I’ve been reading Tiny Beautiful Things for a few days now. The book is a compilation of letters and advice given by Sugar (Cheryl Strayed), the advice columnist for The Rumpus.
(I’m also, at the same time reading American Savage by Dan Savage of the Savage Love column, but that wasn’t planned).
Things in these beautifully written responses have struck me, but none so much as this sentence when she was talking about finding a jar of rocks in her mother’s closet after she had passed away:
“Stones we’d found as kids on beaches and trails and the grassy patches on the edges of parking lots and pressed into her hands, our mother’s palms the receptacle for every last thing we thought worth saving.”
When I read the last part of that sentence I almost started crying.
My daughter has been picking up sticks and stones and everything else lately.
She shows me with a ‘look what I found’ and wants to bring them all home. We actually did a painting craft last week with her bucket full of rocks from the beach:
I don’t know why she wants to collect these things or why she’s decided they are important, and frankly I found it kind of annoying, having her bring these sandy or dirty rocks and sticks back to the house, not knowing what we were supposed to do with them.
And then Sugar came along and reminded me of childhood. Of things that are neat and special just because of their shape or their feel or the way they shine in the sun. And how special it is that I’m the person she shares these special things with.
Tomorrow we leave for our camping trip, and I can only imagine what kind of pebbles she’ll pick up, and the shells from our August trip to PEI, and I’ll reach out my hand and smile back at her and be her receptacle.
It seems that the end of July is upon us – very sneaky this month of July – and soon we will be loading up our car for camping across the province on our way to a family reunion.
I am both excited and terrified. I love to camp out, and it’s been too long, but we’re also taking a 3 year old who has never camped before and throwing in a full day’s drive.
The good news is that the wonderful, marvelous Patti Taggart from Tag Along Toys at Kanata’s Signature Centre has selected a few things to keep my daughter entertained while we’re on the road.
I picked up a bag of fun from Tag Along last week and we’re going to spring this stuff on the kid when boredom strikes and see what she thinks. I’m most excited about the two Imagine I Can products – a princess she can colour and a fish that sews together. The kid watches me knit and watches Grandma sew, so this will be sure to please her – and improve hand-eye coordination.
I’m also taking along some other things I’ve picked up, including Rory’s Story Cubes, because making up ridiculous stories is a classic camping activity. All the activities will also be made easier by this soft tray that Patti recommended when I was first trying to figure our road tripping. The kid will have a nice surface to work on, and pockets so that crayons and markers don’t end up unreachable on the floor.
Now the biggest problem is that when I was looking for my links on the Tag Along site I noticed a few other things that she might like…
If you haven’t visited Patti’s store yet, do yourself a favour and take a browse around. It’s a wonderful, playful place, and a local business to boot.
Occasionally I read the kid a book that contains some wording that I don’t like, or shows behaviour that I don’t want her to emulate, but I carry on with the story and usually forget. Today I read a story that has been bothering me since.
The story is about a little girl with a goal – good, right? But then there’s another little girl that she doesn’t like. Here are the reasons she gives:
“Tiffany was the new girl. Tiffany was big. Tiffany was loud. Tiffany had hairy arms.”
As I was reading these short sentences I got uncomfortable. When I got to the last one I regretted reading the book.
I have hairy arms. It was something I was made self-conscious about this when I was young and for most of my adolescence felt like I was a horrible hairy best and no one else looked like me. That’s not true, and I know that now.
On top of being fat I had no reason to believe that any boy ever looked twice at me, or should ever.
Right now when my daughter asks me about her hairy arms – which she did just about a week ago and I’m still not sure why – I can show her mine and tell her that it’s normal. I don’t know how long she’ll believe that, especially when books like this decide that a feature my daughter has is a reason to give for disliking somebody.
She’s also going to be big, and she tends to be pretty loud.
Don’t get me started on automatically disliking the new girl.
I don’t know what would lead the author of Missy’s Super Duper Royal Deluxe Class Pets to write out those particular reasons, I don’t know if it occurred to anyone in the editing process that it would make a kid like my kid feel bad about who she is, but I think it should have.
