When Kelsey was really small, my sister Cathy went to the UK for a few years.  She came back about halfway though for a visit; at that point, it was also about halfway through Kelsey’s whole life.  Understandably, the two year old didn’t know that aunt from adam.  So, when we all went to the airport to collect Cathy, Kels wasn’t sure how to deal with all the emotion surrounding this “aunt person” who showed up out of nowhere and made everybody cry. 

Later at Gram’s house there was a bit of a party.  The crying turned to talking and laughing.  Kelsey’s older sister seemed right at home with the aunt, but Kels wasn’t having any of it.  Then, the aunt brought out a big bag, out of which there stuck some curious and soft looking ears.  Aunt Cathy lifted out a beautiful tin lunchbox for Carly and Carly loved it.  Kelsey, recognised at that moment there was something special about those ears sticking out of the bag, and more so something about that aunt and all the stuff going on around her visit.  And so shyly she expressed it to the aunt:

“I ‘yike’ you.”

The aunt pretty much melted on receipt of that innocent expression of trust and all she could do was pull that bear out of the bag.  Kels and the bear (and the aunt) fell in love with each other instantly.

That bear, symbolic of the love that little girl came to understand that day, has stuck with her through all kinds of good and not so good adventures.  And Kelsey, in turn, reflects that love with steadfast genuineness and honesty.    

Happy birthday Kelsey. 

And many more and… well you know…

peace

25 December 2009

Last night I was sitting at home, ready for Christmas, waiting for Carly to collect me and my bags of food and parcels.  I was to spend Christmas Eve, my favourite Christmas “moment,” with my girls and Ryan eating artichoke risotto and sipping wine and watching a favourite movie. 

It’s my favourite night because there is, every year, unfailingly, a sense of peace that comes over me.  I think it’s partly to do with the winter solstice, and partly to do with a collective dreaming and hope. 

So I’m sitting there listening to songs on my computer on random playback and Bruce Springsteen comes on singing We Shall Overcome in The Seeger Sessions.  I think it fits the moment.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.  May you experience peace and hope today.

yorkshire sister

20 December 2009

I’m not a fan of greeting cards.  I think they’re a giant rip off, and usually I’d rather say what I want in a phone call or a gift or a visit. 

Nevertheless, sometimes they’re just the thing, like when your sister lives on a different continent and thinking that her receiving mail from family at home is a priority.  Like during the holidays. 

So there I am standing in the Hallmark section of a store a week or two ago looking for a Christmas card for Jane and I’m blubbering like an idiot amidst all the sugary sentiment and dreamy winter scenes.

A sister is a part of you – she is connected to all things and more than DNA.  A sister is always there in the way you see, the things you feel and how you feel about yourself.  And that magic doesn’t diminish when she moves across oceans. 

But it doesn’t make you miss her any less when she’s far away.  And I was missing Jane a lot standing in that Hallmark aisle at lunchtime.   

Yesterday was her birthday and I was thinking about her place in my life – from that stubborn and independent little pig-tailed girl, to the beautiful and content transplanted Canadian Yorkshirewoman she’s become. 

I love you sister.  No less than if you lived around the corner.  Thank goodness for technology.

(And many more and shut the door on ricky hubble…)

I usually find that having to hear someone’s private cell phone conversation in public is a minor annoyance. Sometimes a major one. But yesterday morning, not long before I reach my final stop, I hear the most wonderful storytellingest, sing-songiest poetic voice with a Caribbean or West Indian inflection, talking slowly and deliberately, with rising and falling pitch and pauses added for impact – I really want to stay on the bus and listen to the rest of the story.

“So I tried and tried to find it for her,” said the rich womanly voice, “but I searched and searched and searched and searched and it seemed to be nowhere at all – nowhere at all in this big, big city.

“So I tried and tried to ring her to tell her the unfortunate news, and the line was ringing and ringing and ringing and ringing and ringing and there was never, never an answer.

“And I thought that she had given me another number so I searched and I searched and searched and I found it in the bottom of my bag, so I rang that number and it rang and rang and rang and rang and then, she answered!

“Oh and we had the loveliest chat and we discussed another idea.  A great idea.  And so today I am off again in the city, and I’ll search…”

And as I get off the bus I think how nice it must be to turn every conversation into something that sounds like a folktale, to reflect one’s world as though painting a picture every minute.

in which christmas begins

12 December 2009

I’ve always been something of a late comer to Christmas.  Part of that is hanging on to history and family tradition.  Growing up, Christmas really started around my sister Jane’s birthday on December 19th.  I’m kind of stubborn about not wanting to milk the hell out of something good, and I’m sure that’s to do with my parents and growing up too. Those of you who put up your trees in November probably have a more relaxed time of it and enjoy a good long holiday season.  But it’s my feeling and experience, that if I keep the time frame small, and the gift giving modest, then I really experience the spirit of the whole thing.  I’m probably sounding pious and judgemental, but it’s how I feel, and it’s how I enjoy the season. 

