All the World’s A Stage

The fall winds are beginning to whisper among the trees, and I hesitate to say farewell to summer. It has gone too quickly, and I’m afraid I’ve wasted the last few months lamenting the horrible weather. While the rest of North America endured days of heat, we had rain and cool temps.  Heat was scant and reticent.  July was nothing short of a warmish fall. We were able to escape to a ‘staycation’ where summer kindly smiled on our hiking adventures and sunset viewings, but it was merely one week amongst many.  I’m convinced I will have to wait an entire year for any more sunshine and summer hospitality.

The ‘hood on the other hand, withstood a veritable plethora of activity posted via Facebook, complete with visual documentation. I would say most were outraged, disappointed, and appalled by the utter gall of those damned teenagers acting like, well, teenagers. The absolute nerve. How dare they ring doorbells and run, pull their pants down on a trail and moon an old lady who was out for her pre-evening stroll; let out their pirate cat who promptly shit on someone’s back patio. Who are these heathens?  It’s the inevitable restlessness of youth and the audacity to think its funny. It is, but the lack of enthusiasm for humouring the young people has more to do with overly sensitive self-righteousness than the normality of teenaged angst. Don’t blame the teenagers, y’all. Blame your inflated sense of civility.           

The neighbourhood is just that. A neighbourhood. A community that is connected through family, children, and its inhabitants no matter the age, ethnicity, and religion. Let’s remember that our community encompasses a group of like-minded people who endeavour to maintain a healthy and active social network. Children inevitably grow into young adults and those young adults are inherently adept to making mistakes; errors in judgement; perhaps inducing a raucous gathering or vandalising property. The responsibility lies in the reaction of the adults to discourage the negative behaviour with the understanding that teenagers are also reacting. This has been a difficult and unprecedented year and a half. ‘Normal’ is gone and replaced with something unrecognizable. Masks, limited gatherings, sports activities disappeared then returned, and every occasion has been laced with restrictions. It’s hard to keep up.  Teens are especially sensitive to the ongoings of their social network and with the onslaught of limitations to their access to friends, school, and leisure activities, of course they would get a little, antsy; restless; thoughtless. It’s a by-product of the new social construct. They must figure out a new path, a new way to be a teen without the world watching, and commenting, and proclaiming the youth have become disrespectful degenerates.

No, they haven’t. They just haven’t been given the opportunity to show off their community mindedness due to the few that have reacted differently to a challenging situation. Or, you haven’t noticed.  You haven’t seen the youth who are volunteering virtually, who are helping behind the scenes, who are standing in line at the grocery store for their elderly neighbour, or who are working jobs and getting spat on for the inhuman act of asking someone to wear a mask. Instead, you’ve seen the vulnerable insecure few who have chosen to perform on a small stage and been ridiculed for it.  

Take a breath.

In the meantime, the pirate cat can come over anytime.


My Mother's Chair

Last night, I dreamed I was sitting in my mother’s chair.  The one in which she sat during the day and drank her coffee and smoked her cigarettes.  The wooden chair at the kitchen table where she could look out the window at the goings on of the neighbourhood.  I dreamed I was sitting in that chair, seeing from her eyes. 

It was an odd dream.  I remember the kitchen well.  Small with a cube freezer sitting in the corner by the wall telephone.  She would put knick-knacks on top for a bit of decoration.  The table sat in the centre of the window and the refrigerator and stove sat to the left, the sink and counter across from the appliances.  It was small but big enough. 

I had lived there all my life.  The little townhouse in the back of the row of townhouses, hidden from plain view of the parking lot.  The window sat facing a brick wall from the adjacent row, but if she sat diagonally to the window, she could see up the small sidewalk.  She could see who was walking towards our door as we were the last row house on the end.  One couldn’t go any further.  There was a fence that blocked foot traffic from treading past our place to the side of our townhouse where there was a green space.  It led to another parking area for the duplex units situated there.  That’s where we would play tag and red rover until well after dark. 

