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20130614_131158

Mom and Auntie Kel

My mother loved her aunts. These great-aunts were seamlessly woven into the fabric of my childhood with my mother’s simple act of going down the road. Aunt Bernie’s is where she went to have her heart and soul soothed and comforted. Aunt Iva could be relied upon for a smile, to me she will forever be twenty nine as that was her age for every birthday. And my aunt Teresa was positively a magnet for my mom. Water will never taste as fresh and clean as it will from the small metal dipper she kept by her sink, and I will always finish colouring a page before beginning a second, it’s the rule!

Being the relative from Ontario (a strange and exotic place where everyone is rich) my girl will not get to experience these things the way that I did. However, it doesn’t mean she won’t get to experience them at all. I took her down the road and through the air this month and she had lunch with her great aunt Kelly.

Lunch with the women folk.

Lunch with the women folk.

My auntie Kel makes me feel so special. Every time I go home, she exclaims “oh Nessa, I wish you lived closer.” She always has a sweet and encouraging word when I throw my little essays out into the world. This day we spent the afternoon lunching, walking and checking out her prized place of peace, her garden. Each little bit in her garden has a story and is special to her. She has created a little summer oasis where she finds space to breathe and bring the world back into perspective. Thank you for letting me share this with everyone and for lunch!

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This water pump is one she pulled from my grandfather's property. A reminder of growing up with a barn near by.

This water pump is one she pulled from my grandfather’s property. A reminder of growing up with a barn near by.

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Window panes from said barn.

Window panes from said barn.20130614_131213

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Her newest creation!

Her newest creation!

Learning how to jump in the puddle

Learning how to jump in the puddle

Peek!

Peek!

Traces of a little girl left behind in Auntie Kel's garden.

Traces of a little girl left behind in Auntie Kel’s garden.

My Girl

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The lights are out, peaceful silence seeps into each room, the creaks and squeaks of the stairs telling me the house is settling itself for rest. Singing in my head the woeful tune of mothers who lament work that is yet to be done, and apparently unseen by a father sound asleep, I climb the stairs with leaden feet.  The endless worrying about how little she ate, the bump on her head and the fuss made at bed time, believing that I am the only one of the two of us who lives with a knotted stomach weighing me down with each step.

                At the top I am greeted by a cheerful pile of laundry, washed, folded and stacked neatly into the basket, waiting to be tucked into their drawers. Three loads of work clothes and little stained shirts that were done after he collected her, on foot,  from her caregiver. Four days a week, he wheels her down the road to our home. In the winter he stuffed her into a snow suit that was all at once too small and too big. In the spring he put his jacket over her chubby legs to protect them from the pouring rain while he walked in short sleeves. A stranger, who offered a ride as he neared the house, reminded me of what I knew from the start. “You’re a good Dad!” she shouted from her open window.

 He brought us home from the hospital a year and a half ago, and announced to my mother, the house, and the neighbourhood, “our girls are home!”  His voice full of pride and relief and it hasn’t changed since. His delight at being her Dad often sneaks up on me. It catches me by surprise when she lets out a wail and he is brought to tears. Her infant cry, that sounded like the bleating of a little lamb, brought him to his knees. His chest puffs out twice its size when her hand reaches for his and shoos mine away. His heart is a melted puddle at the bottom of the stairs when she smushes her face through the rails to get one more goodnight kiss.

While I am mystified and terrified about parenting, he is enthused and excited. He looks forward to the good days and bad. The bad ones, he tells me, are an opportunity to point out how beautiful this life can be and that taking a deep breath can settle even the most frazzled of souls.  Funny to me, as he is a man whose soul is easily rattled to the core. Only settled when he talks it out with either his parents or siblings. But isn’t that just what he is building with me? A place, neither physical nor destructible, a safe haven for a child’s spirit to return and heal if and when need be. A family.

                I stand in the hallway, grateful for the small balls of rolled up socks. I notice her door slightly ajar, evidence that he too could not go to bed without checking to make sure the quilt covered her dirty toes. It’s a subtle and simple reminder that I am not the only one who worries, that she is his girl too.

