My Brother Called Me Sis

This post doesn’t have a lot to do with the title.  Eventually, I will write about the recent loss (death) of my big brother, John.  I may not grieve as others do, but usually it gets expressed somehow through creativity, either the lack of it, the complete stoppage of it, or the manic pouring out of it.  Writing is one of those expressions.  If you think that what I do is ‘unhealthy’, then I suggest that you forego these practices when you are grieving.  I haven’t judged the grief of others and I expect that the people who care about me will do the same for me.  I’m sorry if there is any aspect at all of my grief that is off-putting or frustrating for you.  I can only tell you that your discomfort with me or what I do, in no way equals the discomfort that I am experiencing presently.  Maybe I should write about things in a paper journal where it doesn’t make anyone embarrassed or uncomfortable.  Maybe I could burn the words or hide them at least.

I went to a restorative Yoga class last night.  I can’t believe what an hour was spent with myself, my beautiful daughter practicing next to me on her mat.  But once I got out and into the parking lot, I couldn’t stop crying.  I think that all we can hope for in grief is for some release now and again…some relief.

Today, I feel angry.

Today, I went to the studio.  I set up a comfortable place for Max.  I prepared my birch panels.  The Gesso will cure for 24 hours.  I messed around with some other stuff out there.  I sorted through my music.  I nested.

(just a sec…Max barking! door bell ringing! thump thump up the stairs)

Okay…so, how can I be angry?  This just happened!

Does my sister know me?  Mama bird??  Is that not the sweetest mug that you’ll ever see?  I am consumed with birds!  Thank you, Valerie Jean!  Thank you, Jean Pierre, Louis and Eliane!  I love you.  Any of my readers consumed by grief, please read the brilliant book by Kyo Maclear, Birds, Art, Life.

And, yes, about thirty minutes have passed since I wrote the words, “Today, I feel angry.”  And…again, I cried my face off.  How can I feel sad with so much love surrounding me?  How can I get angry?  It’s just the way it is and I accept it.

From the outset of this post, I wanted to write about parking.  It seems just one of those frustrating things that comes up now and then.  Over the past couple of years, I’ve had many hours spent at various medical buildings throughout the City of Calgary and over a very long period of time.  I’ll never forget the time that I couldn’t find parking at the Foothills Hospital on one visit, not in Lot 3, anyway.  I had an appointment.  I was already late when I decided to abandon my drive around and around and around practice and drove to the complete north end of the building.  To negotiate my way back to the Special Services building, I passed many couples where one partner was using a walker, or a person was in a wheel chair being pushed by a loved one, and even passed an obviously distressed person, a person feeling just like I was.  And on that day, I was in no position that I could assist or help and I flew by these people, ending up 45 minutes late for an appointment I felt I desperately needed at the time.

There are families who arrive at hospital late at night in order to meet up with a loved one who has arrived by ambulance.  There are Chemotherapy, Dialysis and other out patients who must endure repetitive and taxing appointments in various buildings around our city.  There are young fathers, racing to be with their partner for the birth of a child. There are the caregivers and loved ones of people who have been, gratefully/desperately/ horribly sadly, admitted into Hospice care.

I’m writing this post while I’m angry because I think a discussion needs to be opened up about paid parking in some of these situations.  Most incredibly current for me is the fact that I was issued a 65.00 parking ticket by Indigo, a private agency, likely hired by Intercare Chinook Care Centre in order to provide a ‘fair’ public parking solution for the families of residents and for the hard working employees.

I missed the ten day window for paying this ticket, given that I was planning a funeral and dealing with other matters and so just the night before last, I paid my ticket with the penalty, a total of 85.00.

Apart from the Hospice parking, there is an option to walk blocks away to street parking, that is also monitored for its two hour limit.  Anyone opting to use this street parking, would have to return to their location every two hours in order to move their car.

