A Dance In The Hurricane

This is a post I wrote a few years ago. It speaks of lost childhood and becoming a spectator in your child’s life. Enjoy.

Kayjai

The other day I was cleaning out our closet.  It was time to do some much needed purging.   I decided to gut out everything and go from there.  I ended up finding some old cards from a few years ago when my mother passed away.  I opened each one and read them again, this time with five years behind me.  They were sweet and sympathetic.  My Aunt had sent one reminiscing about when she and my mother were teens and very close.  Some I kept and others I didn’t.  So much for the big purge.    In among the cards I found a letter that was written by a childhood friend of the family.  Her kids were friends with us when we lived in the old neighbourhood.  She and her husband were friends with my parents.  We used to visit them at their house after they moved away into a new…

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Mommy Days

The other morning when leaving Bootcamp, I heard a woman exclaim how mundane her life had become with making lunches and gathering kids to the bus for school.  I remember those days.  Frankly, I’m glad they’re over.  It’s challenging being a mom and working and shuffling after-school activities, homework, discipline and then you still have to feed these people.  It’s exhausting.  And then, it seems a few days later, they’re driving cars and shuffling themselves to after-school activities.  They’re going to parties and getting part-time jobs.  They buy their own lunches and get busy with friends.   Pretty soon, she’s going to college or university and taking classes we’ve never heard of and dating people we don’t know.  Who owns you?

 Then you find yourself sitting at her convocation and celebrating her achievement (which is really yours, as well) and then she’s stressed because she has to find a job.  Then you turn around and she’s moved out into her own apartment because she has actual employment, her own vehicle and a life.  And here you are Mommy, with her lunch in your hand saying, ‘but I made you peanut butter, your favourite.’   She shrugs and says she has her own food and will see you later.  Like next week.  When she has the time and is not on shift.  And she needs food for her fridge. 

The mundane is how you go from ‘Mommy, I need you’ to ‘Mom, I’ll see you later.’  It’s all the crap you have to endure in order to see that snotty-nosed kid become an adult.  One capable of making her own lunches and paying her own bills and taking care of somebody else’s sick baby.  But then she comes home and opens the fridge to see what’s to eat and she wants to watch Arthur’s Perfect Christmas with you and everything is right with the world, until she has to go back to work and become an adult and someone else’s caregiver.

You did that, Mommy.  Because you made her lunches and you got her shuffled to the bus and you read her stories at night for the one-hundredth millionth time and you did it because you knew, someday, it would all be worth it.  I know, right now it’s tiring and challenging.  I know you have no time for yourself and you wish she would just be a bit more independent, but don’t rush it.  She’ll get there.  In her own time. 

Hang in there, Mommy.  You are doing a great job.  Make those damned lunches, take her to the bus stop and read the bed-time stories.  You’ll blink and you’ll be hanging art in her new apartment and wondering if she has enough toilet paper for next week. 

The mundane stuff is what she relies on.  You are her safety net.  Keep going.

She’ll.  Be.  Great. 

The Humanity of Fear

Spring-like weather has finally hit our fair province and it has everyone feeling a little giddy.  The entire month of April has been fraught with rain, drizzle, and fog. A bit of sunshine rips through the heavens and everyone is out raking lawns and arranging the patio furniture. I participated in said frivolity against my better judgement. May 24th has not arrived which usually brings an extreme dip in the temperature and a mini version of Snowmaggedon.  I’m happy with the sunshine and the above freezing temps, but still anticipate donning my parka and wading through waist deep ice crystals by the time June rolls around.  We remain ever hopeful of Winter’s demise, but we know better. Our shovels stand at the ready in porches, and our snow blowers continue to remain on active duty until, well, always.

The lockdowns and restrictions continue as the plague rages on, ravaging through communities and ICUs with a vengeance rivaled only by that of an Australian wildfire. We are shielded here, to some degree, from the overwhelming contagion that has infiltrated Ontario and other more western provinces, but we continue to remain cautious. We listen to Health authorities. We understand the COVID fatigue. It’s getting harder and harder to remain isolated from the ones we love and remain six feet from embracing our friends and families, but for their sakes we take a step back.

I felt the first impact from COVID on a simple trip to the grocery store, last year. It turned out it was more complicated than I had expected. Line-ups, directional arrows, do I bring my own bags?  No browsing, get what you need and get out.  I remember walking into the store, and everyone was wearing a mask. It wasn’t Halloween and it wasn’t funny. The fear of talking to each other was palpable. No one dared approach someone or invade their personal space lest you risk the onslaught of public scorn and the attack of a deadly disease. I hated it. I sat in my car and cried. This wasn’t the community in which I had lived for sixteen years. This wasn’t how we existed. We were a chatty, friendly, hospitable bunch. We helped each other with the carts that stubbornly stuck together. We said a friendly ‘hello’ and shook hands without fear of catching something. We reached out to pat someone on the back or give someone we haven’t seen in a while a hearty hug. Remember those?  Hugs?  This disease has taken lives, but it has also taken our humanity. That’s the worst part. People are too afraid to reach out and care. Too afraid to be kind. It may cost someone his life to shake your hand. Facial expressions are hard to read behind a mask. Is she smiling? Is she frowning? I can’t tell. The emotional connection between strangers is lost in the hazy fear of catching a deadly disease. And it’s heartbreakingly necessary.

