"Watch your heads, and sit down over there," said Grandma, motioning to a large trunk beneath the musty slants of the attic eaves. And then the storytelling began....

Antiques were folded into dusty boxes around us, their significance left unlabelled but for Grandma's remembering tales. I listened to the stories of my ancestors from the keepers of their treasures in that damp, dark haven where history and the future came together. And during those childhood hours in the attic, I would hear my calling—the.eternal quest for stories told and untold. I answer it still.
Musty smells and mothballs will take me there again, sitting on a box in my memory, enraptured. I hear knockin' on the attic as voices in my head—whispery phrases that need a turn, stories aching to be told, or simply memories wanting another moment of my time. When I hear that knockin', I know there's a voice to be heard and a story to be told. So, be careful on the ladder, watch your head on that beam, and have a seat on that trunk over there. Lean in, for I have some tales to share...

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Shenanigan

Hi, my name is Kelly and I’m a Shenanigan-aholic. I’ve been shenanigan-free for 12 hours. To be honest, I’m not comfortable in this new persona. It doesn’t seem to suit me. I’ve been a lifelong shenaniganist. Oh, like any other shenanigan addict, I’ve had my time on the wagon—days, months, even years at one point early in motherhood. But I always find my way back to my addiction.

Before hitting bottom this morning, I’d been on the wagon for 17 days. That last shenanigan was with friends of my husband Seb and I in northern Ontario. The Birnies had invited us to spend the weekend at their lakeside cottage. Everything was going well. Stories were shared and the wine flowed, but I managed to avoid any true shenanigans. At least until the second morning. The guys decided to go into the ice cold lake for a swim on a cold, cloudy day. I watched them work their way into the water inch by inch, hollering about the cold and hugging themselves but sporting huge grins and pride. Darren was first—it was his “thing” to swim in the cold lake since he was from northern Ontario. Sebastien followed him slowly. I put my feet in and felt the blood in my ankles turn to ice. The guys told me to join them. I stepped back out of the water, shaking my head, and explained there was no way in hell I was putting on a bikini in 8 degree weather to swim in ice water. But as they continued to congratulate themselves and each other, I could feel the shenanigan coming on. It started knocking for release from the inside of my skull—the sound of it like a pounding drum, drowning out Annik as she came to my aide in the Sisterhood of Support for Sane People. Shenanigan-free people. I loved her in that moment, in spite of my need. Perhaps even more so because of it. I fought it for a moment, grasping at The Sisterhood like a lifeline, but when Darren said he was impressed with Seb because not too many people would go into a lake that he himself found too damned cold, I turned on my heel and raced to the house. Darren said, “What’s this? She’s going to get her suit, she’s coming in,” and I shook my head, still fighting the powerful urge, when Seb said there was no way I would ever get into that lake.

So I schooled them.

I put on my bikini in record time, pounded across that deck, and before they even realized I was really going in, I hit the shoreline, and then was in the water. Though it had taken each of them several minutes to get out to chin-deep water, it took me mere seconds to reach them. 

Heady with the high of the shenanigan (I’m not gonna lie to you, the whoops and cheers are still ringing in my ears and fluffing my ego), no matter how much I tried to come down, I continued the evening with a lot of banana liqueur, red wine, and unsavory comments and suggestions. It was, at least, a high-quality shenanigan, and worth every insult and giggle.

But the next morning, I made sure my friendships and marriage were still intact, and breathing a sigh of relief to find they were, I promised myself there would be no more shenanigans for me. I would behave. I would be a stand-up citizen. No more shenanigan hangovers.

We addicts know how that goes, don’t we? I managed to remain straight for 17 more days. Even through my birthday celebrations, I remained uncharacteristically tame. I told myself life could be enjoyed without shenanigans. There could be good ol’ wholesome fun among friends and family, and I vowed to embrace such a lifestyle.

I like to blame others for my falls. Heh, heh. Don’t we all? I’ve blamed my friends, my family, and my job. I’ve even blamed my pets. Yes, I know. I’m not proud of it. Lately I’ve been blaming society. You know what I mean? There is a constant pressure to perform, to earn and succeed in every aspect of life. Careers. Marriage. Sex. Health. Looks. Parenting. Being a housewife as well as running a home business. I threw myself into conquering it all—getting it all right once and for all. I found myself running to meetings to learn about new legislation that will affect my daycare business. I began to feel like a bad parent for missing meetings with my kids’ teachers and choir concerts. I even attended church and dreaded family functions a few times in order to please other people. These were the things I needed to do in order to avoid shenanigans. This is what mothers, wives, home business owners are supposed to be doing. This is what keeps them respectable, humble, and straight. But these expectations from society that make up our culture just build and build. Sure, one can stay off the shenanigans when you’re focused on doing everything right. It even feels good sometimes—sort of comforting.  But after awhile, it’s like being in a pressure cooker, and I find myself looking for the little knob that will release some steam. That’s when I turn to my addiction. That’s when the urge for shenanigans is at its strongest.