So, it was Holy Saturday afternoon, April the 20th.  I put my regular six dollars in for three hours of parking.  That parking would take me to 12:56 in the afternoon.  When I returned to my car at 2:28, my violation notice was waiting for me, tucked under my windshield wiper.  There were four other cars in the lot.  I stood in the parking lot and wept.  I was thinking to myself, “It’s Holy Week…it’s Easter weekend.  Everyone is home with their families today.  I am here with my nephew and my dying brother.”  It was at 3:00 am on April 21, that my brother died.

IMG_0870

I’ve archived here, ‘some’ of the parking receipts spewed out from the lot machine over the time that my brother suffered.  Is it a bit of a thorn in my side?  YES!  Do I have suggestions or solutions?  No!  But, I truly believe that this is a matter that must be discussed for solutions.

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I’ve turned my seething frothing anger about losing my brother toward this matter.  It seems ‘small’ of me.  Oh well. The efforts made by the Chinook Hospice staff and management on behalf of our family was of the highest caliber.  If ever I have opportunity to evaluate the program and their treatment, I will assign the venue the  highest accolades.  However, if given the opportunity to discuss parking, I will vehemently respond with the fact that there is a need for analysis and change.

At a time like this, it just makes me wonder what has happened with our world/society that we have perhaps lost compassion along with progress and maybe we traded in kindness for economic growth.

 

Gramma Reads With Royalty!

I didn’t wake until 10!! What??? The dreams that I had in the wee hours of morning were, again, of brother, but they were earlier dreams, back three months in the weeks at hospital, so less traumatic than recent dreams. That’s good, isn’t it? I poured out of bed and clicked my heels together! I had slept!! WHOOP! Whoop! But, QUICK! QUICK! This was the day that Gramma and Steven and Steven’s Mommy and Daddy were heading for the Seton Public Library, eager to enjoy the program, “Reading With Royalty”! The program would begin at eleven and there was still Max to get out and coffee to be had!

Program Description:

Reading With Royalty

Celebrate inclusion and diversity with our new glamorous family-friendly storytime program, led by local drag queen and king performers. Supported by ATB Financial.

Audience: All Ages – Ages up to 5

Gramma was picked up on a morning that felt oppressive, wet, chilly and grey! But how to turn a frown upside down? I was so happy to see my family and especially pleased to be sitting in the back seat with Steven who was nestled under his fuzzy blanket and constantly taking in his world through the windows, through the mirror and through the eyes of his Gramma. Together, we were about to be captivated by the magic of Seton.

Upon entry, the first piece of wonder was found in the huge YMCA swimming pool. What an amazing facility. Steven was in awe!

Gramma was captivated by the sculptural elements and a sense of flight throughout the facility! While I didn’t capture very strong images because of the back light and my lack of knowledge about the camera, I recommend to my readers that they take their own field trip to the venue and enjoy. Bird lovers, be surprised and fall in love with the themes.  Christopher Collins was the talented sculptor who created the birds.  I hope you will enjoy his imagery as they are so much more specific.

As we entered the Seton Public Library, we took in the aesthetic and the excitement first, but quickly discovered the helicopter!  The helicoptor carried on with the theme of flight, as did the suspended pinwheels.  What a glorious space and what a magical investigation for children who find these amazing flying machines in stories that they read!

It wasn’t long and we began to gather for the special event, “Reading With Royalty”.  There was excitement in the air!  The Seton Public Library offers graduated seating in amphitheater style for gatherings such as this one.

Not new to the Calgary Public Library children’s programming and Rhyme Time, our family nestled into a spot sandwiched between other grandmothers and their grandchildren and people who never miss Rhyme Time with their children.  Some were talking about the Fish Creek location…others, the Quarry Park location.  If you haven’t attended one of these programs, this Grandmother highly recommends! 

Today the MC was Tara and she did an amazing job!  My daughter and I were both moved by the land acknowledgement that was done, in such a way that children might understand.  We were prompted by verse to touch the land…as the acknowledgement was given and it was very special.  Tara then balanced the program of stories read by local Drag Performers and verses that were sung and acted out by the children.  This way the children were better able to pay attention to the two stories that were presented enthusiastically by L J Nailz and Oiliver Twirl.

