Make Work Your Favorite part 2, age 16 +

Continued from Make Work Your Favorite, part 1

Mom had been a classic Bipolar 1.  When she was pregnant or nursing, which was a lot of the time until she was age 42 and had weened Luke, she did not have symptoms of mental illness.

But, then it hit and it hit hard.

She was hospitalized with full on psychosis several times in the seventies.  I remember waking up around age six and walking around looking for mom.  No one would tell me that she had been taken to the hospital: 5C – the psyche ward. (Who would know then that in thirty years time, I would have my first big struggle with mental illness.)

She was there for weeks.  We would go visit her and it was like she was a different person.  She was in a fog.  It was heart wrenching.  I missed her so badly. I just wanted my mommy back.  I would cry myself to sleep missing her so much. She would sometimes be smoking when we visited.  smokingI couldn’t believe my eyes, not because she was smoking in a hospital but, because she was smoking period.  Mom was always careful to be healthy otherwise.  (Back then you could smoke in parts of the hospital, office buildings, on planes, name it.)

In the summer, at the lake, Mom would become more and more manic.  Her manic energy was put to good use with cleaning and maintaining the ten cabins that we moved to every summer.  Lock, stock and barrel, all nine of us would move two hours North to the camp and live on the lake all summer – running the tourist resort – as it used to be known.  It was truly beautiful there: twenty-one forested acres, half-mile of lake frontage, only two miles from a village for supplies, ten antique, rustic cabins on private lots with tall trees, most cabins on the water with their own dock and a sandy beach.

Jaden and frog

For many years we even had a diving tower and trampoline over the water.  Dad’s idea.  Dad being a teacher, had envisioned the need for a business and an escape from the city. (We would have killed each other staying in the city all summer.  No doubt about it.) It was pure genius and is one of those things I loved about my Dad.  He had these great ideas at times.

barefoot

We enjoyed idyllic summers – running around barefoot, swimming, boating, water-skiing, canoeing and socializing with all the campers.  Yes, we had work and chores, but, we were paid a bit for them and it was just a couple of hours a day.  Our summers at the camp were the envy of my friends.  In fact, many of my friends would come to the camp, either to stay with us in the office or as paying guests and stay in a cabin or tent.

scythe

In the years before Mom was on lithium to control her mental illness, I remember waking up early to find Mom’s bed empty.  She would already be out there working, fueled by the mania.  Dad was much more sedentary.  He would do all of the business-end of things: letters, bills, payments, promotions.  All this to say, that mom’s mental illness was raging on, unchecked for several years.  From readings I have done, because I too am bipolar 1 the more episodes there are the more easily an episode will occur.  The brain makes these pathways that become easier and easier to follow and so sanity slips further and further away.  So, to be fair to Dad, it could not have been easy dealing with this major impediment, especially in the days when mental illness was not one bit understood and highly stigmatized.  When Mom finally went on lithium, and stayed on lithium, things were so much better.

flowers in wheelbarrow***

This post being about jobs and work would be incomplete without this little story that took place at July’s Restaurant in the town on Eight-Mile Lake.  I worked there for five summers in a row but, I wasn’t the first in my family to work at July’s.  My eldest sister Eva had worked there a decade prior to me.  Eva would sometime recount one of her most embarrassing moments while working there.

This guy, we’ll call him, Buddy.  Well, Buddy would come into the restaurant almost daily,.  He would take a seat in the kitchen beside the coffee maker in the mid-afternoon when it wasn’t too busy.  He would just sit and chat up the kitchen staff and the servers as they would come and go from the kitchen.

So, this one day, Eva walks into the kitchen, ever friendly, upon seeing Buddy sitting there, slaps him on the back and asks him how the heck he is doing today.

That would have been all fine except that when she slapped him on the back, Buddy’s toupee went flying off his headtopee

and

landed a few feet away on the kitchen floor.

Silence.  Crickets.

With a very red face, Eva quickly grabbed the toupee off the floor.

Put it back on Buddy’s head.

Smoothed it out.

And told him: ‘You have very nice hair.’

She then, turned and walked into the dining room.

***************************************

All photos except the frog and baby are from google images.  Frog and Baby photo by Nancy Borman of Virginia, USA. Thanks again Nancy~

~Leave a comment…I Love ’em!

 

 

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Near Death Experiences

As I stand alone at the window
In search for what I cannot see
I wonder to what might show
Some of you or all about me.

This poem is a guest submission to my blog.  It was written by an old high school friend who, almost nine years ago, had a freak, totally sober accident with a patio door that, when it broke, nearly severed his arm.  He almost bled to death in front of his family.  How completely scary that at any moment, anything could happen to any of us.  Al explained to me that he had to learn to write with his other hand.  He said the body is an amazing machine.  Don’t I know it, Al.  Our bodies do so much for us and walk us on this Earth.  Al said he didn’t start writing poetry because of the accident, but, that his poetry became much deeper and intuitive because of it. Here’s his poem.

A Poem By:   Allan Edward (Po Po) Kinsella

 S E A R C H I N G – H I D I N G  B E H I N D  O F  M Y S E L F

 

As I stand all alone at the window

In search for what I cannot see

I wonder to what might show

Some of you or all about me.

 

I often will hide what I’m thinking

Or disguise it with something else

When in reality it is simple

I’m hiding behind of myself.

 

The sun and the moon I do turn too

For answers I simply can’t find

The thoughts and tears of a lifetime

Once left in a time way behind.

 

I realize the answers not out there

Not found in the moments gone by

To find them I need to stop searching

And look in the mirror inside.

 

AL
Al in high school

So, lately, I was looking through some old yearbooks and came across this adorable picture of Al. An old friend from high school in a place three provinces away.  I always liked Al.  Everyone likes Al.  Such an easy going, nice person.  Because I reached out to him, due to this picture, he is now going to bring out his poetry to be read by others.

You GO Al!

Leave a comment about your near death experience (or one from someone close to you).  Did it change you?  Did you learn something?  Tell me…I love it!

RMC, Comox and Borden Oh My ~ Army Part 3

Leaving Roads in second year finds me flailing until Logistics Training a year later.
It was worth it…

Come the summer of ’87, after first year at Royal Roads Military College, it was time to take French courses at Royal Military College (RMC) in Kingston, Ontario. RMC is set on several areas with significant lake frontage and several huge piers on Lake Ontario. That summer was a lot of fun. Being in the city of Kingston was exciting and the summer sun would see us laying out on the big docks on campus and running and jumping off the piers and swimming in Lake Ontario.

That was the summer my friend and I met a couple of guys while driving on the 401 to Toronto. Communications were done not by cell phone, which were almost nonexistent, but at high-speed via black sharpies and large note pads. Writing greetings and then holding them up to the window for the fellas in the nearby car to read. We ended up asking them, by note, to meet us in downtown Toronto at Mr. Green Jeans restaurant in the Toronto Eaton’s Centre. They made it! And, we had a chatty dinner with them: Doug and J.R.. Afterward, we went to the Hard Rock Café until my bus was ready to depart for Walden.

J.R. and I ended up seeing each other all summer, but, alas, then it was time for me to go back to Victoria, BC. Interestingly, he was a southern lad and an Infantry lieutenant in the US Army and was stationed across the border from Kingston in Fort Drum near Watertown, NY.  I’ll never forget the fun of how we met.  So random.  So different.

Second year began at Royal Roads Military College (RRMC). But, my heart was not in it. I didn’t enjoy the academics. Most of my Profs were mind-numbingly boring or struggled with the English language, even my English prof.  (To be fair, I did really like my Chemistry and History profs). It was not how I wanted to spend my time. I asked to be entered into the program allowing a cadet to go straight into a career posting. I got it, but it was not until the following year. I was told I would become an Army Logistics Officer and that training would begin in October 1988 in Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Borden, Ontario.

Okay great, but, what would happen to me for the year???

