Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Hawaiin Feast at Bev's

Hawaiin Feast at Bev's
Originally uploaded by Barbara Y.

I somehow managed to capture my whole family in this picture taken at Bev's on the 27th. We were celebrating Gael's 50th birthday. She had just arrived with Larry, Amie, and Mark from the cold wintery city of Toronto. Double Dave catered - a luxury but we were all sick of cooking, especially Bev who has had Mum and Dad in her house for weeks and now has four more.

This last week has been one celebration after another. Every night I have met with family and friends and though I love them all, I need a little time to digest this whirlwind of activity that has left me little time for contemplation and no time for writing. (Thank goodness Gill and I escaped to Seattle for time alone otherwise we would have had no concentrated time together.)

The night after Gael's party, the night of a full moon, I could hardly sleep. I think I had around three hours and so, after seeing that I could not return to dreamland, I rose and went to the store at six in the morning and rearranged all for the big winter sale that began that day. I managed to catch a hour sleep in the afternoon and then did some much needed cleaning and prepared escalloped potatoes for my reading group in the evening.
This evening my sister Gael and her family are coming over. We've decided we will eat out and then watch a movie.

As my whole family are going to Whistler to celebrate the new year (and I've decided not to go), this is the only night that we can get together and I do want to spend some time with this sister. She looks good but smaller, more vulnerable, after her bout with cancer this past year. She says that she is looking forward to 2005, wants this year over with - it's been too difficult. We spoke briefly of changing one's ways, one's life. You would think it would be easy after the scare Gael had this year but she says it isn't, she would have to rid herself of family and as she loves them, she can't.

I do not wholly understand. What would I change if I had suffered as she has, as my friend Clare, as my friend Leslie? I don't know. I shall write about it. (Oh dear, this is the difficult part of this season. I have had little time or inclination to write. I might try to continue with my fairytale today.)

Tomorrow I shall take a little time and think about small ways in which I can change some aspects of my life in this fast approaching new year. On January first, I meet with my Plums to write. We thought it might get us on tract for 2005.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Yet another Christmas Day has come and gone. This year there was six of us - Rob, Bren, Mike, Gill, and me - plus Mackenzie (Mike's love). We spent a quiet Christmas day and evening. The day slipped by, opening presents, preparing breakfast and then turkey and cranberries, phoning family and friends, a short visit from Helen, watching "A Christmas Carol" snuggled up on the couch with Rob.

I thought we were going to be modest in gift-giving but Rob was extravagant. He gave Gill, Bren, and me digital cameras. And me, a note saying that a box of books are on their way. Bren gave me a little electron card that allows me to store 200 photos in my new camera. Mke gave me a box of art postcards. Gill gave me two pairs of slippers, both red, one elegant, one fuzzy; and a wooden jewelery box that she decorated and a booklet of love messages. I do feel loved.

I used to humbug the materialism of Christmas but this year, I think it fine. It's the one day of the year that nearly everyone extends themselves to try and please those closest and dearest to them. Some fly huge distances or make long distant phone calls. We all push ourselves - believers and nonbelievers of the religious content - whether out of duty or not - simply because it's Christmas. Why not?

Today is Boxing Day and my mother's 76th birthday. I have spent some hours designing a card for her and will drive over to my sister Bev's soon to give it to her. Tomorrow my sister Gael and family arrive. I will drive over again to be with them and celebrate Gael's birthday (belatedly - she turned fifty on the 23rd.)

I looked up Boxing Day on the internet and though its origins are vague and may have begun in the Middle Ages, the British, under Queen Victoria, made it a holiday, originally for servants who were required to work Christmas Day. Before the help left the next day to be with their families, their masters and mistresses gave them gifts in boxes. The 26th was also the day that priests opened alms boxes and distributed the offerings to the poor.

Yesterday, Bren noted that Future Shop is opening at 6 am with great bargains for its customers. I imagine that this retail outlet will do extremely well today. LeslieJane is closed and although I am happy that I have another day to do as I please, I'm hoping that there will be enough customers who will venture out tomorrow for the one-day sale (that Walter didn't advertise.)

