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New moments, old memories

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.

The Man on the Moonl

It’s all over the news. Fifty years ago Man landed on the moon for the first time. All the media outlets have been nostalgic this week – where were you? What do you remember about that week?

I was almost 4 years old in July 1969. As it turns out, the day of the moon landing is my earliest memory.

I remember sitting on a couch beside my Dad, with a paper bag on the floor between us. Groceries were packed in paper bags back then, and we saved them to use for other things. This one was holding peanut shells. My dad was shelling peanuts as he watched the TV.

I remember seeing the men bouncing on the surface of the moon. I remember hearing my Dad’s voice; he was excited, amazed, impressed. Even without anyone telling me, I could tell what was happening was a big deal.

Just as important to me though, was learning how to shell a peanut. Learning to push my thumb on the seam so it cracked open like pea pod was the secret. But my thumbs were little and not very strong. I don’t remember if I managed to get one open on my own, but the day was my first memory of what I would learn was “quality time” with my Dad.

It’s funny, how food was part of my very first cohesive memory. Was I destined to become a Gourmand?

I also find it striking that a memory of my Dad and I watching TV would feature as an historic event in my life. Daddy was in the TV business. I wonder what he was thinking. We never talked about that day in detail. I wish he was here today, it would be a fun conversation.

Such are the ways of the world. As we live our lives, we have no idea most of the time what will be important, what will last as a memory for us and maybe even the future world.

Sometimes it’s the littlest things – like learning to open a peanut. Sometimes it’s a man landing on the moon. Sometimes, it’s the man you remember.

Me and my Arrow…

Ninteen years ago today, I got up with my best pal and went for a coffee. It was a big day, and she knew it. After all, she had been a big reason for the day being so important. If it hadn’t been for her, I might not have embarked on one of the best decisions of my life.

We had a glorious walk in Stanley Park to start the day, and later she sat beside me as I wrote my vows. That afternoon she was there too, all decked out, as I set out to form a new life. I’m so glad she was there. One always wants one’s best friends to be a part of momentuous occasions as well as everyday life.

You see, my best friend enabled me to get a first date with the man who would be my husband. We did a double date, us two girls with him and his best friend. I knew right then there was something special between us. We all stayed close and became a kind of family for many years.

Today I have another best pal, as the one from all those years ago is gone now, but her spirit lives on. We walk every morning, and most evenings too. She reminds me every day to stop and smell the flowers, take in the moments that make life special. She listens to my ramblings and supports me through thick and thin.

Can you guess who I’m speaking about? It’s my Chocolate Labrador Retrievers. The one from nineteen years ago was named Satchmo, as she was a great singer of the blues and a lover of life. Her successor is Ella, the queen of jazz (and a friend of Satchmo’s in another life). Both of them have been the best companions anyone could ask for, and they helped me to be a better person.

Satchmo & I at Lake Louise in 2001

Ella & me selfie Knox Mtn 2014

  Ella & I on a morning walk

Satchmo was the dog I had when I met my hubbie. He had a wonderful Doberman Pinscher named Paul (after Paul Simon – do you see a theme with our pet names?)

Our first date was to take our dogs for a walk, something that immediately endeared me to this man who seemed an unlikely candidate to hook up with for the long term.

His dog was very well-trained, as they both went to school to learn about training assistance dogs for people in wheelchairs. I was told to hold a chestnut in my hand for a while on the walk and then Hubbie threw it in the bushes down the slope to the beach. “Find it!”, he said to his Dobie.

Paul leaped over the edge of the slope and crashed his way through the brush. When we reached the bottom of the hill we saw his trotting back towards us, looking very proud. He sat ramrod straight in front of us. “Thank you”, said Hubbie, with his hand out. Paul spit out the chestnut, which had been marked with an x for verification. How impressed was I?!

 

It took almost 3 years for us to tie the knot, going through the trials and tribulations of life along the way. But our dogs were there with us – I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

When Satchmo went blind from a congenital defect at age 8, Paul helped her walk straight by nudging her on the sidewalk and he protected her in the park when we saw other dogs. They became soulmates just like Hubbie and me.

And now, almost 22 years after that first afternoon walk, having shared memories across the country and back with two more dogs and a little girl who is now married, we are still going.

I am so fortunate to have experienced so much love. Even more fortunate to have found my soulmate with whom to share all that love. But more than anything, I am grateful for the Brown Girls in my life – they have taught me how to love and live well, and given me more love (and laughter) than I could ever have imagined.

There is an old Harry Nillson song called “Me and my Arrow”, from a movie called The Point. I remember the tale and the song, every morning as I walk. I try to cherish those friendships appropriately.

Here’s to living the life your dog expects of you.

A princess in a lost kingdom

the_lost_princess_by_jacob_joseph

The Lost Princess – Jacob Joseph

It’s Father’s Day today, and I’m sad. I feel rather forlorn. You see, I grew up as a Princess, with all the trappings of a young girl in a magic kingdom. I had an idyllic childhood, full of happy memories in good times and lessons learned in tough times. Everything always turned out okay, and more often than not it felt that way because my Dad was the one to cheer me on or push me on. After all, he was the one who made me a Princess. The problem is, he’s gone now.

