Embrace Technology Because I’m Too Young for a Paper Shredder

I’m not old – not some little granny – well, I’m a grandma, but a young grandma – just fifty-one.  That’s just eight years older that Julia Roberts who just finished eating, praying and loving, and it’s ten years younger than Merly Streep.  And I’ll be any age that lets me sing my heart out to Pierce Brosnan ( age fifty-six)) on a mountain top in Greece.

But I breezed into my local office supply store to update my printer because it ‘thinks’ way too long before it will respond to my tapping the print button, and in no time I felt like I was born in ‘the early days’ as my grandmother used to say.   I had to direct myself to listen really, very carefully to the twelve year old sales clerk who was so patiently telling me why it wasn’t the printer that was at fault, but that the printer was too fast for my much older tower computer’s USB port and what I needed was not a printer, but to replace the ancient computer with a small lap top which I could buy for not much more than the high tech printer I wanted (but didn’t need) and if I wanted the teeny tiny laptop that would fit in my purse, all I needed was a exterior hard drive which was the size of a deck of cards or I could even (be patient, I could have this confused in my addled fifty-one-year-old mind, as my  concentrating was further impaired when the baby clerk mentioned something about the system his wife used – did twelve-year-olds have wives – was he possibly twenty-four?) …yeah, I could even sign onto a hard drive warehouse thingy where they (were they robots) could keep my hard drive contents on a shelf somewhere far away.

We have a same age friend who tells my husband and I that we have to “embrace technology”,  and believe me I want to.  I do.  Or I did. But my heart was beating so, so fast in my efforts to embrace what the hec this clerk was talking about and I remembered that I needed a new  fade and water resistant uni-ball bright coloured felt pen to replace the old one that one of my adult kids took off with the last time they were home, so I let the nice ‘man’ help someone else while I went to catch my breath one aisle over.  What caught my eye next was a paper shredder – I refuse to buy a paper shredder.  Now that is a testament to one’s age.  Ask anyone over sixty – they all own paper shredders.  Probably even Merly Streep.

Mr. Tambourine Man

Why was I always surprised by what it was like being the mother of this boy, Hudson – this almost man?  I was driving him home from his second year at university.  The term was finally over and I knew it had its up and downs, and that Hudson’s attention and focus had sometimes ebbed.  But I saw first hand when I arrived to help him pack, that amongst his clothes, CDs and school texts, there were stacks of philosophy books, not required course material but books he’d picked up second-hand for pleasure reading because despite all resistance otherwise, he will always be a philosophical and reflective thinker who enjoys titles like Our Inner Ape, The Essence of Sufism, or On Being Free.

I was there staying with the relatives he boarded with during those last days and saw that he studied hard for his final two exams between the pull to visit a pub to say goodbye to friends he described as good guys, guys that he would miss.  He was more mysterious about the girl he needed to see one more time.

Hudson had said he was looking forward to our road trip home.  He even joked about it being a time to bond.  Yet the mood was sober when we set out. He’d written his last exam that morning and I heard relieve and satisfaction in his voice immediately after, as he embraced the relatives he’d lived with, and together we left to meet one of his friends from high school and her young husband for a goodbye lunch. At age nineteen and twenty-three respectively, they were expecting a baby in a month, and were both excited and scared about the unplanned path their lives were about to take.  Hugging his high school friend goodbye, her belly and the baby inside pressed against his own stomach, might have put the final touch of melancholy onto the mood he was in as we headed for the ferry.

We boarded a vessel two hours after reaching the terminal and consciously or not, spend most of the voyage apart, reading and watching the ocean waves on opposite ends of the ship.  We spend that night in Vancouver with Hudson’s big sister, Zoë, and her boyfriend, in a house full of boxes and spilled belongings, because they were also packing up and switching residences as they were both starting Masters programs in the fall.   They were thrilled to be making changes, but on that night they were weary and conversation was soft and slow in the dim, cluttered house.  Hudson and I left Vancouver for Calgary the next morning, under a steady spring rain and a dull sky. Driving through the dampness along the long, straight highway to Hope, listening to my son’s choice of music, I actually wondered if his mood had changed so much so that he had given up the idea of enjoying the trip.  A song came on that I particularly liked, Bowl of Oranges, “I like your music more these days,” I ventured.  “I liked what you were playing yesterday at the ferry terminal, too.”

