Saturday, December 31, 2011

It's Not So Bad, This Getting Older

So much good packed into a blink of aging that I'm working hard at denying - impossible when my children insist on registering each year and inch and snippet of new wisdom.

I arrive to work on this dawning of the thirty-two to be serenaded in the foyer by waiting co-workers intent on celebrating my birth to which I'm sure I blushed and nodded, embarrassed and thrilled.  And there on my desk, like a rainbow, six beautiful cupcakes wait to bless my taste buds and my waist line.  Such thoughtfulness!  No wonder I love my job!

Hours scattered in blessings on me - a plethora of emails and facebook posts, the visiting of my parents with their own little chocolate cupcake and yellow candle, the fireman picture from my ever-thoughtful sister, the flowers...



...He's probably 65, shuffling along the carpet, dragging one bum leg in a weird side-dodder, seeking me out, tucked there in my office at 628 11th Street.  He carries sunshine, bursts of yellow wrapped in cellophane and pink tissue paper and he places it on my desk and I think my face might burst because I'm so surprised.  I have never had flowers delivered to me.  Maybe getting another year older isn't going to be so bad.


I'm thinking dear husband has upped his game, cherishing our little joke with the scratchy penmanship on the card..."I would catch a grenade for you."   He denies any knowledge, foolish not to take the credit but honest and confused.

Then I know.  It couldn't be anyone else.  Her.  The one I will grow old with.  Are you the one responsible for the beauty on my desk?  And her reply says, of course, though her words say, "throw my hand on a blade for ya!"  And I know she really would.

It's rare.  This friendship we have - this freedom for honesty - this for better or for worse life sharing.  How blessed am I to be always welcome, always wanted, cherished even?


Of course, we had to go.  Through fog and freezing rain to spend a beautiful night laughing together, tears weeping down our faces - I wanted nothing else.  Not enough sleep but more than enough love and now I can get busy making my way to a fabulous thirty-three.  With bells on.

Christmas Cake


I felt the heaviness of the ending the moment it was over.  Like suddenly the lights on the tree weren't so bright and I couldn't believe how much space I'd lost in the living room - happily given up in anticipation a month ago, now facing the dreaded tear down that needs to happen but leaves me empty.

I adore Christmas.  I just wish it didn't leave me breathless, craving a week of straight sleep, just one moment to rest my feet...a cabin in the woods with just myself and a keyboard...

There's joy in the excitement of children - even in their hyper, bounce-off-the-wall, break the nativity Mary (which made me want to cry).  There's joy in the gathering.  There's joy in the food.  There's joy in the reason.  There's joy in the laughing later over the things that almost had me a snivelling mess in the kitchen...



Just a birthday cake.  That's all I'm responsible for.  A birthday cake for Jesus because the kids would like it.  Because it's a fun way to remember.

I thought I was being clever and time saving by using a boxed mix.  Double layer carrot cake.  Cream cheese icing.  Adorable little Baby Jesus in a manger with a doting lamb beside to lay atop.  Easy, right?

The cake splits coming out of the pan.  Crumbles into the icing as I spread it.  Poor Jesus sinks down in the top like he's drowning in a sea of white caps and red sugar sprinkles.  And I am furious!  It's Christmas Eve.  Santa gets delicious homemade cookies and eggnog and Baby Jesus gets a war zone.

Noa watches me fume..."It's o-tay, Mommy," as I struggle to glue things back together with more icing.

Scott comes in, half-grin.  My irritation amuses him.

"This is a waste of my life!"

And he laughs.

"Mommy's weeeeeal fwustwated!"

If I don't pull it together I'm going to get coal in my stocking.  So I give up.  Cover it.  Put it away for the night.  It's not worth it.

In the morning there is a fissure through it, cracked down the centre, pieces flopped to the side...Dear eight pound, six ounce infant Baby Jesus, please forgive me...I have no gift to bring, Pa-Rumpa-Pum-Pum!...