We won’t be reading about Missy again.
Growing up I had a million different answers when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wanted to be a teacher, a lawyer, an archaeologist, a doctor, an actress, a singer, an artist, a photographer, a designer.
I’m sure princess was in there somewhere, and who knows what else.
Right now my daughter is 3.5 years old and if you ask her what she wants to be when she grows up she gives one simple answer: An acrobat.
I am in no way surprised by this answer.
This kid? She was in gymnastics before she could walk and she LOVED it. She bounces more than she walks. She hangs upside down whenever she gets the urge. She loves to jump, swing, throw herself. She’s overall very bendy.
It’s a little ridiculous.
So yes, an acrobat. We can work towards that. Gymnastics, dance, fun. Why not?
When I was in Grade 4 I memorized the spelling of archaeologist.
I did this because we had to do some sort of report on what we wanted to do when we grew up and archaeology was it for me at that point in my life. I wanted to go to Egypt and discover great things about civilizations past.
I was fascinated with mummies and I wanted to see it all.
Last week when Joe and I went to a wedding in Toronto we ended up at the hotel with at least an hour to go until our room was ready.
And the Royal Ontario Museum across the street.
Seemed like a pretty good place to kill time to me.
We walked around looking at stuffed animals and skeletons – a dodo skeleton! Seriously!
And then we walked through another room and there was an old set of armour, an outfit that appeared to be from Mongolia, and then I stopped.
A case with a sarcophagus, a death mask and a mummified cat, as well as some hieroglyphs.
I stopped and I stared and then I got a bit teary.
There was this thing in front of me that I’d been wanting to see for so much of my life.
It was a day of heightened emotion – that night we saw a good friend marry a wonderful woman, and weddings always remind me of my life and what I possess – and that small memory is just an addition to it all.
Since I became a mother I have found that I get very excited about other people having babies. It’s this huge and wonderful change in your life when you bring a child into your home and heart – and you change other people’s lives too. Babies are the promise of something great.
I am also a Canadian monarchist. Queen Elizabeth is our Head of State, she signed our constitution, each province has its own Crown. There is a tradition about it, and the pomp and circumstance that I dearly love about our institutions.
It also happens that I was raised by a mother who is a royal fan. I have often heard the story about the night I was sick with whooping cough and kept my mother up all night, but that allowed her to watch Charles and Diana’s wedding. Every year we watch the Queen’s Christmas message, and when the royals come to the capital region we try to get out and see them – in fact we took the kid to see Queen Elizabeth on the Hill on her first Canada Day.
I was the night owl of the family and woke my mother up when the news come on that Diana had been in a car accident, and then that she had died. I remember watching the funeral. I watched William and Kate’s wedding too. (The wedding was also a day of relief from the 2011 election campaign).
These people, their future is linked to the future of my country, for better or worse, and so I’m interested.
And there’s something so lovely about watching people gather to celebrate the arrival of a new person. This little human being has a lot of advantages, and a lot of responsibility imposed on him.
Also, I’m tickled thinking of the Queen being so excited about her new great-grandbaby, waiting by the phone.
I watched Twitter all day waiting for the news to come, I was thrilled that everyone was healthy, that they’d taken a few hours to themselves as a family before sharing the news, that there was this baby boy, full of promise, to be named later.
It’s hard being a couple while being parents. When I was working it was damn near impossible. They say you’re supposed to have date nights and take care of your marriage, but when you’re working hard at everything else it’s just too much to add on.
We had no family in town except my sister, and we didn’t want to impose on her by asking for babysitting too often.
As I struggled with defining myself as a mother, with my job, trying to balance we seemed to lose a little bit of us.
Since my mother came to live with us, and is willing to allow us time with each other – leaving the house after bedtime for a walk or a movie or whatever – it’s getting better.
Time really does matter.
Last weekend we attended a wedding. An overnight trip to Toronto, just the two of us, and a beautiful wedding between two people we care about.
