Have you ever felt that something was a bad idea right from the get go? Have you ever felt that the decision you are about to make is the wrong one? This is my life right now.
My life has become delineated to before and after.
This is not my city!
This city has been bad luck ever since I came down for the job interview.
It stormed the day of my interview. There were tornado warnings and pounding rains. The interview felt endless. The rules were unclear. I hate unclear rules! The interview involved a too long lunch and a road trip out to a secondary site. I got soaked at the end of it as we rushed back to the original interview site. Did I mention the tornado warnings? There were lakes puddled in the road as I tried to maneuver unfamiliar streets so that I could head back home to the city I loved.
I accepted the job even though I knew that it was not a good fit! Some situations just feel like there is no other choice. Unemployed and poor in the city I loved or a barely tolerable job in a new place that might be okay.
Then, the day I came to look at apartments, I caused a car accident that totaled my car. I looked at two places before that and rather than come back another day, I took the more tolerable one which turned out to be (in the light of day) dinghy, run-down and in need of paint and new flooring (but the location is perfect for me – I can walk every where I need to go).
Because of the car accident, I bought my step-father’s truck because everyone (but me) is of the opinion that I MUST have a vehicle. I have not driven the truck since the beginning of last October.
This is partly because of the weather – it has been a long winter; snow has fallen from October until May! I broke my wrist slipping on the ice Easter weekend and the cast has just come off. I feel broken! I can’t do what I want and cannot perform all the tasks of my job any more and I worry (occasionally) that this might get me fired (which might be a mixed blessing).
This is not my city. The weather is different here. I don’t like it. It doesn’t feel like home.
This city, this move, has been nothing but bad luck.
I know that this is partly a self-fulfilling prophecy. I didn’t want to move away from the city I loved. I don’t handle change well. I lived six years in Montreal and spent the first year only traveling between school and home. It took me a year to get comfortable enough to take the Metro and start exploring the city. By the time I left Montreal, I had fallen in love with it. It may not be the city I love the most but I would go back there again.
I don’t know which straw broke this camel’s back.
I only know that this is not my city.
I should not have taken the job. I should not have moved.
This is not my city!
I should have trusted my intuition.
Why not a space flower? Why do we always expect metal ships?
W. D. Richter
Nobody sees a flower really; it is so small. We haven’t time, and to see takes time – like to have a friend takes time.
And so our mothers and grandmothers have, more often than not anonymously, handed on the creative spark, the seed of the flower they themselves never hoped to see – or like a sealed letter they could not plainly read.
I walked to get groceries yesterday. I was feeling a little sorry for myself, the cast is annoying me, and I feel all alone with my troubles. I had walked through the park and past a fence when something caught my eye – a slogan graffiti-ed onto a white fence.
And I remembered…
When did I first see this symbol and hear this slogan?
For me, it goes back to the Vietnam War, when I was a teenager.
When I thought the solutions were simple.
I never marched. I listened to the peace anthems, I avoided the television news and I thought war was like an episode of M*A*S*H – easily solved.
I was naive. How many wars have we had since then? Why didn’t I march?
Why did seeing this yesterday on a white fence (someone still believes) make me smile?
These are my stories. Will anyone ever ask for them? Will anyone ever care what my life was like?
I have no children to embarrass with my tales, my memories, and my life. I tell my stories here into the endless void.
Do you tell your children stories?
Do they know what your traditions are? If you light candles at the window, do they know why? I walk. Why do I walk? The stories are numerous.
Do they know your family history? Who was Uncle Fred? Why did he live with Grandma Smith? Who is Grandma Smith to me?
My father died this week. I know fewer of his family stories because I did not grow up in his house. I know more of my mother’s stories.
Grandma Smith was related to my father; I think she was his mother’s mother or step-mother. I do not know. I knew my father’s parents but not well even to be gifted with their stories.
I was a quiet child. I read more than I talked. I never asked the right questions.
There are gaps in my family history and now I will never know what he could have told me.
The first stories I read were fairy tales – we had a copy of the Red Fairy book by Andrew Lang – a Christmas gift from I know not who. I’d like to know.
