Posts Tagged With: childhood

grade 6

this rascal is going into grade 6

this rascal is going into grade 6

A new school year starts tomorrow. BoyGenius is going into grade 6. The speed with which these kids grow up is almost surreal. Grade 6! I know we’ve done all the years, all the grades, but it still seems like there are a lot of holes — like we’ve skipped stuff. I know we haven’t; I know we live in different times, a different age than the one I grew up in, and as such BoyGenius’ childhood will be, must be different than the one I had. But does it have to go so fast? Did mine?

I think perhaps that when you are the child and you are living those years they aren’t as swift as when you are the parent. I certainly never felt like my childhood was slipping through my fingers; I remember something about every year, I think. I know that summers were long and hot and winters were long and snowy and school was something you went to every day and, for my part, anyway, enjoyed. I like to think that BoyGenius is having those same experiences, even if the events are different. He had two things he wanted to do this summer (neither of which happened): go to New York and go to Los Angeles. He went to summer camp and spent seemingly endless hours on his new gaming computer. We went to the beach a record low (for us) number of times but he was content with what he was doing. We did stuff, we just didn’t pack the weeks with outings. I’m the one feeling like we didn’t “accomplish” much, not him. He was happy. He is happy. HE IS HAPPY.

When I tucked him into bed tonight I asked him if there was any grade 6 “stuff” he needed me to tell him. He chuckled and said no. I asked him if he was excited for tomorrow. He chuckled again and said, “No, it’s school.” I asked if he was nervous, he laughed and said, “No, it’s school!” I said “Good.” I reminded him that he can talk to us about anything; if anything is unfair at school, or if there are any issues or problems with students or teachers, or anything at all he can come and tell me about it. He said, “Yes, I know.” All right, then. I kissed his newly shaved head (just the left side) and said good night. He seems happy.

This. This “no worries” attitude towards school starting. That’s all I need. That’s how I felt as a child: summer ends, school starts, no big whoop. He is happy. I am happy. HardWorker has a bit of anxiety (but that’s par for the course). In think we’re doing just fine.

Categories: memories, parenting | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

empty bed

BoyGenius is away at camp this week. Sleep-away camp, for the first time ever. I knew he would be fine, I knew I would be fine, and I knew HardWorker would be beside herself with anxiety and worry. (She was so beside herself that it was crowded here for a couple of days — she has since gotten better.)

I had no reason to believe that he would be homesick or feel out of his depth or anything at all like that. I know he’s having a blast (thanks to the modern miracles of INSTAGRAM and Twitter). Dropping him off on Sunday evening was fine for me, fine for him, and a huge deal for HardWorker. I had read her The Riot Act on Saturday and repeated it on Sunday morning: “You’re not going to say anything about him missing us (or the cat) or feeling homesick. You’re not going to tell him how bad you’re going to feel because he’s away. You are absolutely not going to suggest that if he feels like coming home all he has to do is text and you’ll come pick him up.” She thought maybe she shouldn’t come along to drop him off. Then realised that she’d probably do worse alone at home. It was hard work getting her to leave him at camp, let me tell you.

My mother asks everyday if there has been any word from BoyGenius. She asks every day if I miss him. I’m having a hard time convincing her that I don’t. That’s right. I don’t miss him. Like I said, I know he’s having fun, a fantastic childhood summer experience. I know he is secure enough in our love to just be able to enjoy himself. I am secure enough in both his love for me and my love for him to not miss him. He’ll be home tomorrow, for crying out loud. It’s not even a full week away. When I was 8 years old my brother BlueEyes (who was 12) and I went to Germany on our own. Sure, we had relatives meeting us and we were staying with them, but we flew across the Atlantic alone — and changed planes in one of the busiest airports in Europe. When we were only a few years older my parents put us on a cross-border Greyhound to visit friends in New Jersey for a week, and BlueEyes and I took the commuter train from Paramus into Manhattan almost every day — on our own. We went to see a show at Rockefeller Center, we went to the outside observation deck of the World Trade Center, we shopped in Times Square. Did my mother miss us those times we were away? She says she absolutely did, but I don’t think it stopped her from carrying on normally. We were responsible kids who were totally secure in and with our family units. I like to think I am raising my son the same way.

Do I miss him? Not in the way you might expect. Listen, when he’s been here this summer, he’s been in the basement most of the time. I’ve been able to build him a corner desk unit for his gaming computer — something I would not have been able to do had he been lounging around down there. I’ve done some laundry, baked a cake or two, been able to gloss over lunch and dinner since I didn’t have to worry about feeding him — so in other words, it’s been a pretty normal week for me. I am not feeling an empty space in my heart. I am not sad that he’s away, because I know that he’ll be home tomorrow. I am not worried about him because I know who he’s with and I know he’s having fun. So no, I don’t miss him.

