Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Piss or Get Off the Pot.

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Girl Warrior. Make this the year you piss or get off the pot. This is your great big powerful year where you kick all the excuses, delaying tactics, postponing, stalling and deferring to last year’s dragging-your-feet curb. No more of that. It’s done.

The clock is ticking and the truth is there is no more time to waste. Time waits for no man. Or Girl Warrior. So get on with it.

This is the perfect time to pull all your dreams, plans, schemes, resolutions and to-do lists out of the vault and unleash them. This is the perfect time to show the world just exactly what it is you can do. This is the perfect time to rally your troops and all your resources and get some shit done. This is the perfect time for action not reaction. This is the perfect time to become a force to be reckoned with. This is the perfect time to light that fire in your belly. This is the perfect time to take your life to the next level and beyond. This is the perfect time to have the best year of your magnificent life.

What’s stopping you Girl Warrior?

Take a moment to think about what exactly it is that’s holding you back, keeping you from doing all the things you want to do and accomplish. There’s probably a lot of negative self-talk and emotional baggage fogging up your beautiful brain and clogging your thinking. It’s creative constipation caused by the likes of fear of failure, fear of disappointing others, fear of making waves, fear of losing friends or family, fear of being considered a bad girl, fear of being abandoned and left alone, fear of being thought of as crazy. So what.

Say so what to all of those fears. Odds are, none it’s going to happen anyway. And if it does, you’ll deal with it. Head-on and brave-on like you always do. Don’t be afraid to be a little bit crazy either. It’s the juicy sweet stuff of imagination and innovation. Harness it and make it work on your behalf. Make it crazy vision. Crazy inspiration. Crazy motivation. Crazy inventiveness. Crazy originality. Crazy artistry. Crazy genius. Crazy love.

So Girl Warrior, go completely crazy this year doing all the mind-blowing extraordinary awesome things you’ve been putting off. Make this the best year of your life.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: It’s Okay to Fail.

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Girl Warrior: It’s okay to fail. In fact, it’s okay to fail repeatedly. Over and over and over. It’s not the end of the world. Not a catastrophe. Nor a disaster. Never just plain bad luck. It can be quite the opposite, depending on your perspective.

Tweak the lens of your defeatist frame of mind and you will have the power to see things in a different light. Not the end, but the beginning. A mere setback, not game over. Adjust the setting on your viewpoint and you will begin to see the doors and windows of opportunity fling open wide. Just for you.

The catastrophe becomes your good fortune. A disaster leads to your unparalleled success. Bad luck turns into your most profound blessing. You get to experience the awesome wonder of Divine Grace. You get to hear the Heavenly Whisperer’s promise that failing does not make you a failure. It makes you beautifully human. It is simply grooming you to fulfill your Girl Warrior destiny.

Try. Try. And try again. With each attempt you are one step closer to achieving all of your hopes and dreams and wishes and everything your passionate heart desires. All that you crave and hunger and yearn for draws closer and closer. Everything is within reach and ultimately achievable if you are determined, tenacious, resolute, persevering, patient, unwavering, and above all else, unshakable. Be like the dog with a bone.

And know this Girl Warrior, that when you fail you are never alone. A loving, faithful and supportive tribe, who are your collective safety net, surrounds you. And you will always, always, always have a soft and safe place to land.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Don’t Be a Shrinking Violet.

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Girl Warrior. Don’t be a shrinking violet. Ever. No, not ever. Not for any reason. Not for any person. Not in any situation. Under no circumstances or conditions.

Do not make yourself small. Do not diminish, draw back or decrease in any way your presence on this planet. For it belongs to you as much as it does any other. You have a place here. A position to defend. A stand to take. A clear and resounding voice. Let it be heard. For it is utterly magnificent.

Don’t back away from the good fight. Don’t abandon your convictions. Or betray your beliefs, ideologies or principles. Don’t let fear or any other false fabrication of your imagination prevent you from being the big girl that you are. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are too big for your britches. That’s impossible. Stay vigilant and ignore ludicrous comments designed to keep you in your place. Or worse yet, keep you down.

You have big things to do Girl Warrior. Brilliant things. Bright things beyond your wildest dreams. But doing these things will require you to step out boldly and bravely into every arena as the formidable force that you are.

