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I remember thinking this would never end

10 Oct

Now it’s undeniable.

From the corner of my eye I still see, slight, a girl. She lingers in the lines beside my eyes, in the way my hands wave along as I walk. She whispers in my hair with the wind. A certain time of day and the light might catch her, fresh and terrified.

But she’s receding. She’s receding in everyone, tethered behind children and marriages, failures and dreams we face and shake off, forever lost to us. Those versions of us, those gentle philosophers, music prodigies, the fame and the fortune, they are slumbering, tucking away as suddenly, we’re old enough to realize that when I grow up is never going to arrive. We are there. We are the other side.

We begin to misunderstand, we shake fists at youth while staring wistfully. A girl on the cusp of womanhood wanders by, and we remember, the halting nervous legs, newborn colt wet and ready. We see the age in eyes, the age she holds already, but unburnished. We sigh and miss and wish we knew, wish we had listened as you cannot then, youth born of fire and deafness. We scatter ourselves back in time but cannot touch.

We wimper as the young men walk by, brash and unshaped, time is gentle on the immortal. We remember and we stall them for time, willing the air to steal back that which, so vital, becomes hidden, stolen away from us. Our bald spots and wrinkles, cellulite and blood pressure, when did it replace joy and vigor and the sweetness of another day? When did we lose sight?

When did we get so old? How did we begin to forget? Where once we sat in glory as the world moved for us, now we’ve been shifted back, into wings, the far north to ripen off and age and pass, our jobs here done. The shine is off the penny, and time, it marches for no one but itself.

One day it was suddenly all about places to stay instead of places to go. How did we let it happen?

A child IS your heart outside your body.

8 Oct

I’m at work, and for the first time ever, I’m not watching my phone like a hawk. (During school days I keep an eye out, worried of course that someone will be sick or maimed or, well, fall off a chair like my children are habitually doing.) I’m not even thinking about my phone, tucked away in my bag while I work.

About 1.5 hours into my day, I think gee, I should take a peek, just to be safe. You never know.

Missed call an hour previous. The school. (Of course, the school being the smartest place I know, shows up as a private number, meaning I then need to scramble to find the number.)

I log in to my land line voicemail and hear a message which chills me. “Vivian doesn’t appear to be here today-can you call and confirm if she’s out sick or late?”

I’ve never felt such a sick, greasy fear before, but it shot straight down my spine, and settled somewhere near my liver while I sprinted off the floor to call.

The lady answering asks, not unkindly, “Is she sick? We noticed she isn’t in today.”

I sent her. She walks to school. She went. I walked the same way, back and forth since Rosalyn made me miss the bus, and I didn’t see her. She must be there.

A hem. A haw. She puts me on hold while silently, I pace and I slowly burn with a million thoughts. The rational ones are buried in the back, drowned out by self doubt (why did I let her walk? Is it worth it, letting her have this freedom at 8, these 4 blocks, barely even a km to school?) by anger (it’s not like her to not go straight to school! If she’s somewhere else I’ll lose it I swear to crap…) and by cold fear (oh sweet hell, is she somewhere cold? Did she get hit by a car and they didn’t stop? Is she lying behind a house, her leg broken? Did someone snatch her?)

Is she ok? Please, please, let her be ok.

The woman comes back. “All the kids are in the gym. Let me go look and call you right back.”

Let. Me. Go. Look?

I can’t breathe waiting for the call. I’m on fire, my nerves tense and strung, and all I can think is the possibility that my sweet girl in hurt somewhere, or scared, or all those horrible things you don’t speak of, not out loud. Did I tell her I loved her as she left? Did I hug her enough, distracted as I was by the morning, and getting her sister dressed, getting her sister to eat breakfast faster than she does? I pace and gnaw on my fingers and stay as tightly wound as I possibly can.

She calls back. “So sorry. Teacher marked the wrong kid absent. She’s here. She’s fine. I’m so sorry.”

I barely choke out my understanding before I burst into hysterical tears, heaving the words “holy fucking shit” from my lips. I catch my breath and run to the bathroom so I can let it go, the fear, the panic. The fucking cold fear.

