All posts by Laura Grimes

Five Years at the Opera with the Large Smelly Boy

Mixed-media collage by Laura Grimes
Mixed-media collage by Laura Grimes



It’s been only five years since I took the Small Large Smelly Boy to his first opera? It’s already been a whole five years?

During that time I’ve thought frequently about the post I wrote after I took him to Portland Opera’s double bill of Pagliacci and Carmina Burana in fall 2010, when he was 12 years old. At least a few times every year I think about writing an update: What’s he doing now? Did it take? What’s happened since then? How old is he now? Did that first opera change his life like all the ta-DUM-ing in the post?

That whole event back then seemed like just life. A night out on the town with my lad after he took out the trash. A quick documentation of a special occasion. But I had no idea how much it would resonate and grow long-long legs and, well, if not change the course of history, then at least skew its trajectory just a bit.

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Jack, 2000-2015: Big and bold and not just any cat



To say our cat died is ridiculously casual and wildly unfitting. Jack, mafia don and Facebook darling, all sass and sweetness, as demanding as a popped blister and as loyal as a lab, was our warp and our weft, our emotional ballast, our third Large Smelly Boy, more boy than the sum of the rest and more macho than a swaggering lot of pirates. He would never stand for being just a cat.

Jack. A name we didn’t give him but inherited from his kitten foster parents and decided to keep, both to honor his first family loves and because it fit. Solid. Straightforward. Nothing to duck. That was Jack, who died Monday, May 11 — days ago, but no one in the family could yet bear to make it public, perhaps because we still couldn’t believe it and saying it aloud would make it real, perhaps because we futilely willed to keep him to ourselves a little longer, and perhaps because the grief was so deep that it was silent and private. Funny, because Jack was never quiet.

He insisted on long conversations and had lots of opinions. But don’t take my word for it. Ask the neighbors. He talked to everyone about everything. He acted all lovey to every passing stranger, and promptly answered all manner of sounds – words, whistles, belches, farts. He wasn’t picky, as long as he had someone to talk to. Or not. He head-bumped with the best of ’em and knew how to rub a good leg. And he knew how to push newspapers onto the floor when they vied for his attention. If he were here now he would be digging a paw into my sleeve and pulling my hand away from the keyboard, insisting on having it to himself, persistently becoming an impossible pest until I would have to do something, perhaps give him a good long hug over my right shoulder, a favorite spot where he went limp. I started making bed nests for him near wherever I happened to be working to placate him, scrunching up soft blankets and pulling chairs closer.

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A poem to catch a writing breeze

Sharp-shinned hawks, chromolithograph, 1908, Louis Agassiz Fuertes, United States Department of Agriculture Yearbook/Wikimedia CommonsBy Laura Grimes

I’ve been blog quiet much too long. I can’t explain these things, but just accept them. My writer brain has languished. I’ve seen glimpses of it, fragments, but capturing a cohesive sense has been a struggle.

For me, poetry often serves as a toddling way back to recovery, a voice for the broken. Not broken as in destroyed, or sad, though sometimes that can be the case, too, but in this instance, I consider it more a voice for the misshapen. It’s a bunch of puzzle pieces that need realigning. Again, I don’t question these things, I’m just grateful.

I thought I lost my poetry touch a few years ago. I never realized it was leaving, it just wasn’t there anymore and it took me a while to notice it was gone, but by then it was too late. So I’m surprised now by its sudden return, unannounced and unbidden, like a shadowed figure seeking shelter from a storm who shows up wet on my doorstep smelling of the natural order of things. Irresistible, really. But why?

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More than just a chocolate surprise

Porch sign

By Laura Grimes

Dear Mr. Scatter,

You do realize, right, that while you sped away to have a raucous dinner party at the assisted-living facility, you left me here to 1. make my own coffee. 2. fetch my own newspaper. 3. share my bed with more beasts than usual and 4. somehow end up with less bed space.

Ah, but the co-opted bed comes with a bonus. When I got home late last night The Small Large Smelly Boy was already ensconced on your side of the bed half-asleep and half-watching House Hunters International on HGTV (I can’t make this stuff up). We attempted to continue the family tradition that you claim to be a medicinal practice: Eat a dark Dove chocolate every night. But this morning, after I unpretzeled myself to get up, The SLSB said, “Oh, look out for a chocolate somewhere in the bed.” Apparently, his half-asleepness last night got the better of him.

