From Root to Tip

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tree

(image credit: photo.net)

We are an eclectic band of misfits, each branch of my family tree is twisted and unique.  But life in my forest has been full of adventure and laughter.  From the moment our family tree took root it was nourished by humor, surrounded by love and encouraged to branch out in any direction it was drawn towards.

The apples that fall from that tree do not stray far and we enjoy the camaraderie that only like-minded semi-delusional people can share.  We are nuts but we are family.

I had recently told a tale, based solely in fact, about how my brother tricked me into eating a petrified piece of dog excrement when I was only five years old.  Although I was traumatized as a child I can now see the humor in the “incident”.  Perhaps that humor comes with the foreshadowing of future revenge but we are family and it is divine to forgive.  (nobody said anything about forget)

It is my brother’s birthday today.  I awoke thinking of this day as his pilgrimage into his 50th year.  The common lines of the happy birthday song didn’t seem to do justice to our relationship and this new version flooded my brain at 7:00 am.

Happy birthday to you,

Happy birthday to you.

You’re one terrific brother,

but you made me eat poo.

I can only hope he finds as much humor and enjoyment in our gnarled family tree as I do.  From root to tip we are certainly an odd bunch, but I wouldn’t to hang from any other tree!

Happy birthday Jamie!!  Love you.  xx

 

 

Flowers – 100 Word Song

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You cried,

enduring pain for me,

loving me with never having met me

and I felt blessed.

You stood,

hands on your hips,

a whimsical smile on your face

and I felt anchored.

You embraced,

you wiped my tears,

you listened and never interrupted

 and I felt understood.

You watched,

allowing me to make mistakes,

but always there to help me mend

and I felt empowered.

~

I cried

when you left me.

 In a dream I saw you,

and watched you float.

You hovered,

our eyes met, you waved,

blew me a kiss

and fell into nothing but flowers.

butterfly-bush-l

~~

Written for the 100 Word Song over at My Blog Can Beat Up Your Blog.  Go and check it out if you haven’t yet!!  This week’s song is (Nothing But) Flowers by Talking Heads.  I was really missing my mom last night so this jumped into my head today.

(image credit: thebutterflysite.com)

One more orbit for this girl

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I “borrowed” much of this post from last year on this very day because new words would not come today.

Today is an important day in my life…..today I am acutely aware of the number of years I have been on this ever revolving planet.  A birthday is not a number to me but a moment to celebrate the day I entered this life. (and it’s 45, but I still feel 29 so that counts, right?…..right?)

Today, however, is a difficult birthday.  This is my first birthday in 45 years that my mom hasn’t been the first one to call me in the early hours of the day with birthday wishes.  I did awake at 12:11 this morning and could have sworn I saw my mom and dad standing side by side.  No words were spoken but I guess they were the first to wish me happy birthday in their own way.

I celebrate with many people, some I know well, some I’ve never met, but there is one important celebration that mirrors mine – my Winnie The Pooh.  My mom created a stuffed version of the beloved character for me when I turned one and, to this day, I still have that somewhat tattered foam-filled creature.  McCall’s created a Disney series of patterns in the 1960′s that she duplicated for my brother for his first birthday and again, almost four years later, for my birthday.

He has seen his share of joys and tragedies.  He has undergone facial reconstruction and some botched plastic surgery (thanks to an over-excitable Labrador Retriever that belonged to a roommate) but he still never fails to hang in there to share year after year with me. He and I have weathered many successes and many ominous periods together, but he still remains the same source of comfort he has always been.

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Although it may seem somewhat childish to hang onto a toy that I have long outgrown, Winnie still holds an immeasurable value in my life. He represents a part of my childhood that I hold dear and he continues to represent the faith that I hold in my friendships.  He and I may not be able to communicate on the level that is deemed normal for friends but I still feel comfortable confiding in him, knowing that he will always be there to listen when I need him.

He has been a valuable part of my grieving process over the last three weeks and has found his way back into that comfortable position, tucked into the crook of my arm while I sleep.

Happy birthday Winnie…..may we continue on our journey and have a very long life together!!

