I squealed when I saw this week’s travel theme! Yes, yes, yes! I’m in the mood for some bragging.
I play very few sports so this bragging is not about me. It’s about my friend. She’s heavily involved in the Quidditch community. Yes, I said Quidditch as in the sport that Harry Potter plays on flying brooms.
She recently attended the Quidditch World Cup in which Australia came first. Way to go Australia! The Quidditch Canada National Team placed 4th out of 21 teams at the IQA Quidditch World Cup. Pretty good if you ask me!
What to see how Quidditch is played; follow this link to YouTube videos of Quidditch World Cup 2016.
My friend not only plays Quidditch, she also coaches and refs. She was at the World Cup mostly as a ref, I do believe.
I’m in awe. She brings imaginary sports to life. I’m more of a non-athlete. Sometimes I’ll watch ice skating on CBC. Occasionally, I will go and watch a sports game if nieces or nephews (or grand-nieces/nephews) are playing.
I never really got encouraged into any sports. I played a bit in elementary school but by the time I started grade eight I was relegated to the sidelines (like scoring in baseball – I can still fill in and read baseball score cards)!
Sports are harder to pick up as you get older. I do like walking. I do a lot of solitary walking but sometimes I wish I had my friend’s bravery to try something new and spectacular like Quidditch.
Photo credit: Alix Marie d’Avigneau
This is not my picture. I cribbed it from my friend’s FaceBook page. (I may have to remove it but I hope she’ll be okay with me using it).
Congratulations to all the Quidditch athletes world-wide.
Keep on being innovative!
“Although people rarely died playing Quidditch, referees had been known to vanish and turn up months later in the Sahara Desert.” ~J.K. Rowling
“I’m sitting in the bleachers, watching longingly as all the boys and umbumped girls in my Personal Health and Fitness class play Muggle Quidditch. I don’t even like the game very much, I think it’s silly, but I so miss physical activity that I’d be thrilled if I could run around the gymnasium with a broom between my legs, chasing after the human snitch wearing a gold pinny.” ~Megan McCafferty
I’ll never be anyone’s mother.
I think I’ve known this since I was first married at twenty-four. I started taking care of other people’s children the New Years I was thirteen and stopped, doing it as a job, in my middle thirties.
It’s hard leaving other people’s children once you’ve spent years being responsible for their daily care and knowing you will probably never see them again.
I may not have given birth but I have raised children. I sat up with them when they were sick, took them to the doctor and emergency care, was the sole caregiver for weeks on end, went to their school events and nurtured and worried over them.
But they were not mine!
I vowed young that I would not have children if I could not take care of them properly. To me that meant that they would have two primary parents who could provide them with a middle-class home. I was raised in poverty by a divorced mother with little contact or support from my father, I knew how hard it was to raise a child.
Now I am entering menopause knowing that I will never be anyone’s mother.
And I’m okay with that.
I am okay with being child-free. I struggle to support myself, both financially and emotionally. I thank the stars that I never had to make the decision between my well being or my child’s!
I only have myself but all of me is mine – this is both exhilarating and scary. Who will take care of me in my old age? I will take care of me as I always have.
There are a million ways to create a family. There are a million different types of families.
I am a family of one (plus cat – the census doesn’t consider my cat to be family).
There are many types of mothers.
I have a biological mother and a stepmother.
My cousin had an adoptive mother and a birth mother.
I had more than two grandmothers. There was my maternal grandmother, my paternal grandmother and my stepmother’s mother.
I had honorary grandmothers as well. Grandma F who lived to the left of us and Mrs. Stapleton who lived to the right of us across the alley and Grandma Smith who I think was my paternal grandmother’s stepmother.
I had literary mothers. My first librarian, Miss Missler taught me to love books and reading.
Women have been a major influence in my life.
And I hope that even though I will never be anyone’s biological mother that I will be a major influence in the lives of the girls and young women I have constant contact with.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the women who mother me!
Lulu came out of hiding today.