For several months I was put to work in the Castle. Hatley Castle at RRMC. Severely boring work, just managing paper and simple tasks. I had to do quite a bit of photocopying and would inevitably run into this same civilian woman who had been working there for decades. She would coldly ask me every time I saw her: ‘So….you’re still here are ya?’

Hmmm. Thanks.  I would not speak for fear of crying.  It was so mean.  Her cold and judgmental attitude. It’s not like I wasn’t already feeling like a fish out of water.  I would just nod and smile, not daring to open my mouth.

Mt Washington

In the winter, the best thing to happen was that I was sent on a week-long ski trip to Mount Washington with several others working in the castle as well as some members from CFB Esquimalt.  Classified as ‘Adventure Training’ so all expenses covered.  After unpacking our gear in our quarters, a bunch of us went out to a pub and shared jugs of beer and danced and danced and danced.  It was going to be a good week.  And it was.  I was so needing that week away and outlet in exercise and fresh air with a fun group.  The skiing was incredible with tons of fresh white stuff and ‘The Black Chair’ pub at the end of the day where we would gather to share snacks and beer and just shoot the shit.

CFB ComoxAfter a couple months, I was sent to CFB Comox, BC, up island, for administration support at the Air Traffic Control Tower. That was interesting. Ironically, the best thing about it was learning how to use a new word processor called Word Perfect. That came in handy later.

One time, at the mess (which is like a pub but only for Officers), I was fortunate enough to be in the company of the highly skilled Snowbird Team still dressed in their flight suits.  We shared a few drinks, played darts and made jokes.  One joke that I made was about my colourful vest.  That it looked rather like I had ‘killed’ my couch.  The beer helped make that one funny.  They laughed, just to be nice.

snowbirds

I began playing on a slow pitch team and met some good folks. One of them was Stevie. Steve was a lumberjack up in Tofino. He was also an avid mountain biker. He and his buddy and I would go on mountain biking day trips to Denman and Hornby Islands. Challenging trails but extremely fun too. Stevie taught me all about mountain biking. I entered a 75 k race over a hill on a logging road. It was a sweaty experience and my ass was sore for days.

Suddenly, it was time to go East for training in logistics.

biking

I bought a new little car: a 1988 Chevrolet Sprint, 3 cylinder. I began the journey across Canada, stopping each night in a flea-bitten crap motel advertising colour tv, my ass sore and my eyes glazed over from the miles and miles of the day. It took me six days to arrive in Leeford, Ontario at my eldest sister Eva’s house. I scared the living be-jesus out of her walking into the house unannounced and finding her concentrating on something with her back to me. She was so happy to see me, jumping up and down, screaming, crying and hugging me. No kidding. We Players take our greetings seriously. She wanted to know how long I could stay. I told her about heading to Borden for a course the next day. I could stay only one night. It was a nice time and we caught up on all the news.  I saw her again on various weekends and usually with a friend.

It was a couple of hours drive to Base Borden where I started my clearing in process: getting the key to my barrack room mainly. Classes started the very next morning for the Basic Logistics Officers Course.

The first person I met on the course is now my husband.

I walked into the training building out of the rain on that chill October morning and shrugged out of my army issue trench coat.  With my right hand, I reached up to hang it on a hook, one of many along the corridor.  Just as I did so, my gaze shifted left and my eyes met those of a new classmate.  He smiled and said, ‘Hi’.

I saw stars.  I literally saw stars.

I was instantly in love with this very good looking dark haired, green-eyed man who was grinning handsomely and looking down at me as his left hand reached to hang his coat.

I floated into class.

Later we had an English grammar test and He achieved a perfect score. I knew then that it was Him.

The one!

He was gorgeous, sweet, gentle and intelligent. When I saw him kick a soccer ball, I swooned. It was poetry in motion.  I began to pray…

Next:  Army Part 4

All photos except this tank are from google images.

Leave a comment…or, I’ll hunt you down!!

My Flute Playing Friend (age 17)

‘The greatest gift in life is friendship, and I have received it.’

~Hubert H. Humphrey

via Daily Prompt: Trill

When I was a teen, I played flute in the church choir.  My close friend, Harris, was a loyal church-goer and she asked me to join her.  We would play duets, or she would play solo and I would be able to turn the pages for her.  She was much more talented than I but, nevertheless, if we were both there, of course we would be trying to make each other laugh the whole time. Some of the hymns we loved were: Be Not Afraid and Like a Sunflower.  A song that still floats through my mind today when I am in the garden with my sunflowers.sunflower

Sometimes, while sitting in the choir area of the church beside Harris, way over to the left side of the altar, my mind would flit back to when I was a little girl in the choir of the Saturday Evening Folk Masses of the 1970s.  My eldest sister Eva, with her amazing soprano voice, her leadership and enthusiasm for music, would lead the whole congregation through folk songs like: Here We Are; and Kumbaya and Jesus is a Soul Man.  She would be right up front of the pews.  Her long, straight hair flicking from side to side as she would stride around motioning to the congregation to sing louder and stronger, tapping her tambourine on her leg.  The guitars strumming wildly.  Pride would be welling up through my little body as I sat in awe of my teenage sister.  Those folk masses were powerfully spiritual and I will never forget them.  Sadly, almost half a century later, my beloved sister Eva, for some unknown neurological reason, completely lost her hearing and consequently a god given talent – her ability to sing soprano.  It was a bitter pill to swallow for all of us who love her but, My God, especially for her.  Thankfully, a few years later, Eva was fitted with a Cochlear Implant but, she will tell you, it is not the same as hearing with your own ears and her ability to sing has been diminished almost completely.  Eva has told me that her voice no longer sounds like her own.  Tragic!

I digress….

One of the musical moves with a flute is a trill.  It is rapid alternation between two notes. I learned that in music class. Because of music class, in which we were seated beside each other, and because Harris was not the typical 19-year old, we become friends even though she was two years my senior.  We hit it off instantly and had so many fun times and laughs together.  On a daily basis we would find something to laugh about and double over with the hilarity of it. Like the name I have chosen for her in this story.  We were standing by her locker in the East wing of North High School when she told me about a classmate who called her ‘Harris’ by mistake.  From then on, she was ‘Harris’.  We would giggle every time it was said.  She had this wonderful sense of humour, and still does, I am sure.

She too was from a large family – I’m fairly certain her family wasn’t any where near as crazy as mine, though.  At the time we were friends, I was living down the basement of our bungalow with my Dad, with the upstairs rented out to strangers.  My Mom had moved into an apartment with my little brother, Luke, and her alcoholic boy-friend, Earl-the-Pearl.  I hated my home life with a great deal of passion.  I would arrive at the house with a sense of dread upon entering.  Ok, that is just wrong.  It was a messed-up way to live.  Consequently, Harris, and her wonderfully stable family were very important to me.  I spent a lot of time with her and them that year.  At one point I even dated her younger brother and we would all three hang out and sometimes their younger brother, Peer too, playing charades and the new game: Trivial Pursuit, which they were good at.  Really good.

We did some very fun things together.  One time, we canoed down a river near Walden.  Her Dad dropped us off and picked us up at the other end hours later – something my Dad would not dream of doing.  If it wasn’t about hockey, forget it.  That canoe trip was a very special time for me.  I loved that day with Harris and and her brother Fred.  They had a way of making me feel like a special person to them.  They knew how to treat me like a good friend.  I cherished them.

The school put on the musical Anything Goes that year and Harris and I were chorus members and dancers together.  We had an absolute blast with this.  During part of the dance, I had to pick her up and swing her from one of my hips to the other.  Try doing that without cracking up a few times. That musical turned out fantastically.  I remember my Dad was very skeptical about it.  He said I was wasting too much time on it.  Well, he came to opening night, sat in the front row and laughed his head off.  His booming laughter spurned others on and so the whole house was dying with laughter the whole night.  My Dad and I share the love of laughter, for sure.

gunnel

Harris and Fred came up to the camp that summer.  They showed me how to gunnel-bob.  Two of us standing on the gunnels, or the ends, of the canoe and then taking turns bending knees to make the canoe move down, then up in the water until one of you falls in.  Oh my.  That was so fun!  We had a party in number eight cabin and although harmless, it got a bit loud.  Dad kicked Harris and Fred out of the camp the next day.  I was furious and sorely, blackly disappointed, not to mention embarrassed.  To this day, I really think Dad may have just simply been jealous of my friendship with these wonderful people.

