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here is the secret nobody knows

6 Oct

I whisper to speak of her, the gilded spectre of a gutted angel that my mother has remains in my mouth. To give her to my daughter, to explain how a woman, not just any woman, but my mother, survived and tried to thrive as her body betrayed her, gave out, held hands into the wind to let blow the seconds she had left, into the wind like so many crumbs.

Her teacher had cancer. She had long hair she tells me, but no longer. Why does this happen Mommy?

Cursory explanations, rogue cells, the memory brushing my eyes of verdency dropping to the floor of a bath tub, the hollow look of a woman with no eye brows, the acceptance I held to the just is. The vomit and the weakness and the size 6 boots she wore that winter, mincing up the laneway in the dark, leaning on me.

Leaning on me. I was just her age then, 8, then 9, then 10 then she was gone and the memories I have left to hold, the crumbs given are so few that I can’t even piece together who she was any mre, just a figment, just a second in a life.

And just like that, 23 years fall away and unbidden tears fall and Viv sees them, frowns and I can’t not tell her, I can’t not let her know that everyday somehow, my mother is with me and I miss her, desperately sometimes, wistful others, because she was my mother and even after all this time I love her and how can’t you? How can you stop loving someone, even when they’ve been gone so long their voice is a mystery and their dreams are nothing more than the heights climbed in sleep?

When she asks why I cry it’s for her, and them and my mother and the grandmother she’ll never be, the nightmares she never shushed for them, the dresses she never picked out, the interruption, the godfucking awful end of all of it. The shuddering finale that left us all wounded, bear trapped in the woods and maimed, leaking blood and water even years later.

I tell her all these things, I see her as a that newborn, I hold her close and wonder that her skin is still just that soft and her hair new and shining and waiting and the ache roars up my chest, like an arrow through my throat and I feel my mother then, I feel her loss, I feel her fear and her wonder. I see her arms about me. I remember leaning into her, fire on a cold night I remember, years and days and ages later, I remember her love for me. I understand it’s meaning.

I understand what it gave me, and I hold my angels now closer, bare to the heart, knowing. I carry her heart.


“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”

13 Sep

In air turned a dirty grey dusk, the scent of it tacky on my lips and skin, voice ring.

Counting. Counting down.

Come find me!

Where are you?

Find me!

I’m searching.

The dull gassy hum of streets lights balance against the warm brick of our house, our home, as we’ve made it. That sound, the grass through their toes, the laughter which bounces, terribly naughty against the neighbours house, spills in through my windows as this gauzy late summer night begins it’s drawl away. Perhaps the last summer night of her 8th year, her 6th. Perhaps the night they both build memories that become the stories and bedrock of their futures. Perhaps they’ll parse in in the smell of chocolate cupcakes, years from now. They’ll paint it in Venice, sing it on stages from here.

Draw the futures of their children against it.

Vivian, where are you? Vivian!

The house is lit, and welcoming against the coming night. The woods behind are darkening, turning from friendly caves to malevolent holes. I can hear Rosalyn, tethered between, wanting her sister, her heart arching to look under the maples and yet still young enough to see the orcs and goblins and child eaters hidden within, whispering.

Come find us.

Only this dank falling night can hold them, whispers, plaited promises. She yells for her sister, song on the wind, voice aloft.

I tell her, sweetly, kindly, to come wait, everyone has to come to home base eventually.

She won’t be moved. She stands, knee high to the clover turning to winter in the ditch, waiting.



Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.

23 Jun


Originally uploaded by thordora

Try as hard as I can, I can hardly see myself there.

I know I was seven, once. Long ago. A lifetime, maybe 3 lifetimes ago, the memory tucked neatly beside that one time my brother broke my hockey stick, just around the bend from when my mother started getting sick. There was a little girl, just like this one. Heavy in the eyes, shouldering the burdens of the world already, heart sad at the unjustness of it all.

“This husky killed a 21 day old baby Mom!” I hear peep over lunch as she reads Macleans, absently with her food, much as I did, and still do, eyes tracing words as food, eventually, found it’s way home.

I curse her quick wit, her knife like brain, the inner workings which barely skip a beat. I can only shrug and nod, my own heart hardened and inured to this type of thing, the horror of everyday life in our world. While I have trouble remembering the sunlight at her age, or the helplessness, I vividly recall the echoing terror of that age, the realization that things can, and will hurt you.

She’s too perfect to feel this yet. Too lovely, too wonderful and magical to be weighted down with such earthly concerns, with the dull roar of what we’re capable of, you and I, and eventually, her. She’s much too Technicolor to be part of the machine.

A mother’s bias, the beauty I see in her. She will always be a myth I’ve created, a glorious accident, the collision of love and passion. Like a stutter she exists everywhere, in my arms, newly born, hesitant to hold my hand near the school these last few days, slamming doors in my face while emotion reigns king, handing me my first grandchild as she smiles, standing fearless at my deathbed. I see all the Vivian my age will bring, and beyond, this woman I’ve created, the girl I hold at night through terror when the darkness only brings the dogs she fears.

