Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The first step is the hardest

I'm at the mall. I've been pacing back and forth in front of one particular store, a store I swore I would never willingly enter on my own. I swore I would never do this thing.
But it's clear that I no longer have a choice.

My friends tell me that the first step is the hardest, that I'll thank myself when it's over, and that they know how hard it is and will be there for me if I need to talk about them.

I am going into Talbots.

(Post-script: And inside Talbots? My childhood piano teacher, now something like 110 years old, buying the exact same sensibly-hemmed dress that I'm buying, but in a more daring colour.)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

You're that baby

Today as I was checking out at a local bookstore, I noticed the unusual name of the young woman helping me out. "There was a baby with that name at my wedding," I ventured, basically knowing already what was about to happen.

And sure enough, I asked after her last name and discovered her to be, in fact, the 22-year-old daughter of friends with whom we'd lost touch, but with whom we were quite close for a time. The last time I'd seen her, she was peeking out of a sling on her mother's hip as our friends and family toasted our marriage.

"You're that baby!"

At first she was delighted--but then the tiniest, sweetest little crinkle did its best to furrow her alabaster brow at me, whom she'd last seen in a long dress with flowers in my hair and the Whole Thing ahead of me.

"Am I THAT old??" she marvelled.

 Oh yes, my sweet, yes you are. And it's a swift road to where you're headed, believe me. We were both babies, once.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Fine and Dry in the Lesser Antilles

One of the things I like best about Al Jazeera is the international weather forecast. Tonight, for example, despite beheadings in the Maghreb, ebola in Liberia, Tomahawk missiles in Iraq, and the sweaty spectre of global warning, I hear this: it is fine and dry in the Lesser Antilles.

And that means the Lesser Antillean macaw is safe.

Beautiful plumage. Good to know that it's not wet and miserable.

This guy, a solendon, is also, at least tonight, secure.
Solendons are venomous and nocturnal--basically, they're poisonous shrews--and apparently are very similar to species that lived near the end of the age of the dinosaurs. They look super scary to me and will probably appear very soon in a nightmare near me, but they are warm and dry for now. Endangered as a species, but individually warm and dry.

Look at those teeth.

The neotropical otters of Trinidad are similarly well set up.

I don't know about you, but that otter's fur is weirdly soothing to me. No conditioner or anti-frizz products and just look at that do. It's perfect. Some of us are made perfectly. 

Speaking of Trinidad, they seem like really nice people; today they're celebrating 38 years as a republic. San Fernando Mayor Kazim Hosein speaks of them as "one large family."If you call this number, 1 868 358 9261, you can pick up some Calypso records for $10. Here's the first calypso song ever recorded, by Lovey's String Band (1912). Nice little pick-me-up as we try not to contemplate what's happening in eastern Ukraine. Personally, I imagine Lovey's players as all being neotropical otters with excellent hair.

If you are experiencing despair in any of its forms as a result of being an informed citizen of the world, take a moment and remember that, for the moment, some of us are doing fairly well. In Trinidad, for example, the million or so people, 450 bird species, 108 types of mammals, 55 reptiles, 25 amphibians and 620 types of butterflies are all warm and dry. God bless them.

And, at the risk of sounding maudlin, or monotheistic, or overly dramatic, I hope he or she or it or they blesses all of us. We could use it.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Witch of Oakridge

Yesterday before driving Kid to school, I got up and obeyed Mr Nenshi, as we all do, and went out back with the broom to save the trees from their crushing burden of summer snow. Here's the thing about that: unless your trees are bonsai, there's an excellent chance that you're going to be standing under them while trying to remove snow from their branches. Within 5 minutes I was drenched in snow, had been bonked on the head with many small, mean-spirited and never-to-grow-old apples, and had been soundly cursed by a pair of squirrels for no good reason. I was cold all day and I was mean all day.

Turns out I was also something else all day.

This morning in the shower, I discovered three downy feathers and bits of bird nest in my hair.

Clearly, I had been wearing them for an entire day AND NO ONE SAID ANYTHING ABOUT IT.

