Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Village of Many Hats: Fourth Excerpt

The thing about living in a village is that there aren't enough "experts" to do all the jobs that need to be done. So people of all ages volunteer to make sure summer recreation programs are launched or the seniors are feted with dinners in the Hall. Others sing in choirs and create live theatre to amuse hundreds of fellow residents and newcomers (agog, the latter come away, raving about what they've just seen in this tiny place in the middle of nowhere... oh, if we've heard that once we've heard it dozens of times!) 
Still, we take these sorts of kudos with a gracious curtsy and a block of salt. Why are rural residents so often portrayed in books and movies as gothic, limited creatures, other than the fact it comforts and/or titillates the more urbane populace? Give me strength!
It's precisely because we just do things, create things, make things happen that we're good at it. We don't plop ourselves down passively to consume whatever someone else says will make our brows perk higher up our foreheads. But we also turn out for touring artists and certainly our own entertainers in numbers that are gratifying to all concerned. Does it matter that the Alberta Ballet are performing on the gym floor of a Nakusp school? No, we'd turn out to see them dance on an ice floe if that's what we had for a level surface. 
Those with the energy and interest wear many hats or responsibilities and although every volunteer has to perfect the art of saying "No" or risk having their lifeblood drained by seven days of meetings and practical tasks and chauffeuring and phone tree duties, I think it is safe to generalize that the more one contributes to village life, the sweeter it is to live there. Children notice these things and sooner or later, they emulate the involved adults and lead adventurous lives of their own, knowing how to give back along the way.
Here's #4.

Even Sara’s room felt strange and empty. No croaky little voice calling out hellos to me while I was running up the stairs. Nobody wanting to know everything, absolutely everything that was happening in Silverado today. What, no leaves falling from the big playground tree? How about the maple tree on the corner by the bookstore? Is that big yellow dog behind the old garage still scaring kids walking to school?
I fed her neon tetras, mollies and guppies. I watched them all darting around the tank, through the sunken pirate ship and the floating reeds. Catzilla, the suckermouth catfish, chugged slowly along the bottom, slurping up algae and old fish food. That’s his job in the tank. He keeps getting bigger so the yucky diet must suit him just fine. He’s actually a Golden Oto suckermouth catfish which sounds a lot more handsome than he looks with his patchy skin, half-asleep eyes and those rubbery lips always glued to the aquarium glass.
          Dad comes home tired but happy from building new houses or fixing old houses. Now he’s working with Big Mike, adding the sunroom to Captain Hennessey’s little house in the Orchard. He likes being a Village Councillor too, especially working on the village campground and the park and summer recreation programs and being responsible for the Hall…but now is the worst possible time for more bad things to happen. That’s why Dad is so sad about it.
I straightened up. I’d soon be earning sixteen dollars a week. I didn’t need to buy myself a hat. I’d learn how to make hats out of recycled clothes, like Madame did. My wages could be a big help now. I could buy food for my family, or at least food for the fish and Mister Tibbs.
          We all have to think good thoughts for Sara’s operation. That’s what Ms. Harlock said to Dad and me just last night when she brought dinner over.
“Just keep thinking positive thoughts,” she’d said, serving up
two plates for us, loaded with roast turkey. She added sage stuffing, mashed potatoes, baked yams, cranberry sauce, Waldorf salad, regular steamed peas and carrots and my absolute favorite, Brussels sprouts. I realized that Thanksgiving had gotten lost in our lives because Mom and Sara weren’t here, for the first time ever.       
“It’s a well-known fact that those who look on the bright side tend to pull through the tough times,” said Ms. Harlock.
          “Words to live by, that’s for sure,” Dad agreed, giving me a sideways grin.

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