I’m a Raggedy Ann in a Barbie Doll world

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I have never been a slave to fashion trends, apart from those few unfortunate years in high school when big hair and “preppy” collars were all the rage.  Wanting to fit in as a teenager led to unfortunate wardrobe choices and spectacular photographic evidence that seems to keep reappearing.  Even the fires of Hell could not burn those outfits from my memory.  (Somehow I think the pictures and the negatives would survive incineration as well.)

80While the above image was taken from sweirt.com and does not do my teenage wardrobe any justice, I’m sure you get the general idea.  Nothing says 80′s fashion like big hair, neon and leg warmers!

After leaving high school and finding myself in the “real” world, I came to the realization that I could care less about fashion.  I was happier slipping on a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt and sliding my feet into some loose-fitting sandals.  While the girls around me spent hours teasing their hair, applying make-up and picking just the right outfit, I would be dressed and ready to go and waiting for them to emerge from their cosmetic cocoon as a beautiful painted butterfly.  I admired their dedication, I just didn’t understand their obsession.  Give me a tube of mascara and some lip gloss and I’m set.

I’m sure there were moments in my impressionable years that I wished I was more like a Barbie Doll.  Now that I can look at my life from an adult perspective I realize the world needs Raggedy Ann’s as much as it needs Barbie Dolls and I’m happy to be one of those Ann’s.

From the Horse’s Mouth, literally

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Today was a creatively inspiring day.  Today I went from not having any neurons firing in my brain to a cosmic overload of things I want to talk about.

On Friday I wrote a post about my first crush.  It was a Daily Prompt that inspired me to write a cute, truth-based story in response to the idea.  I haven’t thought about that adorable, freckled-faced red-head for many years but writing that post made me smile thinking about him.  The story also encouraged me to check the vast world-wide web to see if he would appear in real form instead of just the memory of a six-year-old.  The result of my search was successful and way beyond my expectations.  It also took me in a few directions I had not anticipated.

I had reached out to him on LinkedIn and found that he graciously accepted my invitation, perhaps out of morbid curiosity, but he accepted nonetheless.  We exchanged a few words and he inquired about the blog post that led me to him.  I acquiesced and sent him the link.  His initial response after reading it was more favorable that I imagined and I was curious to see where his life had led him after our brief time together in school so many years ago.

The object of my youthful affection is a now a documentary filmmaker in Toronto.  He has won several awards for his talent, including two Juno awards, and is now working on a project that is far closer to my life than I would have thought possible.  His company is called Regular Horse Productions (he was formerly with Horse’s Mouth Media) and he is currently making a film about Massey Hall, a significant Canadian structure, a piece of history that MY ancestors donated to the city of Toronto in 1894.  My middle name is that same family name and carries on the tradition of the historic family that is etched into the arts and entertainment district of one of the most popular cities in the world.

I have yet to discover the direction that his documentary will follow but I will be waiting with bated breath to see how my family history will come to life.  I have three original Chatelaine magazines from June to August of 1964 that document and detail the pilgrimage and the ancestral tree of the Massey family dating back to 1531.  Perhaps one day Andy and I will share a coffee and some conversation about my ancestors that will help shed some light on how that beloved plot of land was donated so many years ago and still thrives in Toronto today.

And to think, this random connection almost forty years later began with a school-girl crush and a lost bunny……who knew?

First love

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The Daily Prompt asks:  Remember your first crush? Think about that very first object of your affection. Oh, the sweaty palms. The swoony feeling in your stomach. Tell us the story of your first crush. What was it about this person that made your heart pound? Was the love requited? Change the names to protect the guilty or innocent if you must! No judgement here. Happy Valentine’s Day!

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He had red hair and freckles and was the cutest thing I’d ever seen.  His name was Andy Keen and we were in the same first grade class together.  I was six, and although I was too young to really comprehend what romantic love was, I spent hours gazing at him across the classroom.

My family lived in a cozy neighborhood in Oakville, Ontario.  Back in those days it was safe for kids to play in their front yard and wander back and forth to the neighbors.  On my way home one afternoon, I saw a white bunny rabbit hopping down the middle of the street.  I was elated.  I had been asking for a pet rabbit but couldn’t have one due to allergies.  I scooped up the bunny and took him home.  I named him Thumper and was allowed to temporarily set him up in our home until we found his owner.   As fate would have it, his owner was Andy Keen.  At the tender age of six, I took that as a sign that we were meant to be together!

