Posts Tagged ‘childhood’

‎When we were younger we used to have sleep overs in the basement, staying up late into the night watching wrestling on TV (why, I’m not really sure)! We used to talk and joke and fight and annoy and generally speaking, we had each other’s back.

But that was then, and this is now and now I don’t remember the last time we talked or joked and I can’t even begin to guess how to have your back.

There used to be inside jokes and sideways glances and kicks under the kitchen table. I used to hear a song and think of us sitting in your room, listening to it over and over on the CD player I wasn’t allowed to touch.

It never used to be a question of whether we were close or not – we lived the first 18 years of my life sleeping ten feet apart. Close? Of course – we didn’t really have a choice.

But then I moved and you moved and closeness wasn’t a given and when it became a choice, we both seemed to choose other things.

And now I don’t know how to go back. Or, if I’m going to be really honest, I don’t know if I want to make the effort required to go back. And that makes me feel bad. I should want to be closer to you, I should want to reconnect but I just can’t seem to get there.

I should try harder, could try harder, would try harder if only. There always seems to be something getting in the way. I don’t know where to begin, I don’t know where it will end. I don’t know how to start the conversation and the fear of awkward silences looms large.

It used to be so much easier. I used to know the short-hand of your life and the names and places and things that made up your world. Our relationship used to be one long conversation, and now it feels like painful cocktail party small talk.

Maybe one day I will find a way, we will find a way. Maybe one day I will decide the work and effort is worth it.

I hope so, because I do miss you, or at least I miss who you used to be to the person I used to be.

Maybe one day.

But for now I will continue to wonder and wish and contemplate.

What happened to us.

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‎I could hear the voices as soon as I entered the school yard, excited, happy voices, the sound pouring out the open windows of the second floor. I smiled, their anticipation and excitement rubbing off on me, even from a distance.

I walked around the corner and took my usual position at the edge of the grass, still visible from the doors that would soon be flung wide open in reckless abandon. I checked my watch; it would just be another minute or two.

A few kids trickled out before the bell, sneaking past the teachers guarding the door. The voices grew louder, a few cheers rang out in the distance.

Then the bell rang; chaos followed.

The small trickle of kids turned into a full on flood, the doors swinging open so hard and fast that they banged against the concrete walls. ‎The little kids came first, their excitement more subdued, uncertain, restrained, until the screams of the older kids behind overwhelmed them.

My eyes welled up a little, I’m not sure why. Maybe it was the sheer, uncensored ‎joy, or maybe the nostalgic “kidness” of the situation. Whatever the reason, I wiped my eyes and scanned the crowd for the two that were mine.

I saw him first and smiled, but it quickly faded from my lips. His backpack dragged behind him, his arms weighed down with indoor shoes and a long forgotten sweater newly rediscovered at the back of his cubby, and on his face, a frown.

I started walking towards him, my arms open, and when he spotted me he stopped pretending and his face crumpled.

“Honey, what’s wrong?” I said, kneeling down and folding him into my arms, shoes, sweater, backpack and all.

“I don’t want it to be the last day of school,” he said between sobs, tears rolling down his face.

Some kids cry on the first day of school, my kid cries on the last day.

I couldn’t help but smile but I hid it behind his shoulder while I squeezed him tight. I knew it would pass, that a few hugs and a popsicle and a cuddle ‎in his chair would ease his sadness. I knew he would forget this.

Just as I knew I never would.

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Some days I am the tree, my feet firmly rooted in the ground and my arms outstretched to the sky, taking in all of the endless possibilities.

And some days I am the kid in the Winnie the Pooh cordoroy overalls hanging from the branches, screaming to get down.

Hang in there

Hang in there!

(Yes, this is a picture of me as a child.  According to family legend I used to stand under this tree in our backyard and whine until someone lifted me up to hang off the branch.  After hanging there for all of ten seconds I would, apparently, start crying until someone came and got me down. 

Then I would whine to get back up. 

You get the idea. 

I personally dispute the authenticity of the story.)

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Sometimes I feel like it’s my job to manage everything.

I manage the schedule.  I manage the grocery list.  I manage the laundry and the closets and the hangers and the buttons.  I manage the boots and the mittens and the hats and the scarves.  I manage washing the hair and cutting the nails and fixing all the ouches that come our way.  I manage the who’s and the why’s and the what if’s and the so what’s and the who did what to whom’s.

And somehow, on top of all of this, I have to somehow manage not to go crazy.

This time of year, with all of the added things that need to happen, I feel like my list of things to manage just keeps on growing and growing and growing.  Except I’ve started to realize that I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to managing because I’ve started to manage things that aren’t any of my business.  I try to stick my nose into things that have nothing to do with me, and in between people who have a relationship completely separate from me.  And then, for some reason, I am surprised when it doesn’t go well.

