Archive for March, 2011|Monthly archive page

Living a legacy

Tomorrow, I start a new job.
It’s a big change – one of those seismic career shifts.
A leap of faith.
An escape.
Until now, almost all of my thoughts have been about all the things this new job will not be. Only now, as I think about what to wear tomorrow and remember to pack kleenex have I started to think about what tomorrow will bring – instead of what it won’t.
I bought a new backpack this weekend in anticipation. As of tomorrow, I will be a pedestrian. My most anticipated excitement is the fact that my new job is located close enough to home to walk to. I bought the snazziest backpack there was. Not too big, not too flashy – but technical enough to rock-climb with. Because every latte-slinging-texting-pedestrian-Momma’s gotta have her hands free.
Dearest has taken to referring to everything past and future as pre Job Change and post Job Change.
It’s been the most difficult professional decision I’ve ever made.

Yesterday, my Grandmother passed away.
It’s the second death in my family in a week, and the third in a season. Each one a phenomenal person, each death a blow. A regret. A reminder that there is never enough time.
She taught me how to make music from spoons.
She never lit up a room – but she warmed it, quietly, contentedly.
She was the hardest-working person I’ve every known – and the most grateful.

Last week my cousin passed away – a week ago today.
She was the bravest person I’ve ever known. She’d disagree, though. My Grandmother, she’d argue, is far more deserving of the title. An uneducated, French-speaking Catholic farmwife who left her husband when he started beating their children instead of just her and moved to English Montreal in the early 1950s against her family’s, her village’s, and her faith’s strictures – and raised her three children on her own on a sewing sweatshop’s pay – surely, she’s the braver, my cousin would say. Grandmaman would scoff, and say that she wasn’t brave at all – she just made the choices that she had to make, and made the best of what was left, after. Mmhmm, my cousin would say back. Agreeing. She, my cousin, having had a life far too short, far too unfair and far too painful, would agree with that definition of courage. To choose to make the best of it.

This, then, is the legacy that these two defining women have left me. The bone-deep knowledge that life takes determination – it requires that you be determined, but also that you do determine. Death is a certainty, but a well-lived-life is not. One comes mostly unsought, and the other from the seeking of it. The making the best of it.

Today, I played with my son and my Goddaughters.
Sad, apprehensive, relieved, wound-up – I was a perfect storm amidst a storm. Three whirling dervishes scattering toys, crumbs, sippy cups, crafts, decibels and bo-bos rampaged. There is no sitting back, taking stock, taking time. An even keel is not always possible in pitched seas. And so I too yell, slam, walk away, apologize, hug – as needed.

Life’s a mess – and I am a mess in it. Gloriously, gratefully, determinedly so.
“Leap,” they whisper in my ear, my Grandmother and cousin, my family heroines. “We showed you how.”

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Chinook

The clouds look as stormy as I feel.
They too, rush with frantic energy.
The Chinook has come – that wild warm wind that melts the snow ferociously.
Fierceness is in the air.
The snow lays lumped about, forlorn islands of black grit.
The landscape is brackish – or what I imagine brackish would be like, had it a landscape to fill – dull, frothing, a clamorous vapor of change.
People walk quickly, heads down, clutching hats and hoods.
I look up into the sky, hair flying, and face the full whipping force.
This wind seems to have come just for me – to comfort, to mirror, to trumpet.
This breath whispers secrets in a great voice.
The many-grayed sky is the texture of lace.
It wraps me up and whisks me away.
There is no withstanding this wind.
As I round the corner it howls, battering me.
It tells me in no uncertain language that it will not let me go – its work, sculpting me, is not yet done.
It flings dust into my face and grips me with gnarled fingers.
I stand stock still.
And into the faintest pause of its fury, I take a step.
Its fingers are reduced to plucking as I wrestle the door open.
Both of us are disappointed to let each other go.

In come the fire blasters.

