Remember long August afternoons when you were maybe, say ten? I do. I can sit on the front porch with the sun on my face and recall sucking on homemade orange Tang popsicle while I plotted the rest of my day. Or sharing secrets with a friend in the park, both of us perched on big wooden swings, our feet scuffing in the groove in the earth below us. Or how about being sent off walking to swimming lessons with my siblings, with our underwear rolled in a towel and a quarter for the locker. Or the jubilation of the hottest nights when my dad said yes, to the sound of the ice cream truck.
For all of that – August could be the most languidly indulgent time of year. If we could just hang on to it and put off thoughts of autumn plans. The never ending winter is almost forgotten – not like in the crisp days of September when you can hear it whispering again, “I’m coming, I’m coming.”
The afternoon sun heats the sidewalks and bee’s and cricket’s sounds make me lazy and nostalgic for days when I rode a bike in my bathing suit – helmet-less in the days before safety rules – and sometimes even barefoot. Do you remember the feel of bike pedals on bare feet? You had to slow down your ride by bumping over the curb and onto the lawn. Or how about summer vacations and roasting a hot dog over a fire that someone else was managing – your bare bug-bitten legs hot from the flame, your butt cold from the night temperatures. You couldn’t eat the hot dog fast enough cause after it came the marshmallows – gooey and likely burnt. And if you didn’t bother the grownups around you too much, you could run off after that into a sandy tent or cabin bunk and read Archie comics, or share some giggles with a friend or cousin before you were shouted at to go to bed.
And so I promise myself on this hot August vacation morning that I’m going to just float in the lake and watch the blue sky, and not chastise myself for this weeks calorie ridden snacks by doing laps from the dock to a buoy and back. I’ll skip the Archie comics and barefoot biking, but I’ll sneak away from the group to back float in the evening, immersing myself in a moment in time under the full moon. Maybe I’ll catch some of the last shooting stars of August. Ah August and beach blankets spread over a grassy slope for falling star gazing. August is very fine – let’s not think about sweater weather just yet.
There’s a bit of giggling before two older women, buddled against the cold, pull sandwiches from their jackets and hand them to a man leaning out of his big truck. You hear him thank them, laughing. “Oh,” one woman adds, “we have banana bread also.” More laughter. The video-ed interaction is wonderfully Canadian. Yet the City of Ottawa has said those bringing food to protesting truckers can now be arrested.
In another video – a huge circle of parents and children, dressed warmly against freezing temperatures, hold hands and sing, It’s a Small, Small World. There’s drone footage of a large crowd in the province of Quebec, where the official language is French. It’s night time and the crowd is singing our anthem, O’ Canada, in French. United.
Back to Ottawa – the nation’s capital, an enormous contingency of protesters, started by Canadian truckers who crossed the country in their trucks, mostly men, but women too, many with their families, joined by thousands and thousands of diverse citizens from across the land are asking for an end to restrictive mandates. Near our parliament buildings there are several Sponge Bob bouncy castles, inside children are staying warm by jumping. Others are being helped down a little red slide. Another social media video shows two women with Polish accents talking about how they have brought one thousand sausages and buns to feed whoever wants to eat them.
More than once I viewed video from a father who has brought his two pre-teen children from Victoria, B.C across five provinces to view this great gathering of Canadians because he feels it is a time in history to be witnessed. In one video the three are carrying pizzas for protesters and he asks his son and daughter, “Have you seen anyone from the media here?” They both answer, no.
There’s no looting or fires. It’s safe to bring children to this protest started by truckers, joined by farmers, nurses, veterans, native drummers and dancers, police officers, small business owners, and others of all descriptions. There have been many videos and more importantly live streaming, of warm encounters and conversations between on-duty police, RCMP and the protesters.
