Friday, August 25, 2006



Twenty eight years ago, I became a mother. I would not have said that I was mother material. I did not idealize babies. I never went soft and mushy around infants. I hadn't dreamed of holding a child of my own - a concrete expression of my love for another. Being the second child of six, I knew babies were time-consuming and demanding.

And yet, when we decided to have a child, when that child materialized, I found myself loving him beyond reason. Rob too loved being a parent. We used to say that if we were suddenly millionaires, we would have a dozen.

And yet, our first son was not easy. Every morning when I fed him, I learned to hold him at the side of the bed so he could projectile vomit across the room. He never slept when I needed him to sleep. I would often lie beside his crib and try to lull him away with soft words. Often, we both ended up in tears of frustration. When he started to crawl, he went backwards. One day, he just stood up and walked. This has always been his way. It's as if he does all his learning inside his head and when he's perfected whatever, he gives it outward expression.

And yet, he was the most accident prone of all our children. He became so used to the Emergency room that, on the way, while I cried, he would ask if he could have cake from the vending machine.

When he started school, one teacher telephoned me and demanded an interview. She didn't know what to do with my child. He never competed with others. Indeed, he never tried to better his best. At the end of the year, she said that he would be an independent happy adult.

Throughout his school years, he did what he wanted irrespective of what was demanded of him. If he liked a teacher, he worked. If he didn't, he skipped class. (Interesting that his opinion of teachers was often mine.)

He loved theatre classes. One day he returned from school, threw his fist in the air, after telling me that he had won an acting award, and yelled "I'm great." I stood in awe of him - not because he had won an award but because he could feel so good about himself and express it.

Today he is twenty eight. It is difficult to write about him because he is a very private individual. He never chit chats. He has grown tall - much taller than we expected a child of ours could grow. He is thin - too thin, I sometimes think. He is neat, precise, in dress and manner. Sometimes we have long sensitive creative conversations. At other times, I feel a wall and don't know what to say to him. He appears less concerned about the good opinion of others than anyone I know though as I write this, I think he may have a match in his father.

I can't believe I once dressed him in a sailor suit. It must be because Rob once wore one.

Rob in Sailor suit046

And so I sit on the day of his birth, thinking about this son, how he has changed, how he has challenged and changed me. I love him and wish him happiness.

Monday, August 21, 2006


Sarah's Wedding Cake

This is the cake that has been my passion for the last week. I gave it my best, and though not perfect and not quite what was requested, I am not displeased with the result. Many praised it before and after it was served. Thank the heavens.

My niece's wedding on Saturday was one of the most exotic I have ever attended as she chose a man whose family is East Indian and so the festivities had a colourful Eastern twist. Unfortunately I missed the groom's party on Friday night - as that is the only time, a la Martha Stewart, that a cake can be decorated for maximum freshness - when all the Westerners wore exotic Indian dress and the women danced with candles on their heads, and anyone who desired could have hands and arms painted with Mendhi patterns, and special rites of passage were performed.

The wedding took place in the Roundhouse in Yaletown. The room was decorated with orchids and candles, and larger-than-life, black and white photographs of the bride and groom, Sarah and Rene. Guests, as they entered, were serenaded with sitar and tabla music and then the ceremony - without reference to religion - took place. I listened to the words carefully, as I am prone to do, and I was impressed with their lovingness and sincerity.

My niece, looked like a Jane Austen heroine in a light taupe, strapless gown, with breasts pushed high - sexy and chaste at the same time - with pearls dropping out of her dark hair at the back. She cried and laughed throughout her vows, holding tight to Rene's hands who was handsome too in his dark suit though his white shoes and pink stripped socks added a roguish edge.

I was surprised that my niece, a modern woman with a career, chose to take her love's name though she told me that she will be addressed as Ms not Mrs.

The evening was a seamless blending of cultures with music and food to satisfy both tastes. At one point, one dark-skinned woman in an extraordnary silk pleated costume performed two dances and a little later, a troop of men with colourful headdresses and costumes danced with what looked like wooden daggers.

And then everyone danced - women with women, men with men, women in saris, women in western fancy, and men, for the most part, in suits and ties, some with creative touches - and so we spun and swayed and clapped to the music - both Indian and Western - until midnight. The wine and laughter flowed while little girls in fancy party dresses ran and played amid the dancers. Afterwards, we old folk took taxis home and the younger crowd went with Sarah and Rene to their hotel for drinks in the bar.

It has been a crazy week as Gill and I did not have time to catch our breath from travel before being thrown into a whirlwind of celebrations, but I did have moments to become reacquainted with my mother-in-law who was an easy guest and didn't seem to mind my absorption with cake; and my niece from California, a dark haired beauty, also a writer, a journalist student like Gill, a vegetarian (who fell off the wagon and ate chicken at the wedding feast), who is full of spirit and life. She noted that it is strange to be thrown into a crowd and find many who share the same features, both physical and mental.