Sending a link, here, to the kid’s book list that honours themes of inclusivity, creativity, acceptance and pride through the program, Reading With Royalty.

Oliver Twirl: drag performer and enthusiastic reader of the book, The Princess and the Pony

The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton is a story that naturally breaks down assumptions.  It explores that sometimes warriors just need cozy sweaters.  There were laughs that came up throughout the reading of this book, especially with the use of the word, ‘fart’.  What is toughness, anyway?  What does it mean to be a warrior?

Tara, MC on behalf of the Seton Public Library

L J Nailz reads Quit Calling Me Monster

 Quit Calling Me a Monster by Jory John and illustrated by Bob Shea supports children in their identities and their unique personalities.  It presses up against the act of labeling or naming.  It encourages ‘excellent manners’.

Steven is blessed to have this woman as his Mommy.

During the conclusion of the program, the performers were asked about their favourite music and what things they enjoy doing.  Oliver Twirl shared the fun of playing around with both masculine and feminine clothing.  Their favourite music included bubbly theater pieces and punk rock.  

To end, three large Dress Up trunks were brought out and children spent the next part of the morning playing dress up and pretending.  It was a great deal of fun although Steven, at his age, was just eager to do the stairs and to make his way back to the front seat of that helicopter!

Steven is blessed to have this guy as his Dad!

I am always impressed by the variety and the quality of programs offered by our Calgary Public Libraries.  It is with gratitude that we left today’s experience at Seton, feeling a part of a wonderful and diverse community here in Calgary.  Thank you so much to those who organized the program, booked the story book readers, pulled together the resources and covered these topics with finesse.  A very wonderful experience was had at Reading With Royalty!

Now, Gramma needs a nap!

Gramma Goes to the Lake

I’m skirting around the subject for now. I sit at my brand new computer, feeling like I’m recreating everything. In my vulnerability, I’m going forward, after a long period of sitting in what felt like dampness.

I had booked myself in to be with Steven that week. My body felt nothing but exhaustion, but when I had the chance to hold him in my arms and then watch him, giddy, ‘running running running’, I felt as though I had levitated somewhat into another world, some place above. The mire of wet mud that had been pulling my legs downward, suddenly let go and I was connected to other aspects of life and living. Most importantly, I was connected with my grandson, a personality who has more than once, shared with me the powerful innate sense of ‘being’, fully being, apart from everything but the sensory core of wonder. In a strange way, this is the exact same wonder I had been present to with my brother.

After breakfast and teeth-brushing, we loaded up the stroller with the big yellow truck and headed out on our adventure. It was with an openness to the world that we examined a pile of old leaves pressed up against the protection of a stair well, felt sand under our feet, threw sand into the water (stoop, back over head, release, stoop, back over head, release, a rhythm again and again…a series of new mechanical actions, each time followed with a laugh) and made observations of geese. While Steven wasn’t aware, Gramma was also silently moaning that she didn’t bring her Canon, as a male loon drifted by on the silky smooth lake water.

My own drifting movement through the muted spring background kept me present, concerned and in keen observation. “These are important times,” I thought to myself. “This grandson of yours is learning and practicing and discovering all of these moments and making new connections. You had better not miss out on any of it.” Morning was a gift.

This morning is a gift. I will be brave today.

What is Essential

… is invisible to the eye. Both scriptural and found in the eloquent pages written by Antoine de St. Exupery, these words resonate with me on this seeming ordinary April day.

As the world’s citizens gasped in horror while the spire of Notre-Dame Cathedral fell to the ravages of fire, I not only grieved the loss/damage to such an iconic structure, but I immediately connected with my own memory and what the sense of place meant to me and my own family. I can not possibly know all of what Notre-Dame has meant over history, nor can I know the myriad of treasured moments shared there by other people just like me, from all over the world.