I’ve mentioned here more than once that in my family we’ve vastly reduced our gift buying in lieu of charity giving over the past few years.  And that takes much of the scramble out of the whole thing .  Still, there is some shopping to be done and that began for me this week.  There is a free shuttle to a mall close to my office, which I take advantage of during the week.  Shopping at lunchtime is substantially easier than shopping in evenings or on weekends, and it’s usually running over for one item or another.  However, I’ve already been elbowed by more than one intent shopper and snapped at by no less than three middle-aged Sears sales clerks seemingly five minutes late for their lunches.  “Christmas spirit, Christmas spirit…” I think to myself as one nasty clerk gives me the most amazing “you are a fucking idiot” attitude when I ask her if one particular item is on sale.  I’ll kill ‘em with kindness even if it kills me first.    

Today, Saturday, I Christmas shop in my Toronto “Beaches” neighbourhood and it is a really good day.  The shopping section is busy during all seasons, but today it isn’t any more of a bother, in fact it is rather wonderful.  Everything I could possibly need to buy is here.  Back in the 70s they built shopping malls to bring all this inside, but one thing they didn’t bring in is the neighbourliness. 

Sales clerks are chatty and pleasant everywhere.  In the linens shop everyone drops everything to gush over a new baby in a sling worn by his mommy, who had visited the store over the months of her pregnancy.  The hardware store has better buys in lights, batteries, paper, tape and random “man” gifts than anywhere else.  And an owner who will forgive the nickel you’re digging for at the bottom of your purse. 

The newsagent, with the best selection of magazines anywhere amongst my travels, who I had seen being so patient and kind to a mentally ill local only last week gives me a free Saturday paper.  And he knows exactly the magazine I’ve been looking for and tells me to come back Monday after work because it should arrive then.  The clerks in the beautiful little gift store completely understand that I need to poke around and look at every single thing only to buy one small stocking stuffer an hour later because everything in the store is something *I* think is beautiful even if it doesn’t fit the profile of any gift I am looking for. 

UK expats and others chat in the specialty handmade candy/British food goods store.  As people do in the independent book store while the clerk is taking down someone’s phone number to call after she gets a hold of a nicer looking copy of a particular book.  Dogs snub their noses at me as they wait patiently outside stores for their humans.  People and their computers loll about coffee shops.  Friends have beers and watch the curling match in the pubs. 

At the temporary Christmas tree lot at the park by the library, folks hold up trees for inspection and put wreaths and cedar garland in wagons alongside their kids. 

As I walk home, with the whirr and “ding ding” of the streetcar alongside, I’m thinking it’s been a really good day in my neighbourhood.  Today Christmas started.

she hasn’t changed a bit

9 December 2009

She started to talk when she was one and she never really stopped.  And now she’s one of my favourite people in the world to talk to.  She was a little older than that when she got famous in our family for asking for broccoli (“barkly”) for breakfast.  Later she turned herself into a vegetarian.  She loved music, listening to it actively from the time she sat in a baby chair.  Today music is still about her favourite thing and if she makes you a mixed CD you’re lucky because she’s insightful and knows what you’ll like before you hear it.   She was bright and cheerful and made being a new mom pretty wonderful.

Oh yeah – and she still smiles just like that.

 

Happy birthday Carly.  At 27, you’re as much of a joy as you ever were.

(and many more and shut the door on you know who)

sydney pearl

6 December 2009

Once, a number of years ago, Sydney’s mother was brought to tears when she saw my daughter Carly because, she said, it seemed in the few months since she had seen her last, Carly had suddenly turned into a young woman.

It’s kind of how I feel today, thinking of our Syd turning thirteen.  In many ways I want her to stay that little girl who hated it when I called her “peanut.”  But each time I see her she is lovelier than she was the last time.  Inside and out.

When it comes to nieces, Sydney is as nice as they get.  Strong and pretty and deep and smart and extra, extra sweet.  The best hugger ever; she’ll love you from the bottom of her heart.  Happy birthday  Sydney.  I’m so glad I get to be your aunt.

(And many more and shut the door on ricky hubble.)