I do notice his empty, nearly neatly made bed every time I walk by his room, though.

BoyGenius is totally asleep, on his stomach, with his left leg bent at the knee so his heel is touching his butt.

So instead of seeing this (yes, this IS how he often sleeps), I am only seeing the empty bed.

Categories: family, love, memories, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

I said no

My good friend, arguably my best friend, asked a favour of me yesterday: would I keep an eye on her house while she and her family were on vacation? Not an unreasonable request. I’ve done it before. I know she thought I would say yes but as we stood in her entryway I hesitated. Then she said, “You don’t have to say yes.” I said I would have to think about it and I would let her know — not really aware of the fact that she and the kids were leaving today, until she said, “Well, M (her husband) will still be here for another week, so you can just come pick up the key.I said no. Standing right there, about 75 seconds after I had told her I would have to think about it, I looked at her and said, “I’m going to say no. I don’t think I can do it.” (And let’s not even talk about the key, okay?)

I left, and for the next, oh I don’t know, 12 hours or so, was having all kinds of agita because I said no to her. What kind of a friend am I? Haven’t I told her time and again that she can always ask me for help if she needs it? That I will always be there/here for her? That she should never feel like she’s taking advantage of me? Yep. And I said no.

Listen, I’m still not settled. But you know what? She doesn’t want to ask me for help anymore. She doesn’t want to ask me for anything. We’ve had a not-necessarily-troublesome-but-still-not-normal (for us) relationship over the past 10+ months. It has seemed to me that she has withdrawn from the friendship, even felt like I had been cut out of her life. I questioned her about that, she said it wasn’t her intention and she would try to be a better friend. I pointed out that I didn’t need her to be a “better” friend, I just needed her to be the friend that she always had been.

So, we work together at our kids’ school, running the biggest annual fundraiser that we put on. We have to see each other, we have to go places together, we have to make it work. And it does indeed work well, we work well together. And it did work again this year. And then, it was back to this distance between us. We’d see each other at the gym once or twice a week, but that was it.

The school year ended, we had no contact for about the first three weeks of summer vacation, and then we both went out with a mutual friend for a girls’ night. I hadn’t really even known she was coming with us. We talked a bit, but we were in a group. A few days later I got a text asking if BoyGenius and I would like to join her, her three kids and two additional children at a local pool/park. BoyGenius was away so I said thank you, but no. The next week BG and I were going to swim at another local pool and I thought I’d be nice and ask them to come along. Her kids would rather stay at home with their own little pool, would we like to come there. Since her son is my son’s best friend, and they hadn’t seen each other in a while, either, we said yes. It was an enjoyable enough afternoon, but things still don’t seem right.

Another couple of weeks have gone by, her son spent 5 days/nights at my house, we all went out for dinner once, and now we’re pretty much caught up in the timeline. I was out shopping the other day and as I walked into a store, a gorgeous blouse caught my eye, and the first thought I had was how good it would look on my bff, so I bought it for her. Took it to her yesterday because I knew they would be leaving for vacation soon. That’s when she says,”Oh, since you’re here, ….” And that’s when I said no.

Here’s the thing. I know, I said I would always help her if she needed it; I said she could ask me anything; I said I would take care of her. Those things haven’t changed. They are not now untruths. I have not forsaken her. But that’s not what this was. At least not how I see it. This almost felt like being taken for granted. Or something like that. I don’t know, maybe I overthink things sometimes (definitely) and maybe this is one of those times (definitely), but I think if she had talked to me about it even, say, two weeks ago, I probably would have said yes. But she didn’t. So I said no. I mean, what if I hadn’t stopped by? Would I have gotten a text a few days later? Did she just mis-plan her time and not get it done? Did she ask someone else who cancelled at the last minute? Did she forget? I don’t know. We don’t really talk that much anymore so I don’t really know what’s going on in her life.

So here we are. I said no. And I feel bad. Sort of (definitely). Bad enough that I had to write it out. And now I feel bad about that. Like I’m somehow betraying the friendship because I’m telling you all about it. Not her. But I don’t have the opportunity to talk to her about it, and I’m pretty sure she won’t want to hear it anyway. A few months ago I got a “You know you can talk to me about anything, right?” and I responded with a “You know that’s not true anymore, right?” It didn’t go any further.

