Saturday, March 06, 2010

who are you?

A kid doesn't know what time is really like.
It seems so stretchy and long.
I didn't know how to inhabit time when I was young, I only knew how to wish it away.
I was in such a hurry to grow up.
It crawled for me.
I was always kicking at it, trying to make it go faster.
I don't do that any more.
Days pass, weeks, months. Is time speeding up now that I don't want it to?
I'm a mother of grownups.
I'm a grandmother.
I'm thinking of retirement planning.
My decades of memories are becoming more like a series of fading vignettes.
I'm a bit shocked that I can recall decades.
Sounds like such an elderly thing to say.
I remember turning 10, riding in our car, hearing my mother say: "You're going to be a whole decade old."
It sounded pretty impressive. I was on my way.
My grandson will turn 10 in a few months. I wonder if he'll be impressed?
It seems odd that I have a grandchild who's getting into the double digits.
When his sisters follow suit I suppose I'll just feel old.

I used to look in the mirror and make faces, make myself look like a skeleton by jutting my lower teeth up over my top lip and widening my eyes scarily. I'd poke around to feel the bones of my eye sockets, play with the cartilage in my nose.
Now I look in the mirror and I put my index fingers on my temples and pull slightly up, to see myself 20 years ago, and sigh when I release my fingers and gravity brings me back to the present.
I stare at myself and wonder "Who are you? How can you be that same goofball kid"?

I certainly don't feel like that kid who used to say 'goodie' when I was happy,
until Valerie Sitnik quietly told me, while sitting next to me on a school bus trip, that I shouldn't say that word any more.
Am I the child who sat and ate dog toothed violets on our front step, or cried when David John Miller threw her beautiful doll down the sewer?
I ride kilometers at a time on my bike, but I have not forgotten the older neighbourhood kids taking me to the top of the street, telling me to sit on my new two wheeler and pushing me down the incline.
I'm the little water baby who walked to the outdoor pool every chance she got and became so darkly tanned that adults would say "My, aren't you brown as a berry?", which I found odd, as I knew of no brown berries.

Watching the moon landing in 1969 on our little black and white set didn't seem a big deal, just another thing to watch, like "Let's Make a Deal" or "Big Al's Cartoon Roundup". I still remember chewing on an oxo bouillon cube because I thought it was chocolate. I can see myself wearing my souvenir wooden shoes from Holland outdoors to play, not caring that they hurt my feet, shredding the soles to splinters. Lurching around Emerson Street's sidewalks in my clunky metal roller skates, turning key tied on a shoelace around my neck. Going from 'baking' doll sized pastries with a 60 watt bulb in my turquoise Easy Bake, to making cakes and pies from the "Five Roses" cookbook at the age of 9, with full stove operating privileges. I remember what a punchy and shovey older sister I sometimes was. Sorry sisters, I was such an ass. I also remember us watching for Nana walking toward our house to babysit us after she finished work. We always hoped she'd have a National Bakery box in her hand, holding it by its string tie, swinging with the rhythm of her steps. Donuts always, our favourite, chocolate glazed.

Weird to think that I grew up so fast that by the time I reached grade 8, bus drivers questioned my use of student tickets and people would shut the door on me at Halloween, shaming me for trick or treating at my age?!
I have an unfortunate memory of being centered out by a loud family friend who, as if seeing me for the first time in my friend Starlene's family kitchen, said: "WOW! I see your training bra broke training!"
After which all eyes went right to my ta tas and my face turned crimson, but nobody was looking there, so they didn't notice.
It was me, that awkward girl, who was embarrassed to wear home made clothing when everyone else wore Lee jeans from Thrifty's, who had no self confidence, blushed with any sort of attention and 'dumbed down' my vocabulary so I wouldn't be made fun of.

It must have been me who was that moody, make-up obsessed girl, dousing herself with Love's Baby Soft and abusing her hair with Sun In and excessive straightening sessions over the bathroom sink. Yes, it was. Always feeling older than everyone else at school, driving that stupid Dodge Omni, with its ridiculous steering column that vibrated like a jack hammer when i applied the brake.

