Terry the trooper

. March 21, 2013.

Terry and I met in Lamaze class.  We were pregnant with our first children and immediately gravitated toward each other.  It may have been her kind face or the fact that she was the only other woman in our class employed, over eighteen and married.  Either way, from that day on, we have been sharing childcare, laughter, and remedies relating to insect bites to the best way to dislodge Playdough from cat fur.
Terry and I have different playbooks on how we tackle life. She is a highly organized career woman with a color coded calendar system. I have a tendency to, well, “wing it.”  My child, who did not fall far from the tree, would hand me crumpled permission slips and school newsletters that had been on the bottom of her book bag.  Being a mom with closet ADD, I would put them somewhere “special” or better yet “safe.”  I would later be in full panic mode when Terry would drop by carrying crisp white copies of what I was searching for, knowing once again that my “special” place would be easier to find than nylons that actually fit. 
Terry gets things done and there is no greater blessing than to take a worker bee to a Canadian cabin. I took Terry to our newly purchased wilderness retreat thinking we could relax with intermittent moments of manual labor. She quickly reversed the order of priorities.  I kept inquiring where “berry picking” and “sunbathing while sipping Chardonnay” were on her lengthy to-do list. 
We did manage to have fun though.  One night we were asked over to our Canadian neighbors for dinner.  The “boys” (my Dad and Ed the neighbor) were permitted to eat on TV trays in front of a hockey game, while we “girls” (my Mom, Terry, Judy and I) were banished to the kitchen.  I thought Terry was going to explode. First from suppressing her comments on gender bias then from laughter as Judy brought out a teapot draped in a dusty knitted cover. She looked at me and whispered, “What the heck is that thing?”  Judy, not as hearing impaired as we once thought, curtly replied, “That’s a tea cozy!”  I leaned over and told Terry that I bet that it’s kept other “unmentionables” warm during the cold Canadian winters!  It was then that Terry and I recalled the little 10 gallon water heater in the shower house and thought we would head back to the beat the eclectic rush for hot water.
We said goodnight as Judy held back her “super sized” dogs. We stumbled back in the cold dark air to our cabin firmly grasping my daughter’s “Little Mermaid” flashlight.  We arrived to discover that my Dad, who has an over active “security gene,” had locked the cabin door. Freezing and filled with thoughts of a hot shower, we quickly decided to head back to the neighbors for the key.  Good idea until we heard Dundee and North Star barking somewhere in the thick darkness.  I love dogs, but Dundee and his buddy look like they could carry a pack of Eskimos across the artic or devour a seal in one gulp. 
It was then that I remembered that my Dad had lit a kerosene heater in the shower house so it would be warm when we got home.  Surely, the little shower house would be unlocked.  It was, but when we opened the door, it was apparent that instead of turning the heater down before leaving, “Mr. Magoo,” as my Mom affectionately calls him, cranked it up!  Black threadlike soot was hanging from the ceiling.  The good news:  We got there before serious damage occurred.  The bad news:  We now had to wait in the frigid darkness until my parents arrived home an hour and forty-five minutes later.  Little noises in the dark went from, “Oh it’s a squirrel.” to “OMG, that’s a wolf or a moose in heat!’
My Dad was the first to arrive on the scene.  Peeking in the shower house door he firmly commanded, “DON’T TELL YOUR MOTHER.”  I piped in, “I think Mom may be onto us after spending three hours earlier today bleaching this place!”
Believe it or not, “Terry the Trooper” and I returned to Canada to vacation with our children.  There are very few friends that you can squat in woods next to and or head out to Maple Lake for a skinny dip.  Of course, our children have told us these images were enough to throw them into therapy.
Terry has given me, as my family calls them, “memory making moment.”  She lost both of her parents.  I can’t imagine what that is like. I was always a generation or two away from loved ones who were, and are, my walking historians of shared times.  Since she is motherless, one of these days, I am going to get around to telling her that she is doing a good job, no, make that GREAT job in all she does. I am going to have to sit her down, let her soak up the sun, and take care of her to-do list.  I left it in a “special” place.  Now where the heck did I put that thing?
Mary Helen Darah has been in marketing and development for nonprofit organizations for the past six years, but her greatest role is being a mom to three amazing and diverse young women. Mary Helen has an innate ability to find humor in her trials, and hopes her writing will give others comic relief and insight through the challenges of parenthood. Mary Helen can be reached c/o