If you're a fan of my facebook album "Canada Day Through the Ages" then this story may interest you. I wrote a story for the current issue of Bread 'N Molasses (on sale now!) all about the dress Sorcha is wearing in the photos and how it has become to mean so much more then just Sorcha trying on this dress every Canada Day.
I had a dream recently in which I told someone in the dream that for my Bread ‘N Molasses article I was going to write about soccer. When I woke up I realized, no matter how certain I had been in the dream, there was no way I could do this. The World Cup News has obviously slipped into my subconscious enough for me to dream about it, but all I really know about soccer is that it seems necessary for a player to rip his shirt off when he scores a goal.
I also thought about writing an article detailing my recent trip with my daughter Sorcha to the West Coast. I thought about describing all that had changed in the 4 years since we’d moved away, but I wasn’t sure where to begin. It’s not that I’m against change, not at all. It’s just that so much changed so quickly. The community I grew up in no longer looked like my old stomping grounds. I was a stranger to the new box stores and large ever expanding suburban areas. I was but a ghost of what was once a quieter town.
However, while we were away, we made sure to honour a tradition held in our family every year on Canada Day for the last 7 years; the wearing of the Canada Day dress. This seemed like as good a topic as any.
In 2003, when Sorcha was 20 months old, we went to Ottawa for my sister-in-law’s wedding. A friend of my mother-in-law generously volunteered to make Sorcha a dress for the wedding. While on the hunt for material for this dress, she found a material covered in Canadian Flags and insisted on making Sorcha 2 dresses. Both dresses were beautiful. Sorcha looked adorable in her wee white dress covered in little blue flowers, but unfortunately the only time she wore this dress was at her Aunt’s wedding. However, the Canadian Flag dress got a lot more use and became much more to us then just a dress.
On Canada Day of that year, we attended a party at a friend’s place. While Sorcha tromped around the yard in her second new dress of the season, Canadian Flags waving from shoulders to knees, our friend Erin took her picture and sent me a copy not long after we’d returned home. It was adorable. She’d caught Sorcha in mid strut. She looked sure footed and proud. I love this picture and hung it immediately on the fridge.
The following Canada Day, the dress being a tent style dress, was a bit shorter, but still fit very well. I’m not sure what made me think to do so, but while Sorcha stood in the kitchen waiting for her close up, I grabbed her yard stomping photo off the fridge and asked her to hold it front of her while I took a picture of her in Canada Day Dress. And the rest is history. Since then, every Canada Day Sorcha puts on the dress and we take a picture of her wearing it while holding the picture of herself wearing the dress from the Canada Day the year before and in the picture of the picture she’s holding a picture of herself wearing the dress from the year before…you get the idea. Every year the roots to this tradition get longer, the history gets deeper, the little girl in the picture gets bigger, and the dress she’s wearing gets smaller. In 2006 it had become a very short dress. So short that shorts were now required under the dress. By Canada Day 2009 it was a full on shirt, but it still fit her.
As Canada Day 2010 neared, some of our friends anxiously asked if we were going to bring the dress with us on our trip out west to continue to the tradition, but more importantly, did I think the dress would still fit? Honestly, I really didn’t think it would. I had considered over the year making it bigger by adding a new panel of material to the dress, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it would be like cheating. If the dress in its original state didn’t fit, then it didn’t fit. We would figure out how to show this new development when the time came. However, on July 1st 2010, with a bit of struggling and mild squawks of protest from Sorcha that she couldn’t get one of her arms in one of the arm holes, we got the dress on. It still fit…sort of. It wasn’t much shorter then it had been the previous year as most of her growth had been in her legs and not her torso, but it was tighter across the shoulders. The button at the top of the dress refused to close and it uncomfortably snug under her arms. Sorcha suffered wearing it long enough to for the taking of the tradition photo and then politely asked to have it taken off.