Maybe I was right all along during my childhood: I never actually had a BEST FRIEND. I had my neighbour across the street who I would consider my best friend, but I know I wasn’t hers. I didn’t stick with any particular group of friends through public school or hang with any one clique in high school. I was a floater. I think I may have been better friends with my teachers than with any of my classmates. And you know what? — it worked! I survived all the bff drama because I never had to deal with it. Until now — at age 50. Great. This and pimples, too. Welcome to adultolescence.

Whatever. I said no. I SAID NO. I’m sure I’ll feel better about it by the time she gets back in two weeks. Maybe. Probably (not). Perhaps. For sure.

Maybe. I hope so.

Categories: friendship, loss, love | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

rain

It’s raining. The gloriously heavy, warm-weathered, bright-sky-with-big-dark-clouds kind of rain of impossibly large drops that we used to enjoy when I was little. My brothers and I would be outside in our bathing suits and flip-flops or rubber boots getting soaked and squealing & laughing with delight. Sitting on the curb or dancing in the yard or splashing in the gulleys that ran as fast as they could to the nearest storm drain.

Thunder rumbles in the distance. The downspouts are flowing like fountains. The still hot pavement and steaming shingles smell like summer. The rain stops, the sky brightens. Until the next wave.

Categories: family, memories | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

colours

Today started off normally enough: get up, see that HardWorker has already left, BoyGenius is on the couch watching youtube videos, put the kettle on, take the snack bag out of the backpack, put bread in the toaster; get BoyGenius off the couch and into the shower, make him wash his hair while showing me how he does it (because although he goes through about 1/4 of a bottle of shampoo every shower, I’m pretty sure the suds never actually touch his scalp), make him do it again, go back downstairs to make tea and butter/peanut butter/jam my toast. You know, just a normal day.

My son is out the door, my toast is eaten, I’m enjoying my tea, wondering why I’m watching PacMan or Slugterra or whatever happens to be on my television screen. I see a facebook entry from one of my favourite internet storytellers/artists, Brian Andreas. I dissolve into a puddle — right there on my loveseat. I share it to my own timeline, all the while still sobbing. My day dissolves right along with me.

Last Time by Brian Andreas. Find him on facebook or at http://www.storypeople.com/

Last Time by Brian Andreas. Find him on facebook or at http://www.storypeople.com/

So now it’s 2 pm, my son has been home for lunch and gone back to school, I’ve done some laundry, had lunch (did I? — I think so), took a book back to the library, done some banking, some non-purchasing shopping, and cried. A number of times. Over and over. That facebook entry really did a number on me, and got me to thinking.

When my brother BlueEyes died in 1993 I lost a lot of colour from my life. Sure, when BoyGenius was born in 2004 I got plenty of colour back, but while there may be more than a little overlap that happens, the colours are entirely different.

My brothers were in charge of a few things while I was growing up — nothing like scheduled chores or stuff like that, but still. SkinnyGuy was in charge of paper routes and saving money and grass cutting and our television & music education and snow shovelling. He was the oldest, so all of these things made sense. BlueEyes was in charge of piano lessons and baking and making our mom feel special and a different kind of music education and taking care of me. That’s kind of what it felt like. It’s hard to explain. We never really fought, except maybe over whose turn it was to help with the dishes. We were all just there.

We got older; one by one we went off to university. We all ended up in the same city, doing various jobs over the years. We still did things together and while they both dropped some “chores” off of their lists or swapped some out, they were essentially still in charge of the same things, at least the ones that really mattered: saving money, television & music, making our mom feel special and taking care of me.

While SkinnyGuy, even in the midst of all the music, was a numbers and words kind of guy, BlueEyes was all about colour. The colours of music, the colours of feelings, the colours of travel, the colours of wool sweaters. He was in charge of all of the colours: spices from the far corners of the earth, the lighted dance floor at our favourite club, the blue of the sky at 30,000 feet, the swarm of tropical fish when you snorkel with soda crackers, Ikea duvet covers, the various shades of his eyes depending on which contacts he put in that day, argyle socks and sweaters, cherry blossoms in Washington, silk scarves from the Orient, Easter baskets from Germany, red wine from France. If you were with him you saw and felt colours everywhere. And if you couldn’t be with him he brought the colours to you. And they were actually brighter because of his smile and his sparkling eyes; his joy and excitement at being able to share these colours with you made them reach new levels of saturation.

