How The Not So Mighty Have Fallen – A Confession

I have always considered myself a reader and for a very long time I have known that I am a literary snob.  As a young child in school I loved to sign out the Richard Scarry anthology because I loved how big it was.  I adored the Little House on the Prairie series and I refused to watch the t.v. show as I knew that it could not live up to the books.  To this day there are very few movies that I will see if they are based on a book that I like.  When we were house hunting I could not help but check out what was on the bookshelves.  When I was in university I would surreptitiously glance around me on the subway to see what my fellow commuters were reading.  If I spotted a Daniel Steele novel I had an icky feeling the rest of the day.  My minor in French exposed me to one of my favourite authors, Balzac and to the most beautiful book ever written, Les Miserables.  I adore George Elliot for Daniel Deronda alone.  As much as I like Dickens I read him holding my breath waiting for the anti-semitic slur that seems to appear in each of his novels.  I loved A Suitable Boy so much that I read it in order and out of order and then I wrote a letter to the author and he answered me.  Great literature moves me.  My husband can always tell when I’m reading a novel by Timothy Findley as he always puts me in a funk.   I’ve sworn off Timothy Findley.  Nobody does weird and sensitive like John Irving.  I think that Nicole Krauss may have written one of the most beautiful novels ever when she wrote A History of Love.  I don’t think I could read another book for a month after I finished that one.  I seem to be rambling here, that’s what books do to me.

My first date with my husband was almost our only date as at the time I was reading Solzhenitsyn and I think Papa Bear may have found me pretentious not to mention that I think he was somewhat aghast that I was unaware of Solzhenitsyn’s anti-semitic views.  Although this entry is not about our date let me just add that the fact that we went to see Fatal Attraction and I said that Glenn Close had a point (I meant regarding culpability) did nothing to light any sparks between us.

After we had our first child I did not read for a year, I was barely able to focus on t.v. commercials.  Of course this did not last but that wasted year still makes me a little sad. So many books, so little time.  I have developed a strong love of Canadian fiction.  I find that Canadian authors write very succinctly.  My days of Proust are long gone.  I don’t want any detail that is not relevant to the story.  Tell me a great or a witty or a beautiful tale but don’t bother telling me about the sunlight glistening off the dew on the green spring buds.  I don’t care.  I want a great story.

Here comes the confession (believe it or not my book snobbery is not the confession).  I’ve been reading trash lately.  A lot of trash.  I blame my i-Pad.  Papa Bear lovingly got me one for my birthday thinking that the Kindle app would be just the thing for me.  Books in Canada are very expensive although the price has come down somewhat recently and our bookshelves are overflowing.  Many Amazon e-books are not available in Canada.  What the hey? Trashy books are cheap, plenty available, sometimes the dialogue is very witty and believe me there’s no extraneous detail.

I need a literary intervention.  I have headed down a dark and scary road that may well lead to my ruin.

 

Just Call Me Lola

I think that I had my mid-life crisis  about six years ago.  You know, the whole what have I done with my life, existential woe is me, raising my children just doesn’t cut it kind of thing.  Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.  I am over that.  I get the importance of what I do.  Even if there is no weekly pay check to tell me how important I am the very fact that I can’t go to the washroom without someone looking for me tells me that what I do is important to my family.  A pay check would be nicer, but I’ll take what I’ve got.

So here’s the thing,  I feel like I want change.  No, I want CHANGE.  Maybe it has to do with my attention span – not the longest.  Or maybe it’s a premenopausal kind of thing (and yes my doctor told me that I am PRE menopausal).  I want an adventure.  I want us to go somewhere and start all over again.  Did I say us?  I guess I don’t want so much change.  We have to go somewhere that has good public schools, good universities, where the kids won’t have too much trouble making friends, where my husband can work-I know that he will not want to start over again, but this is my fantasy.  Somewhere that the weather is not too hot. Forget the tropics.  Forget the States I love our government and our somewhat socialist system ( I just lost any American readers that I may have). We need to go somewhere that my kids will be safe.  Sorry, but I don’t trust the anti-semitism in Europe (I just lost any European readers).  That leaves good old Canada.  The west coast is too expensive and the east coast while being my favourite place to visit in the summer has winter weather that I don’t want to deal with.  Everywhere in between is well, in between.  That leaves Ontario.  I grew up in Toronto and have fallen out of love with it.  It’s too much.  Too much everything (did I just lose any family that reads this?).  So I guess that this is where I’ll stay.  Close enough to those I love and far enough from the daily headache.

