Incidental characters mentioned:
the stewardess who looks after Mike on his unaccompanied flight to Vancouver
Auntie Mavis, who sends Mike a toy gun for Christmas
Louise, Jean’s maternity replacement
Claire Stanton, who works with “differently abled kids” and meets Elly while attending a puppetry workshop in Winnipeg
Frank, a bar patron in Winnipeg who sees Elly and Claire toasting themselves, women and friendship while his friend comments, “Happens every time you let ‘em out of the kitchen”.
Ms Bylge, Mike’s school librarian
The local library fundraiser will be a yard sale, but, as it would be too demeaning to have second-hand junk being sold in front of the library, the staff decide to have it at the Pattersons and Elly is taken to the pub to secure her agreement. Elly empties out the crawl space and collects all the stuff the Pattersons never use, only for each family member to suddenly discover something too precious to sell. With an hour of the sale left to go and running out of items, Elly races into the house to find any other junk to sell. By the end of the day more than $800 has been raised, including $25 from John buying his own black and white TV, which he thought looked familiar.
The next day Elly is unable to go to work as Lizzie is too sick to go to daycare and Elly works from home next to Lizzie’s bed. Lizzie’s condition gets worse and even Michael is concerned. Elly takes Lizzie to hospital where she is kept overnight for observation and put on an IV. After initially coming back home, Elly returns to spend the rest of the night at the hospital while John imagines the unimaginable. Lizzie spends one further night in hospital and recovers quickly and, once the crisis has passed, Elly tells Annie about how difficult she finds it to stay home after having a job. Annie comments that Elly used to come for coffee and misses their previous closeness.
When Lizzie first falls ill, and again afterwards when he is expected to go to Annie’s house until Elly gets home, Mike complains that he doesn’t like Elly working. John suggests that Mike be sent to Vancouver on his own to visit Elly’s parents and a worried Mike asks Uncle Phil for advice on whether or not he take his teddy. Uncle Phil confides that he once had a security blanket but gave it up once he started going to scout camp. Mike decides that he’s grown up enough to leave his teddy behind, but at the last moment decides that his teddy might miss him, and stuffs him into the suitcase. The flight is largely uneventful, although mechanical difficulties ground them in Calgary for an extra two hours during which time Michael is supervised by a stewardess. Elly hopes that her parents will be able to manage Michael as he can be a pain in the neck sometimes; John says that they know what they’re in for as they raised Elly. “Grampa” Jim takes Mike fishing for the first time and shows him how to clean and cook the fish they caught but Mike prefers hot dogs.
During Mike’s absence, Elly cleans out all the junk from Mike’s room (presumably junk that wasn’t worth selling at the yard sale a few weeks earlier). Lizzie wanders off at the airport when they go to pick up Mike, but is found just in time for his arrival. Once they get home, she mischievously tells Mike of all his things Elly threw away while he was in Vancouver. Mike and Elly have an argument and Gordon’s dad takes Mike and Gord to the dump to see if they can find Mike’s old stuff. They don’t, but Mike brings home lots of other stuff instead and wishes that he could work at the dump when he grows up, but notes that Elly would want him to go to university first. Despite being rewarded for his complaints with a trip to Vancouver, Mike still isn’t happy with Elly’s job and says that he needs her more than her colleagues do. His words don’t quite have their desired effect: she does feel guilty, but that doesn’t stop her from accepting the opportunity to go to Winnipeg to attend a puppetry workshop in the spring.
Phil arrives late for Mike’s music lesson after a visit to the doctor has revealed that he needs to quit smoking. Georgia does what she can to make it easier for him, offering alternatives to hold, throwing out the cigarettes he’d hidden in his guitar case and buying him a “snuffabutt” plastic cigarette. He accuses Georgia of trying to turn him into “domestic man”, and overhears her telling Elly that she’d never marry a man who smoked. Although Phil had already had thoughts about marriage, it is revealed when John and Elly talk that Phil now doesn’t want to get married.
School starts and Elly begins her complaining anew: “I wasn’t cut out for housework John…why is it always up to me to keep this place shovelled out?!” She folds Mike’s clothing, asking rhetorically when he will start keeping his drawers tidy and John volunteers, “Why don’t you leave that for his wife to worry about!” Mike asks John what’s making Elly so grouchy and John tells Mike that women’s hormones make ‘em moody from time to time. Ted agrees with John when they next have lunch and Ted points out that Elly is over 35 and could be heading into the “change of life”. Elly tries to explain to John that she feels overstretched with her job and the housework, so he suggests that she quit her job. “Which one?” she grumbles. They eventually reach a deal where the kids pitch in and keep their rooms cleaned and John will help out with the housework on days Elly is at her job; Elly’s feminist logic used to persuade John to help out was to cry until he agreed.
Sibling rivalry has escalated and Lizzie teases Mike that she’s their parents’ favourite, as, by her logic, they would have had another boy if they’d liked Mike the most. Elly tries to referee and to persuade them to get along, but when they do start playing together and Mike dresses Lizzie like a punk rocker, Elly gets upset. She forbids either child from dressing as punks for Hallowe’en and sends Lizzie out as a clown and Mike dressed like Sherlock Holmes when Darryl, Lawrence and Gord are punks.