Over the last week people around the world have viewed joy, friendship, community, laughter, and great crowds of Canadians – thousands across the land, standing together on overpasses, alongside highways, at welcoming gas stations, so much so that I confusingly believe all Canadians must have viewed this togetherness. How could these scenes not have made it to the news stations that have covered the protest. Media has shown the same few photos of men carrying symbols of hatred – a swastika and confederate flags (which don’t even make sense here) and shamefully picked up on them as representative of the thousands of citizens. A woman was videoed waving her hands on the sacred monument of the Unknown Soldier and someone put a hat, scarf and a flag on the statue of Terry Fox. Those acts were absolutely wrong. Unequivocally. Arrests were made. Police reported those arrested were NOT part of the convoy, but the media won’t let go of those acts, reporting on them heavily, ignoring that truckers have laid flowers at both places and guarded them against further interference. Yesterday, a prominent newspaper falsely said the protest was of far-right extremists. Another paper reported racial slurs against a shop owner – shame on whoever might have done that. But, no footage of the man who told an independent reporter he has seen more acts of kindness in Ottawa this week than ever before. Truckers are feeding the homeless –having brought food in their vehicles for charitable acts. In turn, citizens and churches are happily feeding the truckers. There is an Adopt-a-Trucker program. On Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram the entire world is seeing videos of co-operation and goodwill but if you don’t access those you get a skewed and biased view of what is happening in our nation. You won’t see the trucker who received a package of valentine cookies from a child in Port Hope – getting emotional as he reads the kind note inside.
Supporters of the protest donated to a GoFundMe campaign that raised more than ten million dollars to go toward fuel and food for the trucks (with any remaining for our veterans). The mayor and chief of police of Ottawa are accused of calling the protest an occupation and had the GoFundMe cancelled. Shockingly, the mayor is heard asking for the money to be given to the city of Ottawa at a recorded meeting. GoFundMe made a wrong decision to take the money Canadians contributed for this convoy and give it to charities they – GoFundMe – would choose. The criminality of that was voiced and the money was returned to the donors. It would have bought a lot of banana bread.
What has been shouted the most by men, women, and children that are joining protests in cities across the country? Shouts for freedom. Freedom to do what some ask? To go into your kid’s schools again. To invite all your loved ones to weddings, graduations, and funerals. To visit your lonely elderly in retirement residences. To decide how many guests to invite into your own homes. To sit in a restaurant with your family members – no matter what their personal health choices were. To unmask your children from the mostly ineffectual masks they’ve been forced to wear. To watch your kid’s sports, or to board an airplane in Canada to visit loved ones in your country without showing proof of your healthcare choices. And most importantly to not be coerced into choosing between your livlihood and a vaccine. Those are freedoms they call out for.
Myself, I would ask for the freedom to see all sides of the story of what is happening in Ottawa from our Canadian media. I can see it elsewhere. Sadly, the biggest lesson so many have learned this week is how one-sided and unforgivingly bias our media is being. A young woman in Southern Alberta organized the most peaceful convoy – hundreds of cowboys and cowgirls clip clopping their beautiful horses, with police assistance, down the highway, virtually ignored by our media but cheered for around the world. Daily other countries are saying it is time to live with the virus, time to lift restrictions, time to unmask the children. This movement could be Canada’s moment to shine, to show unity, warmth, compassion, and above all hope. To work with our elected officials, instead of being mocked by them. What could those against the convoy’s possibly shout? “No Freedom?”
Put away your fear. Embrace going forward. Insist our PM meet with the truckers.
Oh, indeed the trucks have been extremely noisy honking their horns. There was an injunction issued by the court. They asked them to please stop. The trucker’s said Ok. We’ll honk at 5 pm for five minutes. It was agreed on. Oh, such a Canadian protest.
Oh Canada – our true North strong and …. What’s going on in this big, cold country of ours? I think we’ve all been sadder, then we we were aware. Now a convoy of truckers beginning on the west coast and growing through each province is headed to our nations capital to peacefully protest restrictive mandates. Why has this Canadian trucker’s convoy at this time in these long, long months brought out thousands of families waving the maple leaf flag in twenty-seven below weather? What is this that folks as diverse as comedian and actor Russel Brand, entrepreneur and business magnate Elon Musk, and country singer Paul Brandt are all supporting the trucker’s convoy? Why in frigid snowy weather as the sun rises and sets have Canadians lined the streets to cheer, wave our flag, and offer to feed the men and women from across the nation in a truck convoy that is by some accounts 53 km (40 miles) long? Hutterites, Mennonite’s, Indigenous, Black and Sikh citizens have given their approval. Huge convoys are coming up from all over the United States and support is being heralded from around the world.
