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.
I’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.
So, 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. “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.
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
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.
On Wednesdays, I get to bring out my alter ego. For most Wednesdays over the past eleven years, I get to be a big kid. I have been known for most of that time amongst the other kids as “Poppy”, a name that I love not just because the flower is one of my favourites (bright, a bit unruly, and one of the first to happily signal summer is coming), It was also the name of one of the coolest grown-ups I knew when I was a kid. My Poppy had long red hair and she was a sort of princess in my mind – the peasant skirts, the hippie music that seemed to follow her and the magical smile and twinkle in her eye were all part of that persona. I don’t get to be that much of a free spirit, but the blue vest adorned with crests and pins all around a gigantic trefoil on my back do give me some renown. You see, I am a Girl Guide leader.
Currently, I am working with Sparks, the tiniest of girls allowed into the organization. We have 22 little sprites in our unit, run with wonderful humour and an incredible sense of organization by my fellow leader, mentor and friend of those eleven years, “Sparkle” (aptly named, don’t you think?).
It’s a wonderful experience to share in the adventures of young girls, and ones this small are especially enthusiastic – about everything. It’s contagious.
This week we are learning about Canada, and so I bamboozled my fantastic husband to help me represent Quebec at one of our activity stations. We only have ten minutes out of an hour’s meeting to wow them with something memorable, so what to do?? Well, it’s not that tough – we will tell them about Bonhomme and the Quebec Carnival, and we will feed them maple taffy on fresh snow, called “tire sur neige” in Quebec. How cool is that?! We are going on a tobogganing camp in a couple of weeks, so this is sure to put them right in the spirit of winter. Thankfully, at this age, they don’t seem to feel the cold and so being out in the minus twenty or so weather will just be an adventure. Meanwhile, I’m digging out all my woollies to take to camp!
You know what they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. I could post historic photos of sap being gathered. I wish my hubby had pictures of when he was young and on the horse-drawn wagons at his uncle’s sugar shack. But we’ll have to make do with the sticky fingers and gooey taffy to give you the general idea of the fun we had. Some may say it’s bad to give kids sugar so close to bedtime, sending them home all hyped up to their weary parents. Sorry folks, I will selfishly say that I enjoy every minute and don’t intend to stop having fun with my little Spark pals anytime soon. I hope they will remember me with the same kind of mischievous twinkle as I do the Poppy of my childhood.
I don’t know about you, but I am one of those people who believes. I believe in a happy childhood, and I believe in wishing on a star, and I believe in Santa Claus. In an age when we seem to be duped or even ripped off on a regular basis, I think it is important to have something as a counter-balance, and the spirit of Christmas is mine.
Last night we had Santa visit our Girl Guide troop. Our girls are 12-14 (they are called Pathfinders), and they were helping younger girls (Brownies, aged 8-10) to write their letters to Santa. I am sure you can imagine some of the looks on faces when they heard the jingle bells coming down the hall. The younger girls stopped in their tracks for just a moment, and then many of them rushed up to him for a closer look. He was dressed not in his official suit but rather a pair of red coveralls under his Santa jacket. He told the girls he had heard they were having a meeting and talking about Christmas, so he thought he would stop by.
The girls asked him questions and he furnished them with simple answers.
– “Is Rudolph’s nose really red?” – – of course. That story has been told for a long time.
– “Do the elves celebrate Hallowe’en?” — yes, but it’s hard to tell, as they are dressed up all the time.
– “How old are you?” — How is your math? Do you know my birthday, December 6th? (St. Nicholas Day, of course!) I was born in the year 343.
– “Do the reindeer need to practice?”– yes, and they love to practice in the Okanagan, where they can fly over the lake and under the bridge in Kelowna.
– “Do you use magic?” — yes, but only when I need to, like getting through some of those new green, small chimneys
They took it all in, and when he told them how important it was to “be prepared” (the Girl Guide motto) they all nodded knowingly. He told them to keep being good, and that he would see them all soon. Then off he went, down the hall with the Pathfinders.
You see, the older girls were helping out by writing the replies for the Santa letters. So Santa was there to make sure they knew proper protocols. He told them it was important to not promise a particular gift; he said he often told kids,”If you do your best, I’ll do mine”. He told them that if anyone asked for a pet, he would always check with Mom and Dad first before making a delivery. But it was when he mentioned a special secret for gifts that might not arrive promptly that he got everyone’s undivided attention. He told the girls that he had an example this year of a handmade gift that looked like it would not arrive for Christmas. So, he was going to produce the letter mentioning the gift to show that he hadn’t forgotten. One of the girls then piped up, “So, are you the real Santa?” He smiled, and reached in his pocket. “Oh, darn,” he said. I left my driver’s license in the sleigh. (I will mention here that I have seen said license, and it does indeed say Santa on it.) This group of usually rambunctious teenage girls got unusually quiet and thoughtful. Santa closed by saying that including personal details in the letters was also important – he knows what school they go to, and what awards they have won, etc. Then he headed out, back to the workshop he said, and as he went out the door he told the girls they would feel good about what they were doing.
The letters they wrote were wonderful. They all added their own touches – one girl is a beautiful artist, so for her girl who loved cats she drew a kitty with reindeer antlers at the bottom of the letter. Another has literary talent, and her letter was lovely prose. They were all proud of their efforts, and wished they could see the girls’ faces when they read the letters. For my part, I was happy that these modern girls had experienced the true meaning of Christmas.
When I talked to my Mom this morning on the phone, she told me I should be proud of sharing my faith in such a spirit. I was certainly proud of the girls and I am happy to be a part of making sure that despite all efforts to the contrary, we maintain a belief in something positive.
I wish each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas. May its spirit follow you into the New Year.
(If you need more encouragement to feel festive,check out the recipe page where I have posted a few more entries.)