I snip a clump of grapes and the leaves shake, showering me with dew. My husband, Stan, kneels in the dirt beside me and buries his head in the foliage, pulling out more grapes and dumping them in the bucket between us. It’s Sunday, 8 am, and the kids are sleeping in. The sky is grey, we’re wearing toques and our fingers are freezing, but it’s harvest time. This is what we’ve been waiting for all season long; our garden darling—the grape vine–is finally ready. Dark purple fruit spill over our bucket like a Thanksgiving cornucopia.
“I’ll be right back,” I say to Stan, and return a few seconds later with a camera swinging from my neck. I take a few shots as quickly and quietly as possible. My husband is a practical man and has little patience for staging pictures and recording moments for social media.
“We need another bucket,” he calls from underneath the leaves.
“Okay, just a second… this is so picturesque,” I say while tamping down weeds and thistles. That’s when I notice the bright red Canadian Tire logo and twist the bucket to hide it before snapping the last couple photos.
Soon we are are crushing the grapes in an applesauce press. The ripening fruit have fueled great debate on juicing strategies over the last few weeks as both of us are determined to do justice to the grapes.
“All I know is we can’t boil them. That’s what you did last year and it tasted like tea. We’re not doing that again,” Stan says.
“Well, what then? That’s what all the recipes indicate on-line.” I’m feeling defensive but he’s right. We’d even dumped some of the hard-earned juice down the drain because no one wanted to drink it after the novelty had worn off.
So here we are, running them through an apple mill, no hot water involved. Stan cranks the handle while I fill the hopper, but my mind isn’t on juice anymore. I’ve got an idea.
“You know, we could use those pictures,” I murmur.
“Which pictures?” he asks.
“All the pictures we take with our Canadian Tire buckets… portaging them through the woods during canoe trips, loading them with broken concrete from our house renos, or filling them with liquid honey straight from the hive. I could write stories–like I’m already doing–and just keep the logo in the pictures!”
“Mmm… Here, try this.” Stan holds a cup under the spout where juice is flowing and then hands it over for a taste test. He’s ignoring me.
I’ve been reading about storytelling and how major brands are using authentic ways to promote their products through well-written stories that stand on their own; the product isn’t the focus of these stories but simply part of the narrative. I’m not interested in reviewing products on my blog for sponsors or cheating readers with cheesy advertisements. I want to write real stories, the best way I know how, and collaborate with Canadian Tire to share them with a larger audience. My mind hops around the possibilities. Do I need to book a flight to Toronto, right now, to meet with the executives? And would the top dogs of a huge conglomerate want to know about an ordinary family with a penchant for story, adventure and DIY projects?
“Can you humour me by posing for one more picture?” I ask my husband. I know it’s a stretch just getting him to look up for the camera. I probably wouldn’t even consider this—Stan is no showboat or salesman–but the fact is we have an awful lot of stories involving buckets. “And it’s not like we’d be selling our souls or faking it, we use them all the time,” I add. Although my husband makes many things from scratch, he hasn’t come up with an alternative to the five-gallon plastic bucket.
The first time I brought him home for Christmas, Stan shattered our regular way of doing things. My mom was dumping a package of seasoning mix into ground beef when she realized she didn’t have any tortillas. While she reached for her keys and wallet, Stan announced, “Oh no, we’ll make some.” The cheese was grated, lettuce shredded and the drinks poured. I watched them both from the dining room table–my mom still clutching her keys while Stan riffled through cupboards looking for flour.
“Why would we make them when we can just buy them?” my mom countered.
Stan’s motto has always been the opposite; never buy what you can make. Since then, he’s fashioned everything from our wedding rings to Halloween costumes, bunk beds, chairs, boats, pottery wheels and honey extractors. Even our children’s mouths haven’t escaped him as he’s attempted his own in-house dental work. In fact, nothing seems too overwhelming to tackle.
I call my 12-year-old daughter outside. “Here, take the camera, we need a picture!” I demand when she opens the screen door, still in pyjamas.
“Just do it. It’s for an important project,” I say, grinning and yanking off Stan’s over-sized plaid jacket to expose my better-fitting shell underneath.
“Maybe you should pick the black grape skins out of your teeth too,” Stan suggests while I pluck off his toque.
Days later I google Susan O’Brien, the VP of Marketing at Canadian Tire. How can I convince her they need high-quality literary content to leverage their branding campaign? Will she be moved by the fact my readers are sitting on pins and needles waiting for her reaction? Could the stories turn into a series with a name like “The Bucket People”? Which publishing platform would work best? And who will do the social media promotion?
Before the details bog me down and squash inspiration I decide to start writing. I close my lap top and reach for a pencil and paper, which is how all my stories begin.
As for the grape juice, it’s better than last year’s, just a little grassy from grinding the seeds. We forgot to take it to my mom’s for Thanksgiving dinner; no one was too disappointed.
What do you think dear readers? Have I caught a bad case of pitching-fever? Does anyone know Susan? Or a friend of a friend of someone who might help? Are you curious about what happens next? Or should we just turn that grape juice into wine and forget I ever wrote this?