Ahhhh … luxury!

Does your pulse quicken in the presence of a fine automobile?

Perhaps your heart desires a purse so celebrated that it has its own name?

Maybe you crave something that floats? First editions? A telescope? Non fungible tokens?

We all have our aspirations and each of them, if acquired, represents a high water mark in our lives. 

… ‘No!’ was a form of greeting; pre-emptive and final.

When I was a kid I pined for many things. And when I say pined, I mean epic, unrequited longing on the scale of Greek tragedy. I whined endlessly to my parents hoping for their indulgence. Bear in mind that I was in competition with three other savages and their particular laundry lists of Must Haves. Not a day passed where one of us four kids didn’t make a desperate plea for some novelty or other. In our home, ‘No!’ was a form of greeting; pre-emptive and final. My mom says that she got through raising us by locking herself in a closet with a gin bottle.

Photo by Stuff.co

… Alicia was an apex predator and I was krill. 

Come winter, I had to wear those black rubber boots with a red stripe at the rim to school. You know the ones: boy boots.  The only way to conceal my humiliation was to arrive late and try to hide my boots in the cloakroom. You see, these boots announced that I was not worthy, that I had failed to comprehend the tribal customs of elementary school. Alicia, queen of the playground, had boots that were not just patent leather, they were white patent leather. In the biosphere of the playground, Alicia was an apex predator and I was krill. 

Photo by NY Mag

It will come as no surprise that I have aurora borealis hued memories of the moment my fortunes changed.

My entire family was Christmas shopping. We’d split up into groups. I was with my dad. We were coming down the elevator at Eaton’s. The kid’s shoe department was at the foot of the elevator. He’d heard my constant petitions for cooler boots and, for some unfathomable reason,  said, ‘Let’s get you those boots’.  I was dumbstruck. I tried them on. He paid for them.  I think he said no one needed to hear more about this event meaning he’d handle my mother. 

I couldn’t decide whether to wear them out of the store or go home and make a shrine to them. How I was supposed to keep secret the biggest windfall in my life, I don’t know.  The boots may not have mirrored Alicia’s white patent leather, but gone were the boy boots with the red rim, and, in their place, a pair of sleek, – albeit serviceable – side zippered, cool, black boots. 

I was over the moon.

… a human emotional need for interpersonal relationships, affiliating, connectedness, and being part of a group’.

The following day I was invincible in the schoolyard. Ridiculous, isn’t it? It spoke nothing of the character-building that my parents were always on about. It was a silly concession to convention. Or was it? In getting those boots, I was able to reflect on the relative merits of externalities. Nothing in my life had truly changed. My feet were no warmer nor drier than they had been in my older brother, Neil’s, outgrown boots. But my new boots pronounced on the societal signifiers that my immediate tribe understood. Without knowing it, I was working within Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the pyramid of physical and psychological needs described by American psychologist Abraham Maslow (1908-1970).  These new boots were all about the third base tier, Belonging, or Love Needs. Maslow called these needs, along with the most basic – physiological and safety needs – deficiency needs. The longer these needs are unmet, the stronger they become. ‘Belongingness’, according to Maslow, ‘refers to a human emotional need for interpersonal relationships, affiliating, connectedness, and being part of a group’.

Photo by Flashbak

These days I don’t care much for that sort of ‘belongingness’.  I care about utility, resourcefulness; intangibles like charm, wit and character. But those objects of our desire can be important. I met a man who’d grown up on a cattle station in the Outback. They didn’t have much. The great motivator in his life was something he’d seen on one of the family’s rare trips to town. To him, the object represented prosperity and accomplishment.  He vowed that he’d one day have one for himself.

The object of his desire?

A toaster.

A four slice toaster.

Photo by Cuisinart

This week’s question for readers:


Now, in return, will you do something for me? Will you sign up for The Plain Jane, my newsletter? You can ignore it, if you want, when it shows up in your inbox every few weeks, but my rotten kids will think I’m a star if I have a decent subscriber list. 

Here’s further incentive to sign up: PRIZES!!!

Submissions to last week’s question:

What are your store day memories? And who shovels your walkway?