I read somewhere once that you should tell your children both stories; that they need to know all of it. They need to know mother’s stories and father’s stories or they will go through life unbalanced and out of sorts.
I am the child of a broken home – I grew up in my mother’s house and don’t remember meeting my father until I was almost a teenager. My mother never spoke of my father and her parents hated him. His parents lived close by and stayed involved in our lives but kept secrets – like where he was. Plus, it was obvious that we were not the favoured grandchildren.
It doesn’t matter who my father was;
It matters who I remember he was.
I don’t know if my father attended the same elementary school that I did? Did he like to run up the fire escape? Did he climb up on the roof? I suspect he would have; he was that kid of boy – reckless and adventuress.
I don’t know!
I don’t know his stories. I hear rumours. I hear snippets – who died in the fire, how were they related to me – I know they were important to him!
I don’t know who he was as a child, a teenager, a new parent or why he felt he had to leave the way he did.
I don’t know and now I’ll never know.
My dad did not tell me his stories. My Dad did not read to me. But he understood why I read. He understood that stories were important to me.
I didn’t tell him out loud – instead I wrote him poems and sent them through the mail (accusations, recriminations, apologies - silent, deadly love letters). He never answered them but I have confirmation that he kept them and maybe treasured them. I wanted him to write back. I wanted him to tell me stories. He wasn’t ready when I was ready.
While we pay lip service to the virtues of reading,
the truth is that there is still in our culture
something that suspects those who read too much…
How Reading Changed My Life
My father fell and broke his leg days before I broke my wrist.
He had surgery and seemed to be doing fine.
My eldest sister and I just went to see him.
He told us stories.
He told us about throwing a sixty pound bag of potatoes at my mother’s mother. I could picture it happening – they were both stubborn people who needed to be right and neither would have given an inch to the other.
And he told a story that I already knew, a story that my mother had already told me, about me.
She tells my story, thusly:
I was born overseas on an army base. When mom and dad headed back to Canada they had trouble proving I was theirs – Mom had been pregnant when they left Canada and so had papers for my older sisters but not me. She says that they almost didn’t let me on the plane with them. She never elaborated further then this but obviously they let me on the plane because here I am.
He says the trouble didn’t happen until we were on Canadian soil. He said we were held up at Customs by the custom’s officer. There my dad stood holding me (a cranky, stinky, fussy one year old) as we were questioned about who I belonged to. My dad basically said to the custom’s agent “if you want her, you can have her” and the agent waved us through – because obviously no one wants a fussy, stinky baby to deal with.
What I note are the differences in their stories about the same incident – how she leaves the story unfinished and he makes himself the hero. The way they tell the story reinforces what I already know about my parents. How, at that point in her life, she was looking for someone as capable as her own father always was and how he (then and now) was always the hero of his own story – right and capable against all odds.
Perhaps there no such thing as a true story,
just the echoes between different versions,
and the desire to know, that keeps us speaking,
and listening, at all…
Honey and Ashes: A Story of Family
Janice Kulyk Keefer
So, tell your children your stories. Even when they groan and moan and roll their eyes, they are listening.
As a parent, as a grandparent, in my role as an aunt – it is our responsibility to make sure that they know both sides so that they do not go through life unbalanced and out of sorts.
In even the best of caskets, it never all fits
- all that we’d like to bury in them:
the hurt and forgiveness, the anger and pain,
the praise and thanksgiving, the emptiness and exaltations,
the untidy feelings when someone dies (p. 191)
The Undertaking: Life Studies From the Dismal Trade
You think you’re going to remember everything! You live a life day by day by day and somewhere along the way you stop paying attention. In another lifetime I took care of other people’s children on a daily basis.
In the 1980s, I took care of two little boys from the time the oldest was three months old until he was seven and his younger brother was going to start Kindergarten. I quit to go back to university just before their little sister was born.
It was a Monday to Friday, four day a week gig and I would also come live-in when their parents took their annual ski trip alone. I knew these boys like they were my own. I was there to wake them up, to put them to bed, to take them to the YWCA for lessons, to travel with them on buses and in cars and to take care of them when they were sick.
