Summer Cottaging Above The Forty-Ninth Parallel

Ah June – summer finally, in the place we live, where for a brief time we are tricked into forgetting how far north our ancestors managed to settle – up here above the forty-ninth parallel. I love summer, the exquisite season of heat, long days, sweet flowers, and travel back and forth to the briefly warm lake.

My lofty goal is always to stay at our lakeside cottage for longer and longer stretches every year. A dear friend reminisces fondly of how, as a kid on the last day of school her mom would have the station wagon ready, and then would ceremoniously draw the curtains on the city living room for the summer, before they all piled into the car for two long months at the lake. I long to be of that ilk but am unable to achieve it – always called back to the city for a worthy occasion.

And so I make these epic drives – our cottage isn’t an easy two or three hours away – no, we built our retreat a seven hour drive for my husband, but what stretches to a crazy ten or eleven hour journey if I am doing it on my own.  We’ll gather on the edge of the truly mighty Shuswap Lake (889 miles of shoreline) this July long weekend.

boys dive Three of our four kids will packed rushed bags and join us from different directions to barbecue, boat, debate musical tastes, and laugh late into the warm night, with sticky smores on our finger tips (okay, my finger tips). There’ll be other weekends packed with family or close friends, and after one full of farmer’s markets, bear sightings and cool swims, I’ll choose to drive back to the city. No matter how early my jump into the lake is – the one to refresh me for the epic trip home – by the time I’ve tied up the kayak and canoe, watered the thirsty geraniums, gathered up errant towels and bathing suits, taken the whip cream and sausage that would go smelly from the fridge, pulled the blinds and found the car keys under a hat – noon will be ticking in. My first stop is for a latte over ice and those super healthy cookies to take for the road at my favourite, EcoTreats in Scotch Creek.

fruit in car Time travelled from the cottage – twenty minutes. Okay – get moving. Next stop – absolutely favourite fruit stand for juicy cherries or early peaches that I’m convinced are tastier than any to be found in the entire city back home – time travelled – another hour and a half. Concentrate now – third required break is from boredom of driving – so the town of Revelstoke.IMG_3233

I’ll wind my way into town and here I get out and move around, usually walking and talking to whoever I catch on the phone, circling the Alpine style streets of tall homes and flowery yards before I find one of several bakery cafes for another iced coffee drink and something gooey and sweet to help me with the longest stretch over the
Roger’s pass and over the Rocky Mountains. During this hour and a half of high mountain driving with no services, I tell myself, for the zillionth time, to pretend I’ve never seen it before and so to pass the time being spellbound by the epic beauty – but I have seen it and seen it and seen it – so when that part of the drive is over I am so ready to ease the car to a stop in Golden, B.C. Golden of the amazing wooden bridge and the last
B.C. fruit stand. By this time the fruit that I’ve already bought hours back smells ripe and succulent in the car, but I pack in more – some green pears, some tart apples and a medium sized watermelon.golden bridge

My good husband is calling now, reaching me in this slice of cell service, never understanding how I cannot be home already. I push on, strict with myself now and contemplating a five hour energy drink for what is still a three hour drive. The little plastic pink bottle makes me feel awake just by looking at its magical capabilities all sealed shut in the cup holder. I manage to make it down through the mountains, past Field and Lake Louise, even Banff, but stop at Canmore just have to use the Tim Horton’s washroom and I don’t even want the six mini donuts that I reason can help the teeny bit of travel I have left to go zipping by. Oh, and I wash those down with an Ice Cap, calling my honey to tell him -that I don’t understand it either. Perhaps, I’m lifted up by aliens somewhere along the route, who are after my bounty of fruit and the secrets of relishing a short summer, and then deposited down on the highway again. I mean really, how could it take me twelve hours to do this cross country bountiful escapade?

(To read Text Me, Love Mom – the book about the hectic chaos of four kids being launched into the wide, wide world – during that next stage of parenting, click on the following links: Link to Amazon.ca http://www.amazon.ca/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

Link to Amazon.com  http://www.amazon.com/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712 )

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Teenage Sympathizer

Hey, I have so many mom friends and relatives who have a son or daughter graduating high school this June.  I love all that buzz of buying ‘that dress’ or do you rent or buy the son a suit? – and banquet tickets, famous commencement speeches, and then the after party and after, after party … It makes me think about the chapter I wrote in Text Me, Love Mom about the first time our family spun our way through all that…

I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on the frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words. When I was a boy, we were taught to be discrete and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise and impatient of restraint.

