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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.

I don’t use drugs, my dreams are frightening enough.

13 Apr

She was gone.

In the rooms, swept with grey, painted with some crooked brush of forgetful, I sat, desperately trying to focus on the mundane, what’s for dinner, what to say, how to live.

As my heart seized and contracted, and whispered her name in my ear, over and over. My arms suddenly stretched and fell, realizing they’d never feel her gentle, warm body surround them ever again. My eyes would never catch hers, the liquid orbs wouldn’t ever dance for me.

Dead. My first born, gone, simply, from a flu, a cough, a something transient and unreal, too quick, too easy.

And I could not breathe.

The tears would come, and I’d heave and struggle, every cell in my body screaming for her, screaming Vivian! wretched with the knowledge that her body was cold and still somewhere, not giggling and perfect before me. There weren’t enough tears, not enough power in my lungs, enough life in my body to roughly handle her void.

I sat, in a restaurant, and cried my aching womb to sleep.

I tried to wake from this through the night. I’d shake out of it, and be dragged right back to it, to the hideousness of it all, the utter void. Losing my mother was horrible, absolutely, but the absolute blackness of losing a child, losing the issue of my entire vocabulary can’t touch on it. When I finally woke, I pressed my fingers to my face, expecting the tears to have been real, expecting my heart to be laying forlorn on my chest.

After the alarm, after the drunken morning shuffle downstairs, I stared into her room, stared at her softly rising chest, at her shaggy head, listened to the slight snores. She soon come into the kitchen after me, rubbing away the night, blinking at the stove light.

I’ve never held her so tight, or breathed her in quite so well.

Everybody’s got plans…until they get hit.

3 Apr

She fears fire.

Vividly, it encapsulates her, and she’s trapped in the terrified thrall. What if’s, what of’s, they fill the air around us until I almost cannot breathe anymore and I’ve run out of words to say, out of words with meanings deeper than this one thing:

“I will always save you. I will always be there.”

She imagines she can’t get out, she can’t break the window, the doorknob is hot, she can’t go out barefoot. Yet she can’t remember our escape plan, our meeting place. I ask her what she would do if there was smoke.

“The school” she tells me, “said to go slowly.”

The school has created this monster, this giant fear worming it’s way through her head, eating at her, slowly. A fear of fire is an elemental thing, especially for a child. “Where would we live?” she asks, “What about all my things?” We fear the cleansing of the growing, growling beast.

“Would snow put it out?” she asks, but only after asking if brick would catch fire. So many thoughts for someone so small and young. Such a weight on her back.

I look her in the eyes. “You are safe. We are here. We will always come for you. You think a little fire will keep your mother away? Pfft.” I hold her gaze for a little while, so she can be weak, then strong again. She gets it.

A plan, I tell her, keeps away the fear. And we have a damn good plan.


I fear my own fires, but it’s not one that burns in the real world, eating timbers and dolls. I’ve been feeling good-damn good, that good that terrifies me because it’s almost TOO good, a meandering steady that leads irrevocably into madness and mania. I glimpse my own potential, and see it’s shunted and cornered by this fire, my normal fear, my hideous lecture. I fear myself. I fear the fire that eventually tries to eat me from the inside.

I have all the hope and joy in the world for my future right now, but it’s tempered by the knowledge that sometimes, my own brain, my very own self, kicks my ass back down to be burned and scarred. It scares me, and it saddens me, and it sucks the hope right back out of me. I could fly, if only my wings would work for longer than a fledgling. I can’t get off the ground, and the smoke and flames threaten.

I worry just as much as Viv. I just keep it hidden, stuffed down, where I almost don’t feel it, where it almost doesn’t bother anyone, where I can mostly pretend it doesn’t exist. But it does. The terror of a hidden soul can only stay hidden for so long. Then it creeps and smolders up into my chest, down around my heart, until I paralyzed and gleeful, all at once.

I worry that one of these days, I won’t be able to control the fire, to put it out, and the flames will drain me.

I don’t have a plan, I don’t have an escape, and I can’t help but wonder about the fire extinguishers.

Sick Day Formulaic

18 Mar

The tug and pull and coercion of another Wednesday morning leaves me snarking at Vivian to get her bloody pants on, and hurry up and eat. She’s already looked up at me 3 times with those enormous brown eyes teeming with seeming pain and said

“But I’m tired and don’t wanna!”