And then he died and everything was transformed to gray scale. Oh, I still saw colour, I could still appreciate the nuances of tint and hue, but it was all muted. The bigger picture, the feelings of colour, changed to gray. Or taupe.

Eleven years later colour re-entered my life. BoyGenius came along and brought red hair and play-doh and fluorescent shoes with him. He’s managed to take over being in charge of a few things himself over his eleven + years, and while his experience with the feelings of colour still has decades to grow, I think he’ll manage just fine. So far he’s been in charge of the colours of socks and shoes, showing us that “matching” doesn’t necessarily mean exactly the same. He’s now my go-to for argyle socks, and I think his uncle would be on board with that. He’s been in charge of our wall paint choices and it’s worked out okay so far. He’s aware that the bright yellow of a bouquet of dandelions picked on his way home from school will not only brighten my day but also warm my heart. He loves the blue of the sky at 30,000 feet and how the moon can change from orange to yellow to white all in one night. He’s starting to feel the colour of the vastness of the Milky Way and I already know he feels the colour of loss when a good friend dies. BoyGenius has the bright smile and sparkling eyes that shine exponentially more powerfully when he is excited to share some newly discovered nugget of information or shiny new object; the same ones BlueEyes had.

I am grateful for my new champion of colour. I want to teach him the feeling of colour and how easy it will be for him to share all the colours. He’s definitely capable; he’s got the foundation. I hope I’m up to the teaching part.

Every day, though, every day I miss my original champion of colour. And sometimes it’s too hard to stay upbeat for the new guy on the job. Sometimes someone smiles a certain way or a song comes on the radio or you see an old photo or a new post on facebook and all of a sudden you realise that you’re at home alone and no matter how many games of Words With Friends you’ve got going on there is no one here to hold you while you cry and all the colours melt together and you’re once again left with gray. Or taupe.

Categories: family, loss, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

new year

As the new school year fast approaches (tomorrow!!) I see all sorts of “advice” or “rules” posts and articles that people have written for their children. Some are gender specific, some are grade specific, some are neither. Mine is BoyGenius specific. You might find some nuggets of wisdom in it, you might not.

My dear son, as you start this next chapter in your academic life as you head into grade 5 (seriously!??!) there are some things I want to tell you; some things you need to know. Guess what —- they are not much different than the things I told you at the start of last year, or even throughout grade 4, or 3. Take them to heart, or at least try to remember little snippets of them now and again:

  • don’t be afraid to be smart; don’t be afraid to let your smarts show
  • be respectful of others; friends, teachers, administrators, coaches
  • have fun — in the classroom, on the playground, at lunch
  • don’t let your smarts or the silliness and fun get in the way of learning
  • try not to be too frustrated when you realize that others don’t know the things you do or don’t think the way you do
  • don’t be rude
  • try to keep focused on the task at hand — if you can’t, then try to figure out why and if there is something you can do to make it better; if you need help with your focus, don’t be afraid to ask
  • stay true to yourself; you are a sweet sensitive boy with a fantastic understanding of “fairness” — please don’t give that up, as hard and as heartbreaking as it may seem to hold onto
  • come to me; remember that you can tell me anything and I won’t ever love you any less
  • if something is keeping you from learning and/or doing your best let your teacher know; if it’s the teacher, let the Mama know; marks and grades are far less important to me than you might think — you learning and loving it much more so
  • eat all of your lunch
  • write as neatly as you can
  • if you are bored please tell someone other than your friends, like me or Mommy or your teacher
  • you have every right to question anything you are being taught; please just remember to be polite and respectful when you do so, especially if pointing out mistakes or misinformation to your teacher
  • remember, Mama welcomes the dreaded “note home” from the teacher so never let that scare you
  • you and I together, kiddo, are a force worth reckoning with; I will advocate for you until the cows come home — maybe even after that — probably, yeah
  • practice your times table
  • if something or someone makes you feel uncomfortable, walk away; don’t let people suck you into doing stupid things — we’ve talked about this, remember? (Mike Hunt is not a real person. My apologies to all of the real Mike Hunts out there.)
  • keep climbing trees
  • I love you, so does Mommy
keep climbing, baby!

keep climbing, baby!

Wow, that turned out to be a long list, a lot of advice. Like I said, at least try to remember snippets of it here and there. Sure, it’s all important, but if you have this list then you don’t need to memorize it. Neither do I.

(I reserve the right to modify, expand or shrink this list at any time now or in the future, in perpetuity and forever, to infinity and beyond.)

Categories: family, parenting, Uncategorized, words | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

what if I’m wrong?

