When the past slaps you in the face

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It is a very rare occurrence when my emotions take me by surprise.  I am usually fairly in tune with them and I can feel them bubbling gently below the surface.  But last night on my way home from work while driving past my mother’s old house, the same house I drive by every day on my way to work and again on my way home, the emotion stored within my walls hit me like a ton of bricks.   Last night I glanced at the house, as I do every time I follow that familiar road, and I burst into tears.

I don’t know where the tidal pool of emotion came from but suddenly I was flooded with images of moments that had become important memories in my life.  Christmases, birthdays, family gatherings and quiet nights spent as a family were at the forefront of my brain.  Lingering snapshots of magical kisses witnessed by only the walls upstairs slowly transformed themselves into moving pictures to replay those scenes.  That house, the building others would only see as walls and a roof, was my home.  It was the vessel that helped create and store some of the most precious moments of my life.

And I do the same with my childhood home.  Every so often I feel the pull to drive by and just look at the house that began our journey to becoming locals in this town.  It was home to my family and a welcoming second home to many of our friends.  It witnessed great happiness and great sorrow, but it was always filled with love.

house

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Although there were many happy times in our second home, there were also moments of great sorrow.  Those walls echoed my overwhelming grief in May of 2003 as I told my parents through hysterical sobs that my best friend had passed away unexpectedly.  That roof sheltered both my parents as they battled their illness and those walls protected them for as long as they could.  That structure, that old building that is seemingly unnoticeable to passers-by, will forever have a large part of my history carved into its frame.

That architecture will always be a part of me.   And each time I drive by and take the time to trace the outlines of those walls I will always have an affinity to its design and purpose.  It is said that we need to let things go to be happier but I feel the need to embrace those things to stay connected.

 

Balls to the wall

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It lay dormant, nestled in the corner of the family dining room at the cottage.  It listened to every one of our crazy conversations and eventually became the topic of many of those conversations instead of just blending into the background.

Its birth was accidental.  It came to be through a simple act of property maintenance.  The family cottage was built in the early 1900’s and had begun to show its age so, without regard for its final appearance, a spray foam was used to seal a few cracks in the old building.  What resulted in the upper corner of that dining room was eventually named and heralded as a true piece of our family history.

Perhaps this innocuous object was made more grotesque by my family’s depraved sense of humor.  It is even reasonable to say that other families may never look at this simple mass and see what we all saw.  But from the first time it was noticed at a family dinner, it was affectionately dubbed the “shiny ball sack’.

Over the years, this harmless protrusion witnessed our highs and our lows.  It feasted on the sounds of our laughter and it absorbed the collection of our tears.  Somehow that inanimate object became a large part of the traditions of our family meals and I was devastated to find out it was going to be amputated from its place in those family traditions.

I haven’t been able to visit the cottage yet this summer so I was unaware that the surgical removal had taken place – until today.  I came home from work to find a lovely gift bag on my front door step and when I saw what was inside, my heart swelled.  There, gently preserved in a shadow box, was the shiny ball sack that has been a part of our family dinners for decades.  My aunt had painstakingly saved this piece of history and presented it in a way that would allow me to keep this little gem of our family history safe and sound.

ball sack

My mom and I used to laugh endlessly about this mutation of foam and it will now find its place beside a picture of my mother in my living room.  It is a fitting ending to this chapter knowing that two of the things that brought me so much joy will be together again.

 

 

A Heavenly Wish on Mother’s Day

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Big brother 2

She birthed me and swaddled me,

she showered me with love.

Her arms always embraced me,

they fit me like a glove.

Her words were the only ones,

that could help to heal my scars.

Hers was the only light,

that would comfort me in the dark.

She woke me up to play with me,

she laughed at all my jokes.

She sang with me to old musicals,

although she couldn’t hold the notes.

Her faith in my abilities,

has stood the test of time.

She’s the portrait of what a mother should be,

and I’m glad that she is mine.

So, here’s to you, mom, on this special day,

my love for you has no end.

You are my giver of life, my confidant,

and will always be my best friend.

And though my wishes are sent further today,

into a world I am unable to touch.

I know you hear my words of love

and they will forever mean just as much.

Time is not linear

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I remember the phone call like it was yesterday.  My brother called from Vancouver in the wee hours of the morning to tell me that I was an aunt and my nephew had safely entered the world.  I was living in Ontario and felt like I was a world away but somehow felt like I was in the room with him at the same time.   That phone call came 16 years ago.

Tonight our family gathered at my nephew’s restaurant of choice to not only celebrate the auspicious occasion of his 16th birthday but also the successful completion of level one of our graduated licensing system for new drivers.  Yes, local friends stay off the sidewalks, my nephew is behind the wheel.