Ah well, the new year is fast approaching. Another year to make good.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

It's been a week since I've written and I haven't much time now. I'm off to see my mum and dad soon.

I've put my writing aside as there simply isn't time during this festive season. So much activity. Rob and I have feasted with family and friends, Gill and I spent several delicious days in Seattle sightseeing (to be honest, shopping and playing) alone and together and now I've joined the mulititude of crazed shoppers picking up last minute gift items.

My time in my little house is spent wrapping and writing Christmas messages and answering correspondence. I had hoped to have the time to write a Christmasy good cheer blog but it looks like I will be writing an overview after the 25th.

I keep telling myself that I love this tree- poinsetta-light- gift season but I wish it wasn't approaching so quickly. Tomorrow night is Christmas eve and my father's 82nd birthday. I will breathe a little easier when the shops close. Till then, I'm on the run.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

My Gill is home, looking like an exotic tanned princess, towering over me, and I can't stop smiling. Yesterday, we decided to decorate the house for the festive season and went to the florist shop and bought two red poinsettas, a small tree that comes up to my shoulder - Gill wanted it small - and a tiny wreath for the front door. We then went to the craft store and bought a stick wreath and a red feather pheonix, brought it home, interwined ivy around the edge, perched the pheonix on an inner edge beside a gold bow, and hung it over the fireplace, I then downloaded Hans Christian Anderson's story of the pheonix and propted it beside the wreath. On Friday we will go to Ikea and buy dozens of red candles.

In the evening, I drove Gill up to UBC to spend the evening with her best friend, Shirin. I wonder how my young woman feels knowing that she is loved by her parents and brothers. I wonder what a difference it would have made to my life if my parents had been outwardly demonstrative.

After dropping Gill I went round to my sister Bev's and only my father was there. He made me a cup of tea and served me Irish bread (baked by my mother) and we sat and talked. He said he feels fortunate with his daughters and despairs a little over his only son who this year went through a dirty court battle with his estranged wife and is now in the process of buying a house so they can live together again. Before I left, my dad asked me to take the support hose off his legs that helps bring the swelling down and so I kneeled at his feet and following his instructions, slowly pulled the tight elastic down and inside out and off his legs.

This white-haired man who I was often terrified of as a child has grown smaller, appears to me like a lost soul. When I asked him what he would like for Christmas, stating that I did not want to buy "things", he said that he would like to go to Cafe de Paris for good food, wine, and conversation. This I can do.

I love when Christmas-giving is so simple. I don't want to rush around the shops spending too much money on gifts that will be forgotten before the year is out. I remember working with a woman who was against Christmas, hated the idea that most buy a surplus of gifts on this occasion. She proudly said that she refused to do it, said she bought those she loved gifts throughout the year. She criticized me for buying into the season.

I agreed that people, me included, do go a little crazy at this time of year but still there is something nice about having an occasion to think of others and to try to find some token or some way of expressing affection. Christmas is like a string of birthdays tied together - a celebration of lives together. Gill came home because it is Christmas. My children will gather at our table and feast together on the 25th because it is Christmas. We'll probably sit together on Christmas Eve and watch "A Christmas Carol" with Alstair Sim that I never grow tired of. We'll all extend ourselves believers and disbelievers simply because it is "Christmas."

Rob says I'm mellowing. I'm like Scrooge after his transformation. So be it. I intend to rejoice with my family and friends. Who knows what next year will bring.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Did I mention that I was excited that Gill is coming home today? She is now in the air. Her plane left the gate at 13:57 Toronto time (that's 10:57 our time). She arrives a few minutes before four. She's already had one phone call from a

Beautiful Dreamer

Beautiful Dreamer
Originally uploaded by Barbara Y.

This morning butterflies are dancing in my belly 'cause my daughter arrives home this afternoon. I can think of little else. I shall clean and prepare, pick up Brendan and drive to the airport. It's been four long months. I'm wondering if the time will have changed her. It seems more like four years.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

My daughter arrives "home" tomorrow. I am excited. So are her father and brothers. I told her, in an email, that I had thought it was the MW Intensive that has caused me to feel unsettled, alienated, since I arrived home from Europe. I see that life without my daughter nearby could also be a contributing factor.