What I see now – what I wish everyone could see, but our mainstream media is still doing ‘coverage lite’ , is great throngs of citizens lining the highways, offering truckloads of meals, offering parking spaces, mechanical help, even dental services for truckers with tooth aches – and a chiropractic from Maine is trying to come up and fix trucker’s sore backs. I’ve followed several Convoy Facebook groups – one which grew to 600,000 members before it was taken down. (Why?) There are videos with energetic country tunes, big rigs, small trucks, and on overpasses and in snow banks families of every description packing boxed lunches to feed their new heroes while their kids bundled in snowsuits, hold up the signs they’ve drawn. Truckers are making videos of thanks wearing their sunglasses, as more than one has said – to hide their tears of emotion. Citizens who felt they’d been left alone with their troubles are saying they can’t stop their tears of joy. A Quebec sovereigntist reported feeling ‘Canadian’ for the first time.
Clearly this is not about vaxed or unvaxed. By the numbers alone we know that. There was a time in the beginning of this pandemic where folks were belittled for daring to talk about our Charter rights, liberty and freedom – we believed in flattening the curve. But with that came QR codes – and young hostesses across the land forced into the uncomfortable position of policing segregation and requests for proof of ID to allow patrons to drink a coffee indoors. Businesses small and large have suffered immeasurable losses due to forced lock downs and restrictions. Life’s celebrations – weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, graduations, retirements have been halted. Our elderly have been kept away from those they needed most. My siblings and I allowed our own dad to be isolated from us for nine weeks of his final year before we came to our senses and took action to bring him into our embrace again.
We’ve all masked, we’ve distanced. We’ve suffered horrible hurtful loss of our loved ones to COVID, and along with it our mental health has been strained beyond tolerance. Suicides and drug overdoses have increased. The authorities wanted 80 per cent vaccination rate. They got it, but continued to demonize those who for whatever reason just couldn’t use or abide this vaccine. Omicron is spreading among the vaccinated and the boosted and the vax passes if meant to keep away the potentially sick, don’t make sense and should have been revoked.
This outpouring of support for the trucker’s convoy might only be a response to too much over-reaching government control. People long to feel connected and united in their delight. Citizens around the world are sending messages of support for our truckers whose mandate is one of peaceful, calm protest. Yet our leaders and news sources find the few crazy’s in the thousands to try to in-still more fear in fear-weary citizens. Global news (shame on them) shows footage of the US troubles last Jan 6th and compares this to that. And yes, in groups of this magnitude there will be trouble makers and extremists to be dealt with, but truckers are reporting police forces and RCMP are helpful and for the most part supportive, directing traffic and guiding them on their way. Media has repeatedly questioned the GoFundMe (currently above six million dollars) which is intended to cover fuel of the registered truckers, with any remainder going to our veterans. Our Prime Minister, instead of offering to listen and talk, called the convoy a minority fringe of people with unacceptable views. What? As in he, the leader, will not accept them?
I believe Canadians want to feel free from government control again. They want to feel trusted to take precautions but not be dictated to. To be given their livelihoods back along with their feelings about bodily autonomy, no matter their choices. To feel cared for by their communities, to be heard and feel the joy of togetherness. I know they are thanking this group who are saying end the restrictive mandates, let good people work again. And what is the symbol of this protest? It appears it is our Canadian flag.
Years back when my four kids were small, they liked to make me breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day – pancakes fashioned to look like the word L-O-V-E, served with toast and pb and j because they could make that too, alongside cold scrambled eggs and tea – as they hadn’t mastered timing. Their dad, amused by their muddled efforts, stayed hands off and kept a secret for me, which was that on a day when I could supposedly choose my activities the garden had called to me. So while our two girls and two boys were arguing about who would carry the tray to their sleepy mom I was actually outside listening to birds sing with my hands in the soil, weeding around pansies and tulips, freshening up raspberry canes.