Every time we attend a wedding I think about our own. Perhaps even more this weekend because the groom participated in our wedding.
We knew very early in our relationship that it was something to hold onto. I think we both believe that the other person is too good for us. I even tried to convince Joe not to marry me after we got engaged.
Going to a wedding reminds me of all the things we mean to each other, and all the things we promised each other, and that as angry as I can get at him, and as fierce as we sometimes get with each other, I would be totally destroyed if I didn’t have Joe to turn to.
Going to a wedding reminds me what we are to each other, for better or for worse.
I am the Bert to your Ernie, the Ernie to your Bert.
It’s your birthday. Our second without you.
I think of you often. More lately with all the crap that’s going on here.
We were talking about you on Facebook, some of us. Your next generation. Your staff who are having kids and passing on your dreams and values.
I said there what I’ve said before, I have never been so moved as when I heard you talking about your granddaughter, about the same age as my little girl.
Two years is so unbelievable. Life was so very different.
Sometimes the emotion just all hits again.
I am so thankful for having been part of that team for four years. You picked great people and those people picked me. They changed my life. I learned so much, so many new skilled, built up confidence and earned trust.
I mourn for the ‘could have been.’
A little over a year ago I picked myself and my family over that team and that cause. I miss them both. I worry that I’m not paying enough attention any more, that I’m not being part of the change. I worry that I’m letting you down.
But I look at that little girl and I know that I am her example and I am her teacher and she will be a good person who will strive for equality and fairness. She we know that we are proud Canadians and Canadians take care of each other.
Years from now when she’s discussing Canadian politics and Canadian history she will have a picture to take to class and show her teacher – a picture of her as a baby with you and Olivia, two of the strongest people I ever knew.
We had grand plans to travel across Ontario in an RV to get to our family reunion in comfort and style, but things went wrong and we found out with two weeks to go that the RV was not so much happening.
Yesterday, suddenly, we were faced with not going on our trip – the trip we had been talking to the kid about all summer. She gets to see her cousins and her Great Grandma and Great Grandpa, so much family, and swimming every day.
Faced with not going, we both decided that we couldn’t just not go, that wasn’t going to work.
So now we’ve moved on to new planning stages – We’ll pack up our car and we’ll pitch a tent across Ontario.
Joe and I have not been camping since before the kid was born. This kid has never slept in a tent. She’s never done a seven hour drive in a car either.
This could be awesome and a great family adventure, or it could be a terrible, terrible memory that haunts us.
I’m leaning towards awesome family adventure, which is unusually optimistic of me.
The fact is that I grew up in Ontario but I didn’t drive across the province until I was 22. Driving across this province gives you a whole new appreciation for what we have here. It’s huge. Seriously. It took me three days to get from Ottawa to the Manitoba border. On day four I drove through Manitoba into Saskatchewan, on day five I was in Alberta.
And I was basically starting in the middle.
It’s a really freaking huge province.
I’m excited to show it to my kid.
It’s been a tough day after a long weekend after a long week. I didn’t sleep much last night, so you’d think I’d be asleep now, but instead I’m lying here thinking about crying.
There’s this pressure building and I feel like I’ll explode if I don’t let some of it out.
I’ve been working more, which is awesome and hard. We’ve got a full summer ahead of us, which is awesome and scary. I’ve been trying to do great things with this kid who seems to be speeding up all the time. We go out and we have fun and then a switch flips and I’m carrying her out, kicking and screaming, strapping her into the car and wondering when it’s going to stop and what I’m doing wrong.
I love her so much I could burst and I hate her. She makes everything harder. She makes everything more wonderful.
She throws everything at me – total adoration and full blown hatred. She hugs too tight and kisses fiercely, and then she’ll punch and kick. She doesn’t back off. As much as I sometimes want to be away from her as soon as I am I miss her.
She’s the most beautiful thing there is.
She fights me so hard. It’s her and me against the world.
This love, this motherhood is painful and exquisite.
She’s everything all at once and as much as I can’t take it I keep going back for more.