I kept you home on Monday I say. I felt you were getting sick and in the interest of not having the health department in our home, scratching at the corners looking for the plague we’ve unleashed, I kept you home.

I go in to the bathroom, come out to her puking, but without the usual crying and melodrama that generally accompanies heaving your guts out.

“Did you make yourself puke?”

She says nothing, runs to the toilet, but is fine. Maybe it’s the cereal she tells me.

The cereal she loves, and would eat all the time.

I know her sister, she of hack hack, coughed her little head off all night and likely kept Vivian up, but that’s tired. I mean, I’M that tired all the time, what with the “Fill up my water jug” visits and the “I peed a teeny bit in my pants” visits and the “I want you to cuddle me at 3am, but only in MY BED” visits. I get by. And while she looked a little peaked, she didn’t seem that bad. Once I said we’d be lazy and take the bus the 1 km to school, she perked right up.


Of course, by the time we’re at school and I’m giving her teacher the heads up, she’s drooped her eyes again and started moving slowly. I tell the teacher that since Vivian is such a good actress, I’m sending her anyway.

“I’ve noticed she’s a good actor.” she says “I’ll watch her.”

(Her teacher is so awesome. She loves Vivian, but she is also ON to Vivian. It’s perfect.)

Walking away, it hits me that I don’t ever remember staying home as a child. I’m sure that I must have-there are very few children who are never sick, especially as small children. But remembering my mother, I would have needed to be VERY VERY sick to stay home.

How do we know? How do we decide what’s bad enough to stay in bed, and what’s a play for a day off? Does running a fever count, or is that just the body rallying it’s defences, and not to be worried about? Should there be more puke, more pain, tears, disinterest, extra whining?

I’m not good with telling with kids, not on the maybe days. I know when they are SICK, but what about those days when they just feel blah-sorta like those days you call in to work occasionally on, the day before your period when it feels like your intestines are attempting to wander out your belly button while inflating. Do we keep them home? Do we risk them knowing that exact key to a sick day?

Don’t kid yourself-it’s a game. I played the same one with my father before he stopped giving a shit. Of course I was a teenager, but it was the same formula-enough to stay home, but not enough to warrant one on one attention.  No one wants to end up in the ER after all.

But then what if you’re wrong? What if I’ve sent her and she pukes her guts out all over her classroom, all over the teacher, and she’s sitting there crying for me and just wanting to come home? What then?

How do we decide? How do you decide? Do you have a formula, or is it your gut? Thus far-I go with my gut, especially since I AM a fan of mental health days. But how does this work in your house, especially those of you with older kids?

Are ALL kids as seemingly manipulative as mine, or is mine just destined for politics?

“When you really trust someone, you have to be okay with not understanding some things.”

14 Mar

When she’s gone my mind begins to fill up with all the things that can happen, slowly like I’m filling a pitcher from a drowsy tap. Images fill with bruises and indignity, how well do I know this other mother? Where have they been all day? What might be happening-what could be happening, the things I know that DO happen.

It’s not paranoia, not really, despite being impossible to explain to other parents, women and men who didn’t spend their childhood in a currency usually left to adults. In my brain lies a summer I can never leave behind, and it colors everything. I’m not paranoid, knowing that the worst can happen.

Rationally, I know it likely won’t. But it could, it can and I worry for all those reasons, even if it’s buried in my brain somewhere and the other mother laughs when I call and says “Man, don’t WORRY! She’s great!” I can’t tuck her away in my back pocket and hope nothing ever happens. I have to let her free-but that freedom costs. It huddles in the corner and whispers to me about boyfriends, neighbours, people she might meet. It whispers that they could be holding her down right now, taking pictures, ignoring her crying, hurting her.

It whispers of all the horrible things that happened to me, and more. “Be the person your mother wasn’t!” my body shouts, “Make sure she never hurts!” but then she walks in the door, eyes lit with 5 year old joy and frosty air and I know my fears are relatively misplaced, and that people, most people are good people who wouldn’t help someone else abuse a child I know this and try to wear the callous off my heart.

Pregnant I foresaw this. I felt her tiny feet in my ribs and knew that, if a daughter, I would place the little girl I was over top of her-I would make a transparency of my childhood and hover around it, waiting for the chance to erase the potential of what could be. I would protect her from everything that tried to destroy me.

I can’t though, you know? I can’t protect her from the world anymore than I can get North Korea to stop being asshats. She is in the world, on her own terms and while I can still guide and try to shape that world, I cannot prevent the bad things as I could when she was just an infant. That lesson they warn us, as parents that will hurt the most, it hurts doubly, knowing exactly, in technicolor, what terrible things could happen to her.