My husband would distract the kids, I’d sneak back inside, go from dusty garden attire back to pj’s, climb into bed and wait for all their happy faces and my curvy pancakes. When they got bored watching me eat, I’d be able to stop forcing down cold eggs and toast with gobs of peanut butter, and maybe get back to the robins chirping and dividing a bag of glad bulbs up for me and my own mom.
From there, having had my blissful gardening fix, I’d have gone in to make a (hot) brunch for my parents or maybe a fancy dinner later with my mom’s favorite rice pudding for dessert – the notion of Mother’s Day off a silly sort of fantasy with four feisty kids, my mom to spoil and sometimes my mom-in-law too.
With those four kids grown and my sons living away, one of my thoughtful daughters, (the oldest a mom herself), will always make me a Mom’s Day brunch or lunch – I wouldn’t mind if it still was wiggly pancakes spelling out L-O-V-E. I wish like mad that I could make love pancakes for my own dear mom, but she’s left us now. I have more time to garden these days, but I make a point of doing it on Mother’s Day because it is amongst the fresh rose branches and the new shoots of phlox and the pointy arrows of peonies starting to reach for the light, that I feel closest to my mom.
When we needed a family-sized home my husband and I bought my parent’s place and they downsized. While we’ve renovated the house, and even changed the landscaping, the foliage – giant evergreens, bushy lilacs, resilient bleeding hearts, frothy nan king cherry, and my favourite hollyhocks – were started by my mom’s creative green thumb. I feel I’m tending her garden, googling guidance to make her special rose bush blossom (the one used for rose petal jelly) and to correctly prune the spreading lilacs. This will only be the second Mother’s Day without my mom at our table, telling me it’s too soon to put geraniums out, to just be patient. She’d be okay with me popping my sweet pea seeds into the ground though.
It’s been a good week for horticulture – windy maybe, but not too hot or cold. I’ve sat on the grass pulling out the darn creeping bell flower and thought lots about my little mom – (she was much shorter than I am) – she was quiet but wise, not prone to sharing her worries. She nurtured her soul tending to her garden, but nurtured ours with her love-labour of making jam and jelly for our winter toast, by baking for us all year – apple and berry pies, spicy ginger snaps, and snicker doodles, lemon loaves and her magical chocolate cake. While I sat on the lawn beside that favorite rose, which will blossom with fluffy layers of pastel pink flowers, I thought I’d text my four kids my own Mother’s Day message about their grandma. She left us two years ago next month and I’d like to share the goodness of what she believed in. I want to remind them that their Grandma believed:
That flowers are necessary for the soul.
And tending to even a tiny garden will lift the spirit.
In offering food and drink to anyone that passes through your door.
In dropping off treats to people having troubles.
That making your bed first would start your day right.
She believed in offering a helping hand.
And in making old-fashioned phone calls to reconnect.
To never visit a friend empty handed.
She believed in making Sunday dinner special.
It’s Canada. Always bring a sweater, she said.
She believed in the magic of a good chocolate cake.
She believed in going barefoot.
She believed in treating her adult kids to weekends away by babysitting for us.
She especially believed in celebrating family birthdays, all the holidays, and New Year’s Day dinner.
She believed in being good. She was good. She would have especially believed in L-O-V-E pancakes. 💕
It’s the holly jolly season of brightness and light. But my family and my extended family have lost too many of our elderly this year – the chiefs of our tribes, my dear mom one of them. Mom loved Christmas – and like so many moms she created it – vintage Christmas cards hanging on a string, the favorite decorations glistening on a fresh cut tree, the gifts shopped for at sales throughout the year, and closer to the day – the table top lined with shortbread and nanaimo bars and those Chinese noodle chocolate cookies chilling on the porch. So all of it is hard this year, but Mom would want us to find the joy, to gather together and hold each other tight on a snowy night. (Mom – we’ll give it our best shot.) In her honour I’d like to share a favourite excerpt from my book Text Me, Love Mom that speaks of the joy, chaos and excitement of a family in transition at Christmas time:
“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” – The Queen, Alice in Wonderland
For part of a bright, but snowy December and into early January, our home was crowded with our kids and their friends home from university and jobs – along with snowboards and old skates in the porch, left-behind scarves draped over chair backs, and take-out Chinese containers leaning against eggnog cartons in the fridge. Once our two sons and their dad had completed their December twenty-third and twenty-fourth shopping mall blitz, adding to their two sisters more timely forays at artisan shops or framing their own works, the gifts had spilled out under the fresh scotch pine Christmas tree. The deluge of snow lent to the holiday other-worldly atmosphere. Every outing required boots, or at least high tops, sought out from the heap at the door. We’d all developed the technique of backing down the sloping road instead of plowing forward through icy drifts, and the sidewalk shovel-ers worked with the risk of a friendly-fire snowball being tossed at them from the front deck. There was always someone trying to find a sibling, or the truck keys, or else they were noisily trying to locate the contact lens solution over another person calling out to see if there was milk in the downstairs’ fridge.