There was also the idiot who walked home from school, with a cigarette hanging jauntily from her fingertips, when her father happened to drive by and catch her. Thankfully it was all about being a poser, so vile and nasty. And thankfully he didn't tell her mother, for if he had she wouldn't be alive to write this now. She's the student who told her high school english teacher that Oedipus Rex was distasteful and didn't want to participate in the study of it, and was sent to the principal's office, to be told 'study or fail'. Both me. Idiot and supposed conscientious objector.

At 15 I met this boy at music camp and knew I would marry him, I don't know how, but I did know this as fact. It made me feel special the way he held doors open for me, walked on the outside of the sidewalk to protect me should any car suddenly go beserk and jump the sidewalk and try to flatten me. How could I not love someone who was willing to be flattened by cars in my place?
This boy proudly introduced me to all his friends as 'my girlfriend' and stared at me with lovely eyes and pronounced me beautiful as I walked toward him in white lace.

Together with that boy - who bore the same name as my elementary school, like God was planting my future husband's name in mind while I happily skipped on the tarmac at recess - we grew up.

I can still see myself as a newlywed, trying to impress my new husband with my cooking, causing us both to gain 15 pounds;
sharing our little attic apartment in a blessedly ghost free century home,
and shoehorning ourselves into our room at night.
Having two cars we couldn't afford to put gas in.
Labouring in the front room, writing my contraction times down on a piece of scrap paper, watching Jan and Dean in concert on the tv.

We had beautiful daughters who went from kicking my innards to riding two wheelers, to driving cars, to independence, when my back was turned.
I can still see Rob, walking the floors at night with our colicky babies, shushing them and holding them close as he paced around the rooms.
I thought to myself even then: "Don't wish this away, it'll go fast enough."
I see our 2-year-old daughter at Victoria Park, running happily toward me with her golden hair bouncing, calling "Mama! Spin me around!!"
I see us putting a candle at our twins' grave that first Christmas after they had passed, praying it would stay lit despite the wind and cold. . and seeing the next morning that it had miraculously melted into a pool of wax, burned right to the quick.
I'm on the deck, putting together our youngest girl's 'big wheel' as her reward for becoming fully day and night potty trained. It looked great and it didn't fall apart!

All those years of diapers, first steps, sloppy baby kisses, pudgy hands picking up cheerios, learning to read, tooth fairy, report cards, girl guides, birthdays and lessons, summer camp, Christmas trees, sunday school, graduations; all swirled together as emotions and boxes and cartons of keepsakes, videos of trips and school plays, photos of bad haircuts I gave them and the tacky clothes I dressed them in. I have this montage of mother memories. Cleaning puke and being peed on. Braiding hair and applying bandaids. Baking cookies for their class and volunteering on school trips. Chasing two girls out from inside the clothing racks at the department store and reading "Sooki, the Saggy Baggy Elephant" before bed for the two hundredth time. It doesn't seem that long ago, but it also feels like eons.

It's funny how one's concept of 'me' changes and yet is always true, reaching back and stretching forward. Time is elastic. Who am I? I am the kid, the lovesick teen, the adult; all those things at once, integrated. I had a Nana and I am a Nana. I was a kid and I have kids and grandkids. I am a wife. I am an employee. I am a tax payer,a home owner and a road weary driver. I even feel myself lapsing into 'senior citizen like fits of temper', as I cluck my tongue at things like loud motorcycles, young male drivers blasting rap so loud I can feel it thumping in my gut, and middle of the night mailbox tippers who wake me up with all their hollering and swearing. I wonder if becoming easily annoyed and crotchety is a middle ager's rite of passage into the 'golden years'? Geez, I hope not. Save me from stereotype.

I'm still not much wiser in this whole area.
Time is time.
It's still slippery and stretchy,
seems to speed up and slow down.
It doesn't change.
But it changes me.
I don't know yet if I've learned how to inhabit time,
but I've learned not to wish it away.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010


Feels like i sit on this pendulum that swings widely from angst to revelation
and back again, over and over.
I don't like the back again part.
Who wants to go back, when there's forward waiting?
Why don't I jump off at revelation and stay?
I think I'm getting there and I become somehow assured that the years have been working their 'growing up magic' on me,
then I make a misstep, a gaffe,
and feel like an awkward 10-year-old who knows nothing of wisdom
and everything about being foolish
and i learn from realizing I have lots to learn
about people,
about life.