Little Girl Writing


In beginning a memoir project, I decided to dig through my old journals just to get a feel for what fifteen year old me was thinking. Holy cow, I think I should have just closed it up and left it be. Teenaged angst, early views on relationships and the all-important she likes him-he likes someone else drama happening. I didn’t remember writing any of the events that transpired in those pages, but I remember the feelings. The awkwardness. The shyness. The melodramatic events of school dances and hockey games; movie nights and trips to the record store; history classes and failed math tests. How much I missed my Dad.  

I skipped ahead to my second year of college to compare. It seems I grew up a bit in that time. The theatrical expressions were lessened and I spoke more of the transition of becoming my own person from that of a little girl in a confusing world. I loved living in the city. I loved working with the kids in residential treatment. I loved feeling necessary, intelligent and valued. I grew in college. I grew from a little girl writing down her daily activities to a young woman experiencing a life independent of parent, familiarity and routine. My entries were less frequent as I moved through classes and newfound friendships; downtown escapades and girl retreats up to northern Ontario. As I read through my second year the absence of the mention of my brother’s death was surprising. Not a word about one of the most traumatic events of my young life was there.  

The glaringly obvious absence of such an event should not have been a surprise. I must have thought I had outgrown the use of a journal and had no need to write such drama down on pages. I must have been so overwhelmed with emotion, I couldn’t bring myself to record it at all. I wish I had. I wish I would have written every last detail of it. The shattering phone call. The train ride home. The days leading up to the funeral. The Thanksgiving dinner where we laughed until we cried. The devastation of watching my brother grow from an impulsive angry child to a more mature independent young man with his own apartment and a girlfriend, then having it all taken away in an instant. His life was moving forward in a more positive adult direction. We were all breathing sighs of relief. And then it changed.  

It could have been cathartic. I remember thinking as I walked away from those difficult days with my mother and my family and boarded the train back to school that I was returning a different person. I remember thinking I wasn’t the same after his death. I had changed somehow. I had grown.

I have been journal writing these past few months on a more regular basis. It may not be filled with all of the drama and angst of my teenaged years, but I find it soothing to write my thoughts on paper. It may not be cathartic nor reveal a secret hidden meaning of life, but it certainly gives me perspective on my life now and my life then. Perspectives on my changing world as my children grow from kids to adults, embarking on their own journeys and new discoveries; and how I continue to fit in to their ever-evolving lives. Apparently, my main reason for living right now is dinner prep and food organization.  

With all of life’s changes, it’s nice to take a look at where we were and where we strive to be. Maybe keeping a journal is another way of taking stock and reflecting on the journey. If you are a journal writer, take a look back occasionally to see where you were.  

You may be surprised at how far you’ve come.  

 

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18th Birthday Story – Rock Star Edition 

Today is my son Kyle’s 18th birthday. A milestone in any young person’s life, I thought I would re-post this story in honour of him. AND, for purely motherly love and embarrassment, because nothing says HAPPY BIRTHDAY better than an awkward story about when you were 3years old.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, KID!!!

To celebrate this momentous occasion, here is a special story about the first time my son learned to speak. It’s all very dramatic and tears at your heart strings so get out your tissues…okay, it’s actually an embarrassing tale of music and Walmart, but still. It was traumatic for one of us. Maybe two of us. The innocent lady who witnessed my child’s descent into the debauchery and the morally deficient world of rock music and was probably scarred for life and myself, who led him there.

Once upon a time, in a land called Grand Falls Winsor, lived a nice little family with a mother, a father two daughters and a young son. They all lived happily in their house playing and frolicking in the meadows. ( okay, there were technically no meadows in GFW. AND we don’t frolic as a rule. Only on very special occasions like Christmas, or when some of us are really drunk. No pointing any fingers, just sayin’. ) Anyway, the boy, who was three years old, had not begun to speak any language intelligible to any human life form. The mother, being very concerned, took said young boy to a Speech Pathologist. The Speech Pathologist was a young woman of very good bearing and simply stated “There is nothing wrong with the boy. He will speak when he’s ready. Go home and rest your head, lady” 

So, the despairing mother took her young boy home and after a lengthy car ride listening to the young son speak something akin to the Cantonese and Ancient Tibetan Mongloid tongue , wearily escorted young child into the house. It was during this phase in the young mother’s life that she began experimenting with music. Music she adored when she was young and single and had somehow lost in the day-to-day tedium of Barney and Caillou episodes (it should be noted here that Caillou was seen as an evil child full of whininess and annoying shit that led the mother to bouts of anxiety and desperate pleas of “LET’S ALL GO OUTSIDE AND GET SOME FRESH AIR BEFORE MA HEAD EXPLODES!” ) Yeah.