Sounding exasperated, and only slightly amused at my musical ignorance, he told me, “That was the same song, Mom. It’s by Bright Eyes.  You always say you like Bright Eyes.”  We gassed up the Durango and wound our way to a coffee shop in Hope.  He ordered a yogurt, spinach salad and a water, while I justified my sugar and caffeinated choices of a brownie and cappuccino, as necessary for the road.

It was exiting from Hope where I took the wrong highway.  I realized it in time to go back and still could have made better time by returning to the road leading to the Coquihalla Pass over the mountains.  The wide, four lane surface would have taken us over the mountains in far less time.  So what made me stay on the longer, winding two lane highway that curled through the towns of Spuzzum, Boston Bar, and Spences Bridge?  My tired son wasn’t aware of my mistake and I took my time before I told him what I’d accidentally done.  He didn’t react except to ask if I wanted to listen to a Bob Dylan documentary on the car’s DVD player.  Sure, I said.  Hudson had discovered Bob Dylan in his first semester of university. He had been away from home for the first time, experiencing residence life which he disliked, and his first west coast dark and rainy winter.

I must have discovered Bob Dylan spiritually for the first time in my youth, too. Via cell phone conversations our absent son had turned his sixteen-year-old sister Lily, who was of course, at home with us, onto Bob Dylan at the same time he made his discovery, and she had been downloading and buying all his works so that our house had recently filled up with – “ if I don’t get the girl I’m loving I won’t go down Highway fifty-one no more”.  Lily set her CD alarm clock to wake her to Spanish Harlem Incident.  After school it was House of the Risin’ Sun,  It Ain’t Me Babe, and Like A Rolling Stone, and after she fell asleep at night I crept into her room to turn his crooning off.

A dappled sunlight broke through the clouds and the car crested the mountain top.  I saw a small sign beside the road that said, ‘Jackass Mountain summit.’  Hudson was singing along with Dylan. My kids don’t mind telling me that I can’t sing, but this time there was no comment when I joined him, “Look out the saints are comin’ through  And it’s all over now, Baby Blue.” The commentary continued, reviewers talking again about how Dylan resisted being pigeon holed, he didn’t like his songs to be considered protest songs.  Listening, I noticed as we sped down the road, how even that high up in the mountains the trees were in spring bud.

“Hey Hud, isn’t it something,” I said, thinking back to the night before listening to Zoë talk about applying for a teaching position while she did her Masters, “ Can you imagine walking into university class and having someone as young as Zoë for your teacher?”

“Yeah, I can.  I’ve always thought of Zoë as older.  She’s my big sister.”

It wasn’t the response I’d anticipated.  I’d hope to lead into a discussion about teaching being an option for Hudson.  He always saw through me, and blocked my thinly veiled suggestions as if he was still playing defense on his high school football team. “Look Mom, I can’t think about going back to school.  I know I’m not doing it this September.”  He was clearly a frustrated philosopher and I felt I ruined whatever easy mood the music had brought us toward.

We stopped to stretch, and buy chips, water, and a pack of gum at a gas station in Spences Bridge. As we were walking out Hudson nudged me,  “Weird, eh?  Listen.”  The gas station attendants were an old man and a teenage girl, and somewhere under the desk they had a radio on playing Bob Dylan’s A Hard Rain’s a Gonna Fall.  We stepped outside with an easiness between us again, talking about feeling goose bumps and what Dylan might think of the  synchronistic occurrence.