At Show And Tell the next day, Andy was at the front of the class expounding on the traumatic events his pet bunny experienced as a runaway on the hard streets of Oakville.  During his emotional tale, I was overcome by desire.  I ran to the front of the class and kissed him on the cheek in front of the entire class.  I’m not sure whose cheeks burned hotter with embarrassment, but I took off like a shot out the classroom door and left Andy standing in front of the whole Grade One class, mouth gaping open, completely speechless.

Our love affair was short-lived.  Andy was mortified after the Show and Tell episode and made every effort to run the other way when he saw me coming.   I hope his therapy was brief and inexpensive.  :)

Her chosen path – Trifecta Challenge

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The decision made so long ago,

for her child to be given a better life.

She watched her from a distance,

hidden in plain sight.

Never being her mother, only a vague reflection.

or_l

(image credit: Thomas Leuthard)

~

Written for the Trifecta Challenge – On to this week’s Trifextra challenge.  This week we’re asking for 33 of your own words inspired by the following picture.  If you use the picture on your  blog, you MUST give proper attribution to the photographer by providing a link to the photo, not just to Trifecta.  Failure to comply will eliminate you from the challenge.

Good luck and have fun with it!

Stories of Christmas

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Another Christmas has come and gone leaving us with more great memories for the scrapbooks in our minds.

My sister-in-law kidnapped my mom from her new home and Christmas Eve was spent standing in a sub-zero temperature to watch Santa Claus go by on the fire truck.  This has been a tradition in our family since we moved to our small town in 1976.  This year, however, was the first year that a Command Post vehicle followed behind the fire truck in case Santa became thermally challenged.  I’m sure somewhere in his mind the Ho-Ho-Ho evolved into Ho-Ho-Holy S*&t it’s cold up here.

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Once again we went, as a family, to church but this year there was no fear of having to don a Shepherd costume and stand in front of a crowd.  Roles had been pre-assigned and we were able to sit in our pews and enjoy the performance. The three Wise Men this year were comprised of an older gentleman, a seven-ish year old and a stand up comedian, turning their show into a couple of wise guys and a very confused child!  Hilarity ensued and our hearts were definitely light allowing us to forget the frigid temperature outside and the fact that the heating system inside the church couldn’t fight off the cold.

Christmas morning welcomed us with a beautiful sunrise and a temperature of -30C but nothing could slow the pace of gifts being exchanged and paper flying.  Although we had decided a few years ago not to exchange Christmas gifts, my brother surprised me with a CD of my grandfathers dialect stories that had been converted from a vinyl album.  It was an amazing gift and one that I will treasure.  My nephews ventured off in their own directions, one wearing his new blue tooth headphones and the other jumping into a new book and devouring the words.  My brother headed for the kitchen and, even after five cups of coffee, I still managed to squeeze in an hour and a half nap before enjoying the turkey dinner my brother and family created.

After pushing our chairs back to let the turkey settle, we listened to some of my grandfather’s stories as a family.  My youngest nephew had listened to the recording so many times he could recite bits of the stories and my oldest nephew punctuated the end of a conversation with one of the best endings to one of the stories – “so long, fat ass”.  His timing was impeccable and there may or may not have been some cheesecake remnants sprayed onto the tablecloth.

It was agreed that my mom would have another sleepover and, one by one, we began to assume something reminiscent of a reclining pose.  My 13-year old nephew was a sitting duck on the couch when the tickling began.  The musical sound of his laughter filled the living room and, after exhausting all my efforts, I finally heard the three words that every Aunt longs to hear - “Stop, I’m peeing.”

I hope you all had a Christmas celebration that will leave you with stories of your own to pass down over the years.  May our hearts continue to be light and may we feel this same Christmas spirit throughout 2014.

The traditions of Christmas

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Each year, when my father was still with us, he would phone at 6:00 am to wish me a Merry Christmas and get the day started.  This year, I expect the lines from Heaven will be clear again tomorrow morning and that phone in my head will ring just prior to that dreaded time in the morning.  But this, begrudgingly, is among the favorites of my Christmas memories.