For most of their long break we skipped family breakfast – as pre-Christmas I was out using the mornings to finish gift shopping, and post-Christmas I used the early hours to bring in provisions for the household. I’d almost forgotten how so much of my life had revolved around trips to various grocery stores for two decades. A few days before our kid’s departures were going to begin – I located them in the evening, in person or by text, “Breakfast together tomorrow at 10:30, okay?”
Zoë, our eldest, was more interested in the stacks of pancakes then previously. It had been a marvelous new holiday season for our family – because it was growing again. A few months ago, just before receiving her Masters degree twenty-five-year-old Zoë and her dedicated boyfriend of the last five years learned that the IUD Zoë used for birth control had failed them. “Got one past the goalie,” they were able to jest once we all passed the initial stress and concern of the IUD being surgically removed without interfering with the tiny new being. Zoë’s guy would touch her rounding belly and we would all grin like Cheshire cats. He was finishing a degree in architecture and was madly planning a renovation of their Vancouver home to accommodate a new baby. It was the twenty-first century – we were all okay with them transitioning to being parents before we helped plan the fun and romantic ocean-side wedding of Zoës dreams.
While brushing the snow off the car before driving our sons to the airport, a blur of white skidded past the hedge and across the road. It was a snowy white rabbit, running parallel to me. This was an unusual lucky omen – a white rabbit running parallel to you, but only if it was Sunday. And Sunday it was.
Our youngest, Lily, flew back to Montreal for the start of classes a few days later. She called me her second day ‘home’. “It’s so cold, Mom. I can’t even hang onto my phone – it’s so cold.” She was rushing to a grocery store to buy ingredients for my meat sauce. “Tell me exactly what you put in yours. I want mine to taste like yours.” She was quiet. Then, “What are you and Zoё doing? I wish I was still there hanging out.”
Zoё had been commissioned to paint a mural for an art show, but was free to hang back in Calgary for another day and return when the price of flights weren’t as inflated, promising me some mom and daughter time together. We were returning a maternity shirt that didn’t fit her, going out for a peaceful lunch and because, unlike the Montreal deep freeze, Calgary was being treated to balmy Chinook weather, we planned to take a walk along the reservoir. After all the lovely chaos of Christmas, a day of activities devoted to Zoё and I, seemed like bliss, but I was aware of the new hush Lily had returned to in her small Montreal studio.
“We’re not doing much, Lily. It’s quiet here. Make your sauce, and call if you need help.”
But Lily hadn’t been ready to disconnect. “Hey Mom. How will we work it when Zoё has the baby in June? We’ll be there right? How will we make sure that we’re in Vancouver?”
Funny, her brother, Cole, had asked me something similar. He had no interest in being around the delivery room but he wanted to be close by, “to film the kid as soon as it arrives.”
“We’ll work it out,” I told Zoё’s little sister, “It will be summertime. That’ll make it easier.”
The following day I took my eldest daughter to the airport, gave her blossoming body a firm hug, and handed her over to those security personal before driving back to this too quiet, too calm house. But imagining our first little grandchild, I feel less lonely. The baby’s other grandparents live in Calgary as well – and the bright bigger bedroom that was Zoë’s before a recent renovation, now has enough space for a queen bed and a tiny crib when they visit. Suddenly, the renovated house was beginning to make sense again… Despite the miles that separate us, our family was growing and this house, halfway up the hill, is still home.