One day, while playing her music very loudly, she noticed her young son sitting very attentively. The daughters, heard the rendition of Bryan Adams’ “I Wanna Be Your Underwear” and asked repeatedly to hear the ‘underwear song’. Mother was happy to appease her young daughters as she found this tune particularly humorous, obliged…often. After the young daughters had ventured off to school, the mother took young son to Walmart for a bit of shopping in the afternoon. The son, being very sleepy and ready for his nap at that time, was readily dosing in the cart and humming a tune the mother recognized as Joan Jett’s “I Hate Myself For Loving You”…Joan rocks. The mother, knowing the son was unable to speak, allowed the son to sing the song at will, while all the Walmart staff looked on adoringly saying how cute the little boy was singing to his mother. Yeah.

As the mother approached the checkout line, she noticed a woman behind her who seemed particularly taken with the young boy. She was smiling and cooing to the child as the mother flung her intended purchases on the conveyer belt. Knowing the young boy was securely occupied, the mother paid close attention to her groceries when suddenly she heard a most familiar sound. “I WANNA BE!” being sung behind her. She went swiftly over to her son. Could it be? Was that him? Had the spell of the Cantonese speak been broken and replaced with the x-rated lyrics of an old Bryan Adams song? The lady who had been occupying and smiling at the young boy thought the boy to be speaking to her. So, she replied “What do you want to be?” The mother, knowing the son was merely repeating the words to a raunchy song, attempted to intervene by pointing to a random balloon and distracting the boy. Alas, the boy could not be sidetracked. Again, he sang out “I WANNA BE!!“. Full of fear for the next line, the mother hurriedly began to throw her groceries onto the belt all the while, the nice lady said again, “What do you want to be?” and leaned closer to hear the boy. The young boy looked innocently up at the woman, his sparkling blue eyes dancing with joy as he sang, quite in tune I must say, “YOUR UNDERWEAR”.  

The lady, aghast and shocked by what she had just heard, recoiled in horror and glared at the young mother. Washed with embarrassment, and stifling a laugh, the mother simply retorted “Oh, it’s a song his father taught him” and pushed the cart out of the store, praising the child for his speech and promising to teach him more ‘appropriate’ songs. Like more Joan Jett, whose song son repeatedly sang henceforth as “I hate myself for lubbing you….” yeah. 

The son, now thirteen and three quarters has had a varied singing career. I have been called regarding his poor song choices including the popular titles “My Humps” by the Black ‘Eyed Peas, “I like Big Butts” and the infamous “Save a Horse Ride A Cowboy” which I am totally not responsible for. That last one was definitely Hubby’s country music influence. I did teach son how to do an awesome rendition of Blue Rodeo’s Bad Timing when he was four. I wish I had recorded it. 

Brought to you today in honour of son’s 18th birthday, and to all the women and men who care for their children everyday unconditionally, allow them to sing dirty rock songs to stranger and endure endless episodes of Caillou all in the name of love. 

Speaking and not singing. So proud!

The Middle in ‘Mid-Life’

