A new way to hitch a ride

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For those unfamiliar with the bird in the above picture, this seemingly benign creature is a Black-Capped Chickadee.  They are tiny in stature and extremely friendly once a level of trust has been developed.  I would spend countless hours as a child sitting outside on our deck with a handful of sunflowers seeds charming these little creatures to land on my hand.  I would marvel at the heat produced by their tiny claws as they gripped my fingers and admire their courage to trust a human feeder.

I became much smarter as time went on and removed the actual bird feeder altogether.  I was the only source of food for these feathered friends and slowly became the Chickadee Whisperer.  These beautiful little birds would jockey for positions on my outstretched hands and graze on the seeds that I willingly provided.  More often than not, I would have to leave my perch to fill the supply of food but they were anxiously fluttering around the deck awaiting my return.

On one particular occasion, I had gone inside to replenish the supply of seeds and had unwittingly left the screen door wide open.  One lone Chickadee flew into the house through the open door and, like a Kamikaze pilot on a suicide mission, thrust itself straight into our living room and landed squarely between the shoulder blades of our long-haired Lhasa Apso, Misty.  She had been sound asleep on the couch but the shock of having a foreign object entangled in her fur was immediate and Misty leapt off the couch to shake the intruder loose.  The more she shook, the stronger the bird held to her hair.

Not knowing which creature was more terrified, I watched Misty go from disbelief to panic in milliseconds.  As Misty began  thrashing like a bull being ridden in a rodeo, the bird held fast.  The movie 8-Seconds had nothing on this bird.  It was going for the World Record and the seconds began to tick on the clock.  Misty, realizing that a mere shaking of her shoulders was unsuccessful, jumped off the couch, taking off like a shot into a full run.  She lapped around the circuit from living room to kitchen to dining room and the chickadee hung on for dear life, riding that poor Lhasa Apso like it was going for Gold in the Olympics.  (I had to stop writing for a moment because I’m laughing too hard to type)

If you’ve ever watched a horse race and really concentrated on the jockey’s hands on the reins and position on the horse – this is what the poor Chickadee looked like riding my dog through the house.  I made vain attempts to catch the dog so we could rectify this unsettling but extremely hilarious chain of events but I couldn’t stop laughing long enough to focus on the task at hand.

After I finally caught up with the dog there was a great deal of panting.  I was panting trying to catch my breath after laughing so hard.  The dog was panting because she was probably moments away from having a stroke, and the bird was even panting – perhaps thinking a few more seconds would have garnered that coveted position in the Guinness Book of World Records.

With a great deal of wrestling, we finally held the dog still long enough to cut the hair in the death-grip of the birds feet and finally took that poor Chickadee back outside to give it the freedom it so rightly deserved.  World record or not, that was one hell of a ride!  After this scene, that could only be described as something from a movie, my mother and I both had to change our pants.  It will live as one of the most cherished memories of my childhood and I think about that rodeo ride every time a Chickadee graces my feeder.

What is your funniest childhood memory?

The things I should remember

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I have been thinking about, and talking about, my parents a lot lately.  For a person my age, it is sad that I have to talk about how they used to be because they were taken far too early, both victims of the serial killer known as alcoholism.  I wrote a very heartfelt blog post here telling the tale of what my perspective was like growing up as a child of alcoholic parents.  But after I read it again, and cried again, I realized I had been doing them a grave injustice.

So, I went back to the beginning – back to the days before that serial killer lurked in the shadows of my house, back to the days when life was great and back to the days when no elephant existed in any room in our home.

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My mom and dad were a lot of fun.  My brother and I had many parties at our family home and my parents would remain in their bedroom allowing us full access to the house to host our friends.  But at the end of the night, the number of our friends watching TV with my parents in their room far outweighed the number of our friends in our living room.  Those were my parents.

They played strip ping-pong with the neighbours.  They ran naked from the neighbours’ sauna to roll in the snow and then back to the sauna.  They enjoyed life, they made the most of the good times and they truly loved each other.

When I began to think of what they were like as a couple, I couldn’t help but smile remembering how my dad used to look at my mom.  If my mom was within arm’s length, his hands would make contact with whatever part of her he could reach.  He would pat her bum as she walked by him.  He would kiss her every chance he got.  And when he grabbed her hand, I could see his hand physically squeezing hers several times in a sworn gesture of being smitten by her.  It was all about being able to touch each other, just to remind each other that they were there for the right reasons.

I had long forgotten those moments.  I was so marred by the effects that alcohol had on their relationship that I failed to remember the beautiful connection they had to each other.

And now that I have blinded myself to the painful memories, I will embrace the images of their fingers intertwined without realizing they were holding hands.  I will cling to the thought of how my dad just wanted to be close to her.  And I will forever hold close the knowledge that a simple touch from someone who means so much can change everything about your day.

After so many daily thoughts about so many things that don’t matter, I finally realized…..these are the things that I should remember.

 

 

 

 

Brothers will be brothers, and then they make you cry

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I wrote this post last year about a very emotional moment created by my nephew during our 2014 Christmas festivities.  Well, that emotional little apple did not fall far from the paternal tree.

Last year (2014) was the first Christmas without my mother so it was a very emotional time for all of us.  This past Christmas, I vowed I would get my shit together and celebrate the holiday the way my mom would have wanted us to – with happiness and joy and time with family.  And although it was filled with all of those things, my brother threw in a bit of overwhelming sentiment and my tears flowed freely once again on the eve of our Christmas Day celebration.

