Wednesday, August 31, 2011

This Little Light Of Mine

He tries so hard to hold it together.  Biting his lip and blinking back, eraser angry - vindictive spelling mistake leering from scarred page, curled like a tissue as his eyes begin to leak.  Desperate to create.  Even artists need time.  He sees that now but he fights against it with trembling chin.  He wants to do it all and he's only left himself two days.  I'm trying not to hurt for him.  I sit across the table.  Place my hand over the paper - torn like his spirit.
"Look at me."
His eyes are red and shinning and tears trace trails around his freckles and he's still that baby boy I used to rock and hold no matter how big he is now.
"If it's not fun, it's not worth it."
He can't respond because his chest is heaving.

I wanted him to learn self-motivation.  I wanted him to take ownership of this project, this showing at the local fair - this creating from a list for a judge.

"Are you having fun?"
He shakes his head.
"You don't have to enter everything.  Choose the ones you want to do and forget about the rest."
"But...I...want...to...win...most...points." He stumbles around each word, choking on frustration.
"Wouldn't you rather do really well on a few things instead of just okay on everything?"
"I...want...to...win...most...points." But he looks down at the mess in front of him, the Homecoming Harvest Party invitation and menu that says "pumkin" and "turky" and he shutters through another breath and one last tear escapes.  "Okay."

He asks if I can help him make a candle.

We dig through my candle box.  Make piles of each colour he wants.  Tears are forgotten as we watch the wax liquify in a tin plate on the stove, fascinated by the process of soft and hard - the melting and the pouring and the waiting and the melting.  Wax spills across the stove top but it doesn't matter because he's laughing and we're doing it together and it's fun.  He creates beauty - this little light of mine - and he's proud.



Then, looking at the leftover coils of wick we see new ideas and I get him some paper and he re-dips each string and lays it upon paper just so and from this garbage chaos comes art.  Art worthy of a fair and after that a prominent wall in my home.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tree Tour

It's was our tired feet that drifted us from asphalt path to grass, so soft to weary soles.  Had we been rested and eager we would never have noticed - just barrelled on like every other tourist aiming for the seventh forgotten natural wonder of the world.  We would have missed this history.  This beauty in bark and sap and wood, some so ancient and enormous that all five of us could barely touch finger tips when we embraced it's antiquity (ignoring the oriental tourist lens wanting to capture these Canadian tree huggers).  We traced shapes in the scars and dizzied ourselves trying to see the highest leaf, taking our time to wander around these stakes of time.



And standing alone in the field, hung about like a mistake, like a make-believe portal to Wonderland, this little cave beneath natural misshapen arbour that we ducked into like a secret, pirates in search of gold.  And there, contained upon secluded trunk, someone had written my love story, tattooed it upon the flesh of the living, and I felt an instant ownership over this moment, hidden in this private cove, fingers tracing the letters of my heart.






And though the rushing waters are an amazing feat of nature, I think it was the trees that captured me this time, writing with sap words of wind and beauty and peace and history upon my spirit.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Marineland

We watch dolphins dance.  Synchronized and fluent - all shiny and dripping grace.  Grey beasts of beauty.  They make me want to cry and I can't figure out why.


Tales Out Of Camp

"What's dat sound?" Liam asks.
We're on the dirt path making our way back to the campsite.  The air is shrill with a thousand frogs.  We pause and stare up - no moon for the trees - stars wink to amphibian song.  "The frogs are singing," I tell him.
"How do tadpoles even make fwogs anyways?"  He's holding my hand and half resting his head against my side.  Because he's tired.  Because it's so dark no one will see him needing me.
"That's how they start out.  As tadpoles.  Then one day - POP! - their legs come out and their tails are gone and they're frogs."
"Oh."  He kicks a stone.  "Dat's weird."

