Category Archives: family

As Time Goes By

Twenty years ago, my life changed forever.

I woke up and started the day much as I have for most of my adult life – by taking my Brown Girl for a walk. I’ve had a few furry friends over the years, but all of them have been the same loyal companions day in and day out. There is something wonderfully grounding in starting the day with a creature that stays by your side and loves you no matter what.

From that early and ordinary start, my day would be like no other I had. It was to be full of symbols, however. I felt linked through time to so many moments in history, so many places in time. Wedding days are rife with symbols.

I’ll admit, I geeked out on traditions that exemplified the spirit of a happy wedding. I had my “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” I looked up the tradition behind certain flowers and I wanted good omens, positive vibes, moments to connect the day.

We got married on the same day as my parents. I wore my mom’s dress. My dad and I walked down the aisle to “As Time Goes By” from Casablanca, and Sleepless in Seattle. I was so proud to walk with my dad, as his health had not been good at all and I was grateful he was there to hand his princess over to the next guy taking care of her.

My mom carried daisies, just as she did on her day. I even had my cousin throw confetti down her dress after the ceremony, just as he did all those years ago. (He was only 3, and was disappointed he missed throwing his handful with the adults as my parents left the church. She bent down for him just before she got in the car, and he tossed it right down her dress. I remembered her showing me the envelope of it, one day as she was reminiscing.)

We incorporated personal symbols too. Our first connection, our first date, was with our dogs. It was important they be a part of our celebration, so they played key roles in the ceremony. His Doberman was our ring bearer, walking with my stepdaughter down the aisle; my Chocolate Lab was my flower girl, led by my goddaughter.

My hubby had no one from back east able to come out to Vancouver. We had a picture of his mom on a reserved seat right up front, in her honour. His best friend was busy with young kids. His sister was moving that weekend in Montreal. And yet he was all about me having time with my people.

  • My longest-standing girlfriend came all the way from Ghana with her family so she could be my Matron of Honour and her daughter (my goddaughter) could be a bridesmaid. She brought a coin for me to carry in my shoe as a token of good fortune.
  • my best girlfriend in Canada designed T-shirts for our family to wear that weekend, and delivered them personally from Calgary.
  • all my aunts and uncles were there (it turned out to be the last time that my dad would be with all of his siblings)image-4

Everything was done outside, at Brock House in Point Grey, Vancouver. Thankfully Mother Nature was kind and we had a pleasant day. We didn’t spend money on a photographer as we were keeping expenses low, but a friend took a beautiful group shot and my dad thankfully couldn’t resist snapping a few frames. This was before the days of smart phones – we had Instamatic cameras for guests to be put out on the tables, but no one remembered to do that. (I didn’t have a wedding planner, either.)

Dancing was another big part of our life, and our wedding. Hubbie and his daughter did a lovely cha-cha, and my dad and I danced to the Platters. For our dance together, I changed into the dress I was to wear on our destination wedding in Jamaica (I wore it there 13 years later).

It all went by too fast. I remember moments, but wish there were more. A few people had to leave before I had much of a chance to chat with them. And of course Hubbie and I hardly had anything to eat. The buffet looked lovely, though.

We did get some cake, and we took the remainder back to the hotel and had some at midnight. I wish there were more photos of that cake – the best one we have was when it was in our fridge before the wedding, as Hubbie decorated it.

Our wedding day didn’t go quite as planned. Neither did much of the twenty years that followed – we learned very quickly to roll with the punches the Universe threw at us. There were hard times, and sad times, and plenty of happy times too. The best part, the part for which I am most grateful, is that we had each other throughout all of it.

I am so very fortunate. I have a soulmate. My guy is someone who committed twenty years ago to stick it out with me, and he has been true to his word. I had no idea then just how much I could love him for it. I’m beginning to get an idea now.

Not to mention… boy, have I had a lot of great cake!

 

*One final note:  For anyone reading this who has yet to be married, here are my top tips:

  1. If you don’t hire a wedding planner, get someone reliable who isn’t in your wedding party to be your point person for the day and keep things on track.
  2. Tell your photographer the shots you want – people and moments you want to have pictures of. Then tell them they need to stay on time with the schedule, so your guests aren’t kept waiting.
  3. Make yourself a “bucket list” of moments for the day with your partner (each and together) and keep it handy on your day – a hug from Granny, a moment just the two of you, etc.
  4. Don’t try and include everything in one day – it’s impossible. If you have the luxury, spread the festivities over a few days. If not, go back to your bucket list to narrow it down.
  5. Stop, at least twice during the day and just breathe. Take it all in, and be grateful.