I might not ever get past it, the tenseness in my chest when she’s not home when she was to be home, the quiet worry when she walks out the door, into the hands of another woman, the possibilities of caution, the frank terror some of this holds for me, trusting someone, not just with me, but with my child, with the creature that turned beneath my heart such a short time ago.

Letting go of this, my worst fear, my scared little girl trying to make sure the worst doesn’t happen to my daughters-it’s a struggle. And maybe I’ll never grow past it and will always freeze up with momentary agony, remembering, wondering.

But maybe not. Maybe she’ll just come home, smelling of smoke and hay and joy, as a kid should.

A child is a curly dimpled lunatic.

11 Mar

The clamouring starts before I’m even out of bed.

“Mommy, can you get me breakfast? Mommy, can you help me with my panties? Mommy, I don’t want THIS bowl, I want THAT bowl! Mommy, Jayden says that you don’t like me. Mommy, open the sock bin? Mommy, where’s my hat? Mommy, I can’t find Cheer Bear….”

If verbal assault could be explosive diarrhea, my children are official biological weapons.

Since I’ve been home, a lucky win fall for my daughters, the requests and needs and desires have been incessant, and I feel like I’m constantly being poked and prodded by a pack of wild monkeys searching for nits, the howling growing when I deny the T.V, the computer or more food. It’s almost as if they can’t believe their luck, and need to suck every inch of blood from my body until I’m just a husk a pod person comes out of.

I need to go back to work. I enjoy the time, but I’d enjoy it a LOT more if there weren’t kids under foot and I still didn’t need to get up most days to take Vivian to school. I have another job lined up, waiting to hear about one I want better, but DAMN, I am NOT suited to this stay at home thing.

I’m tired of cleaning, especially since no one else seems capable of keeping it that way. I don’t have it in me to constantly run behind everyone, or scrub the bathroom sink for the 5th time in a week. Reading is difficult since children, mine especially, have this irritating habit of talking. I really don’t have the capacity for games or experiments or anything arty. It’s just more mess. Winter has turned into that strange crunchy/slushy winter-spring hybrid, which means going outside is cold and sucky and boring.

I’m going a little nutty. I’m trying to just get away for a little while, since I also know I screwing with the patterns my husband has had for months, but this is a small city and there’s only so much to do. I’ve pretty much settled on spending a few hours at Starbucks or Timothy’s every day to read and maybe write if I’m up to the fierce outlet competition that ensues. Plus, it’s fun watching all the horrid 80’s hair on women far too old to pull it off. The odd poncho I saw today was also a nice touch.

Don’t even get me started on the hugging and the kissing and the cuddling. As people who have met me can attest, I am NOT a hugger, even if I adore you. Not a fan of touching-more a fan of the 3 foot personal space bubble. My kids are ALL up in my shit. I’m touched out in that regard. I don’t know if I can hack it anymore.

I LIKED leaving for the day, and coming back, happy to see my family. I could interact, pee without someone staring through the key hole, eat all my food, all by myself. Now, I’m so bloody lonely for human contact, for adult human contact that I’m being actively nice to strangers. Not just my usual good deed blather, but starting conversations and enjoying them.

This just won’t do. It just won’t.

Look, I love my kids. I do, with every fibre of my being but dear FSM I just cannot get them away from me, even at night. It’s all MOMMOMOMOMOMOMOMOMOM!!!!!, always with the inflection at the end like I’m some strange german word. But I just couldn’t do this forever. Rosalyn won’t stop peeing the bed no matter how many times she pees before hand, Vivian has nightmares nearly every night, and both of them only want ME. Santa could walk in with a pony and all of the Care Bears and no one would care since it’s not me.

SAHP’s-how the hell do you do this? How do you carve out anything for yourself without feeling guilty? These kids are relentless, like the black death….

When the least they could do to you was everything, then the most they could do to you suddenly held no terror.

26 Feb

Most mornings, rain or shine, I walk Vivian the kilometre to her school, trudging with half shut eyes through ice and slush. Most of this isn’t just walking-it’s tugging, cajoling, threatening and bribing for speed. We walk so slowly that sometimes I swear we’re going backwards in time. You’d never know that she loves school.