And so my niece Sarah is married. There were three other weddings around the Roundhouse Saturday. And I wonder how their marriages will differ from those of my generation. Or if they will differ...

And now, I must tend to practical matters as I will return to France sometime in September, via Toronto to see Gill settled, and then on to Greece for Rob's sixtieth birthday. I love travel and adventure but still, I would like my world to slow down a little so I can gather my thoughts and dreams.

Friday, August 18, 2006

What can I say? I'm home but still feel I'm living a dream.

I'm not sure what I did my first few days. Gill and I went shopping for food, I know, as the cupboard was bare.

On Sunday, Rob and I went shopping again as we were having a Young family feast that evening (though Gill and Karyna did the food preparation and presentation.) While Rob went to the airport to pick up his mother, sister and her love, I straightened, laid the table, and cleaned upstairs. (Thank heavens for Mackenzie who had the main floor spotless or I would not have been able to do it.)

I was shocked when I saw Mother Young. It's been nine years since she was last here and the jump from 77 to 86 is considerable, more so, as she battled with cancer last year - or was it the year before? She has shrunk in size but when I talk to her, she is the same. I have always admired her. She has never, or so it appears to me, been caught up in appearances. When Rob and I started living together - around 37 years ago - Rob called her. She was happy that he wasn't alone. I didn't dare tell my parents: I pretended to be living with his sister.

So the Youngs gathered at our home. Sarah, the bride-to-be, not blushing but beautiful and her fiance Rene, also beautiful, and her youngest brother. Her eldest arrvied just before midnight with his daughter. Our house was full.

On Monday, Gill, Mother, Kathy, Richard and I met Sarah, Rene, his mother and sister in India town for lunch and costume shopping for the Garden Party Friday evening.

On Monday evening, I drove Michael and Mackenzie to the airport. Mackenzie's father is very ill and she is sick at heart. She adores him so and is willing to confront her fear of flying to be at his side. And Michael, my middle child, who has a tender heart, is going to support them both.

Michael tells me that he will not be missed, in all the flurry, but I beg to differ. He and Mackenzie are missed already by more than me.

On Tuesday, Gill and I shopped for wedding cake items and then attended a shower for the bride in the evening.

Since then, I have been consumed with wedding cake planning and preparation. I want to produce the most beautiful wedding cake ever. (It appears that I like to add pressure to myself, even here.) This afternoon and evening, I will be decorating and pray that no mishaps will happen, that it will come together perfectly, beautifully.

I think that making such a cake is like writing a fine story. First one produces the outline, the base, then edits, cuts each layer so each tier is balanced, and then polishes so all is perfect in form and matter for public consumption.

After the wedding Saturday afternoon and evening, I will return to my prose.

Wish me luck.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Gill and I are home.

Yesterday morning we arrived by taxi at Heathrow, Terminal 4, with no knowledge that the airport was under terrorist alert.

Hundreds of people with carts of luggage were lined up outside the building, blocking the entrance. A young American woman, who had been at the airport since seven, filled us in: A terrorist plot - on the scale of 9/11 - had been uncovered the night before. Eighteen arrests had been made so far. All domestic and European flights were cancelled. Many to the US had been put on hold. No one was allowed hand baggage.

I panicked about my laptop. Would it survive the voyage in my suitcase? I had also splurged on an especially fine bottle of Armagnac in France (that was thank goodness in a heavy cardboard box.) Would it survive or explode and possibly wreck my laptop? I carefully planted both in my case, cushioned by clothing, and prayed, wondering if I was a fool not to have disposed of the alcohol. (They both made it.)

When our flight number was called, we were allowed into the terminal, given a small plastic bag for our wallets, passports, and tickets. Gill was not even allowed her lip gloss. We lined up for our boarding passes, watched our valuables being thrown on a conveyor belt and then went through security where everyone - including a woman in a wheelchair - had their body patted down.

Gill and I walked around the Duty Free area stunned with no appetite for food - though we had intended to eat before our flight - nor any for the hundreds of gift items permissable on the plane (no fluids or creams were allowed.)

Though I was relieved that our destination was not the US, I felt an ounce of fear that Canada might be considered too close a neighbour and also be a target.

Everyone was subdued. There was no noisy conversation, laughter or bickering. No one appeared angry - though all had lost the priviledge of safe keeping delicate items. Even the overhead monitors that were not updated to show late departure, received little more than a comment or two. I have never seen such a large group of people so patient.

I stood for a while looking out the large window, watching the planes line up, speed down the runway, and take off into the air, half expecting an explosion.