Sweet, my kids would say. And so I’ll type to them all in their far away places, “Text me. Love mom.”
I want to give you a Christmas gift dear readers, a gift of wonder and beauty created by an artist that I hold dear to my heart. The gift is Alice at Naptime. The artist is my daughter, Shea Proulx. Alice at Naptime is a poetically illustrated graphic novel – a woman becomes a mother, an artist needs time away from her heart’s focus to draw, but she is caught by this new muse – her sweet sleeping baby.
In a review for Pickle Me This, Kerry Clare writes of Shea Proulx’s book, Alice at Naptime is a series of illustrations that Proulx drew of her daughter when she was a baby. “I used to draw all the time…” the book begins, “but now just at naptime.” And when Alice is napping, she draws Alice, her sleeping face set into kaleidoscopic scenes, a wonderland of strangeness, symmetry and doubleness that grows to fill the entire spread: “a symphony of Alices.” A kind of dreamland. And fittingly, for a child named Alice with illustrations that are definitely trippy, there is wonder: “Alice is strapped down so often when she naps. It looks like we’re worried she might float away.” What does Alice dream about? Proulx asks the reader, And I remember the fascination of my sleeping child’s face, the smallness of my world then—I remember the day my child discovered causality while kicking an arch on a baby gym, and both our minds were blown, but nobody else cared. “It’s just that I’m so in love,” Proulx writes, “lost in a sea of Alice.”
As Shea tells us in the afterward, “I’m not the person I was then. You don’t become a mother all at once. You have to grow into that new self. I recognize the fragility of the tenuous identity I was sorting out as I relaxed into a new rhythm… It isn’t without sacrifice that women become mothers, or men fathers. But the gains are heady and by their nature, indescribable, as are many natural desires. I only hope I’ve done the process some small justice. I owe that to a former self, that new mom, adrift in a wonderland, wondering who she would become.”
Alice at Naptime would be treasured by any parent or parents-to-be, but children too are entranced by the story and illustrations. Alice, herself, now nine-years-old (creating books take time) has read it to her little sister, Lucy. I invite you to share it this holiday season with a loved one or simply indulge yourself.
I’m so sorry about all of this. If there was something wrong with you before you broke your hip and had surgery for it, why didn’t we figure that out? I’m not supposed to think like this – because you were old and old people die.
God Mom, I miss you so much. I want to talk to you. It’s just little things that I’d say. Today I’d tell you that I went for a swim in the rain. And that I’m scrapping off some old wooden chairs to repaint. You’d admire the chair job because it’s frugal – and will be bright and colourful. You lived a whole long life without learning how to swim so you might not think of it as enjoyable in rainy weather, but it was.
And I’d tell you about going to the farmer’s market at the near-by community hall. Remember, it’s not like the ones in the city. Out here at the cottage they really are farmers selling cucumbers (got some) and zucchini’s (got those too) and fresh potatoes and corn (our supper). Maybe I wouldn’t tell you I bought a beautiful little bird house made by a local artist. It’s exquisite but you’d wonder how many bird houses I could own?
Did I ever tell you that we got the birdhouse off your garage before your house sold? How many birdhouses do I have to own before I’m a bird house collector?
Those are some of the things I’d talk about with you if you were still here. But you’re not and so what I want to talk most about is Dad. God it’s so hard with him. When you first left us (where did you go Mom?) his dementia seemed suddenly less of a factor. Like he was shocked into being clearer. Mom, I know you were 89 and I guess in worse health than we thought, but we were shocked when you died. (You know Dad doesn’t like the term ‘passed away’ so I try not to use it.) When you were first brought to the hospital with that stupid broken hip you said, You didn’t want to do ‘that hip thing’. And I knew what you meant – how a broken hip and surgery can lead to a slow downward spiral. But it wasn’t a spiral at all. It was way faster than that. I’m angry with myself for not staying with you at the hospital 24/7 but I had no idea we were going to lose you. If I could go back in time – I’d go back to then, but I’m guilty of magical thinking believing that I could have changed anything by being there. Your lung collapsed Saturday night but no one knew that . I’m glad I had a sister with me at the hospital, holding your hand and wiping your brow, but she and I are also glad the others didn’t see you, so they can remember you differently than that.