“Mumma, for my birthday, when I turn four, I’m gonna want, I’m gonna, I want, a, uh, a, a – a flame-throwing-gun-shooting video game!”
“Oh yeah?”
“Yah! Like the ones Daddy plays! Where you get to fix the gun, and buy new ones, and shoot out fire and fire bullets, and find ammo everywhere, and make things explode, and the little people all go Aaarghhaaaahhhhhaaaaaahahaha!”
“You know, Mommy doesn’t like those games very much. Do you really think that something like that’s an appropriate birthday present for a four-year-old?”
“But Daddy likes them!”
“Yes, I know.”
“And he plays them all the time, and even goes over to Economicus’s house for playdates to play them!”
“Yes. I know.”
“I saw him playing them when we went for a sleepover to play with the girls!”
“Yes. I know.”
“And when I grow up, I’m going to play them all the time!”
“Mmmhmm.”
“So why don’t you like them, Mommy?”
“Well, what happens to the people in the video game in those kinds of games?”
“They die, and then explode, and then they spray out blood all over the place!”
“Yes.”
“So, why don’t you like them, then?”
“Well, you know, I know that they’re just a game, and that the people in them aren’t really real people, and they aren’t really dying, but, when I see that, and when I hear the noises they make, it makes me think about real people getting hurt. And thinking about that makes me feel all the same things that I feel when a real person gets hurt. You know, when you bump your toe, and you cry, and I hug you and help you feel better, how sometimes you being hurt makes my heart hurt too, even though I didn’t bump myself?”
“Yeah.”
“Well, those video games kind of make me feel like that too.”
“But… but – you don’t have to watch, Mommy! You could go to another room!”
“Well, that’s very thoughtful of you. But it doesn’t solve the problem of you watching and hearing all those video game people get hurt while you’re playing it.”
“But Mommy, but – but it doesn’t bother me!”
“Yes, that’s what I’m worried about.”
“Why?”
“Because I don’t think that that’s a good thing. I don’t think that it’s healthy for you to not be bothered by people exploding and spraying blood out and making those sounds. And I most certainly don’t think it’s healthy for you to be making that happen to them.”
“Why?”
“Well, you know, the human brain is a wonderful, mysterious, miraculous thing. And we don’t really understand everything about how it works yet. Like, Mommy and Daddy, and even you, sometimes don’t understand how you work and think and do things – what makes you tick. But we do know that sometimes, especially in impressionable people, which four-year-olds can be, sometimes the brain can have a hard time differentiating fantasy from reality. And that sometimes we don’t always just play pretend things we experience in the real world – like when you pretend Penguinny has a sore tummy and you give him pretend medicine. Sometimes we do it the other way around and we transfer things to the real world that we were playing in pretend.”
“Huh?”
“So, if you were playing a video game where you got to shoot people and think that it’s funny when they get hurt, that you might also think it’s funny in the real world when someone gets hurt for real. And unfortunately, in the real world, people really do have guns, even sometimes ones that shoot out fire.”
“They do? Can I see one?”
“OK, Love. It’s time for bed. No more stalling. I think we’ve exhausted this topic for tonight – we’ve certainly exhausted me.”
“Why?”
“Well, because, sometimes it’s a little hard to keep up with you, Love.”
“Oh.”
“Now, sweet dreams – ”
“No! Mommy! Stay and cuddle with me! If you go, I’ll be scared of the dark!”
“Sweetheart, I think you are a big, brave, grown-up boy, and that you have lots of strategies for dealing with darkness.”
“Nooooooo! I don’t have any strategies! I need you to sing me a song, and stay and stay and stay until I’m asleeeeeeeep!”
“I think that if you snuggle with Penguinny, and think about your birthday coming up, and think about what kind of party you might like to have, you could fall asleep very nicely.”
“Mommy, can we have a rocket-launching party? With fire blasters? And the rockets will blast off, and go high high high into the sky, and go into outer space, and go fffhshfhfhhzhjzooooOOOOM, and the fire will go EVERYWHERE?”
“We’ll see. We can talk to Daddy and see what we can come up with. Maybe he could find a small rocket kit that we could try, in a big field, and invite some of your friends. And maybe fly some kites.”
“Mumma, I love you! You’re my best friend.”
“I love you too, Darling. Sweet dreams.”

