Drive home

Some days driving home is an absolute mind numbing horror. I grind through traffic setting I-90 ablaze with my hatred for the commute and everyone involved. I can’t push the car fast enough. The cattle in front of me can’t get out of my way fast enough. Thoughts of mounting 50 caliber machine guns onto my domestic blue Toyota Camry sedan ricochet in my mind. Delmar O’Donnell reprimanding me, “Oh, George… not the livestock.”  Left lane is for the living. The right lane is for the dying. I am Imperator Furiosa. I am Max Rockatansky. WITNESS ME.

But lately – in the soft dusty blue of last light, I find myself thinking about the past. Growing up in Winona. The swirl of memories real and imagined. Flashes of fresh muddy spring air blowing over the Mississippi River as I would reel in fish that my Dad would catch for me high atop of the Wagon Bridge. Summer afternoons spent wasting the day away with my cousins at my Aunt Kathy’s pink house in town, waiting for our favorite MTV video to air. Typically we had SpaghettiOs for lunch. Other times we fried the sunfish we caught earlier in the morning from the lake. My job was to scale them. My brother cut the heads off and gutted them while my sister fried them for us. I can hear our child voices echo and the smoky smell of fried Bluegills in my aunt’s old house, now filled with college renters, hunched over mobile devices. Winters growing up were epic in scale and heavy with large amounts of snow. Images of our kitchen glowing orange in late winter light spending my time sledding before dinner, endlessly tromping up the hill in front of our house. Coming inside when my mom would get home and smelling goulash stewing while my dad would sing snippets of verse from old country legends – Merle Haggard, Hank Williams, and Charlie Pride to name of few.

These visions slide along with the peeling landscape before me as I dumbly pass through traffic on I-90. I’m less annoyed in this reverie than when I’m present, listening to music, and thinking about the mundane details of the day. I stop myself when my heart begins to ache. It’s a real feeling. I chide myself for being sentimental and nostalgic. A narcissistic exercise in futility. I keep telling myself that these are reflections from radiation emanating out of a nearby black hole. The Flat Earthers were right.  That the matrix is simply playing out on a screen that we are watching. I quietly sing the chorus to Willie Nelson’s On the road again.

When I start to come down West Burn’s Valley and into Winona (all manner of mythical and woodland creatures following my car trumpeting my return to this beautiful river town, you tell me what is real) I decide that I don’t care about the reality of it. It doesn’t matter. These are memories of a good childhood, a past full of love. Things that we should never forget no matter how long the drive.


In keeping with the spirit

As I have said before, it appears that a lot of our family photos are from the most wonderful time of the year. Allow me to demonstrate:

tumblr21 1001x1024  In keeping with the spirit

Honestly, I don’t even have to try and I am able to find photos like the one posted above tucked away in a book or small box. If you look carefully, you will see the that we are enjoying a fondue. Easily one of the most continued Christmas Eve traditions that is kept at the Wieczorek household. My mom is trying out an electric fondue this year. For a short time we had Canadian bacon and pineapple pizza and later there was a Kentucky Fried Chicken period. We will try different things but it always comes back to the fondue.

Friday night I had the best intentions of going to the Wieczorek Family Christmas party. Another tradition. It used to be held at my Uncle David’s home on Christmas Eve but as extended families continue to disconnect and spread apart they have it earlier in order not to inconvenience anyone. By the time Saturday night turned around I wasn’t feeling it. I opted for “Earth” in high definition. C_ woke me up at midnight. I had fallen asleep on the couch. James Earl Jones is a very heavy tranquilizer.

So today, in order to make up for last night’s lame dismissal of family, we went out to my mom and dad’s place. It’s always such a nice tie. I got the Armada up and sailing on battery power again (touchy bloke). Vacuumed the house with the Dyson (hey, who knew, it’s awesome) Dad showed me how to make a fire in their fireplace. Apparently it involves much more than just throwing some wood in it and striking a match (thanks for showing me how to open the flue, Dad!)

How to start a fire at my parents’ house:

Open flue (pull down vent panel and move lever all the way to the left, tap to the right after fire gets going so it doesn’t burn so quickly)

Log cabin style stack the kindling, placing chunks of starter log underneath various pieces.

Light a piece of newspaper on fire and hold it up to the flue in order to create a draft.

Create draft by opening door to the outside.

Light pieces of starter log, close fireplace doors but don’t latch.

Burn baby burn.