– Hesiod, Eighth Century BC

One Wednesday late in June, my husband,Will, arrived home and politely inquired as to why so many of our daughter Zoë’s friends were gathered in our backyard again. He had yet to notice that the boys were in their boxers. Forever a teenage sympathizer, I handed him the ice for his drink and said calmly, “Some of them just wrote their last exam. I think they’re feeling celebratory. Let them be.”

“Will there be another party when the rest of them write their last exam?”

“Seriously, Dad, this isn’t a party,” Zoë told him, wrapping a towel around her bikini-clad body. “It’s just a few of my friends celebrating a bit.”

Zoë’s a good kid. If it were a party, she would certainly have let us know. Eight kids having a water fight, with the boys in boxers and the ones of age knocking back a few beers, followed by a session of whipping up nachos in the oven accompanied by rap music, was definitely not a party.

Just then, two of the more manly looking boys skidded by the kitchen window in their boxers and socks. As Zoë’s dad leapt out the deck door to grab them — not that there was much to grab them by — I became a full blown supporter of their… youthful charm. “Come on. Come on. They just finished high school. Twelve years. Of course, they’re giddy.” Zoe’s much younger sister, Lily, and her friend, Heidi, waved at Will from their post in our dilapidated tree house. The younger girls looked entertained, as if they had balcony seats to a reality TV show.

Will waved back at Lily and Heidi but yelled at the others to get dressed or all thunder would break loose. They might have been unfamiliar with that expression, but the guys rushed back into their jeans. Will stepped back inside to demand further explanation. “Wasn’t there a party for this already?” he asked Zoë. He turned to me. “Didn’t they call it graduation? Wasn’t that the night we spent a zillion bucks dressing Zoë up so she could sit at a banquet for two hours, have three dances, and then change back into her street clothes in a washroom cubicle like a superhero, before vanishing for the real celebration out of our sight? Furthermore, wasn’t there a party here three days later, after we watched five hundred of them march across the stage?” His excitement was elevating to match theirs. “And what the heck was last Friday? Wasn’t there a whole lot of teens in a celebratory mood here then, too?”

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“Oh, Dad, that was the last day of classes. Cole’s friends were here, too.”

Will pointed to a tall boy from four doors up the road. “Cole’s friends are here now, if I’m not mistaken.”

“Dad, you can’t count Jacob,” Zoë said. Jacob, our son Cole’s closest friend, was now helping to distribute the nachos. He was almost a member of our family, but then that was true of our younger son, Hudson’s pals, Robin and Mark, from around the block, and Lily’s entourage of blonde twelve-year-olds — Heidi and Charlotte, who were Jacob and Robin’s sisters, and Mattie from across the street. This was a popular strategy with our four kids — pointing out that the number of friends that each of them has over isn’t that out of line — say two or three a piece — resulting in Friday nights with a dozen or more kids sprawling about the house.

“That was the last day of classes,” Zoë explained again to her clueless father. “This is the last day of exams…” She lowered her voice and stuffed a nacho into her mouth, mumbling, “… at least for some people.” Zoë and a few others still had four more days before their last exam and then it would be their turn to be giddy and celebratory… and in their underwear.

“You see,” I said, “maybe this is the universe’s plan to help us let her go away to university in Vancouver. If they drive us insane over the summer, it will be easier to separate.” I choked on the s-word. I really did need to grow up. I needed to be a Shirley Partridge type of mom, hip but mature enough to set some rules, take back the stereo and put on some Fleetwood Mac instead of Bowling For Soup, and take her shopping for school supplies and a sensible raincoat. As a responsible mom, I would study tourist guides of Vancouver with her and teach her how to grocery shop for ripe melons and reasonable cuts of meat.

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But I wasn’t ready for all that. There was something magical about the summer after high school. I felt more like Lorelai Gilmore, the mother-as-friend from television’s Gilmore Girls, than my generation’s sensible Shirley Partridge (though she was a singer in a pop band). The moods of the kids around us were contagious. At that point, we still had Zoë’s eighteenth birthday party to plan, as well as some sort of big family gathering before she officially went away. Forget the grocery shopping lessons, bring on the nachos, I thought, kicking off my Clarks so I could take a run through the sprinkler.

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KIDS COME HOME – HONEST THEY DO

There are people who love their empty nest.  I’m just not one of them.photo 9 I had my kids in a cluster. When our youngest daughter was born, my oldest daughter was five and a half, and she had a two-year-old and four-year-old brother – I’ve done the math and it doesn’t make much sense to me either.  So we had babies, and toddlers, and the easier years of grade school-ers it seems now (only now) and then Holy Cow Batman, a house brimming with teenagers – loud (or disturbingly quiet), emotional, angst-y, experimental, lovelorn, sneaky, wonderful adolescences – followed by, because they left in a cluster, too – quiet.  Just me and their dad, with all the varied interests we always had and time to pursue them, inside that quiet.  I didn’t like it one bit, and he wasn’t so crazy about it either.  We’re people-people and our people were gone.  We didn’t necessarily miss driving them places, or their taking our cars, I couldn’t honestly say I missed cooking for them and grocery shopping for them – I mean, seriously, that was a ton of work and my cooking got less creative, not more, over the two decades, while the kids all swung towards that annoying health conscious fare.