I’ve also realized that I try to manage memories.  I try to manufacture and create situations which I think will make good memories.  I take my kids to see Santa when really, they have no interest in going.  However, I think it’s something we should do because it’s something they should have a memory of.  I make ten dozen cookies so I can cross that off the list of things we’re supposed to do before the holidays, even though my kids would actually be happier if I just bought the cookies at the store and took those four hours and spent them sitting on the couch with them.

I’m also realizing that I have no control over which memories are really going to stick with my kids.  When I think back on the holidays from my childhood, I’m sure the things I remember aren’t necessarily the things my mother would expect, or necessarily want me to remember.  But they are what they are, and they are the things that have stuck with me through the years.

So this year, leading up to the holidays I made a conscious effort to try to step back and let some of it go; to take my hands out of every piece of what was going on, and instead to try and stand back and watch.

And you know what?

It’s worked out pretty well.

We didn’t go see Santa this year, instead just relying on the letters we wrote to let him know what we were wishing for under the tree.  Did I miss out on having the picture for the album?  Sure, maybe a little, but I didn’t miss the two hours of standing in line waiting to get it.

We baked some cookies, but only a few, and once we got tired of it, we stopped.  And later that night I told the kids to put on their jackets and boots on top of their pj’s and we hopped in the car for a spontaneous tour of the Christmas lights in our area, stopping first to pick up some hot chocolate from a drive-through on our way.  If I would have spent my afternoon baking all of the cookies I thought I was supposed to bake, and managing the memory I thought my kids should have, I would have been to tired for the light tour.  And I would have missed out on hearing my son say, from the back seat of the van, “Mom, this is the best day ever.”

This year there were some pretty great gifts under the tree but I think the best one was the gift I gave myself.  The gift of realizing memories can’t be managed, and sometimes you just have to sit back and let them happen all by themselves.

I hope all of you are having a holiday season filled with your own amazing memories.

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When I was a kid my parents had a huge dictionary that sat on a shelf on the wall unit in our family room.  It was so big that it took up the entire shelf, all by itself.  It sat right down near the ground because it was so heavy you couldn’t really pick it up (or at least I couldn’t) and you kind of had to slide it off the shelf and onto the carpet in order to open it.

It’s probably been almost 20 years since I’ve seen it but if I close my eyes I can picture the cover as though it were yesterday.  Whenever I opened it the spine would crack, making a very satisfying noise, and it had those finger holes along the side, marking where each new letter started.  The pages were whisper thin and would slide through my hands like silk.  I remember running my fingers across the letters, in awe of the fact that I had in my possession one book that held all of the words in the world (or so I thought at the time).

I remember running downstairs at random, just to pull that huge book off the shelf and look up a word, any word, it didn’t really matter which one.  I would read it over and over, rolling the sound of it around in my mouth, trying to memorize the meaning to ensure I used it properly.  Even then, I knew there were few things in life worse than using a word incorrectly.

My parents have moved three times since leaving my childhood home and somewhere along the way, the dictionary was discarded, along with the set of encyclopedias and the record player, lost to downsizing space and upgrading technology.

Now I guess we are supposed to look words up online, using one of the dozens of electronic dictionaries that now exist.  I really feel like it’s lost some of the magic though.  You can’t run your fingers across a computer screen and be inspired by all of the words your fingers touch.  Well, maybe some people can, but I’m more of a “hard copy” girl.

So the other day when I was cleaning out a shelf in my basement and I came across a smaller, and less fancy version of that dictionary, I took a pause.  It took my mind a minute to go back to the place in my memory where this particular dictionary existed but I finally got there.  I majored in Journalism in university and one of my professors mandated that each of us purchase a dictionary.  Not a pocket-sized one but a full-size, unabridged, Canadian dictionary.  ‘Canadian’ so that colour would be spelled colour and not color, which belongs to our neighbours to the south.  That’s neighbours spelled neighbours, not neighbors.  You get the idea.  And so I went out and bought one, used it frequently over my four-year university career and then promptly packed it away and forgot about it.

But for some reason I have kept it all these years, making move after move after move, packed in box after box and unpacked onto shelf after shelf.  I don’t know why.  I can’t even remember the last time I cracked it open but something stopped me from getting rid of it.

And the other day when I rediscovered it again, after all these years, I pulled it off the shelf in the basement and took it upstairs to the room where I do my writing.  There’s nothing pretty about it.  It has a bright red cover that has been bent and folded over years spent being shuffled around.  The pages aren’t smooth or shiny, but rather are kind of rough and, if I hold them close enough, have a faint dusty odour.  It’s also horribly outdated; and probably was even when I bought it.  The word ‘Internet’ does not have an entry, nor does ‘texting’ and ‘friend’ exists purely as a noun and not the “he friended me on Facebook” verb version that (wrongly) exists today.