This day has become very special to us because it’s not just about tradition, it’s about change. The size of the dress represents the physical changes in Sorcha and the backdrop of the photograph represents all of the changes our family has been through since we started this yearly snapshot. We’ve moved a lot. Between her birth and turning 5, Sorcha experienced 5 moves. Most of these moves are represented in the Canada Day photo because the first 4 photos were taken in 4 different apartments. The 5th photo was taken in the same on as the 4th; a big deal to be sure for us. When I clicked the button on the camera, capturing Sorcha in her dress in front of the same door as the year before, it was a very happy moment. The same place 2 years in a row showed continuity in our lives. Something we had sorely lacked for years. Last year, the 2009 photo was taken in a different location then the previous 2, in front of a different door, but it wasn’t a rented door it was our door. This was the first Canada Day photo taken in a house we’d bought. The photo now had new layer; home. This change in the photograph was an extremely welcome one and one we were never sure would exist.
Now of course, this year the photo was taken no where near that door, because of being, as I mentioned, on the west coast, but next Canada Day, or as we now call it, “Oh Can-It-Fit Day, we’ll pull out the dress and the camera and Sorcha will stand in front of our door. The wearing of the dress is a fun tradition, but the Canada Day picture to me represents the journey our family has taken to find a place we could call home. That journey is finally over. We finally have a home Sorcha can grow up in and grow of the Canada Day Dress in. The picture of Sorcha in or at least holding the dress will now simply show the passage of time. As I said, I don’t mind change because clearly it’s inevitable, but our home, our door is one thing I truly hope stays the same.
This is an open letter to the spider that is living in our bathroom.
AKA Moisty (as you have now been dubbed by my husband)
You, my 8 legged foe, have taken up residence in our bathroom and have been there for quite some time now. I have tolerated this in spite of my arachnophobic nature and let you live. The day I saw you crawling on the floor near the linen closet, I could have called Sean to my aid and had you disposed of immediately, but I chose to just leave you be because I really do believe that your kind shouldn't die just because I'm not very fond of you and your scuttling ways. Also, your diminutive size was in your favour. If you had been any bigger then your "smaller then a dime" self, I would have let out a blood curdling chicken like noise and summoned the aid of my husband who would have introduced you to the tight squeeze of tissue while I huddled in a corner crying and asking through tears "Is it on me? I feel like it's on me!"
BUT I did not.
After your long trek from the floor to the wall to the sky light, you decided to live on the ceiling RIGHT ABOVE THE SHOWER and have been in and around there for a better part of 2 weeks. I have been tolerant of your web crawling and sneaking around the sky light behavior for a couple reasons. First, you look a little pathetic as you try to stay on your single strand of web. The moist air from the shower clearly disturbs the ball like state that you seem to enjoy. While the shower is running your are constantly struggling for an 8 foot hold but with dampness lurking around you on every side, you just can't do it. I can almost hear your wee squeaks of frustration as you slide up and down your invisible web pole and feeling a tad sorry for you, I let you continue to live there.
The second reason you remain a part of our bathroom is out of concern for our environment. I love a long hot shower. Water conservation isn't my strong suit I'm afraid. AND for the last 10 days my family has been away leaving the shower time wide open. However, thanks to you and your web crawling, leg kicking, creepy oozing ways, I've not lingered in the shower at all. It's been all about getting in, getting washed, keeping an eye on you and your whereabouts, and getting out. No extra has time has been spent enjoying the soothing water and thinking about what my next blog entry should be or pondering whether or not wine and popcorn for dinner 2 nights in a row would be a good or bad idea.
All was well...until this morning.