Instead, I think of my own three children and my, at-the-time, soon-to-be son-in-law. I think of the utter joy at the early morning surprise of a plane ticket from London to Paris, a subway ride into the core from the airpoirt and the magical events that unfolded, all of them shared as family.

Over the past ten years, if one runs just a few searches on the internet, one will find out how many of civilization’s greatest monuments have fallen, destroyed in natural catastrophes or through the mindless and hateful ravages of war. The destruction of the most cherished landmarks in human history shatters us, somehow, to the core. These are places captured in the minds and imaginations of all of us, places written about and found in movies, settings that we assume will always remain stable and present in those same imaginations.

I think we need to think about the fragility/the ephemera of our lives and our planet. This morning, again, I reflect upon what is essential. I’m hoping that through the damage done to such a seemingly permanent icon as Notre-Dame Cathedral, our human family might combine their efforts in creating a better world. Let us take pause and go into this day, empowered to make a difference.

Gramma Searches for Wood Ducks!

Yesterday morning, there was a nip in the air and by the time afternoon arrived beautiful large snowflakes were dropping from a springtime sky. To look at them was somewhat mesmerizing as they drifted so slowly to the wet ground.

9:30 saw my Grandson and me heading north to the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary. Gramma was going in search of Wood Ducks…a lifer in her long bird wish list.

The Bird Sanctuary is yet one more jewel in this city that I treasure so much. I want to, over the years, share at least once, each of these places that I’ve grown to love.

With his little bowl of rice chex in tow and his toy car, Uncle, in his drink cup, off we headed, arriving slightly before opening. We let ourselves in through the side gate and having agreed to walk and not use a stroller,  we were off. My grandson was looking for Wode Guks and I was looking for Wood Ducks, but of no surprise, the Canada Geese became the main event with their flirting and honking, landings and take offs and other shenanigans. We even experienced the close-up hissing and big tongue of one dude along the way.

Wofe! Wofe! Sceery!

Sculture!

Walk. Train. Sky. Walk.

 

He carried that piece of wood along for most of the first half of the walk. I was mindful…continually scanning for predatory birds and canines, even skunks, porcupines and such. This was a very busy field trip for Gramma!

Bidge.

Bidge

Dutt


Goose

Bidge (I love this photograph, by the way)

Wode Guk! (please click on photos to enjoy larger images) Lifers, for me!

Wok. Wok. Goose.

Can you believe this kid?

Other birds… Redtail Hawk, Mergansers, Goldeneyes

Mr. and Mrs. Wood Duck

Warming up in the center… In in in!

Another beautiful experience, shared with my remarkable, funny, interested, cheerful, resilient boy!

Gramma Visits the Pet Store

There are little opportunities for magic in an ordinary day.  Never take for granted a simple trip to the store where you might select a ripe cold piece of watermelon, or a trip to a pet store where you might pick up your own pet cat a four-dollar toy.  There are amazing things that happen in the blink of an eye!

Today, my grandson, shouted out (well, in his sweet voice) “Cement Truck!” and “Excavator!” when other children could only look on to a construction site, in awe…their hands lined up against the fence and their eyes, bugging out of their heads.

Today, my grandson learned Spruce Tree, Poplar Tree and Pine Tree.  He also learned that it’s much more fun throwing pine cones than heaping them up into piles.

Today, my grandson learned that it’s easier for Gramma to go down one of those super wide slides than one of those twirly ones…

It was when I heard my grandson talking to his Mommy about his trips to the zoo…saying Hippo and Maquaq and Panda and bamboo and cougar and YiYON! and Penguin and more…I thought to take him to a pet store.  This kid is amazing!

“Man man man man!”

“Awe!  Awe!  Awe!  Bunny!”

Not sure, at all, about ferrets!  Hmmmm….even baby ferrets!  They are just so busy…crawling under their blankies, hanging sideways, moving their food.  “Oh, they’re not so bad”, this enthusiastic gentleman tried to point out!  (Still not convinced)

What about that kitty over there, Gramma??  “Never mind,” this fella meowed!  “What’s wrong with me??”

