Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Till It’s Gone.

4 Kings on a Wall

This morning

While I was sitting here drinking coffee

In the silent stillness and stifling solitude

Of my writing space

My mind drifted lazily

Back

To when I was a young woman

And my two oldest kids were still my kids

The time of two cats in the yard

Where everything was loud and noisy

Gritty and grating at times.

 

I was obsessed

With cleaning up my messy life

Which was actually

A deliciously divine messy life

But I didn’t know it at the time.

 

You see

Back then I believed

My messy life wasn’t good

And certainly not

Interesting

Beautiful

Virtuous

Or worthy.

 

It didn’t fit

Into the glossy pages

Of a coffee-table magazine

I would never ever be

Wife or mother of the year

But oh how I longed

For that impossible

That implausible

That unattainable

Distinction.

 

I thought

So foolishly

It’s laughable now

That this messiness was a problem

This glorious domestic chaos

And magnificent uproarious thunder

Racket and tumult

This callow tender tackiness

Of everyday life

Was something to be fixed.

Aimee + Tom Xmas

Halloween Aimee the Crayon + glum Tom

Halloween Aimee the Crayon

Polaroid Pictures Mom + T + A

Polaroid Pictures T + A Xmas

Tom + Aimee + Oona + DeeDee in Orange Chair

Tom + Aimee + the TO Gang

tom + aimee on bikes

Tom + Aimee on the steps of 402 Northcliffe

tom + aimee with cats

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

the 16 jacket

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.

IMG_2264

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

538184_10150612920401644_371394603_n (1)

Two Ballerinas.

Boo Ballerina (1)

Ballerina Boo.

240683_10150196325046644_430415_o (1)

Author Boo King on the left wearing the grey sweatpants.

 

 

 

 

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: This is The Man we all Love.

Sitting in the window of an abandoned farmhouse.

I have written a lot posts for all the magnificent Girl Warriors in my life.  My strong, fierce and beautiful daughters, grand daughter, daughter-in-law and the original warrior, Ma. Plus all the others, near and dear to me.  All glorious inspirational women.

I also have a son.  He is equally magnificent in my eyes.  Yet in many ways he’s a mystery to me.  A charming and perplexing enigma.  Perhaps it’s because he’s a boy and at the end of the day I must admit that I don’t fully understand the male species.

I was young when he came into the world.  So was he.  In truth, we grew up together.  He has taught me much since that wondrous day when I looked into his dark raisin eyes for the very first time.  I am eternally grateful for all the learning through the years. Even the difficult stuff.  I’ve probably learned more through those experiences than from the easy breezy butterfly days.

So many rights of passage we shared.  The holding close.  And the letting go.  All those milestones.  From the first step.  To the walk across the stage to receive his degree.  Everything in between.  Proud mother moments.  Heartbreaks and heroics.  Flights of fancy and family ties.  Unbreakable bonds.  Love is born.  And grows eternal in this mother-son relationship.

He stands shoulder to shoulder with the three other good men who I love dearly.  My strong and gentle big brother, my solid husband and my complicated father.  Each seemingly different.  At least on the exterior.  At once complex and full of mystifying layers.  Yet also sublimely straightforward and uncomplicated.  Always sincere.  Forthright.  Honest.  Kind.  They are the faces of strength, courage and tenderness in my often anxious world.

The 10 Steps to Becoming the Man We All Love:

The Old Man was so delighted with his grandson.

1. Be your own man. Authentic. Genuine. 100% bona fide you. The real thing.  Don’t be an impostor.  Nor live a vicarious life.  Grab a hold of what matters to you.  Put on your own jersey.  Strap on your own skates.   Play the game you love.  Not someone else’s.  Be an original.  A maverick.  The natural.  Always be the guileless boy who looks at the world with wide-eyed wonder.  Forever rub your hands together with glee and pure joy.  Be the spontaneous boy. And the solid man.  Work with your full range of emotions.  Express yourself completely.  Thoroughly.  Freely.  And if a tear falls. Let it.

2. Be brave-hearted.  Stand tall.  Stare down your fears.  Look them straight in the eyes.  Laugh at them.  Call their bluff.  Walk right through them.  Don’t go around.  Don’t avoid.  Face them head-on. Know that all courageous men have fears. Life is scary sometimes. For all of us.  Don’t be a victim.  Instead be valorous.  Do no shrink.   Roar.  Hoot and howl.  Feel the fear and get on with it.  There are no boogeymen under the bed.  No monsters hiding in the closet. Myths.  False emotions appearing real.  That’s all.  And always remember that you are far bigger than your fears.

My big brother with my nephew and my son sharing a cuddle.

3. Get a real kick out of life.  Have fun.  Find things that amuse and delight you.  Not just once and awhile.  But every day.  Don’t put it off for the weekend.  For vacation.  Or another time.   Play right now.  Cause a ruckus.  Bang on your drum all day.  Shake your tambourine.  Laugh your guts out.  Make a fool of yourself. Embrace happiness.  Enjoy the people you’re with right this very second.  Surround yourself with the lighthearted ones who put a smile on your face.  Take delight in every minute of this life you are given.