So put on your big gutsy pants Girl Warrior and show the world what it looks like to be too damn big for your britches.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: The Sixteen Jacket.

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Author Boo King on the right wearing her Sixteen Jacket.

This is a story I wrote when I was thirty and living in Toronto about a jacket I bought when I was sixteen and living in Northwestern Ontario.

Tuesday and Thursdays were ballet night. Twice a-week, fifty-two weeks, one hundred and four classes, three hundred and and twelve hours, times two years, I endured the art of becoming physically fit. This was my commitment to “ParticipACTION.” I chose ballet because I thought it was a graceful form of exercise and also because as a child I had taken ballet lessons every Saturday morning for six years. I thought it was like riding a bike in that you never forgot how to do it, and that I could resume where I left off at age twelve. I was wrong.

My mind remembered so many fanciful things about those ballet lessons: the plies, the pirouette, the arabesque and the five basic positions of the feet. Unfortunately my body, which was stubborn and lazy at best, didn’t remember anything about those six years. I mean nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Zero. A complete blank. My body was suffering from a bad case of childhood amnesia. There wasn’t a single solitary drop of aching residue in the memory bank.

Had there been some hint, some vague omen or sign of the pain and agony my aging body was facing, I would have chosen something less physical like badminton or lawn bowling. But there was no forewarning, no psychic twinge. So I heedlessly signed up for “introductory ballet” at a school within walking distance of our home.

Every Tuesday and Thursday night I was out there pliéing and pirouetting my popsicle-stick legs off. (I had terribly thin legs, which should have been another clue that perhaps ballet dancing wasn’t a good fit.)

After two years my body didn’t hurt quite so much. I could just about touch my toes without bending my knees and manage a demi-plié with semi-perfection on a good night. And I no longer hyperventilated in the middle of thirty soubresauts. My legs, however, still looked like two popsicle-sticks. And I had also faced the icy truth that I would never be able to do a pirouette nor an arabesque. My body was no longer equipped to do those things and probably never was.

Despite my skinny legs, I still entertained a few fantasies. I saw myself leaping and flying across the stage like Karen Kain or at the very least, Mary Poppins. I daydreamed about being Prima Ballerina for the National Ballet and touring the world, dancing the classics with the most renowned dancers. I mused that audiences would weep at my stunning performances and throw roses. Hundreds of them. White.

I went to Malabars and bought my black leotard and pink tights with matching pink leather slippers. I thought I looked pretty terrific, especially if you squinted with one eye and closed the other and only looked at my derriere. I was all set. I was a ballerina. I was more than ready for my first night of class after thirty years of very little exercise, one husband, two kids, two cats and an unhealthy addiction to Hawkins Cheezies.

I clung irrationally to the fantasy of becoming a dancer because it made me happy and also because it made it easier to drag my sorry ass home at the end of class. The fantasy got me through immeasurable humiliations. Like the sweat-drenched leotard and the run up the side of my pink tights, which lead to a golf-ball-sized hole at the top of my thigh. I didn’t get the hole from doing one too many jetés either, which is probably how Karen got hers, but from the clothesline. The plastic coating had worn off in one spot and I had the misfortune of hanging my tights right on top of the bare wire. The tights clung to the line like a blood-sucking leach and the only way I could pry them free was to cut them. It had been my intention to repair the hole except it was one of those things I never quite got around to. Instead I learned to live with the hole and began saving for an automatic dryer.

The Prima Ballerina fantasy also helped me forget that I didn’t have flat abdominals, my shoulders slouched, my hair was turning grey and the cute laugh lines were actually crow’s feet. It also helped me forget that I was the oldest student in the class and that the others didn’t have runs in their tights, a potbelly from two kids and too much tea, droopy boobs and legs that looked like Good Humor Bar sticks. They all had long muscular – but not too muscular – dancer’s legs with flat tummies and firm perky breasts and bums. It just didn’t seem fair somehow. Everyone was also so much taller. I’ve never felt so short in my life as I did in that class. Gravity seemed to be tugging me closer to the ground with every passing year. I figured by the time I was fifty I’d be three feet tall like the Munchkins in the Wizard of Oz.