“Kitty!  Kitty!  MEOW!”

Awe!!!  AWE!!!  AWE!!!  Bunny-washing!

This is the point where the Grandson started eyeing the hamster homes on the aisle…true attractions of the pet store visit!

“Hamster!”

“Amster!  Amster. RUN RUN RUN!”

Awe!

Birdie.

“Guinea Pig!”

“Piggy!  Piggy!”

EEEEE! EEEEE!

One last….AWEEEE!

Gramma Builds a Puppet Theater

It came to me like a dream…a waking dream. For weeks I had, during daytime hours, pondered what to do for my grandson for Christmas morning 2019. For some reason, I thought that this decision would lay down the tracks for every other decision I would make on his behalf for his entire lifetime. (Crazy, I know.) I don’t take my place as Gramma lightly, exemplified in my willingness to put myself out there as a bumble bee.  Isn’t my grandson handsome?

My mother had such a talent for sewing that for every Christmas and birthday, there were sure to be homemade gifts arrive in the mail or delivered, personally. They were tagged and finished beautifully, “To my Grand Daughter, with Love!” I follow in impressive footsteps. 

So, it was on a morning in October, that a waking dream came to me. I sleep in the deepest darkest lowest level of the house and it’s pretty cold at times. I was curled in snug under the covers, when ‘it’ came to me in half-sleep. “I could build my grandson a puppet theater!” I imagined him as he is now, watching his Mommy and Daddy being funny and laughing behind the stage…and then, with little friends, growing up…and then making hilarious fun as an upper elementary student…and then, possibly, with his life marked by all sorts of little stories that Mommy made up…and stories that he performed for evening entertainment, he might even take the puppet theater with him, after a long and probably painful storage dilemma between his Mom and Dad and him. Yes, I conjured all of this up in the rumblings of a dark morning in October.

When I woke and got up that morning, shuffling to the kitchen to make my first cup of coffee, I said aloud, “Gramma is going to make a puppet theater!”

It began with a plan.  I scoured Amazon, Ebay, Kijiji and puppet companies the world over.  Finally, I came up with a plan that I wanted to work with, a little homemade theater that I spotted on Kijiji.  If I had an interest in driving to the city of Lacombe to pick this one up for 100.00, it would have been easily revised.

But, nah…I would create something amazing, at least I would be the one with the vision!  In terms of tools, I just don’t have what it takes.  I needed to track down Santa’s helper, and quick!

After my communications with a high school shop teacher came up empty, I went to my go-to guy, Len, a neighbour who helps me with all sorts of odd jobs when I don’t have the tools necessary.  He works independently and I like to support him in his various efforts.

I took in account Steven’s height and the fact that I wanted at least one little friend to be able to participate with him during his childhood productions and so I drew up this plan.  Now, this wee sheet that was sketched out in my day timer was not so simple as it might appear!  Lots of thought went into this, so please, readers, don’t think that this came fleetingly!

Within a week or so…Len came up with some ideas of his own.  I talked to him about a concept of design that would align itself with Steven’s birthing songs and art…something to do with ‘Under the Sea’ or ‘An Octopus’s Garden’.  Insert music here.

I was pretty darned happy when Len and James brought the puppet theater off the truck and into the studio, even though the weight of this beast certainly didn’t mean that I would be moving it around a lot.  It would have to find itself a space and it was at this stage that I first became concerned that it might never really find its way into a forever-home.

Safe in my studio, I was able to begin measuring and planning for curtains, backdrops and decoration.  I began by applying two coats of primer.

In the evenings, I was bopping in and out of shops, planning and scheming a system that would work for the draperies.  I wanted them to mimic the velvet curtains I imagined in the grand theaters.  In the end, the installation of curtains ended up being so darned challenging.  This lady became one of my friends on this mission…taking several different exchanges as I would return rods…experiment…ask for help.

In the end I settled on these velour panels…and now, to seek out someone who might hem them up for me.