Normal, whatever that may look like in the future, will return slowly. We will again be able to be with family and reunite with more friends, but we will always remain wary. That little voice warning us to stand a little farther apart, to keep our hands to ourselves, to wash and sanitize at every turn will be forever yelling at us. Years ago, the biggest threat to kids going to school was head lice. “Don’t share hats,” the teachers and parents had warned. “Don’t share your combs or hairbrushes. Keep your hands to yourselves. Stay apart from each other. Don’t share locker space.” It’s now a common practice to stay apart, not so much for the sake of head lice but for survival.

Moving forward, our grace under pressure may crack, but let’s not lose it altogether. We continue to save lives by staying apart. We continue to care for each other by being distant, no matter how off-putting that may appear. The compassion is now in the words we speak and in the actions we fulfill. We can recover our sense of humanity and community by reaching the common goal of a COVID-less society. Get vaccinated. Wear your mask. Keep your distance. Wash your hands. Stay alive. Those are your choices and your responsibilities. Let’s get this done.

Take care and stay safe,

KJ xo

The Waiting Game

As I continue to take a deep dive into writing the sequel to False Hope, I find I get lost in the idea of writing a perfect story. There is no such thing, of course, but the expectation to write a better or equally enthralling tale hangs steadily over my head. I bat at it to get it away, but it returns ready to study over my shoulder and comment on the already hashed out plot or dialogue. “Why is she saying that?” or, “Who is THAT?!” 

It’s a never-ending battle between the imaginary hangers-on who trod on my words and try valiantly to fool me up, and my characters’ wills to be authentic and allow their voices to be heard over all the objections. It’s a little crazy over in here.

I plod on; however, some days are better than others. On the days I feel the weight of eyes following my fingers over the keyboard, I tend to meander over to an online puzzle to divert the attention. Sometimes it works, but often it ends up in time wasted doing puzzles instead of figuring out dialogue. My characters end up hanging around in unfinished scenes. It’s like they’re suspended in mid-air and mid-sentence unsure as to where to go next or how to get out of there until I write them out.  They’re standing around waiting for the writer to get them moving on or something big to happen.  “Oh, boy here we go again she’s gone over to the puzzles and left us here stranded in the woods with crickets and ne’er-do-wells about. Could be a long night,” they say, and tap their watches and stomp their feet.

That’s how I imagine them, anyway. I try to finish an entire chapter so no one is left waiting for me to decide if they live or die, move on, or move out, or just plain eat the sandwich they bought a few paragraphs ago.  Characters live in my head an on my screen. I can’t just leave them hanging, that wouldn’t be fair.

The perfect story is far from perfect or complete. Yet. I’m battling COVID fatigue, procrastination, and online puzzles to get a few chapters out. In the meantime, I will do my best to get these people to bend to my will and to say what they need despite the expectation of perfection hanging around.  He’ll have to wait it out and stop nagging if any real writing is to get done. 

Maybe he’ll go on and do a puzzle….

Stay safe and stay tuned,

KJ

On The Edge of An Ocean

The black and white photo of my parents sits proudly next to my wedding picture on my mantle. They were younger, huddled together with arms secured around each other in a joyful embrace. That’s how I like to remember them. Laughing. Together.

Both have since gone. My dad succumbed to cancer that ravaged his fifty-six-year-old body until there was nothing left. Memories were taken at the end. I heard him ask my mother as we stood at his bedside about the red-headed girl who was crying.  “Who is that?” he had asked. My mother looked at me, confused. She turned to his questioning face. “That’s Karla. You know her,” she said quietly patting his hand and willing him to recognize his only daughter.

My Dad was from Nova Scotia. “I’m a Bluenoser,” he would say. We would crinkle our noses and laugh, “Your nose doesn’t look blue!” I had no perception of Nova Scotia. A scant picture of a foreign landscape and of a Nana I didn’t know were my only introductions to an East Coast so vastly different than my Southwestern Ontario upbringing.  I possessed no concept of life outside my little townhouse in Chatham. He would tell us tidbits of his life in Digby. My dad was an only child. His stories of eating seaweed and sardines made us cringe and laugh. When he was in his teens, my grandfather urged him to work on the fishing boats. Hard work to which my Dad gave an honest effort, but it wasn’t for him. He had other plans. A three-year stint in the Air Force and then off to Ontario to find work. By 1954, he and my Mother had married, and they had started a family.

I’m fifty-four and I have lived in Newfoundland and Labrador for twenty-five years. I married a Botwood boy out of college. We met in Toronto, married, and started a family. As fate would have it, we were destined to an island, again, very foreign to me. It took a few years and a few kids later, but I adjusted. I understand the Bluenose reference. My ears have become acclimated to the various dialects and nuances of Newfoundland vernacular. I have even said a few, “Go on, b’ys,” myself. I appreciate the ease of becoming part of a community that is innately communal. Generations of families living close and welcoming ‘mainlanders’ into their fold. An expedition to stomp around the homestead of my late father is never far from my mind. A bucket-list item that heads the top, it should have happened years ago, but with babies comes responsibilities. The leisure of visiting a place of my roots was put off for something more immediate like a school trip or dance lessons. Now, the notion of a no-travel ban has raised its steel toe boot to my bucket- list and I lament not having made the trip. I had the luck to visit the Maude Lewis exhibition in Halifax last year before the ugly virus drove us inside. I felt at home sitting outside her house, thinking my Dad may have driven by her little painted dwelling on his way out of town. Maybe my grandfather knew her. The mere idea of a connection makes me feel at home. I’m part Bluenoser, part Newfoundlander and part Chathamite. Fractions of places that feed my identity as a whole woman at ease living on the edge of an ocean.