Finally two and a half hours late, our plane took off. I breathed a little easier when it levelled and the seat belt sign went out. I held Gill's hand through two patches of turbulence. A nervous flyer at the best of the times, I wondered if this flight would be the killer.

I cannot describe my relief when the plane touched down in Vancouver.

So we are home, blissfully home for a little while.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Yesterday was a whirlwind. Early morning, Gill and I went to Starbucks for coffee and internet, and then on to a fitness club (our hotel has priviledges) for a swim and steam bath, and then (puff puff)on to hairdressers' for an English cut (hate mine), and finally into Camden market passage for an Indian vegetarian lunch. We hardly had time to catch our breath before we were underground, catching tube to Leicester Square for half price tickets to Dancing on the Street and then on to do battle with the crowds on Oxford Street, while eying what's new and great for fall - oops forgot I am not in the fashion industry anymore.

For the first time, I find myself liking London. Usually I sigh and say it's just too crowded, too busy, too fast, too dangerous but this time, I am enthralled. Could be because so much revolves around theatre, art, books, and cafes.

Dancing in the Street gave us a taste of the Motown era and its stars - Diana Ross, Little Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, to name a few. Gill, who should be too young, knew practically every song (is she her father's daughter?)and, at one point, both of us were dancing in front of our seats (along with half the audience.)The lead - oops can't remember his name - had a great voice and his ad libbing helped hold the musical together (no story line - only a string of songs.) At the end, he ask all, if they enjoyed the performance, to tell 750 friends to buy tickets because "I don't want to go back to the States until that man is out of the White House." He received a standing ovation.

Afterwards, though I could hardly keep my eyes open, Gill dragged me to a China town for a quick bite and then down into the underground and back to the hotel where I collapsed...

And so we begin our last full day...

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Hi there everyone,

Gill and I are homeward bound. We are now in London at our swanky hotel - in fact, we are at Starbucks down the road from our hotel, as internet there is too expensive.

We arrived yesterday afternoon. Early evening, we went to Leicester Square to check out what's happening at the theatres - lots. We are still debating what to do this evening. And after, we wandered down Charington Cross road, in and out of book stores. (I only bought two), ate at a little Italian restaurant, and then wandered some more - through Chinatown, up to Picadilly Circus. Oh the bright lights and the people. London, appears to me, to be the most crowded city in all the world.

Gill just left to return to our hotel. Today, we hit the Tate Modern and Camden Street market.

Anyway, we are safe and looking forward to home.

Love to all

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Last night Gill made a wonderful dinner (starting with a green salad flavoured with strawberries, plums, and goat cheese) for Bedding, Susan, David, Alina - a young Russian violin player who will be studying in Paris this fall - and me. At one moment in the evening, when Gill was preparing caramelized apples, she and Alina were whispering and laughing in the kitchen. A delight to the ears - two young beauties, one light, one dark, excited about life.

Later in the evening, I introduced Mary Oliver to our guests. No one except Gill and I had heard of her.

The evening was more than enjoyable yet when I woke this morning, I was gripped by fear and despair. I see it as self-sabotage. I look in the mirror and don't like what I see.

Speaking of mirrors, I have had several illuminations over the past few days. I am going to quote from my journal.

If I believe that I am doing the best I can and that every other person is doing her or his best, then I will be happier. I will be more accepting of self and others.

I recall one man who had a happy marriage. When asked his secret, he replied that every morning he looked in the mirror and said to his image "you are no great thing." In this way, he kept his humility and silently, or not, was grateful to his wife for spending time with him.

In "Enchanted April", one woman who was disenchanted with her husband one day realized that she was "stingy" with her love and so put all effort into being generous. Her marriage became a marvellous thing.

I pause here. Within my marriage, I have often felt a failure. I thought I lacked the key to his heart. If only I could find the right words or gestures, he would open himself to me, be able to express his love. I wanted to ignite him. I see now that there are no magic words or gestures: I am not a magician. He is who he is. I cannot change him. He does the best he can.

This is difficult for a woman who believes in pushing herself to express all in words, who indeed loves words, who knows their power.

Many many years ago, I met a man who shared my passion for words. After several meetings, he sent me a letter describing our conversations. What astonished me was how well he listened and observed. He quoted me, described my facial expressions and body language. And then he said that he had not asked me to make love because it would have been "too conventional", a married woman "profiting" from the absence of her husband. I laughed out loud at the word "profiting" but admit that I was pleased: I had never thought of myself as desirable.

I pause here again. How could I not have know? I am a married woman with children. The only reason that I can come up with is that I am no good at subtleties. I need words to know what another is thinking. I hate guessing games. Oh yes, I can project my own thoughts but they are too often wrong and I am seldom generous with myself. Silence frightens me. I have a vivid imagination and within it, I project my own feelings of despair.