Morning comes and neighbours make our mouths water with the coiling scent of bacon and the hiss of pancake batter rising from their coleman stove while we lift a french fry from the Happy Meal box and salute nature.  We're hardly campers.  Not even a lantern to play a proper game of Yahtzee in the shadow of the campfire.  No firewood so we're forced to pay $25 at the front gate rip-off store.  No ice so the watermelon ferments.  No tarp.  No clothesline.  But we have a jackknife.  And eight children.  Welcome to our paradise.

We have counted down to this since the beginning of summer.  Now, as fire begins to burn the edge of the maple, as thoughts of school darken days early, as nights become cool, we step upon this Niagara soil - this Big Love blending of best friends and night time giggle fits - for one last burst of summertime family fun.

And it is.  Fun.  Late nights and early mornings and polygamist hair and burned marshmallows and campfire stories and rememberings and the 'I would catch a grenade for you' argument for the seventeenth time and showers that slam you into the wall and Columian ex-drug runners and laughing until we grow a new wrinkle and "would somebody please, please, please make a Tim Horton's run" and family and love and nature and peace and the crackling of fire and the snoring of Jeff and nature peeing and the stars - all one hundred million billion of them.

We may not be campers but we camped the snot out of this weekend!



Campsite Salon
brunch at a diner - our idea of camp food!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Room

I wanted to read it from the moment I heard the CBC interview with Emma Donoghue but was (in)patiently waiting for the paperback.  (I adore books but if my love cost $30 every time I wouldn't be able to keep groceries in the house.)  I was thrilled the moment I saw it peeking from a pile of discounts at a liquidation store - marked down to $11 because the dust jacket had a small tear - a tiny little miracle with my name written all over it.

I read it over two days.

It has changed me.

I'm looking at the world with Jack eyes and it's fascinating.  The perfectly captured five-year-old voice is intoxicating.

Read this book.  Read it quickly so that you absorb it into yourself.  Never look at a wall or a sink or a tooth the same way again.

Buy it.  Borrow it.  Download it.  Whatever.  Just read it.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Take Me Home

We may be a generation apart but I count her among my favourite people in the world.  When news reached me that her husband and best friend was gone, it broke me.  The love she has for him is palpable, a tangible affection that reflects in her eyes every time she says his name.  And why should he be stolen?  Rent from her heart in swift and violent aneurism.  Seems God has lost his sense of humour this time.  Or heaven lacked so he took back one of the best.

My heart breaks for her.  For the moment it becomes reality and she sits in her quiet house, or wanders to the barn to hug the horses who always love her back, or sees the new toothbrush she just bought him that he'll never use.

I was blessed to stand quietly on the stage while his life was honoured.  Blessed to celebrate his life with the soft strum and pick of my guitar.  Blessed to listen to the words of the song, so capturing the essence of his heart - a little secret between her and I - this secret obsession of ours.

I didn't know him well but I knew him enough to know that the world has a little less sunshine now that he's gone.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

From The Land

"I know one thing...whoever the Creator is, he's pretty brilliant.  Just look at all this!"  The Farmer sits in a dirty canvas chair beside the ashy, unlit fire pit, peeling garlic, smoking, grinning at the kids over at the frog pond as they try to fill the red bucket with the little amphibians, indicating this panoramic picture of green - trees, old and scarred, log home and rotted porch, kittens and hammocks, blue skies and sunshine.

We've come for a taste of earth - to get our hands dirty - to explore this organic, living off the land.  When we trek through the field, kicking dust and stones it is in search of our dinner, cradled in this acre nook of Grey County.

The Farmer's wife and I kneel before inexhaustible tomato plants so heavy and bent.  She talks of concord grapes and baking bread and winter markets where she'll sell these very fruit, blended into sauces and relish.  We fill a laundry tub - so heavy she leaves it waiting at the end of the row for the Farmer to carry.

The children duck through corn, breaking off cobs.  They pull back straw to turn potatoes from soil.  They pull carrots.  Garlic.  Onions.  Cucumbers and beets.  We say farewell with dusty feet and trunk laden with goods.