No, I just liked them moving around the house, someone to shout out to from my office to the kitchen table. When their dad worked long hours there was always someone to meet me on a patio (free food – why wouldn’t they?). Their dad actually was happy when they’d come in late and tell him the movie he was watching sucked and they’d find something together to stay up to.

So maybe I’m making some of you sad, those that aren’t too excited about the empty nest either. But don’t be too sad because they come back.  Honestly, they do.  I remember being so forlorn when our youngest left us to all that quiet.  I mean, who’d know I’d miss being jarred awake to cars pulling up outside, and shouts of good-bye over even louder music. I was expressing my dislike of our uncomfortable new quiet to a neighbor woman, about fifteen years my senior, and she told me, You should enjoy the break, they’ll return for this or that reason.  Believe me, she said, they do that.

Well, she didn’t know my kids, I told her. My eldest was living with her boyfriend in another city. The second eldest was determined to be part of the film industry and there wasn’t enough of that work here, third child would be most determined to not move back home and the baby, who’d just left for university had been exploring new cities since a high school exchange to Italy. That ship had sailed – it was their dad and I, and grilled cheese sandwiches from there on in.  That wise neighbor gave me this little half smile that said, who cares about all that, kids come back.cropped-cropped-cropped-better-nest.jpg

Some days I feel like that Million Little Pieces guy.  I published this book, Text Me, Love Mom, Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest and guess what? The nest was empty, and (be still my beating heart) it will be empty again tomorrow morning, but it’s not empty now and over the last few years they’ve ALL had cause to return.  In the book, I was writing about the chaos of it all, the challenges of iparenting from far away, and the turmoil of our family getting its bearings again.  But over the years all our kids have needed a short term place to perch between; a job, a relationship, a school program or a decision. Usually just one of them at a time, never more than two.   Thank goodness the place to land – was home.

Both boys have made separate sojourns home for a few months to refuel, work, or wait for the next film project to pick up.  I’d go to the gym with them after having let that lapse, and we’d work out in our own corners. My oldest son would cook me the best eggs, eating his standing at the counter – I don’t know why.  The youngest son loves breakfast out.  Breakfast isn’t really my thing, but he’s a funny guy (when he’s not a serious guy) and the conversation was worth it.

The daughter that is all of their big sister, married her boyfriend and moved back to our city with their two small daughters and while house hunting they ALL moved in for three fun months of early mornings, an amusing messy toddler, a baby to snuggle, and all the glorious chaos of that.  Finally, a  year ago, when the house was too quiet again after all of that commotion,  our youngest returned from living in Montreal and then LA for a short time, to work and establish a photography business here,  but tomorrow morning she will drive off again with a packed car and an adventurous spirit and that chapter will close, too.

She humored her dad and I with a long walk on Sunday, though so tired from a late night with friends. This past week I’ve anxiously treated her to lunch out, and a bit of shopping.  But really new summer blouses and lunches on patios in the late spring sunshine are only ways of lingering with this person I will miss.  We will text and talk.  We always do.  But I’ll miss waking in the night to her coming in, I’ll miss  that she liked to buy the groceries for me –  it was like having a mom here instead of being the mom, I’ll miss her newly blossoming green thumb, I’ll miss her telling me, Mom, you look pretty.

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The neighbor was right.  They do come back and now she’s off again.  More than anything I will miss a ‘kid’ in the house to call out to from this little room where I write.

To read more about Lily and I – along with the chaos of four kids being launched into the wide, wide world – during that next stage of parenting, click on the following links:

Link to Amazon.ca  http://www.amazon.ca/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

Link to Amazon.com  http://www.amazon.com/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

Bringing A Student Home – Goodness and Light

Can you believe it?  It’s almost over.  Your kid has been away to university for a whole school year and now it seems that the time flew by – except there were those long November or January nights when she didn’t return a text or answer her phone and you sat up in the living room, with the wind blowing outside in the dark.  And you knew it was wrong to be so worried.  That the dark she was in was probably a noisy club with friends laughing and pulling her onto a dance floor.  And when you woke again to the ding ding of her reassuring text – that’s what it was exactly.

