On vacay this week, so posting in haste. Still I couldn’t resist Liz Young’s photo for another step along the path of the young woman we saw the last couple of weeks. You don’t have to read the other snippets to read this one. They all stand alone, but in my mind it’s the same girl, another 6-10 years down the road and still struggling with the reality of growing up.
The Deck Is Stacked
I always thought I’d marry my high school sweetheart. Like the movies. Maybe date the odd joker first, but pretty much just true love and happy ever after. Maybe he’s a diamond in the rough, you know?
In real life they’re all jokers. You’re looking for the king of hearts, but it’s knave after knave and not a diamond in sight – rough or otherwise.
Tonight’s was a classic. Called me “Ace” and said if I play my cards right, he’d take me to his private club. Bleurgh.
I can’t help it, I keep trying. Waiting to deal up a winner.
As so often happens to me, this story came into my head with a musical accompaniment. I love The Gambler, but with the analogy to this girl’s situation it has a whole different meaning.
Bertie only went for the company, in truth – he’d watched the game with Harry and Len since Debra died in ’72. They ate hot dogs smothered in seven kinds of heart attack, sipped over-priced beer and talked about all the nothings that mattered.
When Sarah dragged Harry to Florida permanently, Bertie and Len kept buying three seats in the nosebleeds and took turns to drink Harry’s beer.
After Len died, Bertie watched one last game. They found him after the game, slumped in his seat with crushed cans in his lap, and more on the empty seats either side.
I have a feeling the yellow post in the foreground means this is a Football stadium, but in my mind it was baseball, and these three old duffers went every week to the Roger Stadium (formerly SkyDome) in Toronto to watch the Blue Jays play. It doesn’t matter of course, the game was really ancillary to Bertie’s enjoyment of these evenings out with buddies.
Like Bertie, I quite enjoy watching the game without any real investment in, or deep understanding of, what’s happening on the field. Putting this story together made me finally research a few things I’ve been wondering for a while, so here’s some extra info for those foreigners like me!
Take Me Out To The Ball Game is the unofficial anthem of North American baseball. It’s played on the speakers and sung by the crowd. I bet Bertie would know all the words and sang them loud on that last trip to the stadium. They didn’t sing it first, but you can enjoy Frank and Gene’s version here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-r2luDoV9TI
On the Jumbotron is consistently voted in the top 5 worst ways to propose to someone. I bet Bertie and his buddies would have seen a few people get engaged though over the years!
The Nosebleeds are so named because they are so high up, they are jokingly associated with this symptom mountain climbers get at high altitude. They are cheap though, so a great way to watch the game when you’re not really there to watch the game. I think Bertie and his boys would have chosen to spend their pensions on the beer rather than a better view.
“Don’t fall!” he says, like always. Big grin on his face, coffee in hand, heading off to whatever and wherever he goes every day after he passes my window.
I’m perched on the ledge, like always. One leg hanging free, one safely inside. My heart balances too. Maybe he has a wife. Maybe he’s gay. Maybe he doesn’t even notice when I’m not here.
I notice. Where was he Monday? Sick or on vacation? I worried that he’d moved or changed jobs, but he’s back today.
“Don’t fall!” he says. Today isn’t the day to admit that I already have.
I tried, I promise, but nobody who studied English in a British high school can see a woman in a casement and a man on the ground not end up with a love story, at least as one of the thoughts in their head. Better this than the other kind of leap Juliet might have been contemplating.
When you walk the same route to work day in, day out, there are people who populate that walk like old friends you’ve yet to meet. They are so much a part of the walk that you miss them when they aren’t there – wonder where they’ve gone and whether they will be back. I remember one such person from my daily commute in Bristol, 15+ years ago. I wasn’t romantically interested like this character, but I still felt a little connection to him. Then I moved away and of course I didn’t say goodbye because I’d never said hello, but I wonder if he noticed.
“We’re rebels in our family,” Grandma used to say. Her own mother wore trousers and cut her hair short; Grandma went to university and became a Doctor. I worried I disappointed her – I wasn’t sure what to push against when so many doors were open thanks to them. I tried to hold the door for others, but it never felt much like rebellion.
She’d love my children though: blue-eyed boys who like to wrestle and climb trees… in pink sequin dresses and glittery rainbow cowboy boots.
The best thing about their rebellion is they don’t even know it’s happening.
Not so much a story, more of a musing from a fictional person whose experience is similar to (but not identical to) mine. The challenge of the millennial feminist was that so much had been done, and yet so much remained. Some of the more obvious doors were wide open to us, or at least appeared to be so, and invisible barriers may not be harder to knock down, but it is perhaps more difficult to form a consensus about which to attack and how to remove it. As a feminist, though, I believe in equality and that means building up men too – to be the best they can be and to have greater freedoms than their forefathers. So my greatest acts of feminism start with two little boys.
“I see they’ve got a black doctor now,” Doris indicated the TV. “And is that one gay? Why do they have to tick all the boxes like that? Just tell your story.”
