At the very end of the summer I took a few days of vacation, too advantage of Via Rail’s summer deal allowing kids to ride the train for a mere $15, and took a page from my bucket list, and off to Quebec City we went, just me and the kid.
I booked the train and the hotel and nothing else for us. We knew we wanted to visit the aquarium, and I wanted to visit the old city that Quebec is so well known for, maybe get out to the historic Plains of Abraham. I asked friends if they had any suggestions and suggestions they had.
Not one, not two, but three fellow parents told me the Museum of Civilization was a must.
We had a good time on the train, the two of us, and lots of space, but the cab ride to our hotel was something else. After being inside the train for six hours we had wind on our faces and beauty all around us. Steep hills and shining water.
As we settled into the hotel (after we went for a swim) I tried to plan our two days there. We had one full day, and most of a second as our train back didn’t leave until 3 pm. The aquarium was walking distance from out hotel, but the old city was decidedly not.
The kid wanted to do the aquarium first and foremost, above all else, but I made a deal with her and we agreed that our full day would be spent on a hop-on, hop-off tour bus. One that stopped at this kid-friendly musée. We hopped off there, and at the Plains of Abraham (where we had ice cream, because what else do you do at such a historic location?)
The star of day one, though, was nothing that we saw on the bus tour. Quebec City during the summer has, right at the base of a statue of Jacques Cartier that apparently doesn’t actually have his face, buskers performing every 30 minutes to crowds of tourists. And we happened to arrive back from our tour, too early for our shuttle back to the hotel, right as two acrobats began their performance. My kid, the gymnast, was enthralled. She didn’t want to leave – until I told her the next shuttle would be a two-hour wait.
And then finally on day three we walked down to the aquarium.
While we saw fish, stingrays, all kinds of seals and polar bears, the stars of our visit were the walruses.
When she was younger, my kid would do cartwheels anywhere, anytime, all the time. She did cartwheels so much of the time that I started taking pictures in different locations and posting them to a cartwheel album on Facebook, and I promised my friends that we would get plenty of Quebec City cartwheels.
When the walruses started coming up to the glass to check out the people checking them out, I saw an opportunity. I stood back, got my camera ready and told the kid to wait until she saw the walrus back at the glass and then do her cartwheel. So she did, and I snapped.
And then it became apparent that walruses are fascinated by cartwheels.
All this to say: We made new friends.
I remember turning 18 when I was in high school (because I went to high school in Ontario when you did that) and suddenly having the power to sign for myself.
If I felt sick, I signed myself out, if I got my report card, I handed the slip right back with the signature I was still practicing. That was the most obvious sign that I was suddenly an adult.
(Also the time I signed myself in late because I had gone to vote).
And here we are almost two decades later and I find myself, inconceivably, signing school forms for my own child.
It was another sign of how very fast time flies that dawned on me when she handed over a form I had forgotten to sign last week.
One would think that having a 7-year-old, the grey hairs on my head, or even celebrating my 10th wedding anniversary would suggest to me that I am an adult (not to mention the fact that it has been almost two decades since high school – class of 2000 y’all). And I’ve voted many, many times since them. Oh, and owning a house in the suburbs with two cars and a dog.
But still, mentally, I feel about 17 years old. Not quite ready to sign my own permission slips.
I mean, my sense of style hasn’t changed much and my confidence still lacks – possibly because I regularly forget all the things I have done between then and now.
And, of course, this leads me to think back to when I was 7, which doesn’t seem like 30 years ago, and my own 7-year-old, who will be 17 before we know it, and then 36. Only then will she believe me when I tell her how fast time moves. Hopefully I will feel like a grown up by then.
My grandfather would probably scoff, loudly, if I even insinuated that he is a feminist. That’s not the world he grew up in. He went to university, got married and took care of his family. He still does. He spent his life doing what a man is supposed to do.
But without my grandfather in my life, things would have been very different for me, and I wouldn’t have become the strong independent woman that I am. I would be a completely different person, I think. If I hadn’t been so sure of being on my own and taking care of myself, I wouldn’t have the marriage that I have today. I wouldn’t have the daughter that I have today – I would be someone totally different, and so would she.
My grandfather would never call himself a feminist, but he prepared me for the world. He spent my childhood teaching me how to build and repair things. He taught me how to drive, and while he was doing that he also taught me how to change a tire, so I would never be stranded.
When I moved away for school he gave me a gift – my own tool box, fully stocked with tools I might needs to take care of my apartment. My hammer has my initials carved into it.
Perhaps most importantly, he continued to not only support me, but tell me how proud he was of me, through every misstep.
He wasn’t raising me to be a feminist, he was raising me to be a competent adult. I just became a feminist along the way.
I seem to have moved from finding my first grey hair to rapidly going grey over the past year or two.
I was excited to find my first grey hair – or white, really, though it’s hard to tell against my medium brown. It felt like something concrete to demonstrate my adulthood. Like people can’t necessarily see my decade-old marriage or my little girl, the house we own together, my degrees and job experience. But a person can see the grey at my temples and judge that I have a bit of life experience.