I am sad for the person I will never know, the woman I will never see because I am her Mother, and not her friend, or her sister or her lover. I will walk only part of the way with her, in this, the spring of her life, setting her free into her summer to blossom and roar into the sunshine.

Gladly I dance with her now, for spring is fleeting, and terribly sweet.

When I was barely 6 months pregnant, while she slept under my heart, I dreamed of her, the her now, walking hand in hand with me down busy streets, much as I remember of my mother and I.

And here we are, her voice flying through the tender leaves of our new summer, her growing hand loose in mine, ready to slip away in readiness for someone else, sooner than later. We walk the grey streets of my dreams, and talk of nothingness and love.

She the dream, I the dreamer, blessed with foresight.


7 Dec

I tell them they need to come to our my bedroom, that we, their father and I, need to talk to them. Vivian bounces around the room oblivious, Rosalyn continues to chatter to herself, her world made up of straws and markers and people only she can see, tucked away inside her head as Vivian sings to Rudolph.

We sit them between us. My eyes start to fill but I beat them back by lashes.

I tell them that no matter what, NO MATTER WHAT, we will always love them, their father and I. Vivian looks up at me with her big brown eyes, wide and glistening. And stares into me.

I stumble, but continue as her father’s arm tightens around her shoulder. Daddy isn’t going to live with us anymore. Daddy is going to have his own house. As reality hits, as the words flutter down her chest like dying moths, her face crushes itself and the tears come, the tears you shouldn’t have to shed until you’re 17 and some boy just broke your heart. The tears I should not be staring at while my 6 year old freezes in her father’s arms.

I can’t stop it. My chest wraps itself inside out and a snake slithers around my heart, watching her. Rosalyn squirms in my arms, twisting and still nattering, but Vivian has a crashing realization of what this means, and she sobs a death call for us, and I await the requisite banshee outside my window.

Never. Never ever ever do I wish to do this to my child again. I am her mother. I should be protecting her, not wounding her, not shifting her world ten paces to the left, a little out of the sun.

I hold her hands tightly as she cries, and mutter all the pithy words I’ve read she needs to hear. We still love you-we still love each other, just not like a mommy and daddy should together. Two houses will be fun! You’ll see me all week and Daddy on the weekend and we can do stuff together now and again. If you need one of us, you just call.

But no, we won’t live together here. Daddy is leaving after Christmas.

Rosalyn asks where we’ll live. It’s the only sign that she’s been listening after all, her sunny side up disposition unaltered by the conversation. She’s young enough, immature enough to likely not be bothered.

Once Vivian’s tears have subsided, once she’s swallowed I remind her of how Mommy and Daddy haven’t been getting along, and how this way, we’re happier. She looks me in the eye and sees that I believe it. A weight goes off her shoulders much as one went off mine weeks ago.

We flip through the Sears catalogue to look at little beds for his house. We tell them that just this once, they get to pick which one they want.

I bend, remembering to whisper in their ears. This is not your fault. This is us. You have done, and can do nothing to fix it.

And we love you, more than you can ever know.


I refused to insult either child by telling them this is best. I still don’t believe that. I don’t believe that we’ve worked, TRULY worked on making this marriage work, and I will likely be resentful about that until the end of time. Maybe it’s because my parent’s had a good marriage, and Cancer stole it, and I wanted a real chance to have what they had-a home, a loving marriage, a family.

I have never thought Divorce to be the best option in cases where there is no violence. Not without trying to work stuff through.

But it’s not totally up to me. And if we can’t or won’t work through it, then this is best. Even if it crushes my heart, and makes me realize how I truly am a mother since only a mother would hurt herself this way to make it better in the long run.

I don’t know if we’re doing the right thing.

We took them to dinner, mostly to underscore the “we will still do things as a unit” point, and to give them a break from that tension. We walked to see where he’ll live, just a few blocks away, and smack dab between the walking trail, two parks and the corner store. A quiet, dead end street. Walking home, Vivian asked to play outside for awhile, the new snow too much to ignore. She asked her father to play with her.

She decided to play house with Rosalyn.

I’ll be the mother. You be the daughter. There is no father here.

How many times exactly, can a heart break in one day?


1 Aug

2009-07-29 156

Vivian, look at yourself.

About 6 years ago, I had no idea what I was getting into. I was nervous, asking all of those idiotic first time mom questions. (Will it hurt? Oh course. How will I know it’s time? You will. Hoooo doggie you will.)

I dreamt of you. One night I dreamed your name was Vivian and we spoke of magical mundane things and you held my hand as we crossed the street. You were six, well spoken, witty and amazing.

Oh darling, how marvelous it is to have a dream come true.