A Novelist’s Debut

“Momma, I want to type!”
“Sure! What do you want to spell?”
“Momma, how do you spell Woody?”
“Well, it starts with W. Can you find the W?”
“Uhhhh….. W!”
“Great. Now find O, and type it twice.”
We do the search and find and hop-around-in-pride routine through the rest of ‘Woody’, and moved on to ‘Mommy’.
“Now, Momma. Teach me how to spell ‘gun’.”
“Oh, I don’t like that word very much.”
“Ooooh kaaay…  I want to write ‘book’.”
“Oh yes, I like the word ‘book’ much better than I like the word ‘gun’. Much more interesting.”
“No! I mean I want to write the insides of a book.”
“Oh, good idea! Let’s do it. So, what letters do you see that you know on the keyboard?”
“Yeah! There’s an A, and a X, and a
bvcdffgert65yuio plkkqasxccvb8mmmlpoi uytrewadsdfghhjjkl zz xxxcvbnmm.
Look. It’s a very long story.”
“So, uh, what’s the story about?”
“No, I need to make that longer. Move your fingers, Mommy, it’s my turn. I need to make a long story, OK?”

“ggg
zxcvbbnmjkkoiiiiiiiipggggggggg ggffaq2rtyuiiiiiiiiiiiiopzxcvbnm,asdffgh  jklqwertttyyyyyuiop324376668  979998888000—–
qqqssssssssss sssssssssssssssssssssss ssss s sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss sssssssssssss sssssssssssssss ssssssssssssssssssssssssssss ssssssssss sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss ss ssssssssssssssssssss”

“Wow. That’s a lot of Ss.”
“Yeah, that’s the fuel. I’m loading up.”
“Loading up what?”
“Doko lives in a water pipe, but he’s lost. So, he needs to fuel his rocket jets so he can FLY FLY FLY fly fly fffshshshsssssshhh around the world and in and out of space and land on a satellite and load up some more and then go home, and then he gets all comfortable and safe. That’s my story, OK? That’s all I had.”
“Pretty cool story, Love.”
“Yeah, I’m a writer. That’s what I do. See?

aaaaasdfggjhgr yter345redfgfgfyhtgtyr5 3454rugkihl,k.kjjghhfufgdh ffd hd fvdrht4ee543 5eeh hkghry7454ug;hkfgc fvfhjfhfffhftgrejf445tyrhjfggdjvfgvfjkhh fgbfjvfvgdfikfgvrjkvfgr uf5tergmfbgm,bgh  vkmvgfe 67 retvedhfffjcvbggflhfncvdfbcc cfvcbvnhbcbcccvvcbcvcbcvbccvcbbcvxbc c bc bc xcnc c v bb vbcmcbchcgdhcn cb  nm ckcgxcghdsvgdmnccxcnc cmvcvvcnmvbcv,vbnv,vgvdjkfbc,v v,bncmvbfkgbnvmvn fb fmvnvmnv.”

“Yes, I do see.”
“Mmmhmm. The end.”

Not My Ideal Lazy Sunday Afternoon

Lately Bonhomme’s been role-playing more – doing the voices for his stuffed animals, having his little construction action figues have ennui. Playing out loud what goes on inside.
It’s adorable, it’s hilarious, it’s heartwrenching.
“Mumma, so, this guy? This guy has to go lie down because he has a bad cough.”
“Mumma, I had a great day today with you. But Penguinny’s not feeling so good. He has a headache.”
“Let’s do pretend-nap! That will make you feel better, Mommy!”