So yeah it’s hard with Dad. Cause he’s not clear now like he was that first week. He’s so lost without you. But maybe I shouldn’t tell you that. Though is there some way that you know? People I’m close to are saying there is. I don’t know what I believe. Are you looking over my shoulder at my fingers moving quickly over my iphone keys right now? Or are you just gone? I thought that I would have somehow felt you by now. There was one morning when I saw you in a dream and it was comforting then, but it wasn’t enough. I’m waiting for something like that again.
Mom we’re doing our best with Dad. It’s so hard as he doesn’t always seem to know that. And they are wonderful with him where he lives. He’s getting out a lot – like really a lot. He asks us to take him places constantly and none of us can say no, even if we’d taken him on a long drive in the country the day before. But we’ll barely have him back and he’s asking when we can do it again.
You’d be proud of your grandkids – they’re visiting him too. Hey, we made the family jelly – your special rose petal (maybe I felt you watching me that night), and raspberry jelly, and the peachy pear. I think we did alright.
Oh – and in this high tech world I taught my granddaughters how to embroidery one evening at the lake. I knew that would make you happy. Oh mommy. I miss you so much. I thought this letter might help. Maybe the first try is the hardest.
I could just imagine your response. I know you’d give me advice about the jam (it all set, but I did have one runny batch). And you’d just love that your six and nine year-old great-grand daughters were embroidering. It was cool to see how much they liked it and went free hand with their names above their carefully stitched puppy and butterfly.
I think you’d tell us we were spoiling dad and we don’t have to take him out so much. I know behind the dementia is my ‘real’ dad, who would never be so demanding. But both that dad and this dad are so lonely for you. I’m sitting here on the end of the dock, feeling as lost as daddy. I’ll slip into the lake and swim, I guess. I don’t know how to sign off.
Love you forever Mom.
Ps. I haven’t done the best job with your bills. Some got paid late. I know you’d hate that. I’ll do better.
Pps. Did I ever tell you that Rose says if she ever had a baby girl she’d name it Vera – after you. I hope I did.
Naptime- those words evoke a sense of peace and calm. Calm if
you are the one indulging in a nap – but even more tranquility if the sleeping
person is your busy little toddler.
Alice at Naptime is the sweet and dreamy latest book by Canadian artist and mom, Shea Proulx. Moms with children of all ages will delight in pouring over the colourful depictions of the sleeping child, and will lose themselves in the narrative carefully created for adults and children both. In this graphic story a baby’s naptime gives the mom a welcome chance to turn away from its need of constant attention but the artist simply can’t – the baby is her muse.
As Shea Proulx says she, “spent her twenties going to
forest-raves, living with a lot of strange people, and becoming over-educated
at Emily Carr and UBC. Immediately after graduating with an MFA she discovered
that she was totally pregnant… At its core, Alice at Naptime tells a universal
story, of a parent pining for past freedoms, while simultaneously descending
down a rabbit hole of all-encompassing maternal love.”
It’s the perfect book for new moms, artist-moms, moms we’re grateful for – and admirers of all of those. Anyone really – moms, dads and children – can lose themselves in the artwork that winds around itself in an ever changing pastel wonderland to the tales end. The book is available in hard and soft cover or a limited edition gift set that includes the hard copy with a signed book plate, two charming pins, and a special chocolate bar – a Mother’s Day present extraordinaire. Available from the publisher – Renegade Arts and Entertainment.
It’s that time of year again – in the air there’s a feeling of Christmas. With that comes a house upside with; boxes of decorations, stacks of cook books, half finished ambitious holiday projects to pack up for another go another time. And the first coating of pine needles – because we insist on the real tree – is sprinkling down over the furniture. I closed the mall tonight hemming and hawing over tricky gifts that I didn’t buy, while purchases that felt unique, but maybe weren’t, filled my bags. At the grocery check-out, where I stopped for bread for our peanut butter-toast dinner, I bought a magazine promising a simple Yuletide menu and am now nodding off in bed browsing its decidedly not simple recipes – too many fancy sauces and spreads to make when the household will really be becoming undone with all four kids home and the kitchen busy 24/7.