Winter in a schoolyard is a magnificent thing. Snowbanks to climb, to slide down, to jump in and off. Snow, simple, intricate snow becomes so many places or things. After the last snowstorm, I smiled, thinking of all the joyous voices I’d hear, running and playing on those hills.

We walk onto the schoolyard, and all the kindergartners are restrained to one, sterile area, trapped even, pacing in many cases, the length of the “play area” they’re allowed. I walk past a group who have started sliding on their bottoms down a tiny, foot high snowbank. Immediately a “teacher” rushes over, and micromanages them to the point that it’s just not fun anymore, and they scatter.

I stand with my mouth open, confused and sad.


While I don’t trust people necessarily, I firmly believe in independent children. I believe in bruises incurred falling down on the driveway, small cuts after wandering around in the woods, skinned knees after tipping over your bike. The possibility of danger, the thirst of fear. I believe children should have these simple things, and I don’t mean it in that old foggie, uphill both ways kinda way.

What do we lose when we take a person’s sense of adventure? When we remove the potential for harm, for consequence? What core part of our being is affected when we minimize the world down to things you can touch, and things you can’t? We’ve evolved chasing fricken mammoths after all.

I think back to the playground “equipment” we had when I was Vivian’s age. This rickety, rusty metal spinning merry go round type thing, some metal bars that ripped the skin from your hands, a yard. In the front of the school was this huge wooden climber, complete with a long, wide metal slide. It was likely 12-15 feet high.  I remember vividly the time a classmate jumped off the top, completely missed the snowbank, and shattered his elbow. No one ever did something that dumb again.

Some kid got his tongue stuck to the fence one cold morning, the little brother of a friend. The blood mark stayed forever it seemed, and in my head, I can see, exactly where this happened. I rode a bike into a moving car once, skidded under a parked one another, tearing up one side of my body impressively.

Sure, these are stupid acts, the acts of children. But they’re more than that.

They are lessons. Mistakes let us determine the right path, on our own, or damn close. Watching Jeremy screaming and crying as hot water and blood poured down his front, we all learned in a much more lasting way, why you never EVER stick your tongue to anything metal, no matter what anyone says. Healing from road rash, I learned to pay attention to whether the bike has pedal brakes or hand brakes BEFORE trying to make the corner that fast. I also learned to better anticipate events, plan a little better (snort. that lasted) PAY ATTENTION!!! as my mother was always yelling.

The point is that I began to come to my own conclusions, learn my own lessons, and actually take them with me. As opposed to every time an adult told me something. I was one of those kids, who just HAD to do whatever she was told was bad.

Yes, I’ve stuck my fingers in a light socket. Literally. It’s not that bad to be honest.

I never wanted to listen, and take some one’s word for it. I needed to prove it. And then learn the lesson that in some things, my father wasn’t lying.

The problem with the cocoon, and managing every single second of a child’s life, telling them how and where to play, what’s safe, what they can eat, what they can wear, is that you might turn around in 15 years and have an adult living in your basement who is COMPLETELY incapable of anything resembling acting like a mature human. Because you’ve done all the acting for them. They might not have the courage to fly the coop because they’ve never truly spread their wings.

We complain that kids are far too wrapped up in themselves and their things-what else do they have if we’ve taken exhilaration from them? They have what, new cell phones and fucking left? If you take the thrill from life, what’s left to it? If you destroy the chance to hurtle down a snowy hill on a rickety piece of wood doing close to 10kms an hour, if you keep your children from feeling the snow in their face, the sun on their neck as they laugh as much from fear as from joy, are they even still human? What are they? Who are we raising then?

We truly have so little to fear now, that we create boogeyman. I know people who see the world outside as riddled with scary men in the bushes, who can’t imagine leaving their children where they might get a bruise or stumble a little. We cover everything with helmets and protective gear, leaving me thinking wistfully of long bike rides on Sunday afternoons, the silky August wind in my hair, bathed in the sun as the world felt so open and fantastic.

What will freedom be for our children?


I pick Viv up, the sun warming the snow, melt water trickling down the roads. She sprints immediately for the giant snow hills, those which are verboten during the day and taunt her. Her friends join her. I stand with their mother and watch as they slide, with absolutely no regard for their safety, down the hill, bouncing and jolting, avoiding pointy parts the next time.

“They’re still bendy at this age” I laugh with their mother, and she nods, and we just watch, the joyous cries of youth filling the air between us, around us.

That laughter sounds long into the night in my ears.