My youngest, Lily, went to university in Montreal, all the way across the country, and I could say that the reason that I managed to visit her there a few times  was because I love  that French Canadian city, but it was hard having the last of four kids away, and so I went for that reason also.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A very short time ago I wrote about helping that youngest daughter move to Montreal.  But maybe I was sleeping under a tree like Rumpelstiltskin because it appears that years have gone by since I first left her standing on the corner of St. Catherines and Rue Guy in front of Concordia University. At this time of year when parents are contemplating how it will go doing something similar with a son or daughter, I thought I would tell you about moving Lily home.

Lily spent two years in one teeny studio apartment on De Maisonneuve Boulevard, then did a year’s exchange at foggy San Francisco State University discovering that American’s are not, as she naively thought, just like Canadians but different in a myriad of interesting ways. Lily returned to Montreal, to an even smaller apartment on Cote de Neiges, with a view far across to the Pont Champlain Bridge. (Along with her studies she did two internships at popular youth culture magazines  – the shamefully popular completely unpaid for internship).

I flew to Montreal with the whispers of approaching summer, to help her pack up and return to the west.  Waking up in her studio on Cote de Neiges, with the sun deceptively warming the apartment through the window, I contemplated the basics of setting up and dismantling the belongings to support a happy, satisfied life.  This subject had been on my mind because of my own efforts at (here’s that tired old word again) – ‘decluttering’.  It was a cold last bit of April, while we closed off that part of the life my daughter had in Quebec – during which she obtained her degree and blossomed from an eighteen-year-old girl, who I warned about street dangers and trusting strangers, to a twenty-two-year-old woman, who warned me as she left to say goodbye to friends, that she would return late and to just lock the door behind her.IMG_4320

When we first set up Lilly’s apartment I took notes, out of curiosity, to see just what purchases were required to get a young person going, We had arrivived on a red-eye flight from Calgary and drove a rental car directly to the Ikea in the suburbs for the purchase of twelve dollar lamps and the twenty-nine dollar desk, and the one hundred and twenty-nine dollar bed frame, along with two equally cheap stools to sit at the tiny counter in the galley kitchen-ish area.  And every summer and Christmas break we warned Lily about bringing too much back to Montreal from home, but still she accumulated a series of coats and footwear trying to deal with the Quebec cold, along with electric fans for the oppressive heat in the beginning and sometimes end of the term, and a small library of books from her classes, and portfolios full of edgy photographs from her Fine Art photography degree.

In the process of dismantling her home we packed and delivered to Greyhound Express three large plastic containers of the heavy items – books and boots and some dishes she was fond of, as well as her record player and records. Did I mention she had convinced us to purchase an actual record player as a birthday gift and I could never dissuade her from adding to her load of Montreal possessions by carting Led Zeplin, Fleetwood Mac and Three Dog Night records from our basement collection every trip she took home to Alberta.  A little table and one chair had been sold on Craigslist, two second hand book stands were given away to an apartment neighbour, and friends had come to claim some of the most intriguing prints, along with the utilitarian warm clothes Lily was ready to part with. The guy she found to sublet for the remaining of the lease, got a steal of a deal on her bed and mattress and Lily directed me to leave him the never used cake pans and muffin tins, saying, “See Mom, I told you four years ago I wasn’t going to become a baker.” IMG_3987 We ate our meals at my favourite creperie the last day – having done a far better job of diminishing the contents of her refrigerator than the contents of her apartment, so that we would still have to show up at the airline counter and have no choice but to pay for extra suitcases, and still have purses cleverly tucked into overstuffed backpacks, and carry-on computer cases, probably with the last used towels falling out of them.

Still I had to contemplate this: if Lily had lived comfortably with the total accumulation of  goods she had when I arrived -what was it that I had filled my  home with for several decades?  What are the precious goods, the necessary tools, the carriers of memory, and even the flotsam and jetsam, that surrounds me that couldn’t be sold to a few anxious buyers on Craigslist, tossed off to neighbours, packed into three small boxes on Greyhound and carried on a flight?

Preparing to call the last Montreal taxi driver that I would converse with in a long while, I realized that as minimalist as we’d been, we still had a fair load for flying purposes.  So, I decided that Lily and I must work at giving the appearance of lightness, of effortlessness –  at that airline counter where they would weigh things up.  “Here we are, it is just her and me, and a few bags, nothing to get worried about, or charge us ridiculous amounts of money to bring.  It is just us,” my attitude would say. “See – we are ethereal.  We are light. So just us – along with a good part of the accumulations of life during four years of growing up.  That’s all.  Just that.”