The feathers were smallish and maybe white enough to blend into my hair, but the twigs and string? All I can conclude is that everyone thought it was something I did on purpose and they were too frightened to mention it.

I think I might be the neighborhood witch.

I bet the children tell tales about how I have chicken legs, how I have a stuffed badger on my mantlepiece that I talk to at night, that they should never come here for Halloween because I might slip them a poison apple. My whiskery chin is much commented upon. Bullies probably push terrified smaller kids onto my lawn. It's why the neighbors don't wave, why I've not been invited to a book club, why the mailman mysteriously does not deliver mail on Wednesdays.

There are upsides and there are downsides to this situation.

Downside: I will never find a babysitter.
Upside: I won't need one as I will be at home, cackling over insalubrious soup.
Downside: When I actually am old, no kid will be my Snow Angel.
Upside: No one will report me to the city for not shoveling my walk.
Upside: Loud next-door neighbors might be diverted from loudness by feverishly making witch cake.
Downside: They would feed it to Elvis and he needs no help in the upset stomach department.
Upside: I never have to read "Tuesdays with Morrie." 
Downside: There isn't one. 
Biggest Upside of Them All: Witches are supposed to have chin whiskers.

Today, the Witch of Oakridge is off to purchase bulk quantities of fillet of fenny snake and maybe a little hemlock or venomous toad. It won't be worse than what I usually cook for dinner.

Saturday, September 6, 2014


My experience of having elderly parents has been mostly very excellent. They are too slow to catch one when one is running fast from the scene of That Was My Grandmother's Teapot. Their days of rising at dawn are long gone, making it possible for one to watch Hanna-Barbera cartoons for many Saturday-morning hours while consuming an entire box of Cap'n Crunch and holding one's younger siblings in a variety of acrobatic headlocks, also for hours. Their hearing is imperfect, making at least vaguely possible such largely implausible situations as "Well, even 'puck face' isn't a nice thing to call your sister." Later in all of our lives, they have forgotten what a lot of trouble one has been, how expensive, how annoying, how disrespectful, and recall only things like that time when you brought them a lovely lasagne three Februarys ago.

This week, however, my elderly father--obsessed by the goal of having a house more or less completely emptied before he dies--issued an ultimatum. Either the three of us girls get down into that basement and decide which vinyl records we wanted to keep or they were all going to the garbage dump.

My mind went back to my Lakeview Village adolescence. Watching FM Moving Pictures Sunday night on public access TV, running out the next afternoon to buy records at Sam the Record Man, records that would confirm my identity as "alternative." I was as alternative as a well-brought-up pudgy rich kid with good grades, bad hair, baggy burlap clothing and a vast array of sensible shoes could be.  I needed that music desperately, for reasons that had about as much to do with the actual music as it had to do with what I believed myself to be, despite all visible clues to the contrary. Joy Division, The Cure,  Echo and the Bunnymen, Jesus and Mary Chain, Kate Bush, Elvis Costello, Yazoo, Bowie, Roxy Music.  My life was elsewhere. In a very cool place that was not our Tudor-inflected basement with its sauna and red shag rug. It was probably in London, it was definitely dressed in black, and if its footwear was sensible, it was sensible because no way I was going to trip and fall while dancing my ass off at Club for Heroes, Billy's, or some random night clubs on battleships moored on the Thames.

This is going to be fabulous, I tell my own family. We can take some of those iconic covers and decorate that one tricky wall with them. I envision myself playing the no-doubt scratchy LPs to my son, letting him get a taste of what "real music" is and helping him see his boring old mother in a new way.  I imagine my husband remembering our shared-but-separate youth and recalibrating his decades-old idea of who he married. Maybe we would all go internet shopping for some tasteful punk-inflected jackets. Some pointy-toed boots. MAYBE KID WOULD WANT SOME EYELINER. We are all about to become super interesting to one another.

A portly middle-aged work-at-home mother with silver hair and a trick knee, I bounce with uncharacteristic energy into my parents' basement to greet my super-interesting younger self.

And find this. 