The last few days I have been thinking about relationship.

Saturday evening, Rob and I went to dinner at a younger couple's house who we've known for twenty-six years. We met them at the beginning of their relationship. Saturday, they barely had a civil word for each other. Their harping on small detail, belittling the other, made me uncomfortable.

They have all the ingredients for a harmonious life - two beautiful sons, a fancy house with spaceage kitchen, more than enough bedrooms for the four of them plus house guest, money for travel, and a good retirement fund - but, on the surface, they didn't seem to like the other much.

Oh I know we all bicker on occasion with or about our partner, wife, husband, friend. I don't expect perfection but I'd like to see that the positives of a relationship show up in more than the furniture and RRSPs.

I am probably being melodramatic but as I sat with this women listening to her speak of her work and plans for the future, I found myself growing more and more desolate.

Also disturbing yet not without interest, Gill chose to compare returning to Vancouver to a marriage: "And it's as if I'm returning to Vancouver, my husband, is returning to a man who just doesn't know how to touch me right. We have too much of a history together. When Vancouver calls my name I just don't get that thrill I used to get. The butterflies flew out of my stomach years ago."

I wonder if Gill's source is her parent's marriage. Still, I do not desire butterflies (although I have them on occasion.) I love the comfort of familiarity. Still, I desire something more, something that makes me feel rich and full.

You see I want a lot
Perhaps I want everything...
You have not grown old, and it is not too late
To dive into your increasing depths
Where life calmly gives out its own secret.

Marlene reminded me of another Rilke quote:
"Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue to exist, a wonderful living side by side can grow up, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible
for each to see the other whole and against a wide sky."

I think Rilke brilliant. D.H. Lawrence too. Way back when I returned to university I wrote an essay on "Love versus Star Equilibrium" in Lawrence's "Women in Love." Birkin, who is the Lawrence-like character in the novel feels that love should be relegated to the level of any emotion that "you feel or don't feel according to circumstance." Specifically, he is against the word "love" itself, feeling that common use has "vulgarized" its true essence: "One must throw away - everything - let everything go, to get the one last thing one wants... freedom together."

There is another wonderful passage, where Lawrence explains that each individual is always a lone, isolated being and that the state of love, of meeting and mingling, is only a delusion:

"... there is a beyond in you, in me, which is further than love, beyond the scope, as stars are beyond the scope of vision... There is... a final me which is stark and impersonal and beyond responsibility. So there is a final you. And it is there I would want to meet you... where there is no speech and no terms of agreement... What I want is a strange conjunction with you... an equilibrium, a pure balance of two single beings: as the stars balance each other."

Marlene also reminded me of James Hollis who asks what do we want from our partners that we can (must?) give ourselves (or some variation.) What do I want from my partner? Support for those things I feel I need - like alone time - and I am fortunate as Rob needs this also and he rarely if ever questions me about the hours I spend in my little house. Besides solitude I would like a searching heart-felt honesty - the kind that digs below the surface and arrives at an individual truth - the kind that does not sugarcoat truth for fear of hurting. (The kind my friend Kate wrote in her very honest personal essay.) Yet, I would also like to maintain some mystery (which should be easier as there are many things in myself that are a mystery to me.) I would also like kindness - the patient sort - not the hurtful kind that I witnessed the other night between my friends (it is so much easier to see this in others though I know I am guilty myself.)

One Christmas I gave Rob the gift of a fantasy. I gave him a pseudonym and wrote him a fictional account of our relationship thus far. He was to meet me at a downtown hotel. We went out for dinner and I told him the small details about my day. I spoke of my relationship to my husband and children. I waited eagerly to hear what he had to say. I did not lose patience with him. I did not know what to expect from him. It was an extraordinary and enlighening evening for me. I wonder how he remembers it.

In one of her biographical texts, Erica Jong, writes that it is no longer safe to seek zipless fucks in today's world, that monogamy is the order of the day, and the imagination will save two from boredom.