You can’t blame society. I understand that now. My shenaniganism is my doing. My responsibility. I am the only one accountable for my choices.

My low point came just hours ago, early this morning. It had been a rough day yesterday, followed by a late night. The kids—all 8 of them (3 of my own and 5 daycare)—were driving me crazy and I couldn’t think or eat or calm down. They were screaming at each other, running through my house, and jumping on the furniture. The baby fell—the cop’s daughter—for the third time that day while trying to keep up with the hyper big kids. No one seemed to be getting along. We had a birthday party for one of the boys. I knew that the chocolate cupcakes would just make it all worse, but cupcakes are an essential part of birthdays, and the consequence of feeding several children that much sugar is a foregone conclusion—added chaos. Other mothers can handle this. Other parents and daycare providers do these things with grace and a smile. They snap pictures, organize games, and hand out loot bags. When do they find time to shop for and put together loot bags? But even more so—why would they do that to other parents? Why give them cheap toys that we all despise and throw in the trash the first chance we get? But that is what Good Parents do, so it was on my agenda of personal challenges. I will eventually produce loot bags to hand out at my kids’ birthdays, but not today. Today, cupcakes and balloons were all I could handle. But it was also a full moon, week #874 of dreary, rainy weather, and the last week of school. My patience was lost, and I was shaking with the need for a full-on shenanigan. I took some deep breaths, and controlled myself. I handed the kids over to their parents with a quiver in my voice, but other than the bruised cheek on the cop’s baby, they were safe. Shortly after, the power went off, and my own kids kicked up the tension about sixteen levels. Still, I held it together and let my husband handle it. I remained shenanigan-free. And then he left to play baseball and drink beer.

My husband is one of Those People. You know the ones…the kind that can control their fun and mischief, and not let it go as far as a full-throttle shenanigan. I know. I don’t understand how he does it either. I mean, I even catch myself sometimes thinking that can’t be any fun at all, and what’s the point? If you can’t have the whole shenanigan, why even taste it? I guess that’s what makes me an addict. Seb can be a lot of fun, trust me. When I’m thinking clearly—when I’m not in the throes of my addiction—I really do admire him. But I’ve never been able to just taste the fun—or trouble—without going all-in.

Well, he went to play in his baseball game and then to drink some beer with the guys. Trying to stifle my jealousy that he was able to let off some steam, I sat at home, lonely once the kids  were in bed, scanning Netflix to distract me from the need for another fix. I waited for him, hoping his gossip and stories of the evening would be enough to feed me, or at least stop my trembling need for a hit of fun. But it got late, and later. And later. He finally came in at 12:45am on a work night. Normally this would make him rant about how tired he would be at work the next day, but this time he was happy, relaxed, and decidedly carefree.

It was too much. 

I couldn’t take it. I’d been fighting my dire need for a shenanigan of my own all day—hell, for 17 full days—and seeing him sated and satisfied by his own fun was too much for me. I looked around, searching desperately for something to give me a little release. Just a tiny hit was all I needed. But it was too late for a good movie.  I’d already written a new blog post—ready for posting today—and there were no more words to play with. It was too late to start drinking beer, and Seb was in too good a mood to sport me a decent fight. I’m ashamed to admit, I tried. Quivering with need, I grumped and pouted. I prodded him about our plans for the weekend, thinking I could delay the need until it passed. He wouldn’t bite. There was no fun to be had, no tomfoolery to instigate, no trouble to start, and nothing obnoxious to do. While of course I prefer the shenanigans bought with good times and fun, I was desperate, and would have settled for the cheap high of the more inexcusable variety. But there was simply no stash to pull off a decent shenanigan anywhere. All I could do was go to sleep, so I did.

I hit rock bottom on the other side of that long day and night—this morning. My kids are the ones who found me initially, and then others became involved. The kids saw me taping thank you notes on end-of-the-year presents for their teachers, drawing smiley faces on my handwritten cards. Some of the gifts were for teachers I’d never met, and one was even for a teacher I had despised all year because she didn’t want to help my daughter with her reading struggles. But I loaded those gifts into plastic bags for my daughters to carry, yelled for them to get in the van and we shot up the drive. I could see the bus at the end of our lane, as well as the neighbor who had put his son on the bus. But about halfway in my race down the laneway, with dirt billowing and gravel flying behind my spinning tires, the bus pulled away. I had missed it. It was the first time all year. In a year of meeting 6 buses a day, it was the first miss—with just 3 school days left.

I hit the brakes at the end of the lane, jumped out of the van, and slapped my hands against the sides of my head. The kids opened the side door and hopped out, and the neighbor climbed out of his car, pointing out the obvious—that the bus had left without my kids. He looked at me, grinned and said, “It wasn’t my kid that missed it this time.”

“FUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” I screamed. “Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuck!!!!”

I kicked at the dirt road, yelled at the kids to get back into the van, and then turned to the astonished neighbor—who also happens to be one of my best friends. The friend who had brought me coffee and cold beer on other days I’d found myself in need of a shenanigan-fix. Wayne, my fellow Gemini, a friend who totally gets me.