The dream was as dreams usually go.  Brief, milky and hauntingly real.  I was sitting in the chair, looking out the window at the grey sky.  I could see the parking lot and the cars idly parked.  I looked around the empty kitchen and remember seeing the small curtains on the window.  At one point I got up and went to the sink.  There was water in it with dishes floating around waiting to be washed.  Instead of getting at them, I just looked and decided to go back and sit in the chair.  Even dreaming, I’m too lazy to do up a few dishes.

It was unsettling sitting in my mother’s chair.  She’s been gone eight years now and I can still hear her in my ear.  Especially when I’m talking to one of my not-so-much-a-kid-anymore kids.  Funny how now, I go back to that old town house to look out the window.  I sit at the old kitchen table in the precarious wooden chair.  I see what she may have seen.  A neighbourhood full of families and children.  Green grass in the summer with her marigolds sprouting from the garden.  The old fence a good backdrop for her tomatoes and morning glories.  The sprinklers spraying in the searing summer sun.  The lamp post on the corner beaten by hands of kids using it as a base for hide and seek.  I wonder what she may have thought as she sat drinking her coffee and smoking her cigarettes.  Would she have thought we would have made it out into the big bad world to have kids of our own and sit in chairs that belong to us?  Would we be sitting drinking our coffee looking out at our neighbourhoods wishing the same for our kids?

Maybe.  My life is very different than my mother’s.  My chair is a little sturdier and my behind a little larger (hence the sturdier chair), but I think we share the same hope for our children; that they will have a chair in which to sit, a cup to drink their coffee and a window for which to look out at their neighbourhoods to hear the children, see the flowers and wonder about the future. 

Snowmageddon 2020

The Blizzard of the Century.  The storm to end all storms.  We’ve never seen anything like this.  The mountains and walls of snow that enveloped the city are as tall as small houses.  The banks overflow into the streets.  Plows and snow-blowing machines are having a difficult time trying to keep up.  A state of emergency has been put in place and remains for seven straight days.  People are getting impatient and want out.  Grocery store lines are arduous and people have to endure long waits just to get inside.  No Tim Horton’s coffee?  What??  No restaurants nor bars are open.  Small businesses are suffering.  People are trapped in their homes.  The military arrives to shovel folks out and to give some reassurances that we will be okay.  Power outages were rampant at the onset of the storm, but have since been restored.  If people haven’t begun wondering why they live on an Island seemingly so destitute and removed from the rest of the world, this storm will certainly have them thinking, what are we doing here?  The downtown area was buried in a mass of snow but is seeing some restoration.  The narrow streets and hills were impassible, dangerous and overwhelmed with snow.  A snowboarder’s paradise that has now begun to look more pedestrian-friendly, dare I say?

Based on everything that has happened over the past week, one would think complaints would be widespread; that people would be sick and tired of the state of emergency to the point of protests and rioting; that there would be more looting of businesses and crime would be on the upswing.  Boredom breeds malevolence, bad-temperament, and unbridled nastiness; the urge to remain aloof and uncaring; the inclination for ego-centric acts of ‘every person for him/herself’.  I’ve not witnessed any of this. 

Downtown St. John’s, NL

The stories that have emerged over Facebook tell tales of acts of selflessness.  People helping to buy groceries for those who can’t.  Neighbours shoveling out neighbours and digging out buried vehicles.  Others creating tunneled paths to lead from a door to the street.  Food being bartered and shared.  Snow forts being erected and decorated with lights and bonfires being lit.  A drink here, a barbeque there.  Everyone making the best of an almost impossible situation.  And then, the sun arrived.

The end of our street

I strolled my neighbourhood a couple of days after the storm.  The sun came out for three straight days.  People were out walking their dogs, taking sleds and pulling their children along the streets, digging out the snowshoes and traversing the trails.  Having a laugh at the big bad storm that tried to break the spirit of a province that couldn’t be broken.  It’s been a rough week but we survived it all in Newfoundland style.  We made light of the monstrous snowbanks and decorated them with snarky phrases instead of cursing their existence.  We posted signs and made snow-people instead of complaining we would never see our lawns.  We assured the downtowners we would visit when they opened, that their pleas have not fallen on deaf ears.  Who doesn’t want a beer and a meal after all of that shoveling? 