Our day to day, weekly life set itself into a pattern. I would arrive before eight, they would have breakfast then watch Sesame Street from nine to ten on the days when we didn’t have to go anywhere while I made beds or started the laundry. Once a week we walked to the library, once a week we took the bus to the Y, occasionally I would attend a school event when their parents couldn’t, and every Friday we ate lunch out.
It use to be a treat to eat out. Every Friday was our day out, we’d leave the house, after beds were made, to attend gym classes at the Y until eleven and then we would go out to lunch, either at the McDonalds with the play area or to the food court at the Mall; where we went depended on whether or not we had the car or were on the bus.
When there was just one child we took the bus. After their second son was born, the parents bought an old car for me to use to drive the boys around. They were good people to work for. The car rides were punctuated with endless questions from the oldest boy and the nonsensical babbling of the younger one. I taught the eldest boy the difference between invisible and invincible (he was into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). Invisible is when they can’t see you and invincible is when they can’t hurt you.
The things you remember.
So, what does all this have to do with collecting Muppets you ask?
Obviously, when you take kids out to lunch at a fast food place you have to buy that week’s toy. Twice in this case; thankfully there was usually a choice so both boys didn’t end up with the same toy. Of course they had to pick out their own. Thankfully, we got there just before noon so we would have our lunch and toys selected before the noon hour rush began.
During the late 1980s, Muppet toys were all the rage. McDonalds had them but not Burger King (my preferred eating place which is why my memory insisted that we were collecting Muppets at Burger King until I started searching the web for information. Thank the Stars for search engines!). In 1987 the Muppet Babies were all the rage.
I remembered Gonzo on a trike and that there was Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear and Animal as well. They were all on some kind of vehicle – trike, wagon, airplane, skateboard, rocking horse. The vehicles and the babies were interchangeable. At our/their house, Kermit used the trike more than Gonzo did.
Animal with his red wagon was my favourite. According to the Muppet Wiki (Beware! This link has instant talking ads), Animal was only available in Canada. There were also a Kermit and Miss Piggy with non-removable roller skates for the youngest children.
The boys would spent hours playing with the toys as I cleaned house or relaxed with a book. It was so routine. Week after week after week the same. The same questions and the same toys. It felt like it would last forever.
You think you’re going to remember everything! You live a life day by day by day and somewhere along the way you stop paying attention.
I miss those boys. I miss all of the children I use to take care of. Parents are privileged because when their children are all grown up they are still there to ask – do you remember?
Do you remember collecting Muppets at Burger King? No, it was McDonalds.
Do you remember walking to the library?
What’s the difference between invisible and invincible?
Do they remember me?
P. S. Muppet Mindset blog here.
P. S. S. This is how much snow we’ve had this winter (2012 – 2013), posted here so that I will remember how snowy this winter was!
My mother tried to give my two year old great-nephew a five dollar bill the other day.(He’s mostly potty-trained and this was his reward).
He wouldn’t take it. As far as he was concerned, paper money is not real money. He wanted change. He wanted coin.
He wanted quarters, loonies and toonies. (Yes, Canadian money has strange names). He wanted something heavy, bright and tangible.
He wanted something that would make a clink when he put it in his piggy bank.
A few evenings ago I rolled up all my change (pennies, nickels, dimes) and went to the bank to exchange it all for bills. Every evening I empty my pockets and purse of anything that is below a quarter and throw it into an old tea canister. My purse gets tooo heavy otherwise. (Though I suppose I could carry less books).
There it sits until I feel ready to roll it or until I feel poor.
I hadn’t rolled my change for about a year but this was not a year’s worth of change. My youngest nephew was here last Spring and I gave him all my change then and started over again. The last time I rolled coins, I had about seven dollars. This time, I had fifteen dollars rolled and three dollars (approximately) left in my change container when I was done.
It isn’t a lot of money but when I feel poor (or am temporarily poor) it is enough for a week’s worth of groceries or the Saturday paper and some treats or a movie on cheap night.