What can I change?  I cut my hair off in the summer before Israel.  I don’t know why I try to grow it every couple of years – oh yeah, that change thing.  I coloured it differently for fall, darker and more red just like the leaves : )  I’ve started running again, even meeting the girls at the Y on Tuesday mornings (we’ll see how long that lasts).  The only thing left is my name.  I have a perfectly fine 1960’s kind of name.  If you knew it I bet you could think of at least 5 other women in my age range with the same name.  I think I want to be Lola.  Lola is fun.  Lola is a little sexy.  Lola does NOT check for lice in strange kids’ hair. Lola’s husband looks at her with a dazzled, ‘I can’t believe I was lucky enough to get her’ look on his face every time she walks into a room.  Lola’s kids know how lucky they are to have this exciting vivacious woman for their very own mother.  Lola’s friends are thrilled to see her because they know the fun begins when she’s around. Lola does not have to be a show girl does she?  Can’t Lola be a mom?  This Lola can.  Lola is not afraid of heights, enclosed spaces, something happening to her family, the decline of the world, the rise in anti-semitism, kids getting to bed on time and waking up on time or anything else for that matter.  Lola is a force to be reckoned with.  A fun force to be reckoned with.

Crikey,  (Lola says crikey) I think I have to stop reading trashy novels and have a girls’ weekend or something.

Happy Birthday Enya

To me the very best thing about being the youngest child in a family is the gift of being an aunt when I was still single and able to focus all of my love and attention on my wonderful niece.

When my middle sister was born my eldest sister was told that this was her baby to help take care of, to protect and to love.  My middle sister was told the same thing about me.  I always knew that I would get my turn when my eldest sister had her first child.  My niece was born on a Tuesday night when I was in first year university.  I remember it so clearly – not the birth itself as I wasn’t there – but I remember phoning during the break from my 3 hour night class and I found out that my sister
had finally given birth to a beautiful baby girl.  I say finally because my niece was a
full 4 weeks overdue and my sister had been induced twice.  My niece continues to
light up a room when she makes an entrance.  At that time, I was too excited to go
back to class and although it was too late to get to the hospital I had to get home to
share in our family’s joy.  The next day I got to see her and she was even more
beautiful than I could imagine.  Holding her was like nothing I had ever felt before.  
Her beauty and innocence warmed me to my core.  And oh, that wonderful baby
smell!

Long before my own children, my niece taught me that there is nothing like the feel of the wind in your hair as you sit on a swing, that if you love someone you should run at her with your arms open wide every time you see her, and that if you love someone enough you’ll do whatever she wants you to, even if it means sitting in a hot car in the summer while she pretends to drive (again and again). Most importantly she taught me that if you give love unconditionally it is given right back to you and that if you’re lucky enough the relationship can last a lifetime.

Happy birthday Enya I have had the privilege of watching you grow into a loving, thoughtful and strong woman who fills us all with warmth and pride whenever we see your smiling face.

Thank you Big Shvester and Accountant Man for always letting me come over to share in your joy even when you were probably quite sick of all of the family.

I make no apologies for the sappiness of this post.

Virtual Relationships With Strangers

I love blogging.  I love having a creative outlet for my thoughts and an opportunity to write.  I have a friend who lives in Israel.  We have kept in touch by writing to each other since our Ulpan ended in the spring of ’85.  Over the years I have enjoyed this exchange of thoughts and letters more than I can say.  Snail mail changed to email and our exchanges have become even more succinct.

Enter blogging, a form of pen palling to the world (or to the very few who read me).  I love reading blogs, knowing what other regular people think about and care about.  Sometimes the blogs I read make me laugh, sometimes they may make me cry and sometimes they offer the comfort of the knowledge that other people are facing the same challenges and experiences that I am.  These challenges may be handled better than I handle them and I can learn from these virtual strangers. On occasion, I may have the answers to the bloggers questions.  I am a big lurker.  I have revealed myself to a few bloggers, always in private emails.  It’s a very strange situation.  By reading these blogs over years I feel that I know these people, yet for the most part they have no idea of my existence.  I feel like a Peeping Tom with permission.  I form attachments and care about these people who are oblivious of me.