In a country where winter defines us, we have set an example for other provinces and other cities that will no doubt be faced with its own version of Snowmageddon.  The world stood still and watched as people treated others with humanity and compassion.  People offered food, strained muscles, worked tireless hours without complaint, offered free rides, gave without the expectation of anything in return all in the name of helping each other endure an impossible circumstance.  Not only did we survive, but we also demonstrated what a lot of heart, an indelible sense of humour and a few helping hands from our military can do when faced with ‘a bit of snow’.   

There is a house out there…somewhere.

If another snowstorm the size and ferociousness of this blizzard happens to darken our doorway again, I imagine we would react much the same.  “Get out the shovels, b’ys she’s blowin’ a gale.  Youngsters, put your hoods up, we goes.” 

And we will.   

Son, after shoveling our front step. He’s 5’10”

A Dance in The Hurricane

The following is a reblog of a post I wrote two years ago. It reminds us to take a breath and appreciate our connections and relationships; to value each day and each person we encounter along the way. Stay connected, my friends.

KJ

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 amongst 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 after they moved away into a new house.  She wrote to say how dismayed she was of my mother’s passing and that she hadn’t realized my mother continued to reside in Chatham.  She assumed she had moved in either my brother or myself.  She was disappointed she had not made the effort to reconnect.  I think she was disappointed neither had my mother.  I don’t think it was anyone’s fault that they got disconnected.  It was just life.

 Kids grow up, graduate, move on to university or not, tragic events unfold, weddings and new houses, new babies, new lives.  It’s everything that happens over a lifetime. We get disconnected. We get disjointed and enmeshed in the everyday.  We forget the connections that were made years ago on a summer’s day when the children were small, who later walked to the bus stop hand-in-hand on frosty fall mornings, caught “all things squirmy and squishy” (her words) and played basketball until nightfall.   

Those days get lost in band practices, packed lunches, hockey games and baseball tryouts.  People get older, move to other streets or to other towns.  They work, they make new friends, they move on to other hobbies, other occupations and other past times without the old acquaintances that have become a part of their past.  The present is different.  Its fluid and changes with the seasons and the ever-speeding passage of time.  We don’t notice the children becoming adults until they are there.  We don’t notice our hair changing colour until our hairstylist points it out (while saying loudly WHY ARE YOU NOT COMING HERE MORE OFTEN?!  )  we don’t notice the deeper cracks in the sidewalks outside the house,  how the maple tree has grown exponentially or how few little children are out playing street hockey these days, until all of that suddenly seeps into our consciousness and we take a look around with clearer eyes.  And older eyes.  How did this happen?  When did we get HERE? 

I understand her disappointment and dismay.  It seems like a sudden about-face of one minute she’s there, the next she’s gone, but really it wasn’t like that.  It was a lifetime of being, of living and of surviving.  The disconnection of relationships is unfortunately, an everyday occurrence that can be prevented if we take the time.  Aye there’s the rub.  TIME.  We never have enough. It flies away so fleetingly.  If only we had more time to connect, to say ‘hey’, to reminisce, to support, to actually stop and watch everything grow and change without having to be awoken to its transformation.  It’s a difficult dance.  Maybe we don’t want to watch because if we do, then we’ll have to admit that we are getting older, life is flying by without us even moving or flinching in this hurricane.   Maybe we don’t really want to see the children getting older or the sidewalk cracking or the maple tree growing so big we can’t see across the street, anymore.  We’d rather hold on to today, to live in the present, just let me have one more day!

Connections are our lifelines.  We crave them, we seek them out and some we hold dear.  Our intentions are for connections to last as long as we take a breath, to be eternal and constant, but sometimes those bonds get weaker and grow more distant, then they are suddenly lost in the gale force wind.  It’s not wrong.  It’s life.  