Leaving town one of my favourite songs was being sung now on the DVD, or maybe just the one most imbedded in my memory.  I sung out loud, though some of the words were guessed at or murmured.   The road ahead of us looked like it was heading off the globe, the pavement met the horizon, and it seemed the car could lift off there and glide into the blue sky.  “Isn’t it inspiring?” I asked over Dylan’s voice crooning, “I’m ready to go anywhere, I’m ready for to fade  Into my own parade, cast your dancing spell my way, I promise to go under it. Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
. I was worried about Hudson who wasn’t responding to my comment, unaware that he was  considering the surrounding steel, gray cliffs and deep valleys and a wide river way below us before he said, “Yeah Mom, it is beautiful, isn’t it?”

Oh Baby, I Can’t Get Enough

You know how people say, the best part of being a grandparent is that when they cry you can hand them back.  I poo-poo that.  (Well, I might hand her back when the poo-poo happens.)  But the best part of being my granddaughter’s grandma is I never want to hand her back.  I can’t get enough of little baby ‘Tessa’.*

I want to hold her little squirming body, and squeeze her plump cheeks, and pat her tiny back, and make squirty sounds against her belly, and stroke her silky hair, and have her teeny fingers squeeze mine, and smooch that hidden skin under her wobbly neck, and butterfly kiss her round face, and when she cries hold her whole little self firm and shush, shush, shush against her forehead, rocking her tired, or frustrated little being until I can be still with her, watching her breath  softly in my arms until she  sighs  and falls asleep…

Oh, baby  –  I don’t want to hand her back at all.

*  grand-baby’s name has been changed to protect the very, completely, oh so innocent.

Best Northern New Year’s Resolution

It took a four-year-old’s birthday party for me to leave behind the malls and rush of Christmas preparations for a few lovely hours of a pass time I am oh-so passionate about.  It’s an activity that I partake in during our long Canadian winter that calms me and makes me glow inside, despite the icy cold, and actually brings some melancholy early in March or April that winter weather is breaking up.   The four-year-old was my daughter’s fiancé’s niece.  Her birthday was a skating party,  and while her uncle and mom assisted her in putting on brand new skates,  I was lacing up my thirty-year- old skates for the gazillith time and already feeling the rush of pleasure my winter sport gives me.

Though neither of my parents skated themselves, on crisp winter days they’d drive us over to the rink  and if the concession wasn’t open, they’d kneel over the snowy parking lot with the youngest of us five kids balanced on the edge of the car’s seat and tie or help tighten five pairs of skates.  The littlest kids would be lifted up high over the heaped up snow around the pleasure rink and then set free to circle round and round the freshly shoveled surface.  Somehow they’d taught my older brother and sister to maneuver over the ice, and then passed on the job of teaching me – to them.   To this day I recall my siblings wool mitts holding mine and the two of them telling me together,” Push, push, glide.  Push, push, glide.”  Who knows which I enjoyed more, being the focus of my sister and brother’s attention, suspended between them on a snowy afternoon, or the exhilaration of a well balanced long glide?

If enough neighborhood kids showed up there might be a game of tag on skates,  or the even riskier Red Rover.  On the best days the concession would be open and music would be playing over crackly speakers so we could skate to Big Girls Don’t Cry, or You Are My Sunshine and warm up our numb toes in a basement room that smelled of sweat, wet rubber mats and watery hot chocolate.  With a nickel we could treat ourselves to a thick sugary square of sponge toffee.

At the recent pre-Christmas birthday party the four-year-old’s uncle and my own daughter gave the little girl lessons with the historic push, push, glide and I took my first strokes of the winter across the even ice.  The morning clouds were lifting, the sun was creeping over the horizon, and our breath puffed out in steamy halos.  I listened to the swish, swish, then ‘tock’ sound of blades hitting against thick ice and thought, for this I will hang onto winter.  Music came on the overhead speakers, Black Eyed Pea’s I Got A Feeling, the sound of 2010, not the sixties or seventies of my youth, but I was okay with that as my grown-up daughter left the others and joined me and together we push, push, glided around and around the rink until we could do just one more circle, and then one more again, before the minus twelve weather was too much for all our fingers and toes.  New Year’s Resolution 2011 – Skate More…push, push, glide…push, push, glide. . .