I see now - thank goodness for writing - that our evening with our bickering friends was worthwhile - beyond the food and wine which were excellent.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

It's early Saturday morning and I slept poorly last night after going to the airport with my baby sister Bev and my niece Emily to pick up my mum and dad. We had been warned that they were frail and I expected to see my dad in a wheelchair but although he had a cane, he walked well and looked good for a man who will celebrate his 82nd birthday Christmas Eve. My mum complained of arthritis but it was not obvious in her movements. It's been over six months since I've seen them and I will make an extra effort to spend time with them in the holiday season - to relieve Bev who is busy enough with three little ones and to show them that they are dear to me. (Lawrence Durrell wrote that children are barometers of time. I think parents are too. We see ourselves grow older as we watch them creep into old age.)

On Tuesday, I will return to the airport for my daughter who I haven't seen for almost four months. I have missed her so. She wrote in her blog that I am generous and protective of her, that my mum told her that she was "spoiled" as a little girl and she links spoiled with food rotting and doesn't like the comparison. I think my mum is coming from a generation that believed "spare the rod and spoil the child" although I remember only once being humiliated by a beating from my father.

Princeton University's online dictionary gives three definitions for "spoiled." The first is "treated with excessive indulgence." The second, "having the character or disposition harmed by pampering or oversolicitous attention" and last, "(of foodstuffs) not in an edible or usable condition."

I don't think any of my/our children are or have been spoiled according to these definitons. I know Rob and I have been thoughtless at times - too involved in our own lives - but for the most part, we have consciously tried to listen to them, to treat them as individuals, and to give them equal attention. This may sound corny but I'll say it anyway: we are surprised and grateful that our three offsprings are who they are - so different and yet all three are creative caring adults. We adore them.

And if any one of our three need protection from the weather, we will provide it, whatever "it" is. I do not consider this being excessively indulgent.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004


This morning I am thinking of Gill, thinking that she will be in the air flying home at this time next week. Rob said yesterday that Emily has some of Gill's energy - she's lovely - but that she is not Gill. He tells me that he is excited about seeing Gill. He misses his daughter. I miss mine. We are both possessive.

Lately I have been paralleling my relationship with my mother to Gill's relationship with me. I am astonished, not only at the quality of the writing, but at her openness in her blog, and know that I could have never made public at eighteen, what she dares to publish, knowing that her mother, father, brothers, friends, strangers can read whatever if they so wish.

There are other differences. My mother never praised me. She preferred criticism. I wondered why I could do nothing right, why I was never good enough. Why wasn't I my daughter who is beautiful, passionate, open, talented, who is easy to praise?

And yet I see that even praise may create problems for her. What if one day, she drags herself hung-over out of bed, arrives late, or not at all at work, after swearing at someone who doesn't deserve it, has nothing good to say about anyone, feels miserly and mean, especially since she slammed the phone down on her mother because she didn't feel like talking to anyone. Will she think herself unworthy of love or worse, that she doesn't deserve to be loved, that she is not living up to who she thought she was?

I want to plant a seed in her brain that may take years to sprout. Nothing she does or doesn't do will stop me from cherishing her. This is hard to put into words.( I dislike sentimentality.)I don't expect perfection. I know she is human. She is allowed to be human. She doesn't have to be better than she is. I don't want her to despair as I have. Yet, I know I am powerless in this realm. She will despair.

It took me over forty years, six of which were spent writing, rewriting, and rewriting again, a personal essay about my mother. Each time I thought I had finished, I realized my point of view had shifted. Finally I was able to see my mother as human and that I loved her dearly despite her poor parenting skills. In the last few years, she has been able to say aloud - for the first time in my life - that she loves me.

There is a poem by Sharon Olds titled "The Planned Child" that has always appealed to me as I was the only one of six children who was planned. It came to me this morning that all three of my children were planned, that not one of them was not wanted. (This weekend, a woman my age told me that she grew up being told repeatedly that she was not wanted, that her mother wished that she'd never been born. I can't imagine how painful that must have been as a child. The tone of her voice told me that she has still not recovered.)

Sharon Olds' poetry has changed my way of thinking about several important issues. "The Planned Child" was especially potent.

"I hated the fact that they had planned me...