I dressed for warmth on the nights that I went to class, especially when it was really cold. I didn’t dress for fashion. I gave up being fashionable when my daughter was six months old, teething and also had the flu, only I didn’t know it until she threw up all over a new sweater I had just bought. It was the last fashionable thing I had purchased for years. I typically wore a scratchy wool sweater over my leotard and jogging pants over my tights. Just to make things extra cozy and extra awful all at the same time, I piled on wooly socks, wooly mitts, wooly hat, wooly scarf, wooly jacket and hideous but practical boots. I was only walking three blocks but I realized since I turned thirty that I hate winter and can’t stand the cold. Every winter I made a promise to myself that when I became a rich and famous ballerina I was going to spend the winters in Tahiti or anywhere below the forty-ninth parallel. I wanted out of Canada in the winter. Possibly permanently.

I bought the jogging pants because three New Years Eves earlier I resolved to start running to ward off the excess baggage I was carrying around after my second kid. They were grey sweat-shirty material with a drawstring waist that I thought would get drawn tighter and tighter with every mile I ran and every inch I lost. As it turned out, I never exactly ran a mile nor did I lose an inch. I gained one or two because the pants were so comfy and roomy that I never wanted to take them off. They gave me so much room to grow. They became my happy pants.

I tried to run. I really did. But it just didn’t work for me. I guess my body wasn’t equipped to run either. My first run was so full of promise. There I was in my new grey sweatpants and black sneakers, the epitome of running prowess all raring to go. Two blocks later and I swear I could not breathe. I had absolutely no air in my lungs. None.

I started to gasp and wheeze and I had absolutely no feeling in my body from the waist down. My legs were numb. I could see them wobbling like Jell-O beneath the grey jogging pants and I just couldn’t get them to move another inch. My body was treasonous. What could I do but surrender and give up running.

I limped home, collapsed through the door and begged my husband to pull the sneakers from my lifeless feet. I folded up the sweatpants and stuffed them in the back of our linen closet behind the sheets and pillowcases.

I pulled them out one time after that. It was about five months later when I figured I would give running one more try. I put on the pants and a coordinating red t-shirt and immediately broke into a cold sweat. My breathing grew labored and my ankles felt weak. I recognized the symptoms. I had jogger-phobia, aka runners-terror. I was deathly allergic to running and anything associated with it.

The first time I decided to wear the sweatpants to dance class I was so worried that I would be overcome with jogger-phobia that I actually had to psyche myself up for the task. I was determined to overcome all negative associations with the pants. They were just pants after all. Victory would be mine. They were in perfect condition and I hadn’t worn anything in perfect condition since the birth of my second kid. I also thought they were the perfect thing to wear after a sweaty workout. Why else would they be called sweatpants? Besides that, everyone seemed to be wearing them. A fashionable opportunity had presented itself and I could not turn it away. For once in a really long time I would be on-trend.

I survived that first night and the subsequent two years of classes. The grey sweatpants became part of the uniform that I wore to class every week, along with the “sixteen jacket.”

I started wearing the sixteen jacket about nine months after my first class. It was nine months – one winter, one spring and one summer of pliéing my legs off and wearing the grey sweatpants afterwards. It was late September and the summer sun was long gone in the sky. The evenings were growing cool, the leaves were beginning to drop and the first snowflakes were threatening the sky. The time was drawing near when I would have to pull out the old black duffle coat that I had worn for so many years I was seriously considering having my floors carpeted in duffle because it never seemed to wear out. It was like some weird alloy of steel and sheep.

The weather had taken a turn for the worst the day before class that September. I could smell winter coming even though Fall had just begun. It was a strange year. The trees were shedding profusely and my knees were beginning to ache. It was time to pull out the old duffle to wear to class the next night. The morning of the class I foraged through the storage closet in the basement in search of the duffle coat and my black wool hat. That’s when I discovered the sixteen jacket – sandwiched between my husband’s winter parka and my son’s skidoo suit. I called it the sixteen jacket because I bought it the summer I turned sixteen.

There’s something magical about turning sixteen, especially in the summer. Summer has always been a magical time for me anyway so turning sixteen during my favorite season only made it that much better.

I had lots of hopes and dreams for that summer. I hoped I would get a job, which I did. I hoped I would have enough money at the end of the summer to buy the chocolate brown suede jacket I saw in the Fall Sears catalog, which I did. I hoped I would meet a boy and fall in love, which I did. I hoped I would find out what it was like to kiss a boy, which I did. I also hoped my face would clear up, my hair would grow instantly from my shoulders to my waist and that my boobs would grow at least six sizes. None of those things happened. But I wasn’t disillusioned because I was too happy about all the other things that did happen. It was a fabulous summer and I was convinced it was all because I had turned sixteen.