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          doll

      I have been given a dose of my own medicine. It was thrilling and sweet, but now I can taste the slightly bitter undertones. In August of this year my sister will deliver her first child. Over a thousand kilometers away she will become a mother and I will not be in the waiting room, pacing until I can welcome her into the strange worrisome place of motherhood. I did the same to her last year.

    She has wanted to be a mother for as long as I can remember. Six, was a number she once told me and had names for at least four of them. She has always had an easy rapport with children.  She somehow seems to speak the same language they do, instinctively knowing what they would like to talk about or what kind of game they would like to play. I envied this effortless ability.

                She will be an amazing mother, just as our own is. She has already perfected the thin lipped sigh and rigidity for rules that she undeniably knows are for the best. She is a confident and playful person. She is also a sweet and sensitive girl, two things I neglected to notice as we grew up. We strained for many years to understand one another. I forgot that she too, only wanted the best for me. She knows where my dark side is, and how to shine the light, just when I need to find my way out. We are still learning each other’s boundaries, but doing it together, even at a distance.

1985_tartan

                She is my partner in life. I have one that I chose, and one that was given to me. I want to dote on her, to sweep her floors, cradle her crying baby, and make this transition as seamless as possible for her. I want to protect her from the fears that new mothers develop and leave her with all the happiness of this adventure. I know I can not do this. She must experience it all, and I know she is strong enough to come out the other side a more phenomenal woman than she already is.

We are of the same heart; we both listened to its rhythm and grew in its desire to love us. This need to love has been the driving force in each of our lives. A blessing and a curse is our ability to love quickly, fiercely and deeply. For all of our differences, this is what binds us together; at the very heart of it, the same.

Beauty girl

Emily on bike

Making friends as a grown up is hard. As a kid you can say things like, “hey, wanna come play at my house?” or simply “wanna be friends?” As an adult things are more gradual and awkward. When I decided to plant my roots in my pretty little city, I found myself in this situation. While getting to know this “perfect for me city” I had to get to know its residents. For me, I wanted the kind of community where going to the grocery store would mean running into at least two people I knew.

I started commuting with a few other people who worked at my university and this lucky break opened up the doors of Stratford. On one commuting day I met Emily who was hitching a ride with us. Emily knows Stratford inside and out and at the time worked for the city’s tourism. She told me about the good places for coffee, events happening in the city and just had a general warmth and excitement for the place she grew up.

When I met Emily I thought she exuded a level of confidence in herself that I was completely envious of. She is the type of person romantic comedies centre their lead character on. She has a graduate degree in environmental sciences, for some time worked in culinary tourism, knows farmers and actors alike, lives in a beautifully refurbished apartment above the shops in our beautiful downtown. At the moment she is living in southern France for six months and documenting her journey at EmilyintheSmallCity, do pop on over and read about her adventure. It is such a terribly romantic idea to spend half a year in Europe, Emily has a few different views to add to this notion.

Before she left I asked her if she would let me in to take a few pictures of her home. Rushing in from a busy weekend, moving things here and there she let me in. I love Emily’s apartment, it is grown up elegance. A call to the Mad Men era, with an Emily twist. Go ahead, have a peak in her windows. Thank you for sharing with us Emily! I may have planted my roots here, but in meeting you, you have helped me water them.

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Down the Road

“Where ‘r you off to?”

“Oh, just down the road.”

This was a common exchange between my parents as one or the other was putting on their coat or getting their boots on. It meant one of them was headed out to go visit someone. My father likely to see a friend that had something for sale and maybe he could dicker with, chat and tell his latest joke to. My mother, most likely one of her aunts, cousins or parents with my sister and I in tow.

              mom and dad house

  When we arrived at our destination we simply walked in the door. I still think my door bell is the funniest feature of my home. You don’t have, let alone use, a doorbell in Turtle Creek. You rap your knuckles on the door as you walk through it to announce your arrival. The homeowner generally stops whatever it was they were doing to put the kettle on and then resumes their activity, sweeping the floor, folding the laundry, washing up a child. Take your pick, there are no pretenses. You came to see me, not my house is the attitude and you are instantly comfortable. And there at the kitchen table you have a cup of tea and catch up.