“I think they’re just trying to reflect the diversity of the population.” Working at the home, Maggie was used to some version of the Politcal-Correctness-Gone-Mad conversation, but she couldn’t always let it go. “You know why Bert can’t find the bathroom?”
Doris giggled, “Old coot needs to admit he’s blind and put on his glasses.”
“Yes. It’s easier to get somewhere if you can see where you’re going.”
Extroduction – Totally unnecessary extra words, in case you’re interested in the backstory
Driving in the UK the last week or so, it still felt like the sun was low and blinding almost the whole day . They are significantly further north than here in Cobourg, Ontario, so the short days are way more noticeable. You get used to it if you live there, I don’t remember being as bothered by it years ago, but this time I noticed it a lot.
Anyway, this week’s photo prompt reminded me of that, but also I noticed the combination of the blinding oncoming headlights with the reflected map view. Like it was easier to see the plan of where to go than the next steps on the path. Hence this story was born. No likeness to any persons real or dead is intended.
Sylvie sat at her desk, ignoring the quadratics that swirled across the books there. “When I grow up, I’ll never do Maths again,” she said to the man singing on her radio.
At college, she told her friends “When I leave here, I’m going to travel the world,”
“When I get married, I’ll put my feet up,” she said, elbows-deep in suds at the job she got afterwards.
Now she tries to calculate the bills, ignoring the sink full of dishes, staring at the calendar photo of a place she’s never been. “When the kids leave home,” she sighs.
There’s a path going up that hill in the photo, and it caught my eye because it looks really challenging. This last few months we’ve done a lot of just getting through, but I’m also aware that while the view from the top of that cliff is probably stunning, but it’s the climb that makes the experience memorable and worthwhile.
There are loads of songs that try to capture this sentiment, “The Climb” being one of the more famous. The link below is another. And as a mother, I’m used to being told to enjoy the moment, so I know how deeply upsetting that type of advice can be and how important hope is. That being said, I hope we can all learn to live in the moment, even when we don’t enjoy it. After all, tomorrow never comes.
“Why do I have to practise every day?” he used to ask me, torturing that guitar just as I was torturing him. He loved being able to play, hated the process of getting there. If he could make it play the notes that was enough for him. Why should he practise again and again just to add timing and emotion?
Practising became playing, and playing eventually became gigging and riffing. One day, he’ll have a kid of his own who wants to be able to play but doesn’t want to learn. I wonder if he’ll torture them with practice too.
Since Melanie had a rerun last week, she has more to say. Hopefully, one day, a whole novel’s worth, but for now, she’s just commenting on the weather!
Inside and Out
Church is always calm on the inside. Even when it’s stormy outside and the rain is soaking everything. Inside it’s quiet.
Not me. I get stormy on the inside. Like when I stood at the front and my tummy squiggled like breakfast was shouting to get out, but I couldn’t even say the Amen and Father Andrews sent me to sit down.
Then Sarah winked at me and my insides started giggling, but Father Andrews was watching so I made my outsides look like Our Lady.
I look at her sometimes and I wonder. Is she stormy on the inside?
Christmases In The Rear View Mirror May Appear Further Away
“It’ll be an adventure,” she says, “We don’t need to be home; we’re together.”
The kids stare and nod. They’re too young to be sure what things were like before. Didn’t Christmas always mean magic, crackers and LFTs?
Weeks ago, she’d packed the essentials to bring Santa wherever they were and hidden it at the bottom of the case. Last night, she’d covered it with laundry and souvenirs, relieved to go home.
But home won’t let them in with a positive test. So Christmas will be an adventure, with as much magic as Mama can conjure from a secret bag.
How much explanation this one needs might depend whether you’ve done any pandemic travelling and/or have small children. It started at almost 200 words with a bit more explanation, but I hope it still makes sense in its FF form. If not, here’s the background.
The last few weeks we’ve been in the UK and Finland, visiting Santa at his home and then loved ones at what was once ours. The plan was always to be back at our current home for Christmas.
But it was touch and go. Travel involves a raft of covid tests and we knew at any point that there was a non-zero possibility of exposure, of a positive test, and of an emergency change of plan. So our back-ups included a bag of stockings and presents in the bottom of the case, just in case (pun intended) we had to recreate the magic in isolation somewhere other than home. The kids might have accepted that family presents were back at the house, but we couldn’t exactly say Santa didn’t know where we were … especially if we ended up quarantined in his backyard!
I’m typing this on the plane home. We still have more tests to do, but any isolation now will be in our house with our gifts already wrapped, food in the freezer and tree standing ready for decoration. This story, however, could just as easily have been us.
Lyla woke with a start. The room was dark and quiet. Gentle breathing from her left the only thing to hang onto. The world wasn’t ending.
She wrapped herself in a blanket and padded into the next room. The baby was sleeping soundly, her mouth slightly open, her face calm. Lyla’s mind spiked again with the vision of that same face contorted in terror, dropping away into the abyss and her own arms reaching desperately through the air.
Lyla’s face touched the baby’s hair as she climbed into the crib. “You caught me,” she whispered, finally able to relax again.