I’m thinking after all of this time, to send her a reply.  To let her know I did receive her letter and I did read it and I still have it.  That I remember everything she said was true. 

 Maybe, that could be one little dance in the hurricane.

Conquering ‘Hoods

I don’t know when it happened.  When the kids grew up and I am now faced with retirement ads that I actually watch.  When we look at the house and say ‘we need to fix this before we move’ or when we look around at the now adults who we once carted and snuggled and fed and loved; who needed bed times and naps; who needed rocking to sleep and lessons in ‘appropriate songs to sing in public’; who were once my babies but somehow morphed into adults, and I hear myself say ‘when y’all fixin’ to move out?’  like I’m suddenly southern and drink lemonade in a rocker on the front porch.  I’ve been so busy raising kids and cleaning houses and buying groceries and making dinners and trekking kids to this and that, then driving lessons and graduations and convocations and first jobs and first dates and first car accidents and first hangovers and generally, just living, that  I missed when I grew up.  I missed my journey into full-fledged adulthood, motherhood and womanhood.  Generally, all of the ‘hoods.  How did that happen?

I don’t think I’m alone in that sentiment of ‘missing’ my growth.  It happened when I wasn’t looking.  When I was distracted by a ten pound baby careening out of my vagina.  And by ‘careening’ I mean taking his sweet ass time because who doesn’t love being in labour for fifteen ungodly hours followed by hearing the words “You’ll feel a little discomfort” (HAHAHAHA)   and then seeing a wall of onlookers oohing and ahhing.  Ahh, childbirth.  And that was the last time I did THAT.

I wouldn’t change it.  The three labours.  The three births.  The three babies that are now trying to find their ways into the world and stumbling every now and then.  I’m not missing their journeys into their ‘hoods…I’m paying attention to theirs.  I’ve just been absent in consciousness for mine. 

I look at the pictures and see the outward changes.  The weight gain, then loss, then gain.  The progression of one baby, then another baby and then the last chunky kid who threw Cheerios on the floor in great bunches.  The relocations.  The new friends.  The old friends.  The new neighbourhood.  The hair gets lighter, then lighter then *gasp* grey!  The glory of discovering ‘the perfect shade of red’….

Maybe I haven’t missed my growing up, but have simply participated in less mindful way.  That’s a new term I’m learning.  Mindfulness.  Maybe I haven’t been so much AWARE of my growth, as I have actually grown.  That could be it.  I must have matured and grown emotionally after all of these twenty five years of being Mommy, Mom, Maaaaaammmmmm!!!   It isn’t possible to stay stagnant without some semblance of inward enlightenment from all of the nights of illness, worry, fights, battles and dolls thrown down the hall in outward defiance of ‘get to your room’.  (That was D1 in all of her 7 year old will) There has to be some sage, some wisdom from raising three children while working and staying married.  There has to be something other than grey hair and osteoarthritis awarded for all of this middle-agedness.  For all of this Motherdom.  Wifedom.  Womandom. 

Please tell me, there is.  

There must be some spec of intelligent advice, some all-out magical power that is awarded to us moms, dads and upbringersof the generations that carries us to that moment in our lives when we fold our hands on our laps and say ‘we did it’.  

What if I’m at that moment?  What if I’m there now and I don’t know it?  What if I’m missing it? That would be a tragedy.  

I don’t think I am.  There yet, I mean.  I’m hoping in a new mindful way, I can acknowledge when I’ve reached the point where I can say I truly feel grown up enough.  Grown up enough to say that I’ve done everything I’m supposed to do.  Grown up enough to let go of those babies and watch them move on without the dramatic doll-throwing.  Grown up enough to take ma damn lemonade and sit on the porch in my rocking chair, saying ‘have a nice day, y’all.’    

Until then, I’ll just be over here while you conquer your ‘hoods.  I’m not quite finished conquering mine.  I’m still growing up.