Friday, April 29, 2011

Not Just Another Galaxy - Cherry Bomb Toys, Victoria, Bc

I sit here in a well-worn easy chair, the faded green velour fabric reminiscent of 1970. I wonder who else sat here before me, quaking in fear.

But I have no time to worry about retro furniture. The enemy is approaching – and fast. As Imperial Stormtroopers advance, their weapons drawn, At-At walkers march behind. As I idly wonder how much gas those things take, what with gas prices ever-rising these days, Clone soldiers surround me, ready for my escape. And just when I think it couldn’t get any worse, Fisher Price people circa 1975 swoop down from the ceiling like a 2-inch high SWAT team tactical unit.

The Death Star looms over me, its shadow darkening the words on my page. I just know – no, feel – Darth Vader gazing down on me, a maniacal grin on his face.

No wait, he has a plastic mask; the mask can’t grin. Or maybe he was grinning under the mask, or maybe….

Oh, never mind.

Princess Leia flaunts her youthful body, mocking mine – at least my hairdo is better than hers. As for Jabba the Hutt? Well, he could do with a lot more than just a few Botox injections. He needs to work on his manners; beauty starts from the inside.

Lego® mini-figurines skulk behind the circa 1980’s arcade game – still 25 cents a game.Wait – what? I didn’t know that the galaxy far, far away had arcade games?!?

GI Joe, his pals, as well as countless Transformers look on - many still in their packaging. Joe’s cocky grin reveals his thoughts - “Those stupid Ewoks! I’ll show them!” Decepticons, the bad guys of the Transformers clan, are positioned and ready for battle. With all this chaos, they should just jump in the Radio Flyer fire truck and make a break for it.

And that isn’t dramatic, galactic music setting the mood in the background! Retro toy commercials and cartoons from the 70’s and 80’s continuously play on big screen TVs.

Now I am really confused. Someone must have spiked my coffee I purchased down the street, because I am nowhere near where I thought I was.

Desperate for fresh air, what with all the galactic exhaust from X-Wing fighters and Tie-Fighters zipping around, I run outside, knocking over Strawberry Shortcake and Huckleberry Pie having tea. On the sidewalk I turn, sure to see GI Joe racing after me, and look up.

Outside, I am in the current year and proper galaxy, but inside….I was in a swirl of 1970’s and 80’s toy nostalgia – in Cherry Bomb Toys.

Their business card says, ‘Toys with Memories Included,’ and as I skulk back inside to wander around with my three men, those four words pretty much sum it up. Star Wars toys, Legos, GI Joe figurines - many of which are lovingly stored in display cases - are in every corner. X-Wing Fighters are suspended from the ceiling in perfect attack position; Strawberry Shortcake and Huckleberry Pie dolls from the 80’s are now safe behind glass. I am thrown back in time perusing the shelves and cabinets displaying toy history. Girlfriends and wives tagging along with their men constantly sigh, “I remember this!”

I run a household, a galaxy of its own, where I am the minority. A mere mother in the 21st century with a house full of men - with anything and everything galactic - I find a way to fit in with my own memories.

I was a child of the 70’s and 80’s, and played with Star Wars figurines on my neighbour’s front porch – many neighbours kids' were boys. But as I watched Star Wars episodes IV, V, and VI, I didn’t want to grow up to be a Jedi Knight. I longed to be Princess Leia, swooning in the arms of Hans Solo – what a hunk.

Memories of an era not so long ago help me fit-in in my galactic household….in a galaxy not too far from here. And Cherry Bomb Toys brings it all back.

Minding the life-sized cardboard cut-out of Boba Fett, I put my (non-spiked) coffee on the floor, and spy a collection of vinyl records from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. I flip through, and find another one of my hearts’ desires (sorry Hans)……..

A Rick Springfield record! There was something for me, here, after all!

(To be transported back in time, visit Cherry Bomb Toys at 1410 Broad Street, Victoria, BC. For more fun, visit Pearkes Recreation Centre, 3100 Tillicum Road, on May 1st for the Toy Fair put on by Cherry Bomb Toys)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Making Memories - One Easter Egg at Time

The Easter Bunny was gearing up for his trek around town, and I was getting kinda worried if he would actually make it – given the weather.