I am writing this under the light of a single naked bulb, crouched on the unfinished cement floor near the water softener. Clearly, it is here, in the actually pretty empty confines of my folks' basement that I must remain to the end of my days. Go ahead, bury me in this, I am already dead of shame.

And tell Bryan Ferry that I always loved him, despite the "my dentures hurt" face he couldn't stop making.

I guess it happens to all of us.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Day 1

It's the first day of school! It's the first day of school!


I can change back into my pajamas, eat a bag of chips for breakfast, watch the Season 3 finale of Once Upon a Time, play music with inappropriate lyrics, paint my toenails in the kitchen, go out for coffee, go shoe shopping, chat online with certain favorite people in Minnesota and Germany and across the park, I can finally sit down in front of my long-neglected manuscript, and I generally celebrate my freedom.

Mostly, though, I will be sitting quietly on the couch, missing my boy, hoping he solves his girl trouble, smiling at the thought of his inevitable lunchtime chocolate-milk mustache and what that says about his relative maturity, and waiting to hear the first tales about Grade 6 with his favorite teacher.  It's Day 1 of the last year of real childhood.

Let the bell ring. Soon.

(PS: I will get over it. We'll talk tomorrow.)

Monday, August 11, 2014

No idea

Today I had a long chat with a lovely elderly gentleman at my local Co-op. Older gentlemen like me a lot. I think it's because my silver hair makes them feel safe, like--despite being a spectacularly well-preserved 51--I might have some insight into where they are, some inkling of that place I'm headed, and might also know a thing or two about produce. As a result, I often have friendly discussions with the old guys at the grocery store while I'm helping them buy ripe cantaloupe, avoid mushy bananas, or find the kind of yogurt that. . . you know.

But from now on I'll be shopping for groceries in a head-to-toe disguise because REAL-LIFE STORY:  Today I learned, while comparing groceries with the gentleman being me in the Fast Check line (we both had dairy products and cereal!) that, unlike me,  Lanny's wife, the much-missed Ann-Marie, preferred her tampons to have a deodorant in them, on account of her impaired mobility toward the end of her life. (I didn't ask what the correlation was.) (Rare burst of sagacity on my part.) Sometimes they made her itch, but the ones she liked best didn't. He wasn't sure what she would make of these new "pearl" tampons. He was on the verge, I swear, of asking me to give him a product review, just for old times' sake, when the checkout clerk, a child of about 12 (are there not labour laws in place to protect all these children who suddenly seem to be working in responsible positions all over this city??), saved me by grabbing the little pink box, thus completing my order. But no matter how acrobatically she scanned those little pearls of great worth, the machine would not beep.
Other things started to happen.


Lanny: I used to be able to buy Ann-Marie a box of a dozen of those scented tampons for about $2.50, I think. Seems like a lot when you get right down to it.

(I think Ann-Marie has been in the Great Beyond for quite some time.)

Me: I will just go check and I'll be right back.

(Confession: I was thinking about fleeing. I am crazy good at seeing where situations like this are heading.)


Phil returns. The price is $5.95.

Lanny: $5.95? Are you KIDDING me? I wouldn't spend more than $3 on a box of tampons for Ann-Marie!! And that's with that added perfume. Yours don't even have perfume.


Lanny: Oh, they're not for me. My dear wife, Ann-Marie, passed away a few years ago. They're for this young lady. <pats my shoulder.>


People are starting to crane their necks around the chocolate bar torture stations to check out who exactly is having all the trouble with--no: who is HAGGLING ABOUT--the price of tampons over at Cashier 3. I try to hide behind Lanny, who stops me flat in my tracks with a beefy smack on the back that nearly knocks me out of my shoes.

Lanny: That's okay, honey, they'll get this all straightened out for you in no time. I bet you just want to go home and lie down.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Sign

So I'm thinking maybe it's time for a change of attitude. Today when the grocery cashier and I were talking about the possibility of a change in weather for the weekend, I THOUGHT I was going to cross my fingers dramatically, give her one of those half grimace/half hopeful smile things that sometimes creep across my face (frightening children and small animals). What I DID, purely from muscle memory, was give her the finger.

