Here is a column I wrote in 2009 upon my return from six months of living in England’s countryside, where I began the huge restoration of our flood-ruined cottage...It would take another six months in 2010 to complete.
Clutching my errand list I locked Sunnybank’s front door and meandered along Sixth Street on a lovely late spring morning, noting snoozing mallard ducks squatting on the neighbors’ lush green, sun-lit lawns. Grinning, I quacked at their indifferent backs, then gleefully recalled a fascinating factoid I’d learned in England: Donald Duck comics are banned in Finland- because he doesn’t wear pants! Silly me nearly died laughing then: I’d stepped into traffic after looking dutifully- the wrong way! It was a very close call.
The horrified driver stood on his brakes and shouted, “Are you nuts?!” Apologizing, I sought the safety of the sidewalk. I’d come safely home to the U.S., only to be nearly flattened by a two-ton car while giggling about ‘Uncle Donald’ running a-fowl of Finnish political quacks.
That near-hit got my attention: when walking about I’d concentrate on American traffic patterns and trash silly thoughts of ducks in pants.
Speaking of cars and confusion, I’ve just remembered a curious incident.
One morning, while a team of electricians were busy rewiring my cottage, one man had to pop out for a part, but my car blocked his. “I’ll move it for you,” he said. Paint-spattered and perched high on a ladder, that suited me.
He got in, turned the key, then actually broke into a sweat when he discovered it wasn’t a stick shift. My poor car jerked and hopped as his left foot pumped the brake and his right foot pressed the accelerator while he shifted the protesting gears. It was too much. Exiting hastily, he returned the key. “YOU do it. I could never drive one of those; I’d ruin it, or get distracted and cause an accident. Automatics are far too confusing.”
I was amazed.
(Cars in Britain are, with very few exceptions, stick shift models.)
Anyway, while reorienting to America, which usually takes a week or two, friends- or buses- have trundled me to appointments. Yesterday, just because, I walked all the way home from the dentist’s office, from well up M-22. I found 62 cents on the sidewalk, admired Traverse Bay’s elegant swans and diving, noisy ducks (all without clothes), while subliminally re-learning American traffic rules.
Passing Tom’s Market I popped in to purchase a cinnamon roll. Walking through the parking lot I noticed a mother and grandmother trying to round up four small, rambunctious children to buckle into their car seats. Mountainous folded clothes sat in stacked plastic laundry baskets, which were squeezed into their car. Seeing me, gran looked startled, then grinned. “Oh, I remember you; you were thee topic at dinner two months ago. Where do you get your ideas?” I thanked her happily, visibly puffing up, while mentally reviewing my columns. Which one…? Expertly corralling another youngster, she went on-
“You’re really clever, you know, pulling tons of laundry through snow and ice to your car without breaking a sweat, using bungee cords to connect your 3 baskets. Inspiring! That idea changed how my daughter and I manage laundry. I’ve got four grandkids, you know- including triplets. My washer collapsed ages ago, along with my back. Now, leaving the Laundromat, we just hitch four baskets together, settle the kids in with the folded clothes, and ‘pull the train.’ Easy as pie! Thanks!”
Waving, they drove off, honking goodbye.
Staring after them, I downed the last bit of roll and licked my fingers thoughtfully.
It wasn’t me they’d remembered.
Walking along, I reflected that the elderly, white-haired, but still vigorous Donald doesn’t duck helping his mischievous nephews, triplets Huey, Dewey, and Louie: however, he draws the line at doing laundry.
Finally, featherheaded, PC-obsessed Finns have completely forgotten that Donald Fauntleroy Duck always wears a swimming suit.