When I was small my grandmother (I was her favourite) use to save up all her change to give to me. This was my mother’s mother. I didn’t feel too guilty as my siblings also had relatives that spoiled them. (And I would share my ill gotten candy sometimes). My grandmother would empty her small, red change purse into my eager little hands and I would hurry off to buy penny candy (lots and lots of penny candy). I would buy licorice shoe laces, chocolate caramels, blue whales, and red hot lips. This was back when a piece of candy cost a penny and one could choose what one wanted, piece by piece. Now, you seldom see individual candies displayed for sale; everyone is so worried about germs and contamination.
Occasionally, the old men who played horseshoes in the empty lot by the bank would give me quarters because I was cute and polite. I minded my manners and ran their errands and listened to their ramblings and watched them throw horseshoes. When I was young it seemed to me that you were rich if you had a pocket full of change to dole out at your leisure.
What do you think?
Is paper money real money?
What about plastic (debit or credit) cards; are they real money?
Does having lots and lots of change make you fill rich?
Do you love the sound of coins jingling in your pocket?
Do you want to hoard it all up so that you can dive in it like Uncle Scrooge did?
Very soon, Canada will be getting rid of its pennies. There will be no more pennies. How long before the penny disappears?
The penny will no longer be circulated in Canada as of Feb. 4, 2013.
After Feb. 4, cash transactions will have to be rounded to the nearest 5¢ increment, but electronic transactions will still be calculated down to the individual cent. So you may save money by using cash instead of plastic. Well, plastic cards that is. Our bills are also changing (to a type of plastic); the hundred, fifty and twenty dollar bills are already in transition.
The Royal Canadian Mint actually stopped producing pennies in May 2012 and as of February 4, 2013 will no longer distribute pennies. Consumers will still be able to use pennies for transactions indefinitely.When pennies aren’t available then transactions are to be rounded to the nearest five-cent increment “in a fair and transparent manner.” Which means, I guess, that if your total is below the three cent mark (ninety-two cents) you will pay no extra but will save those two cents and if it is above you will pay a nickel, that is, will be charged a few cents more. Does anyone else find this as confusing as I do?
About 35 billion pennies have been minted in Canada since 1908. The modern Canadian penny has a design of two maple leaves on a twig. The maple-leaf design is by G.E. Kruger Gray and was first used in 1937. The composition of the current penny is 94% steel, 1.5% nickel, and 4.5% copper plating or copper-plated zinc and costs 1.6 cents to produce.
Has the penny’s time finally come to an end?
What use to cost a penny now costs a nickel or more. Bins of Penny candy are now bins of nickel candy (if you can find them at all). In fact, I can not think of anything that you can buy with just one penny nowadays. You use to be able to buy penny nails. We use to play marbles for a penny a point. You use to be able to buy a marble for a penny (if you could find a store that sold them individually)! I use to play gin rummy for a penny a point. I was a shark!
They say nobody uses cash anymore; the majority of consumer transactions happen electronically.
Businesses will be returning pennies to the financial institutions so they can be sent back to the Mint to be melted down and their metal content recycled. Melting pennies down yourself is frowned upon. Consumers will be able to redeem their pennies at financial institutions indefinitely. In a hundred years time will little old ladies and gentlemen be emptying their piggy banks and toddling off to the bank with their pennies?
Who needs pennies (Or nickels, or dimes, or quarters) anymore?
I do! I need to collect as much change as Uncle Scrooge so that I can swim around in it (just once – can you imagine the bruises).
A penny for your thoughts!
This time of year, as the environment around me starts to get all bright & sparkly, I ruminate too much on death.
As I write this it is December 1st, World AIDS Day – a day set aside for education and awareness. I came of age when this epidemic was still a mystery. A recent read, set in 1987, Tell the Wolves I’m Home, took me right back there.
Thursday is December 6th, National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. Twenty-three years ago on Wednesday, December 6, 1989, 14 women were killed because they were women.
The YWCA’s Rose campaign has ideas for advocacy and commemoration.
23 years is – what – a quarter of a lifetime. These 14 young women would now be in their forties and fifties. What did we lose? What would they have contributed to society?
What did they not get to do? They never got to decide whether or not to have children. They’ll never feel the aches and pains of an aging heart or body.