I acquired a cat last week. She was a bit cranky at first and spent most of this week hiding. Which is understandable; she spent a day in the car to come here to a house where she had never been to live with someone she has never met.
She was my niece’s cat and now is mine.
We had a rocky start. I got bit. The bite hit bone and thus left a bruise (see picture below).
Nevertheless, today Lulu has come out of hiding. She played with me and sat on my lap. She ventured out of her safe room and started to explore her new home. Perhaps we’ll be friends after all.
However, I remain optimistically cautious.
The thing is that I seem to keep acquiring second-hand cats that never seem to stick around.
We had family cats growing up. The first one I remember is a smoke black cat named Smokie. There is a picture of her with her kittens in one of my mother’s old photo albums. I think I remember the picture better than I remember the cat.
The cat I remember best is Willie, a big white tomcat who always felt like mine more than anyone else’s in the family. He slept with me. He hid with me when I would read under the bed. When we got a puppy, Willie adopted it as his own and taught him how to behave. I have a picture somewhere of Willie and Joey sleeping tight together (if I find it I will post it later this week).
We moved the summer I was thirteen. Willie didn’t like the move. It probably didn’t help that Joey had died that summer as well. The move was just one change too many for my old cat. Willie kept running back to our old house. Eventually he didn’t come back. When we couldn’t find him we assumed he died that winter; he was a very old, cantankerous tomcat. I miss him. I miss his warmth.
After that, the family got another dog. Well actually, my absentee divorced dad, without asking, brought us a new dog that he had named Trudeau after the prime minister (another story for another time). We shorted the dog’s name to Truce and he lived with us for many, many years.
Towards the end of my time living under my mom’s roof we would catsit my eldest sister’s cat over the winter. When my eldest sister was in university she acquired a pregnant street cat that came home with her and moved out to the farm with her when my sister married. The cat’s name was Mom. So Mom would move into town to our house for the winter. When I was at work she stayed in my mother’s basement. I would come home from work , open the basement door and meow and Mom would come to talk with me and sleep on my bed till morning. If I wiggled my toes, she would attack them. Sometimes I wiggled my toes on purpose. Mom was a very smart cat. She knew where her food was and if she felt she was not being fed enough she would climb into the cupboard, knock the box over and help herself.
My sister’s cats have always known me. As have their dogs. I go away for years at a time and when I come back the animals still know me. The animals still love me.
The first cat that I had that was all mine was one of Mom’s kittens. He was called Tomcat or Kid or Son depending on what mood I was in. He was just mine and didn’t really fraternize with other members of my family. He ran away the weekend of my High School graduation (there were too many people around – I totally understood where he was coming from) and never came back.
After that, no more cats. No more pets for me. I got married (we had hamsters for awhile), got divorced, went back to university and moved and moved and moved again and then moved some more. I was a nomad. No time for cats. No room for cats.
I catsat for a month one summer at university when a friend went home. The cat’s name was Erasmus and he loved to have the tangles combed out of his fur. He was a street rescue and when my friend graduated university, Erasmus (potential scholar) moved out to her parent’s farm. I wonder what he and the farm cats conversed about on long winter nights. Someone needs to write a story about the homeless city cat who was rescued and his country farm cat cousins!
I always looked forward to the day I would settle down enough to have a cat of my own again.
When I first bought my house I almost got a cat. My sister’s friend’s cat had recently been relocated to my nephew’s farm and it was looking like that might not work out. But it did. The cat has adjusted; she is happy on the farm chasing mice and running free.
Than two of my step-dad’s cats had kittens (see second picture above) and I was going to take the black one once my Fall settled down. This was just about to happen when my niece needed to relocate her indoor only apartment Siamese cat. I’ve always wanted a permanent cat of my own. I’ve always wanted a Siamese even though they are very particular! It seemed fated.
Thus Lulu came to live at my house.
I’m that cat lady. I stop during my walks to chat with strange cats on the street. I wonder how much work a secondhand lion would be. For one, I’d need a bigger place before I acquire one of those. If I’m not careful I will end up with thirty cats or more.