I won’t go into details (is this a detail?)…but, at one point, these small bits of hardware were purchased as a bit of an experiment.  I feature them here simply because the man who helped me in this department of the big box store, Home Depot, was such an angel and was seriously the greatest guy to talk to.  He was so excited about my ‘Gramma Builds a Puppet Theater’ project, that my problem-solving ended up being a huge conversation.  I just really treasure people like him and only regret that I didn’t ask his name.

I solicited a lovely high school student, Emmanuella, to sew the draperies, under the supervision of her Fashions teacher, Fierina.  Emmanuella has excelled in this area and advanced beyond all of the projects assigned.  It was a great idea for the both of us and I really enjoyed getting to know such a conscientious and beautiful person.

Rooting through my basement storage cupboard, I located some old tins of house paint and selected a colour that would help me achieve my underwater theme.

While pursuing the painting and project, I began to search out puppets.  Late into my evenings, I would explore on-line sites and finally decided to write a story about an Eagle Walk.  Ikea is the only store to have an eagle puppet, and ironically enough, I never did get myself to the store to purchase the puppet.  One day, perhaps. The eagle, therefore, was represented by a sound effect…very very cool!

Basically, I ended up purchasing puppets that I fell in love with, after exploring so many toy shops in town.  For the sake of this post, I have spared you archives for several locations.  It was actually Scholastic, on Macleod, where I tracked down chicken and monkey in a barrel, both two of my favourites.

I found a perfect stuffie border collie at the Goodwill store and at home, washed and dried it, gutted it, inserted a glove and created our Maxman character.  Thanks, James, for exploring so many stores with me, looking for the perfect puppet collection.

I began to decorate the puppet theater, first locating a dry erase board for puppet show announcements, at the Dollarama…hmmm…or did it end up being Staples? While at the dollar store, I picked up some rolls of ribbon, thinking I could create a celebratory effect by placing some of that here and there.  I am really NO DECORATOR!  Let’s face it, the greatest problem of them all was the curtain.  It was getting close to the wire, by this point, and while really wanting to pain scene backdrops for the theater, I let go of that project, thinking that this would be an idea for later gifts.

I painted a few bits onto the outside panels and opted to leave the front of the theater plane.  Embellishments definitely made a difference!

I think it was only a short time before the actual performance when I solicited the help of friends, Angela and Nigel, to create puppet figures for Doug, Erin, Gramma and Steven.  They came to our Christmas feast, with felt puppet figures in tow…and while Christmas went remarkably long due to an unforeseen crash by young Steven and a trip to the hospital so that his forehead might be taped back together…THE SHOW DID GO ON!  But…I get ‘A HEAD’ of myself here.

The puppet theater, at completion…

It was at the pre-function on Christmas day that the screenplay came to be created in a very collaborative way and with many laughs…all directed by our writer/editor in residence, my sister-friend, Karen.  The traditional big feast happened and then, interspersed with the drive to hospital and back, the $10 gift steal that happened incorrectly this year (and did I listen to the five people who tried to tell me?….next time, don’t be so polite), under my direction, the puppet show was set, complete with eagle sound effects provided by Tyler (mind you…the timing might have been a little off) and narration delivered, confidently, by Shawn (you are such a good sport!).

A small capture of that…

Sending love to all who helped this dream happen…

Somewhere out there, there is a video from this debut, but I don’t know where it is or if I have permission to share.  I just am grateful for Christmas magic.

Mamie and Papie

Grand-mère is the formal French term for grandmother. It can be spelled with or without the hyphen. Grand-maman is slightly less formal, and there are several informal terms, including gra-mere, mémère, mémé and mamé. Mamie is also used by modern French families. Mamie is the endearment we gave to my great grandmother, Mathilde (Sugar) Arsenault.

Grand-père is the formal French term for grandfather. Grand-papa is slightly less formal, and there are several other informal terms, including pépère and papy or papi. Arrière-grand-père is the French term for great-grandfather. We knew my great grandfather, Gabriel Gallant, as Papie.