To read more about Lily and I – along with the chaos of four kids being launched into the wide, wide world – during that next stage of parenting, click on the following links:

Link to Amazon.ca  http://www.amazon.ca/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

Link to Amazon.com  http://www.amazon.com/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

I Must Go Down To The Seas Again – Come With Me

        I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
        Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied
– John Masefield 1902

When I was just a kid – just nineteen years old, my parents helped me pack their car with a very big red suitcase, a stack of books and a few containers of my mom’s homemade baking, and drove me (and my boyfriend – who was just along for the ride) over a mountain range, through one and a half provinces, to board a ferry across the Georgia Strait to Vancouver Island, and the city of Victoria B.C, so that I could start my university years. My folks and boyfriend stayed long enough to help me search the newspaper’s ‘Apartment For Rent’ ads and to get me set up in a small furnished suite in what I so happily called a character house.

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Wow. Life happened. Let me tick off the details for you – turned out moving away from my family of seven people, and boyfriend of two years, made me unbearably homesick. Rather than moving into university residence (my mom’s smart idea, which I ignored) I moved across the country with said boyfriend and tried an eastern Canadian university the next year. For lots of reasons – probably the strongest being that we were two young to work out our difficulties cohabiting – we left the east, zig-zagged a little bit, and found ourselves ocean side again – back at The University of Victoria. With one and a half degrees between us (I had a head start), we got married, he finished his degree, we moved home to Calgary and had a baby girl. Galloping along, we packed up a beat-up truck this time, which only broke down once when we crossed over the mountains again so that boyfriend – now husband – could get a law degree, and while he did so we had two baby boys in Victoria. A few more beat up cars and one law degree later, we returned to Calgary with – the now three-year-old daughter, two-year-old boy and new baby boy. The forth baby (girl) was born back in Calgary shortly before her daddy was called to the bar. It wasn’t religious – we just liked having all those babies. Time passed. Babies grew and grew and grew.

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Now this little tale is about the good parents who drove me to Victoria to begin those cross province journeys to the ocean, back before the time of my crazy childbearing days. My parents were both raised as true Albertans, people who love a Sunday drive through the foothills and admire fields of golden grain shimmering in a Chinook wind. Yet, when they retired they chose to treat themselves to a month or two in Victoria as a late winter destination, while they waited for the season to lose its grip on Calgary. Yesterday my mom calculated this is the seventeenth year that they have spent a part of spring in this ocean side city, whose ambiance has been part of our lives’ journeys. They’ve come to take pleasure in the daffodils, tulips and frothy fruit tree blossoms, long weeks before they’ll decorate the streets of home. They trade the blue skies of Alberta for quiet treks along the shores of the deep blue ocean.

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For the last several years my siblings and I have joined them at different times during their coastal reprieves. When the drive itself became too much of a chore, I’ve driven their car out, packed up with all the trappings of home to make their stay comfortable – including those tins of mom’s homemade baking. My brothers and sisters, and grand-kids and nieces have come out too, all pleased to spend time fueling their desire to see green foliage, and basking in sunny strolls (or foggy ones) along Victoria’s long breezy breakwater.

photo (11) My four kids (the subjects of Text Me, Love Mom) text to see how we’re all making out, the girls from where they currently reside in Calgary, the boys from their homes in coastal Vancouver. (Is it silly to wonder if their ocean side birthplace influenced the makeup of their wee baby bones so they now choose to reside on the coast?) I text my kids back from a tea house, or a long leisurely stroll, “Grampa and Grandma say hello. We just ate the best lemon blueberry scones ever. You doing okay?” Every year my dear mom says they won’t make the trip again, too tiring getting ready, too much has changed health wise. But always we convince them to make the journey one more time – their walks are shorter, the breaks for tea time longer. For the last several years I’ve joined my parents here for the better part of a week of their month long stay. Today I’ll head home from this place where I began my truly growing up years of raising kids. Mom and Dad will stay behind for a few more weeks to revel sunny days watching the ocean roll over the rocks, and the pilot boats head out to guide ships to shore. Ah, the journeys we take for ‘the call of the running tide.’

Please click on the following links to order Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest – about the ‘next stage of parenting’, when the kids leave home, come of age, and the family gets its bearings again.

Amazon.comhttp://www.amazon.com/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

Amazon.ca http://www.amazon.ca/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

Indigo/Chapters http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/text-me-love-mom/9781771800716-item.html

In the UK at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

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Pop. Pop. Pop. Went the Bubble Wrap.

