Like any boy my age, forced to endure the sizzling heat of a Saskatchewan summer, my youth was spent in just the same way as anyone else’s. Which mainly consisted of stuffing cats into waistcoats and fashionable dresses and trying desperately to arrange a tasteful cat wedding in the comfort of my air-conditioned basement. Of coarse, like any great artist I was misunderstood. My snow white cat wasn’t particularly fond of the clothes I’d picked out for her (pillaged from my sister’s Cabbage Patch Kids) and the groom, a surly nameless barn cat, just sat, puffed up to twice his normal size, glaring at me with his one pus filled eye. This marriage was a symbol of the coming together of their two worlds, worlds with strict divisions. Have you distemper, and mange? You lived outside. Come by an adorable name, bring along some attitude, and you my cat-friend can practically pick out your own room in my parent’s house. Both my Mother and even the cats themselves strictly enforced this segregation. The whole situation was very “Romeo and Juliet” and I was trying to mediate a truce, stop all the catfights, and most importantly avoid going outside.
“Come out and get some fresh air!” my parents would call from great big out of doors, “And get that filthy cat out of the house!”
While they have been nothing but supportive in regards to my other mild eccentricities, my parents believe that no matter how weak armed, or pasty, and no matter how delicious you might taste to giant flying insects, you should enjoy being outside. My refusal to come outside and enjoy myself was met with constant confusion, followed by bribery, intimidation, and finally surrender. I held a strong preference for the indoors, starting around the time I discovered that with everyone else outside I could watch my soap operas in peace (so, roughly 4 years old). My stance was further solidified when I found out that my blood tasted like perfectly aged Bordeaux to mosquitoes, and my skin contained no melanin to protect me from the sun’s rays.
This personality flaw was made the worse by the fact that I was raised on a farm. My parent’s had grown up on farms, and upon reaching adulthood relished in the fact that they had their own acres and acres of precious nature to do with what they pleased. Seeding plantation sized gardens, weeding flowerbeds, trimming hedges and mowing lawns were hobbies. My father, as I so foolishly understood it, liked nothing better than to come home from 16 hours of spraying his fields under the hot blistery sun and mow the 5 acres of grass. Even more he then loved to relax by sitting outside. Clearly this man was insane (or an adult, as most kids get these confused) had he any idea what he was missing on television? Did he not care about the goings on of Pine Valley or Coronation Street?
Of course there were circumstances in which I could not avoid going outside. Track meets, BBQs, or under the watchful eye of a suddenly resolute parent or tyrannical uncle I had to resort to something other than voicing my opinion. During these times I had a selection of fallback routines in my back pocket. If it was during the evening and I was being forced to be outside, and if there was a particularly intriguing move of the week on TV, I would begin by swatting absently at imaginary mosquitoes. The fake slapping would increase in frequency over what seemed like a long period of time, and I would look like a tragic hero- suffering in silence. Because my parents were concerned with me losing large amounts of blood, or because they could see straight through my charade and it was making them uncomfortable they would let me go inside. On hot days where I had to hill potatoes for my uncle, or pick remarkable amounts of strawberries for my Grandma, I really went for the Oscar. Faking sunstroke is a gift from heaven. All you have to do is look sweaty (which isn’t a problem for someone who turns beet red in anything warmer than room temperature) and best of all there are no medical tests that can disprove it. I liked to add a little heavy swallowing just to drive it home and before you could say “useless ingrate” I was back in the basement where I belonged, reading my TV Guide.
My feelings regarding leaving the house haven’t changed much as I’ve matured. I still prefer the artificial glow of my TV screen than the UVA/UVB infused light on sunny days. But that doesn’t stop people from trying to get me to leave my apartment. Because as a writer I can potentially do my job anywhere, people are always telling to go to the park, the patio, or the woods to write. I can only assume those same people advise accountants to get out and crunch numbers beside a babbling brook. Once winter has me and the rest of the country by the throat, digging its ice-cold fingers in for 7 or so months, I can relax. But if it is mildly mild I can expect people to expect me to walk places, sit on decks, and eat my food out in the elements.
I am not so stuck in my ways that I am not able to admit that- yes the outdoors can be fun. Certain things like horseback riding, being fanned while eating grapes, and discovering oil sound like joyous occasions that lend themselves to being out of the house. So, maybe I should give it a try this summer. Get out of the apartment, see some sights get a (fake) tan, and learn to love a season that won’t cause my skin to freeze in 30 seconds flat. But I’m not sure; I don’t know if I can trust that.