You read. You read stories to me. We read The Magic Shop and you stop me every paragraph or so, whispering,

“This part is mine Mommy.”

and without a hitch, you read. Sure, your tongue tangles here and there, and you might tilt your head up for help breaking a word down, but dammit girl, you are reading, and well. I watch worlds well and expand in your eyes, and I become the mother I saw in that dream.

You inspire me my little.

You are so very much the antithesis of me. You are bright, and bubbly and charming. You believe the best in everything and everyone, and I am loathe to nudge you, even a little, from this path. I do anyway, because it’s my job to protect that beaming smile and lanky body. You are an optimist, but a realist too. My explanations settle in you, your mind quieted by reasons.

You make me believe that people can truly do anything. I have never believed that for myself, not really, but watching you, seeing your hands deftly find their way with army men, grasshoppers or the garden hose, I realize that you may save a life someday. Create life. Build statues. Build love.

I am struck dumb so often by you, by this person I am raising, this woman I help to create. A girl so far unconcerned that she isn’t as “girly” as the others at school, a girl happy to grub in the dirt, dreaming of planes. You have your own drummer, and I revel in this, hoping it never disappears.

I have my dreams for you, but boiled down, simplified, they are this: Be Happy. As a baby you smiled up at me, a gummy grin, and I was engulfed at that moment, finally, months in, feeling my love for you. Overwhelmingly I thought

‘Let her always be this happy, regardless the cost. Just let her be this happy.”

So far, we seem to be doing ok.

I miss my smiling baby, my giggling toddler, my pensive little preschooler. But she’s being replaced by this incredible little woman, with her own dreams, her own wants and needs, and I couldn’t be happier. She’s growing into herself.

And it is fantastic.

Happy Birthday my girl.

Don’t waste yourself in rejection, nor bark against the bad, but chant the beauty of the good.

15 Jul



On buses, walking, waiting, anywhere that a child slithers into my side, a woman will smile that wistful smile, one of waiting or wanting, and stare at the three of us. I can always feel the eyes on me, the same I cast on the unknowing 15 year olds when they walk past me, their hips free of their futures, their shoulders strong and dreaming.

Sometimes, like yesterday, we’ll rise to leave, to make our transfer or get the groceries and a smooth hand will reach for me, briefly hold my gaze and arm.

“Your daughters are beautiful.” she’ll whisper, almost to herself, a secret of gold on her tongue. She’ll smile at me sadly as we walk away, my hands gripping each child warmly.


These women, they are so very right.

There are days when everything is so very hard, where I am tired, or lonely, or just plain done with small creatures who talk and touch and harass and otherwise get thisclosetome all day long. I have to force myself to step back and marvel at how Vivian is so utterly curious with everything, so responsible and such an old soul. Or how Rosalyn can create a new little world in seconds using only the two ratty sticks she carries and the back of a coloring book. If I stop fretting and fluttering, and just breathe, I can see them, the women who will one day play chess for hours together, instead of arguing about the set up as they are this very minute.

I see them as beautiful women then. I see them strong, and brilliant, and talented and above all happy. Their beauty, today, comes from the light which bursts from them, from smiles and grinning eyes, from the peace we feel with each other, when I relax and settle into them, and allow today, as well as tomorrow, to nourish me.

Their happiness keeps me found, solid and firm as they ready themselves to fly. The beauty and strength they project, lights my way as well as their own.


Placement: Grade 1

19 Jun



Maybe it means more to me than her, the last long look into the first classroom she ever entered, wave goodbye to her desk, hug her first teacher. Maybe she won’t remember this year, the way I remember my kindergartens in spurts, tiny spores released into the air of my memory. Maybe the memories will just be warm spring sunshine, the cold dark air of winter in her mouth. Singing, running, joy.

But it means so very much to me, on the verge of tears as we say goodbye to the woman who helped my daughter learn to read, who can be thanked, years from now, when Vivian accepts her Masters, or flies to Mars, the woman who has started Vivian on a road she can never fall from, a passion for words, and knowledge, and someday, hopefully wisdom.

How can you repay that? How many words match this gift?

Last September, I dropped Vivian off with a fair amount of trepidation, and a lot of relief, and shock. That we were there already. That she was so very eager. I read her last report card on the way home, focused more on the teacher’s perceptions of her than the evaluation. And I cried, quiet tears, swallowed as we walked through the playground. My daughter, called amazing and wonderful and bright, all those things I understood, all these things I’ve molded and helped create. To see it reflected back, to see her blossom under the tuteledge of another woman, and learn. It fills me with awe this change. It fills me with awe for my daughter, for her mind, for how nimble and thirsty it really is.

Seeing “Placement for September: Grade 1”, for all the smiles it gives, makes me feel old. She’s growing up, this magical girl of mine. She’s growing up,sprouting in her mind and legs, and leaving her mother behind already.

Maybe it does hit me more, my memories being sporatic, full of wisftul nostalgia. Maybe it’s just how it should be.