It’s killing me. On the one hand, I don’t think it’s a bad thing that children learn that their parents aren’t, in fact, invincible; that other people’s batteries do indeed occasionally run out. On the other hand though – this isn’t the Mom I want to be. The one who can’t chase my son around the house playing Megamind vs. Metroman with lightsabres and drills. The one who says it’s OK to play videogames for an hour, two, despite knowing how nuts it will make him later, because I desperately need to stay sitting down for that long. The one who is scanning the phone list to see who I could call to come over and play with him because the very thought of eight hours hours straight of one-on-one is exhausting. The one who says yes to bad food choice after bad food choice all afternoon because real cooking is way outside my energy envelope, and handling the inevitable arguing/whining/negotiating/pleading routine would be even worse.

None of this will kill him, I know. I did teach him to play Yahtzee today; a game I have my own fond childhood memories of. I’m not sure which of us was channelling my super-competitive-Yahtzee-crazy mother more. He could use a few more quiet-time activities in his arsenal. When Economicus told me today that both his girls will do puzzles on their own for four hours non-stop at daycare, I almost cried. Videogames are the only thing we’ve found that I consider even quasi-qualifies as play that will give us any breathers with Bonhomme – and even so, I usually have to field a running commentary (if I’m lucky), or a unending list of instructions (if I’m not).

“Mummy, why did you have a bad cough yesterday? Why are your lungs sore? Will you feel better after a good night’s sleep?”
These days, I can’t make many promises. But I can kiss Penguinny’s bumped chin, and somehow, to my son, that little bit of pretend makes love real.

Watching and Waiting

I’m sitting in a waiting room, waiting.

Across the room, also waiting, is a woman who it utterly fabulous. Her hair, clearly grey as a base colour, is artfully highlighted just enough to glow. If it wasn’t hair, I’d swear it was 14K white gold. It stands up in a 3 inch, 3 dimensional halo. She is confident, playful, serious and curious – all at once. She screams competence.
She is here with an older, smaller, paler, more timid version of her who looks decidedly nervous.

Beside me is a tall, cool, bright-eyed woman, quietly leafing through her Daytimer, writing herself reminders on a pad of sticky notes. She’s wearing tailored slacks, a chunky silver bracelet, a many-pocketed leather purse, and the same blue plastic booties as the rest of us.
She’s here with her husband, who has disappeared into the examination maze. She whispered to him, as he got up to follow the beckoning nurse, that their next appointment was in an hour. She’s got it all together – he doesn’t.

The room is a potent mixture of anxiety and boredom. Everyone arrives tense, intense. In a rush. After the initial flurry of filling out forms, digging for health cards and turning off cell phones, they just sit. Studiously avoiding staring. And they stew, impatiently transforming into patients.

When my name is called, I stash my illicit coffee away. I pass a sign marked “Nuclear Medicine Patients”. I’m just here for an X-ray, but still, can’t quite suppress a shiver.
The nurse called two of us at once, and asks the other patient to wait, while she instructs me how to don the paper gown and plastic-garbage-bag belt. I’m given the luxury of a private closet to change, but I’ll have to pass the other patient on my way, sporting my medical haute couture. I feel badly for hoping he’ll be too preoccupied to notice.
After being prodded into various positions, holding my breath, holding still, and prodded again, I’m told that we’re all done, and asked could I wait just a minute while my X-rays are looked over? I deconstruct the motivational poster, while waiting for the nurse to decide whether she needs to call a doctor.
I’m led back to the change closet, deemed not to be of any immediate concern. I take the time to pick apart the knot I made in my single-use garbage-bag belt.

On my way back to the waiting room and blue-bootie freedom, I see a computer screen blinking “In / Out / Transfer”.
I’m one of the lucky ones. I passed.

As I upgrade my feet from bootied to booted, I see the waiting room differently. It isn’t categorized into patients and supporting family members. It’s divided by those that are comfortable with the concept of their bodies falling apart on them, and those that aren’t.
The clock ticks for all of us. The idea isn’t to keep track of time, but rather, to sway to the beat.

The Amazing Almost-Four-Year-Old

“Guess what, Mumma! I know how to multitask!”
“You do?”
“Yah! I’m a multitasker!”
“OK, so, what are your skills?”
“I can brush my teeth and go pee at the SAME TIME!”
“Wow.”
“Yah.”