This summerI was blessed with the opportunity to meet a blogger who has amazed me with her strength, spirituality, energy, and infinite capabilities as a mother.  When I was in Israel I got to spend an hour with RivkA over at Coffee and Chemo in her home.  We talked about our families.  She tried to convince me to make Aliyah with my family.  Is there anything more Israeli than that?  I mostly asked questions and listened as I knew that this was a rare opportunity.  Once her youngest daughter came home I was lucky enough to speak with her a little bit as well.  I watched RivkA’s focus shift to her daughter.  I know that I am a good mother, but there are times that I feel I could use a gentle reminder of my priorities.  I hold the image of RivkA with her daughter as that reminder.

As I stand here on the outside peeping in, my thoughts and wishes for a peaceful healing are with RivkA and her family.

 

 

The Very Best Season

I adore Autumn.  It is my favourite season.  I love winter and now that I have constant access to a lake I also love summer.  Spring, not so much.  Spring is a misfit season.  The first part of it smells like unthawing dog droppings and then it’s suddenly too hot.  Not much of a transition: winter, dog poop and then summer all wrapped up in the name of spring. It’s a hard season to dress for.  The sun is bearing down on you and the snow banks are still melting, not exactly sandal weather but too hot for socks and shoes.  Too warm for a jacket but too wet not to have one.

Fall is the perfect transitional season.  First off there is the incredible beauty of the leaves.  This to me is mother nature at her designing best.  All of the colours work so well together.  Granted, summer is  a riot of colour as well, but it’s possible to see red flowers growing next to purple ones.  It’s just too jarring.  The subtlety of colour placement should not be left up to people, to gardeners yes, but not to just anybody who can walk into a nursery and buy orange oriental poppies to plant next to pink impatiens. I’ve never experienced the beauty of the fall trees and thought, “Who planted those trees next to each other, what a mistake!”

Then there is the smell of fall.  How I love the way fall smells!  It’s as though nature has put out a giant bowl of the most beautiful and subtle potpourri.  There’s also the added bonus of the first fires of the season.  Is there anything more comforting than standing outside on a cool fall day and getting a whiff of smoke from someone’s chimney?  This to me smells of the warmth and the love that is home.

I admit the rain is not so great, but it’s cool enough that the rainwear does not make you uncomfortably hot.  You also know that it will pass and after the rain there exists the possibility  of a temperate day that we can only dream of in the freezing depths of winter.

The falling leaves are another pleasure.  They flutter so gracefully to the ground and yet they present no driving hazards.  They add a delicious spookiness to the season.  Am I the only one who gets caught unaware as the fluttering of a leaf through a window catches the corner of my eye?  When out walking or jogging I hear the theme music to the Halloween movies, heightening my senses and putting a deliciously spooky spin on everything.   We survive the Halloween season and the death of summer, stronger and ready to brave whatever winter may throw our way.

Fall is also the perfect length.  I get bored of seasons, even summer.  I long for the change the next season will bring.  Fall comes and goes in the blink of an eye, leaving me wanting more.  It’s a rare thing to be left wanting more in our world of self-gratification.

So, thank you autumn for all the gifts you bring.

Is It Really Normal?

Sometimes I don’t recognize myself. I’m not speaking physically, I mean that there are times that I have thoughts that I never expected to have. They make me feel so much older and middle aged than I usually feel. But, undeniably they are my true feelings.

Not to get up on a soap box or anything (let’s face it this blog is exactly my personal soap box) but I worry about the decline of our civilization. I am torn by two conflicted feelings, one being that we are so much better off than we were in the repressive fifties (no vacuuming in pearls and high heels for me) and the other being that I wish that we could return to the innocence of that era – and yes I do know that the innocence was greatly illusory.

There are times, many of them, when I feel that the pendulum has swung too far and I fear that we may get whacked in our collective head when it swings back. Where does this come from? It’s not just one thing it’s all the little things stacked on top of one another: thong underwear, seeing strangers butt cracks in low riding jeans, skanky clothing for young girls, foul language in public in front of women and children, violent video games where murder is the goal (think every kind of warfare), road rage, music that seems more angry and hateful than poetic and soulful. No, I don’t think it’s that damn Rock and Roll out to destroy morality but something weird has been going on. Up feels like down and wrong seems to be right.

Maybe this is just normal, every generation has felt that the next one is going to hell in a hand basket but what if it really is true this time?