Monday, November 30, 2009

In my Father's House

On Friday, I flew from Toulouse to Frankfurt to Montreal to Toronto to visit my father and mother, two sisters and a brother. My sister Gael met me at the airport. Around the same time that Rob and I left our home of many years, she left hers and is now living in a brick heritage home in the heart of Brampton. The house is like something out of "Little Women" with polished wood banisters, brick fireplace, window seats, and leaded glass doors leading from parlour to dining room to kitchen.

My older sister and her husband joined us Saturday and together we helped Gael and her husband prepare for a Sunday evening party.

On Sunday morning, my big sister and her love drove me to Port Hope to see my parents. My mother cried when she saw me. My father, not expecting us till later in the day, was out roaming but returned soon after a phone call, to give me a big hug.

I feel so fortunate at 60 to have both my parents alive, lucid, and mobile. And although time has slowed them down and both have health issues, they are doing remarkably well for folk in their 80s.

Today, Monday, I'm up at my usual time - 5 in the morning - sipping tea after having unlocked and relocked the five locks and bolts on two doors that lead to the back garden, to smoke a cigarette. My parents own a heritage house, same vintage as my sister's, but theirs is crammed to overflowing with antiques. I suppose they fear some thief will slip in and rob them. But five locks? Given that they live beside a police station where there is always a cop or two outdoors enjoying the same filthy habit that I have, it seems excessive. Although to be fair, some thief did slip into their front hall and took off with a small table. The police caught him.

Nuclear families are strange units and even now that I'm grown, I bring the child that I once was home with me, the child who wanted a fairytale family in which every one smiles and is kind - oh so kind to each other like the March family in "Little Women." Of course, I identified with Jo, the writer, the independent sister who was less feminine, more adventurous than Meg, Amy, and Beth. I'm also bossy like Jo but, come to think of it, all my sisters are bossy. Together, Rob's sister once said, we can be overpowering.

And so back in my father's house, I find my parents still aren't Mr and Mrs March...

A few weeks ago, Rob told me about a time when we were setting out on a long road trip and before we had even left our street, I spat some harsh words at him. I vaguely recall the incident. Still I was shocked when he told me about it. I didn't think I could be so mean.

My mind wanders, thinking such things as "well no one's perfect" and "I am usually kind." I see that I still want to be the easy daughter, wife, friend but this would mean, to my mind, denying part of myself. And yet it's more complicated than that.

When I think of that time with Rob, I realize that my meanness was a cover for my fear. I was terrified of spending days in a car. After the car accident I had a few years back, I have become an impossible passenger. I know that people do stupid things behind a wheel and bodies are fragile. Unfortunately and unfairly, my fear cum venom were directed not at the asinine driver who could have killed me but at a safe driver who loves me.

Coincidentally a friend just told me a story about her husband and herself. They had been passing angry words back and forth and she stopped herself mid stream with the thought he loves me and wishes the best for me. This same friend was having difficulty relating to her son's wife and she asked him what to do. He said "just love her." It worked.

And so here in my father's house, I'm thinking about love and how it is sometimes expressed in negative ways because there's other emotions (like my fear) at play under the surface.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Last week, Rob and I walked through a hidden park in Albi... a 45 minute walk to view beautiful fall colours.

Today I went to the village market with Rob. Spoke to Ruth whose energy overwhelms me.

Played with WordPress. New possibilities for my blog but confusing.

Yesterday, I visited Susan. She went to Marrakech with David - instead of us to celebrate my 60th - and described it as "savage," as I lay curled at the foot of her bed. Our conversation wandered. My self-image infuriates her. I understand.

Glad tidings. Gill is home from Italy and cooking and baking. Another woman whose energy overwhelms me, astounds me, whom I love.

On Friday I fly to Toronto.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Loving Donna Margaret

How I admire thee, third sister born nearly five years after me - 4 years, 7 months, 2 weeks, 6 days to be precise.

You were the smart daughter. I was the easy one (until I reached my 40s).

I remember you in kindergarten - already so smart that the teacher wanted to accelerate you to second grade. I asked if you wanted to play hooky one day and you readily agreed but then I chickened out and took you to school instead. You were so angry at me.

Years later you took your revenge. I was dating a beautiful rich boy (though snobby) and, as Mum and Dad were out, I brought him home only to find you sprawled in the hall, an empty whiskey bottle by your feet, play acting you were drunk. I could have killed you.

And I have a vague recollection of inviting you and your boyfriend to come and live with Rob and me. You were at Ryerson and our place was so much closer to the school than the family home. Every week I would pin up a job list, trying to allocate housework so I wouldn't be the only cleaner. You laughed as you always laugh and did as you pleased.

More years pass and Rob and I are in Vancouver. You come to visit, and you and I take off for Victoria. Among other things naughty things, we decided to try every drink in a bar one night. My memories of that night - those I remember - are a haze. But the point is we were downright silly together, dared the other to make a fool of herself in public and without hesitating, the one dared performed. We laughed so hard. It's always that way with you. You have a way of making people loosen up, laugh at the world, play, and enjoy her or himself. How many of your real estate clients have become friends?