What if I really don’t know what I’m doing? Am I a good mother, a good parent? Am I giving BoyGenius everything he needs to get by in life, to survive, to thrive, to become a sensitive, caring adult?

I try to give him what I think is right, to teach him how to behave, how to think for himself. I think I’m allowing his self-confidence to grow while holding him tight enough to still feel connected. Every once in awhile I wonder if I’m doing the right thing(s).

Should I be cutting the crusts off of BoyGenius’ sandwiches or should I be making him eat them? Should I leave the mushrooms or the stuffing off of his plate because I know he doesn’t like them or should I keep serving him everything we have even though I know he’s not going to eat it?

Is it wrong that BoyGenius watched Irish movies with me (“they sure say ‘fook’ a lot!”) when he was 3 or 4? Should Scott Pilgrim vs. the World have become his favourite movie at age 6? How do I know? Does he know there are ‘bad’ words? Yes. Does he use them? No. Is it wrong that BoyGenius tried to explain the facts of life to his school friend at age 4 (“isn’t that right Mama, the girl has the seed and the boy has the egg?”)? Sure, he was a little mixed up but boy was I ever proud of him for being on the right track!

Are HardWorker and I giving him the best home, the best family? Is it right that I’m not working? Should our home be immaculate? Does he have too much stuff, too many toys? Is he eating enough fruit and veg; too much cheese? Does he drink enough milk? Should he be outside more? Is it wrong to let him play at the park every day after school? Do we stay too long or not long enough? Are we eating too late because we stayed at the park or went to a friend’s house? Should dinner be ready every day at 5pm even though HardWorker doesn’t make it home until 6:30 or later? Should I wait and start dinner when we’re all here? Does consistent bedtime leave room for any negotiation or is it a hard and fast line?

Should I be at the school more or less? Do I know my child well enough to know which teacher will give him the best opportunity for learning? I think so. Should I be ensuring that he gets placed with that teacher or should I always wait and see and let him tough it out if it’s not a good fit? (Having been through a horrendous time in grade 1 I know what my answer to this is.)

… yes, he actually IS sitting on a twig …

BoyGenius has broken his arm 1-2 times (depends on which Dr and which x-ray you see). Should I stop him from jumping off the swings or should I demonstrate the proper take-off and landing techniques? Is there anything wrong with letting him climb trees? I know he sits on tiny little branches that look like they won’t hold a squirrel let alone a 60+ pound boy but he rocks that perch like it’s a lounge chair! He climbs the soccer goals (sans nets) on the local field and then shimmies along the cross bar and back, then hangs upside down and waves before flipping back up and sliding down using a combination koala grip/firefighter style. Just about every time we pass the baseball diamond in the schoolyard he’s climbed up to the top of the backstop in a matter of seconds. “How does he get up there?” “Is he allowed to climb up there?” “Why do you let him do that?” “What if he falls?” These are questions from kids; the parents just shake their heads. If I ask him not to go too near the edge where the fencing is loose, he listens. If I ask him not to attempt the open crossing between the top of the backstop and the neighbouring fence he listens … most of the time. Mostly what I tell him is to be careful. He is. What I told him originally was “go ahead and climb, pretty soon your feet won’t fit in the chain link and you won’t be able to get a grip.” Was that not the right thing to do?

Is it okay to let him grow his hair long or not? Does it matter that he mismatches his socks on purpose (but has a method to it)? Should I care that he likes to wear his shirts inside out every once in awhile? Does the fact that I let him do all of these things make me a good parent or a bad one? We never wore our clothes inside out … we probably would have been told not to, but I don’t believe the thought ever occurred to us in the first place. We climbed trees. We jumped off swings (when we weren’t hanging upside down from them). Were my parents good parents? Looking back, I’d say yes and I’d say it wholeheartedly without hesitation. Did I ever give it any thought when I was a child? No. Did we fight with them because they didn’t let us do things? No. Did we ever question whether they knew what they were doing? No. Did they ever question if they were doing the right thing(s)? I don’t know. They didn’t ever seem unsure or confused. I’ll have to ask my mom about it sometime.

BoyGenius is a caring, sensitive, loving child. He isn’t just smart, he’s clever and witty and sometimes eerily aware of things I don’t think he could possibly know. He scares me. Well, I don’t know if that’s quite right; his future scares me. What if I make the wrong decision about letting him stay at a birthday party by himself? What if he loses his grip while sliding down the banister? What if I’m not teaching him the right things? What happens when he gets picked on for having two moms instead of everyone thinking it’s cool? Who am I to have made that decision about having a baby? What if something happens to me? Should he know that I get scared, get sad sometimes? Or should he think that I have all the answers? Should I be teaching him to love fully and completely and unconditionally even if it hurts? Or should I teach him to protect his heart?