We’ll see. Maybe Lulu will decide to relocate herself like all my other cats have.
Cats, after all, can be very peculiar.
There was a time when we had all the time in the world. There was a time when Sunday afternoons were long and endless. A time when a hour stretched out and out and out. Endless. The rest of the week, especially Monday to Friday, rolled along at a steady pace. School, Supper, Sleep. Saturday was always busy, busy, busy as we rushed from activity (skating, tap dance lessons, music lessons, library run, shopping) to activity barely stopping to breathe. Sundays the only obligation was Church and then the rest of the day was ours alone, free and open to endless possibilities. Oh, what a relief Sundays were. Sundays we had all the time in the world.
When I was young, Sunday afternoons were for visiting. Either someone would come to our place or we would go to theirs. Sunday afternoons were for tea and cookies with the Grandmas. Sunday afternoons were for quick trips out to the farm to visit cousins and climb on the gigantic rock pile and avoid the vicious geese. Sunday afternoons were for being driven one town over (only six miles) to visit mom’s best girlfriend and spend the afternoons playing paper dolls with Tammy. Sunday afternoons were for going out to visit mom’s friend on the farm, spending the afternoons reading my sister’s friend’s old copies of Seventeen and trying to make friends with their yappy little chihuahua. Yes, a chihuahua as a farm dog – he was definitely the best alarm system going. Eunice always had the corner stove on and usually there were fresh buns to slather, warm out of the stove, with butter and jam. I would hide in her daughter’s bedroom reading Seventeen dreaming of being a teenager and feeling warm, secure and safe. Is that not how one should always feel on a Sunday?
Summer Sunday afternoons were trips to the lake and cook out meals. The taste of roasted marshmallows. The feel of damp skin slowing drying . The smell of a wood campfire. The incessant buzzing of mosquitoes. Staying up late and watching the stars. Where was Orion? Endless moments of time.
We traveled so far on Sunday when we didn’t own a car.
Sunday drives – where have they gone?
Here in Saskatchewan where I grew up it seems that every small town main street is home to a Chinese cafe. Our small town was no exception. Our Chinese cafe was down the alley from the Hahn house and my best friend lived there with her mother (a widow), her grandmother (her father’s mother who only spoke Chinese) and her two younger brothers (the oldest was born in the same hospital as my younger brother just three days apart: this is how our mothers became friends. They met in the small (10 room) hospital when mothers and babies stayed in for more than a day or two). I grew up helping out at the cafe – unloading pop or running the occasional transaction through the till. My older sisters both were waitresses on and off for special events as was my best friend. I did the job once – I am a terrible waitress.
What has all this rambling to do with Sundays? Sunday afternoons my mother would go over to the cafe, it was closed on Sundays, and help with the weekly cleaning. Me and my younger brother would go along to play with our friends and visit. We would rush upstairs, the living quarters were over the cafe, and spend the afternoon playing board games usually Monopoly – which my baby brother still cheats at. As we got older, my best friend and I would congregate in the cafe and spend the afternoon playing gin rummy counting up points (a penny a point) but never collecting the winnings. My best friend moved to the city the year I moved across town, the year we both turned thirteen.
It was here I learned to love traditional Cantonese cooking. It was here I felt included as I was not rushed through the games. I am a slow thinker. I like to contemplate my moves and many people get annoyed with this. It was here I felt like I felt at home – warm, secure and safe.
The first time I left home I was twenty.
I’ve spent many Sunday afternoons since then visiting. When I lived with my older sister and her new husband I learnt to play Cribbage. During my brief Hollywood marriage my ex and I would play Scrabble on Sundays (I always lost). Montreal Sundays were spent writing with my Womyn’s group or cuddling on the couch with my boyfriend both of us engrossed in books. When I lived with my father and stepmother, they would have guests on Sundays and we would all play Scrabble – I got better at it but I still lost (I’m not competitive). I’ve traveled with my youngest half-sister to my eldest half-sister’s house and dozed dreaming half-asleep on the couch as they discussed knitting. Even now, visits home include Sunday afternoons on someone else’s couch listening to the chatter of a busy household while I’m reading.