Actually the job I got wasn’t exactly what I had hoped for. My girlfriend Suzy got a job helping her mother in the cafeteria of the newspaper. And my other girlfriend Terry got a job working as a checkout girl at Safeway and I got Terry’s old babysitting job. It wasn’t such a great job but I was grateful to get anything because I really wanted that jacket. I worked for this family with three kids – two boys, one of which was handicapped, and a girl. They were nice kids. I was an awful babysitter. I sat from eight until noon, Monday to Friday and made twenty-five dollars a week.

I never really liked babysitting. It’s not that I didn’t like the kids because I did; it’s just that it was so tiring. I guess my body was pretty lazy even back then. I was usually more tired in the morning. It was a bad time to be sitting. Sitting is literally all I did. I sat in this La-Z-Boy recliner that they had in their living room and watched the kids. They were studious kids. Brains. The oldest one wasn’t much younger than me and I often wondered why I was even there. They used to like to play games. I hated games. Still do. I would play with them once and a while on one of my better mornings but mostly I just sat there and watched until their mother came home and said I could leave. Then I’d be back the next morning at ten to eight and resume my place in the old recliner. I was a really awful babysitter. And I would have felt guilty about taking the twenty-five dollars every week if I hadn’t been sixteen and wanted that jacket so badly.

I guess falling in love was the most important thing that happened to me that summer. He was my first boyfriend. I hadn’t been too big on boys up until that summer but sometime between March and June I got a bad case of the boy crazies. Suddenly boys were no longer jerks. They were cool and neat and I wanted one. Actually I think I really just wanted to wear one of their rings on my middle finger with gobs of white tape to hold it on more than I really wanted a boyfriend. I also really wanted to kiss one. At least once.

I met mine on a humid July Saturday night walking home from a movie with Suzy and Terry. He was with two of his friends in an old blue Ford with a noisy engine and a jacked-up rear end. I thought it was the grooviest thing I had ever seen. I also thought he was too. His name was John and I fell madly in love at first sight.

It was about a mile walk home from the movie theatre. We were laughing and discussing the merits of the movie when John and his friends pulled up beside us. At first we pretended we didn’t see them because they seemed like a bunch of jerks. But when they kept driving that old Ford along the road beside us, whistling and making catcalls we couldn’t ignore them any longer. Or at least Suzy decided she couldn’t. She was the most daring of the three of us, plus she had a very bad case of the boy crazies, even worse than me. Suzy had caught sight of the driver and was definitely interested in meeting him. When they asked if we wanted a ride Suzy said yes without hesitation and was in the back seat before Terry and I had a chance to refuse. I remember sitting in the back seat thinking this wasn’t a very good idea and that I shouldn’t be there. My mother had warned me at least two thousand times that I shouldn’t get into cars with strange boys. But then they were so darned cute. Especially John.

Nothing happened anyway. At least nothing bad happened. We drove around town, cruised the strip and went to A & W (A ‘n Dub) for teen burgers and root beers. John asked me for my number. I gave it to him and prayed he’d phone. I also prayed I wouldn’t break out into a terminal case of acne from the root beer.

John and I dated that entire summer. He gave me his ring, which I wrapped with white adhesive tape and wore on the middle finger of my left hand. We went to the drive-in where we swore to love each other forever and a day. We shared popcorn, hot dogs, French fries and Cokes. I thought love was sublime except that it was a little hard on the face. I felt very beautiful and grown-up.

By mid-September John was confessing his undying love to someone else. I suspected but didn’t actually know for sure until the other girl came to me and said John wanted me to give her his ring. So I did. White tape and all. I cried one whole night and the next morning at school, which I felt was an appropriate amount of time for a first love.