Listen "MOISTY" I thought this relationship of ours was working. You had found a safe place to live with no birds lurking or ants waiting to take you down (although what are YOU surviving on? Your will to live?) and I had found the key to being very water conscience. But NO! You had to almost ruin this bizarre co-dependent lifestyle we've created! During my shower this morning you journeyed from a position not quite above my head to a position directly above my head and for some reason you seemed to be having "extra trouble" keeping your single strand to a short length. I'm not going to lie to you, this made me nervous. So if you recall, I said "OK! The shower is yours! I surrender it to you!" I shut if off, did my drying thing on the far end of the tub and as I lifted up my head after wrapping my hair in my towel, there you were; dangling your wee brown self no more then a foot from my face! I managed to not hurt myself upon exiting the tub at lighting speed (which is why this entry is not "awesome") and screeched. And you just hung there, legs splayed, increasing your size to full on bluenose, twisting happily in the breeze left by my hasty departure. You seemed, dare I say it, smug Moisty. But smug is as smug does (whatever that means) so let this letter be a warning to you! My family is back tonight which means I will not be taking long showers anyway and if you dare repel down your gossamer thread to within an arms reach of my head, you will not be allowed to flee back up to your home near our sky light, but you will be flung rather rabidly to that big web in the sky.
A couple weeks ago, one of my Facebook friends posted a link to a wonderful site called "750 words". The website is essentially a private notebook. It encourages you to write at least 750 words every day about anything that comes into your head. It keeps track of your word count, happily lets you know when you've reached 750 words and once you're finished it gives you stats about your writing. Today was my first entry and I thought I'd also double it as a blog entry as I haven't done one in a while. It's not perfect, but I'm happy with the way it turned out considering the circumstances in which I wrote under. If you're wanting to find away to practice your writing, it's a great site. http://www.750words.com
Last night Sean and I were just drifting off to sleep when we heard quiet, but desperate whining coming from our daughter's room. Well, actually, Sean heard it first and jumped out of bed while I in my, almost asleep and so in a sort of weird dream place, took minute to realize what was going on. I heard Sean asking "Are you ok? Are you going to be sick?" "No..." Sorcha croaked, followed by a whine..."Sorcha, are you going to throw up??" "No..." pant, pant, whine...."Sorcha, use the bowl! You are going to throw up!" And she did. And we weren't surprised by this midnight spewing as we knew, or thought it may be coming. Earlier in the evening after coming home from a brief appearance with her school choir at a Music Festival Finale, Sorcha had a reunion with her dinner, via her throat, unexpectedly. (A lovely image to be sure, but throw up is never a positive topic no matter what metaphor or simile you coat it in.) When she'd first come home she had been complaining of a stomach ache. This has happened a lot lately because she's growing quite quickly right now and almost every day something in her wardrobe no longer fits her. Tight pants are famous for giving one horrendous gas so I figured that this was the case upon looking at her wee bloated tummy and her unbuttoned jeans. Unfortunately I was wrong.
Last night was unlike one my husband and I have had in years. We slept with our door open, we had a our "parent ears" on full alert for any sound of distress and jumped up with amazing wakefulness at the slightest sound of crying. It has to be about 6 years since we've had a night like this. Sorcha learned to sleep through the night at a very early age and we never had to endure one night of changing the sheets at 3am because she'd wet the bed. Between birth and 2 years old, we had many up and down, awake and doze kind of nights, but after she turned 2, the occasional once or twice a night became quite rare. Sorcha is a good little sleeper and now getting up at night because of plea for help or a hug required to rid her of a bad dream is a once in a blue moon kind of event.
So, the night went like this; a cry in the dark, a comforting mummer of "poor dear...you'll be ok..", one parent rinsing the bowl, another wiping her face and putting the covers back over her weak body while she moaned quietly and whispered apologies to us for having to get up and help her. Over and over, we told her it was ok. "We are your parents and it's our job to look after you." Not that that is how we really think of raising her...as a job, but I knew that if we explained it that way, Sorcha would understand that us being up with her not something we were angry about and that she didn't need to worry. "But you're not getting any sleep..." she said, her wee voice full of genuine concern. "Yes, I'm sleeping in between the pukings." "Oh...ok." and then she would close her eyes and sleep or rest until the next wave of "need to grab and hug the bowl tightly" struck her and started the whole process over again.
