Antique horror show


Weird stuff at my parents’ house part one

First, some context. This is a little late, since I lost my camera. It only turned up the other day, thanks to a thorough and long-overdue cleaning of my car. Anyway, while staying at my family in Winnipeg last month, I took a closer-than-usual look at some of the oddities that, mostly through my mom’s, er, taste, have accumulated over the years. Keep in mind; once in the house, no matter how bizarre the object may be, it probably will not get tossed out. Particularly if it was on sale when purchased.

Object: wheelchair

Location: wood-paneled basement bedroom (my teenage boy-cave, since used by myriad other relations)

Reason: no idea, though I suspect it may have been my uncle D’s. He’s been  known to suffer through myriad conditions and afflictions, including hemorrhoids and kidney stones. He’s since moved to Edmonton, so either he’s better, had another wheelchair to take with, or I’m completely wrong and my mom picked it up cheap at Sears. Just in case.


Object: old VHS tapes

Location: basement bedroom

Reason: My dad was the first on the block to buy a VCR. Unfortunately, it was a Betamax. It had to break down before he relented and bought a VHS. Since then he’s become something of an amateur expert taper (tapist?), flitting between the upstairs and downstairs VCRs to tape movies, exercise programs for mom, and probably curling. My parents favourite movies include Zulu, Lonesome Dove, and this one about some Quakers. I’m pretty sure the “basic Yoga” tape “for dummies” is my mom’s.


Object: book, Criminal Masterminds

Location: shelf, basement bedroom

Reason: My parents are fascinated by true crime. They’re avid readers of the sensationalistic daily, the Winnipeg Sun (although my father was always more of a Winnipeg Free Press man, but mom – who doesn’t read the paper – insisted on changing to the Sun ‘cos subscriptions are cheaper, or maybe she was offered a Basic Yoga VHS tape), and books about serial killers and gangsters. They love the Godfather movies and The Sopranos was catnip to them. Not being from a self-reflective generation, I doubt they’ve ever asked themselves the question: “Why are we so fascinated by this stuff?” My dad, whose Jewish, especially likes stories about Jewish gangsters, like Meyer Lansky. (They weren’t all Eye-talians, you know.)


Object: book, Scarlett

Location: shelves, basement bathroom

Reason: I grew up in a house with lots of books, but most of them were of the James Michener variety – bestselling historical epics. My parents’ taste in fiction still tends towards the pulpy and the potboiling (and true crime), as shown by this worn copy of Alexandra Ripley’s sequel (file under: who asked for it?) to Gone With the Wind. All is not lost, however – occasionally I can direct them to a book with (in my opinion) literary merit, such as Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men and Margot Livesay’s Fortune Street. By the way, Scarlett hasn’t moved from its perch on the bathroom shelf for at least a year.

Object: mouse… toilet-paper cover

Location: basement bathroom

Reason: I had real qualms about revealing this one… for about five seconds. In the end, bad taste won out. As described, this is a mouse (note the nose and whiskers) in a frilly dress with a bonnet. Lift it up, and voila! – a fresh roll of toilet paper. Either a gift, or bought from a church bazaar selling crafts by people in need of bingo money (my mom’s an avid player).

Object: canned goods

Location: laundry room, basement

Reason: Is this normal? Is it at least normal amongst my parents’ post WWII generation? Shelves and shelves of canned goods, as though stocking a fall-out shelter. If there’s an apocalypse, or anarchy in the streets, my parents are prepared. Although I think I’d rather end up a mutant than spend the rest of my days eating canned corn and Spam.

Object: flats of bottled water

Location: laundry room, basement

Reason: As you can see, my parents have taken to the bottled water craze in a big way. What is this fear of tap water that has been instilled in us? The last I heard, no one had ever gotten sick, never mind died, from drinking the water in Winnipeg. And why support a huge corporation like Nestle? Although, in full disclosure, when I was going to sleep tipsy every night, those bottles of water sure came in handy to keep by the bedside for when I’d wake up in the middle of the night, dehydrated.

Object: drum kit

Location: basement, or “rec room”

Reason: My nephew, Dylan, plays drums. Or he did – lately, video games have basically swallowed him up whole. What’s bizarre to me is that my parents – who adopted the 12-year-old nearly a decade ago – have encouraged this activity. More power to them, although that doesn’t let them off the hook for brainwashing the kid into liking hockey and curling. Even stranger, my mom – who never had much use for rock music – has taken to proclaiming things like, “the best drummer in rock music is [Rush’s] Neil Peart,” a subject even I – a music journalist by profession – have no opinion on.

Object: toy robot

Location: rec room

Reason: Probably Dylan’s… heck, I may even bought it for him. Regardless, every home should have one.

Weird Stuff At My Parents’ House Pt II: Upstairs


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