The week before, we woke with freezing temperatures, frost clinging to the roofs of our homes. While we scraped ice from the windows of our cars in the early mornings, the robins and the tulips didn’t know whether to don scarves or just give up and curl back down to hibernate for another few weeks. I know parts of Canada – and the world, no less – still have snow. So technically, we shouldn’t complain!

It’s been the talk of the town, in these parts. The wacky weather. My worry was that the Easter Bunny was going to give in to this weather-induced stress disorder, and just give up this year.

But then we had a glimmer of hope! The day before Easter, the sun was shining, birds were chirping, and everyone, including their dog/cat/hamster were out mowing their lawns, racing to the garden shop, and throwing on shorts in hope of a tan. Now THIS is Easter!

The night before, a few of the men hesitantly asked if…um……if the Easter Bunny might, perhaps, be paying a visit. Two birthdays had just rolled by, and they were beginning to wonder if their time was up – if the Easter Bunny passing by our house is simply part of growing up. I shrugged, shook my head in dismay, and mumbled it’s supposed to rain, so (hee, hee, hee), I don’t think the Easter Bunny will be by this year. Two pairs of eyes questioningly searched mine, hoping I was teasing. I guess I am a terrific actress as two heads hung in disappointment.

But Easter morning arrived, and the weather man, as predicted, was right. Clouds with rain was in the forecast, and even though we made the most of the day before, the overcast morning had the robins still nestled in their nest – not a chirp was to be had. Bummer! THIS isn’t Easter!

But as my three men emerged from bed, two of them in their teens, and one of them nearing mid-life, excitement brewed. Actually, I was more excited than they, as they all looked up at me from their rumpled beds, all swollen-eyed and drowsy. My throaty, opera-like rendition of “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” got them out of bed – and not a pillow was thrown at me in exasperation.

With a smirk, they all rolled out of bed, anxious to see what the hubbub was about. Well, they kinda already knew. Hustling around, gathering their eggs, their baskets in tow, I remembered one thing.

No one – not even Mother Nature – can rain on our parade. Who cares about the weather. It’s the memories that are created not just every holiday, but every day. No matter the weather, the season or the age.

And the Easter Bunny will keep visiting, rain or shine, no matter how old they get.

Happy Easter!

Gene Autry recorded "Here Comes Peter Cottontail" around 1950. To listen to the actual version of the song, not the opera-like version I sang to my kids, copy this link to your's a true classic!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Spectacle Lake - It Was Meant to Be

I love it when things are meant to be.

The need to escape our routine, our house (and chores), and forget about the prospect of the upcoming school/work week had us packing mushy tuna sandwiches, too-sweet hot chocolate, and any other snacks I could grab from the pantry – oh, and the odd requisite carrot to ease my guilty-mother conscience. Had to counter-balance the too-sweet hot chocolate and cookies, ya know.

Kids, umbrellas, mushy tuna sandwiches and the carrots were all thrown in the truck, and off we zoomed for a much needed adventure to Goldstream Provincial Park - just outside Victoria, BC. Although it was April it was misty and foggy, Mother Nature tricking us into thinking it was autumn. But we hadn’t been on one of our adventures for a while, and we were longing for an escape.

The parking lot was full, as were most picnic tables, and the collective slump of shoulders within the warm, dry truck was telling. We wanted the park to ourselves – we were being greedy and selfish, and resorted to toddler-like attitudes. We didn’t want to share.

It wasn’t meant to be.

Up Highway 1 we sped, my mind whirring of where to go. As the altitude increased, so did the fog. Yes, there were many picturesque viewpoints over-looking Brentwood Bay we could have stopped at, but with the fog ever-increasing, what was the point.

10 minutes away from Goldstream Park, I saw this…..

Up for the adventure, I followed the sign, curious what we would find. Another sign lead us to a parking lot, and despite the trail leading us, hopefully, to the lake, I wondered if we were going to have to portage (minus the boat, of course) our tuna, carrots and hopefully-still-hot hot chocolate for 5 miles through the woods.

With our rations (maybe I should invest in a GPS for these outings), off we trudged through the mist.

We had barely hiked for 5 minutes when we came to this….

It was meant to be.