John pays Jean a compliment for being such a wonderful assistant and reaches to find a single word to describe her: Jean suggests, “Pregnant!”. John laments the time and hassle it will take to replace her, telling Elly that it would be easier to replace a wife. Applications for Jean’s position arrive immediately and Elly vets them, throwing out the one full of spelling mistakes and one written in pencil. When she finds one written on perfumed paper and including the applicant’s measurements, John nearly knocks Elly over trying to get it out of her hands. Mike has already sussed out the way John hires assistants and asks his father if he’ll just pick the pretty one. John primly says that such decisions are not based on looks but by interviews, qualifications, experience, attitude, ability and references…and then he hires the one Elly likes. Nonetheless, he does explain privately to Mike that he has to hire pretty girls to keep Elly on her toes.
Elly sends John off with a shopping list, including a big turkey for Christmas. She clarifies this later to Mike as being 10-12 pounds, certain that John understood what she meant. John, meanwhile, has found a 25 pound giant, which he drops, breaking his foot in the process. Phil brings Mike and Elly to the hospital and Elly tells Mike to finish laughing before they get there; Phil shows no such restraint. John has the cast on his right foot for several weeks, struggling at work while Jean is away with morning sickness and showering with a plastic bag over it, so is relieved when he returns home and Mike and Lizzie are fighting over who gets to help him first. John thanks them for their concern and Mike explains that they want John to sit down so they can play with his crutches. They also take advantage of his noisy footsteps to warn them when to turn off their lights and pretend to be sleeping, and decorate the cast while he snoozes in the arm chair.
Mike and Lizzie sneak downstairs first thing on New Year’s Day and Mike helps himself to the unfinished drinks from his parents’ party. He also lights an unfinished cigar and throws it into the waste basket, setting it on fire and triggering the smoke alarm: welcome to 1985!
Phil gets frustrated by Mike’s lack of commitment to his music lessons. He sees teaching Michael as a waste of time. Elly tells Mike that the decision to quit is up to him and that she won’t get mad if he does. Mike decides to quit and Elly shouts, “Over my dead body!!!” Lawrence tells Mike that he will be forced to keep taking lessons because Elly had to suffer through music lessons when she was young (Elly took up the accordion as a child because her mother told her it would develop her bust).
Mike does some odd jobs to earn money to buy Elly a gift for Mother’s Day, getting caught by Brad Luggsworth as he leaves the flower shop with red roses, only for Brad to be similarly embarrassed when he’s told that the carnations he ordered were ready for collection. Although they previously had agreed to be friends, Brad continues to pick on Mike and, when Mike gets annoyed that Brad won a chocolate fudge cake in a school raffle, Elly tells Mike that sometimes losers really need to win.
John helps Elly into her bathing suit, describing it as sort of like putting sheets on a water bed, and tells her that she’s over 35 and had two kids, so should accept the fact that she’s a little chunky. Annie has little sympathy when “skinny” Elly repeats the story to her, but lends Elly her celebrity diet cookbook and the Pattersons go back on yet another diet. Elly thinks that all her hard work in the garden has been good exercise and asks John if she looks any thinner; he asks what he can say that won’t get him into trouble.
Annie leaves both Christopher and Richard with the Pattersons but forgets to tell them that Richard will only use his own potty. John breaks into the Nichols’ house to get it, sets off the burglar alarm and is caught when Mrs Baird calls the police. Annie is more concerned that people had been in her house when her unwashed dishes were on display, than about the embarrassment this caused John or the nonsense of letting her son get away with throwing a tantrum if he doesn’t have his own potty.
Another collection ends in the early summer, with Mike and friends setting up a lemonade stand (5 cents a glass) and making $4 by selling the chair they were using. Unlike previous collections, there was hardly any time spent at school and no family birthdays.
Don’t bother me while I’m working
Elly keeps telling Lizzie to stop bugging her and go away whenever Lizzie tries to get her attention, then wonders to John why Lizzie is so glum because, with Mike in Vancouver, Lizzie has Elly all to herself.
John is a jerk
After months of Elly attending aerobics classes, John comments that she doesn’t seem to be losing any weight. Elly hits the roof and swears at him while telling him what he can do with his advice and he says he’s sorry for being honest.
Elly babysits Richard for an afternoon and Mike thinks it’s neat to have a guest at the table who makes the rest of the family look good.
Farley is cute but dumb
Someone leaves the gate open and Farley runs off again, ruins a neighbour’s snow sculpture, and is taken to the local pound.
Lizzie’s Electra complex
John comforts Lizzie when she cries after Mike and his friends tell her to get lost, and tells her how much he wants her around and she gives him a special hug in return. At Valentine’s, Elly and Lizzie make heart-shaped cookies and Lizzie takes one to John almost as soon as they come out of the oven, offering him her warm heart. Lizzie learns that she can cheer up John with a hug.
Mike and Deanna
Mike tries to throw a snowball at the back of Deanna’s head to prove to Gordon that he doesn’t love her, but it sticks to his fuzzy mittens.
What’s in the crawl space?
not much after the library’s fundraising yard sale – Elly and John both comment on how much storage space they have now that they’ve de-cluttered the house
the outdoor Christmas lights
the old high chair, potty and “all our baby junk”, pulled out when Elly has to babysit Richard (although we learned at the time Richard was born that John and Elly had sold the crib)
Milborough’s one-of-each multicultural scene
The doctor who removes John’s cast wears a yarmulke