Lately, I've found myself bursting out laughing at the memory of the funny things Ivaan said and did. One of the very interesting things about being around Ivaan was that you could never predict what was going to happen next. Here are a few of the bizarre episodes I've been laughing about lately:
On one memorable occasion, we were grocery shopping at Loblaws Queen's Quay. Now, I absolutely loathe grocery shopping, but for Ivaan a trip to a grocery store was akin to a vacation: he felt it was essential to allot several hours to the excursion and to visit every aisle (except the meat department), pausing to scrutinize all the merchandise in minute detail. Certain aisles took much more time to peruse than others. These included the coffee aisle and the jam aisle. Sometimes it also included the bakery aisle, if the bread was very fresh, because Ivaan only fed fresh bread to the neighbourhood birds and squirrels. We rarely spent much time together in a grocery store. Leaving Ivaan with the shopping cart, I'd do a quick sprint through the aisles, gathering the essentials in my arms. By the time I was ready to hit the checkout, usually ten minutes or less, he'd be half way through aisle one. On one memorable occasion, we met up in the bakery section. On the mezzanine level, above the bakery department, a Latin band was playing. As I placed my items in Ivaan's shopping cart, the band struck up the opening notes of a tango. Ivaan turned to me and asked, "Would you care to dance?" "Why, yes, I think I would", I replied. He held out his arms, I stepped into them, wriggled my shoulders a bit until our tango posture was correct, and we executed one of the best tangos we have ever done. It's important to maintain an imperious expression while dancing the tango. I must have been doing this with some success, because I don't recall the reaction of other shoppers, but when the last notes of the music died away, the entire band rose to their feet and gave us a standing ovation.
Our nephew Philippe is 22. It is miraculous that he has lived to adulthood. When Philippe was seven, Ivaan invited him and his brother Sam to visit him at his Queen Street West store. The back room of the store was chaotic in a way that is hard to put into words. Stuff was lying everywhere, and though urban legend had it that Ivaan knew where everything was, I have actually seen hand-drawn maps of the room he had drawn to help him locate items. Ivaan loved anything to do with fire, and so did Philippe. After all, Philippe was a member of the Pyromaniacs, a club whose membership consisted of Ivaan and every one of our nephews who was old enough to walk. Ivaan had a huge pair of heavily-padded leather blacksmith's gauntlets. That day he put those gloves on Philippe's arms. They came almost to his armpits. He directed Philippe to stand with his arms outstretched, sprayed the gloves with lighter fluid, then held a lit match to each arm in turn. I have it on good authority that Philippe looked like someone had set fire to a scarecrow. The lighter fluid burned off within seconds, but it was several weeks before any of the Pyromaniacs confessed to me what had taken place that afternoon in the back of Uncle's store.
It was on that same occasion that Philippe decided he wanted to buy himself a silver ring made by Ivaan. He examined all the trays of sterling silver rings in detail, trying on a variety of rings until he found the one he wanted. Having made his selection, he went up to Ivaan who was standing behind the counter, held up the ring he'd selected and with great solemnity fired his opening salvo: "I'll give you two dollars for this", he said, "and not a penny more." Just as solemnly, and perhaps feeling some retrospective anxiety about the incident with the lighter fluid, Ivaan conceded that two dollars was a fair price. Philippe counted out the two dollars, plus tax, and the transaction was completed.
Terry Robinson was five the first time Ivaan went camping with the Robinsons. Our friends Neil and Chris have three sons, and Terry is the youngest. It goes without saying that Chris Robinson did not go camping with her husband and sons....ever. If she had, she would no doubt have had something to say about this incident. One evening, while sitting around the campfire, Ivaan and the Robinson guys decided to rub some charcoal onto Terry's face, put some leaves in his hair and generally make him look as grubby and unkempt as possible. Then they sent him round to other campsites, claiming to be lost and hungry and begging for food. The scheme went off without a hitch, until some outraged campers seized Terry by the scruff of the neck and brought him back to the Robinson family's campsite with some strongly-expressed invective directed at the more senior members of the camping expedition.
Terry and Ivaan shared a fascination for a children's outdoors magazine called Ranger Rick, to the extent they used to address each other as Ranger Rick. On this same camping trip, Ivaan indulged his love of sunbathing to such an extent that his skin blistered badly. Upon his return home, Ivaan was shedding sunburnt skin in boa constrictor-size pieces, which he promptly collected, put into an envelope and mailed to five-year-old Terry....all in the interests of science. He felt it was an appropriately scientific gift, since Terry had recently given him a year's subscription to the equally scientific Ranger Rick.
When Terry was seven, we went out to dinner with the Robinsons at Golden Thai, a very nice restaurant at the corner of Church and Richmond Streets. Part way through our meal, Ivaan and Terry noticed a police car pull up kitty-corner to the restaurant. Two officers jumped out and arrested a young man standing on the sidewalk. As they were handcuffing him, Ivaan and Terry decided they'd better go and investigate. The rest of us continued our meal. By the time we were ready to leave the restaurant, Terry and Ivaan had still not returned. We went outside to search for them, and eventually noticed them sitting in the window of a very shabby donut shop across the street, enjoying some coffee and donuts for dessert.
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