As I have for every Christmas Eve since 1976, with the exception of the one year I lived in Halifax, I donned my gear and headed out to gather, en masse, at the end of a family driveway to watch Santa Claus go by on the Fire Truck.  The weather was comparatively balmy and Santa was much more jovial than he was two years ago when he was braving the minus 30 C temperatures.  After the truck had disappeared, we went inside and my brother handed me a Christmas gift bag.  I was instructed to wait until I got home to open it and my first question was “do I require Kleenex”.   That question was remarkably redundant.

When I got home, I carefully opened the box and found myself holding what looked like a jewelry box with the words “Dear Daughter” embossed on top.  I thought about what a lovely gesture it was and then I lifted the lid and realized it was a music box.  Somewhat reluctantly, I turned the dial and the song, unrecognizable at first, began to play.

As soon as the familiar strain was recalled by my memory, the first tear slid slowly down my cheek.  It was immediately followed by a torrent of emotion and I was in a full-blown ‘ugly cry’.  The song was Edelweiss.  It was a song I had known since I was a child.  And it was a song that my mother and I would sing together as we continued our holiday ritual by watching “The Sound of Music” together every Christmas Eve.

I couldn’t bring myself to watch it in 2014, but this past year I vowed I would, and I did.  And each time Edelweiss played in the movie, I found myself lost in a sea of tears once again, but they were happy tears.

My brother not only picked the perfect gift but he held onto that gift for a year because he knew I wouldn’t have been ready to receive it a year earlier.  I have remembered a lot of gifts I received during the holidays but this gift, this truly touching gift, is the one I will always cherish the most.  Not only did it come from the heart of someone I love and will fiercely defend, it represents the heart of the person who created us both.   I cannot think of a better gift.

 

What I want for Christmas

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Dear Santa,

I hope this letter finds you well and feeling jolly for the upcoming week.

I have spent many hours considering what I would like for Christmas this year.  I do believe you will find my name on the nice list so I thought I would save you some time when it came to my gift.

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I want life experience for my gift this year.  I want to sit in a room with my family and laugh until we cry because the joke is something only we would understand.  I want my brother and I to share a toast to my parents and take a moment to remember my dad waking us up at 6:00 am by cranking the Beach Boys vinyl album and my mom inevitably leaving a price tag on at least one of our gifts and then finding the last hidden gift sometime in April.

I want to really watch my nephews this year as they tear open their mountain of presents.  It seems like only yesterday they had no real concept of what was happening and now I’m going to blink and they will be off to University and, soon after that, having Christmases of their own.

I want to embrace the friends I have and let them know how lucky I feel to be able to call them friends.  I want to take a quiet moment or two during the holidays and reflect on all of the wonderful things that happened to me throughout the course of the year.  And I want the words “I love you” to be a comfortable phrase that gets shared a lot, and not just during the holidays.

I know you are a busy man this time of year so I shall leave it at that.  I’ll be waving at you on Christmas Eve as we stand at the end of my brother’s driveway and watch you go by on the Fire Truck as have every year since I was seven.

Merry Christmas from Susan.

I remember you!

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A little over a year ago my mom did something that I thought was impossible.  What was most impressive about it was that she did it from beyond the grave.

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I wrote this post marveling at how things seem to happen in random ways.  After searching for a friend for an extended period of time, I had all but given up.  It seems like just last month his email showed up in my inbox at work and it made me believe that my mother had pulled some major strings in Heaven to make that happen.

Remarkably, the calendar has moved forward by a year.  We have been in constant contact since then and have developed a wonderful friendship.  I hadn’t realized by rekindling our relationship twenty-five years later we would become such close friends.

In August he had asked me to write a blog post – I can’t remember if he said for him or about him – and this post is what came out.

It’s been a pleasure getting to know him all over again and I thank my mom for all the fairy dust she must have bartered for to be able to make our reunion happen.

 

 

I already went through this once…

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“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” ~ E.E. Cummings

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It is a rite of passage and a fact of nature that, when we grow from a child to an adult, our voices change.   Perhaps I hadn’t realized when I began my blogging journey that I was a child of writing.  I was a mere toddler grabbing at words like they were all mine but contrary to a toddler’s way of thinking I wanted nothing more than to share those words.

Recently, I have been going back through the moments of my childhood.  I have not been pouring over photographs in family albums but I have been going back through the early stages of my blogging days and I am amazed at how dissimilar my writing voice is from then to now.  The nuance of my phrasing is a far cry from what it once was and my voice has changed to signify the growth in my writing.

Contrary to going through that awkward teenage phase in life, my progress as a writer has been uncomplicated and relatively steady.  I feel comfortable in my writing skin and I walk down the hallways of the writing school in my mind with great confidence.  There are no cliques to contend with, no teachers to please and the only club I wish to join already has my name on the roster of its members.

I want to write, plain and simple.  I want my voice to continue to develop and be able to show the experience I gain each day by simply writing more words on a page.  I want my voice to whisper.  I want my voice to sing.  And I want my voice to yell at the top of its lungs when it has something to say, anything to say.

Maybe this is the puberty stage in my writing.  And just maybe I have reached the cusp of adulthood and I can finally embrace the voice that will truly represent who I am as a writer.  There may a be a few breaks in the inflection and the tone but I think this voice is here to stay.