Gift shopping is almost a fait accompli though I’m a guilty over-consumer jotting notes in my phone, for just one more item for the tricky-to-buy for family member. I fall asleep by reciting and revising my next day to-do list; pick up holiday dry cleaning, book a haircut, return the too tight party shoes, make the homemade potpourri for the yoga women’s lunch, buy granddaughters pjs, take my mom out shopping for my dad and vice versa … and stop my head from spinning.
And above all the bustle I still hear silver bells, and anticipate the holiday with a joyous spark of delight. Why? Because I’m siding with Bing Crosby and Christmas Eve will find me where the lovelight gleams. My big family, which has spread far and wide, will be together for a feast that will end with the once-a-year Christmas pudding – a symbol of these time – fussy and time consuming to put together, but so special and longed for, and worth every mouthful. For eleven and a half months it’s been easy to keep our home tidy and organized, but for this stretch – from Santa’s visit to the singing of Auld Lang Syne – it will be noisy and chaotic with almost a dozen folks being loud, ravenous, merry and bright. Ah – joy to the world!
We had this freaky issue at our cottage by the lake this summer. A skinny, slithering, sneaky problem that had me unnerved. At our lakeside place, one might occasionally see wildlife we are unaccustomed to at home – though I have say that our urban city life actually contains a plethora of bunnies, and deer – and recently a bobcat or two. I’ll attempt yo chase away the deer (good Luck), rarely get to see the bobcat and well bunnies are … bunnies. I’ll take any of those critters over the ones we were almost tripping over lakeside – because what we had hanging out at our cottage in the early summer were – snakes! Garter snakes and non venomous, but slithering and unnerving and creepy all the same. You can’t talk me out of my views here – I’ve been told of their merits – that they eat mice – I’ll take mice. And yeah there is that they were here before I was argument – give me a break. Even Disney’s Mowgli couldn’t be trusted.
The previous summer I accidentally stepped on one and the devil bit me. I hardly felt it at the time and was more upset by the two creepy snake-teeth marks visible on my ankle. After ‘that attack’ things changed. Previously we might occasionally have a snake sighting – a flicker across the rocks and then nothing. But a couple of them settled in, sunning themselves on the rock ledge with impunity.
Don’t try to make me like them. Don’t try to even make me appreciate them. My husband and I lay in bed the morning after the bite and googled snakes and how to get rid of them. The googling was frightening! We read of snake invasions and basements filled with writhing snakes and snake nests. Hec we’d seen Raiders of the Lost Arc’s snake pit – we didn’t need all the damn photos – thank you very much. FYI – Did you know that mother snakes never meet their babies? Mama lays her eggs and checks out. They are that cold-hearted.
I always viewed my dad as a big strong protective guy. When I was frightened of bears as a little kid on a camping holiday – he told me not to worry, he would keep me safe from bears. But even as I kid I knew he wouldn’t make the same promise with snakes – because my strong tough dad has a snake phobia. I don’t have that. I can look at them, but I can’t stare too long into their beady little eyes. Google says you have to get rid of their habitat. But it’s our rock retaining wall that holds the mountain hillside away from our place. One fine June day my daughter saw five of them hanging out at once – she spent an afternoon photographing them while I read about snakes (one snake can have 40 eggs) and snake deterrents – sulfur and clove oil and garlic. I planned to somehow plaster the huge wall with vats of all three. I phoned a local pest exterminator and was told, “You have to take them away in a bucket with the use of snake tongs. And,” he said rather gruffly, “we don’t do snakes.”
My next move was to put an ad up on Kijiji for an authentic Pied Piper to magically pipe them away. If you were planning to visit us with your own snake fears – don’t worry – I was on this.
And then presto… as if they could hear my snake tongs clacking the snakes seemed to disappear. They haven’t been seen since they modeled for my brave daughter. Though all summer before I picked the raspberries below the rock wall I banged on the rocks (snakes don’t have ears but they do sense sound) and I fiercely called out, “Go away snakes. Go away.” And one more FYI – it’s supposed to be a good omen to be bitten by a snake. I dare you to seek that out.