But when a friend was pouring wine
and said that I seem to have been a child who had been wanted,
I took the wine against my lips
as if my mouth were moving along
that valved wall in my mother's body, she was
bearing down, and then breathing from the mask, and then
bearing down, pressing me out into
the world that was not enouigh for her without me in it,
not the moon, the sun, Orion
cartwheeling across the dark, not
the earth, the sea - none of it
was enough for her; without me."

LeslieJane, Inc.

LeslieJane, Inc.
Originally uploaded by Barbara Y.

Last night Lisa and I went wild in the store. I took everything off the walls, including fixtures, and we reassembled all with magnificent results (I say humbly.) I never realized before I began working with Leslie how important display is to the success of a store and the window especially must draw people in. We change the window once a week at LeslieJane.

Last Friday, I dressed two dummies (Les hated mannequins being called this and so I persist. She is forever at my side when I work in the store.) in organza and velvet with sweaters from Skif - funky fun pullovers priced well over three hundred dollars each - and completed their look with sexy velvet scarves. Two sweaters and several scarves sold within hours of doing the window. That's a sign that I did something right.

I'm wondering how people, including the staff, will receive the window that we did last night (I just happened to have Rob's digital camera in my bag.) The wild hat and muff on the right are the creation of the blue-haired young woman who lives in Aladdin's cave that I described in an earlier blog.

I think of her often wondering if time will tame her tastes. I can't imagine wee ones crawling over hot pink carpets and orange flower-shaped faux-fur cushions, nibbling on feather boas and the mouthpieces of brass hookahs.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

I think someone should have to talk to the Young women and tell them how lucky they are. My daughter wants a new nose. I want a new brain.

I was just down at Dunderave Beach reading Helen Luke's chapter on Orual (a discussion of C.S. Lewis' novel "Till We Have Faces" that in turn is a discussion of the Psyche and Eros myth.) The sentence "The complaint was the answer" hits me in the gut. I have no idea if I'm reading it correctly or not but, being dense, I take it literally. I spend so much time trying to be a good person, trying to be sympathetic, empathetic, generous, thoughtful - which is all very well and good - but I don't always feel these "good" emotions. In Marion Woodman's words I spend a lot of time trying "to be better than I am" and chastising myself for complaining, thinking it above me, feeling pathetic when I whine. Fuck it.

Luke writes of the eagle, "savior in man's extremity of need" finding Orual and crying out in joy that "the woman who has a complaint against the gods" has arrived. She is stripped of veil and clothes and must state her complaint.

Here Helen Luke's genius shines: "When the time comes that we are stripped to the bone and suddenly it appears to us how poor and shabby is the work we have done into which we have poured all that we thought best and purest in us, then indeed we may feel an overwhelming temptation to betray our own truth. We cannot stand the exposure of our despicable pride and so we long to deny responsibility for our own story for what we are, good or bad, right or wrong."

How many times have I hidden my small thoughts? If I want to call myself a writer, I must write my truth though I fear they will get me in trouble. (Oh grow up, Yvonne. My complex never lets up.)

Yesterday morning, I played when I should (have to watch that word) have been working. I read poetry. I looked at pictures and one of me, in my late teens, caught my imagination. This is what I wrote:

"At one time, I was a dancing bird, flying around the stage, around my friend the scarecrow, and I was happy for the minutes of the dance. For, being a teen, I was most often filled with angst about my future, longing to leave my mother, fly the coup, try my wings, and a number of cliches.

I had such dreams. Langston Hughes' lines come to mind: "Hold fast to dreams/For if dreams die/ Life is a broken-winged bird/ That cannot fly."

There is so much that can break us in this world. Where did my youth dreams go? The ones of being a famous actress, of travelling the world, of unlimited freedom, of material splendor, of being three inches taller with flowing black tresses?

All gone. (Some not surprisingly.)

The last few days I have felt lonely, unimportant, self-indulgent, and, most of all, pathetic (a favourite word of mine) because I have friends who love me, who tell me that I am worth something and I don't listen. So much easier to wallow than work at my dreams. Ah there it is - the glitch in my thinking. I have to work if I want my dreams to come true.

And as I write this, I see that I am unwittingly doing it - working at writing. Complaining is a great clarifier. (Keep up the good work Gill.)

Crow Dance, 006
Originally uploaded by Barbara Y.