What if I get it wrong? What if I’ve been wrong all along?

Categories: parenting | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Monday’s words — H

So although I’ve been working on a number of posts lately I can’t seem to get to the end of any of them. I hate when that happens. Seriously.

Thankfully, it’s another Monday and so I get to talk about some words since I haven’t even done that lately. This week’s winning entry is the letter H. H is pretty good, it stands on its own and it helps other letters do some really neat stuff.

Some of my favourite H words are halcyon, haberdashery, hyperbole, heart, heartwoodharmony and hoyden.

halcyon — a period of time in the past that was idyllically happy and peaceful. I first heard this word on some television show over 30 years ago. Some campy character blithely referring to those “halcyon days.” My halcyon days were my childhood. Really.

haberdashery — kind of an olde tyme five and dime store, a notions shop. In American english it usually refers to a men’s accessories shop (but not many people even know the term) but in the UK a haberdashery sells buttons, threads, ribbons; in ye olde tymes they might even carry swords or musical instruments. (On Are You Being Served? the haberdashery department is on the ground floor — I love this show.)

hyperbole — exaggeration, intentionally used for emphasis or effect; not to be taken literally. “omgosh, this bag weighs a tonne!” “I waited for days for the cable guy to show up!” (oh wait, that’s actually not an exaggeration at all) “I’m so tired I could sleep for days!”

heart — what can I say? I don’t mean heart as in the muscle, I mean heart as in the place where all our emotions and feelings are kept, where they originate; our capacity for love, caring, compassion; love and affection. You gotta have heart. My heart swells with love and pride when I hear BoyGenius explain how he wants to give his friends some of his favourite things because he doesn’t want them to do without.  My heart aches when I hear of friends who have lost a child to cancer or some other horrid disease. And while the feelings might actually affect my heart (as in the muscle that pumps my blood) it is my heart (as in the repository of my feelings and emotions) that expands and contracts in my chest.

heartwood — while the dense, central wood of a tree is dead and no longer serves to transport water or food to the rest of the tree, it also yields the hardest and strongest timber. It is often darker than the rest of the tree, resistant to decay and sometimes more fragrant than the other wood. I really like the idea that the parts of a tree that have been around the longest are the strongest. I think we need to take a look at people and relationships in the same way. 🙂

harmony — I like harmony in music, harmony in nature, harmony in design. A pleasing combination of elements in a whole; congruity; a simultaneous combination of tones. We see and hear harmony all the time, not paying much attention to it. When we pick colours for our furnishings, carpets and walls, we often create harmony without consciously thinking about it in those terms. When we pick team members for a project at work, we certainly hope for harmony.  If you enjoy cooking you probably work with flavour harmony all the time. Vocal harmonies can be an amazing thing to hear; the Indigo Girls and Simon & Garfunkle are some of my favourite harmonizers.

hoyden — a bold, boisterous and carefree girl; a tomboy. This was definitely me when I was a child …. well, at least the tomboy part. I guess I was carefree as well, but I’m not sure I could have been described as either bold or boisterous; I might be boisterous now, as an adult. You’d have to ask my friends. This is a word that I have come across in literature every now and then, but never actually used in real life. I think I will soon. I like the sound of it and I like what it means, when not being used in a derogatory fashion. ‘Cause I don’t think it should be a bad thing for a girl to be seen as bold, boisterous and carefree … or even a tomboy for that matter.

If you have any favourite H words please let me know about them. I have realized that there are always “new” words to learn and I enjoy finding them, whether I stumble across them on the internet, in a book or in a game like WordsWithFriends or Scrabble or a crossword puzzle.

Categories: music, words | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

childhood revisited

As I watch my son roll down a 50-60 degree decline, onto the tarmac at the bottom, I am reminded of the games we used to play when I was a child. Things were different then. Or were they??