Appetitus Rationi Pareat

20 Feb

Oh the guilty stolen afternoon, snuck quietly from the house, stolen to read a surprisingly awesome book (I love it so when that happens-when you buy it thinking, meh, why not, and suddenly you’re drawn in and the world is being colored around you..) The late February wind gusts around me, while puddles of new snow trickle beneath my feet. I can smell spring.

Fishing through the old clothes, I sigh a lot, all the cute things are just that much too small. We’ve grown past it. I finish eating my leisurely lunch, and while waiting for the cashier, spy a tiny boy, only 3 months, cradled in his mother’s arms as he has his lunch, eyes swollen with lunch stupor. His feet were so very small.

I’m on the bus when a little girl comes on, bundled in winter, cheeks rosy, her perfect little nose poking out, eyes curious and watchful. She stares at me with the no-stare. I’m fairly confident that I’m too far away from her to be really seen, but there’s something about those piercing little globes, like jelly beans or black jujubes.

My entire body cascades in on itself and cries out for more. My arms ache, my womb echoes for a child, my body feels drawn. My children are now children in the fullest sense of the word, and my body, my muscles, my soul shakes in the absence.

The simple unfair fact of knowing this ache after the birthing is complete. It startles me, like a cat shook from it’s sleep, and it angers me, that I couldn’t have felt this 6 years ago, blooming with the cells that would eventually become my first born daughter. Why not then? Why not when I could have reveled in every moment, enjoyed, simply stood in between maidenhood and mother, and accepted it, embraced it? Why only now, when the over is unplugged and in pieces?

I enjoyed the last 5 years. It has been a hard ride, a rough one, the brambles of mental illness entwined with simple achievements like first words (I can’t remember Rosalyn’s, and hope I wrote it down) and birthdays. But these years have been so innocent, comparatively speaking, as I’m noticing now that I have one in school. Those first 5 are halcyon days, glowing with such wonder, fabulous flowers on a plant you always found ugly. I eagerly sold the high chair, the crib, gave away 99.5% of the baby clothes. I welcomed, with open arms, toddlers, preschoolers, and now, children.

So universe, why now huh? Why burden me with a hunger I can never satiate? Why fill me up with this longing, for another child to grow in my belly, another gasp at the quickening, the terror of crowning and the quietude of 4am? Why bestow this gift on me now, after all this time, when its unnecessary, and more than a little inappropriate?

I stared hard at that little girl’s eyes, smiling wistfully, looking a little high I imagined. I could feel that baby skin on my fingertips, the porcelain of it, the chubby fingers grasping on their own, without measure or wit. I could imagine her weight on my hip, the little sighs she’d make while feeding, her tiny thumb, barely clinging to her lips as she slept.

In her eyes I imagined enjoying the babyhood’s of my daughters more completely, sanely.

Wanting a child is merely my wish for wanting to be normal.

Having Rosalyn so soon after Vivian stole that from me. And I can breathe now, and see that, see that for Vivian, I was scared, and worried and full of far too much book learning but I loved her and my world ran around her. But pregnancy, and a new child later and I was full of venom and hate without much room for love or empathy, not at first.

I crave a do-over. I want to be able to love a child the way Ros deserved to be loved, almost 4 years ago now. I can’t make it up, but on some level, my ovaries are trying to have the great chess game, to make up, to make due.

I’ve known, for years, that there’s no going back. What was, is, and simply, I cannot change or make that up. I can only move forward now, grasp my daughter tightly as she grins and tells me I’m pretty, as her cheekbones light up, exactly as mine do. What I can do it love the baby that was, the girl that is, the woman that will be.

The pinpoints of light in that baby girl’s face, interrupted only by the hesitation of the bus on a busy street, will forever hold me in thrall. I can face that hunger down, hold the door open, ask it to leave. And accept that finally, I have been allowed a feeling so basic to women, a hunger I never dreamed I’d feel. All of this shakes me from reverie, telling me to move on, move past and beyond.

I can love that phantom child, he, or she that will never be. I can love a ghost that never was.



Things are gonna change, my dear.

27 Jan

I thought it was the cold weighing me down, the incessant, doesn’ t matter how many sweaters you wear or how high you crank the heat cold that’s clinging to my bones lately. I thought maybe it was sunlight, a lack thereof, a lack of sleep perhaps, sick children, sad children, not sleeping children. I thought perhaps the spectre of my job disappearing very soon was eating at me.