All my life, I’ve curled up in a corner reading as life and chatter swirled around me. This is where I feel most at home. This is when I feel most warm, secure and safe.
I miss those Sunday afternoons. I miss the games. I miss the talk. I miss the company. I miss the warmth.
There was a time when we had all the time in the world. There was a time when Sunday afternoons were long and endless. A time when a hour stretched out and out and out. Endless.
There is too much silence in my life.
seeks the center
of every tree and rock,
that thing we hold closest-
the end of songs”
– Michael McClintock, Letters in Time
Today’s blog post’s musical soundtrack is Prairie Blues by Wilf Carter (very old timey music and my mother’s favourite performer); famous for his yodeling. Nobody seems to yodel anymore, do they?
I grew up in small-town Saskatchewan when the trains use to still run through them (the tracks use to run behind the grain elevators, across the highway and across from the high school). Afternoon classes would be interrupted by the train whistle and we all would turn to gaze out the window. It was best to snag a window seat before class started so that you could see the train coming before the whistle sounded. I wonder how many others in my class were dreaming of being elsewhere or vowing that one day they would take a train or the highway out of there.
I literally took the train out of Saskatchewan when I went back to school in Montreal. Three days on the train, carrying way too much stuff, half-excited and half-scared to finally being gone. I wasn’t the only Saskatchewanion on that train – I met a young woman heading east as well who had come from one town over. We bonded on the train but never ran into each other again in the big city.
The tracks are no longer there. They keep tearing them out and replacing them with a walking trail (coast to coast). I remember walking those tracks with my friends when I was in elementary school, stepping from rail to rail, never touching dirt. We didn’t have to worry about trains running over us as the track was only inches above the prairies and there were no train bridges to play dare-devil off of.
There were other places to be the dare devil off of. I had a friend who climbed the ladder on the grain elevator all the way to the top. I was too scared of heights to even reach up to the first rung. I still have no idea how she never got caught – she did it on a sleepy Sunday (of course) but it seemed, back then, that were a thousand pairs of eyes watching us and telling us what we couldn’t do.
We liked to play at the lumber yard as well; there were long, quiet, shelves to hide in and they were cool on a hot day and smelled like sawdust but we were always quickly chased off and told horror stories of rusty nails and tetanus shots.
On really hot days we walked out of town to go and explore the dump, or pick cat-tails at the slough or if we felt really ambitious we’d walk the seven miles to the lake (usually getting a ride before we were half way there). I didn’t walk to the lake often. I don’t handle heat well; even at seven I would faint from the heat and have to go in. Maybe that’s why I turned into such a bookworm – there were always cool caves to hide in inside where I could spend hours reading.
I also liked to go just across the tracks to pet the horses – I knew I’d never have my own horse as there were too expensive to keep and we were poor.
I miss horses. I use to love just leaning against them, feeling their breath and smelling horse and sweat and grass. I love the smell of grass after the rain or just after it’s been mowed. I miss just being quiet and staring into a horse’s endless, wise eyes. What do they see?
My prairie home is endless. There are trees there older then me, older then my parents – trees my grandparents planted to block the prairie wind. I’ve always wanted to put a hammock under that weeping willow (above) and bask in the quiet, with a calm breeze blowing, to spy on the neighbours and catch up on old-time gossip, both old and new.
Who married who? Why? Whose baby is that? Who loved whom? Who married who? I want to know all the secrets.
The Prairies are endless. I always felt like I could stand at any outside corner with the town to my back and see forever – see the past, the present and the future all in one breath.
I could stand there and watch the storm come in, the clouds turning dark, lightening flashing and still make it safe back home (it I wanted to) before the rain pelted down!
I could stand there and dream under the clear night sky wishing on every falling star – wishing to be gone; wishing for the clear, crisp mountain air and the sound of the stream filling up after it had been dry all winter.