Let me think? Was I a bubble wrapper? When our eldest daughter, Zoë, was first accepted into university, I was still focused on running around raising four kids – from tweens to this very young adult. I had only just begun to worry about Zoë leaving home, and was surprised to feel so jittery, and off balanced. That summer before we drove her a thousand kilometers away, I thought about her room being empty or her friends not hanging around our family room and I’d try to hide my teary eyes. Hec, when I imagined our Zoë roaming along Vancouver’s Commercial or Main Street, discovering Wreck Beach (the infamous nude beach) or just searching for eccentric, like-minded friends, I felt like I nervously needed to speed write an ‘independence manual’. It made me think about dropping her off the first day of kindergarten, and walking home across the playground with her two little brothers, four-year-old Cole, trotting along beside the stroller with not quite two-year-old Hudson in it (five months pregnant with her sister, Lily – I know, I know -it seems impossible to me now, too.) and I remember thinking, “That’s that. Zoë is part of another world of influence now. She’s not just ours anymore.”

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Did I become a hovering helicopter mom in response to those emotions? Back then we were all ‘bubble wrapping’ if we compared ourselves to the moms that brought us up. My kids were lucky to grow up in a calm residential area with a few kids in almost every other house. Even still as parents we tracked them with rules and landline calls from house to house. When I was a kid growing up in the same area, we ran out during the day and were allowed to roam free until the street lights came on or dinner time approached. My own mother was a very good mom, more devoted to hardy meals, and cleanliness then I ever was, but the boundaries around ‘watching out for your kids’ were so wide and free and quite literally liberating. At age say, ten or eleven, I could report that I was going on a bike ride and go off, limited mostly by my own sense of adventure. We were truly free range children. When my mom did express concern for my late arrival I used the lame excuse that my watch quit or I wasn’t near a pay phone .
But as Zoë, Cole, Hudson and Lily approached their late teens we bought them cell phones (our household cell bill could almost pay a college kid’s cheap rent back then) and voila – I could call them home, or check on the late night party, or simply request that they – “Text me, love Mom”.
Maybe I hovered closer to the others after I had to think about Zoë out of our grasp in a far, far away city, especially if she was ignoring my annoying texts. And as the three kids talked about travels around the freaking world and got into the vices that kids get into, I was forced to listen to the pop, pop, pop of all my bubble wrapping love.
As much as they might have caused me to ‘come undone’ during the stories in Text Me, Love Mom, my four artistic kids are all helping me out in this new era of on-line everything. The boys wanted to (okay – I pestered them a bit) make short-short YouTube bits from the book – which were a blast to do and are coming soon. My eldest daughter painted the beautiful cover of the book and now here is my youngest, through her Midnight Train Photography – http://www.midnighttrain.ca offering a playful look at this journey. Love you kids.

Please click on the following links to order Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest – about the ‘next stage of parenting’, when the kids leave home, come of age, and the family gets its bearings again.

Amazon.comhttp://www.amazon.com/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

Amazon.ca http://www.amazon.ca/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

Indigo/Chapters http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/text-me-love-mom/9781771800716-item.html

In the UK at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

shea_allan@hotmail.com

contact via twitter @SheaProulx

Was There More Daydreaming?

real letters

Do you remember that time?  The time before ‘this time’ when we were somehow more free to be alone?  If you are a young reader here – you won’t recall it, as it never really existed for you.  Let’s see – do you recall calmly sitting at a bus stop after school waiting for your ride, and just staring out, maybe thinking about needing to call a friend from home so the two of you could pick a spot to meet at the mall, say the frozen yogurt stand at the food court or the bench beside the phone booths in the middle?  And if your friend wasn’t there when you arrived you would take out that letter to your cousin that you started in math class, and finish telling her about the new guy you liked, but you couldn’t tell her to look up his grinning mug on facebook,  or send her a selfie of you waiting for your bus home – still glowing with your crush on.

I’m not being holier than thou.  I love, love, love my phone and all the way it connects me to the world. I tell myself to leave it behind on occasion, but then I quickly think– “Oh no Self, what if I need to take a photo, something that I immediately have to post to my friends or tweet to strangers?  Come on. Really?  I could send them one of the 628 photos currently in my magical phone?   I wrote my book, Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest when I realized with my kids going off into the wide, wide world I was feeling more than a little jittery.  And then ca-pow, I managed, as parents do now, to be connected  to them in a way that I was never connected to my mom. When I flew away to university and was terribly homesick for my big family, she splurged on pricey long distance encouraging phone calls, and we wrote letters that involved pen, and paper and stamps – and hey, if we could have texted each other (for free), I know we would have. So it isn’t that desire for connection that I am being slightly forlorn about today.

