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.
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.
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 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.
From the beginning, I was a Daddy’s girl. My little brother and my mom were close, and my dad and I had a special bond I was his Princess.
I inherited many character traits from my father but being a foodie wasn’t one of them. Rather, I helped make him a foodie with some of my adventures.
When I was a kid, we ate simply. Both my parents were from the Prairies where meat and potatoes are the norm. Exotic spices were not a part of our pantry until my teen years. A fried egg sandwich was a funky dish.
The most unusual childhood dinner I remember was finan haddie, from a can. It was served with toast, and canned tomatoes in a bowl on the side. My dad liked it. I thought it was fun – different tastes and textures than meat and potatoes. My mom told me years later she was embarrassed to serve it, because it was mostly out of a can.
Back before there were so many snack choices, it was easier to have a favourite. We made popcorn in a pot on the stove, shaking it so as not to burn the kernels. To this day I don’t go to the movies without having popcorn. Our other favourite was Cheezies; when I spent a year in France during my university studies I was over the moon when my dad sent me a bag of them in a care package.
Gradually our tastes expanded. I learned of many new ingredients and techniques from my European travels, and my dad sampled new dishes as my mom expanded her cooking repertoire and they ventured out to different restaurants. By the time I was a young adult, my dad was even cooking meals.
Some of my best memories with my dad were our Friday night dinners when we both lived in Vancouver. I would go to his apartment and we would whip up whatever new dish he had discovered. I would bring wine and dessert, and we would talk till the wee hours, trying to solve the problems of the world.
I wish we had more Friday nights. I wish I had been able to have coffee with him more often. I wish we could still go to a movie and share popcorn. But most of all I just miss his company.
At least I have all those memories. Every time I eat all those foods, I smile and think of all the times we shared.
Happy Father’s Day, Daddy.
Yesterday I had a little afternoon snack, and as I took my first bite I was inadvertently thrown back in time to my childhood. Suddenly I wasn’t eating a delightful nibble of pâté and crackers… I was in my school lunchroom, eating what was then known to me as a meatspread sandwich. It was completely humbling.
As a child I really disliked meatspread. Little did I know then that it was a grocery store version of what I would covet as an adult, under the name of goose liver pâté. It was an inexpensive sandwich filling, a change-up from canned tuna or egg salad. My mom did her best to make it appealing: she put it on fresh French bread and added sliced sweet pickles.
The problem was, in those days “French bread” was in the shape of a fat baguette but it was still soft bread. The meat spread was rather firm stuff, and by the time it got distributed across a slice of bread, there could be squished places or even worse, holes, where the pickle juice would seep through and give the sandwich a soggy spot by lunchtime.
I ate my meatspread sandwiches anyway. They were certainly my least favourite, but I was a growing girl who was perpetually hungry so I wasn’t going to not eat. I saw other kids that had lunches with less appealing ingredients than meat spread, in my opinion. I was lucky my mom was a good cook, and a crafty packer of a bag lunch. (Her best trick was to take a piece of Chocolate Wacky Cake and pull the bottom half away, sticking it on top of the icing. Then you didn’t lose any icing when you unwrapped it from the waxed paper!)
I had a rueful smile yesterday as the memory of pickles and meatspread washed over me. It didn’t taste that bad at all, on one of my sourdough crackers. But then, I’m a much wiser foodie now, aren’t I?