This was maybe 15 minutes of my life. And it was terrible, horrible. How parents lose their kids, and carry on, survive-I cannot imagine. A few minutes of not knowing ate me up inside for the day, and all I could think was that some people life with that pain, daily, forever. Their kids never come home. Their kids, are just gone.

And I just couldn’t imagine it, hope I never, ever have to worry.


What I hate the most is that I automatically questioned my judgement in letting her walk, something which, honestly, is likely safer than if she got on a school bus in the morning or drove. It’s 4 blocks, through a residential area full with her peers and other families. It’s absolutely safe, unless you really worry about some random person smoking weed.

But I doubted myself. Instead of assuming, rightly, that everything was fine, and someone just made a mistake, I doubted me, just like all the media and the hyperbole and the paranoid suburban housewives want me to. I fell prey to believing in the boogeyman, even if just for a minute.

But there wasn’t a boogeyman. Just a miscounting teacher, and a secretary jumping the gun. A little girl who seemed oddly surprised at the extra tight hugs she got the other night. And a mother who should trust herself more often.

(Is it just my kid’s school that just does not have it together? Is your neighborhood safe, or would you doubt yourself first too?)

Our Arms Full of Miracle

3 Oct

Paddle in.

The water will resist you, like syrup around your boat. It will bend and slither, and you’ll swear you hear it laugh.

Pull back now.

The soft run of water over the bow, your hands battling the gunnels, the crest of a wave or glint of sunshine against the black water before you.

Paddle out. 

The smell. the silk touched scent of alive! the pines and the soft wool of forest, untouched, protected. Were it a woman she would curl around you, fingers, tendrils in your mouth, slippery down your cheeks, gentle on your eyes. Drunkenly you’ll close your eyes.

Again. Over and over and your muscles nod their assent and whisper we remember and your bones and body just work and thought-what’s thought, it’s thrown out while you count the waves and rocks and trees you’ve avoided and curse the headwind and wonder if you can.

I think I can. I think I can. Fucking river won’t best me.

And it doesn’t. It pushes back every step of the way, the wind and the concealed armor of rocky water, it makes you work for it this river. Every river has a soul, a being, and this river is immersed in attacking back. This river makes you want it.

Arms screaming, every pull to the left a struggle and a trial and then it ends and you’re out on the rocky shore and unbelieving that you’ve done it.

First real time in a canoe, you do over 25 kms in one day, into a headwind. First real wild trip, you go three days into the bush, realizing only after that if you chop off a finger or swallow some water, it might take a few days for someone to notice when you don’t come back. First real trip into the woods, and you miss that rock, not the one on the left or the one ahead but the little yellow beige bastard who popped his head up and said BOO!, dumping you into the cold October water. The river doesn’t let you up for a minute, teaching you a lesson you aren’t willing to admit you needed to learn. First time, and you did it, 50 odd kilometres, or more over a few days, and you don’t hurt so much as feel oddly proud that even though you weakened, even though you wavered, you told the river to go fuck itself and kept moving.

River’s don’t much like cussing it seems.


We rode the Patapedia River (named by the Micmac meaning “irregular and capricious current. HA!) down to where it met the Restigouche, fell in, camped, and hauled ass the next night to make up time. My first day out I was terrified, out of my depth, worried I’d disappoint or even worse, endanger my lover. I worked hard to find my footing, and instead gave myself a migraine. We made camp in a fishing camp built what seems like eons ago, a different world 1958, I couldn’t help but think of the french men who built the camp, all pipes and playful cursing and an easy cast into the waters.

We woke to the scent of pine misting on the air, salmon jumping, for joy, for dinner, not matter, they were silver in the air. We woke to a young bull moose, 20 feet away, maybe 30, just staring, curious, but ultimately, moose-like. He wandered off, tired of my baby voice telling him he was lovely and look! no guns, we won’t eat you moosey! and clambered like a tank through the river and up onto the bank across from us. I saw his antlers go, and then only heard him, and echoing crack in the wind bouncing against the ridges.

