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…


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…)

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.)

quoting julie quoting dad

27 November 2009

Jen, texting Cathy from a 7 am train to Montreal:

“That lake is as still as pee on a plate.”

Cathy, texting Jen from an airport taxi enroute to catch flight to Montreal:

“This morning was as black as the inside of a cow.”

see ya clarice

26 November 2009

I’ve been cooped up much too much lately.  Much of last week and Monday this week I stayed home from work because of a bug that had me in regular and extended coughing fits.  And before I go any further – no – it’s not *that* bug.  I kept myself at home though mostly because of all the hype surrounding *that* bug and even though the doctor confirmed I don’t have it, the paranoia has internalized enough that I fear being accused of spreading *that* bug around.  So I stayed home lots and puttered around cleaning out drawers, closets and as shown below – the shameful bookshelves. 

The wretched cough – for fun, let’s call the bitch Clarice – loved especially to show up and latch on to me at times of stillness.  Which became the reason for the multiple housy projects, and me not resting like everyone thought I should.  Every time I laid down for a nap, Clarice would cosy up next to me.  My attention span is normally short, and it’s always been a challenge for me to finish projects.  But housebound, I had lots of extra time and extra motivation for sorting and cleaning and organizing.  However, if I settled on the floor to wipe off a pile of books, Clarice would show up before long, wanting to join in and I’d get up and attempt to walk her off and try to ignore her by focusing on something else.  Then, standing over the entire contents of my desk spread out on the kitchen table doing the old “sort and pitch,” there she’d be again, wrapping her cold clammy arms around my poor tired lungs. 

The project of the books was thus a pokey affair, and I must admit there is still the odd little pile waiting for its respective home.  But aside from the blasted Clarice, it was pleasant.  In many ways – you clean and organize your bookshelves – you re-live a life. 

My last post talked about the diversion leading to the box holding the first diary.  That box, still in the middle of my living room, harbours memory triggers from childhood through high school.  Photographs and schoolgirl notes and mementos and pictures cut from magazines and cards and beer bottle labels, (does anyone really know why we peeled those off anyway?), autographs and letters and even a cigarette stub.  I think it was my first.  I should have saved my last too – I could have framed them.  I even found a greenish blackish end from some ancient doobie.  (My guess is that I was marking some great party.  I don’t remember what party for the life of me, but let’s just say I’ve got proof that there was some party back then there in the seventies that was good enough to be honoured by way of this little wad of paper and ash saved for posterity.)

The bookshelves bring to life scores of internal snapshots.  Open a book from my shelves and you may find a drawing and letter from Kelsey to the Tooth Fairy requesting that she keep the lost tooth, her first.  Or a bookmark made for me for Christmas by Carly, which I used for a year when I was studying English Literature and would think of her whenever I used it, wondering what she might study someday.  These little captured moments – a note to mom, a little story – illuminate, unexpectedly, layers of those marvellous little girls that our stash of oft-looked photos can sometimes forget. 

Open another book and find a card sent by a supportive and loving sister during a trying time.  A time that can now, thankfully, be looked upon as one of the building blocks that created this current version of me.   

A wax-pressed leaf – held back from a bunch I sent across the ocean to a friend on a whim.  A poem about the joy of flight that Aunt Martha printed out for my girls just before they were to fly for the first time.  A cantankerous letter cut from the Windsor Star, written by me, questioning some political ridiculousness of the day. 

The books of the Ondaatje period.  The books of the Doyle period.  The books of the Creative Recovery period.  Books of letters.  Anthologies of memoir.  Books brought home from trips.  Books given to me as gifts.  Books that were my mother’s.  Books that once sat on the shelf of Kathleen Dinsmore, before she sold her cottage and all the things in it to my father at the end of her life.  Books stuffed with post-it notes and notes written in the margins conveying some new wonder and passion discovered therein.

The married years.  The little girls in the house years.  The university years.  The possibility years…

The Secret Garden.  The Norton Anthology of Friendship.  Technopoly.  How Green Was My Valley.  Green Eggs and Ham.  The Grapes of Wrath.  The Bat Poet.  The Prophet.

As far as being cooped up goes, it’s been a good cooped up.  But I’ve had enough.  This weekend I’m seizing the opportunity to piggyback on my sister’s work weekend in Montreal and staying with her there.  This cooped up gal is counting the hours til she can roam the streets of one of her favourite cities.  I expect she may come home with a new book for her clean and tidy shelves.

november sister

14 November 2009

Happy birthday Cathy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thanked my lucky stars that you’re my sister because in this big ol’ random world what are the chances I’d cross paths with a friend like you? Unfailingly on my side; forever seeing my view; ready with uncompromised support and understanding before I ever need ask for it.

The middle sister – you were always like the heart of us, emitting a gentle warmth and love that drew all to you practically since the day you arrived on the planet. And still today that bright and shining smile warms the heart of anyone you meet. Your clarity of vision is something I will always depend on, and aspire to. You’re beautiful inside and out, and I’m looking forward to carrying out the rest of this life’s adventure with you.


In thee my soul shall own combined the sister and the friend.  ~Catherine Killigrew