Je me souviens … Geneviève Bergeron, 21; Hélène Colgan, 23; Nathalie Croteau, 23; Barbara Daigneault, 22; Anne-Marie Edward, 21; Maud Haviernick, 29; Barbara Klucznik Widajewicz, 31; Maryse Laganière, 25; Maryse Leclair, 23; Anne-Marie Lemay, 27; Sonia Pelletier, 23; Michèle Richard, 21; Annie St-Arneault, 23; Annie Turcotte, 21.
My previous words of remembrance are here.
This year’s Remembrance Day Poster showcases the National War Memorial in Ottawa.
According to Wikipedia, the National War Memorial “is a tall granite cenotaph with bronze sculptures that stands in Confederation Square, Ottawa, and serves as the federal war memorial for Canada. Originally built to commemorate the First World War, in 1982 it was rededicated to include the Second World War and the Korean War. In 2000, the Canadian Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was added to the memorial site and symbolizes the sacrifice made by every Canadian who has died or may yet die for their country.”
Cenotaph is a French word that means empty tomb. It is from the Latin centaphium and also from the Greek Kenos (empty) and taphos (tomb). A Cenotaph. An empty tomb.
A cenotaph is a monument to the dead whose bodies are either lost or buried elsewhere.
Worldwide there are a large number of unmarked graves and huge number of soldiers/sailors whose bodies have no known grave or who were not known (dog tags, and other means of identification were not always adopted and did not come into common use until the middle of the first world war and then not for all soldiers/nationalities).
After the first world war, there were many cenotaphs erected in Canada. So many of our young men died far from home and were buried where they fell. This is the war my mother’s father was conscripted into by the Russians. I don’t know where he fought or who he fought (friends, neighbours, family). For a young man in that time and place, war was a necessary evil – one fought because one had no other choice – fight or die. He was not yet a Canadian.
By the time the second world war started, my mother’s father was a Canadian. I don’t know how he spent this war but I pretty sure he wasn’t a soldier nor was my father’s father. They survived on the home front, made sacrifices and never talked to us (their grandchildren) about war.
After the war, they gathered up funds and contributed to the building of war memorials. Cenotaphs, fountains and memorial walks commemorating names sprung up country-wide as my grandparents’ generation remembered their fallen dead.
They joined with their communities every November 11th to recite poetry, lay wreaths and remember friends who never came home.
My mother married a soldier. My father was a peace-keeper. He looked fine in his uniform. So young; so handsome. Their three oldest children were born on army bases. My parents were old enough to remember war, to remember sacrifice, to remember.
My father and step-mother have always been active Legion members. My sisters and brothers have marched as cadets in Remembrance Day parades. My step-mother plays the bagpipes. My mother weeps at the sound of the pipes wail. I have never marched. I was not a cadet. I am conflicted about wearing a poppy.
M*A*S*H taught me that war was not clear-cut, that it was not black or white, right or wrong. M*A*S*H taught me that war was complicated.
Today is Remembrance Day and on the 11th hour of the 11th day in this 11th month I will pause and remember.
Because I can. Because I must. Because it is complicated.
A fire-mist and a planet, a crystal and a cell,
A jelly-fish and a saurian, and caves where the cave-men dwell;
Then a sense of law and beauty and a face turned from the clod, –
Some call it Evolution,and others call it God.
A haze on the far horizon, the infinite, tender sky,
The ripe, rich tint of the cornfields, and the wild geese sailing high;
And all over upland and lowland the charm of the golden-rod, –
Some of us call it Autumn, and others call it God.
Like tides on a crescent sea-beach, when the moon is new and thin,
Into our hearts high yearnings come welling and surging in:
Come from the mystic ocean, whose rim no foot has trod, –
Some of us call it Longing, and others call it God.
A picket frozen on duty, a mother starved for her brood,
Socrates drinking the hemlock, and Jesus on the rood;
And millions who, humble and nameless, the straight, hard pathway plod, –
Some call it Consecration, and others call it God.
Each in his own Tongue –
William Herbert Carruth
What do you call God?