4. Be a loving man. And you will be loved.  Guaranteed.  More than you could ever imagine or dream. Open your heart wide and let in the love.  Don’t run from it.  Strong men have the guts to be tender.  Kind.  Compassionate.  Be a Gentle Ben.  Tom, Dick or Harry.  And remember, love isn’t always perfect.  Accept that sometimes it will hurt.  That’s okay.  Don’t let this frighten you. Don’t push it away.  Or turn your back.  Don’t give up on it. Love refines your heart and grows your compassion muscle.  Most importantly, learn to recognize love when it comes your way.  It doesn’t always come gift wrapped.  It may be completely different from what you had in mind.  Better even. In fact, the best thing that ever happened to you.

The proud uncle with his lookalike niece.

5. Find your tribe.  Your band of sisters and brothers. The ones where you fit in.  Belong. Feel at home with.  For these will be your family.  Some related by blood.  Others by the heart.  Surround yourself with people you trust, respect and enjoy.  You don’t have to always agree. You don’t even have to always get along.  But these are the faithful ones. Loyal. Steadfast. And true.  The ones who will be there for you.  With you.  By your side.  Through thick and thin. The ones who have your back.  Who pick you up when you fall. Help you find your way home in the dark.  They’re with you no matter what. No questions asked.  No doubt about it.

6. Follow your passions and the things that make you want to get up in the morning.  Jazzed and ready to go.  Have big dreams.  They don’t cost any more than the small ones. Your life will be so much richer for it.  Do the things that you love to do first.  And everything else will fall into place. Be enthusiastic.  Get psyched.  Pumped.   Gung-ho.  Embrace new ideas and ways of doing the things you already know. Be creative.  Imaginative. Take the magical mystery tour of discovery.  Go on an adventure.  Expand. Grow. Cultivate. Hone. Take risks. Embrace the failures on the way to your successes.  Learn and move on.

My son with “his lady” in Scotland on the adventure of their lives.

7. Be generous and magnanimous of spirit. With everything and everybody.  Don’t be stingy.  Don’t withhold. Don’t hang onto things.  Never covet. Give of what you have.  What you know.  Give a little. Or a lot.  But give. This isn’t necessarily about money.  Nor material things. It can be. Nothing wrong with that. If you’ve got it.  Give it.  But it’s also about giving of yourself.  Your time.  Your energy.  The natural gifts you came into the world with.  Take every opportunity to share these with others.  The more you do, the bigger you will be.  This will make you happier than anything you ever imagined.  For the more you give, the more you receive.

8. Be honest.  A man of your word.  Don’t make promises you can’t keep.  Nor intend to.  Be a man of integrity.  Honorable. Upstanding. Someone you can rely on.  Depend on.  Be the good guy who shows up.  Even in the stickiest of situations.  Know that when you shake on something that you are doing more than pressing flesh.  You are giving your word.  Your bond.  Don’t violate this sacred trust.  Respect others and you will be respected in turn.

My two lovely men standing tall at our wedding.

9. Defend and stand up for something.  Be righteous. Not self-righteous.  Find causes close to your heart.  Help those in need.  Shelter the weak.  The young.  The very old. Once you accept the challenge, don’t put conditions on who you’ll help and who you won’t.  Raise the bar on compassion.  Kindness.  Tolerance.  Embrace your fellow travelers.  Meet them eye to eye.  Carry the placard.  Wear the colors.  Pin on the badge.  But don’t force your beliefs down the throats of others. This is not a persuasive approach.  Don’t cloud the issues with misplaced anger.  This just creates mindless noise.  Be humble. Not sanctimonious.  Charitable.  Not complacent.  Be a leader when called upon.  And a follower when the time is right.  But most importantly, be a man that everyone wants in their corner.

10. Take care of yourself.  Do whatever it takes.  All the days of your life.  Not just physically.  But mentally.  And spiritually.  Do it for yourself.  And for all the people who love you.  Be active in every arena of your life.  Find your sport. Get out there and move.  Join a team.  Or go it alone.  Play hockey.  Or a round of golf.  Walk the dog.  Or chase the kids.  It’s all good.  Learn to cook and eat well. Spend time looking inwards.  Take a moment for introspection.  Meditate.  Pray.  Go for walks alone with your thoughts.  Get to know yourself.  And “to thine own self be true.”  Do these things and you will be the man we all love.

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: A Good Snow Day Trumps All.

Me and The Old Man posing in the snowy backyard.

I love a good snow day.  I always have. We had one last week.  They are pretty rare in this part of the country so when one happens it’s an ‘event.’  Not momentous like Christmas, a wedding or a milestone birthday.  But in some nonsensical way, celebratory just the same.  And if the truth be told, the amount of snow that causes a snow day on the West Coast is laughable compared to that of my wonder years.  A heavy enough frost out here can bring the city to its collective knees.  The size of the celebration is not necessarily equal to the depth of the snow either.  It’s not always relative.  I think even Einstein would agree.