 There is something beautiful and immensely satisfying about cooking dinner with dirt beneath your fingernails.









Friday, August 12, 2011

Smells Like Dead Squirrel

They've been coming for a few hours now.  I, sitting at the kitchen counter with watch and paper, marking the pains that aren't really pains yet but four minute intervals means it's time to go.  I touch this rock beneath my shirt, this life that roils beneath my skin, feeling the morphing and shifting, the alien boil - like the top crust of a chicken pot pie below the oven broiler.



I will meet her soon - this daughter I've dreamed of since I held my first doll.  And I'm terrified that she will not be beautiful.  It wouldn't be fair, would it?  For God to give me three beautiful children?  What if the boys ate up all the beauty I had left to give and she is sand - not sunshine?  This is where my heart is.  Selfish.  Stupid.  Sweet baby, it doesn't matter how much you hurt me, just please, please, please be pretty!

I am calm, so he is calm.  With no gasp of pain there is no need to rush and since the car needs oil I sit in the gas station parking lot while he tops it up - best friend seething in the back seat as I catch my breath through a new contraction.

And he climbs back in, fresh purchased Red Bull can flashing in August sunlight.  "I hate the smell of Red Bull!" I announce as if he doesn't already know.

"Hmmmm," and he cracks open the can.

I am nauseous with the smell -  like rot - like a dead squirrel.  I open the window.

Her anger boils from the backseat.  "As if you just opened that in front of your wife who is in labour!"

And he just laughs because he's sure it really doesn't bother me all that much and he pulls back onto the street while I ignore him and she tries really hard to hate him.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Guilt Trip in Times New Roman

You're regretting it already, aren't you?  Sitting there among the day-cares thinking, "Gee, if Alanna were here she could hold the screaming baby while I make lunch..."  And I would have too.  But whatever.  I love you today the same as yesterday...


"Mommy, can I play Angry Birds?"  He's got that I dare you to try and say no to me because I know you can't...just look at my adorable eyes look on his face.
I sigh and turn on my phone - scroll through the apps to find it for him.


*RING*RING*


And there's your pretty face staring up at me from the screen, begging me to answer, the ringing sounding like an apology.  Your ears must have been burning.


And while my intention here was to make you feel guilty for telling me you were too busy to see me, it seems to have morphed into a I've got you wrapped around my little finger sort of thing.  You just can't say no to me...


I could fill this up with all kinds of sentiment but I won't because you'd cry.  Let's just be each others heroine.  I'll bring you your fix.  You bring me mine.



Wednesday, August 10, 2011

An Unrequested Thank You Means So Much More

He is petulant and hard to please, wrapping himself in a quilt of surly attitude that hurts my heart when he hurls arrows of 'dat's so dumb' at my efforts.  Sometimes, I reach into my pocket, pretending to pull out invisible secrets and whip proverbial happiness across the room at him. Sometimes this warrants a giggle.  Sometimes a stomping march up the stairs.

But there are moments.  Little snapshots of grace.  Seconds of peace and sweetness before he catches himself - embarrassed - and runs back to tough - ninjas are cooler than princes.

I took him to see the movie he wanted so badly to see.  Army men and bad guys and superheroes danced across drive-in screen.  Us, in the back of grandmas van, pulling in our over-hung feet when rain poured and lightning cracked the sky beside a Marvel battle.  "Dis is da most awesome movie in da whole worwld!"  

And as credits rolled and I bent across his sleepy self to buckle him in he laid a hand on my arm.  "Tank you for bwinging me to da drwive-in, Mommy."  

Out of nowhere, this sleepy affection, and I'm smiling into the darkness and the bottoms of my track pants are wet from puddles and I feel like the best mother in the whole world.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Letter for a Daughter

You have been steeped in sweetness.  Made for my heart.  Grown beneath it and in it and I wish you the world: enough happiness to fill an ocean, enough adventure to thrill you, enough sense to ground you.  Never loose your wonder.  Chase butterflies.  Love wild daisies as much as trained and tended roses.  Dance.  Go barefoot.  Believe in fairies.  Believe in magic.  Eat the icing first.  Be yourself.  Be true.  Wear sunscreen.  Tell the truth.  Lick the bowl.  Drink decaf.  Ask questions.  Be the very best version of who you are.  Never change because who you are is perfect I am beyond blessed to call you my own.