It’s all of those things. Maybe it’s none of those things. But I’ve got this low level depression building in my chest, and I can’t remove it, clingy like plastic wrap, stubborn in it’s whispers. I’m grateful it’s not the “jump in front of a bus” kind, that it’s more of the type of depression average people get, sadness, an inability to get excited or do anything. I feel like a little hamster stuck in the corner of the cage-I can see the wheel-it’s over there and pretty and WEEEE! it would be fun but damn, I just can’t work up the energy or will to care.

It’s emotional atrophy almost. Spend a few days not caring, a few days unable to work up the will to finish that bloody green blanket, unable to do more than the least amount possible, answering the phone becoming difficult. Then everything contracts. You’re fine on the outside, but smiling almost hurts, like your hair when you’re down with the flu. Finding a kind word takes a deep breath and thought. It’s just…a second more effort for everything.

I’m not complaining. I just realized on the bus this morning, I’m not just tired. I’m sad. Sure, I’m handling this whole losing my job thing with more grace and calmness than even I expected, but I’m numb almost. I worry that this sadness will morph into more, and I sing when I can to banish the darkness. I’m waiting for the shoe-I shouldn’t be this calm to a stressor so large as losing a job after 8 years.  I should be something more, right?

At least though, I’m still mostly ok. The 10% sad can be buried under everything else, made better by sweet touch and words, ignored while life is lived, and smiled at in mirrors. After so long, it’s so simple and pure, to just be sad, to just be touched by life and really feel it without the overlap of voices muttering.

Strange that sadness might be showing me the path where I get better.


Vivian has been having nightmares the last few nights, where she comes flying from her bedroom sobbing, reaching for me. She wouldn’t tell me what they were about. Last night I asked her to please tell me today, if she could, that I’d like to help her chase the bad things away.

This morning she tells me she’s afraid that her Daddy and I will die.

I’m not big on lying. But, I’m also not big on making a 5 year old cry. So I chose the middle ground, much as my parents did, long ago.

“No one is going to die until you’re all grown up, with kids maybe, and we’ve pooped on your carpet. No one is going to leave you.”

Do I believe this? No. I know full well that this can be a brutal lie, that parents can and do leave, or die. But, I think it matters when a parent says “I will never leave you.” Because none of us ever want to, even if circumstances change and force the hand.

I reminded her that what happened to my mother is rare, an odd freak occurance, and that it wouldn’t happen to us. But that also, my mother never really left, and lives in my heart, and in the air around us, forever. That she loves me, and even her. That parents don’t leave.

We ventured further down the path of what happens at death, what I believe, what others believe. I explained that some people, including her grandmother, believed in heaven, and hell, but that I didn’t believe it. Then from her mouth comes:

“Mommy, baby Jesus isn’t real is he?”

I tell her he’s a story some people believe in, that I was raised to believe in. But that I just don’t.

I talk a little more about life being a circle, that life, like seasons, follows a path of change. That death is change, and even though I miss my Mommy dearly somedays, she’s here, somewhere, with us, inside us.

“Does this make sense Vivian?”

“Sorta.” she mumbles, “Can I go to J’s after school today?”

She skips off ahead of me for awhile, processing I’d imagine, forming her world view, slowly, until it comes back to bite me in the ass in 2 months or 6 years.

So many people are horrified when I talk of speaking to my children of death, or sex-but these are two certainties in our lives, two changes, events, continums we cannot alter. We will all die, some sooner, some later. We will hurt-so why not begin the conversation young, when it’s relatively simple, and yet not so simple, because death, it’s never a quiet movement, it’s not as simple as the change I describe, it really is as a season, the color dropping from us, falling to only our bones in a silent concerto.

I believe we continue, and death is not so sad. And I never want my children to fear this one last act.

I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief.

21 Jan

“Mommy, elephants are really scared of mice.”

“mmmhmm.” I’m in a hurry, ran home from one appointment, grabbed the kid from school, dragging her home so I can dart out the door again. Stupid rules not allowing her to take the bus when she can’t walk home by herself alone anyway.

“Yeah, when there’s a mouse, the elephant jumps up in the air it’s so scared.”

I stop, causing Vivian to stop, her mittened hand tucked into mine.

“Dude, the only thing an elephant is scared of is likely human. And carrying a gun. Do you know what people do to elephants for their tusks? They cut them off and then leave them. Trust me, a mouse is the least of their problems.”

We walk a little further, and sure mutters “But they said that elephants are scared…”

I stop again, and bend down to talk to her, not at her.