The second day we found our rhythm. It made more sense to me, as the river released it’s language and my patient boyfriend let me find the rocks before us, and I learned to read the river. When we turned into the Restigouche, we were having fun, energized by what I can only imagine flying feels like. We ate apples by the small fire we built on a gravel bed, waved to a man closing out a warden’s lodge. We watched as bald eagles took their lazy time in the very wind which angered us, swimming it seemed in the air.

Then, high on our pride, we missed a rock, I missed a rock, and in we went. Even in a wetsuit, hitting rushing river water when it’s 45F outside is a shock. I watched my love jump for the boat, murmured my thanks that he is so bloody careful with tying everything down, and proceeded to want to crawl into a very warm bed with a very hot cup of tea.

But you push on, You have to. Just like so much else, the only way out was through.

I wasn’t going to admit defeat, but we were shaken and suddenly felt unsure. We pulled off early to camp on Crosspoint Island, a lovely little island site. I wandered around mostly useless, made stupid and sullen by the cold. My man did all the man things, and got the tent up, the wood split, the fire going. Food warmed. We crawled into a too small tent, and warmed the air, waking through the night tangled. Every move meant coordinating who turned when, and accounting for the bounce of air mattress. I woke to the rising sun, warmed.

We set out again, and I was anxious and worried, and was feeling ill. My head was filling up with snot, that spot behind my eyes was starting to pound, and I wanted to sit and cry. The cold had sapped my strength and confidence, and I was equal amounts scared and pissed off.

We stopped at one of the campsites that has road access on the off chance that we could pick up cell service. But it’s funny, 22 kms off the main road and in a valley, there’s no service. It was walk for hours without the promise of a signal, or suck it up and keep going.

We kept going, I sucked it up, and we powered through 25 kilometers, at least. I felt like shit, and then suddenly, I didn’t. Suddenly we found the groove. We stopped trusting the river, and went back on guard-our intial problem when we hit the Restigouche was that we thought it would be easy. It’s never easy. It’s just different.

And then it’s over, and you stare back at the water in wonder. I can’t do that again, you think, but then you can’t yourself staring at the rivers you pass on the way home, wondering, what if, could I?

You could. You should.

I will again, and soon.

Imagine 3 days of something this pretty.


20 Sep

I don’t often miss being married anymore, these days full of my mess, left where I wish, my food, steady in the fridge, my couch, clean for me.

But then I spend a few days in a row with an eight year old moodier than me 2 days before my period, and one of the nights involves multiple wake ups and bad dreams and crawling in with me and I just cannot hack it. The tired, the soul destroying tired that leaves me weak at the knees and shamefully wanting to lock myself in a room where they just cannot reach me, huddled with gummi bears and peaches.

But there’s no secret room. There’s no where to hide, no way to stem the flow of tears. The reasoning fluctuates from ‘but I wanted something too!” all the way over to “my hair is so short they say I look like a boy!” and I hear my mother crawl out of my mouth with a “we can find a reason for you to cry” and then I hear that hated little girl in the back of my chest who blurts out “at your age I was worried sick about my mother, but I didn’t dare cry. What do YOU have to cry about?”

As much as I hate that I’ve said these things, I wonder if I’m so wrong. I do everything possible to make sure they have what they need, and then some. I maintain a reasonably friendly relationship with their father to make sure that stays as normal as possible. I do what I have to, and then I do some more.

And I’m tired. Good sweet crap I’m just, tired inside. Tired of their feelings. Tired of explaining and reasoning. Tired of wondering and hoping and trying to get it all right and then looking for a space to carve for myself. It never ends.

At least when their father was in the house, I could split the crying and the comfort, the need for love and understanding. Now it’s just me, every night, over and over. Vivian’s even started the little “I miss mommy” game which means I’m dealing with the crying over the phone on my days off from them. A part of me, a large part of me, feels like it’s in danger of shutting off completely, my usual compensation for when it gets too much, but I don’t want that. I’m trying to learn how to feel, like normal, how to let it flow through me and past me, around me. Shutting down won’t help, but I feel like I teeter on the edge lately.

It’s all so very much, and by the end of the day, after all the other multitude of stresses that make up normal life, I just cannot find it in my to deal with or care about a child crying. Again. Especially because she’s changed her mind about wanting a bath for the 5th time that night.

Single mommas, how in the hell do you do this?