Complete with picnic tables, a sign indicating no life guard on duty and to be aware of thin ice, it was instant heaven. Our collective gasp startled a bald eagle resting nearby (well, not really – but we did see a bald eagle), and we set about drying a table, and unpacking our great feast.

Just as the mist turned to a drizzle, we finished our lunch; they were the best mushy tuna sandwiches ever. I packed up our lunch, and eyeing a path leading somewhere, off we went.

Through a world of moss-covered fallen fir and cedar tree branches, we trudged along the gravel trails, stopping every so often to peer over a rocky ledge (perfect for fishing for trout, as we learned from a fisherman), into the water below. The trail zigged, zagged, rose and fell, carrying us over wooden bridges and walkways which hovered over creeks.

Unsure as to how far around the lake the trail would take us – remember, I didn’t have a GPS – we turned and made our way back. We found out from the fisherman, by then packing up his gear, we had almost made it around if we had only kept going just a tiny bit farther. Darn.

On our way back, a flash of red caught my eye. A dogs’ tag with ‘Victoria Adoptables’ engraved on one side rested on a mossy log. Through this company,, two lives had intersected.

My kids trotted ahead while I looked at the tag, placing it just ‘so’ on the log so I could take a picture. I was intrigued by the owner, who had taken the time and trouble – and who had the heart and soul – to adopt a dog. I envisioned a dog and his owner tromping around this oasis we had stumbled upon. With the dog splashing in the lake, his tongue lolling, his ears flapping, and his tail ever-wagging while scaring the fish, the owner would be looking on, equally happy and content to be sharing this natural haven with his new best friend.

They were meant to be.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

What's New?

…I get asked. I shrug, and absently mumble, “Not much.”

Whoa, whoa, WHOA! ‘Not much?’ What, am I living under a rock or something?
There’s lots that’s new!!! Let’s see:

First, we had a ‘super moon,’ or ‘perigee moon,’ which rose at 8:03pm, Pacific Time, on March 19th, delighting moon-gazers everywhere. Its large size was testament to the fact that it was 50,000 km closer to the earth than its normal distance of 384403 km. Not that I have personally measured this, mind you; I leave that to the expert spacemen. Let them find a tape measure that long.

As my family danced on the beach overlooking the San Juan Islands while waiting for this great occurrence, a sliver of fiery orange spilled over the silhouette of one of the islands. They howled like the wolf pack they are, and as the moon rose higher, the colour and size intensified – as well as the howls emanating from the pack. As I barked at them to keep quiet, all three wolves - small, large and larger (in comparison to my height) - cowered, their ears flat on the back of their heads. Ah, my role of pack leader never ends (excuse me, I have an ear to scratch).

On another, unrelated night, the shorter lad readied to skip THE PERFECT rock off the dock at a local lake. However, I failed to remember that wooden docks are slippery when wet. Down he went, one whole leg in the water. It was dusk, and cold, and if it weren’t for his fingernail-grip on the dock, and me pulling him back, there would have been a whole lot more of him in the water than just his leg.

After righting ourselves, staring at each other in panic and surprise, the remaining rocks in his pocket were thrown unceremoniously into the lake – the moment was lost. At least we had a great laugh about it on the car ride home, and he was most excited to tell everyone ‘what he did on spring break.’

Yes, how exciting – while your mother has a heart attack.

The other lad, taller than I, is ever-supportive in opening jars of mayonnaise, creating laundry, and rejoicing with me in my writing accomplishments – what a guy. Prouder than a peacock, I am. Notably, as he grows taller and cuter than I, I have noticed a new-found, ever-constant need for hair-styling products. As I watch him bee-line, yet again, to the drugstore, I am stupefied; he spends more money on hair gunk than I do – and I am the retro ‘80’s hairspray queen!

As for the writing accomplishments the strapping young lad and I rejoiced about…..

Even if you don’t live on Vancouver Island with easy-access to local publications, please check-out the April edition of Nanaimo Magazine at (click on the starfish once you get there).
Download the April edition, and on Page 20 of the magazine, you will find my article, Finding History at Whippletree Junction. Or if you happen to be riding BC Ferries or VIA Rail, or visiting any retail establishments up and down the island, please pick up a copy – I would be happy to sign it for you.

So that’s what’s new…