No, I’m reading a  captivating book called – The End of Absence – Reclaiming What We’ve Lost In A World Of Constant Connection, by Michael Harris, a writer from Vancouver, Canada.  Harris says, that “the difference that future generations will find hardest to grasp is the end of absence – the loss of lack. The daydreaming silences in our lives are filled; the burning solitudes are extinguished.”

rope swing

He makes me aware that I am part of the last few generations who will remember that other time, a time when it was easier to hang out with yourself, to be alone and okay.  Do you remember those days when if you walked to the corner store or the library it was just you, without a phone in your hand – or maybe you might have run ahead to catch up to a neighbor you spotted to talk to, because that’s how you ‘shared’, not by posting share?  (Though of course, the irony is that I’ll soon finish this post and share it.) Will my four kids, who launched themselves in the world and at times ignored the tether of my cell phone – probably because I was bugging them like crazy, or they were up to deeds I wouldn’t approve of – will they recall the time when there was no little beep, beep and ding, ding in their purse or pocket, and how if they were out with a person, say me or their dad or each other, they were really just with them.  Was there more daydreaming back then?  Do they daydream between texting, and checking facebook posts and watching YouTube videos?  Do I?

To read Text Me, Love Mom – the book – go to http://www.amazon.com/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712 or http://www.amazon.ca/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

Seventeen Year Olds Do Stupid Shit

Mid-January and I’d be so happy to steal away to my favourite latte shop, bring a hot one home to my little office, stare out at the winter white and brown back yard and get back to that novel I started way (seriously way) too long ago.  But this wise guy that I’m married to insists that, having taken a good chunk of the last seven years writing and publishing Text Me, Love Mom – I should put some of my restless energy into sharing it (okay, promoting it) to all those folks out in the wide, wide world that I was writing it for.  Readers are telling me that Text Me, love Mom is funny – funnier than I thought, as I was caught up in the drama of those four darn kids freaking me out with the insanity of ‘twenty-four being the new eighteen’ as they made their way in the world. Read Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest and you’ll find the funny bits, but I decided this January morning to offer up a more dramatic ‘teaser’.  The chapter is called ‘Teenage Runaway’ and begins with this great quote from my sassy youngest kid –

“You and dad are really the wrecking ball of all of our outlaw, runaway fantasies. Why couldn’t you jerks go and be crack addicts or religious fanatics so we could have excuses to live on the wide open road?”

– Lily

 

This is a story of all the ways and times my kids left home, but there is a chapter I thought best to leave out until Lily granted me her permission to put it in. “It’s okay, Mom,” she said. “It will add drama. I’m happy to supply some drama. Just as long as you remember in the telling of it, that was then. This is now.”

lily poster seventeen year olds

This is the story of Lily running away — only she, of course, never calls it that. Much to her chagrin, the rest of the family does. I try not to think about it too often, the way you do with times in your life when you are so terribly off balance. In fact, those sixty odd, uneasy days when Lily ran away were the first time we had a completely empty nest.

For twenty-three years, one month and twenty-nine days, I was a mom with children living at home. In the early autumn of her seventeenth year, Lily was going to be the last kid still residing with her dad and me. After a summer of living with us and doing lucrative summer jobs in Calgary, both Cole and Hudson had returned to the coast. Hudson had moved in with a bunch of guys in Victoria, and Cole, elated to be starting a film production program in Vancouver, was renting a room in the house Zoë and her boyfriend lived in. As I look back on it all, there had been some foreshadowing of Lily’s departure before she left home in the middle of the night without saying goodbye.

To be fair, Lily would tell it differently. She woke me up at two a.m., putting her face up close to mine to whisper that she couldn’t find her social security card and needed it for a new job she was applying for early the next morning. She went on to explain to me in my groggy haze that she was going to stay over at a girlfriend’s near the job’s location. I stumbled out of bed, despite her telling me not to. Standing in the light of the hallway, Lily told me she loved me and gave me a long hug, apologizing for disturbing my sleep. You are not a mother for twenty-three years, one month and twenty-nine days (Zoë’s age) without knowing something is bloody well up when that sequence of events takes place, but somehow I fell back into bed and had the last restful sleep I would have for weeks…

– poster by Shea Proulx and Creativision.

 

A Spoonful of Christmas Sugar

I have to stop, take a break and realize ….I’m stressed – but I’m happy. Happy that I have almost all of my family home.  We’ve marked another year – Christmas to Christmas.  I sprung out of bed in the dim morning light– with visions of butter tarts, not sugar plums, in my spinning Christmas Eve head.