“As for the future, your task is not to foresee it, but to enable it.”

7 Sep

The voice at the other end of the phone is a pleasant warm one, a woman. She’s young, not so young that you can hear the inexperience in her voice, but young enough. Late twenties, rough with time, glossy with hope.

There’s a gurgle, and a small quiet squeal. New baby sound, close to the speaker. You can almost hear the hip jiggle in progress.

My heart bends, constricts and sighs, memory overlaid with echoes, the foreign land of a time I’d almost forgotten, and I can feel the petal soft skin of my daughter’s arms, the down on the cheek, the satin hair that tuck under my chin. I remember hearing those squirmy noises and thinking how curious it was that she had so recently been inside of me, snatching time under my heart.

I whisper congrats to this woman, to her newborn child, still dewy. Welcome.


They can’t be this old. Not yet.

Time is like one of those snakes of a spring that hide in those cheese ball nut cans, all ninja sneaking and fake noise. You least expect it to draw back and punch you in the nose, but then it does. Time shudders and overlays itself, moment over moment and you wonder just how you can possibly hold it all in. The angle of the sun on the grass. The slush in the driveway as labour began in earnest. The night sky that one summer when, too hot for sleep we danced through our street greeting the stars.

It scares me. I remember the lost child I was, the broken girl, the strong woman who needed no one and nothing and I cry even imagining this as you. I remember taking pill after pill and hoping for death, wanting for it, and I weep at just the idea of you, either of you, ever feeling such pain. Let me take it from you now, so instead as horses you can run, strong and swift and lovely in wind. Let me promise the day to never impose such terror upon you.

Were it to be this simple, a benediction to air, a promise to nothingness, a wish, a hope. I fill you each with as much beauty and wisdom and strength as I can muster, yet worry it is never enough. I obsess over things like new shoes or proper lunch snacks and hope I’m getting it right.

I was too alone at the age you are now Vivian. I see that phantom pain in behind your eyes sometimes, and to know I cannot change it hurts more than any moment of bringing you into this world. I see Rosalyn trying to understand why the other kids just do some things. And I can’t make it make sense then either.

Baubles for wishes? Days of my life for their to only be candy floss and sweet songs on air?

Tell me what the trade-off is to keep them soft and petal-like. Tell me their secrets so I can hold them tight.

Tuck them back under my heart, to rest quiet forever.

Stop this implacable rush to the future. I almost cannot bear it.

Take us the foxes, the little foxes

17 Aug

It’s beautiful where I hardly suspected.

Behold, thou art fair, my love, behold, thou art fair, thou hast doves’ eyes.

In each line I can smell the rise of love, the dusky glance in air, the longing, oh the longing. I can taste the need.

My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.

In reading it I feel almost dirty, witnessing something so private and yet so truly common, that of love, of two souls entwinned. The pride in that love. The surety.

Thou art all fair my love; there is no spot in thee.

Oh, the pride. The silly, blinding pride.


I haven’t really, truly touched a bible since I was a young teenager. Reared roman catholic, schooled unwillingly, I have always been more familiar with the words from that book than I was likely comfortable with. Or rather, I was familiar with the bits fed, the beige parts, the instructive parts. Burning bushes and fish and wine and zombies wandering down the road.

But I don’t remember my heart burning in recognition of that phantom feeling the Song of Solomon brings forth. (To be honest, I’m thinking that reading those lines to hormonal teenagers would set them over the edge. The more aware of them at least.) I don’t remember feeling so very wretched with beauty. I don’t remember any lines, ever, taking my breath away and filling me with a magic I scare thought existed.

I don’t remember anything making my blood sing so.


Sun dapples through leaves. My coffee is bitter and warm on my lips, it’s roughness sweetened so slightly on the edges to barely be there. Skin is bronze and browned, smooth with youth, gnarled with age. Words are in the wind as the ebb and flow of people come around and beside me. She wears a dress of purples and pinks, short to the knees, sleeves like bells, and her mouth quirks slight towards the heavens when she stares at her coffee date. The grey in his hair shines silver in the sun, glistening with the day.

There are black dogs, and white ones, big and small but all are loved in the arms of their masters this morning.