The fact that last night was the first time Sorcha has had a bout of stomach illness since the horrific events of the holiday season in Ottawa 5 and half years ago is a bit...well...ironic...if that is the right word. (poignant? perhaps that's a better word.)Today is Sean's last day of work at his current place of employment and instead of heading off for his final day with worry and stress of having to look for another job, he instead left thinking about his little girl and hoping she'll be ok. His last day will be about the night before, the up and downs, almost a reflection of life in general really. You never know when the rug will be pulled out from under you. Last week, Sean had a secure job and we felt we were on a path to some sort of stability. But now, we're back into the area of uncertainty. Like Sean getting laid off, Sorcha's stomach bug came out of no where. Today we had plans that have to put aside just as plans for our financial security are on a different path. And, as things usually do in our lives, Sorcha will get better and Sean will find work.
There's nothing like a tummy bug to put your life in perspective.
And there you have it. No worries, I won't be forcing you to read everything I type on the 750 word site, but I felt this one was worth sharing.
Hello and Happy St. Patrick's Day Blog Fans from, according to one of our water towers, Canada's Irish Capital!
This entry won't be a long as some of my other ones. After all, the pubs are now open and some of you have drinkin' to be gettin' on wit'! I will not be partakin' of the booze the colour of pond alge this year, but I am decked out in green and wanted to share a quick story wit'all of ye!
My little girl has loved to draw ever since she could hold a crayon properly. I am an extremely sentimental person and want to keep everything! So, you can imagine the chaos this can create in my mind if I need to clear some things out.(Because, let's be honest...no matter how cute or thought provoking or bizarre the drawing, test or card at hand, you can't keep everything!) School work, sheets brought home years ago from kindergarten covered in carefully draw alphabet letters and other such items are either recycled or made into new paper. Sorcha's drawings however, no matter how big or small, are put into scrap books. And I don't mean the fancy kind of scrap book. (Please I intend no offence to all the scrappers out there..."scrap booking" just isn't my thing.) No, I'm talking about the thin paged, pages that inevitably fall out and need to be taped back in, scrap book. The kind of scrap book I used to glue my many 100's of pictures of Michael J. Fox into. (I also had one filled with NKOTB pictures! Shhh! Don't tell!) But I digress...
Sorcha enjoys taking long walks down memory lane, in particular paths that lead to early childhood which being only 8 wasn't really that long ago, but when you're a child, 1 year can make a huge difference to who you are what you can do. A few days ago she chose the path marked "drawings" and proceeded to spend about an hour in the living room looking through a scrap book filled with drawings she had done when she was 5 and under. I had just stepped in the door after shopping on a Sunday at Walmart (ALWAYS a good time) when she asked "Mummy? Why did I draw a picture of a leprechaun parachuting?" Immediately I was on that memory lane with her and recalled in full colour the conversation I had with Sorcha at the time she'd drawn this picture for St. Patrick's day in kindergarten...
Sorcha: "Do you like my drawing?"
Me: "Yes, it's very nice. What is it exactly?"
Sorcha: "It's St. Patrick parachuting."
Me: "He's very high up...did he parachute from a space ship?"
Sorcha: "No, just a plane."
I think the drawing is wonderful. I particularly like Sorcha's bold attempt at the continents and how happy St.Patrick appears to be even though chances are he's going to burn to crisp upon entering the earth's atmosphere. However, I wanted to inject a slight amount of realism into her thinking and gently explained to Sorcha, at the time, that the only way for earth to look that way to a person was if they were in outer space. But I didn't have the heart to tell her that St. Patrick was not, in fact, a leprechaun and so did not dress like one, (well, not as far as I know anyway...I mean I never actually met the man. Perhaps this is exactly how he dressed! And when you get right down to it, I'm not even totally sure that this is how actual leprechauns dress.) and instead just complimented her on her very creative drawing which we then hung up along with her other St. Patrick's Day arts and crafts.
Sorcha sat on the stool waiting for an explanation as to why she, her 5 year old self, had thought to draw St. Pat up in Leprechaun finery. I told her the same story I just related to you and watched a look of confused bemusement cross her face. "Why would I do that?" she asked. "I guess you thought that's how St. Patrick dressed and I've no idea why you drew him parachuting." I said. And then she laughed. She laughed the laugh of someone who recalls with great joy and slight embarrassment the silly things they did in their youth.