It’s Sunday.  And finally, the temperatures are warming.  I attended Mass this morning and participated in the Rite of Sending, as I have decided to sponsor a beautiful young woman in her decision to be confirmed in the Catholic faith and to partake in the most Holy Eucharist, this year at Easter Vigil.  Later, we will gather at the Cathedral where Bishop William will receive the elect.  It is a beautiful and important rite.

Honestly, life has been tremendously difficult these past days, weeks, months and even years, but through all of everything, I continue to be a person of hope.  There have been some exceptional moments that have risen out of the struggle and for those moments and experiences, I am forever-grateful.  Blessings come in the shape of love, through friends, family and kind strangers…this love expressed through food, visits and messages.  It’s surprising how simple love is.

In your journey, you may find it a very difficult thing to reconcile….to reconcile with anything…memories, people, events.  I think it’s almost more natural to slip toward bitterness, abandonment and rage…a downward slope is always easier, right?  It takes some resilience, determination, strength and will to climb.

Every morning, I climb.  I don’t think this was always the case.  I have no cause to be stuck in the mire. My life, like your own, is a sparkle… it begins and it ends in a blink. There isn’t time or ability to shoulder the weight of bitterness and resentment. Nor is there time or ability to hang out with those who want to be angry, unloving or surly. Move toward love. Surround yourself with love.

One of the blessings of these recent days has been a re-connection with a maternal auntie and uncle. Through this re-connection,  we have together, been able to work at building a common narrative and to put to rest parts of our common past. I feel that my mother’s loving heart has provided the way for this to happen.

My uncle went through an album of his and this morning, I was sent a photograph of my Mamie and Papie… my great grandparents. I had never seen this image before. I’m not embarrassed to say that I sat in front of my monitor and wept. I was so taken by the connection I felt to Prince Edward Island and my mother’s family. I hope that if you are family and reading this, that you will save this image to your own archives and treasure it.

I have such specific memories about these two. They are very sensory memories and those of my child self. Smell of wood fire. Potato pancakes. Crispy pork fried. Tobacco. Sound of kitchen voices. Clinking milk bottles. Do I remember Papie patting beats on his legs? Place… upstairs attic bedroom. Floor vents. Light. Mamie returning home from bingo. Collecting up metal placeholder chips in morning. Earl. Great Aunties. Stories. Laughter. Salt water. Ocean. Seaweed. Family. Furnishings. Wood stove. Mamie. Knees. Hugs. Being held. Feeling loved. Mom’s happiness. People calling this magical place, ‘the island’.

I’m grateful that this afternoon finds me so grounded in the memory of my mother.  I love you, Mom.

 

I Am Still a Mother

This post is dedicated to my mother…often misunderstood…whose opinions sometimes went unaccepted (by me)…but pretty much, my best friend ever. I’m remembering all of those times when I thought I didn’t do things as well as she did…and THAT, tonight, seems like foolishness. I love you, Mom, and I get you now.

At the age of 63, sometimes it’s easy for other people to forget that I am still a mother. All of those feelings I had when my children were just little babies…the insecurities, the fears, the awe and the weariness, the love and celebration…those feelings, I supposed, would just, one day, go away. But, they haven’t. They prickle on the surface of everything that remains…of me.

I saw my three children through their toddler and day-care years, all the while, dealing with the enormities of my own life and career(s). Did I ever have a good reason not to polish their little shoes white? Did I stop, for a moment, being a mother? At night, for all those years, there was my best-ever enthusiastic-reader-voice during every last-of-the-day book. There were the trips to the Emergency Room. There were goofy costumes. There were snowmen. Did I ever stop seeing them through countless agonizing nights of stomach flu or horrendous congestive explosions? All three? No.

Even when they were big Junior High sort-of-kids? No. Did I feel an intense responsibility to check their eyesight? get their teeth cleaned? attend to their vaccinations? Provide clothing around the seasons? Well, of course I did. Were they sometimes asleep when they should have been awake? Awake when they should have been asleep? YES!

