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?

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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?)

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.

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.

Crocodile

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?

“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.

***

 

“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.