Spaghetti for lunch and then we watched “School of Rock” which is like watching Jack Black do the same joke for two and half hours. Still tho – there’s some good stuff in it. Played the balloon game with Rhen for awhile and then packed up the family truckster. Pulled out of my parents’ driveway -thinking of fondue,  snow falling , ready for the coming holiday.

That’s a lot of snow

More snow than I could ever care for. When I look at all of the snow around me I feel myself separate into two. There’s one of me that somehow falls back into the summer while the other trudges forth into cruel winter. A fanciful thought because of course, we all know that there’s only going forward. Stupid space-time continuum.

The one saving grace of winter is Christmas. I am looking forward to time spent with family and friends. Rhen gets a huge pile of toys and that’s a lot of fun to watch. Nothing beats a child’s excitement for Christmas. Ask any kid – it’s serious stuff. I’ve learned that by the time a kid reaches the age of four that you do not make idle threats of Santa bringing coal  because someone didn’t eat his carrots. Once again, Santa is serious stuff. C_ had written to “Santa” on behalf of Rhen this year and in return Rhen received a certificate from Ms. Claus (Santa’s secretary?) that he was, indeed, OFFICIALLY on the “good list”. Rhen showed me the document when I got home from work and I could easily see the relief on his face. It said, “Yep. This Christmas is in the bag. I’ve got it. No worries from here on out.”

I’ve noticed that a lot of our family photos are from Christmas. For example:

familyscan013  That’s a lot of snow
I remember this slide. I refused to move from it that night.

And of course, my mom, who works so hard to put together Christmas for us every year. Even the Christmas she made us read bad holiday poetry.

familyscan024 999x1024  That’s a lot of snow
Diggin' Christmas back in the day.

Regarding the New Year

Tragedy struck our house Friday night when we could not locate this particular Buzz Lightyear:


Yes, we have many different Buzz Lightyear’s but this was the one Rhen wanted on that particular evening. Tears were shed on both sides. Huge search parties were coordinated to find “Flying Buzz”. All ending in failure and misery.  The evening ended with a promise from domestic leaders to make wings for “Big Buzz” (who does not have extended wings) out of cardboard.

Early Saturday morning (like at 7 AM) I was searching for a good piece of cardboard to fashion Buzz Lightyear wings for Rhen. That’s right. Change of plans. No longer did Rhen want wings for “Big Buzz”. He wanted his own. Plans were made and a factory was created to fashion Rhen’s wings. I worked on concept and manufacture.  C_ worked on detailing. A note here – one day Rhen will grow up to be a project manager and your child will work for him and he or she will very much hate him. Rhen demands the very best. No shoddiness. No bull. Actually, project manager would be beneath him. Rhen will be somewhere on the lines of Gordon Gecko.

Resulting flying wing for Rhen:


Detailing was minimal since Gecko wanted the project finished YESTERDAY!

Still though, we weren’t having any luck finging “Flying Buzz” and we knew this is what Rhen truly wanted. Sunday morning I could take it no longer. I braved the cold weather and rummaged through our car in my pajamas, successfully locating “Flying Buzz”.

Joy and merriment. Renewed vows of family peace and harmony spread like wildfire through our house. The perfect ending to the extended weekend.

Our quiet day at home

Quite a strange Independence Day here. Today’s agenda called for fun and games with C_’s sister and kids at a State park. Nix that. Rhen didn’t feel well and then proceded to run a high fever. Later in the day I took his temperature. The thermometer reached 101 before Rhen demanded that I remove it from his armpit. I’m guessing it would’ve landed around 102 or 103. That’s Fahrenheit by the way. Of course, of course.

The rest of the day was sort of like the ghost. We drifted through rooms, quietly. Tending to our sick little bird. C_ ran for groceries while Rhen and I watched some Curious George DVDs together. We tried to take a nap in the afternoon. I fell asleep for 15 minutes. After I woke up I stared out the window for about an hour before getting up. I went downstairs and ate 3 popsicles while surfing the internet.

At this point C_  was on sick duty with Rhen. He demanded her. After a few hours of caretaking C_ finally decided it would be best if she went to bed with him. As C_ brushed her teeth and washed her face I laid in bed with Rhen while he ate a piece of plain bread and took sips of his Sprite. He spoke quietly and politely.

More bread, please. More Sprite, please.

He finished eating and sighed. Called for Momma in his quiet voice. C_ came into the dark room and laid next to us. I gave Rhen a kiss on his head, apologized and quietly left the room.