I wondered if my night sweats would go away when my children were in High School. No. Was there some way I could possibly figure out how to get each of them on that tour? Was there a way that I could give my children everything that other children had? “I can do this”, I said to myself. Oh. But, then I started to notice the pulling-away…I started, then, to feel a nudge of what would be, according to the laws of everything in the universe, the separation. Would these laws of nature and life mean that I would stop being a mother?

No.

Surely, I could be a little less vigilant when they were accepted into University. No. The drives home…all hours. The push. The pull. That rage against the night. That anger that shrouded every single inkling of fear…that excruciating not-knowing-most-of-the-time-anguish. That incredible fear. A thing of invention? Perhaps. “I can do this,” I thought. I could manage my way through this utterly new and amazing puzzle…this huge labyrinth called life (of that time). Right? My children still valued me. They needed me, right?

What if there were miles that separated us? Rome? Nice? Spain? London? Was there a place on the planet that would take my child so far away that I would stop being a mother?

I wondered, with every new rite of passage, would I be absolved from motherhood when finally, I witnessed one child walk down the aisle? She was out of my arms and into the arms of someone who would love, cherish and create…a new life…a separate life… Was that the moment?

When something shattered in my child’s day, I was shattered. Every time I witnessed the tears of my son or daughter, I cried with them. When they laughed…when they experienced a success…when they were contented…I felt them and every part of them within me. As I sit here writing tonight, I remember their special outfits and Christmas concerts, the drumming strumming, flag-tossing explorations….I remember the music.

At one time, I thought that their growing was somehow connected to what I was doing and the choices I was making. But, no…they were growing despite me…despite my advice…my good intentions…or even my prayers.

They were making their choices and making their way and I have to shrug it all off some nights. I have to pinch myself with gratitude that I did what I could, to protect them. I have to let go with a sigh. I ponder about the present tense. At this time of my life, I still want to be valued. I want to move on through the years that remain, knowing that I still have something to contribute. Tonight I am wondering, ‘What did it all mean?’ And, ‘Who am I now?’

You say something and I roll my eyes, laughing.

I say something and you roll your eyes.

It’s the story of every generation before us…and will be…every generation after us. I am still a mother.

November 22nd

I began to write this blog in 2005.  On November 22nd of 2005, I wrote THIS.

Today happens to be Thanksgiving Day for our friends in the United States of America.  And so…I think of them.

On November 22, 1963, I was sitting in a sharing circle.  My teacher, Miss Goodrich (I could never figure out why she wasn’t Mrs. Goodrich) was talking to us about pets and that we would be having a special sharing time in just a few weeks. (I brought my dog, Honey.  Thank you, Dad.)  We were captivated by the conversation.

Then, our principal came in.

She was a female and short.  I don’t remember her name.  She wore a pleated skirt.  She approached my teacher, who was sitting in a short chair as a part of our circle…a student chair…it was very tiny.

The principal whispered something in our teacher’s ear.  Immediately our teacher began to cry and tilted her head to the outside of the circle.  The principal placed her hand on her shoulder and then left.  Reaching in under her sweater sleeve, Miss Goodrich, took out a folded handful of kleenex and wiped her eyes…holding the tissue, she looked up at us.  I remember her face.

“Grade Threes.  I want you to always remember today’s date.  Today is November 22, 1963.  Today is the day that our President has died.”

I was a little Canadian girl living in Battle Creek, Michigan.  While in the United States, I sang the anthem…I held my hand to my heart…I pledged allegiance.  I never questioned my nation-hood….I moved every two years and I adapted to whatever circumstances or place I was given.  In 1963, I was in Riverside Elementary School the year ‘our President’ had died.  I would never forget.

Nor have I.

As I always do, at the beginning of High School Learning Strategies class this morning, I took a moment to acknowledge the words that my teacher had given me so many years ago.  This year, I am 63…and yet, I have never forgotten.  I remember the adult crossing guards weeping at the cross walks, the adults and children crying…I will never forget the absolute devastation that my little community felt on that day.  And so, again, tonight, I remember.