I could feel it coming on, and was helpless against the force of it. Even I knew my eyes must look too wild—like my screws had finally come loose for good. “I don’t know what the hell to do! I don’t know when Seb has to be at work, so I don’t know if he can even take the kids. Maybe it’s too early, and he won’t be able to drop them off. Stupid teacher gifts. Fuck!”

Wayne looked at the bags of gifts my girls held as they cowered in the safety of the van. “Teacher gifts? Teacher gifts?” he asked. “But why?”

“I always give teacher gifts at the end of the school year!!!” I screeched. “And now we missed the fucking bus because I was getting the stupid teacher gifts ready and the kids’ sunscreen on and their lunches out and their backpacks packed and make sure they ate breakfast and the daycare parents were arriving and nothing was going right. Fuck! And now I have to take the kids to school, but first I have to meet Keidrick’s bus in half an hour and then Gibson’s fucking bus doesn’t come until 8:25 and the girls are supposed to be at school by 8:00. Shit. Shitshitshitshitshit!!! Well, Seb is just going to have to take them. I don’t know what else to do. They can just sit outside the school and wait for a teacher to show up if it’s too early. Goddamnitalltohell!!!”

Wayne’s eyes opened wide and he backed slowly away from me towards his car. He never took his eyes off my face as he reached for the door handle. He was supposed to also be dropping off his daughter at my house for daycare, so I got into the van, slammed the door and started backing down the laneway so he could follow me.

He jumped into his car, threw it into gear and shot forward out of the drive and skidded down the street without a backward glance.

I haven’t heard from him since.

His wife Alison dropped the daughter a little later, slipping into the house quietly and kissing her child goodbye. She was halfway out the door when I came down the stairs to greet her. Her hand tightened on the doorknob and her eyes kept darting to the window of the door, doubtlessly hoping for backup to suddenly appear in the driveway. She left as quickly as her husband had departed, but with less squealing of tires on pavement.

And that was my rock bottom. It was an ugly, shameful shenanigan, and it wasn’t worth it. It frightened my children, put my husband on the defensive, and could have cost me treasured friendships. There’s a chance I’ll see The Seays again. They’ve experienced my shenanigans before. Wayne is a bit of a shenanigan addict himself—truth be told, we tend to egg each other on, but we understand that about each other. It’s good to have friends who understand you.  

 But now I’m making a vow to get my life on track—to get it right this time. I’m going to control my temper, plan and organize the lives of my family better, and stick to a schedule. I’m going to make those loot bags for the kids’ birthdays this year, damn it, and find a way to handle sugar-highs and full moon behavior of all the children in my care. I’ll stop staying up until all hours of the night writing ridiculously silly blog posts, wake up earlier to meet buses, and take ballroom dancing instead of pole. I’ll stop cursing, engaging in belching contests, and giggling at crude conversations. I’m going to write a literary novel nobody will want to read and take the Canadian oath, and I’m going to do all of it with the grace and elegance of the Duchess of Cambridge. I know that I cannot continue to chase the next shenanigan-high and expect to live a respectable, responsible life. There is no real reward at the end of a summer full of drinking and tomfoolery with friends, laughing raucously, and dancing wildly at any given moment. The only way to get straight and stay shenanigan-free is to embrace a controlled lifestyle and create a whole new me. Just because the addiction is part of who I am doesn’t mean I have to give into it and indulge in hilarity and spirit whenever the desire hits me. So here’s my new creed:

I, Kelly Shannonhouse Lalonde, pledge to commit to a life of respect, responsibility, and reasonable fun. I want to earn the trust of my loved ones, the 6-weeks-straight beer coaster-of-honor, and the…

Wait. Did someone say BEER coaster?!

Oh hell. Screw it. I’m out.

Is it Friday yet? Are you serious? It’s only Tuesday? WTF? Where the hell did my music go? Child, you better give that ipod back to me if you know what’s good for you!

Wayne? Where are you, buddy? Help a friend out, will ya? Seb took the beer out of the fridge again to make room for stupid vegetables and to discourage middle-of-the-week shenanigans. The man has his priorities all wrong. Bring a cold 2-4, ok? I’ll share…promise. We know it’s more fun with company. We’ll get The Birnies to stay for a beer or three too when they come to pick up the baby. Yeah, that’s it…crank up the tunes, and we can sing along with Mr. Shelton. “If you’ve got a problem with that...you can kiss my country ass…” Oh yeah, now that's what I’m talking about. Sing it Blake!!


Now that’s more like it!  

1 comment:

Susan said...

Oh my gosh!!!! I loved your blog. I was laughing the whole time. I felt like i was right there watching it all unfold. We all need a bit of release that is for sure!!! Sometimes our crazy moments only last for a minute or so but they give us great entertainment. Drinking a cold beverage right now and toasting to you my friend. Bring it on!!!!! Miss you