The sun comes and goes, and the song sings to me again and again.

His mouth is most sweet yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters if Jerusalem.


I am not drawn to faith. I ponder it, I envy it, I watch it from a distance and wonder what it must be like to be so full of such a certainty-even my faith in science, my knowledge of it, is tempered by the fact that even the light switch won’t work if I screw with the wiring or forget to change the blown fuse. I do not get the seeming blindness of faith, and do find myself drawn to understanding the workings of it.

And so I found myself reading The Cloister Walk.  The author resides with Benedictines for awhile, and we read her experiences, set against a year of liturgy. A year of patterns I remember in my very being from youth, raised as I was. I may be an atheist, but some habits remain-even visiting a church, like the Sainte-Anne-de-Beaumont Chapel as my boyfriend and I did a few weeks back, I found myself almost genuflecting and crossing myself at the altar, completely unaware. It took an actual act of will, a thought to remind me that those actions had no place in my world.

This is how strong my mother’s catholicism was, truly. I wish I could say it was mine.

I would be lying if I didn’t say that in reading this book I feel the draw to the quiet places the author finds. I feel her draw into the words-she’s a poet after all, and understand simply how evocative words really are, how seductive they can be. Even in her own confusion and wonder about her place in the words, in the worship, she is able to give simply an understanding of how the words can be solace unto themselves.

This I get. Even as someone who has no draw to an other, no belief in something larger, I get the sparseness of the quiet she describes. Reading some of her selections through the book soothes even my heart. And gives me hope that I can find my own solace in words again, be it Anne Sexton or the bible or e.e. cummings. A reminder is what I needed, that words are a balm to my soul at it’s barest essential. Words are the spring to a winter’s heart.

I heartily resent your bean sandwich.

15 Aug

As a single mother I need to attest to a fair amount of resentment regarding certain types of people and comments. Some of this is just further proof that I’m a bit of a bitch, but a lot of it is surely driven by flat out exhaustion. You get your 5 year old to eat beans? I’m lucky to get her past the yoghurt! Yours is fluent in 3 languages? I’m terribly impressed if mine speaks english to me in the morning without the inflection of whining that she’s picked up somewhere this summer, a new variant on the past dialect.

So i’m scrubbing the bathtub this morning, the filthy tub I’ve put off for too long because dammit, when it’s 38C, I am not spending time scrubbing head down with hot water. And it’s nasty filthy, actual dirt, not just “un shiny”-and I wonder if the people who have time to do elaborate meals and outfits for their kids, who have these incredible sounding little cultured people, if they have the spotless tubs I imagine them to have? And if so, where is the time?  Do they not sleep? Do they eat? Is this why some women are so skinny?

My house is something I look at with a certain level of shrugged irritation. I can’t get ahead of it all, the cleaning, the cooking, the “educational toys and books”. My kids eat Mr. Noodle too often and spend time on the computer doing what kids in the summer do-playing, wasting time, dicking around. Presently they’ve been kicked outside as my mother would have done “I don’t want to see or hear from you in the next hour.” But I’m thinking in the grand scheme of mom war, I’d lose, Because I flat out don’t have the time.

I am jealous of those women who have the time to do all the baking and cleaning and interaction that I can’t do. I really am. I envy their lives, their plans, the meaning they give to the days. But I have a choice-I could spend my little time with my children cleaning and organizing and planning and making, or we can just hang out and be kids and Mom together in the last humid weeks of this summer.

I resent that I lose all this time with them. That parenting isn’t even benign neglect at this point, but rushing to and fro. I parent more on the walk to and from day care than I do at home. Mornings are crazed muddles and “let’s move!” and evenings a time when I have to puposefully slow myself down, so we all enjoy Equal Rights, not just me for the small victory of creating another Pratchett addicted person. I resent that these days move too fast, and I know it. I feel it rush past us, and then suddenly I know it’s not about bean sandwiches or sprouts or doing algebra. It’s about the time I lose to my circumstance, to reality, to a world I know I didn’t ask for, this one where we run and we run and nothing gets better.

I can’t get it back, any of it, and they grow older as I stand, hands slipping through time like water. I can’t stem the tide.