Home – so tempting, so elusive.
Where is home? When will I be home?
Happy Canada Day…
I am doing nothing on this hot and lazy summer day. It is almost too hot. I don’t handle the heat well. Even as a child, I had a tendency to faint if I were out in the sun too long. Thus, I’ve always tried to spend the hottest part of the day inside. This is not always fun. My one wish, right now, is access to a vehicle so that I could spend part of the day on a beach. Though, truth be told, I like the beach best in the Spring and Fall when it is calm and quiet.
How is a lazy summer’s day different than a lazy winter’s day? I tolerate the coldest days better than the hottest days. What I miss in the winter is the hours and hours of sunshine. Sunshine makes me smile.
Time was endless and encompassing.
We were poor but very seldom felt really poor.
Perhaps because everyone had less than they have now and my best friend’s house was not that different than mine.
There were subtle differences.
They had brand name soda pop, for one.
We had Pop Shoppe pop.
Pop Shoppe came in a case of 24 with thirty or so flavours that we could mix and match. There was orange, lime, cream soda, root beer and black cherry.
Mix and match was good; it meant that all four of us kids could get our favourite without over spending the bank. I liked Black Cherry.
Rusty’s butcher shop was our local supplier. When I had cash (carefully brokered from my grandmother or other sources), I could go in and buy a Black Cherry soda and a stick of pepperoni for a dollar which I selfishly wouldn’t share.
I wasn’t always so selfish. Mostly, I was too giving and too generous. But this treat was mine alone.
I liked going to the butcher shop. It was across the alley from the Hahn house and Rusty (& his wife Ruth) had their house attached to the shop. They were a religious family, well versed in charity – making sure my mother had work and we kids had strawberries, as well as other luxuries, at Christmas.
They had boys; all much older than me. Their grandchildren would spent part of the summer playing with us – there were twin girls and a girl who was a leap year baby. That means she was born on February 29th. That means that she was exotic.
They also had an all white basement room. It was cement and deliciously cool in the summer I remember no windows. The room, in my memory, is an all encompassing white cave, cool and silent. It was a perfect summer haven for one intolerant to the heat. I wanted a room like that to spend the day reading in. I wanted to be rich enough to have a room like that.
I remember my childhood, – before high school, before I was thirteen and working – as endless, sunny, summer days.
My best friend had roller skates. She lived at the bottom of Main Street. I lived one block up and half a block over. We would go to the top of main and take turns skating d———-own. They were her skates. She got more turns and I didn’t mind. When we were tried of skating, and avoiding our younger brothers, we would go help her mom load up the pop cooler in the cafe and get paid in penny candy. My best friend’s family owned the local Chinese cafe and lived above it. She moved the summer I turned thirteen.
Penny Candy; so named because each piece was just a penny. There were red hot lips, tasting vaguely of cinnamon. There were bright blue whales and emerald green spearmint leaves. There were licorice shoelaces. I liked to buy all three colours (red, green, purple) and braid them together. This is how I learnt to braid. I’m not a fan of sour but sour is a newer flavour. My childhood candy was mostly sugar sweet.
Penny candy now costs a nickel. How do I know this? Every once in a while, I get a craving for straight sugar and I go down to the local connection and buy a dollar or two worth. I like the chocolate caramels best but they only ever seem to have the individual caramel ones.
I love the tangy taste of green spearmint and the way the whales turn my tongue blue. The red hot lips remind me of my childhood and warm, summer nights playing in the back alley.
I remember endless summer days, roller skating, playing hopscotch and Mother May I with summer friends and pesky baby brothers, our big sisters avoiding us.
I remember warm summer nights, staying up past dark, in a time and place when I could look up and see the stars. I remember playing hide and seek in the dark.
I remember mosquitoes and dragonflies sparkling in the waning sunlight.
I don’t miss mosquitoes. Hard to miss what is still so prevalent.
