This post comes to you a little later than usual because yesterday we moved into our new home just north of Cobourg, Ontario. Out in the country and a very different proposition from our old place deep in the city of Toronto. I’m still surrounded by packing boxes and I don’t think the reality has sunk in yet, but it’s an exciting time.
Bill’s photo this week spoke to those emotions, so while this story is fictional, it’s heavily inspired by circumstance.
Our first house was a dream buy. The owner’s unexpected demise made it cheap and we could fix all the old-fashioned décor over time.
Except time never seemed to come.
Now as we stand on the threshold, saying goodbye, I’ll miss those curtains I stared at through a million late-night feeds, that rug where our dear departed Rusty curled up every morning after his walk, the wallpapered pillar with lines showing dates and heights. I’ll even miss the avocado bathroom we swore would be the first thing to go. I guess puke colour is fitting given the things it endured.
“I came to a fork in the road, so I picked it up!”
“No poems, no jokes. How about interesting facts? French for Stop is Arret. It’s the root of our word arrest, like cardiac arrest, but we mostly…”
“No, Mom. No jokes, no facts, no silly word games.”
“So we’re just going to sit here and pretend your brother isn’t yakking on the verge outside the car?”
“Wales uses Stop signs but it’s not proper Welsh. Should be Stopiwch or Stopio.”
“I’m gonna go join the barfing.”
This one is totally clear to me in my head, but I don’t know whether it needs more exposition to be clear. I had in mind Mom and son waiting in the car while another son hurls his guts at the side of the road. Mom’s trying to distract herself and her son, but he’s not in the mood. Let me know if that’s what you saw – and don’t be afraid to critique if it’s not.
My youngest has all-but written off our car this week by NOT waiting until he got out and liberally decorating the inside. Luckily, it’s a Jeep Wrangler, so worst case scenario, I’ll take the roof off and drive it through a car wash. A highlight while attempting to clean it by hand was discovering that the floor has a drainage plug. Y’know, in case you flood the car. The designer probably didn’t envisage the flood being caused by me with a bottle of bleach and a hose!
The photo on my Mum’s dresser shows Gran and Gramps getting married. She made the dress herself from a Simplicity pattern and fabric she bought at the market. There were enough scraps that Mum was christened in a gown made with them, two years later.
I can’t sew a button. Mum could; I’d have to pay someone. Economic progress through the loss of individual skills. Presumably Great-Gran wove the fabric herself. And her Grandma grew the cotton herself.
If I’m right, where does progress go next? Perhaps my daughters won’t even have to earn their own money to buy clothes!
The coach bumps and we lurch into each others laps, laughing. We sing songs with the lewdest words we know. The teachers yell to keep the noise down, but we’re overtired and giddy; the overnight train didn’t see much sleeping.
Eventually our teacher stands. She says we’re almost there and she reminds us not to run off, or swarm over strangers.
“You’re not the first young people to arrive here after a long journey,” she says. “But yours was much more comfortable than theirs. And unlike the boys you’re going to learn about here, you’ll get to go home tonight.”
This story isn’t a memoir, although I remember the giddiness of school trips and the contrast arriving at desolate historic sites, heavy with grief and tragedy. The lines of flower buckets reminded me of photos I’ve seen of soldiers going to war or people bumpy along dirt roads in less industrialized places. I briefly pondered having the narrator be in the history not looking at it. But I didn’t have the heart to go quite that dark today, so we ended up on a school trip.
Where to is for you to decide, perhaps a concentration camp, a military cemetery… or an historic place from more recently. Maybe it’s the site of a residential school in Canada. The destination is up to the reader.
You all said it was good to cry last week and nobody wells me up like my favourite recurring character, Melanie, so here she is again. If you enjoy her story, click here for many more snippets from her world.
Get Well Soon
You’re allowed to lie when you’re sick. Mummy always says “I’m fine” even when she hasn’t got out of bed all day. She used to tell me we had to say “Thank you, it was delicious” when we gave back casserole dishes, even when it really wasn’t. Mummy said it was delicious and I had to learn to be less picky, but that was another lie.
When she first got sick, people sent casseroles all the time. Casseroles and flowers. Once we got a balloon, like it was her birthday, but it said Get Well Soon. The balloon lied too.
In haste, this one. Half memoir, half fiction. You decide which bits are which! (Clue: It’s not the topsoil)
I never understood why Mum cried at the end of movies. The characters lived happily ever after, defeated the monster or even occasionally died… I just scoffed popcorn and ran off. Mum would sit, quietly sniffing; ashamed of the tears, but unable to stop them.
Shame’s a shitty feeling, but those other emotions – relief, happiness, sadness – that spilled from her eyes, those feelings are real and pure and nobody should need to hide them behind a handkerchief or an adjustment of the glasses. These days, I can cry at an advert for topsoil. If Mum were here, we’d cry together.
When I first climbed the ladder, I thought my arms would drop off. My guide raced up and down monkey-like, but I was excited and very slightly scared. I was soon a monkey too: ascending or descending with a speaker in one hand and a loop of cable over my shoulder; in the pitch dark or the pouring rain.
They’ve put a lift in now. And you probably don’t have to climb through a window at the top. Accessibility, they call it.
Bet they can’t beat the musos to the bar at the end of a show any more, though.
This is a rare memoir from me. As a first-term student at Cambridge, I stumbled into technical theatre at the ADC. My famous peers (Rebecca Hall, Eddie Redmayne, Dan Stevens) might mostly have been on the stage, but to me, the ADC was about a small group of technicians, each of whom ran multiple shows a term, hiding in the shadows and whispering on ‘cans’.
During the show, the only access to the lighting and sound boxes, where I spent so many evenings, was up a black ladder bolted to the outside wall. The bottom was near the bar fire escape doors, handy for last-minute dashes up from the sofa to the box, and even better for a cool sharp exit before the musos could climb out of the pit. The lift is better, of course. But it post-dates me and therefore I disapprove of it on principle.
TRIGGER WARNING: This story isn’t about pineapples. It’s about Texas, May 24, 2022 and many other communities that have had their hearts ripped out in the name of Freedom.
They stand in perfect lines. Almost. As much as nine year olds understand perfect lines. Adolfo is leaning off the side, Jose is half-facing backwards, Hal has a hint of tongue poking between white ‘say cheese’ teeth. Ms Cruz sits at the front, beaming. She loves them all, and they already love her. It’s going to be a great year.
Until it isn’t.
Now they stand in perfect lines. Crosses and stones don’t laugh or fidget or answer back. Tiny mounds of earth never turn away from the camera to crack a joke or accuse their friend of poking them.
There’s a picture by my desk of me swimming: head down, 100% focussed. It’s impossible to think and swim, worry and swim, write, dream, even parent and swim.
It’s there to remind me what that feels like. Because here I can multitask like a mother. Field demands for snacks and calls for slide decks, while drafting an email about a spreadsheet I’m completing in another tab. The picture’s half-covered by a post-it reminder to book a PAP and any minute the washing machine will siren for attention.
But in the water, I’m pure and free and all the way in.