I am running out of grocery stores that I can enter without assuming some sort of disguise. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Travel does broaden the mind so

Note: I chose "extra large" for the image size.

Think of me May 22.

I think I see the problem

Not feeling quite yourself? I might know something to cut out of your diet that will make you feel a lot lighter about life in general.

Just an idea.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Quick note

'Your children are not your children.They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself'--Gibran

Dear Life's longing for itself:
Please ask your son to pick up his freaking Lego.

All the best,

Monday, May 5, 2014

What are you afraid of?

Jann Arden tweeted today "NEVER tell people what you're afraid of."

Well, I certainly couldn't tweet it because 140 characters even times 400 wouldn't take care of everything that I'm afraid of.

Brooke Shields: I have recurring nightmares in which she's chewing on my shoulder. CHEWING, not nibbling. And I can feel her eyelashes.

Fork in the neck: Just what happened to that frog in Grade 7 in the sadistic science teacher's insane classroom of horrors. I have to sit with my back to the wall wherever I go and airplanes are a constant upset. The fact that its spleen juice shot into my eye upon puncture, necessitating a trip to the emergency eye wash station on the very first day I ever in my life wore mascara? I think that was karma announcing itself. What if it is not yet done with me??

Bug under pillow: All pillows, everywhere, even hospitals. Even when stoned on morphine because of a broken kneecap, I squirmed up and around, upsetting the bedpan, to make sure that there were no bugs under the pillow. In Alberta. In the winter.

Pee dye: When you get to be of a certain age, continence is no longer a guarantee. I don't think I'm there yet, but it's coming. I would never EVER on purpose pee in anyone's pool, but what if a little happened and I was trailed by tell-tale green dye, letting everyone know I might be the sort of person who might just pee in someone else's pool. The smell of chlorine now fills me with a sense of criminality sort of like crossing borders with nothing to declare does.

Banana shortage: WHAT WOULD I DO.

Snake in midnight toilet: Obviously.

My dog knows when I'm lying: And is judging me.
"Tell me another one, sugar."
That this look of aloof disdain has nothing to do with his essential houndiness and everything to do with being disappointed in me. That he writes things down and one day everyone will know that I often do not walk him as often or for as long as I should.

The chair will collapse: In the restaurant and everyone will laff and I will have guacamole in my hair. Only Mexican restaurants affect me in this way.

My fingernails are just waiting to shatter, right up to the elbow: I believe this requires no further comment.

I will run someone over without realizing it and then everyone will think that not only am I a killer, but I am a heartless killer: So let me just try to clear that up right now. If I run you over, I'm really sorry about that and I really truly didn't do it on purpose. It's probably just that Leonard Cohen came on the radio and I had to make an emergency swiping gesture or put my fingers in my ears.

There you have it. And that's just what I could come up with in the last 5 minutes. We should totally grab a drink and talk more about me (or, I guess, you) one of these days. But not in a Mexican restaurant. Gracias.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Spring in my step?

Okay, so since last September:
Some people I know have died.
Some people I didn't know before were born.
We have had 8 straight months of snow.
The Ice Queen herself grew so fucking sick of this weather that she buggered off to Spain.
I learned about the existence of something called a Snorlax and dipped a sad toe into the world of Pokemon tournaments.
I fell in love with this man.
I perpetrated four baking disasters on perfectly nice people who deserved better.
I didn't finish my novel but read a lot about how to finish my novel.
I established a wiry chin hair preserve.
I started doing hot yoga in an attempt to calm the hell down, but haven't been for a week because I found myself chanting "shut the fuck up shut the fuck up" for 90 minutes as a tattooed child shared his "teachings" on the meaning of life with me as I strained not to buckle at both knees in something called the happy baby pose, which involves pointing your bum at the ceiling while clutching your ankles. At my age this is known as the farting granny pose. 
I tried not to get cancer because everyone else has it and who will be the one to go down to the tuck shop for chips?
I watched my baby sisters grow old.
I avoided the gaze of a judgmental squirrel who thinks I need to cut down on the chips and rootbeer.

I wonder what you've been doing.