On my walks lately, I am escorted by sparkly blue dragonflies which, this year, are as prevalent as the mosquitoes that they feast on.
In other news, Pop Shoppe has its own Facebook page!!
I miss endless time and playing hide and seek in the dark. I miss staring up at an endless, starry sky.
Have I been too long in the city?
Is it time to seek another cave?
What I need is a Black Cherry soda, penny candy, some pepperoni sticks and endless time to stare at the stars as I muse.
I keep losing people. 😦 It’s, as if, they’re there one minute and gone the next. It feels that abrupt and that direct. They’re not dying off. They’re just gone from my life.
The first person I lost was my Dad. He left not soon after I turned one and I didn’t see him again until I was almost thirteen. He did bring more people in my life at that time. When he came back into my life I gained an awesome step-mom, two new brothers and three new sisters. An even trade-off 🙂
The next person I lost was my BFF B when I was thirteen. She moved into the city and gradually became just a blip in my life. We were pretty constant from the time we were born and I thought we would be friends forever. I lost a few other friends around the same time as parents were transferred or got remarried, and unlike today, we only had snail mail to keep in touch with. I wasn’t permitted to make long distance phone calls; too expensive.
I lost a classroom full of people when I graduated at eighteen. I grew up in a small town and went from Kindergarten to Grade Twelve with basically the same thirty classmates. I wasn’t popular but I had friends and boy friends and potential boyfriends. I was more of an outcast; a clique of one. Still, these classmates were constant in my life for thirteen years. I knew them in a way as they knew me. Life was predictable.
Two years later, I went to Calgary to go to Community College. I lost a whole town then. People who knew me day to day. People who knew my family better than me. People who barely knew me. The townfull of children I babysat for from age thirteen to age twenty. Around two thousand people who knew where I came from, who I belonged to, what my personality was. There is comfort and security and a sort of safety in people knowing who you are and what to expect from you. And in you’re knowing what to expect from them.
I had a small circle of acquaintances in Calgary, mostly from school. I lived closer to my Dad and his family so thus was able to get to know them all in a more day to day way. Got to know them, I thought, in a more real way as I participated in their everyday life. Then I didn’t graduated and moved to Saskatoon and lost them all, except for my family. But I lost the ability to be there with them on a daily basis.
Five years working in Child-Care in Saskatoon. Three years married. I decide to go to university after my divorce and lost a husband and any contact with his family. I lost, once again, the children I babysit. The children who were part of my day to day life.
And moving to Montreal I lost day to day contact with all my family. I went home once in six years and none of them ever saw where I lived in Montreal. This is what being poor and working class gets you. It gets you lost.
I had a bigger circle of acquaintances and friends in Montreal. Acquaintances from school who I saw daily (for four years of my BA program, two years of my Masters program) and lost completely after graduation. The friends I still write to and they write back. A few of them also blog so I feel on occasion that I am back in their day to day lives. We write sporadically and I wonder how the Victorians did it. How they were able to maintain friendships with sporadic visits and daily letters?
I graduated with my Masters in 1997. Since then I lived in one small town well working in another, one medium small town, a tourist small town and a small city or two depending on how many months equals living somewhere. I am now back in Saskatoon.
As I’m sure you’ve figured out by now I keep losing people because I keep moving. I’ve lost not just acquaintances and friends but boyfriends and husbands and lovers. I’ve lost half a century (almost) of connections. And I don’t know how to get them back.
Everyone else’s life looks to be so full. I’m back in the same area where I grew up and can count the number of acquaintances I have on both hands and the number of friends on one. Family is constant but it’s been decades since I was part of their everyday life and they part of mine.
I went to my thirtieth reunion last May. It would be nice to be able to see some of these people more regularly. Some of them live in my city. Some of them I like better now than I did in High School. But they have full lives and don’t seem to be looking to increase their circle of acquaintances.
I yearn for more. I want to have people in my life to go to the movies or the theatre with. People to play with on a weekly basis. How do you do it? How does one make friends and connect with potential lovers when one is middle-aged and new to the community?