Five years ago, my husband had major surgery between Christmas and New Years.  I struggled to keep up with the heavy snow we were getting.  On New Year’s Day when I was outside, a family with a teenage boy walked up the street.  The mother commented that a boy with a shovel could make a few bucks.  I asked the young man if he would like to earn some money.  He has been doing my shoveling ever since, sometimes with a group of friends and not always accepting payment.  Did I mention?  He’s a boy scout

Gerri Botelho

My memories of  snowy days begin in Thunder Bay, where winter meant a backyard skating rink for family and neighbourhood friends. Raising a family in Coquitlam and taking a dream vacation to Whistler suddenly resulted in a frozen car.  Our Whistler neighbours, also from Coquitlam, when learning of our  situation, offered a second car so we could return home in time for work. Now retired  to the Fraser Valley, our Egyptian immigrant neighbours rise early at the first sign of snow to ensure our sidewalks are clear.  All attempts of payment are met with “We are neighbours”. There could be no better message to the world today. 

Karen Lockyer

My driveway and sore knee would have made shoveling dangerous this year but I have been blessed with extraordinarily kind neighbours. Snow has been coming regularly but, each day, often before I am up, my double-wide, steep driveway, sidewalk and stairs from street to porch are cleared thanks to Dan, Owen and Tony. And there was a stranger who cleared the block with his snowblower one day. As for payment? Some warm cookies were shared but Dan says he just “likes the exercise”! Nevertheless, there will be more cookies coming. ‘Thank you’ just can’t cover it. Love you guys!

Mary Cramond

When I was very young, growing up in Quebec, I used to build forts at the intersection in front of our house. The snow plows would pile it up at the corners and it was perfect for a five year old to dig out an igloo type structure inside the pile. I would poke round portholes through the walls, with a ski pole so I could see out. I do remember being inside and seeing a snow plow heading my way. The rumbling terrifyied me as it got louder and then, as it faded away,  the sound of the slushy snow coming down on the roof of my fort. Just one of the many happy terrors of growing up. 

Rod Coleman

Do you remember sleigh riding down Heather Hill It was a winter of BIG snow, perhaps 1935. Heather Hill, between 23rd and 22nd Avenues is very steep. The City had all side streets cordoned off from traffic and a police officer was on duty at the top of the Hill, to keep order and safety. Toboggans loaded with teenagers were the elite on the Hill as they whizzed down the steep grade and continued travelling past Douglas Park. Heather Street is now a City-designated cycling route; and at the bottom of the hill is a traffic calming circle, so there is no way these tobogganing memories can be re-enacted. And who shovels my sidewalk? My kind neighbour Peter, and my handsome nephew Donald. 

(Nephew Donald typed this for his Aunt, who does not use a computer)
Rina MacKay

It was the late 1950’s and early 60’s, and I had a great snow shoveling trapline in the Roxboro district of Calgary. If it snowed overnight I’d shovel six walks at noon (no lunch). If it snowed in the afternoon, I’d shovel them again after school. The best part? A buck a walk. I could make $12 a day! I was getting rich! My enemy? Those dreadful Chinooks. Those warm winds from the west would melt everything, including my profits. In snowy Tsawwassen the other day I was 12 years old again. I smiled to my wife. ‘No charge.’

Robb Lucy

We lived in Kitimat for years, in a house with a roof that stretched at least 45 feet from the ridge to the edge of the attached carport. Deep and heavy snowfalls did not slide off that roof, and so we would clear the snow to lighten the load on the house. Under our watchful eyes on the roof, our boys would ride their toboggan from the ridge line across the roof and over the carport, dropping slightly onto piled snow and finishing up against the high piles of snow left by city snowblowers. A few seconds of pure excitement!

Sheila Charneski 

My favorite snowdays was the winter of 1979/1980. Growing up in Prince George,we were used to snow. That year we had no snow till December 15. From that day forward till mid March, it snowed 30 cm or more every day. The snow banks on our driveway were soon over 5ft. Being 10 years old, I couldn’t lift the snow over the bank. Dad, feeling exhausted teaching all day and coming home to another dump of snow, soon bought a snow blower. The city plowed the streets every second day. Filling the bottom of the driveway with a mound of snow our van couldn’t drive over. We lived on a cul de sac and the road snow was piled up around the lamp standard in the middle of the round. One of my taller friends was able to get on top of it. The report of total snowfall that winter was 24 feet/7.5 m.