I bought the sixteen jacket the first week of September. It was the first really major thing I had ever bought with my own money. I ordered it through the Sears catalog. I came home every day from school that week and asked my mother if Sears had phoned yet to say the jacket was in. Sixteen year-olds are very impatient as well as having absolutely no concept of time. Finally after what seemed like months, it came. My mother had Sears deliver it right to our door. It came on a Friday, which was perfect because I would be able to wear it out to the movies with John that night. I was anxious to show it to him. My mother left the unopened Sears package sitting on the kitchen table for me. I spotted it as soon as I walked in and couldn’t wait to open it. I ripped off the scotch tape and tore at the brown wrapping paper. I pulled it out and immediately ran my fingers through the lush suede. I moved the nap of the soft buttery hide in every direction to see all the different shades of brown within the leather. I held it up to my nose and smelled its newness. It had an indescribable sweet smell. It reminded me of a great big velvety Hershey’s bar.

I tried it on and strutted around the kitchen like Twiggy and struck all her famous poses from Vogue magazine. My mother raved on at how beautiful it was and how it was “definitely you.” If ever there was a jacket that was tailor-made for me, it was. I kept it on until John came to pick me up for the movies. He said it was a “nice” jacket but he wasn’t quite as enthusiastic as I had hoped he would be. I figured it was because he was just in a bad mood or something. But it wasn’t that. By then he was already telling the other girl how much he loved her and he didn’t have the guts to tell me that the summer was over. And so was his love for me.

We went to the movies that night and then for Cokes at the local teen hangout afterwards. We sat at the counter because we couldn’t get a booth. Maybe if we had, he would have told me about the other girl and I wouldn’t have had to find out from her instead. But we didn’t get a booth and it was crowded and he was moody and I was giddy about my new jacket. I thought I was so cool.

We ordered Cokes. He sat slumped over his and I sat sipping mine, all the while watching him, hoping and praying he’d say something utterly fantastic. After a few minutes I got bored and pulled the straw from my glass and started playing with it. I pushed my Coke off to the side of the counter to give me more room to twist and contort my straw into goofy shapes, and to keep a close watch on John, who by this time had his nose in his glass. He looked ridiculous. It was then that the guy beside me reached over for the ketchup bottle and spilled my Coke down the front of my brand new suede jacket. I jumped up like a bat out of Hell, screamed and then began mopping up the Coke like mad with piles of serviettes.

It was then that I discovered the resiliency of suede. The Coke seemed to slide right off. We all agreed it looked like it wouldn’t leave a stain. The Coke spilling guy felt awful about the accident and kept apologizing. I felt bad for the dumb jerk and told him I was sure my brand new suede jacket would be just fine once the Coke dried.

John and I left immediately and went straight to my house. I cried all the way home. John kissed me goodnight, which turned out to be our last kiss. I went to bed that night wearing my chocolate brown suede sixteen jacket and nothing else. It was all I needed.

When I found the sixteen jacket that morning tucked away with all the other things I never wear but can’t seem to throw out, I could smell the Hershey’s sweetness of the leather, John’s last kiss and the Coke down the front, the exhaust fumes from the borrowed Ford John drove that night, the tears and the joy. I could smell it all. I don’t remember anything ever in my whole life smelling so good.

I held it up to my nose the same way I did that Friday and I was sixteen all over again. I could feel the magic of that summer. I felt young and happy and it didn’t matter that I had a potbelly or crows feet. It didn’t matter that I would never be a Prima Ballerina. Because every Tuesday and Thursday when I put on the sixteen jacket and made my way to and from that dance class, I had a pocketful of dreams.

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The original manuscript typed in red ink on a Collegian Typewriter.

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Two Ballerinas.

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Ballerina Boo.

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Author Boo King on the left wearing the grey sweatpants.

 

 

 

 

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Not a Dream House But a House to Dream In.

The little white house around the corner.

I own a home.  Truthfully, I own it with my husband and the bank.  For the most part I don’t think about the bank partnership, except for when it comes time to renew our mortgage.  I had dreamed of owning a place on the West Coast long before it became a reality.  You might say that the day we were handed the keys to the front door was a dream come true.

Little back story.  Both my husband and I had owned homes in previous lifetimes, with our former mates.  When I was five months pregnant with my oldest daughter, my ex-husband and I bought a house.  It was brand spanking new and nestled smack dab in the middle of a cul-de-sac in an equally new suburb within walking distance of the house where I grew up. I use the term “suburb” loosely here because I’m talking about a town, not some sprawling city.  There really weren’t suburbs, just neighborhoods added to neighborhoods added to more neighborhoods until some were almost on their way out of town, like this one happened to be.  And to be honest it didn’t take much to be within walking distance of anywhere in my hometown.  For two very good reasons.  Firstly, it was considered small – not rural small but definitely on the shy side of a real bonafide city –  so walking anywhere was within distance.  Secondly, I have always had a love affair with walking, and can go the distance, at least within reason.  A trek across the country would be considered unreasonable in most people’s books, although some have ventured forth.  But that is not my idea of a good time so it won’t be happening any time soon.