The following year, Harris went away to University and although I would see her from time to time, it just never was the same.  I was progressing into a more and more dysfunctional evolution of myself.  I see now, that it wasn’t my fault.  I was a teen-child and I wasn’t supported.  Rather I was controlled and criticized and worse.

I will never forget the year that Harris and I were inseparable friends.  She was a god-send.

(All photos courtesy of google images)

Leave a comment!  I love ’em.  ~M

on hill

My Mil Col Experience (age 20) ~ Army Part 2

I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself.

D.H. Lawrence

The word came down that after Basic Training, I would be going to Royal Roads Military College outside of Victoria, BC. I was told that the first month, or, ‘Recruit Term’ would be very difficult, but, that I should stay positive and it would pass quickly.  ‘Difficult’ was a gross understatement: Recruit Term was hell on earth. I cried myself to sleep every night.

RRMCA typical day of Recruit Term began with pounding rock music at 5:30 am. The wake-up song for our flight was April Wine’s What a Night. What a Night starts with a fire alarm bell mounted on a cymbal stand being rang at a fast pace. It truly was the perfect harsh sound to get the heart racing and the panic started for the drills of the day. We had until the end of the song to be up, dressed, toileted, bed made and ‘layout’ ready for inspection. Everything in the room had to be prepared to specific, exacting standards. For instance, our uniform shirts had to be folded to exactly 25 x 30 cm, ironed and TAPED into our top drawer. Socks had to be rolled into a tight little ball, in a specific manner that we were shown and TAPED into the drawer. Same with pants. Boots and leather gators had to be polished and spit-shone to a high-gloss. We had three uniforms in our closet which had to have all buttons done up and all lint removed and hanging exactly two inches apart with all sleeves perfectly positioned. The problem was, there was absolutely no free-time to do these things. So, we did them in the middle of the night and we were all quite sleep deprived already from basic training.

After morning inspection, we were run, that is: we ran over to the next building to the mess hall for breakfast where we would try to choke down some food but we were constantly being screamed at and ‘steadied up’ by our superiors.

‘RECRUIT, DON’T YOU KNOW THAT YOU ARE NOT TO USE YOUR LEFT HAND TO EAT YOUR TOAST??! STEADY UP WHEN I ADDRESS YOU.’

At this point, with his face millimeters from mine, and he breathing terribly hard, hot breath, I would have to sit at attention with arms straight down my sides and with tight fists say, ‘YES MR MAYLOR. NO MR MAYLOR. I WILL DO BETTER MR MAYLOR’…suffice to say, with all of the interruptions and the stress of being inspected so closely by our superior cadets, it was nearly impossible to eat. After a couple of weeks of Recruit Term, my uniform pants were falling down as I ran.  Due to my past with anorexia, this would normally feel fine.  But, running with your pants falling off and senior cadets screaming at you, well, this was not so fine.

After breakfast there would be hours of panic drills where we were made to complete some task and then stand for inspection. It may be to lay out our stripped rifle with all parts displayed, by the end of the song. It may be to put on our dress uniform and then stand for inspection by the end of the song…remembering that our rooms and beds, trunks, cupboards, sink, desks and dresser had to be completely perfect, inside and out, not just our person. There was a lot of insults and yelling:

‘RECRUIT, YOU ARE A COMPLETE BAG OF EXCREMENT.

RECRUIT, YOU ARE AN EMBARRASSMENT TO THE CANADIAN ARMED FORCES. RECRUIT – GET DOWN AND GIVE ME 25 PUSH UPS ON YOUR KNUCKLES.’

It went on for hours. There would be another run over to the next building for lunch and a parade muster before lunch where we would have to stand in completely straight lines and have our uniform looking sharp – which was impossible after the previous activities. We would all be sweating and salt-stained, shirt tails hanging out, pants drooping, laces untied, baret atilt on our heads, and females’ hair buns falling out. So more yelling and insults.

‘YOU PEOPLE ARE MAGGOTS – LESS THAN MAGGOTS.

YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELVES.

MARK TIME’!!!!

This is where we would march in place with knees as high as our waist, sweating profusely. Next, into the beautiful mess hall with white linen, silver, crystal and table service.  Now, try to eat while being examined and corrected by the Senior Cadets.  Not likely.

After lunch, we would be taken, you guessed it, running, sometimes with rifles (called a rifle-run), for an hour or so in the woods of the College grounds. The woods were absolutely peaceful and beautiful.  A temperate rain forest.  But sweat was dripping down my face and fear was in my heart.   Our physical fitness instructor was Mr Snellwood. He was a kinder soul and once, at the beginning of Recruit Term, he sat us all down in the woods and tried to reassure us that we would all pass recruit term, as long as we stayed diligent and showed that we were working hard. I was sitting there thinking about the three more weeks that had to be endured and a tear escaped, rolling down my cheek. I thought he was sweet and kind, but, I also had serious doubts about whether I would pass or could ‘keep up’ with this system.

rainforest

We were allowed a two-minute shower after running and then we were back at the panic drills. Every now and then, something not-so-hard was offered. Like: Chapel visit, uniform fitting, tour of the incredible Japanese Gardens, or of the boat shed, or of Hatley Castle and then there were mini lectures like: etiquette in mess hall.  This was instruction on how to use all of the various cutlery and glasses that were part of a mess dinner function. As Officers, we would be attending these nice dinners several times per year, and we needed to know how to sit properly at a formal table and how to use the formal dining setting.

One time, they hauled us all out of bed at first light. And, I do mean, hauled. We were blind-folded and we were taken out into the back woods. This was the Escape and Evasion exercise. Our superior cadets were talking in bad Russian accents and we were to pretend that we had been captured by enemy forces. In the woods, they had us get down on our bellies and they told us that we would be set free and that there would be a prize for the first recruit to make it back to barracks without being re-captured. They left and we, the captured, all got up and removed the blind folds. We started wandering around. I hooked up with a couple of friends and we began to walk through the rainforest. We had no idea which way to go and it was a large area, acres and acres of woodland. After walking through the forest for a couple of hours, we came upon a huge blackberry patch just completely laden with huge, shining, juicy blackberries. We fell on it and started to gorge ourselves. I must have had blackberry juice all over my face. The berries were better than delicious. They were scrumptious. And no one to ‘steady us up’….we thought.

All of a sudden: RECRUITS HALT. HANDS UP. TURN AROUND! We were re-captured and would not be winning any prize today. The berries were worth it though.

blackberries

After supper, we were given two-hours of study time, or time to do some tasks that they wanted us to do. One evening they told us to write an essay about our former lives so that our section commanders could get to know us better. I started off with the COSSA Basketball tournament that my Dad was coaching when I came along and then into the camp details and high school sportiness. I had heard our section commander say he was originally from Huntsville, Ontario which is just south of the where the camp is. So, I made sure to mention Huntsville. Later that evening, we gathered with our sister flight and some of the essays were read aloud. Mine was picked. I read it aloud and when I came to Huntsville, I looked up at Mr Maylor. He grinned at me. I had made a connection. Now I was a little more hopeful that I would make it through this hell month.  Mr. Maylor was a behemoth: well over six feet tall with huge shoulders and muscles.  This guy would strap the largest weights possible to his body then with veins bulging in biceps and face of stone, pump off chin-ups.  Many chin-ups.  I just had to be on his good side, I figured.

At bed time we had another routine to endure. We had to do 100 sit-ups in the hallway by pinning our toes under the heater and with knees bent and fingers laced behind the head, pump them off. There was a catch. We had to do 100 sit-ups, take a shower AND brush our teeth by the end of our ‘goodnight’ song: Stairway to Heaven (8 minutes).  Consequently, I did not wash my hair for 30 days. I kept it tightly braided and would wash just my bangs. There was one shower and two girl recruits on our flight. The two of us showered together. Writing this thirty years later, it seems bazaar that we would shower together. But we did. We just did.