True, we didn’t have video game systems – but we did spend time at the arcade. True, we only got 3 channels on the television up until I was in about grade 4 – but once mom went to work so she could pay for cable, well then we got 13 channels! True, cartoons were only shown early on Saturday or Sunday mornings – except for The Flintstones; they were on every day at lunch. True, there weren’t any “kids’ networks” to monopolize our viewing time – but we did schedule our homework around the ABC After School Special on Wednesday afternoons, The Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday nights and Sonny & Cher, The Hudson Brothers and Carol Burnett.

children at play

We played tag, both the frozen and regular varieties. We played hide & seek. We played Cowboys & Indians. We played badminton, frisbee and touch football. We played marbles (we usually called them alleys). We played Red Rover and British Bulldog. We played baseball or 21-up. We played on snow-hills and in vacant lots, we hiked across town to “Duck’s Pond,” we climbed trees and tried to swing on vines and once we discovered that those vines weren’t the same kind Tarzan swung from we brought rope with us. We hung upside down from the swings and walked from one end of the teeter-totter to the other. We tried desperately to swing so high and fast that we’d be able to go all the way around the top bar (someone had seen someone else do it one time, don’t you know). We rode our bikes, no hands, with the front wheel turned backwards. Standing. Downhill. We rode double and triple (and we didn’t have helmets). We skipped rope, although I never did manage to get more than two jumps in on double-dutch. We swam every day as soon as the weather permitted.

I grew up in a small town, huge backyard, empty fields across the street and next to us, trees for climbing right outside my door, pathways from the edge of our property right down to the lake. The lake was home to the main town park, complete with climbing apparatuses, swings, teeter-totters, merry-go-rounds and fast metal slides. BoyGenius is growing up in a “town” with roughly 80,000 more inhabitants than mine had. There are no vacant lots or empty fields nearby, unless you count the baseball or soccer fields at his school. We have pathways from almost the edge of our property right down to the lake. There are playgrounds along the way but these days you are hard-pressed to find a merry-go-round or a teeter-totter. The school playground is bordered by a small forested area – most of the neighbourhood kids play in there on a daily basis. BG loves to climb trees and the baseball backstop; heck, he’ll climb walls if he can get a foothold. He’ll swim in any body of water that holds enough volume to cover him. He hasn’t quite mastered my technique when jumping off the swings (the one that totally gives you the feeling of flying), but he’s trying. He brings vines home from the forest, hoping to find a way to attach them to trees so he can swing from one to another, like Indiana Jones.

So it would seem that our childhood pastimes are not completely divergent although there are some marked differences. BoyGenius and his friends play tag; sometimes it’s just like what we played and sometimes it’s just a little bit different in that they play it in the forest, combine it with hide & seek and call it manhunt or mantracker. They will play regular hide & seek as well.  The frozen tag they play can be a bit different as well – one version is called graveyard and doesn’t involve any running around  … no movement at all, actually. Cowboys & Indians – well, you’re not allowed to play that anymore are you? I haven’t seen anyone playing marbles in at least 20 years. Neither Red Rover nor British Bulldog are allowed in schoolyards anymore so none of the kids today even know about them. If there are ever snow-hills in the schoolyard the children are not allowed on them. Pick-up football or baseball games have been replaced by organized soccer and t-ball. We don’t let our kids bike all over town or slosh around in duck ponds in hopes of catching tadpoles or snapping turtles. That’s if you could even find a duck pond these days.

As I watch my son roll down that steep hill, I remember doing the same. I remember the feeling and I remember that I loved it. I know that I will have to work with him to perfect his mid-swing takeoff, and work on his landing so he doesn’t break his arm again. And I know that he shares my love of that completely dizzy feeling you get from turning and spinning, arms straight out, in a wide-open field until you can’t even keep yourself upright and fall flat to stare up at the cloud-spinning sky above.

Do you see memories of your own youth in the games your children play?

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family — born or built?

Yesterday was my mother’s 85th birthday. Last weekend we attended a “surprise” party to celebrate my aunt’s 90th birthday, and the week before that another aunt had her 85th. When I mentioned these occasions to a friend she said “Whoa, you got some good genes there!” meaning she guesses I’ll live to a ripe old age as well. I like that. I also really like that she didn’t ask for a family tree to figure out where my aunts fit in — because really, in tree form, they don’t.

My parents came to Canada in the early 1950s. My father came by boat and my mother followed a few months later in a Super Connie prop plane. Just the two of them, a young, newly married couple off to build a life together. Just the two of them. My father’s family and my mother’s family stayed behind. It was just the two of them.