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It was a numbing experience watching their familiar vehicle turn onto the road that led to the restaurant and not see my sister-in-law behind the wheel.  TJ held the very proper pose of hands at 10 and 2 and didn’t even flinch when his dad lobbed a snowball at the car and hit it squarely in the middle of the driver’s door.  You could feel the pride, and some relief, radiating from his 16-year-old face as he crossed the parking lot.

As I write this post, their family has returned home and, at his request, TJ is out driving around our small town taking his dog “Zoey Hot Wheels” for a car ride.  I’m sure it is the first of many trips they will share with him behind the wheel and I couldn’t feel more proud of his smooth transition into the next phase of his life.   Happy birthday Buddy!!

 

 

My greatest love affair

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I can’t recall our first meeting but I can tell you it was love at first sight.  My curious gaze met his warm, brown eyes and the rest is history.  I was a year old, and he was a stuffed bear, but ours is a love story for the ages.

Me and Winnie

When I couldn’t fall asleep, Winnie was there.  When I was excited to read my new poem, Winnie was there.  And, sadly, when my roommate’s dog escaped her confines and ran up to my room, Winnie was there.  After some moderate facial reconstruction and many tears on my part, Winnie, or a new version of his former self, was still there.

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He may be slightly faded with time, as am I, but he still remains the same stoic character that I have come to rely on over the last 46 years.  We celebrate our birthdays together and, although I have the benefit of one extra year of wisdom since he was carefully crafted by my mother on my first birthday, each year is just as special because he is there to celebrate with me.

This is the fourth year I have been able to write a blog post on our birthday and I have written a tribute to him every year, so why should this year be any different?  He has been my confidant, my best supporter and the shoulder (albeit padded) that I know I can cry on whenever I feel the need to shed a tear or two.   He, like me, has experienced an encyclopedia of reference material when it comes to life events but we have come out remarkably unscathed.

Happy Birthday Winnie!  May the scars of our past help carve the road that leads us into our future.

When the sun shines on June

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I have written many posts about my mom since she passed a little over two years ago.  Some of those stories have been light-hearted and as joyful as she was and some have been wrapped tightly in the veil of loss.

During the past two years, my mother has made it extremely clear that she has been doing her best to keep in touch.  While others may dismiss my belief in her presence, I know in my heart it is not fantasy.  It is not simply an extension of my overactive imagination.  It is not some arc angel named Jingobar trying to earn his wings.  It is my mother – I knew her well enough to know how she operates.

If I ever had any doubt, even one moment’s hesitation that she was working her magic from another realm, she made it perfectly clear last Wednesday night.  Without going into intricate detail, a great deal of my past culminated into a very emotional evening and, where I felt I had failed in the past, I encountered an overwhelming rush of emotion by feeling like I had finally made a difference.

After sharing a very touching conversation with a dear friend and wiping the remaining tears from my face, I walked back in to my living room.  The early evening sun was still streaming through my window as I sat down on my couch.  To my left, my grandfather’s writing desk was cast in half-shadow and half-sun.  When I took a moment to absorb the tableau in front of me, the tears returned.

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The candle on my desk, the one with my mother’s picture, was one of the few things bathed in the sunlight and that light, perhaps my mother’s light, projected a halo onto the wall behind it.  In the two years that her candle has sat innocently atop my desk, this anomaly has never occurred.  A brief twenty seconds later the image, and the sunlight, were gone.

My mom, June as we came to call after this story (click on the link), sent her message in her way and I got that message loud and clear.  There will never be a doubt that she is always with me when the sun shines on June.

 

Job fairs and being able to form a sentence

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Things have changed drastically since I was a young teenager propelling myself into the work force.  I was a go-getter when I was young.  I had procured my first job at the age of twelve by walking into the store, relatively well-dressed for a kid my age, and handed over a resume that I had proudly written in cursive.  That piece of paper included absolutely no formal job experience besides babysitting but they could not resist my enthusiasm and my charm and I was hired on the spot to be a cashier and stock girl in a small, family run vegetable market.

Yesterday, I had cause to be at a job fair at the local high school.  Without going into scandalous detail, the outfits and the lack of eye contact or direct communication was overwhelming.  We did meet some wonderful candidates who presented themselves extremely well but the ones who stick out the most, sadly, are not the ones who inspired this post and, respectfully, they will not be the subject matter for the remainder of it.

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Mumblers and those who completely avoided eye contact aside, I was impressed by the level of maturity shown by some of the students who stopped by our desk.  They introduced themselves, some shook our hands and they asked questions about our lodge.  Sure, some of the outfits were not truly conducive to obtaining gainful employment but I had to cut them some slack.  They shuffled out of their high school classes because their attendance was required by the school.  For those who took the fair a little more sincerely, they arrived with resumes in hand and fully willing to take the day seriously.

I still maintain a modicum of hope for the future generations.  Notwithstanding the applicants who had their parents apply for them, I think we found some keepers!