Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Practice Makes Perfect

This evening I made the startling discovery that Justin, after all this time, was not aware of my uncanny ability to balance things on my head. In some circles, I actually have quite a reputation for this aptitude. In any case it was revealed tonight, over spaghetti and meatballs, when I performed the gravity-defying feat of balancing a 4-litre water jug upright upon my head. (Some attribute this skill to the puffiness of my hair, but I pay no mind to these nay-sayers. As if my hair could hold a gigantic plastic water jug in its vice-like animal grip.)

The incident sparked a recollection of a similar one from my childhood, when I believe this special gift first took root.

Zoom in on the calendar; pages blowing off in the breeze.... Flash back to 1985...

... a 5-year old afro-ed Risa, in The Old Lambert Cottage. The dining chairs that left ridges on the backs of your legs on hot summer days. The chicken/rooster sugar bowl and creamer set. Booze from my dad's bar mitzvah in the 50s. My mom with a perm, but the same blue eye-shadow, sipping banana daquiris out back with my aunt, while us kids husked corn on the front porch, next to the day's swim suits hung up to dry on the trestle.

Endless games of Monopoly or Battleship or Checkers, that I was usually told I was too young to play, and that I never won anyways. Not to mention the games created specifically for the sake of taunting me: 52 Pick Up, for instance, which involves throwing an entire deck of cards on the floor and then ordering me to pick them up. ("What?! You said you wanted to play-ay!" was always the rock solid defense.) This is what happens when you're the youngest of a big gang of raucous siblings and cousins in close quarters: the easiest to trick, tease, or blame, and forever grasping for that zinger of a come-back. (Although, really, what can be said after, "I'm rubber and you're glue"?)

Actually I wasn't the youngest, strictly speaking. There was one cousin the same age as me, but scrappier than I was, and one  2 years younger, still too cute to really pick on. And then there was me. Helpless and afroed, the obvious target. Which is probably why I stuck to my guns that fateful morning at breakfast time...

Me: (reaching for a full box of Cheerios, and proceeding to place it gingerly atop my afro)

Brother: Risa, don't do that. It's going to fall.

Me: No, it's not.

Sister: Risa, put it down, you're going to drop it.

Me: No, I won't.

Cousin: Risa, stop it, it's going to spill. You're going to get in trouble.

Me: (increasingly confident) You're not the boss of me.

Brother: (growing panic) Take it off!

Me: (arrogant now, attempting to strut around with my headdress) No, look, I can do it! Look! It's...

Sister: (screeching like a communist school teacher) Risa!

Father: (serious stuff now) Put it down!

Me: (prancing) ... but, look!!! Its...

Blonk! psshhhhht-t-t-t-t-t--t---t----t------t.......t.

Box falls. 


Little Risa Gets In Big Trouble.

Well I certainly Learned My Lesson that day:

If you want to be good at balancing stuff on your head, you have to practice.

And just look at me now! A 4-litre water jug! Take that, nay-sayers!


  1. lambert. i will say it again. you are damn funny. and you are also one mighty fine writer. keep em coming...

    also. i can attest to this talent. many a text book has been balanced a top that special mop top hair shop. and no, it is not the hair. it is sheer will!

  2. I'm all choked up...tearful nostalgia!

  3. Amazing - the neti was prominently mentioned in A Globe and Mail article last week.
    We will let you balance food on your head at our current cottage this summer but perhaps a more challenging food group - say, herring.

  4. Occasionally you had two cousins who were 2 years younger, and 6 years down the line an even more afroed final cousin. I don't know why I was spared the teasing ... maybe the out-of-towner novelty.

  5. Gillian:

    a) I definitely realized that two cousins were missing from this story, they just didn't happen to be there for the cheerio incident. You're there in spirit though.

    b) I don't know why you didn't get picked on. Maybe the novelty factor. Or maybe I just seemed too gullible and wimpy to be overlooked.

    c) No WAY Arleigh's 'fro beats mine!


  6. Dad:

    a) Of course Neti was in the paper. That's because she's fabulous and soon everyone will know.

    b) herring?! You think that's a challenge? I could do herring standing up in the canoe. Don't underestimate my prowess.

    thanks for always reading and saying nice things! and for defending my reputation as a head balancer!

    if you're still feeling nostalgic next time i'm in town, just let me know. I'd be happy to throw cereal all over your floor and not clean it up.

  7. Just wanted to let you know that "Neti" was the answer (question?) on Jeopardy last night and I screamed it at the TV. Matt thinks I'm crazy, but I got it right. Thank you.
    Yes, I am having a baby! Luckily just one at a time :)

  8. I do not scream like a communist school teacher.