On the final day of Recruit Term, we had the obstacle course and all recruits had to pass this final test. The Obstacle Course was a 5 km course through the woods with obstacles the whole way. Most of the obstacles involved dunking the head fully under into mud to say, get under a barrier or to jump over a barrier only to land fully in mud. There was a rope wall to climb with a fall into a muddy pond; balance-beam fast crossing of a mud river with a necessary dismount into…you guessed it…MUD. I looked up at one obstacle to see a boy from my street back in Walden (he had actually been a boyfriend of mine but was now dating Sally, my good friend since kindergarten.  They are still together three decades later).  Anyway, that guy was yelling at me, ‘GO! YOU CAN DO THIS MORGAN. YOU CAN DO THIS MORGAN PLAYER!’ – he kindly was not using the word recruit to cheer me on. I remember thinking in my exhausted haze that that was very kind of him.

The final obstacle, when knackered and with mud in every orifice, was to swim across a deep, lily-pad covered pond in combat boots. This was an individual test. Ironically, we were not allowed to help each other on any part of the obstacle course. Ironic because up until that moment it was ALL team work: ‘RECRUITS – STAY TOGETHER — YOU’RE ONLY AS STRONG AS YOU’RE WEAKEST LINK’, they would scream at us.  I recall thinking, when I got to the pond, this will be a piece of cake. This was due to all the swimming in my childhood and even in lily-pad covered ponds. Thank goodness I passed it. Afterwards I showered for 30 minutes but still had mud in my ears. I ended up passing Recruit Term at the top of my flight.  No idea how.

We then had a big celebration down at the cadet mess that was called, Decks. We had a big supper and lots of drinks. We had been told to dress up in nice civilian clothes or, ‘civvies’. Now we females were visually checked out by the senior cadets. As a young woman with certain healthy curves, long dark wavy hair, green eyes, straight, white teeth and full lips with a good fashion sense –I wore a blue knit, V-neck dress with a wide belt synched tightly around my tiny waist and leather pumps – I turned some heads at this celebration. (I was not beautiful, nor was I pretty, but, I was certainly attractive and the ratio of women to men was 1:8, so good odds that I would turn some heads). What a difference a shower, clean hair, some lipstick and civvies can make. It was a fun night. I should mention that I have not often shrank from having a fun time at parties.

The academic year began with classes, assignments, essays, exams and social experiences. The difference, at Military College is that almost every weekend was jam packed with military or varsity sport requirements in the form of parade and parade practice and athletic events and competitions. The schedule was brutal and cadets get very close, due to it.  One weekend we lost four cadets.  We were shattered.

cowichanOne long weekend, a friend – Cindy and I, decided to get off campus and away from it all. We had been more or less locked up for months and ready to just wear our jeans and hit the open road for a wee adventure.  With a back pack each, we hitch-hiked a couple hours up island to Lake Cowichan where we had booked a cabin for two nights. Our first ride got us most of the way there.  Then, we were stuck for a bit on some country road with the sun going down over the next hill.

‘This is nothing,’ I thought. ‘We’ve just passed through hell and found some freedom.  Nothin’ is getting me down now.’

On that note, a red pick-up pulled over to offer us a lift.  The man inside was more than a little scary looking with wild eyes and even wilder hair.  Cindy and I looked at each other, shrugged, and hopped in.  He turned out to be a decent fellow and he dropped us at our rented cabin.

Next: what should we do with our free evening?  We had heard tell of a dance in a countryside hall nearby.  We gussied ourselves up and with blue jeans and jean jackets and big hair (this was 1986 after all), off we went…only to find five or six of our classmate cadets already there.  Not sure how that happened exactly but it was sure to be fun. When you work hard, it only seems natural to also play hard.  That is what we did.  We basically started dancing and didn’t stop for hours.  At one point during Rock Lobster, we were all down on the hard-wood floor doing the worm.  Yes, just like it sounds. Squirming.  Full-body contact with the floor.  It was hilarious.  Likely one of the most fun nights of my entire life due to its spontaneity, timing, serendipity and remote location and laughter. We ended up meeting a couple of local fellows that night and took them back to our cabin.

Next Army Part 3

Please leave a comment…I LOVE ’em.

 

All photos are courtesy of google images.

 

The King of Korea 🇰🇷

For a couple of years in a row, we did this thing: we took in a boy from Korea for the month of January and the next year we took in he and his little brother.  Charlie and Joshua were something else (can you say, high maintenance?) and I have to say, when we finally said our goodbyes, I was wiping my brow.  Many parents asked us about our Korean visitors.  They could not believe that parents would send their young children half way around the world for a full month to stay with complete strangers (us).  We certainly could never do that with our son Leo.  The motivation, of course, was for them to learn to speak English.  Worth it to them.  Our motivation was to introduce Leo to other cultures and the idea of sharing his stuff (and us) with a temporary sibling or two.

At that time, Leo and Joshua were 7, Charlie was 8. From the get go, Charlie and Leo were pretty much opposites in most areas of life.  Charlie loved math and studying.  Leo loved to play, draw, run and build lego.  Charlie had a huge appetite, Leo not so much.  Charlie was a black belt at taekwondo, and at any given moment, he would run across the room and execute a seriously high kick which would miss someone’s face (mine included) by a fraction of an inch.  He was a maniac.  Leo was pretty chill, usually.

The morning Charlie arrived from Korea, we had some extra time before school after Charlie’s stare-down with his oatmeal – so I told Charlie he could play with Leo in Leo’s cubby.  Leo had this really cool tiny playroom off the kitchen that was actually the space over the stairs, and it was carpeted, with a light and door – almost fort-like. We painted it purple and added toys and called it his cubby.  I could see him while preparing food and it was ideal for that.  Anyway, Charlie said, ‘No, I must study.’  So, he sat with his University level math book and promptly fell asleep, exhausted from travel.  After a few repeat performances, I took Charlie aside and told him, ‘Charlie, look, you are here in Canada for a whole month.  Canadian kids play every chance they get.  Why not just go ahead and play while you are here?’  Charlie took my advice.  The following year though, I learned from Charlie that he had been ‘beaten’ by his mother because he had decided to play in his free time instead of studying.  So, let’s just look at that: your child is away from you for a whole month, on the other side of the world, gets home and you beat him because he decided to play with other children instead of study.  Oooookay.

Pond Skating 5

When the children would come in from outside, after skating, snow-ball fights or running around and tumbling in the snow, Charlie would ask excitedly, ‘I put inside clothes on now?’  Of course, we would always allow this, and of course this made him very happy.  He would then run and jump and almost kick someone in the face before running off to change.  I imagine back home in Korea, there must have been many more demands on his time…academies of all sorts that took place at various hours of the night.  Charlie had told us that he regularly got to sleep by midnight on school nights and then on Saturday and Sunday they would sleep until noon, then the fam would head out for a movie and supper and start the whole process over again Monday morning.  I was commenting to a friend that Charlie could play a gazillion instruments and was a math pro and my friend said, “When did he learn to play cello?  At 2 in the morning?”  Something like that.

Now, we live in a tiny little town of about 4000 residents and Charlie and Joshua came from Seoul (see picture above) with a cool 29 million souls.  Quite a big difference.  One evening, we were heading down the highway to the indoor soccer facility.  That road is dark in January and can be pretty sparse for traffic.  Charlie, in the back seat, says in wonder, “Where ARE we?”  He had never been on such a dark, fast road. My mind flicked back to our travels in Oz, when that was my daily litany.

dark highway

One day, I took the kids to a farm so they could see hens, goats, lamas, cows, sheep and pigs and so they could hold a warm egg, just laid (seeing as Charlie was eating three eggs every morning and a litre of goats milk).  Other outings were to indoor soccer, area hikes, sliding, skating, haircuts, music events and movies and restaurants but their favorite thing, by far, was bedtime when Dean would read aloud from one of Leo’s chapter books: A Single Shard,  by Linda Sue Park.  Three boys in pjs, teeth brushed and waiting for Dean to enter the room to read.  We had put a small cot for Leo in his room. Charlie and Joshua shared Leo’s big sleigh-bed that we had purchased from the Amish in Virginia when we lived there and when Leo was born.  I remember thinking that Leo was doing really well with all this sharing of his stuff.  I’m biased, of course, but Leo was always pretty sweet-natured about things like that, perhaps except when it came to Buzz.