It’s funny how our dialogue has changed from talking about what to do on the weekend or how the baby kept us up all night; to how we want to spend our retirement years and looking forward to not having to wake up to an alarm clock or a mundane drive to an office.
As we get older, it becomes more apparent that our priorities and responsibilities change. Our children are more independent and need us less. We have more time on our hands (most of us) that we once dedicated to our children, but now can dedicate to other perhaps lofty pursuits.
Our parents are now in their later years and require more attention and assistance. Considering retirement homes and long term care facilities for the people who raised us is both daunting and heartbreaking, however, a responsibility we all will eventually face. It’s the circle of life, people and we can’t escape it. (Cue Lion King music here) We will all go through it. We just don’t want to.
The struggle of having to take responsibility for yet another human on the long list of other humans we already look after seems exhausting. It really does. Depending on the medical and physical needs the person requires to get through a day, it can be an emotionally draining experience, for everyone. It’s frustrating and complicated and sometimes impossible to get the care in order. But it will come. And everybody will be settled. Until the next hurdle, when you get that call in the middle of the night that in the back of your mind you knew would happen only you were putting it away, hiding it and ignoring it’s nagging voice telling you to ‘grow up’ and put on your big girl pants because now she needs YOU, instead of the other way around. Dying is a part of growing old and a part of life. Saying ‘goodbye’ is the hardest thing about being alive.
The invite to my thirty-year high school reunion just went out a few days ago making me feel incredibly old. And like I want to hide behind someone’s skirt. I don’t recall the exact moment I got to this point; this time in my life where I have to take stock and see where I ‘ended up’. Wait. I haven’t ‘ended up’ yet. I’m still getting there…at least in my mind.
Going home is always bittersweet. It’s where I grew, up but not where I live. It haunts me and sometimes it’s like I walked in a dream. I think, did I really live there? Did I really have those people in my life? Did I really take a piece of old chewing gum that was stuck to the bottom of the table at the Fiesta Restaurant and chew it? I was like five, but really? Aside from the obvious ‘ewww’ you all just did, I didn’t always do gross stuff. I think. The stories from my childhood come in spits and spurts. From some of the stories, I take it I was a hoot to be around. I took out the old photo album the other day and took a walk with my family. I looked hard to see what was in the background; do I remember where the Christmas tree went? Do I remember the rocking chair I sat in every night and my mother would say I reminded her of Aunt Edith when I twisted my hair and chewed my finger? An aunt whom I never knew and I never met. I have a hard time remembering what my dad looked like. I have a picture of him I look at often. I study his face and try to picture what it was like sitting on his knee, or holding his hand as we walked down the sidewalk. I was looking at my son’s school picture and noticed his eyes have a downturned shape to them. So did my dad’s. My son looks like my dad. A realization I just came to not so long ago. When did that happen? The cottage in Rondeau  where we swam in a freezing Lake Erie and played games on an inflated inner tube bobbing beneath surface only to splash back up and try it again. The summer days my brother would go fishing on the Thames river and I would throw rocks under the bridge only to hear him say, ‘no, like this’ and proceed to throw a ‘skimmer’. I could never throw a ‘skimmer’.
I could spend a lot of time visiting the past. Looking at old photos, reading old letters…it’s all there. As I get older, I seem to want to visit there and try to walk in my parents shoes. See things from their perspective. Try to feel the heat from a 1970’s summer sun; remember the winter my dad had to get a ride on a snow mobile to get home from work; raising a family on a furniture salesman’s salary. I put the photos and cards away for another day and “put the past in my behind.” (Another Lion King reference, in case you missed it.)
The past is a great place to visit from time to time, and I admit to getting lost in the murky depths of memories. I eventually find my way back to the present and revel in how I got here. My ending isn’t written yet, but my middle is a pretty special place.
I think I’ll stay here awhile, if that’s okay with you….