 

A Few of my Favourite Memories

It’s Father’s Day today. I gave my Hubbie a big hug – he’s going to be a Grandpa soon, so next year it will be an even bigger celebration. He has done an amazing job being a consistently present and loving father with his daughter.  The other part of my Father’s Day was a few moments remembering my Dad.

I’ve mentioned him in many of my posts, how close we were and how much he loved food. I wanted to post something in his honour today, and memories flooded back as I reminisced.

I still have the pan he used to make me fried egg sandwiches, and as I built the nachos for dinner tonight I remembered how meticulous he was with those chips – like he was constructing a card house.

As these images flashed through my mind, I thought of something I’d written many years ago, just before he died. I decided that was the best piece to post, so here it is, my column for the local community website in October 2007.

I still miss you, Daddy. You still remind me to stand tall, not let the bastards get me down, and follow through (and not just on my jump shot). I will always remember who loves me.

A Few of my Favourite Things

We are moving, and other things have happened of late that have made me look back and smile at memories I have. Autumn always makes me even more reminiscent than usual (perhaps because I was born this time of year) but not in a melancholy way. I suppose some would say it is overly romantic, but I like to think that looking back can help you go forward, if you see things in the right light. The golden light of an autumn day seems just right for me… can I share a few gems with you?

It is not hard for me to think of food memories, possibly because as a kid I hardly stopped eating. My father used to say I had a hollow leg – I could eat like a horse and I just kept growing taller and eating more. I remember him saying that maybe if he put bricks on my head that would slow things down and it seemed that might be the only remedy. I could have new pants in the spring and be watching for the flood before summer was over! 

I don’t want you to get the idea that all we did was eat though… after Sunday breakfast I remember the whole family sometimes having some goofy family time. Music was often playing and it wasn’t just hippie tunes, either.

I have great visions of all four of us marching through the house to the tune of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” (just like the brooms Mickey Mouse tried to control). My father would lead my mom, my brother and me around from room to room like a parade marshal, even going up and over the beds!

These are favourite memories of mine because they make me smile and that in itself makes me proud. I think it is a great testament to the way I was raised that I can look back and say I had such a great time.

My Dad will not be around much longer and that makes me sad. But you know what? Every time I eat a fried egg sandwich I will remember the early mornings he got up to make me one before basketball practice. Eating peanuts in the shell will always remind me of being little and sharing some of Daddy’s treat as he sat watching a bit of TV, with a paper bag on the floor to catch the shells.

A new delicacy will forever make me think of Friday nights when I lived in Vancouver and we would share an evening of nibbles at “the treetop bistro” in his West End apartment, swapping stories and solving the problems of the world. All those smiles will far outweigh the sadness, and I will toast to his happy adventures wherever the waves may carry him.

Here’s to you, Daddy.

Earl at the beach

No passengers on Spaceship Earth, only crew

This quote from Marshall McLuhan struck a chord with me. Here we are on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, and so much of the planet is in pause mode. Is this Mother Earth taking roll call, waiting to see if we will show up for duty?

earth from space

I know many people have posted pictures and comments of how quiet it is, with the sounds of birds chirping replacing traffic noise. The air has become clearer over the cities, and animals have ventured back into spaces they had left behind. Are we being shown the web of life amidst this pause, like a public service announcement before the feature film?

I just can’t get over the fact that the irony of all these components piles up, day after day.

  • In a season known in many cultures for contemplating sacrifice and then celebrating at large, we are forced to spend the time apart from one another and truly reflect on our world and our deeds.
  • In a world full of technology, we can connect virtually but our daily routines revert to basic skills. Who knew so many people wanted to bake and garden and sew?
  • After years of being too busy to have time to look up from our screens, people are finding creative ways to recognize those who deserve praise and help others who cannot help themselves.

I for one am hopeful. I believe humankind has a great capacity to learn, and I take heart knowing that young people most of all are often the ones who learn fastest and are keen to change. Young minds can see a bigger picture with fewer encumbrances; I think it might be due to their general lack of prejudice and better imagination.

It is said we are borrowing the world from our children. Perhaps the best thing we can do is take good care of it until they need it for their children. Is there a bigger – or more important – picture than that?

Dr Seuss Lorax someone has to care

How to get unstuck

I don’t know about you but I feel the need to share rather acutely nowadays. It’s a bit of relief to connect by video call with friends and family and at least see their faces and hear their laughter. But I want to give something, to feel that I am reaching out and that hopefully someone on the other end of the line gets some benefit from my effort.