May your St.Patty's beer be green, but not your face tomorrow mornin'.
It's been a while since I've posted something on this blog. (too busy being awesome!) But once again, the monthly Words on Water at Saltwater Sounds has brought forth from me a piece of writing I like enough to post online. The theme for this month was "Winter". Here in the Miramichi we've had very light winter. It's been cold sure, but we've had very little in the way of snow. The day before yesterday it was 8 degrees and raining! But tonight we are getting a lot of snow and it's my favourite kind of snowfall; soft and beautiful.
I give you...
Winter Wonderment (which I dedicate to my Sorcha)
When I was a little girl, the most exciting event that could take place in my life, aside from days like Christmas and my birthday, was a snowfall. I grew up on the rainy west coast in Victoria and a snowfall, even if it was only a few cm, was a big deal. If it fell on a school day, waiting for recess was agony! The snow could be gone by 10:15 if it was suddenly sunny or rainy! What if we didn’t get a chance to play in it? Usually the snow was there for first recess, but by lunch time recess, usually due to melting and 100 kids making snow balls and snow men during first break, lunch time snow play was a desperate undertaking of rolling a snow ball from patch of white to patch of white over churned up muddy green, giving our snowmen a very hairy appearance or getting a snowball in the face a muddy experience. If our magical snowfall fell on the weekend or during holidays, my brother and I would spend hours in the yard building, running, piling, sliding, freezing and waiting for my Dad to offer to pull us around the yard in the almost pristine sled.
Some years, we would only get one snow fall or we wouldn’t get any at all. Some years, the snow lasted for a couple weeks and the novelty of the snow would actually wear off and we would want again for the comfort of our green.
As a teenager and in my early 20’s I got my fill of snow. I lived in Ottawa and in the winter there was no shortage of it. Much like a lot of Miramichi winters, the snow would last for what seemed like forever. Having to wear clunky boots, scratchy hats and bulky coats is never a strong desire for a teenager. I was never one for really caring about what I looked like in my warm finery, but in early high school my brother said that one of my hoods made me look like ET and I became quite self conscious about my winter gear for years. During this time in my life participating in outdoor winter fun was never something that brought me joy. I didn’t really like skiing, skating on the Rideau Canal was a bumpy affair that left me sore and sledding always made me miserable because I was extremely good at getting snow up my sleeves. Spring brought a sort of freedom; I could stop looking like an alien and feel more like the awkward teenager that I liked only slightly more and I could stop making excuses for why I didn’t want to participate in anything wintery.
My husband and I moved from Ottawa to the west coast after we married and rain or snow, dreary grey or bright white made no real difference in our lives. Rain in the winter was the norm, and snow was never a treat. It was just weather. However, when our daughter was born, we started to feel the tingle of magic wonder that a snow fall can bring. We pictured ourselves bundling up our wee one and teaching her how to make a snowball, or a snow fort, showing her how to make the perfect stereo typical snow man and sharing in the beauty of a soft snowfall at night.
Sorcha’s first experience with snow occurred when she was 17months old. We’d had a fairly heavy snow fall and I’d been stuck inside for a couple days because I didn’t have tractor tires on her stroller. However, once it melted off the sidewalks, I took Sorcha up to hill to a community park. Once out of her stroller, she stared around her at the whiteness mixed with green. Without hesitating she bent down and put her mitted hands in and immediately put one hand in her mouth. Being the wonderful mother I am, I didn’t scold her, but quickly took a picture of her first taste of cold white snow; she wasn’t impressed. I let her run around in it until she found a broken bottle under a tree and we went on home. Soon the snow was gone and it brought a quick close to Sorcha’s first experience with snow.
Shorty after Christmas of 2003, when Sorcha was just 2, we got about a foot and half of snow in a couple days; a huge deal for southern coastal BC. In a freshly purchased pair of used purple snow pants, Sorcha took her first walk falling snow. She laughed as the snow flakes tickled her lashes and marveled at the different pattern every snow flake seemed to be. The snow was barely covering the grass at this point so no attempt at a snow man was made, but Sean rolled a couple snowballs for her and Sorcha had great fun throwing them at me. The next day the snow was deeper, but joy and the novelty of snow were quickly replaced with dismay and frustration as Sorcha struggled to wade through the wet, heavy snow that came up over her wee knees. Tears signaled the end of fun thus ending Sorcha’s second experience with snow.