That ever so brief foray into home ownership was embarked upon more for practical reason than anything else.  Nothing dreamy.  More nightmarish.  I was pregnant, full of baby hormones and hellbent on having a proper home in which to bring my new offspring.  We had been renting a small apartment (by anyone’s measurements) that was barely big enough for the family we already had.  This consisted of my ex-husband, my son and an intelligent black Persian cat named Isadora, who used to pee in the toilet, which is more than I could say about my son at the time. In his defense, he was young and I’m still prone to exaggerate the length of his potty training stage.  In my defense, I think for most young parents this chapter in childhood development feels like an eternity.  But I digress.  What’s important here, is that in my mind it was essential that we find a bigger abode.  Back then home ownership was still within everyone’s grasp.  So we saved four months worth of my wages, slapped down a downpayment and moved in.  A year later we moved to Toronto.  End of back story.

Up until 10 years ago my current husband and I were renters. (This is beginning to sound like I’ve had a string of husbands and habitations. I haven’t.  Just for the record.)  The thing about renting is it costs a lot, sometimes more than a monthly mortgage payment.  And a roof over your head aside, it does nothing for your bottom line.  We never had enough left over at the end of each month to save for a downstroke on a house.  Not that we lived beyond our means, but we did use up every bit of what was left after we paid the rent.  Then Ma died and five weeks later the Old Man followed her into the Great Hereafter.  And then a year later a miracle happened.  With a small inheritance in hand we marched to the bank and proudly declared “one mortgage please.”  It didn’t go down exactly that way, but you get the picture.

Once the mortgage amount was determined, we then knew the price range of the house we could actually purchase.  We met with a Real Estate Agent on a Friday night, chose a selection of places within our price range, and mapped out a plan for the following Sunday to “view houses.” Imagine that.  We were now people who viewed houses.  How exciting.

The next day something very serendipitous happened.  We were on our way to the grocery store when we noticed a “For Sale” sign on a house just around the corner from where we lived.  It was a cute little white house, a forty’s postwar ranch style thingamajig.  There was something familiar about it that spoke to me.  Close proximity to where we lived aside, until I saw that “For Sale” sign I hadn’t even noticed it before.  Not sure why.  Perhaps because it was so unassuming and modest that it just blended in.  We called our Real Estate Agent and asked her to add a house to the list for “viewing” the next day.

The little white house around the corner was the first house we saw.  I walked through the front door and I was home.  There it was.  No need to look any further.  After 25 years I had come home.  It was sweet.  And simple.  And dear.  Unpretentious and humble.  Full of natural light.   Round corners and wooden floors. Families had lived there. Loved there.  Prayed over evening meals and sick children, dying dogs, birds that flew the nest.  It reminded me of the house I grew up in with Ma, The Old Man and my three siblings.  It spoke to me.  This was the house I wanted to buy.  We looked at a half-dozen other places that day but it was all just a formality, the new homebuyer jig to appease the Real Estate Agent and her desire to have done her due diligence. We respected that.  But at the end of the day I declared, “Let’s put in an offer on the first house we saw, the little white house around the corner.  I liked that house.”

This little house that I live in and own with my husband and the bank wasn’t my dream home. Far from it.  This little house was not the picture I tore out of magazines and kept in scrapbooks, nor pointed at while walking with Ma, nor envied while visiting others with homes in the style that I fancied, nor was it the centerpiece of my domicile daydreams.  No, this little white house around the corner was not my dream home.  But it was something far better. It was my home to dream in.  And after ten years, I know without a doubt that it is more than I could have ever imagined.

Diaries of the Breadman’s Daughter: Every Girl Needs A Room Where She Can Dream

The Dreamer.

I have a room of my own.  Virginia Woolf would applaud this I’m sure. I’ve been blessed much of my adult life to have had such a space, a little sanctuary to call my own.  In this room, I get to be me.  Or at least the me, I imagine myself to be.  I’m a self-proclaimed dreamer.