My Dad and brothers Christmas 1972

My Dad and brothers Christmas 1972

When Life Was As Simple As a Peanut Butter Sandwich

There was no internet, or iphone or i-anything. We had jump ropes and played hide-and-seek. Lunches were packed in paper bags or plastic lunchpales. We had milk tickets and rarely drank pop. We played games outside like tag and dodgeball and tether ball. We went to the park and organized softball games or climbed the monkey bars. We played Red Rover in the space that belonged to the person who had the biggest back yard. We went swimming at Jaycee pool and walked a mile or more to get there. We rode our bikes, skinned out our knees (and in my case, my face), and threw a ball against a brick wall when we got bored. We climbed trees, made forts outside and chased butterflies. We went tobogganing in the winter, threw snowballs and built snowmen. We sucked on icicles (nature’s popsicles), chewed bubblegum until our jaws ached and dared somebody to eat a worm. We went fishing, threw rocks in the river and played truth or dare. We had sleepovers, went to drive-in movies and knocked on our friends’ doors to come outside. We ate dinner in under ten seconds, had summer jobs and after school ones, too. We walked or took the bus everywhere and hung out at the mall.
That is what childhood looked like.
Now it looks like this:
Talking is through a cell phone and it isn’t with your mouth, it’s with your fingers. Video games are played indoors. Jump ropes are for the ladies at the gym. Bike riding is for the people on TV or for people who don’t have cars and need to get to work. Organizing outdoor games is unheard of. What’s Red Rover? Climbing trees is illegal, I think. Balls are a part of a guy’s anatomy. Lunch is going to McDonald’s and coffee at Starbucks. A bagged lunch means you don’t have any money and it basically sucks to be you. Fishing is for dads on the weekend. Outside in the cold?! Maybe if there’s snowboarding or somebody has an ice rink in the backyard. Icicles are frozen acid rain. Snowmen are too heavy to build. Tobogganing means climbing back UP the hill. Ugh. Walking anywhere is dangerous. Throwing a snowball means you have aggressive tendencies and anger management issues and will require counselling. Truth or dare is played on the internet and is called Facebook. Hanging out at the mall still happens and the crew you hang with is the Bloods. Selling a ‘pip’ is not candy. After school jobs require a curriculum vitae and a multitude of references. A young person working through University or College gets a disparaging look from the instructor.
Generation gaps aside, there’s a big one here. We are to blame, but let’s not discount the kids just yet.
They work hard to get good grades, they work their part-time jobs in spite of adults barraging them with complaints and cynicism, they do their volunteer work, play team sports, take music lessons, and drive mom’s car to pick up the siblings at the after school tutoring program. They take out the garbage, do their own laundry, buy their books, pay for their gas, clean their rooms and feed the dog. They battle peer shit, try to side-step the drugs and the alcohol, tone down the drama on Facebook and keep their wits about them. They spend their money on i-tunes and at Starbucks, buy Christmas presents for their friends and remember birthdays. They know about the bullies and try to steer clear, defend their friends in the face of that mean kid in math and learn that as much as life sucks sometimes, they’ll always have that guy on Youtube to make them laugh. They love their parents and think they’re lame sometimes and they have no sense of humour at all. Home is a great place to hang out and eat everything in the fridge. Their bed is their refuge. They know a lot about fashion. They think they’re invincible.
So did we.
We are raising a totally different generation of beings. In spite of, or despite all the technological advances these kids are still producing ideas and generating a whole new set of problems…but maybe solutions too. Let’s not judge too harshly. Sure our childhoods were completely different, but so were the times we lived in.
They’re alright…
We three

The Barn

white-wood-black-barn-old-wooden-grass-hi-274116

I remember being in the presence of an old barn.  This was back in the seventies when the summers were hot and seemed to last a whole year, not a mere few months.  We with nothing more to do but to wander aimless and reckless, our shorts hiked up and our faces flushed from the heat, trudging through yards and barren forest looking for adventure.  Or shade.

There stood before me a large black structure, the wood rotted and the inside dilapidated. The tall A-frame of the roof pointing skyward as if noting the direction of heaven.  The window at the top was gone; replaced with just a wooden bi-fold door hanging off its hinges.  The wood was split and left hanging, the wind blowing the shards innocently, as if afraid to blow too hard and break them. The grass lay brown and dry, the summer quickly turning into fall the leaves having fallen, dried up brown and withered away.  The dirt road was dry and gravelly, the stones crunching when we walked upon them.  There was a gaggle of us, the kids.  We were dispersed in age, the older ones herding the younger ones around the barn discovering it’s secrets and noting its dangerous allure. We were alone out in the country. Of course, near Chatham the country is everywhere around the outskirts of town.  I couldn’t have been far from where I lived.  I can’t imagine my mother ever allowing me to stray too far from her sight.   The attraction to the old building was in its mystique.  The rotting wood that once housed what exactly?  Animals?  Hay?  Corn?

   I’m not sure I was ever inside the barn.  The large looming face stands resolutely in my memory, however, any ideas of lofts or ropes or any items deemed ‘barn materials’ seems out of reach to me.  Was it a dream I had and I thought it was a memory?  Maybe, as the motives for attending the scene secretly remain hidden within the black rotting wood.

My brother seemed to have been the catalyst for my presence at the site.  My cousins were there as well, but more as outlying extras in a movie set.  Their milky dreamlike movements float through my mind and I can see their smiling faces looking down at me, mocking my existence among the big kids.

My memory of the old barn ends there.  I have no idea how we managed to travel so far outside of town, or even if it was that far out.  I just remember the feeling of freely walking about and curious as to its existence.  I know it’s no longer standing out in the country, but it’s nice to visit from time to time….