Bedtime Story

Charlie really liked his food.  I would be making eggs in our large cast-iron pan at the stove in the morning and I would feel a presence by my side.  Suddenly a voice, ‘What are you making?’ After peeling myself off the ceiling, I would realize that it was Charlie.  He was inspecting.  He asked me to make his eggs a bit differently.  A quasi fried-scrambled kinda thing with ketchup.  We began to refer to Charlie as ‘The Inspector’.  He had high standards and he wanted to maintain them.  Initially, he would be eating his meal, with gusto, chopsticks flying, and he would moan, ‘more kimchi, more kimchi’.  We taught him to at least look up, meet our eyes and ask for more whatever with a ‘please’ on the end.  He cottoned on.  We weren’t his paid help, like he had at home.  He was a visitor in our home.  He got it.

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Charlie kept us on our toes. Joshua was just easy, a quiet shadow of his older brother. One time, I arrived at the school yard to pick up Leo and Charlie.  Charlie was nowhere to be seen.  I ran around like a madwoman looking for him, my mind whirling with how I would explain this to his mom over in Korea.  Suddenly, there he was.  He had been in the car of the Korean man he had met at the Saturday Farmer’s Market.  Geez. Thanks a pant-load, Buddy.

Charlie would head into the bathroom on any given afternoon and after a bit, we would hear the toilet flushing about five times.  This always made Leo laugh.  Having a chauffeur at home, Charlie and Joshua hated the walk to school.  Granted, it was about a mile in snowpants and boots and we did it almost every school day, there and back.  One day, we got half way and he threw himself on the snowbank and would not get up.  When he didn’t get what he wanted he would say, ‘It feels me bad’.  We wrote a song about him called, ‘It Feels Me Bad, Baby‘.

To say goodbye to Charlie and Joshua, we hosted a bowling party at the area bowling alley and invited some friends.  It was a lot of fun.  We never saw Charlie and Joshua again, nor have we ever heard from them again.  From time to time, Dean and I will wonder aloud about what the boys must be doing these days.  We always imagine Charlie as the King of Korea.  Maybe he is?king-sejong

Cuatro a Cuba 🇨🇺

With the goal of getting back into World Travel now that our wee one is taller than us, we start with the sweet country of Cuba…

With our 18-year old son, Leo, having just finished up his first term of University, and his buddy, Reid, we decided to take a 12-day trip to Cuba…a non-resort trip…not exactly as strenuous as a ‘back-packing’ trip, per se, but a non-resort moving around trip none the less.  And, all in all, it was a fine adventure to finish off 2017 in a unique fashion.  Dean and I were also celebrating 25 years married and we wanted to do something special for the occasion.

We arrived in Havana in mid-December and made a bee-line first to the cadeca to change money, then to the tienda for a cold one each.  We had arranged a driver to take us to our place in Vedado, a trendy area of the city but, he was familiar with ‘Cuba Time’ and had no trouble just chilling until the four of us quenched our thirst after a long, rather sparse flight.  Don’t get me going but what the devil has happened to flights theses days?…I had told the boys of the days of unlimited free boozy drinks on flights and a full hot meal preceded by a warm towel for your face, neck and hands, blankets and pillows and head-sets handed to each traveler.  What the heck happened???  Now we couldn’t even check a bag for free.  The four of us went with carry-on only and had had our sun-screen confiscated at security.  Let’s just read that line again…our sun-screen was confiscated at security.  Why?  Well, it seems since 9 – 11, sun-screen in any family-size container, is a security breech.

I digress.

Our driver happily helped us into his vintage car and off we rolled to our apartment.  Along the way, in a combination of broken English, Spanglish, gesture and sound effects, he told us about the area and his family.  It seemed that he was a nearly pro ping-ponger with four babies (who were now adults) and then we rolled passed the Mental Health Hospital and he put two bent fingers to his right temple and made a creaking sound while moving his fingers back and forth and rolling his eyes.  Ooookay.  Meanwhile, in his back seat sits me with Bipolar1.  I didn’t let on.

Our apartment was ideal and in good proximity to a landmark that we all wanted to check out.  The Nacional Hotel.  It seemed fitting to have our first mojito of the trip there. National Hotel

The bartender happened to be our landlord, so he treated us to a Cubata cocktail as well and a couple of fine cigars for the lads.  His protege was quite a nice-looking guy, very photogenic, and he was fine with me snapping his picture.

Cuban

From there, we walked along the sea wall and marveled at the warm air.walking in Havana with J

It was getting dark and would soon be time to find a place to eat.  We asked a young person who seemed to know some English.  He told us to try Bicky’s and he drew us a little map.  We walked the darkened streets with nary a flat sidewalk and several random ankle-busting holes as well as piles of dog doo and other garbage.  We found it, though.  Its neon-lighted sign beckoning like a lighthouse over choppy seas.  It was an Italian place and we were seated on the balcony.  The place was packed and we got the last table.  When my food arrived, it didn’t look like much: penne pasta in a cream sauce.  Oh my.  It was fabulous.  All of us were happy with our food, but mine was outstanding.  I could barely speak due to my tongue being in love with the taste.  A nice omen of our meals to come.

The next morning, the Senorita arrived to cook us breakfast and we had fun trying to understand each other.  She had not a word of English and would just raise the volume of her Spanish to make us understand.  Luckily, my previous study on duolingo and our old phrase book which we had used in Central America  when Leo was four helped. As well, I employed a healthy and hilarious amount of gesture which I was comfortable with since learning conversational American Sign Language when Leo was a baby. I taught her how to do eggs ‘over-easy’ using my hand as the spatula in my gesticulating.  We had wonderful foods for breakfast: fresh tropical fruit, coffee, toast, eggs, freshly made tropical juices.  Wonderful.

Off we went to walk to the book store which was a couple of miles away in a quiet part of the city.  We walked past many pastel-coloured stucco homes, newly painted with groomed yards and straight fences, often directly beside a very old, grey and crumbling crooked house.  It was odd and interesting.  When we got to Cuba Libro the bookstore, LA HABANA-COMIENZA LA XXV FERIA INTERNACIONAL DEL LIBRO, CUBA 20we were amazed at the wonderful books as well as other offerings there: cookies, coffee and a clean bathroom. It is owned by an expat and has a lively community following with various clubs meeting there and tours too. The lovely server told us how to get a car to take us to Old Havana and so next we were climbing into a red 51 Chevy with clear vinyl covered leather seats.  It was mint.cuban taxi

Because we so enjoyed this man, with no English but a lovely manner, we negotiated with him for the 4.5 hour ride to Trinidad de Cuba for the next morning.  Then we walked around seeing the sights of Old Havana and drinking in the ancient feel of the place.

yellow wall laneIt was commonplace to hear and see vendors yelling and selling their wares which ranged from brooms (which I REALLY wanted – joking) to lettuce (which I also REALLY wanted) to baked crackers and pastries, even home-made ice-cream and shaved meat sandwiches were being sold but the sandwich maker was without gloves and my Western sensibilities would not allow us to avail of them.  I was quite intrigued with the cart of lettuce, and other veggies.  It looked so good and yummy.

cart of lettuce

Our ride to Trinidad (well, Boca actually which is just south of Trinidad) was uneventful except for many bumps due to the non-existent shocks on the 51 Chevy. There were very few vehicles on the highway but we would see horse and buggy from time to time, many sugar-cane fields and not a single fast-food place like there are along our highways.  We stopped about half-way for a bano break and the boys had a quick sandwich.  When we arrived, the taxi-driver asked at several doors to find us a place to stay.  We wanted two rooms with their own bathrooms.  We found them and we met an east-coaster named Erika who was quite eager to get to know us and to talk a blue streak.  While the Senora of the Casa made us a roast chicken lunch, we went swimming in the bay across from our rooms.  Erika came along and continued to ask intriguing questions and I found myself filling her in on our previous travels because she was very interested.

