite a mix: a lot of old folks, a family or two, and some bikers who decided to do a takeout order when told of the 20-minute wait.  Almost no one was dressed up (except the biker chick with the bleached blonde hair, leather fringe vest, and the shiny bling on the pockets of her jeans). 

Finally, a table was free, and one of the two waitresses seated us (they never stopped running – I was getting stressed just watching them).  The menu wasn’t quite what Jim had expected either: he thought Comeau’s was a little fancier.  Pretty much everything was deep-fried…we opted to share the large seafood platter.  Neither of us could believe the plate we were presented with: it was stacked four inches high with three pieces of battered fish, 8 fried scallops, 4 fried shrimp, a bunch of fried clam strips, and a few French fries at the bottom of the pile – pretty good feed for the $24.95 they were charging for it!  We ate as much as we could, and had the rest packed in a doggy bag.

When we got back to the car, some thoughtful soul had left a half-consumed can of beer in the parking lot beside my door.  I emptied it (on the ground!), and left it on the picnic table in front of the restaurant…damn bikers!

Jim asked me if I wanted to know where we were going…I thought that would be a good idea.  “St. Andrews,” he said.  I love St. Andrews (technically called “St. Andrews by the Sea”)…it’s a lovely old tourist town in southwestern New Brunswick near the Maine border.

After another forty-five minutes, we pulled into the parking lot of the St. Andrews Motor Inn.  The man at the desk graciously upgraded us to a King Suite (Jim had booked a Queen Suite)…”It’s not very busy tonight,” he said.  Excellent!  We thanked him profusely, and explained this was the first time we’d been away from our four teenagers in almost two years!

Our room on the third floor was called “Kathy’s Suite,” apparently for a deceased woman who had managed the inn.  I hoped Kathy’s current accommodations were cooler than her suite…it was like a sauna in there!  We opened the windows, and then went for a walk in search of snacks, ending up at the Save-Easy grocery store.  We bought some bottled water, sparkling grape juice, chips, and caramel popcorn, as well as multigrain bread and some margarine for breakfast in the morning (our suite had a fridge, stove, toaster, and microwave).  I saw several faces I recognized from Saint John as we walked back to the hotel.

It was still hot in the room when we got back.  We sat on the balcony for a while munching our junk food, and Jim took some photos of the sunset.

On the balcony with my sparkling grape juice...

  

Sunset in St. Andrews...photo by Jim

 

View from our balcony in St. Andrews...photo by Jim

We finally went to bed…I was tired from working all day.  About midnight, Jim was still awake, and went downstairs to have a conversation with the desk clerk about the room temperature (I was snoring by then).  The hotel guy explained that the air conditioner was probably “iced up”, and recommended turning it down a bit.

In the morning, I showered, and then made us breakfast to eat on the balcony: leftover clam strips, scallops and fries from the night before, and multigrain toast.  Jim went down and snagged a couple of donuts from the “continental breakfast” provided by the hotel.  There was a prominent sign in front of our kitchen sink warning that dishes were the guests’ responsibility…a $25 charge would be added to the bill if they were unwashed.  So I washed them, not realizing that one of the wine glasses would break when I stuck my hand into it (luckily, it didn’t cut me).  I left an apologetic note…

We checked out, and drove to our next stop, the Kingsbrae Garden.  We realized right after paying the admission that Jim had left his camera in the car, so I waited while he went to retrieve it.  Even though it was early (around 10 a.m.), the temperature was already high.  We had dressed in cool clothing and applied sunscreen…luckily, it stayed rather cloudy and there was a bit of a breeze! 

As we toured the garden, there was a girl who was a dead ringer for Anne of Green Gables…beautiful red hair, porcelain skin, and even a straw hat!  I wish we’d thought to take a photo of her!  Here are some of the dozens of pictures Jim took in the garden:

A poppy...

 

Lilies...my favourite flower!Hens and chicks...

 

Calendula or "Bellflowers"...

 

A Bee on Hydrangea...

 

After about an hour-and-a-half touring the wonderful garden, we were melting in the 32-degree Celsius heat (about 90 degrees for Americans)…we drove back downtown in search of lunch, stopping at a small café the hotel man had recommended: the Sweet Harvest Bakery.  It was packed, but we were lucky to find a table for two.  We sat down and eventually the waitress came over with a handwritten menu (laminated).  It was a Breakfast Menu, but the food looked good, so we went with it.  I ordered the Potato, Onion and Cheese Frittata, while Jim went for a more traditional breakfast: eggs, toast, and bacon.  As we waited (and waited) for our food, we watched the people around us.  We overheard the couple at the next table inquiring about when the Lunch Menu started: they were given the lunch menu!  Oh well…we eventually got our “brunch”, which was delicious!

Potato, Onion and Cheese Frittata...taken with Jim's Blackberry...

After lunch, we checked out a few stores in St. Andrews, but didn’t buy much…most of them were tourist traps.  We inquired at the Information Centre about whether there were any old bookstores in town, but there was none.  We found a park and walked down to the water, hoping to cool off with the breeze off the ocean.  I would have loved to wade in, but there were thousands of tiny pieces of broken shells, which probably would have cut my bare feet to ribbons!

We left St. Andrews mid-afternoon, and headed in the direction of home.  Jim told me the kids had forbidden us to be home before six o’clock.  I assumed they were making a birthday dinner for me.  We took the scenic route, managing to stretch an hour-and-a-half drive into four hours: touring St. George, Dipper Harbour, Musquash, checking out fruit tree prices at a Garden Centre, stopping at Jim’s office in Lepreau, and picking up some meat and produce at Olsen’s in West Saint John.

We got home a little before six…I was surprised to see three extra cars in the driveway.  I knew Jim’s brother-in-law was coming over after supper to fill out paper work for Jim’s passport, but I didn’t know what the other cars were doing here!

The first thing I noticed when I came in the door was that the house was clean (no dirty dishes or dirty clothes to be seen, and someone had actually vacuumed!…Twilight Zone again).  The second thing was that almost our whole family was in my living room (all except Jim’s sister, who was away camping in Maine).  “Surprise!” they yelled as I walked in.  You could have knocked me over with a feather (a really BIG feather!)…

Devin was on the deck barbecuing hamburgers, hot dogs and sausages, and the girls had made salads (Jim’s mom and sister had brought salads as well).  There was a vegetable tray and various snacks laid out on the coffee table.  Elise was chowing down on as much caramel popcorn as she could get into her mouth (just like her Gramma).  Jake was howling outside, having been banished because he was behaving badly around the guests.

After supper, I opened my cards and presents, and then had ice cream cake: I was glad the girls had only put six candles on it…I had no trouble blowing them out!

My 50th Birthday Ice Cream Cake...photo by Anna

 Thanks to Jim and our family for a truly unforgettable 50th birthday!

An apology to my blogging buddies…it’s happened again!  I haven’t been around to visit…I hope to be back on track with my reading soon!  WM

 

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