Thursday, February 27, 2014
The picture on the left was taken on my recent vacation to the Big Island of Hawaii, about half-way through our trip. We were sitting on a bench near the beach watching this particular sunset when I was suddenly struck with a memory of one of my Dad's final moments. He opened one eye and seemed to be trying to say something, and then he closed it for the last time. I don't know why, but watching that sun go down made me think of that moment, and I felt the tears streaming down my face.
I wish I knew what he was trying to say, I wish I knew in that instant that this was the last time we would see each other, but I didn't. This has haunted me ever since. As the sun in that picture sank down to the water and out of sight, I was struck by the idea of impermanence; all that arises must cease. A moment so profound and unforgettable as it happens, is also one you can never have back.
And just as I was reflecting on that, about 20 small fish spontaneously flipped up into the air out of a big wave that was about to crash onto shore. I guess they were trying to save themselves from being pummelled on the rocks. The surprise of that awesome sight jolted me back into the present. This is life, Irene! For pete's sake, live it!
This trip was, for me, meant to be a time to relax, recover, and reflect. I gave myself permission to do whatever I felt like, to eat and drink what I wanted, to laugh and be stupid, to cry if I felt like it, to go on a few adventures, and to talk about it when something interesting or profound struck me. The Big Island of Hawaii was the perfect backdrop to do all of those things. Thank goodness for an open-minded and patient partner in my husband. He tells me that I'm the one who taught him these qualities, because he wasn't born with them...but wherever he got them from, I am forever grateful.
Since I am not a particularly religious person, it's my philosophy that helps me to put life in perspective. I've always been this way, reflective and philosophical, even when I was quite young. When I was very small, my ambition was to be a wise old woman. To heck with being a doctor or a entrepreneur or a guitar teacher...I was going to be a wise old woman. Is that weird or what? I pictured myself being able to talk people through their problems, to have the ability to help anyone with any personal difficulty. I wanted to be a good listener.
But I also felt the need to express. When I was in Grade 4, I used to hand in stories to my teacher, Miss Logan. They weren't assignments or homework, I just wrote about things that struck me, and handed my paper in. Poor Miss Logan had enough work to do without having to respond to me, but she always did. When I first picked up a guitar at the age of 12, songwriting became my new form of expression. I wrote in diaries for many years, which helped me to find ideas for songs, and also helped to make sense of what was happening in my life. In 1996 I started to write articles online about songwriting. That was even before the word "blog" came into existence. And now I write here. It started out being more about a songwriter's view of the world, but eventually I came to the conclusion that it's only Irene's view of the world, and that's okay too. From the inside out.
During this trip I have realized that, outside of golfing and gardening, writing this blog has become my favourite and most self-satisfying venture. I am most surprised when someone tells me they've been reading my posts, because, to tell you the truth, I don't really expect people to care much about what I'm thinking :-) Occasionally, one or two of you become my Miss Logan and respond to something I've written and I appreciate that very much.
Though it's impossible to actually relive a moment in time, at the very least I can try to express my experience of it. But I'm also going to work harder at living in the moment, because you never know when a school of fish will suddenly appear...
Sunday, February 9, 2014
I want function, not flair. I just need some decent, practical, cotton underwear. I don't want to spend $11 on one pair of frilly, lacy things that are just going to itch all day and make me cranky. It's embarrassing how long I hang on to the old pairs because I can't find any new pairs.
My mother used to tell me she hoped I was donning new underwear daily because I wouldn't want to get into an accident and the ambulance attendants noticing that I hadn't changed them for awhile.
That scared me pretty much into keeping my underwear meticulously clean. Isn't it weird what parents say sometimes, the things that go on to haunt you for the rest of your life? What on earth made her use that scenario? Yet, for the last few months I have secretly hoped I didn't find myself in an ambulance. I mean, that would seriously be embarrassing.
My quest for replacement underwear almost reminded me of my quest for new runners. Read all about it here.
Back to my undie debacle: one time in a momentary loss of sanity, I grabbed a package of underwear from Costco on my way to the checkout. When I tried them on at home (who'd want to try them on at Costco?), I realized that I bought a bunch of pairs that, when I pulled them up, nearly went right up to my chest. Looking at myself in the mirror, I screamed. That was the last time I bought underwear at Costco.
I used to get my underwear at Zellers. They had those nice, boring packages of Fruit of the Loom that suited me just fine. The only thing that was wild about them was the occasional floral pattern. Or maybe some stripes. In desperation, I tried all of the big department stores, but time and again I could only find the frilly ones that cost $11 each. And those were the cheapest pair. I even broke down and walked into an intimates store meant for an obviously younger clientèle. To my surprise and delight, I found some hot pink cotton underwear that were perfect. I picked them up and was ready to buy a whole bunch of them when I noticed the phrase "sweet cheeks" on the rear end. It was either that or the pair with exclamation marks. I just can't picture myself with large, pink !!!'s on my butt. Even if I know nobody can see them, I'll know they're there.
Wait just a minute, what's the !!! supposed to mean anyway? Surprise? Perhaps at the circumference of my cheeks? Or just a shock reference? If you can see this, you shouldn't be looking? You can understand, I'd be in a constant state of anxiety just wondering.