Matthew Jordan 

I don’t throw the 1st snowball but, when I engage, I’m in it to win.  

The snowball hit me between the shoulder blades. My slow head-swivel made the little boy dash behind his fort but my snowball catapulted over the low wall and landed on his head. He stood glaring, but told him he should have built on the higher ground. More glare! His dad was with him and he should have known better. 

Eunice Opstad

Growing up in the small pulp mill town of Port Alice, in the 40s and 50s, with no TV, snow on the local golf course was a gift from heaven.

The golf course featured one fairly steep hill which is where everyone with something to slide on went.  The hill was called The Ranger Hill because of its proximity to the shooting range used by the Pacific Coast Militia Ranger during WWII.  The hill was the ‘go to’ place for anyone with anything to slide on. No plastic sleds then, so cardboard for those without sleighs or toboggans.  One of the favoured activities was to cram as many people as possible on the equipment.

 Daryl Sturdy

One of my favourite snow memories is bumper skiing to school with my buddies in North Delta. VWs were the best! They had the most traction and bumpers practically made for this winter activity. I haven’t seen “skiing” for years … which is probably a good thing. 

Stephan Krieg  

I grew up in Richmond and I have very fond memories of my grandpa Leon who lived close by. On snowy days grandpa would phone over to say that he had hitched up Old Pete and a sled. If we wanted a ride, we were to stand by the road and he would pick us up in 10 minutes. If the older cousins got too pushy, grandpa would make them walk home. Fond memories, lovely grandpa. My very kind neighbour Chris is quick to shovel my walkway and I try to do my bit.

Helen Campbell

I love being outside in almost any weather, but a fresh snowfall calls for me to spend hours outside and, as an adult, I need an excuse, so shovelling it is.  

I recall we had snow most winters in my Chilliwack childhood, the most memorable of which was in 1971.  It started with a lot of dry snow which drifted up to our roof at the back of the house.  Then we had freezing rain, enough that made it so we could walk on the surface of the snow.  The aftermath was a complete mess but that was for our parents to manage.

Julie –  in Lake Country, where the snow is deep but the driveway is all clear – Halfnights

Sixty-six years ago I grew up in a little northwest corner of Surrey.  Not much there back then, but when it snowed there seemed to magically appear two huge Coca-Cola signs that must have come off a corner store somewhere.  They were metal and, when turned upside down, made excellent snow saucers for at least a dozen kids.  We lived on a hill with a lot of kids in the area at the time.  You can guess the rest!  A good ride was making it to the bottom to the old, abandoned house on River Road with everyone still aboard!  Thirty years ago I moved back to the old neighbourhood and there are townhouses where those memories were made.   Oh… and socks were used as mittens back then because all our spare time was outdoors and we got soaked often!

Chi-chi Rasmusens

Back in 1968, we had one of the coldest winters I can remember. School was closed for a week or so and, with my Dad having grown up enduring Edmonton winters, he engineered us a backyard ice rink in our South Vancouver home, complete with an elevated slide. We had many a backyard hockey game complete with hot chocolate to keep warm that my Mom served up for the neighborhood kids. 

Also, when winters were cold enough, I can remember outdoor skating on the ponds at Little Mountain, as well as the flats on King George Blvd. and Fraserway and 176th in Surrey. 

Fred Myskiw

Where to start with snow days!?  We lived at Lakelse Lake between Terrace and Kitimat which was a snow belt having recorded the most snow in a 24 hour period in all of Canada. It wasn’t unusual to have 4-5ft of snow in 24 hours so it wasn’t shovelling, it was snow-blowing and digging out with a tractor. We lived in Terrace from 1969 to 2016 and there were too many instances of that type to remember. One year in Kitimat – another heavy snow area – boats at the marina sank because of the snow load. We were told when we moved to Terrace that they would have warnings on the radio in Kitimat about children going on top of snow piles where there were hydro lines. It was hard to believe, coming from the Fraser Valley, but we did see proof of that statement. So we can only laugh at the Lower Mainland when they get a few inches of snow and think it’s a huge problem. We moved to the Okanagan and thought we were escaping the snow but, so far, that has not proven correct with some winters getting more then Terrace. I think the snow is following us.! Happy snow shovelling to everyone.

Sharon McAvoy

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