Little back story.  Growing up I shared a bedroom with my older sister.  Not only did we share a room but much of the time we shared the same bed.  A double, which slept two rather comfortably.  Sometimes we were strange bedfellows but mostly we were amiable, considering our 8-year age difference.  The room we shared was downstairs next to our parents.  My two older brothers occupied one of the two upstairs bedrooms. The other room was our “spare” which was cold in winter but a fun place to play, and hang out with Ma while she sewed. By the time my sister moved to the West Coast and my two older brothers were both married, I had moved upstairs to their old room.  I finally had a room of my own. It was divine.

There were four things I especially liked about this room.  The slanted ceilings, the small attic door next to the closet, the brick chimney next to the door, and the wooden vent on the floor that you could peer down and see into the living room. There was something enthralling about these four details that captured my imagination.  I loved to poke around in the attic which was dark and musty and contained the usual things like Christmas ornaments, dance costumes, childhood artwork, old toys and a broken lamp or two.  But what was most beguiling was the possibility that buried deep within all this family memorabilia and junk was some mis-placed and forgotten treasure.  The vent was both scary and practical.  Scary because there was the possibility (although slim) of falling through it and practical because I could drop little notes down to Ma while she was sitting on the couch watching Ed Sullivan. I don’t recall what these messages to Ma said but most likely they were requests for food or drink.

Ma always made our home look lovely.  She didn’t have much to work with financially but what she lacked in cash, she made up for in imagination.  She just had a knack for this sort of thing and like most women of her time took care of “the decorating.”  I use this term loosely because no one spoke that way back then, at least not regular folks like Ma and The Old Man.  Decorating meant Ma made things for the house – curtains, table cloths, pillows.  She sewed and embroidered.  The furniture and appliances were bought on time at Sears or Eaton’s.  We weren’t poor but we were also a few miles from the middle of middle class.  Everyone in our neighborhood was, so it didn’t really matter.  At least not to me.

When it came to my room, Ma graciously handed over the decorating torch and without any strings attached either.  I was given free rein to do whatever my heart desired.  So I did.  I plastered the walls with rock posters and my kitschy-coo personal art.  The Old Man painted the chimney white which became the perfect blank canvas for my poetry, lyrics from folk musicians like Dylan and Leonard Cohen, pithy quotes by the pop psychologists of the day.  “If you love something set it free.  If it comes back, it yours.  If it doesn’t, it never was.”  I somehow found this to have deep meaning back then.  It just baffles me now.  Somehow we came into possession of an over-stuffed antique maroon velvet tub chair that had worn arms and smelled bad.  We put this in the corner for me to curl up in and read.  I had a desk that overlooked our driveway and stared directly into our neighbors upstairs window.  Thankfully they kept their curtains closed allowing us both the privacy we needed and me with the added blessing of natural light. I also had a record player, and by then a fairly decent collection of LPs which I played continuously.  Everything from The Beatles and the Rolling Stones to Dylan and Joan Baez.  From Rock to Folk, Motown to Blue Eyed Soul. This music comprised the soundtrack of my life.  It was the fire beneath my dreams and it fueled my creative passion.

It was in this little room at the top of a wartime house in the middle of small blue collar town where my dreaming wanderlust began.  I read books and dreamed of becoming a novelist.  I played rock music and dreamed of becoming a musician.  I made my own clothes and dreamed of becoming a fashion designer.  I scribbled poems on brick chimneys and dreamed of becoming a poet. I danced in my pajamas and dreamed of becoming a ballerina.  I doodled on albums and dreamed of becoming an artist. I gazed out at the stars and dreamed of flying.  I cuddled a dog named Sugar Miettinen and dreamed of becoming a mother. I had a typewriter and dreamed of using words to transform lives. I looked down at the street below and dreamed of a life outside of this room and wondered how I would get there.

And here I am.  Thousands of miles and many years away.  In this room, I write novels and blogs.  Play my guitar and write songs.  I sing to myself and dance like a wild woman. I gaze out the window at a sweet little pond and a garden full of Garry Oak trees, and I am in awe.  Full of wide-eye wonder and gratitude. I’m eternally grateful to Ma and The Old Man for giving me that first room and for allowing me a place to plant the very seeds that my dreams were made of.

Here in this room, I am becoming the woman of my dreams.