Happy Birthday, baby girl.  I love you to the moon and back.

A cupcake & tea party for her third birthday.


Friday, August 5, 2011

Fred

Sallow skin rolls over tired bones, coils of memory in spidering veins, quiver of eyelids over dreams. He is a stranger.  Whiskers like tree bark as I kiss his paper cheek.  Shuddering breath.  Arms bruised to shades of red and purple.  This is the colour of cancer.  This is the colour of endings.  This road is hard marked and pain-smoke billows from eyes once vibrant and laughing - now glassy and fading.

There are no comfort in words.  He knows the truth of it even behind the false hope of a good day.

"Mommy?"
"Yes, Zander?"
"Is heaven the same for everyone?  I mean, will Grandpa's heaven be the same as my heaven?"
"There's only one heaven."
"But will it look different to Grandpa than it does to me?  'Cause we don't really like the same stuff.  If heaven's cool for me, will it be boring for Grandpa?  And will Grandpa be able to see us from there?  And will his hair grow back?  Will he still be old?  Will Grandpa meet Moses?"

It's the waiting that's the killing.  It's the good day's that make the bad day's debilitating.  It's the knowing.  Knowing that memories of sickness are all the children will have.  If I could, I would wrap them up in a bubble and float them back to those days before.  Before his body betrayed him.  Before his humour was wasted.  Before he lost vibrancy for weariness...

...Pastel walls hold us in this cradle of family, hung in portraits and flowers and pinks and blues, Dundalk beyond the panes, farting dogs upon the carpets.  We sit around the dinning room table, eating cheesies, playing Aggravation.  He never stops singing.  He rolls the dice and sings his numbers - sings his counting - sings as he sends my marble back to the start.  He is happy and silly.  He blames the dog farts on me  - blames me through song - throws back his head and laughs when I deny.  "I like this one, Scotty - she's a good one!"  His face is cracked in lines of happiness, creases of life-well-lived.  I tease him.  I mess up his hair - silver shocks of curling comb-over.   If ever there was goodness in a man, it is here in tenor sing-song glory...  

He fell in love with me in an instant.  Thought me daughter long before law made it so.  Trusted me with the heart of his youngest.  Smiled over me.  Laughed with me.  Prayed for me.

There is a picture of us - washed in 90's sunlight on the cement pad of a motel pool.  He all smiles and good health.  I, awkward child in blue rugby pants and grandpa's tractor sweater, leaning into him, grinning at the camera.  I want this picture.  More than anything, I want to see his face the way I want to remember him.  But I can't find it and that kills me.  I have only the memories that fight with reality, morphing from mirth to the waiting that has us tense and fighting inevitability.  What if, for one moment, we could have him as he was?  Freeze-frame that vitality like a postcard - him caught in a moment of joy, skin rosy and alive - scratchy penmanship on the back...See you later, Alligator.  And goodbye would be a silly joke - we'd laugh over it and hang it on the fridge under the pink pig magnet so we could see the postmark: Heaven - and be washed in peace and shinny memories.

I watch him snuggle the granddaughter he'll never see turn four.  I watch his pain weigh heavy and wish him only peace.  I don't know how to feel.  I don't know what I'm allowed to feel.  I do know that I love him.  I do know that etching his goodness into my children is a responsibility I will take seriously.

"Mommy?"
"Yes, Zander?"
"Do you think Grandpa will be happy in heaven?  Like, will he play and stuff?"
"Absolutely!"
"Will he miss us?"
"No.  Missing is sad and heaven is happy.  But he'll wait for us.  We'll see him again."
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