Interestingly enough, I recently had similar issues looking for a new bra. It seems that 99% of bras out there these days have that kind of padded cup called a "molded bra", that is, frankly, supposed to make you look like you don't have any nipples. They SAY that the real purpose is to make the bra look "seamless", but I'm not buying it, I think it's the nipple thing. For pete's sake, everybody has nipples, so who are we kidding? And secondly, I DON'T REQUIRE PADDING. I cannot express that strongly enough.
But do you think I could just find an ordinary, boring bra? The kind that I'm used to, like Playtex or Wonderbra, only seem to have DDD sizes. (For you of the opposite gender, size DDD would fit a couple of small watermelons). Wait a minute, why are you guys reading this anyway???
I don't need padding but I'm not that big, so neither option seemed right for me. In my sensible sensitives search, the only other type of bras I have come across seem to be right out of a Victoria's Secret magazine. I'm sorry, I can't imagine wearing a bra with diamond studs or feathers, let alone tiger stripes or purple lace. Again, even if nobody else can see it, it's the knowing. It's the knowing.
Finally, the other day I compromised and bought the "seamless" bra. It will take me awhile, but I'll get used to the nipple-less façade.
And today, much to my relief, I managed to find the boring old Fruit of the Looms at Walmart.
Thank goodness the ambulance attendants will never know.
Saturday, February 1, 2014
I was an only child. Kenny had an older brother, but it didn't seem as though they had much to do with each other. So Kenny and I became the brother and sister we never had. We once declared that we were going to get married when we grew up. He was going to be the farmer. I was going to be the farmer's wife. Farmer's wife?? I guess life was different in the 60's.
Above is an old photo of the two of us and another older boy standing in my front yard in the winter of '61 which made us both about 4 years old. The way we were looking at each other is priceless...this was the way we were together, always laughing, always playing and coming up with a new plan, a story plot, a great idea. In the winter we built snowmen and snow forts. Kenny's older brother liked to smash whatever we made to bits. In the summer we held stage plays in our back yards. We charged the neighbourhood kids 5 cents to come and watch us fly by the seat of our pants through some improvised play or pantomime. My mother brought out Kool Aid for the audience. My Dad got mad because we'd messed up the lawn. We used bed sheets for curtains and found all kinds of props to use, inventing stories as we went along. In one play, all we had to start with was the idea that he was Red Skelton and I was Mrs. Skelton.
Mrs. Skelton? I guess, well, it was still the 60's.
One time I was playing with Kenny in his basement while a group of adults were having some sort of party upstairs. Kenny decided we needed candles. We found and lit a whole bunch of them, placing them everywhere around the room. One fell into a stuffed chair. I guess Kenny must have screamed or something; the next thing I knew a bunch of adult males were frantically dragging the burning chair out the basement door, trying to put it out. Needless to say, our little basement party was over after that.
Another time, we were in his back yard and Kenny showed me a package of his grandmother's heart pills. They had been thrown in the garbage and he decided they looked interesting and rifled them out. He convinced me that it was okay, they were just candy, and so we ate some. Heart pills. When my mother the nurse found out, she hauled me home to the bathroom, forcing me to drink salt water and hoping I would throw the pills up. I never did. I was more afraid of throwing up than having swallowed those pills.
I don't think we were any worse for the wear. But. Heart pills.
One summer we decided to get sleeping bags and sleep overnight in the tent in his back yard. For some reason, the adults had a bit of a problem with that. We didn't. It was just us, Kenny and Irene. They came to their senses and let us sleep in the tent. On our first day of Grade 1 in the elementary school across the street, Kenny was not happy because he really missed his mom. For some reason, I did not experience the same trauma, so we spent the whole recess holding hands while Kenny cried. He was a lot more sentimental about things than I was.
Our most exciting (or stupid) adventure happened one Saturday night, when we decided to dress up as robbers and sneak around our own houses. We even smeared dirt on our faces to complete the effect.
Kenny had a flash light, and we pretended we were going to rob his house. As usual, we got pretty caught up in our own drama, and at one point we came running out from behind some bushes to the street, just as a police car was driving past. Talk about timing. Because we were so immersed in our pretend robbery, we turned around and (stupidly) ran away from the police. They immediately pulled over and jumped out of the cruiser, high-tailing it after us. Kenny ran one way, I ran the other and hid under his backyard deck. They nabbed Kenny and hauled him out under a street light. They started questioning him. Kenny cried "No, it's okay, I live here! This is my house! We were just playing!" I kept my mouth shut under the back deck.
They verbally reprimanded him and finally let him go.
I came out from under the deck and we soberly said our goodbyes. I went home and told my mother the story and she said "Well, I'm glad you got caught...what a stupid thing to do!" Yep, stupid.
I'm sure Kenny would be able to remember many things that I haven't told here. We were very lucky that we lived in a nice, safe (other than our shenanigans) middle-class neighbourhood with a school across the street and lots of other kids to play with. And we were lucky to have each other. Thanks for the memories, Kenny :-)