Category Archives: traditions
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)
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Stop, at least twice during the day and just breathe. Take it all in, and be grateful.
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.
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.
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.
I love ice skating. As a kid I saw competitive skaters like ballerinas, and both were akin to fairies in my mind. I didn’t have the guts to take up the sport to that level – I could hardly walk and chew gum at the same time – but I always loved it as a duffer. I’ve had the good fortune to skate outdoors in the Rockies, and in Charlevoix, Quebec. Even as a duffer it is magical.
Tonight was our first Girl Guide meeting of the new year, after our Christmas break. The tradition for our unit is to have a skating party at the community rink in Kelowna.
It’s fun to see the girls after all the excitement of the holiday season, with their stories of what they did and what Santa brought. It’s a thrill to see them skate, some of them for the first or second time.
I also love this meeting for the memories it brings back…
- my Dad lacing my skates nice and tight before a family skate, and pushing my mitts into my coat sleeve cuffs till my fingers hurt against the mitten seam.
- Skating at Mayfair Park in Edmonton on the lake, then along the Bow River when we moved to Calgary – outside among the trees, with speakers that blasted music to skate along to
- Playing “crack the whip” and trying so hard to not be the one to let go! (Then laughing hysterically when we all slid out across the ice)
- Skating with my little brother on his bob skates (once he had graduated from the plastic bathtub on a rope towed by my parents
- Watching my mom skate so gracefully (she competed a bit as a girl) – the figures, the spins. She taught me how to skate backwards – that was as fancy as I got.
My mom came to my skating party when I was a Brownie. She broke her leg that night, catching her blade in a gouge in the ice made from all the hockey play on our little community rink. It was a dramatic end to the evening, and it sure made for an interesting Christmas that year but thankfully we smile about it now.
I didn’t tell the girls about how my skating party went when I was a little Girl Guide. I did watch for gouges in the ice, though. I took pictures of them all, and gave them thumbs up as they wobbled and skidded and then skated – hooray! New moments in the memory books.
And I was sending good thoughts out to my mom, feeling thankful for the memories. And wistfully smiling at the same old warm feeling, remembering times with my dad, now gone.
All that in an hour, on a not-so-cold winter night. Life is good.
Today was Epiphany. The twelfth day of Christmas. It is by some accounts the day the Magi came to see the Christ child. Others believe it represents the baptism of baby Jesus. It is a Christian feast day, complete with a special cake, called King Cake or Galette des Rois.
In Iceland it’s called Þrettándinn, representing the day the 13 mischievous Yule lads return to their parents at their home in the mountains. There are bonfires at many locations throughout towns and country; if one is lucky, one might see an Elf Queen or King dancing around the flames.
In any country, with any beliefs, the holiday celebrations are at an end. A New Year has begun and we start afresh. The tree comes down, the lights go out, the parties stop. Resolutions for a new diet or gym regime, or setting new goals at work take up our time.
And so it goes. We move into “the rest of the year”, full of little things, day-to-day stuff. Some of us look forward to the next holiday, the next celebration. Others are grateful for little things day by day. And still others just put their heads down and try not to think about anything but the finish line.
C’est la vie, as the French say. Life goes on, day by day. Apparently athletes who win a big game – say, the Super Bowl – feel bereft, even depressed, after all the celebrating is over. I think the same thing happens with some people after Christmas. We go into a sort of withdrawal.
As I sit here watching the snow fall that eluded us for most of the holidays, I am cataloging all my special moments and saving them in my mind. I don’t plan on packing them up like the ornaments for the tree. I’m going to keep them handy and use them on bleak days. But for most days, I’m going to just live, and look for the little things that make my day.
The things that people were the most grateful for were the ordinary things in life. The sound of your spouse’s laugh, the smell of morning coffee, the echo of children playing in the yard. The little things. In waiting for the big moments – the vacations, the retirements, the birthdays – we risk missing the experiences of life most worthy of celebrating. — John O’Leary