And we still act mighty silly together. Remember the day that I locked myself on your upstairs balcony and the only key to your house inside. After I found a neighbour to help me down and you returned. You didn't get angry, you laughed, hoisted me up to balcony again and insisted I break the door down if necessary. (It opened after a few body hits though I suffered the next day.)

And then there are the salsa classes, our lunches at Vera's, dinners at the Swiss Chalet, pajama parties, snuggled into your bed watching movies... And though we argue about who is crazier, I'd say that you win the prize. Recall this summer in the sunflower field?

You are just too wonderful for words, kind, generous and loving too, and I hope you're having a great time in Maui on your birthday (though it would probably be more fun with me. Okay, it'd be a different kind of fun.)

Lot of hugs and kisses from me to you. Here's looking at you kid.

(The next post is your birthday card.)

There were never such devoted sisters

(click on pictures and song to see and hear more clearly.)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I startled Lucette

just now. I was standing in my doorway smoking because I am not allowed to smoke inside. Correction. I cannot stand inside smoking because Rob finds it offensive and I cannot bear offending someone with my foul habit. Leslie used to say that I am a considerate smoker. Lucette was walking by, lost in thought, munching a carrot, and suddenly saw my shadow and jumped.

Je suis desolee, I say.

Pas grave, she says. Tu est toute noire (meaning I am dressed in black.)

I was standing there thinking of poetry. Tonight Susan and David and Bedding are coming to dinner and each person must bring a poem to read. I love these evenings. And I was thinking of all the moments that I don't write about in my blog. The moments that are lovely and might interest another or others. I think I'm embarrassed because I am so tight-lipped at the moment and want to give more of myself and yet feel that I have little to give.

Earlier, I stood ironing napkins. I know that it's sort of a waste of time but I like ironing small squares, easy and fast, and I like their neatness and yet this liking neatness feels old-fashioned and anal. I have more important things to do. Like what, that mean voice inside my head snickers. Like working at writing, I sigh. Of all the things I do, I think I am best at writing and it's the thing I avoid more than any other. You find your self-respect in your work, Leonard Cohen whispers. Yeah, yeah, I reply. I'm out to ambush my life.

And I just can't alight but tonight I must read poetry and I reached for a book that David gave Rob for his birthday last year, "An Anthology of Canadian Poetry." Rob asks that I find him a poem too because he is busy in the kitchen. Double pleasure.

I shall read (to keep with my image)

Sex Next Door (by Julie Bruck, born 8 years after me)

It’s rare, slow as a creaking of oars,
and she is so frail and short of breath
on the street, the stairs – tiny, Lilliputian,
one wonders how they do it.
So, wakened by the shiftings of their bed nudging
our shared wall as a boat rubs its pilings,
I want it to continue, before her awful
hollow coughing fit begins. And when
they have to stop (always) until it passes, let
us praise that resumed rhythm, no more than a twitch
really, of our common floorboards. And how
he’s waited for her before pushing off
in their rusted vessel, bailing when they have to,
but moving out anyway, across the black water.

I have chosen several for Rob and I must hurry up and read to him and let him decide what he likes best.

For those who know Bedding

On November 8th, Bedding's daughter Ivana (who lives in Chile) celebrated her 37th birthday giving birth to Clara. In just over a week, we will drive Bedding to the airport so that she can fly round the world to meet her new granddaughter.


For those who know me

Where has time gone? This morning I drove Brendan to the train station. He is off on another adventure, crossing the French border into Italy. He will stay in Genoa for a few days and if it's not to his liking, he'll try living in Milan.

Gill is in Rome, leaving tomorrow for Sienna. So two of our children are in Italy and Rob and I are alone for ten days until Gill returns, though she will write and do her research here and then head up to Paris again.

Rob has settled into French country living more easily than I have. In fact, I am still not settled. I observe my restlessness and shake my head at myself but still can't move beyond it. I did rework a story for a literary contest and am happy that I managed to get it in an hour and a half before deadline. Though I am not completely satisfied with the final version, I am not displeased with it. (Brendan sent me a sweet thought last night: "If you set your goals ridiculously high and it’s a failure, you will fail above everyone else’s success."— James Cameron)

I have also been playing with design programs on my computer, attempting to divert more and more from templates. There is so much to learn but I like the play and believe that I have a good eye.

I'm still not in the mood to reveal more of myself on this site. Perhaps it's because I am confused and tired (woke up at 5:30 am to take Bren to station) but hopefully soon I will be more at peace with myself and the words will flow.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Loving Mackenzie

(Click on picture and song)

Sunday, November 01, 2009

The Pleasure of Living in Europe

We left Tuesday morning and returned Friday and because I am the worst car passenger in the world, I sat in the backseat and worked on a story for a contest deadline (I'm sure my writing friends will be pleased.) Just a few finishing touches and I shall send it via my computer. Finally I am working.