“Viv, logically, rationally, think about this. How big is an elephant?”

“HUGE!” she crows

“Yes. And how big is a mouse?”

“Really really little?” she offers

“So, knowing this, does it make any sense that a creature as wonderful and large as an elephant would be frightened by a mouse?”

She pauses, looks off down the road. Then the glimmer starts.

“No Mommy. That doesn’t make any sense at all.”

“Question Vivian. Question what they tell you. You’d be surprised what you learn.”

But now of course, she senses the “mom-lecture” coming, and stops listening.


I love that we’re raising the girls without religion. I love that they will be raised without the spectre of blind belief, without being taught to never question the things which matter most, to just accept the fantastic claims we make as a society about gods and heavens and afterlife’s. I love that instead of me saying “No, cause god says so!” I have to explain why and how and when, and the words “just cause” rarely exit my lips.

The urge to run with the elephant myth, or to say the moon was saying good night this morning instead of explaining orbit and the tilting of the earth’s axis is strong. It IS easier to run with the prevalent myth, to run with the man in the sky, guiding your life. It’s easier to make magic instead of science. Or so it seems.

I made a decision awhile ago that while I love magic, and all the magical things our world presents to us, I love truth even more. I love the magic in the real world-in how a plant grows, drawing it’s power from our star, the sun. I love explaining the wonderful way that one thing can be many things, and a metaphor for life-water as liquid, snow, ice, vapour. I love watching the magic appear in my children when they watch spiders hatch and run a myriad of ways across our deck, and know that the world has given them this, and it’s sweet.

I believe in the world around me, and by extension, my daughters. I believe that giving them the tools to question the myths they’re given, to really stop and examine if the easter bunny makes any sense whatsoever helps them become smarter, braver women. I knew growing up that most of those characters couldn’t possibly exist. But I loved them the same, for what they meant. I don’t want my daughters sitting idle, accepting what they are told as law, or as a given. I want the questions to be asked.

My mother, raising me under the cloak of  a Roman Catholic god, never accepted this. Her world brooked no questions, not for the important things, as when I’d express my disbelief in a magical place where everyone sat around and revelled in how awesome they were on earth. This wasn’t something said, and I took a long time to finally have the courage to speak my disbelief out loud, into the air where it was made real.

I have found the world around me, the substantial stuff we walk and breathe in, to be more magical and inspiring than any doctrine or book could be. The truths that we link to, the absolutes that settle in our chests and tell us that no, there’s no way that elephant could ever be afraid of something so minuscule-those are awesome because they are ours. They awe us because they start with us, our minds.

I don’t want my daughters to every forget how powerful and magical they themselves truly are.

Dear Vivian

2 Jan

You are 5 and almost a half. Six this year, your tiny body only starting to form in my belly oh those many years ago.

I look at you now and see a woman. A girl, becoming. The lengthening of your body, the clay of your face, becoming, dancing around those perfect river mud brown eyes of yours, shaped carefully like mine.

Oh darling, you are so very lovely.

You and I went for groceries today, as we did all summer. After nearly two weeks of winter vacation, your sister has been ready to kill, so it was best to take you with me. One more blood curdling scream and I will burn every single toy in this house. Pinkie swear.

You’re joy personified with me, in the buggy, beside me, nattering on and on, charming the deli lady out of some roast beef, having a giggle with some random passerby, chatting with other kids. You’re helpful, and (mostly) well mannered, and I only have to use “The Voice” once. You’re a whirling dervish, and I love you.

But more, I love this NOW. I love watching your eyes light up when your teacher taps you on the shoulder and says hello. I love watching your adoration for another woman slither through your body like sand. I love knowing you spend your days happy without me.

We joke in the store. We juggle apples, buying one of each, Honeycrisp, Golden Delicious, Pink Lady, Russet, as I extol the virtues of each, demonstrating “springy” with my hands and feet, delaying artichokes till next week. We speak in tongues you and I, and I have more fun than I’ve had in weeks, watching you light up as I trust you, alone in the toys for a few minutes.

Rope darling. Sometimes you need enough to hang yourself with. I’ll never be so far away I can’t catch you, although I might let you fall every so often.

You ask for fuzzy socks as a treat. Socks! How awesome are you? You whine less than the old man behind us when it takes forFRICKENever to get through the cash.