I didn’t think much of it, except to remind myself to carefully look over the bed when I got around to making it. But I didn’t get that far …

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Spreading out the fond memories

It's just a tablecloth to some people, but to us it makes Thanksgiving special.By Laura Grimes

More than a year ago Mr. Scatter’s parents moved to an assisted-living facility.

By then, the seven children were making choices for them and the parents weren’t sure where they were. The little cottage they had lived in was cleaned out.

A very few favorite items went with the folks, a few basic kitchen items and furniture pieces stayed, and the rest was spread out in the garage to sell. I’m not sure what because I wasn’t there.

All I know is that when I arrived a few weeks later by myself in the middle of the hot summer the place was an eerie ghost of its old self, empty and echoey. The familiar pictures were gone and the walls were a fresh new color. I immediately checked my feelings at the front door, knowing this had been a long time coming.

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A galaxy of recipes and remembrances

Gingerbread drawing that inspired "Star Pie," Small Large Smelly Boy, Nov. 24, 2001.

By Laura Grimes

A little-known blog fact: The Scatter family has a hand-made recipe book.

Nearly a decade ago, we started collecting our favorite recipes that went with some of our favorite food stories. We loaded them up in notebooks and gave them to our close family and friends for Christmas. It’s called Star Pie: A Galaxy of Recipes and Remembrances.

It got its name because exactly 10 years ago today I wrote down a conversation I had with the Small Large Smelly Boy, who was not so large and not so smelly at the time. In fact, he was downright adorable. He was 4.

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Cooking up steroids, I mean stuffing

By Laura Grimes

My mom is swimming her way south and the meat marathon has begun. Look what we got cooking on the stove:

Cooking up turkey broth.

We bought turkey wings just to make turkey stock just to make turkey stuffing just to go with Grammy’s turkey breast.

When Mr. Scatter asked The Meat Guy for “two turkey wings, one for each side,” the guy replied, “I don’t know if I can get you a matching pair.”

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‘You can’t do that when Grammy’s here!’

Norman Rockwell's "Cousin Reginald Catches the Thanksgiving Turkey" (1917), copyright 1917, The Country Gentleman and Curtis Publishing Co.By Laura Grimes

At the time of this typing, my mom’s ETA is 45 hours and counting.

The early missile warning system is now in effect. I repeat. The early missile warning system is now in effect.

In my last post, I promised a concussive blast. Reading on? Don your helmets! Duck and cover!

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License to thrill? Not really

The back of our poor little van at the scene of the crash in Hoodsport, Wash.By Laura Grimes

We back up our meat-centric blog for a little backstory. Mom’s coming for Thanksgiving and we got meat multiplying in the vegetarian-family freezer, but before I move on to the concussion blast and the traumatic brain injury these circumstances cause the Scatter Family, I first must explain our license plate.

We recently had to buy a new Large Smelly Boymobile.

Actually, let’s first back up to July 31, 2011. It was a gorgeous summer day. The Small Large Smelly Boy and I were driving our beloved van, LSBmobile1, from Port Angeles, Wash., where my mom lives, to Portland, Ore., where we live. Just to clarify, I was driving. The Small LSB isn’t even in high school yet.

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Freeze: We have a meat emergency

Turkey Lurkey is on the job in the "Chicken Little" book I had as a kid. It's blurry because I once left it in the rain. Pictures by Marjorie Hartwell. Thank you Whitman Publishing Company for some good times growing up.

By Laura Grimes

If you’re wondering about Mr. Scatter, he’s been busy with paying gigs so we can afford all this meat we’re cooking for Thanksgiving. If you read the last post, you know by now that even though most of us in the family are vegetarians, somehow we’re cooking both a whole chicken and a turkey breast.

OK. OK. No somehow about it. I’ll admit it. It’s all because I’m an advice column failure.

But forget that for a moment because we have an emergency. The meat in our freezer is multiplying. And we don’t even have the whole chicken or the turkey breast yet.

The freezer already contains several kinds of elk meat and antelope sausage (which Mr. Scatter fondly keeps calling “gazelle”), which we got in exchange for pickles. And now — hold your breath — we have a giant turkey. More precisely, we have 21.12 pounds of bird, or $35.69 worth. It was FREE.

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