After a fine lunch, we grabbed a taxi to the big beach, Playa Ancon, and had a very sweet time throwing frisbee,

IMG_0647 walking down the beach and when Senor came along to ask if we wanted a drink, I sprung for mojitos for all (perhaps a wee bit extravagant but, sometimes that’s just the way it goes).

img_0534.jpgWhen the sun began to go down we grabbed the last taxi for the 10k back to La Boca and sat on the front porch. Next, there was a bit of a sing-song, as it turned out that Erika could sing beautifully with a rich voice and was very talented on guitar.  She had won an East Coast Music Award and such. http://erikakulnys.com/

Later, all the young folk went off to the Salsa House in Trinidad for a wild time.  We heard them getting in a few hours later and it sounded like they were going to have some stories for us in the morning.  Which they did…along the lines of how much rum one can drink before feeling rather sick…and such.  And, they enjoyed dancing their legs off!

We spent the days either on the beach at Playa Ancon,

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or walking around Trinidad IMG_0600

or hiking in the hills and swimming in small pools near the water falls.

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Leo jumped in from a high ledge and it was really cool.  I should comment that the second hike was very hard.  Walking way down, down, down to get to this pool and waterfall and then up, up, UP to get back to the top where our loyal taxi-driver waited.  My heart nearly burst.  I couldn’t remember a more challenging hike, even when we trekked for 30 days in Nepal…I had been a lot younger then.  That could account for it, I guess.  waterfallOne very good aspect though was that Dean surprised me with a lovely ring for our 25th anniversary, as we sat watching the boys by the waterfall.  Doesn’t get any better than that, in my world.

We also ate a lot of really good food in many different establishments.  Our Trinidad host, Rebeca, was so sweet to us too. She made us an elaborate breakfast each morning which included tropical fruit and juices, fresh-baked pie and pastries, omelettes, coffee with hot milk and chocolate.  She would hug and kiss us regularly, in keeping with her affectionate culture and because we would smile and she could see that we were content.  One morning she had Reid in a tight squeeze to her ample breasts.  He surfaced saying he thought that was called ‘a motorboat’.  We laughed. We breakfasted on her upper terrace and she went up and down the stairs at least a dozen times for us and not allowing us to help. Her granddaughter stole my heart and I gave her little gifts. To return the favour to us, Rebeca gave us a flask of Havana Club and a bottle of red wine.  These would have cost her a heck of a lot and were very generous gifts.

In Trinidad, the boys went to the Iberostar Hotel a few times in order to avail themselves of wifi.  It wasn’t free but nor was it too expensive.  There was also a pool table there which they were able to use a few times.  They would also have a cappuccino or a beer while they got their fill of social media and connecting with loved ones back home.

In the blink of an eye, it was time to head back to Havana to prepare for our journey home to Canada.  Rebeca’s son would take us back to the big city.  Without a word of English, we made our way with him.  He was quite a good driver.  He charged us a very fair rate for the trip.  No English but a lovely persona and a big, quick smile.  If you ever go to Trinidad de Cuba and need a place to stay, have the taxi take you to Casa Rebeca on Cienfuegos.  Highly recommend!

Back in Havana, we found rooms in Centro, just outside of Old Havana.  The landlady was a hurdle and it was apparent that she was a money grabbing opportunist behind her big fake smile.  Can’t have the good ones every time, I guess.  We walked the streets and looked at art, tasted various beers, Dean got a hair cut, and we tried a variety of restaurants and then it was time to grab a taxi to the airport.

Adios Cuba.  Until next time.IMG_0442

Early Morning Mass ✝️ (age 12)

Please allow me to introduce myself.
I’m a man of wealth and taste.
I’ve been around for a long, long year,
Stole many a man’s soul and faith.
And I was ’round when Jesus Christ,
Had his moment of doubt and pain.
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate…

~Rolling Stones – Sympathy for The Devil

I remember the days of girlhood when I could run forever, jump high, skip rope, swim the lake and turn cartwheels. I was this little girl with black curly hair, green eyes, a few freckles and a quick smile.  I was full of energy, giggles and good ideas.  I knew the rules and I almost always followed them.  I went to church on Sundays and sang all the hymns, firmly clasping hands with my neighbours at the peace of Christ.  I was the good girl.

CROSSSo, when my new parish priest made an announcement inviting girls to be altar servers, I was so happy.  I really wanted to be an altar server.  I wanted to ring the bell, on the altar, during mass with the whole congregation watching, like I had watched the boys do so many times.

Training ensued with Father 0’Malkey. There were ten of us and we needed to be taught what was what. How to wear the robe. How to prepare the altar. When to ring the bell. He was very strict and he taught us to be exact. Serious. Precise.

Then the day came for my debut as an altar server. It went well. I had been to hundreds of masses. I kinda had a sense of how it all worked, by then. I was on the schedule and looked forward to being the sole server during a week of early morning masses. I would ride my bike the mile to church, leaving home after breakfast at 7 am, making sure my school bag had my basketball uniform and shoes for practice after school. At 7 am the world wouldn’t even be awake yet. It was a fresh perspective. Funnily enough, it made me feel a little homesick. I shook it off and soldiered on.girl on bike on road

Arriving at the church, I took a moment to notice the beautifully groomed grounds leading to the large oak door to the sacristy. The church was ultra modern, brick and wood with a non-steeple. Curved walk ways and parking lot surrounded by green groomed lawns, shaded by tall mature hardwoods. I parked my bike – no helmets back then.  I had tucked my pant leg into my socks to  safeguard it from the chain.  I righted this and as I did so, felt butterflies a flutter in my belly.

candle-flamesOpening the door I sniffed the familiar church scent of burning candles mixed with a slight residue of incense.  On my left was a wall of smooth oak paneling. Or so it seemed. I found the hidden handle and pulled.  Reluctantly, and with a sucking sound, the massive closet door opened and into it I put my school bag and jacket. As I closed the door, Father O’Malkey appeared and somewhat startled me.  He wore a big creepy smile as he approached, saying, ‘Good morning, Morgan!’  He wrapped his large arm around my small shoulders, his man hand landing on my budding chest. In slow motion and with an out-of-body awareness, I witnessed and felt his large hand squeeze my young breast.  Then both hands took my shoulders and he propelled me to the next cupboard which held my gown and hastened me to prepare for mass, perhaps not wanting me to dwell on what had just happened.snow_GIRL

Later that day, as soon as I could get Mom alone, I told her about it, not wanting to go back the next morning.  She said, ‘Oh Morgan, you must be mistaken.  Father O’Malkey is a priest.  A priest would never do that.’ Then she encouraged me to be a good girl and go back the next day.GIRL SILOUETTE IN SKY

Every morning was a repeat performance by Father O’Malkey: the smiley greeting, the man-hand grope, the hastening to mass. Years later, I began to wonder if he had orchestrated girl altar servers – the first in the history of the parish – so that he would have his pick of girls to fondle.

As soon as I could get away with it, I quit altar serving and then I quit Catholicism. Any organization with forced celibacy is going to be a problem for someone.alone little girl walking in rain on railway

My brother Job 🧡

Climbing out of his crib before he could walk, here is the story of my brother Job.

baby red headMy brother Job who was number five in the family line-up was a pure handful from the moment he was born.  He was a cuter-than-cute red-headed, freckled-face boy who even as a baby was making headlines around the bridge table as Mom would tell the other mothers how Job had climbed out of his crib already.  This was before he could walk.  It began there.