At the end of his letter, this fellow lover of words, said that if his words didn't offend me, I was to write him about my past, my dreams, and fantasies. I sent him a thank you note and thus began around two years of correspondance that can only be described, in Henry Miller's words, as "a literary fuck feast."

I cannot even begin to describe the pain and pleasure the letters caused... and the relationship ended badly but never, ever, neither then or now, did I, do I regret the experience.

Two days ago, in the village, after so many years, I saw the man and his wife sitting on the steps of a friend's house, smoking. My heart started pounding. I swallowed my fear and approached them. They smiled at me. I smiled and kissed them on each cheek. Within minutes, I was calm. We sat and talked, catching up on each others' lives. At some point in the conversation, I thanked him for his writing and presence in my life. "You woke me up." He seemed surprised though I really do not know how he felt. We left it at that.

Strange is it not, how a stranger can move us, cause turbulent emotion, force us to assess everything that we have ever believed about ourselves? His letters caused me to expose a person that I didn't know existed inside of me. I liked that person.

Several years after the "affair" ended, I read Rosemary Sullivan's book on obsessive affairs of the heart. She explained, if I remember correctly, that such relationships are important. They provide a mirror to both parties - a mirror in which both are magnified to twice their original stature. For a woman especially, this is a gift as she most often thinks of her self - her looks, her talents - as lesser rather than greater than they actually are. And though it is necessary for the mirror to crash, for the individuals to come back to earth, it is always with a more realistic picture of their capabilities.

And so it was good to sit and talk to this couple, to see the attraction, to not feel the old tugs at the heart, to say thank you and bring all to a kinder conclusion.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Every morning I try to take a little time (sometimes a great deal of time) to pull myself together through writing. Usually as I have noted before, it is in the attic overlooking the valley. The other day, for a change, I went to La Place and sat in the restaurant with a cafe creme.

I was sitting there scribbling in my journal when I looked up and spied a middle-aged man peeking through the curtains of his hotel room window. He must have seen that there were people all about and, nonetheless, opened his curtains wide and stepped out on the narrow balcony in only skimpy white underbriefs.

Scandalous. Has he no shame? And I look down at my notebook and ask myself the same question.

Is it inappropriate for him to stand on the balcony with practically nothing on - a hairy, smallish man, proud in his skin like a modern day Napoleon? Is it inappropriate for me to tell my crude thoughts? What do I mean by "crude"? Raw, undeveloped, unrefined.

"Leave it to others. You are not good enough," that damned defeatist voice in my head sings loud and clear.

Why am I not good enough? "Because you are the daughter of a daughter whose parents were dairy farmers - though admittedly they were not poor, were honourable, even kind, generous folk - but, don't you remember, you checked the records, before your grandmother, her mothers were illiterate, signed their marriage certificates with an "x" - and you with only an undergraduate degree - no great thing in this day and age - think that you have an original thought in your head?Don't make me laugh."

And so it goes... how many damn times I have said these things? (Please stop reading if you are as tired of me as I am.) I know I defeat myself. I have no excuses now. No job to consume my energy. No overwhelming responsibility. I am free to do as I please and so I will push myself... or attempt to be honest through my writing. Originality be damned.

At the moment, I have two channels of thought cursing through my brain. One is inspired by Virginia Woolf's "Room of One's Own", and the other is inspired by the arrival of my daughter.

Is it all right, I ask myself, to be so dependent on the written ideas of others? Why not? Everyone starts somewhere and why not with the familiar? There is nothing wrong with placing oneself on solid ground before taking a flying leap.

I think of my/our daughter who is a flying leap from her father and me. She is such an amalgamation of the two of us. I stand in awe of her (as I do of all our children.) And yes, I must admit that I am envious that she is nineteen years old and has done so much in her short life. But I see also that it is us, her parents who have encouraged her and helped her in practical ways to live her dreams, gain her experience. She said that, after living with a family where the parents work too much and have little time for their children, that she values hers more.

I see also that I can learn from her. It is high time that I stop defeating myself and move ahead with what I want to do or I will die full of regrets... "there comes times - perhaps this is one of them - when we have to take ourselves more seriously or die..."

Gill and I have only a week to enjoy the south of France together. We have so much we want to do. Yesterday, we went for a women writers' lunch in the next village with Clare and Susan. The food wasn't bad - some courses even good - but the company of these women was superb. No small talk. Lots of laughter, hearty conversation. Today we go to a dinner party. Tomorrow Gill will make a feast. Saturday we will go to the festival at Vaour. All this activity steals my breath. We both want to relax, enjoy, contemplate... and yet, I feel tired, can't sleep at night - last night a bat flying round my room kept me awake till after three.

It seems we are on a merry-go-round and though all is such child's play, light and whimsical, still we are a little dizzy with all the activity.