                For my husband you went to have a pint with someone (starting to see where I got the name?). I am continually surprised at the amount of pints that can be exchanged when someone pops by. He likes to remind me that he gets a ten percent return on his investment (technically it’s not even eight now that the price of his beer has gone up). This is beside the point because on the occasions that someone does stop in, there are always laughs and good stories, plans for future meals together or a night out. It’s what kitchens were made for.

                Going down the road also meant that you had a chance to get a look inside your neighbour’s home,  to do more than just peak into their  windows. Don’t try to tell me that you don’t do it. An evening stroll in your neighbourhood inevitably means you see if the curtains are drawn or flung wide open in one of the prettiest houses. We all love to see how other people have chosen to decorate their homes. What is on display, is the furniture functional, comfortable or just fancy? Who is that in the picture, what is special about that knick-knack? People surround themselves with things that have stories, whether it be a long and involved story or simply that they thought it was pretty.

house

                Some time ago I applied for a job with Apartment Therapy in an effort to go snooping in other peoples homes. I didn’t get the job, so I decided that I would get my boots on and send Pints & Teapots “down the road.” I am going to impose on my friends and family and invite myself into their homes. I’ve no doubt I will find some interesting stories to share with you, but mostly I will feed my bad habit of peaking in the neighbours windows. “Down the Road” will be my new series and once a month give you a chance to come along with me.  As with my original plan for P&T, I am hoping it will lead me to some interesting characters as well. Come back tomorrow and I will show you who I barged in on first!

murray corner

My girl has a bowl full of mush, or porridge, most mornings. It’s a good, stick to your ribs kind of breakfast. She gets only milk and some raisins to dress it up. There will be a day when I add a bit of brown sugar in an attempt to keep her eating it, but eventually her gag reflex will be triggered and she will hate the stuff just as I did. Every summer as a small child this was breakfast while camping with my mother’s cousin and her free spirited, adventurous children. And as with all mothers in my family, if I didn’t like what was being served, I could wait until the next meal. I will be the same, it’s a fun tradition!

                She will come back to porridge though, just as I did. I think about those trips each morning that I make it for myself. As the warm lump of oatmeal surrounded by a pool of milk with melting brown sugar steams in the early morning sun, I can almost hear the sound of the seagulls screeching over the Northumberland Strait. I still feel like something incredibly fun is going to happen whenever I hear a tent zippered. These weekend trips organized by these two women meant the world to me now and then. We ate outside and slept squished together trying not to touch the sides of the canvas tent. Exasperated sighs escaping my mother’s lips as morning dew dripped on her head because my sister and I were squabbling about one thing or another. The days were spent on the beach.

                Once the kids were old enough to strike out on their own, the cousins were left to soak in the rays in peaceful silence. We explored the sand bars, small pools fed by the ocean, and the rocky cliffs. We swam with the jelly fish, and perhaps gutted one or two that had washed up on the sand. Holes in between the boulders were perfect washrooms. Sea foam was mermaid guts, the fate of the mystical creatures unknown, but their poor sad remains left to evaporate as the tide slipped out. My cousins and sister always had imaginations bigger than themselves. They could be anyone, about to go anywhere. It was as if their imaginations had been set free from the hills of Albert and Westmorland counties and they were permitted to roam where the wild things are.

                I, on the other hand, spent much of this time keeping to myself, fearing that my shadow would tell on me. That somehow my mother would know I had been places that were out of bounds, because let’s face it, mothers know these sorts of things. When mothers are in labour they also secretly grow another set of eyes in the backs of their heads. I was not as brave as my companions, and felt that my imagination was too small for their creativity. I chose to sit on the rocks and stare at the horizon. I hoped that the wild things would come find me, instead of me seeking them out.