Sharing recipes has been fun, and learning from other people’s sharing has been cathartic too. I watched Amanda Hesser, one of the founders of Food 52, do an Instagram video making cookies in her home kitchen. She laughed about it being the first time in 4 days that she put a clean shirt on, and I laughed back, looking down at my shirt of more than a couple of days, too.

img_8112I’ve also posted garden pictures, and been cheered by those of others. Spring blossoms always boost my spirits, and knowing the bees are still humming and green shoots are still sprouting is wonderfully reassuring.

I’m going to try a new thing this week. Our group of little Sparks (the tiniest of Girl Guides, aged 5 and 6 years old) will be hosting our first Zoom meeting tomorrow night. It’s only going to be “Show & Tell” this first time – I’m quite sure that 24 littles trying to feature the new project they have at home will be more than enough for one hour! Thank goodness for the mute button.

Along the same lines, I also volunteered to do some story-reading for a kindergarten teacher who wanted “community helpers” to read their favourites so she can show them to her class. My role as a Girl Guide leader is to help kids and offer them another adult perspective, so I figured why not. Selfishly, it gives me a chance to be a big kid and connect at the same time.

Pooh and friends on paradeSo, I’ve made myself a cup of tea and dusted off my Girl Guide vest with the bazillion crests and badges on it (that’s how they know that I am wise old leader, or at least that’s the plan). I shall introduce myself as “Poppy”, my leader name for the last 14 years. Then I’ll launch into my stories.

Dr. Seuss and A.A. Milne would have been friends with my Gramps I think, if he’d  ever run into them. Mulberry Street full version“And To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” and “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” sounded like the stories he told about when he was young. I’m hoping my reading will convey the kind of wonder I knew, sitting on his knee listening to his tales of yore.

Even if the kids are not enthralled, perhaps the stories of an imaginative youngster making the most of a boring time and a silly old Bear stuck in a hole will offer them ideas for how to get through this crazy time.

I am so thankful we have many ways to share nowadays. I do still like the in-person method best, but there is a lot to be said for having a back-up plan at times like these.

Me at Disneyworld in Dr Seuss’ world. I have also been to the real Mulberry Street in New York (but all I saw was a cart and horse 😉)

 

P.S. If you’re a big kid like me and love the fanciful stories usually dedicated to the young at heart, here are some classics I love. Feel free to read them, pass them along or read them aloud.

  • “The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles” – Julie Andrews (she also wrote “The Very Fairy Princess” books)
  • “Peter Pan in Scarlet” – Geraldine McCaughrean (didn’t you ever wonder what happened to Peter Pan?)
  • “The Wind in the Willows” – Kenneth Grahame (I read this to my stepdaughter when she was little, and she still remembers it)
  • “Mrs. Frisby & The Rats of NIMH” – Robert C. O’Brien (like “Watership  Down” this isn’t all sunshine and roses, but it’s a wonderful read)
  • “The Cricket in Times Square” – George Selden

 

Family – for a day

Today is Family Day where I live. A long weekend, a chance for families to spend some time together. Not the Spring Break-kind of vacation time, but perhaps a chance to see a movie, or make a trip to the ski hill (there is still snow up there although not much left in town). If people can manage to arrange their busy schedules to make quality time happen, I’m all for that.

In our house, the easiest way to make quality time is to set the table. Does that sound old-fashioned and corny?

We are passionate about food in all its forms – growing it, cooking it and eating it. That too is weird for lots of people, I realize. What can I say? I was brought up in a house where meal time was important and where a nice meal was a big deal. Everyday meals were not to be taken lightly either.

Growing up I didn’t think of us as not having much, but according to my parents there were times when things were tight. I loved Tuna Casserole and shepherd’s pie for dinner, so what did I know?

I don’t think I realized tuna could be eaten another way than from a can until I was much older, and I thought everyone made shepherd’s pie in their electric frying pan just like my mom. Seasoning was what counted, and she knew how to make flavourful meals.

Many of our meals today are simple – we eat salad for dinner at least a couple times every week. When we invite people for dinner we apply ourselves, offering something fun and colourful. It might be simple if it’s dinner before a movie, or it might be Sunday roast with all the trimmings; it’s always an occasion worth celebrating, just like at the family table when I was a kid.

Anyone around my table are like family – I want them to feel comfortable, taken care of and happy.

In the summertime, we set our long harvest table and host events. Gluttons for punishment, we are, but they do say misery loves company. Cooking for many is even more fun to share!

They shouldn’t feel guilty having seconds, and they needn’t worry about offending if they push the mushrooms or onions to one side. I am happy they could be there and enjoy the time – that’s what counts.

So how’s about we make every Monday a Family Day? You get the cutlery and place mats, I’ll grab the tuna casserole. I’ll meet you at the table.

 

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