You beg incessantly for friend chicken the entire time. (ok, that part I could have done without)

Sweets, it’s been busy lately. We’ve had company, we’ve had days off, we’ve had holidays-we’re off our game. Or I am at least, so I’ve been yelly and cranky and just kinda sorta not much fun most days.

Today was nice. Today reminded me of you, the growing up girl, the lady I’ll love to talk to, the girl I already love to talk to, who I have fun with. Ros and I-we understand a mutual need for silence. But you? You’re my giddy girl, the one who lights the path in the darkness.

You’re my reward, and on days like today, I could float endlessly in it.

She Blinded me with science!

26 Dec



Yes, that is a plastic stomach.

Santa, being a dutiful and women friendly fairy tale, remembered to bring Vivian something science related. He brought her “Sick Stomach“. Why yes, that means exactly what you think. I get to make pretend vomit with my kid. She’s pestered me all day long to do it, and I’ve been able to put her off because we need things to make it, like digestive cookies. Yes, I do see the irony on that one.

After all the candy and cookies and sheer crap that I’ve had, I couldn’t stomach making barf.

The sheer awesomeness of having a science obsessed daughter is my gift.

I, aside from my tattoo, got an Aerogrow. The bets are on for how long it takes for me to kill everything. It’s pretty cool, and also functions as a pretty damn good reading lamp.

Small Christmas, but good Christmas. Pooper Scooper Barbie was well received (poop already lost), T-Rex Playmobil caused squeeing, everyone happy, and gaining weight from the sheer amount of crap gifted to us. If I never see another gummy lifesaver again, it will be too soon.

Now if you don’t mind me, I have a bottle of white wine to finish off.

The ladies, lately.

16 Dec









9 Nov


Originally uploaded by Rebecca…

Oh the sheer joy that is an ER on a Saturday night.

  • 30.00 on cabs. Sigh.


  • 2 clicky-clacky sweet high heel girls, fresh from the bars and stinking to high heaven in their slutty 80’s fashions, giant sac purses and more hairspray than I’ve seen since 1987. You can cover a lot of things up, but ugly is still ugly.


  • The larger(er), slightly trailer park slow couple next to me. The woman devoured 3 in short time, driving me absolutely BAT.SHIT.INSANE. but ripping off little pieces and them making this “smacksmacksmack” sound as she chewed with an open maw. This annoyance was tempered by the fact that my cell phone battery dying sound made them think their fully charged phones were broken somehow. (This isn’t fat hate. This is slobbish, no manners hate. And pants pulled up too high hate.)


  • The poor 10 year old boy, rushed in by his father, arms wrapped tightly around his neck, moaning, nearly screaming when his father put him down. I can imagine why the mother didn’t take him in-I was nearly crying.


  • The sheer number of people who sat behind me and thought that I was part of the chair. IF IT IS SQUISHY AND WARM AND MAKING MARGE SIMPSON SOUNDS, IT IS NOT THE CHAIR.


  • And fucking hell people, quit smoking already! You reek! You’re horribly horribly ill, but you will drag your flannel pant clad ass back outside to suck back more stink.


  • I’m beginning to think the wait is in place to deter people like the woman who came in with her (freaking adorable) daughter, saying to her husband that she “just wanted to check if she had a fever since they don’t own a thermometer.” Yes that is a quote verbatim. Yes, I bit my tongue.


  • My most fun activity in the ER is waiting for the inevitable whining about the, you guessed it, wait. Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only person who understands what “triage” means. It’s horrible to have to wait behind people with broken limbs, possible life threatening issues, while you have the flu. I mean, it’s terrible. And Honey, if you really did wait 24 hours, you have a LOT more time on your hands than I do, and you’re supposed to get the hint. Anymore, my limit is around 4 hours when it’s not truly a dire emergency.


  • Note to hospital-when you change your intake process, make it clearer. Every single person, myself included, got all messed up. Two small signs would have worked. It’s all fine and well to say you have to see the triage nurse before registering on the way in, but if no one understands your seating process, chaos ensues. Which is admittedly, fun to watch.


We’re lucky-this is only her second ear infection, and it really wasn’t that bad. The horrid mother in me wondered if she was faking since she was acting FINE at the hospital-until it occurred to be that the Advil likely kicked in. While we waited around 3 hours, things went super fly once in the non-acute area and the doctor was totally awesome with both of us. 10 minutes later, we were out into the misty rain once more.

She was quite the trooper for it being nearly midnight. Evidently, I’m more tired than she is this morning too.

What’s your best ER story? Longest wait?