I miss my dad every day, but Father’s Day hurts in a special melancholy way. It makes me remember the myriad of things that my Dad taught me, and then the breath catches in my throat as I am struck with not being able to tell him or hug him to say thanks.
I don’t like to dwell on the past – you can’t live there. But I don’t want to forget “wonderful Daddy from Winnipeg” , as we used to joke should be his title. Earl at the beach So if you’ll indulge me, I’m going to mention some of my favourite memories and learnings:

  • Waking up to music he would play… I had a turntable in my bedroom and he would come down and put a record on to wake me up for school. Billy Joel, The Eagles, Supertramp, Neil Diamond, Nilsson. I still love “Dad rock”, as all that music is now labelled.
  • Watching CBS Sunday Morning, together and then separately when I was older, but still sharing our love for the good news and the quirky discoveries in the world. I still watch, and often smile at stories I know he would have enjoyed.
  • Marching to “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” – through the house, pretending to be like Mickey Mouse with his broom.. The whole family would march in a line, my brother and I swinging our imaginary brooms with great fervor and my Mom bringing up the rear (to make sure things didn’t get too crazy). We’d go down the hall and over their bed, even. It makes me smile every time I think of it.
  • Eating the fried egg sandwiches he used to make me before early morning high school basketball practice. I wish now I had practiced even harder. I wish I’d known then that stronger arms would have helped my shot. But he cheered me on through my clutziness, and even bought season tickets to the Vancouver Grizzlies’ inaugural season years later, so we could watch games live. I travelled from Calgary whenever I could, and we saw Michael Jordan play!
  • His sayings still get me through tough days – “Illegitimum non carborundum est” (don’t let the bastards get you down) and “optireculitis” (a condition in which your optical nerve gets tangled with your rectum, giving you a shitty outlook) .  When I felt as though the world was against me, he would always say, “Who loves you, Kricky? Your Daddy does.”
  •  Our trip to Maui was full of great memories and lots of laughter. He hadn’t been well and the quality time was good for both of us. I was so chuffed when one of the last times we spoke he talked of how great that trip was…

    Earl in Hawaii - the good life

    we had appies on the deck in our hotel suite at the Fairmont Kea Lani – living the good life!

  • The Treehouse Bistro, which was the 2 directors chairs at the corner window in his West End apartment, was the place we solved all the problems of the world on many a Friday night. Now I have the chairs, and every time I sit in one I think of our great ideas, and the spectacular meals we ate in them.
  • “Where’s the other 2 percent ?” – the answer to my declaration that I got 98% on a test at school. Then it was frustrating to be teased, but it made me tough enough to take the blows the world dealt me, and it made me want to push myself and improve.
  • “Drive till you get there”. Learning to drive, a standard no less, was stress at a new level with my dad, who was an RCMP officer for a time as a young man. Thanks for keeping me safe, Daddy.
  • “If you got it, flaunt it”. This wasn’t meant to be trashy, but rather to encourage my self-confidence. My dad knew I was the not the kind of kid who fit in, and he more than anyone helped me learn to be myself, and be proud of that.
  • “Take 10 pictures for every one you want. Film is cheap.” Nowadays it’s even cheaper with digital pics, and I’m thankful to have memories recorded. I wish I had copies of more of my childhood photos!

    Kristin in a wheat field

    one of my favourite shots of me taken by my Dad

I could go on, but perhaps the most important thing I learned, ironically, came from the fact that he got sick. For many years the doctors predicted he didn’t have long to live, so my dad did not sit back to save for a rainy day. He lived the Carpe Diem philosophy to the fullest he could. It shaped my life, and has been my motivation to strive for that balance in life we all hope to have.

I so wish we’d had more time together. But I am so thankful for all that I got from my dad. I might be a Princess without a kingdom but I am still a Princess. I can still flaunt it, I can still battle the dragons, I can still reach for my happily ever after. I know somewhere there is a soul out there smiling proudly. Who loves you, Daddy? Your Kricky Princess, that’s who.

Food Tastes Better with Friends

Yesterday I spoke of comfort food, and how the company that shares the food sometimes has a lot to do with the comfort we get. I am often singing the praises of sharing a meal to bring people together. But what about the times when we eat alone?

You stand out as a solo diner.

I don’t want to say that eating alone can’t be enjoyable; sometimes people want to have quiet time to themselves. What I am referring to are the times when we yearn for company but don’t have any. Then food can taste bland and one can feel much less than nourished after the meal.

Having been a person that didn’t fit in to a group most of my life, I can relate to the loneliness of not being popular as a kid and I remember feeling afraid that I wouldn’t make any friends at school. I was lucky, and found some great companions. I never ate lunch alone.

Sometimes it is the food that heals, and other times it is the company who helps us move forward. In a world of reality TV that promotes singling people out, where the pressure to fit in is even stronger than in generations past, we need to have friends with whom we can feel nourished. Who says that can’t start by “paying it forward” and making a new friend?

Perhaps my teenage memories are why I was so struck by a piece I saw on CBS Sunday Morning today. This show of mostly heartwarming news is always inspiring, and I especially love the stories from Steve Hartman. Mr. Hartman took over for the delightful Bill Geist in delivering tales of everyday heroes that offer hope and inspiration, and today’s entry was no different. #WeDineTogether is a wonderful group of young people… see for yourself:

http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/starved-for-company/

I’d like to think this idea can spread, just like peanut butter and jelly in a sandwich. As Steve Hartman says, maybe the grown ups can learn just as the kids do. Perhaps we could extend the camaraderie from around the table to a philosophy of life. It’s just an idea.

 

 

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