The following winter we got more snow then we’d had in years and it lasted for over a month. We had moved to a different place by then and the complex offered a huge park area for playing and running around in. Once again bundled up in her purple snow pants, Sorcha and I went out for fun in the snow. She was a bit taller, a bit stronger then the year before so the slog through the snow was more enjoyable. It was a lovely day for being outside and together, Sorcha and I built her first snowman. He didn’t have a hat or scarf as it was a communal yard and more then likely they would have been stolen from the poor guy within the hour so we settled on creating a snowman with a half classical whimsy about him. As we were building him near a tree that had shed everything for winter, sticks were easy to find and we used them for arms, a smiling mouth, nose and sticky up hair. For the eyes and buttons we collected pieces of bark from the gardens under the windows that hadn’t been covered with snow yet. When we were finished, we stood back and assessed our creation with satisfaction. Both of us were hot from the rolling and packing of snow, our long hair was coming out from under our hats and our hands were starting to go numb due to snow soaked mitts; but we were pleased. Sorcha beamed at her first snowman and I was happy to have shared another first with her. We stumbled back inside and right after we stripped off our wet snow gear, we went to the living room window to see if we had a good view our new winter friend. The view from our 4th floor window was perfect; there he stood, under a tree, leaning slightly back and smiling right up at us.
One morning, a few days after we’d built our snowman, I went to the window to see how our snow friend was fairing. He was still there, arms spread wide, big happy grin smiling up at me. As I sat there sipping my coffee, I saw a guy cutting through the yard most likely taking a short cut to get to a walking trail beyond the property. And from our window, I watched in absolute horror, as this person made a B-Line for our handsome snowman, walked over him and crushed him to the ground. I was shocked and angry! Why would he do that? Did he think he was a big man because he wrecked this happy creation? Had he been attacked by a snowman as child and now all snowman in his path were the enemy? It wasn’t as if there was no space to walk around it. He had clearly done it on purpose! Now you may be thinking “What’s the big deal? It’s just a snowman.” But to me, he was so much more then that. I’d found my childhood joy in snow again and created something special with my daughter who had discovered her joy for snow by creating this iconic winter being. My first thoughts after the initial shock had worn off were “How am I going to tell Sorcha? How will she take this?” I was guessing the news would not be welcome news because this was a girl whom the day before had had a near meltdown when she couldn’t get her socks on right.
I heard Sorcha getting up, and quickly got her ready for the day, keeping away from the window as to not bring the thought of anything snow related to her mind and went to have a shower. When I was finishing up in the bathroom, I heard “Oh no…” from the living room; Sorcha had seen the carnage. She ran to the bathroom and said “Mummy? I think someone wrecked our snowman.” Bracing myself for the onslaught of weepy tears I sighed and said “Yes, sweetie…a man walked over him…I’m sorry…I didn’t want to tell you because I thought you’d be upset”. But she didn’t get upset, my 3 year old daughter took the news with the ease of someone much older and said “Oh, that’s ok Mummy. We can build a new one. Don’t be upset.” I was so proud of her. I had imagined hours of comforting talks, hours explaining that sometimes people do mean things without thinking or caring about how it will make others feel, but instead, she put it out of her head, moved on and left me in a haze of wonder. She and I didn’t make a new on that year, but I think her father and her did. (A bit off any possible path to keep the new one from harm.) I picked up the pieces of bark that we’d used to help create his face and put then in bag for possible future use. They are still in that bag, all these years later, in a drawer of an end table in our living room. Every time I look at those pieces of wood I’m reminded that people don’t always behave how you’d expect them to and that cold winter memories are usually very warming and that sometimes, with Sorcha’s help, a bit of snow can still be an exciting event in my life.