Coffee gurgles and the children open their stockings.  I make the waffles and cut the strawberries and fry the sausage and add extra marshmallows to the hot chocolate.  Gifts are opened and the intense lego building begins.


And I observe this mess.  This creation that has un-created itself before it could be called anything worth mentioning.  So I make pies.  And the house smells like cinnamon.  Like Grandma's.  And it doesn't matter anymore - that mistake.  I'm already forgiven.

Jesus probably prefers pie anyway.

And now it's over.  Garland already dusty.  Snow heavy and dirty.

And I'm ready for summer.  Or a really good vacation.  Pa-Rumpa-Pum-Pum!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Hustle and The Bustle


Christmas.  We wait for it.  Count days.  Eat advent chocolate. 

I wish you could catch it.  Just grab a piece and preserve it  - form it into something beautiful - but it's just too fast. 

I'm watching hours fly in a blur and the bustle of shopping and the lines at Walmart and the discussion of the perfect decor atop the Jesus birthday cake and the baking and the wrapping and reading the Grinch fourteen times and the school concerts and the church production and the papermacheing set-pieces in the kitchen and the 'yes, we're still having staff meeting on Wednesday' and the 'why does Zander get the biggest present?' and 'can we open them now...can we, please...PLEASE???' and the eggnog and the forgetting to buy cream cheese and no time to write and nights are too short and how on earth can a family of five fill the laundry hamper in one stinking day?...

"Mommy, what do you want for Christmas?"

"Oh, not much...I'd like to sleep until 10:10, wake up to a knock on the door which is the delivery of a perfect cup of coffee and then I'd like to sit on the deck and drink it while Harry Connick Jr. plays Winter Wonderland on a grand piano in the snow."

"I don't think you're getting that."

Yeah, I don't think so either.

As much as I yearn for stillness a part of me loves the chaos because in it all there's just enough time to build memories and laugh together.  It's no Harry Connick Jr. but I'll bet he doesn't smell like gingerbread!






Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Parking Violation

"Pardon me?"  He's leaning over to the passenger window, white beard stained tobacco yellow.  He's three decades too old to have kids go here.

"Yes?" I say.

"Do you think I came at 2:30 just to let someone like you block me in?"

In fairness to him, I am about two feet from the curb - tucked nicely behind the Staples delivery van.  In all fairness to myself, we are in the large school driveway and I'm at least six feet ahead of him - more than enough room for him to pull out around me.

"Are you leaving right now?" I ask him.

"Doesn't look like it, does it?"

The condescension flaming off his words digs at me and I am immediately angry but I lace my voice in holiday sweetness, "I'm so sorry.  I'll move it right away."

I go back to my car, pull it out and across to the other side of the driveway.  Then I walk past him again and smile on my way to get Liam.  I hope he feels like a turd.

I collect both boys, feeling victory boil as I get to pull out of the parking lot before he collects whatever rug rats he's responsible for.  Looks like you didn't need me to move after all.  Merry Christmas, Scrooge!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Where Angels Fear To Tread

There are certain jobs worth avoiding at all costs.  The problem is, avoidance doesn't solve anything - it just prolongs the inevitable.

We didn't really believe the extent of the damage an ugly little beast could create.  Classic denial.  It just couldn't be that bad.

And now the snow flies.  And the floor is freezing.  And it just can't be forgotten.  There's no sidestepping frozen tile on an early morning.

Rats.  A thousand curses on their beady skulls!  Killing them all was only the first step.  How they mock us now from their blighted coffin beneath the floor...You poison us? - we'll show you - we'll pull down every little piece of insulation, tear it up, poop in it, make you think you're safe through the sweet waves of summer, make you forget, make you avoid and then BAM - winter, bet you didn't know linoleum could feel like ice, did you?   Bet you thought you'd won.