A couple of years later, when all was quiet and perhaps Mom was baking something in the small kitchen in the Willows (our crowded townhouse on the Main St of Walden, Ontario, ( Let the Games Begin 🏀 ), little industrious Job climbed up on the stylish chrome and Formica table in the dining room eager to touch the glass chandelier. In that same dining room sat our beautiful upright piano that Mom had stylishly mac-tacked with orange and purple-petaled flowers (It was the 70s, Man).  chandelierAnyway, before he could stop himself, and with little pink tongue clamped to the right side of his mouth, he systematically dismantled the whole intricate chandelier, but not a piece of glass would touch the floor.  Four year-old Job had very carefully clutched each glass piece in his little hands and put each one down on the table top he was standing on… in exact order of its place aloft.  He took a three-dimensional glass chandelier and made it one-dimensional.  All Mom had to do later was carefully hook it all back up.  She was fascinated by his ability to do this, and so were we.

One time, at the camp where all row boatnine of us moved for the summer months to be on the lake and running a tourist camp, when the lake was whipped up with white caps due to an off-shore wind, Job thought it would be interesting to push the twenty or so aluminum boats and canoes out into the water to watch the wind take them across the lake.  Imagine the spectacle that was.  A fleet of unmanned water craft afloat in a line across a choppy eight-mile lake.  Little Job was fascinated, jumping up and down, clapping and laughing devilishly and pointing a chubby finger at what he had done.  Mom and Dad and our four older siblings scrambled to get the boats back, some swimming out to them, some using a motorized boat to get them.  Who would think of doing such a thing…JOB! Corporal punishment ensued.  (Corporal punishment was quite popular back then.)

In later years, Job would usually be the one getting into trouble and doing more and more high-risk things.  He would dive off the top of the diving tower and off Echo Rock and the Locks — these were all very high dives and more than a little dangerous.  Job was the only one of the seven of us to master the back-flip-and-a-half on the trampoline. Water-Skier - Version 3 And when it came to water-skiing, he was quite impressive – slalom-skiing beautifully and even starting from the dock or the water on one-ski, which took a great deal of strength, balance and coordination.  His physicality was confident and true.  He was physically gifted. Mr Laset attested to this fact when I called him last winter to casually affirm my Elementary school memories when forty years ago he had been our beloved coach.  In gymnastics, Job would fly off the spring board, catching tons of air before his hands met the leather box-horse and with high hips he would execute a beautiful hand spring.  trouble riverAt the lake, Job would even ski down the Trouble River a twisty-turny, black-watered mysterious river that we all thought of as bottomless due to scary stories that we would tell by the camp fire.

Some of Job’s escapades required funding that he just didn’t have, nor could he easily earn.  Luckily, he had worked out a solution for his shortfall.  But first, you need to know the layout of the cottage that we called ‘The Office’, because the layout was key.  The Office had two bedrooms on the main level.  In one room was Mom and Dad’s twin beds (stylish at the time, no idea why) and a crib where Luke would sleep when he was a baby.  The neighbouring room had a double-bed where I and one or both of my sisters would sleep, and then above us, up a rickety ladder in the hallway, was ‘the loft’ where the three boys would usually sleep: Matt, Mark and Job.  The sides of the loft were open, such that those up there could look down through the rafters into the two bedrooms below.  Privacy?  I think not.  In fact, now that I am writing this, I remember a game in which we would reach way over on the rafters and then swing down over the beds below and drop down with a squeal, landing on the soft mattress, or anyone who happened to still be in bed.  (This was a forbidden activity, so only done when the adults were out of the office.)

So…Job’s funding…right.  Well, the ceiling was open into the loft, and when Dad would be inevitably taking a nap on a warm summer afternoon or on a rainy day, or on any day really, Job would spy Dad’s seldom-washed polyester double-knits hanging on the hook by the bedroom door.  red head boy nrStealthily, hazel eyes rolling this way and that, with a fishing rod, and pink tongue stuck out just so, he would hook said pants and reel them up, ever so quietly, stealing glances down at Dad who was crashed out on the twin bed.  The pants would seemingly float up into the loft where he then would quickly reach his small sure hand into the right front pocket and take out the roll of cash from Dad’s polyester double-knits.  (Every summer, Dad would busily sell various items to campers: ice, worms, fuel – all for cash. Cash being cash, it was untraceable, so Job would help himself to a twenty or two (a small fortune back then) and he would be set for his next escapade.  Of course, his hazel eyes keenly watching Dad, face slightly flushed, he would then expertly reel the double-knits back down to the hanging place in Dad’s room, ensuring that any noise he made at all was made when the loudest cycle of the snore was emerging from Dad.  With the money, Job and I would sometimes go horse-back riding which back then was $5 per hour! Or, Job would buy gas to put in the Budd family’s motor boat tank for ever more water skiing.  We did get paid for chores at the camp, but not nearly enough for all that Job wanted to do.

boy with pipeOne of the chores at the camp was the daily picking up of garbage using the big red wheel-barrow.  We had to wheel over the gravel roads around the 21 acres to each of the campsites and to the nine cabins and ask at the door for their garbage.  Then, to the upper or lower field, often rolling over a large rock and accidentally dumping the whole mound due to its precariousness in the wheel barrow.  With gloves on (in theory). we had to then sort it: burn the burnables in a huge 40-gallon barrel and pitch the cans, jars and bottles into the old open trailer that Dad would take to the dump every few weeks.  Sorting people’s garbage was really gross and more than a little dangerous; so was burning it, especially in a field of dry-as-bone hay.  We were burning garbage in a huge barrel at tender ages.  I would have been seven or eight and Job would have been ten or eleven.  I have no idea how we didn’t all have 3rd degree burns or didn’t lose an eye because something would inevitably smash or blow up.  Of course Job LIKED it when something smashed or blew up.  He would often HELP it to smash or blow up and then he would exclaim, ‘Morgan did you SEE THAT?!’ or ‘WATCH THIS!!’…BANG…  It terrified me.  I was often cowering and inching away as Job had his maniacal fun.  A side note: Job NEVER smashed beer bottles.  They were refundable and provided yet another nice little stream of income.

boys swimmingJob’s temper was also famous.  He would often be a happy-go-lucky youngster, looking for fun and loving to laugh.  But, often, he was treated meanly by our father…he wasn’t the quiet, obedient academic-type that Dad wanted in a son, I guess.  None of his sons were showing signs of being university types (at this point, Luke was too little to show the signs of his future studiousness).  Dad could be downright mean with biting sarcasm and cruel comments. He would say things like, “Job, you could have been a good hockey player, but, then you got hard to handle.” Dad would also be quite physical, grabbing an arm, pulling hair or an ear to propel one of his children in the direction of his choosing.  One Christmas, Dad wrapped up a used dictionary and put it under the tree for Job.  On the inside cover he had written: Have a read of this once in awhile.  You might learn something. From Dad.

I believe this treatment didn’t help Job to find his way very well. His temper would flare more and more as he got closer and closer to his teenage years.  Perhaps he would be building something with hammer and nails, claw-hammer-wood-handle and if he missed that nail, there was a very good chance the hammer would end up in the lake and hopefully your noggin’ wasn’t in its flight path.

* * *

After Job got out of juvie, he went to live with our eldest sister Eva and her husband, Peter for a year due to he and Dad having serious personality conflicts. (A few years later, I would take a turn at living with Eva and Peter Not-So-Sweet Sixteen 🙏 )  While living there, we forever have the funny story of Job’s attempt at reeling a box of beer up to his upstairs bedroom (a two-four!).  Unfortunately, he was caught due to its visibility when passing the main floor window.  Peter looked up to see a box of Labatt’s Blue floating by and thought he had better investigate.  He found Job leaning out his bedroom window, just about to haul in his case of beer.  Peter put the kibosh to the beer party 17-year old Job was planning on having in his bedroom.  Good try though.