When I was a kid a snow day was synonymous with no school.  That in itself was cause enough for celebration.  Nothing much has changed since then.  When my kids were younger they behaved pretty much the same way I did. Their reactions echoed those of a girl growing up in another place, another time.  Same holds true today for my grand daughter.

It pretty much goes down like this.  If you wake up to a magical and mysterious Brobdingnagian sized nighttime dump, you immediately turn to some form of authority for their take on the situation.  I’m not talking about your parents here.  I’m talking the BIG authority.  And no not God.  I’m talking the Media.  And only the local, close-to-home purveyors of news and weather will do.  Who cares what’s going on in the rest of the world when you’ve got a day full of plans to make, your life to reconfigure.  Your snow day trumps all.  Will you do the happy dance, jump for joy, slap the high five?  Or will you grit your teeth, throw on an extra sweater, button up your pioneer spirit and walk five million miles to school in this crap?  One’s emotional landscape can be turned on a dime depending on the news.  Pretty or ugly.  Which is it?  Truth is, it’s just cold precipitation and sometimes it can be pretty ugly.

Let’s say the news is cause for celebration, a paradoxical thing often occurs, whether it happened last week, last year or the last century.  The very same kids who are incapable of pulling up their bootstraps (literally) and getting themselves to school are supernaturally transformed into hardy Nordic tribesmen who charge fearlessly into the very depths of the white stuff.  Here they commune, they romp about, and play gleefully like there is no tomorrow.  And in truth there isn’t, at least not like this.  This may be it.  The one and only snow day.  The one chance to throw caution to the wind, make a snowman who bears an uncanny resemblance to Uncle Bob, fall backwards, with complete trust into the blanketed earth, to make a glorious one-of-a-kind snow angel, slide down the closest hill on a rickety wooden sleigh, broken toboggan or hunk of cardboard, have a spontaneous snowball fight, put on old leather skates, cry out to God for the sheer splendor of it all, and just let go.

Snow is seductive.  It beckons.  Calls your name.  Calls you forth.  And calls you back home. It calls a treasured daughter to a garden-sized ice rink her Old Man made in the backyard solely for her skating pleasure.  It calls out love through the years, the passage of time, from the heart of the whiteness.

Diaries of the Breadman’s Daughter: The Awesome Power in a Sweet Ride.

There were other religious influences.  They say kids are like sponges.  I don’t particularly like that analogy, for a number of reasons.  But suffice to say Bob and Square Pants, and just leave it at that.  I do think kids possess naturally open and insatiably curious minds though.  More like bottomless toy boxes that always have room for more.  Or the magicians black hat.  Rabbits and endless chiffon scarves.  Doves and other wondrous things extracted with ease.

At least that was how my young mind worked. Still does.

One of my favorite things to ponder as a child, and to this day for that matter, is God.  Such an infinite subject.  I wanted to know Him/Her. I wanted to know me.  Where I came from.  Where God came from. If God made me then who made God? I thought about that so much it made my head spin.  Still no answer. Will I ever know?

Little back story.  When I was six my oldest brother met the love of his life and the woman who would become my sister-in-law.  They were engaged for four years, which at the time seemed like an eternity to me.  Truthfully, I think it seemed like an eternity to J as well.  We both had our reasons.  I was very young and she was eager to be a blushing bride.

During those four years my brother, who once smoked unfiltered cigarettes and drove a mauve Harley Davidson, wore his black Italian hair slicked back like John Travolta in Grease and had a chipped front tooth, became a Catholic.  He did it for love. I can’t think of a better reason. My sister-in-law played an instrumental role the conversion, which was a good thing. The entire family agreed. It transformed my brother’s life, gave it purpose and made him happy, beyond his wildest imaginings.  That was my first introduction into the awesome power of God. I was a firsthand witness to a metamorphosis so rich and profound and eternal.  Undeniable.  Love taking action. All these years later, it still exists.

The Awesome Power of God Manifested in a Sweet Ride

Even though by then, The Old Man, Ma and I were attending the Lutheran Church every Sunday I still felt kind of bad.  Not quite good enough.  Compared to St. Michael and All Angels Anglican Church that the other two Musketeers attended and Corpus Cristi Catholic Church, right across the road for God’s sake, that my brother and sister-in-law were members, the Christ Lutheran Church seemed somehow second rate.  No one I knew went there.  What did they know that we didn’t? Why were the other churches up on Red River Road and ours was down on Walkover Street?  It seemed we couldn’t get anything right.

Furthermore, the Christ Lutheran Church was full of Finlanders with blonde hair, pale skin and weird accents.  The Old Man fit in nicely, being a Finlander, but my painfully shy olive-complected Italian/English mother and I were misfits.  Strangers in a strange land.  As Jim Morrison so aptly put it, “People are strange when you’re a stranger.”  That’s predominantly how I felt the entire time I attended Christ Lutheran Church.

I stopped attending when I turned 19, the year of my emancipation from organized religion.  I was very disorganized after that.

I didn’t know it at the time but I guess it was also the year I became an “Other.”