But now that the greys are coming swiftly, and I know that I likely won’t dye it away, I am concerned about not recognizing myself.
I have always had dark hair. Even when it lightened up a bit over summers it was dark. When I was in my 20s I had a habit of dying it an even darker brown (and got many a compliment). Once I dyed it purple, but never bleached it beforehand.
I have never, ever seen myself with light hair and I seem to be going the way of my Tutu (mother’s mother) and turning not just grey but bright white.
I find it so strange. I’m not particularly afraid of dying, but I am afraid of what aging will do to me. Will I get cancer like several members of my family, will I get Alzheimers and will they have a good treatment for it by that time, will I have a massive heart attack one day like my father.
I’ve done a few 5k races over the past couple of years – I’m doing another on Sunday – and I have found that when it gets really tough, when my hips hurt and it’s hot and my feet are cement, then my brain starts thinking more about what I’m doing to it and why, and my brain answers: I will not age like my mother. I will not. Age has not been kind to her, though in a lot of ways life just hasn’t been kind. But there are health issues that I’m dealing with right now that I do not want to be dealing with in half a lifetime. If I make it that far.
I know people who relish each and every sign of aging, because it means they are still here. Lord knows the thought of missing any little bit of my daughter’s life hurts my heart.
I’m not afraid of getting old, but realizing how fast life moves gives me pause. I’m not afraid of dying, but I’m afraid of missing out.
I have a bullet journal that is not as grand as those kinds of bullet journal you see on Pinterest. It houses lists and calendars. I try and fail to keep track of things, like how many books I read each month. The one thing I have been consistently using is my task list.
This is very similar to something that I used to good effect back in my undergrad days, planning for a wedding and working two jobs. I had a sheet for every day, with all the tasks I wanted to get done, and each task had its own little check box.
I love checking things off a list, don’t you?
Things on my list these days include flossing my teeth, taking my meds, getting some exercise. And one thing that I added for September – writing 500 words every day.
Every great writer, it seems, gives hopeful writers that same advice – write every day for a set period of time, a set number of pages. Write first thing in the morning. Exercise your writing muscles. Now, I don’t write first thing in the morning because I tend to sleep until my daughter wakes me up, and then I have to get dressed and get her on the bus and by the time I get back I boot up my computer and get to work – like, work I get paid for, not writing work. Although I do get the opportunity to write at work, which is lovely.
But the writing we’re talking about – the morning pages – that’s writing from your imagination, letting your pen flow. Not trying to use the language of your audience to ensure they receive your message as intended.
There have been times in my life when I have managed to write every day. I’ve done NaNoWriMo four times now, I’ve done NaBloPoMo twice. In high school you’d be hard pressed to find me without a notebook full of thoughts (and hockey scores…)
But my mind is so occupied with so many other things these days, I find it hard to sit and create. I find that when what I’d love most is to write fiction the way I used to be able to write fiction, I tend towards stream of consciousness and self-analysis. Which is good for my mental state, but not great for my dream of writing the great Canadian novel.
Last week I bought myself some new pens and some notepad – white paper, lined, 8.5 x 11. I wondered if writing longhand would be just what I needed. I used to write entire short stories on legal pads – and then had to type them up to hand them in. I still have some of that writing, I think. My notebooks full of doodles, text and hockey scores now fill a file drawer in my office closet. I thumb through them sometimes, remembering that girl and her talent.
That talent, of course, was mine. It’s in there. People have told me so. I just need to write it out. Shake the brain up a bit. Just write until it flows, like it has before.
I will be doing NaNoWriMo again this year. I may do NaBloPoMo too, just to make sure I’m getting all my words in. Writing begets more writing. I have an idea – or an inkling of an idea. I have a character, I just need him to further introduce himself, and tell me where he intends to lead me.
I had a bit of a flashback yesterday at the mailbox.
I took the dog over, as is our routine, and pulled out two envelopes, including my ballot for the NDP leadership this year. In truth, I didn’t think I would be voting this year, but a membership that I had thought was expired turned out to be current, and now I have decisions to make.
What receiving this brought back was the last leadership race – when I was not a member, did not campaign for anyone, but knew that whoever the membership chose would be my new boss. Whoever won would make my office their own, bring in their own people. Things were heading for a change, and all this after one of the hardest years at work I had ever had.
And when I weighed the pros and cons, I decided my time on the hill was done for now. There was a period of time when I felt as though the work we were doing was worth leaving my daughter every day, and then suddenly it wasn’t. I don’t know if there will ever be another leader I would dedicate myself to in that way. Working in politics take time, energy, passion, and dedication. It can tear you up and spit you our and you won’t ever really understand what happened.
And still I wonder if I could ever go back, because there is nothing else like it. The right time, the right leader, the right cause. There is nothing like walking up to Centre Block knowing that you’re doing something every day that may make a difference in the lives of those around you. To be around people you might disagree with, but you know they care as much as you do, and are giving up just as much as you to be there.