I looked at the horizon, most days blocked by those large sloping hills, waiting for it to show me what was beyond its borders; pleading that it was something grand. I still get excited when I begin to make out the coast line from the highway. It’s as though all worries, concerns, and inhibitions melt away and the salty breeze breaths new air into your lungs.

I could daydream for hours about what I was going to find when I could finally reach out into the horizon’s unknown. In many ways I think I am still waiting. Maybe someday I will find the courage to seek out the wild things. I do however, know what was over the hills, it’s beautiful, but those giant green monsters and salt waters never truly release you. I sit in the evenings now rocking my girl to the sound of waves and daydream about the time that I am permitted to return to the warm hug of those hills and the exhilarating relief of staring down the Northumberland Strait. Those sensations sticking to my ribs, keeping my soul nourished for a few more months.

Dear Daughter,

Today is the day you become aware of my secret identity. This day is years, if not decades, away. And while you will have known the facts for most of your life, you will still be taken by surprise when this day arrives. It’s an especially difficult day for a daughter. The one when she realizes that her mother is just another woman, much like herself.

The first day you see your mother without her “mom cape” is like catching her naked. It’s awkward, uncomfortable and makes her incredibly vulnerable. By the time this day arrives for you my sweet girl, my hair will be faded and your grandfather’s heavy brow will sit upon my black eyes. I will be different from the person who is writing you this letter; time will give me no choice in the matter. Should you ever wonder who this person was, I wanted to leave you something of her. Perhaps it will help you to better understand the person you know when this day arrives.

I am happy.

I was once told as a teenager that it is impossible to be happy every minute of every day, and while this is indeed true, I am still trying to prove it wrong. I struggle to accept that I am deserving of the happiness I have. I fear that it may escape me and I will not know how to find it again. Strange yes, but I am working on simply embracing it.

Your father is why I know so much happiness.

His presence in my life still surprises me. He will teach you, dear daughter, to seek out the beauty of simplicity. If you learn his lesson, your heart and mind will remain open. For much of your life he will tell you that it is I who takes care of him. What you will witness is the many ways he takes care of me. How his small gestures have helped me become a stronger, more confident woman.

PV

Cutting my hair was the single most brilliant style choice I ever made for myself.

At thirty one I struggle with my self-image on a daily basis. My lack of faith in myself has been my greatest weakness. It has kept me from chasing my dreams and giving myself credit when it has been earned. I often stare at the mirror looking for the person I know in my daydreams. I have two major goals to accomplish in raising you. The first is to teach you to walk with your head held high. It is much easier to chase your dreams if you can see where they are going. The second is that you know a beautiful body is a healthy one and that perfection is only possible through imperfection.

I am an emotional wreck about going back to work.

It’s hard, I have loved my job for the last year and believed that I was good at it, but you are a social little creature. You like to see and talk to other people. I am not worried about you but I am worried that I am making a mistake nonetheless. And I will make mistakes as I go along. I will not know they were mistakes until you tell me about them.

I want you to have a sister.

I am biased in this manner because I adore mine. I gave her a hard time when we were little, but your auntie, my little sister,  is now someone I look up to and admire. She is the person you ask a question to when you don’t want to ask me, especially if it’s about me.  She knows all, mostly because she lived it with me, and she will not sugar coat me. I miss her daily.

Being away from home is hard.

I miss the people, the way of those people, the trees and the quiet of them. It makes me sad to know that my home’s landscape will not shape you they way it did me. New Brunswick is the nation’s wall flower and wall flowers are beautiful. I hope you will love it too and also understand that love kept me from it.

SFundy

I think you are the most gorgeous creature that ever was.

I will always think this and be proud of it. It is my right. You have surprised me in so many ways already. The biggest being that I got to have a daughter (we were convinced you were a boy). You are a bright and confident little girl. You love to tell stories and make others laugh. I am excited about the years to come and the adventures we will have. I am loving getting to know you as Mum. I look forward to the day I meet you as Vanessa.

Mum and S

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