I am a sight to be reckoned with: my father's coveralls, rubber boots, hair tucked up into a toque, bandana over my mouth and nose, hood tied tight against any invader, work gloves - pretty is for the birds.

A deep breath and a decent into the bowels of Queen Street hell.

Here is the cork of joy.  Here is some wily demon erasing all things bright and beautiful.  Here is solitary confinement.

The work lamp pierces shadow and scatters ghosts.  Dust dances in the beam, filthy pirouettes of mocking delight.  It smells of dirt and emptiness - this place never touched by sun or love.  There is less than two feet.  I am restricted to my back or my belly and I move slowly, replacing insulation that is salvageable and awkwardly stuffing garbage bags with what is not.

I feel them all around me.  I feel their eyes.  Their whiskers.  The tickle of their ghosts.  I have disturbed this, their holy ground.  I hum to kill their hold and I hold my own until a fat, scowling carcass falls, bouncing off my stomach to rest, staring at me through empty sockets leaking nightmares.

I recoil.  Backpedaling.  I hit my head on a beam and lay straight back in the dirt, my breath causing the dust to roil and laugh.  My heart races, wild and off-beat, and I find my own rigor mortis - frozen here on this bed of earth, this grave of the countless horde.

When I am calm, I can carry on.  When I crawl I can hear a snap and pop and I know I've just put my knee on another one.  It breaks apart beneath me - nothing but bones and fur.  I feel it's fury in every shiver on my spine.

This is the ugliest place in the world.  I miss the sun.  I miss the living.

And when I am resurrected - birthed from the trapdoor in a burst of tearing eyes and coughing - I count my blessings in a scalding shower, burning the fibreglass from my pores, steaming death from my lungs, sucking sunshine from the window and feeling the kitchen the floor that is a little less cold now that I've descended into the darkest pit where even angels fear to tread.

More rat stories?
Look Who Wears The Pants Now
Massacre At 212 Queen St S
Where Angels Fear To Tread Part 2

Monday, December 5, 2011

Don't Stop Believing

I see it happen.  That little piece, breaking off from the magic of childhood, crushed by the truth he's sure he has witnessed.  The end of the believing.  Fairies aren't real.  I have failed him.

There's worry etched across his face, like maybe he's in the wrong, like maybe I was right and by not brushing she overlooked the newest falling out.  "Dare wasn't any money under my piwlow."

And I take it like a punch to the gut.

"Did she fowget me?"

"Maybe she's just late...or maybe you didn't look hard enough..."  I am discretely moving into the bedroom where I palm a coin off the dresser while he follows me like a sad shadow.

"But I wooked evwywhere!"

"Do you want me to look?"

He shrugs, "I duess." And follows me up the stairs.

I dig around his bunk, a ziplock baggie with baby tooth disappears into my sleeve.  I reach down the edge of the mattress, just in case she dropped it back there.  I make sure it 'tings' against the side...such a clever minks am I!  "Liam, look!" I present the coin - all apology and magic.

He takes it.  He looks at it.  He looks at me.  He's annoyed.  "You dust did dat."

"What are you talking about?"

"You dust put it dare!"  And he marches down the stairs.

And I am the worst mother in the world.

He announces to his brother that my foolery will make no fool of him and he hurrumphs when his brother defends the sweet fairy..."Mommy's right, she was probably just running late or something...she probably snuck in when you were downstairs."

"Whatever, Zander!  Dat's so dumb!"

And because I am ruined over my ruining I spend my lunch break perfecting the ruse with a clever letter designed to magically appear among the mail.


I read it for him.  He is skeptical.  "You dust wote dat."

But as night falls, he can't stop himself from looking for the moon, seeking out that bright star to the right, straining for a glimpse of that shinning dream - because maybe, just maybe, fairies are real, maybe magic is real and maybe his tooth really is a brand new star.

Want to make a letter of your own? Pop over to my retail page and grab yourself a sticker pack!

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