There are many Christmas traditions we still follow and, although they become slightly modified as the years pass, the holidays wouldn’t be the same without them.  After we moved to our tiny little town, Christmas Eve was spent bundled in our warmest winter gear standing at the end of our driveway.  The sirens could be heard before the truck was spotted and the lights would crest the hill by our house.   Santa Claus was atop the biggest fire truck and would pass all of the eager children, bundled tight like we were, waiting for a glimpse of the big guy before we were hurried off to nestle in our beds.  There were no visions of sugar plums, only the wonder of how he fit his ever-growing frame down our very thin stove-pipe. I pondered that thought until the weight of my eyelids became too troublesome and drifted into sleep with that unanswered query still nagging my brain.

Santa on a fire truck

As the years passed we began to give back.  We would faithfully wait at the end of our driveway with a case of beer for the jolly man.  I mean, he had to have been frozen up there and what better way to keep him jolly than some beer?  I’ll never forget the eve of one particular Christmas when Santa told us that he didn’t drink beer, but instead enjoyed a Rye and Coke.  I guess everyone has a Christmas wish and the following year we granted his with a tall glass of whiskey and carbonated syrup.  My gifts were fabulous that year!!

We almost missed him last year and I raced to the corner of the next street to catch him on his way back.  I stood in anticipation, forever in the shadow of the child I once was and with the smile of the child I hope to always be, and Santa waved and wished me a Merry Christmas.  My night was complete.

Each Christmas morning, we were allowed to open our stockings and then were forced to stare longingly at the big presents under the tree while we choked down some form of breakfast.  Complete and total torture. That tradition should have been abolished but still remains intact much to my nephews’ chagrin.  (although my brother’s Eggs Benedict makes the wait worthwhile!)  Paper flew, boxes were cast aside and we became buried in a pile of pure love.  Thanks to my mom, inevitably one or more of the presents would still have a price tag on them and that became a much-anticipated tradition as well.  My brother followed up spectacularly last year by not only leaving the price tag on a gift for his wife but the price tag was hanging outside of the gift box and not wrapped up inside.

My mother had become the David Copperfield of making presents disappear.  She mastered her craft so well over the years that we would receive some of our Christmas presents in March when they magically appeared months after the festivities had ended.  There was always a competition between my brother and I to see who would open the last present on Christmas Day.  We would skilfully hide a gift or two and casually pull them out an hour or two after the mayhem had ended.  My mom really upped the ante on that one and it was anyone’s guess as to whose Christmas present was going to appear at Easter!!

As I sit writing this, the presents are piled waiting to be coated in the festive colors of wrapping paper, the ingredients are sitting on my counter for my mom’s Shrimp Dip and my brother is preparing his house for the onslaught of family, food and extreme commotion.  This is the best of Christmas.  It’s not the presents or the tinsel, it’s time spent laughing about the price tags and the long-lost gifts that is the most important to me.  It’s Santa Claus on a fire truck and being tricked by my nephew to play a Shepherd in church almost every Christmas Eve. It’s a glass of wine with the people closest to me, the people who don’t care that I have to unbutton my pants after eating too much turkey.  These are my precious Christmas gifts and the best of my holiday.

To all of you and all of yours – a very Merry Christmas and happy holidays.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

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With the barrage of holiday movies on television and the impending calendar date of the actual Christmas celebration just around the corner, the many images of Santa Claus, old and new, are generously scattered throughout our channel selections.  Animated versions of the benevolent being as well as the portrayal of Kris Kringle by well-known actors give us abundant opportunity to delve back into that childhood fantasy that all of us once had.

Santa

Each portrayal of Pere Noel allows me to travel back in time and dip into the well of innocence I had as a child.  It lets me live in a simpler time when life was less complicated and everything seemed magical.

Santa Claus embodies the spirit of happiness and giving.  His cherubic face symbolizes unending love and perhaps it is that feeling of love that keeps the spirit of his message alive in my heart.  Santa Claus may not have a genuine physical presence, or more feasibly the cynicism of my adult life disallows me from seeing that presence, but the true message of his existence still flows through my veins.

Perhaps the North Pole is that idyllic peace of mind I am wrapped in when I allow myself the child-like happiness that I inexplicably only allow myself to feel this time of year.  Sure, I’m generally a happy person throughout the rest of the year but there is a more youthful quality to my happiness during the Christmas holidays that I wish I could capture and recreate on a more frequent basis.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.  He lives in our hearts and will continue to exist there as long as we believe in the magic of happiness.