Dispatch from Winnipeg #1

It’s four days into my annual summer trip back to my hometown, and the weather is holding true to form. I should know by now to come later in July, or even August. I seem to remember there used to be a couple of weeks before it got too hot and mosquito-filled, but I never seem to hit the sweet spot.

Besides bad weather (below average temperatures, heavy winds, overcast skies and occasional rain), there are other things i can count on when I come back. Like the annual exchange between my friend Ed (early 40s) and my 75-year-old bachelor uncle. Typically, it takes place in the kitchen of my parents’ house, and goes something like this:

“Hi, Ed. Long time no see. So, when are you getting married?”

“Just as soon as you do, Morley.”

This year, there was a variation: “Hi, Ed. Long time no see. I hear you’re close to getting married.”

“Just as close as you are, Morley.”

As usual, a good part of the trip is spent catching up on family gossip. For instance, the cousin whose doctor husband left her is now the bad guy. First it was the doctor but now it’s emerged that the cousin has more than her share of the blame, and that she’s also been keeping a secret, hidden stash of… horses. I’m not at liberty to say anymore.

On my first day and night back, I reunited with Ed and another high school buddy, whom I’ll just call Y for now. Anyway, Y told us a story over dinner about this girl he’s hung up on, and how even though it’s been ages since she returned one of his calls he sent over a present for her birthday. “Is that pathetic?” he asked. Now, I don’t pretend to be a dating expert, but…

Saturday, my sister Corrall hosted a backyard party/barbecue in honour of the 40th anniversary of her in-laws’ marriage. That’s right, folks; 40 years. Didn’t know people still stayed together that long, didya? What’s more, my sister’s husband had a 6-ft long rectangular banner made up with a wedding pic of the lucky couple and a more recent one. And damned if their smiles weren’t as bright and shining in the recent one as it was in the one from 40 years ago. Congrats, Larry and Janice. I couldn’t have done it. And also, does this mean you’ve only ever had sex with each other? Whoops, sorry, I had to ask.

A few years back my mom decided what our white-trash, bargain-hunting family needed was a trailer. Actually, her sister Vilma (nickname: Doll) was selling hers. So mom “talked” dad into it (“bully” is such a harsh word) and now we have a trailer in a park near Lake Winnipeg, just north of Gimli (dubbed “the New Iceland” because of all the Icelanders living there*).

So that’s what my uncle, my dad, and I did on Sunday–drove 90 miles north of the city to a trailer park north of Gimli. “Take the garbage to the dump!” barked mom in way of greeting (long story, but basically she wasn’t too happy that we’d wanted to stay at the party the night before and she’d come out last night and already had done a bunch of things around the trailer). The big news was that another cousin of mine, Darlene, was bringing her new boyfriend by. Turns out Owen is a bit of a dud, or so we agreed–he didn’t say much, and what he did say wasn’t memorable. Darlene did most of the talking, actually, as we sat outside, swatting at and cursing the mosquitos.

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