But as soon as I saw it, I was instantly drawn to it.  I put it on a shelf right beside the computer so I can see it whenever I sit down to put fingers to keyboard.  Something about seeing it there inspires me.  Something about realizing all those words are there, all lined up neatly on pages, waiting for me to discover them, makes me want to write.  I feel like whenever I get stuck, I can just close my eyes, open it up and pick a word, any word, and use it as a starting point.  A starting point for something that probably won’t be brilliant and it probably won’t be amazing but it will be something, and at the very least I will be sure to use the word correctly.

It’s not the beautiful book I remember from my childhood but maybe one day I will have a writing room big enough to hold a bookshelf, a bookshelf with a space right close to the bottom that could fit one like that amazing book I remember.  In the meantime, I’ll settle for the one I have, and all of it’s 90,000 words.

After all, everyone needs somewhere to start.

startv., n. 1. to get in motion; set out; begin a journey; 2. begin; 3. set moving, going, acting, etc.
(The Gage Canadian Dictionary – copyright 1983)

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I told myself I would always remember. I promised I would never forget.

I am learning I was wrong.

My daughter comes home from school some days and is upset, upset because of something someone said, a misunderstanding, a disagreement that only those who were involved could even remotely begin to understand. Someone wanted to play something and someone else didn’t. Someone whispered something and said it was nothing but no one believed them. A look was misinterpreted, a joke wasn’t funny.

Each day it is something different and yet very much the same.

I see her sitting there, upset, and I hear myself saying the words that I think will help. I talk about friendships, how to treat people, how to ensure people treat us the way we want to be treated.

On and on I go.

I hear myself saying the words that my mother probably said to me and I hear myself breaking the promise I made to myself so many years ago.

I promised myself I wouldn’t forget what it was like to be young.

I promised that when I was a “grown up” I would remember how hard it is to be a kid.

I know there was a time when I went through all of the exact same things. I have blurry memories of school yards and scraped knees and bruised feelings. Vague remembrances of choosing friends and not being chosen myself. I know it happened to me, you’d be hard pressed to find someone it didn’t happen to.

But I don’t remember the feelings. I don’t remember the raw pain of being left out, the inherent lack of perspective that comes with that time in a person’s life. I find myself advocating for a long-range view, knowing from where I sit now that all of this will come to be but a small chapter, a set of lessons learned and filed away. But she can’t see it from where she sits, just as I couldn’t at that age.

I want to teach her the things that will help get her through this. But quite honestly I don’t know what those things are, and even more honestly, I’m beginning to realize that she doesn’t want to be taught.

She wants to be understood. She wants me to wipe away the tears and tell her that I know what she’s going through. She wants to hear that I realize things are hard, today, right in this moment, not to be told that they will all get better years from now.

And maybe that’s the solution for now.

Less teaching and more understanding. Less talking and more listening. Less words and more hugs.

Less forgetting and more remembering.

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As with most kids, there was a time when I saw snow as an adventure. Growing up in a place that didn’t get a lot of snow meant that it was quite the novelty when it did arrive. When you live in a city with less than a dozen snow plows, more than a dusting of snow usually meant schools closed, roads impassable and lots of free time spent sliding down the nearest hill on whatever flat, smooth object you could get your hands on.

I have a vivid memory of laying down in a pile of newly fallen snow in my backyard one evening, staring up at the sky while the flakes tickled my cheeks and eyelids. I remember thinking that the sky, even though it was nearing dark, was roughly the same colour as the snow I was laying in. I wondered how that was possible and since that moment I have always loved a “snow sky” as I coined it.

I grew up in a house at the top of a steep hill. Great if you were a daredevil and liked to go really fast down it on your bike, but not very conducive to winter travel. On really snowy days I remember my mom having to park our blue station wagon (complete with stylish wood paneling) at the bottom of the hill and we would have to do the hike on foot. There were usually a handful of other cars parked there as well and we would usually pass some neighbours doing the exact same hike on our way up. When it only snowed once or twice a year, snow tires were seen as an unnecessary luxury.

Our driveway was also steep and had a concrete retaining wall running along one side. My older brother somehow determined that the wall ran at the exact perfect slope for beer bottles to slide down so we used to make bobsled-like courses for them to dip and dive down. We would drag buckets of water outside to ice up the track and make the bottles go even faster. Of course inevitably we would spill a bucket of water (or two) and break a beer bottle (or six) turning our driveway into a steep, slippery skating rink littered with broken glass. It’s a wonder our family didn’t spend more time in the emergency room.

But all that has changed now that I’m an ‘adult.’ I live in a place where snow is the norm, not the exception, for at least four months of every year. We’re supposed to get a doozy of a storm tonight and through the day tomorrow and I’m dreading it. The roads are going to be awful, public transit is going to be a disaster and all I can do is stare out the window and hate every flake as it falls.

No matter how hard I try I can’t seem to find the sense of wonder that used to come with a good snowfall. When you’re an adult, snow means disruptions, plans made and broken, alternate arrangements, and back-breaking shoveling. Thinking about it all just makes me feel old and tired.

Winter wonderland? Not so much.

Sometimes being a grownup really sucks.

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