I don’t know where this race will lead, but I know a lot of good people will keep doing great work.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am still in love with many of the things from my childhood. I saw something on Twitter tonight that said a little something to me about the things that I learned as a child, watching television and movies – Paul Williams posted his support for DREAMers. Paul Williams, the man who wrote Rainbow Connection for Kermit the Frog.
Now, Kermit and his Sesame Street buddies have been a huge influence on me. I learned more than just ABCs and how to count to ten in Spanish from those muppets. Some would say I got a lot of my sense of humour from Ernie. I get my enunciation from Grover Monster. (#TeamGrover #JustSayNoToElmo)
This isn’t the first time children’s entertainment has played into politics. Everyone should know the quote from Fred Rogers, the one we see whenever bad things shake us:
When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.
When I was young, my ambition was to be one of the people who made a difference in this world. My hope is to leave the world a little better for having been there.
When I was a kid and I had a room with three painted walls and one wall covered in wallpaper I asked to change the colour all the time. I think that room was, at times, yellow, blue, purple, peach, pink, all with different wallpaper to match. For one birthday I got to choose my own wall-to-wall carpeting and I picked a gorgeous raspberry one that I’ve never forgotten.
We moved out of that house when I was 12.
In the next house, I kept changing paint colours – now often doing the painting myself – and the room was big enough that I could move my furniture around. My mother decided to get rid of a love seat, I took it and put it in my room. I arranged my bed, desk, bookshelves any which way they would fit. Most often this rearranging would happen late at night when I had a test I was supposed to be studying for.
When I got my first apartment upon moving out for college it came furnished. The one time I tried to rearrange the sparse furniture, I found that the owners hadn’t actually painted behind the bed, so it wasn’t going anywhere. They took a lot of shortcuts, those landlords.
In my next apartment, one big room in a converted garage furnished by me, I again tried all the arrangements I could think of – though I was really only living with a futon that served as couch and bed, a desk that housed my giant computer, a dresser and a TV stand.
When I moved in with Joe – and finally out of my mother’s house forever – we had a small apartment, a lot of hand-me-down furniture and not much money, and then we moved to a bigger place, and then inherited more furniture as my mom down-sized. And then we moved to a slightly smaller place, and then a bigger place because we found ourselves in need of a room for a baby.
All of these places were rentals. We did almost no decorating of our own.
And then came our house. This house that is ours, and will be for the foreseeable future. When we moved in there was one room that was obviously my mother’s room, as she was moving in with us. There was one room that was obviously the master bedroom – with a master suite that contains my dream tub. There was one room that we painted right away to be our daughter’s room. (A lovely yellow called Tigger’s Tummy, the name being part of the reason I picked it).
We bought new furniture that was our very own, we brought along some old favourites, and suddenly had a space we could decorate as we wished.
In the five years we’ve been here we have slowly painted different rooms, we have put up pictures we love, we inherited a grand dining room table that my grandfather built for my parents.
Last year my mother moved out and her room became office space – particularly useful since I now work full time from home – and I have made the space my own. I have bookshelves packed, toy shelves, two walls covered in pictures and inspiration, a fully stocked supply closet.
This year we built a deck and created a new, wonderful space for ourselves in the backyard, and the kid and I took some time to create a nice garden in the front too.
This weekend, in preparation for the coming school year, and the coming increase in the kid’s schoolwork that I am anticipating, we changed it up again. We added a little desk and shelves just for her in our office, so we can work together when she gets home from school, we painted her room like we promised we would if she kept it tidy through the month of August (which she mostly did).
Labour Day Monday this year is about tidying up, getting things all in order, making our space more ours again.
Out with the old.
I celebrate the leap from one year to the next in January, but the real ‘new year’ for me has always started with back to school. It’s a change in seasons, back to cozy sweaters, and it’s time to clean out, clear out and shop for new supplies.
There is little more that I need right now than a return to routine – wake up, get ready for the day, make sure the kid is fed and dressed, get her on the bus and get to work.
When she was little and I wasn’t employed full time, I love the summers we got to spend together. We could get up and go, whatever we felt like doing on a given day. It was fabulous and we made wonderful memories. We made some wonderful memories this summer too. But now I’m ready.
We are taking this long weekend to do some work on the house – some long overdue. We painted the kid’s room, reorganized it and purged some of her stuff, though she did a very good job of that with her toys a few months ago.
I went through my closet and am finally getting rid of some clothes that I love but will just never wear – and some clothes that don’t fit me now that I don’t want to hang on to ‘just in case’ any more. I don’t want ‘thin’ clothes taking up space. I don’t want clothes that, while very pretty, don’t suit my style. I don’t need to try to be someone else.
I wear jeans and gold Converse. Sue me.
I’ve cleaned three bathrooms in two days, built new furniture so we all have work spaces in the office, I’ve been hanging up new pictures of great memories from this summer.
I’m also taking personal inventory to get set for the fall – I reset my bullet journal (again), I started a list where I will keep all my work experience as I remember it. Because I’m really bad at remembering it.
It’s September. Let’s dive in.