Nowadays, Job is a farmer out in B.C..  We definitely do not see enough of his big smile, good heart or jovial laugh but, we will always have these memories to cherish, laugh and wonder at.  He certainly made memories, did my brother Job.

boy with grin

(all images are courtesy of google images)

He Sails Away ⛵️

My son and his shipmates walked down the plank and aboard the ship as the Indigenous girl sang a sweet sad song of good-bye. As she beat her skin drum the tears streamed down my face. ‘Come home to us’, I prayed.

Here is the story of my son’s crossing of the Atlantic Ocean on a Tall Ship, The Gulden Leeuw (as pictured above. Photo courtesy of Google Images).  My husband, Dean, and I were ever so proud that Leo was selected to go on the ship, but I was also terrified of the whole idea.  Anything could happen while crossing the North Atlantic — it was not to be trifled with.  I was having out-of-body experiences as I imagined some of the more horrible possibilities, but, strangely, I was also very eager for him to be out there and experiencing it.  ‘He will be fine,’ I was told.  ‘That ship crosses the Atlantic all the time.’  They said.  ‘The Captain will ensure that all is well.’  Meanwhile, my eyebrows moved higher and ever higher up my forehead.  It sounds like I am foreshadowing that something bad would happen.  Well, there was one big storm in which Leo told us about working in the galley with smashing dishes and flying carrots (yes, carrots), but other than some foggy days and cool temperatures, all went smoothly on the Golden Love, which is how I renamed the ship in my mind.

The morning they cast off, they smudged all present with smoking sage.  A well-loved Mi’kmaq Chief approached me and with both hands holding the smudging bowl, kindly offered me the cleansing smoke.  I reached out hungrily and pulled it over me.  ‘This will help keep him safe, right?’  I thought. Blessings were bestowed by several Chiefs and Elders and best wishes were wished.  We were asked to go around the crowd and ensure that every one of the 45 participants were given a hug by someone so that they understood how much we love and cherish them.  It was unbelievably touching.  But, I continued to check in with myself that this was my son who we were sending off.  This was my only, cherished son who was about to sail away ACROSS THE NORTH ATLANTIC.  Was I crazy??!  Seems that way.

The time came for Leo and his shipmates to walk down the plank and to board the ship.  An Indigenous girl sang a hauntingly sweet sad song of good-bye. As she beat her skin drum the tears streamed down my face. ‘Come home to us’, I prayed.

***

So, here is Leo’s story in a paper for school regarding types of tourism and, in it, he captures the magnitude of the adventure that he successfully undertook. My first guest-writer:

This summer I was involved in a travel project entitled Msit No’Kmaq: All My Relations. It was a travel experience that I applied for in which 45 aboriginal youth sailed across the Atlantic on a tall ship, while being involved in a rigorous sail training program. This crossing took place because of the vessel’s participation in a tall ship race, in which 11 ships race from Halifax to France. A laid-back vacation this was not, as it more closely resembled a work placement at sea, and it involved some of the hardest manual labour to which I have been exposed. I am certainly not complaining, as it was clearly the best and most rewarding trip I have been on.

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The goal of the project was to transform the rag tag group of trainees into a somewhat coherent crew, and this was accomplished by putting us to work during daily “watches,” where that segment of the group would be responsible for running the ship. I absolutely loved it. I can admit that hard manual labour has never really appealed to me, and my work ethic when tackling work like that is not ideal. However, the work on the ship was certainly an exception. Although it is hard work, it is so rewarding in the way that you can immediately see the difference your hard work has made towards the betterment of the vessel or the race. In particular, I loved climbing aloft. While once again hard work, the excitement of being so high above everything really augments any feelings of boredom or longing for leisure into something closer to fulfilment and completeness. You look down to see the ship charging through the wake some 100+ feet below you as you hang on for dear life while tightly wrapping the t’gallant in gaskets.  The intense heeling of the ship interrupted with violent shaking as she smashes through waves ensures that relaxation is never achieved. But relaxation is not the goal while aloft, even if your aching muscles scream that your bunk is more comfortable. The adrenaline is ever present, even when completing such a mundane task as furling a sail.

Aloft

Although deep internal reflection sessions while staring into nothingness were never accomplished by me, I learned a great deal about myself during this crossing, and I think some personal development did indeed take place. The nature of living on a tall ship is conducive to reflective thought, the kind that makes you question the path you’ve set for yourself in life. Sailing is one of those pure pursuits. One of those passions that is enticing and exciting in its infancy, amazing and beautiful in its mastery. I feel incredibly lucky to have witnessed both ends of the spectrum of sailing while on this voyage. You have the trainees, young men and woman who are taking a leap of faith and trying something completely outside their comfort zone. The beginning of our journey as sailors was raw and unkempt. We threw ourselves into the work and hoped something good would come from it, and of course it did. We kept that ship moving in the right direction, and kept our minds on the right path. We became more and more knowledgeable, skilled, and eager. The thirst for adventure propelled us to reach new heights (literally). On the other hand, there was the crew and captain. Experienced sailors, but many not so experienced at dealing with youth. Experienced or not, they were incredible. The patience, excitement for seeing us learn and grow, the humour, and the deft skill at motivation was beyond anything we could have hoped for. They really made the experience as fantastic as it was. All those pieces fit into the puzzle that made me question what I want out of life. I can say with some certainty that the most important thing I learned about myself is that I want to sail again.  I want to be around the incredible and genuine characters that sailing attracts, and I aspire to someday be one of those characters myself.

As this was a trip for indigenous people, there were some cross-cultural difficulties that came up between crew and trainees. There were some instances when crew accidentally said something offensive or derogatory, but I was very impressed by the common understanding of everyone onboard. People were not quick to judge each other, and understood that the vast cultural differences between many people onboard were likely to result in some uncomfortable moments. It was all handled very maturely. There were also cultural differences among the trainees. Some, like me, didn’t really grow up ensconced in their native culture, and many did. I really learned that I haven’t grown up with my indigenous culture nearly as much as I’d like. That was something largely outside of my control, but it still stings. Being a part of this project has really made me appreciate the rich history that I share with these amazing people, while also helping me fill many of the gaps in my knowledge that are present because of my upbringing. I feel proud to be a part of such an incredible people, whose population has had such a rough go. It prides me to see that so many Indigenous young people are so successful.

The destinations we toured were Falmouth and Alderney, UK, plus Le Havre, France and Paris. I can say with near complete certainty that Alderney is the best place I have ever been. If I was asked to sum it up in one word it would be “authentic.” The people, the geography, the history, even the other tourists there were a breath of fresh air. It is a small island in the English Channel, just off France. With a population of only 2,000, the island has a distinct small-town feel. I have never observed a more impressive group of tourists than I saw on the island of Alderney. Because it lacks a major airport of any kind, most people who come to Alderney are sailboat owners. The demographic who sails their own boat through the English Channel are a completely different type of people than a crowd fresh off a cruise ship, or even a passenger plane. I can recount with great fondness interactions with locals and other tourists and remember always enjoying the conversation. Real, genuine people.

Alderney Island biking

I think this relates to some concepts  especially the allocentric/psychocentric disparity, as well as respecting the wishes of locals and tourism. Alderney is pushing for higher levels of tourism, and I have to wonder if the locals will be happy if many more people start flooding the gates. The laid-back atmosphere may be lost, which is part of the reason I loved it so much. I can also speak to the presence of attractions as well as hidden gems, and I can say with certainty that I experienced them both.

Ship in harbour

Of all the travelling I have done, this trip made me feel the least like a conventional tourist. I think that was due to our rather interesting story and mode of transportation, and the immediate excitement and intrigue locals showed when they learned we had just sailed the Atlantic. That feeling of respect was new, and responsible for a completely different travel experience. A generalization I can make from that experience is that the way you arrive to a new spot is somewhat responsible for the way you feel about your time there. I saw many different demographics of tourists during my time abroad, and I can say that the more allocentric crowd really appeals to me over the psychocentric. There just seems to be a greater feeling of authenticity, a feeling that I strive to exhibit myself.

Jaden on the wall