The house was peaceful and silent while I whipped egg whites and chopped dates for the buttery tarts, everyone else still dreaming of a white Christmas – but the household is hopping now.  My husband just rushed out for some mysterious last minute shopping.  Cole, our eldest son has had to make his morning green smoothie amongst my cooking mess, and then he flew off to replace a left-behind cord for his camera to enable him to record all aspects of the planned Christmas Eve merry, merry merry-making.  His brother, Hudson, slept later, not at all panicked about gifts he still has to find with so many males of the same ilk, who will flock to the malls.

Lily, our youngest daughter has found the two of us the Mary Poppins movie on the kitchen television and is going to wrap, tape and festoon her carefully selected gifts with bows, while I try to focus on the next special dessert – and we both sing along to Chim Chim Cherrie and A Spoonful of Sugar.

mary poppins  I’m scattered, getting out the fancy dishes one minute, mashing potatoes for the Romanoff the next, only to be interrupted by a call for more tape, and then seeing the tree needs to be watered, before locating the chocolate mint pie recipe and texting hubby to remember the whip cream.

For only the second time ever in thirty years our kids will not all be present – but our eldest, Zoe, is bound to have a jolly holly time with her husband and sweet small daughters – who will share their excitement for the Big Guy in the red suit’s arrival with their other grandparents in a cozy cottage in the mountains.  So I tell my other grown kids, who feel a little blue about missing their big sister – we need to share her, and we’re sharing her with good people. All truly is fine.

I am the mom.  And I do ‘manage’ Christmas in the house like so, so many moms.  And I see that the clock is ticking and the iconic wife saver (egg strata) for tomorrow’s breakfast isn’t made, the crackers for tonight’s oysters must be crushed, the salmon dressed, and the cream whipped and the stockings found and the punch stirred, and the chaos tidied, and on and on and on.

But I’ll slow my thoughts, concentrate on the melting butter on the stove and my daughter humming along to ‘A Spoon Full of Sugar’ with Mary Poppins and having my big family in the same house (almost) and let peace and joy settle over me. And I wish that for you, too – in this holiday season and throughout the year. xo

May Your Hearts Be Merry and Light

Two of our four children were born at Christmas time.  Despite the deep fatigue and life changing chaos, those were extra special holidays – with sweet teeny babes in floppy elf sleepers, snuggled in a grandparent’s eager arms while tree lights twinkled in the background. Eighteen years after those births, when our first ‘child’ had been away for the first time to university for three long months of not-enough-communication, those holidays times were extra special again.

elf baby

I remember so clearly the anticipation of Zoë coming home to sleep in her bed again at the close of first term and how giddy that made the rest of the household as we searched for the tree stand and the rice krispee roll recipe. I wrote about that in my book Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest – and I’d like to share a snippet of that here in a holiday blog.

“Zoë was different after being at university.  I noticed that the first evening she was back as we lingered around the table after dinner, bombarding her with questions. It was a look on her face, a quality it was hard to put my finger on, except to say that she had drifted away a little bit.  I had gazed around the room at her siblings, her brothers Cole and Hudson, and her little sister Lily, and imagined us all reuniting after future ventures.  Zoë swore that she would travel to the far north someday, being captivated by the notion of a trip to Yellowknife or even Inuvik.  Cole insisted he was going to snowboard in the southern hemisphere.  Hudson was harder to pin down –I think he aspired to travel back and forth in time, and back then I wrongly viewed our youngest,  Lily, as a home body.

paper angel

During the holiday season I would be happy to imagine them all simply staying put.  I was going to pretend for the three weeks that Zoë would be home that she had never left.  We would decorate a too tall, slightly lope-sided tree together and my husband would insist once more on putting up the goofy looking angel Zoë made in kindergarten.  I wanted it to be a holiday season full of my kids dog piling on top of one another, and watching Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, all of us singing aloud to the Sisters’ song –

All kinds of weather

We stick together 

The same in the rain or sun 

Two diff’rent faces

 But in tight places

 We think and we act as one[1]

I intended to encourage Zoë to humor Lily and I, and come skating with us on the lake near their grandparent’s property, after which we three would go for lattés, before coming home to whip up a batch of butter tarts for Christmas Eve.  I knew Zoë would be impatient to go hang with her friends, but I hoped to convince her to indulge us with a skate around the lake first.  I’d ask, but I promised to be a grown-up about it myself and not harass her to join us – just to ask.

shea skating

She needed time to reconnect with her same-age peers.  At ages eighteen and thirteen my daughters couldn’t really act as one, but I knew that on Christmas Eve they would raise their voices with Bing Crosby’s and happily sing about it.”

New babies and growing up children – both added loveliness to the holidays.  May this season bring tranquility to you and yours.

christmas bird-1

[1] Berlin, Irving. “Sisters.” Lyrics. White Christmas. The Movie. 1954