My brother SkinnyGuy arrived in 1957 and BlueEyes followed in 1961. By the time I showed up in ’64 SkinnyGuy had been to visit the Fatherland with my parents and my dad’s parents had spent 6 months over here, just missing my arrival which occurred on the same day they sailed back across the pond. My parents had already built a network of friends and some of those friends became pseudo-family to us kids. Whether they were our godparents or just close family friends, they were “aunt” and “uncle” and their kids were our “cousins.” We had cousins — real ones, they were just far away and mostly older than we were. We had our grandparents and our aunts and uncles but we only saw them about every 4 years when one or another of us flew in whichever direction was fitting. For being as far apart as we were, we grew up with a fairly strong sense of family. I think we did well. Most of the success of those relationships is down to my parents making sure we learned two languages growing up, making sure we wrote letters, sent birthday cards and shared photos. It was important to my parents and to us that we know our family.

What was just as important was that we had a virtual family over here where we were the only branch of our family tree. I always marveled at the ease with which some people became aunts and uncles to us and at how some family friends never made it past the “Mr” and “Mrs” stage. Where was the line that those people never got across? Funnily enough, some of those Mr & Mrs couples and their kids are still people I consider family. I couldn’t not. There are also of course some members of my actual family that I hardly know at all.

  • When I was sick at school but my mom was at work I knew there was another home I could go to and be taken care of. It wasn’t an aunt who was home, it was Frau V–. Her three boys are like additional brothers to me even though we don’t see each other often. When she was sick and dying from cancer her daily question to my mom was “is the baby here yet?” but BoyGenius and Frau V– missed each other by 10 days. He knows all about her, though. She’s family.
  • If I needed a place to stay while my parents went on vacation, there was an aunt and uncle who would open their home. My cousins and I tried not to get into too much trouble during those two weeks but we certainly didn’t promise anything. I vaguely remember some broken furniture .. but it wasn’t anything serious. We had each others’ back — that’s what family does. Those people are family to me and I know their grandchildren, their great-granddaughter and their kids’ in-laws. Family.
  • When I told my then-manager that I needed a day off to attend my aunt’s funeral in my hometown she actually asked me if it was my mom’s sister or my dad’s. This manager knew (or should have known) that neither of my parents had any siblings here. She needed to justify (or not) the time off I was taking. My manager didn’t care that this woman was someone I had known and loved since I was 3 years old, that I had been through dark days with my aunt and her family. I couldn’t get a bereavement day because she wasn’t really my aunt and it wasn’t really convenient for me to be off. I took the day.
  • My cousins’ kids don’t call their aunts and uncles by “Aunt” and “Uncle.”  My cousins thought it was too formal and would make them feel too old fashioned .. not to mention too old. I think the kids have missed out. They all call each other by their first names and don’t seem to feel that close bond of “family.” They all get along just fine: brothers, in-laws, cousins, their in-laws, and now we have two new little grandsons in the mix; it just seems a bit distant, somehow.
  • My father’s cousin’s children always thought of my parents as Tante and Onkel and us as cousins (the proper title might be second-cousins or something similar). We are just cousins and to BoyGenius their kids are his cousins. We are family.
  • There are some branches of my family tree that I have only gotten to know through social networking sites like facebook. We are indeed blood relatives on my mother’s side but she had four brothers who spread across the country and didn’t do very well at keeping in touch with one another. My mom worked hard to keep in touch with her nieces and nephews and the internet has allowed me to get to know next generations. My family grows.
  • At my Aunt W’s 90th birthday party I was a little bit shocked when HardWorker asked my cousin, “So how do you guys know each other? How did you meet?” I was thrilled when my cousin, with a confused look on her face, answered, “We grew up together. We’re family.”

a great definition of "family"

Family isn’t necessarily born. In fact, some people strive to get away from their blood relations. Some people must get away from their blood relations. No question. I am lucky that this isn’t the case for me. Does that mean that those people don’t have or shouldn’t have people they call family? No. We are not defined by our families but I think how we define family certainly helps to define us. I have a heart that expands easily and tends towards including most people that I love in my definition of family. What this means is that I have a HUGE family (in my mind). It means I don’t have to explain the relationship when I say “that’s my uncle” (although with certain people I find I do still add “who’s not really my uncle” just for their own clarity). It means I don’t laugh at my Caribbean friends when they talk about some guy they barely know and say “oh yeah, I know him, he’s my cousin,” I just chuckle to myself and know exactly what they mean. It means I am thrilled to bits when my cousin posts some old photos on facebook. It means that a blogger I’ve never met who lives on the other side of the continent has just as big a place in my heart as the next family member in there. It means that I can’t hardly wait to meet two new little baby boys across the ocean or one newish little baby girl just a couple of hours away!

It also means it hurts when my best friend’s kids tell me they’re doing something “just family” on the weekend .. in their minds I’m not family; in my heart, they are. Our definitions differ at this time but that might change someday.

What does your definition of family look like?

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