The first time I was published in The Globe and Mail, my uncle Peter sent a note telling me how proud Theo would be. She was a subscriber all her adult life. What a good feeling that gave me.
Peter and I have spent quality time discussing family and lake boats this year. I've got practical questions he can answer. We can talk, and the conversations are high value — they mean an awful lot to me. There's a craft in putting a family story together. A few days ago, we were musing about the lost time in the narrative. There's a decade for Theo and Harry where little is known. We're left to speculate. I'm convinced a deep archival search — harbour master and shipping company records — might produce documents.
This week, Peter's wife, Brenda, sent me a card and note with good photos. The last thing she wrote before, Lots of Love, is, We are very proud of you!!
I've worked hard on the writing. It's been another apprenticeship. I hold what I do with esteem. But having someone who loves you say it, lands right in the heart.
This might be my favourite photo of Theo. She's probably ordering someone to make her a Manhattan or bring a Peter Jackson. I can still see the black patent cigarette pack sitting on the table by her chair. The living room on Lyons Ave was cozy. My family in there, first drinks in hand — jostling to tell a good story — everything golden.
She's at the kitchen sink. An electric knife mounted on the wall behind her and underneath a magnetic bar with half a dozen paring knives stuck to it. Enough for everyone to help with something. Theo had run kitchens. She had lots of kids. If she stuck her arms out, she'd come close to touching opposite walls in that room. A woman of stature comfortable working in tight spaces.
My family is matriarchal — Theo was the dominant force. There are pluses and minuses with the structure. At this point, it's fresher than the patriarchy. She produced strong women. I'm full of gratitude for her. For making me, and some of the women I love the most, who we are.
You reach out with beautiful stuff. I appreciate your candour and words. This note came early this week about a post I made on Instagram,
"I love this very much. Thank you for being so generous with us, sharing these glimpses of your life. I appreciate it and I appreciate you."
I talked with a friend by DM today. He's just had a close relative pass, shared family photos, and told me a bit about them. It was nice. His last sentence,
"You're a beautiful voice in a room full of noise."
I hurt my wrist on Tuesday and am in a splint. That's a fast way to clear a calendar. I can't chop, so it will be a very Polish holiday here. I went to Janchenko's in Bloor West village and hit the hot table — potato pancakes, cabbage rolls, sauerkraut, and borscht. And a big tub of M-C Dairy sour cream (they're Polish, too).
I don't recommend an injury, but you should try clearing your schedule like you had one. Thankfully I can still type slowly (but scrolling is hard).
Cancellations, travel snafus and power outages have a lot of us changing plans. It's going to be a different day than many of us had imagined. I hope for you it's full of love and good things to eat.
I went to see the Ryuichi Sakamoto documentary, Coda, in 2017. This song starts about five- or six minutes in. I was running late and had barely settled into my seat at TIFF. At the sound of the first notes, I burst into tears. Does art make you do that?
Sakomoto and Bowie were in the lead roles in the movie Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence. I saw it when it was released in 1983. It's not a light film for gathering the family around.
He may be gone soon. But here he was performing less than two weeks ago — his expressive hands. Like Bowie, creating to the end. Leaving us with riches.
Seven years old. Soon to be eight.
Christmas 1970. I loved that housecoat.
A blond bob. My hair would turn almost white in the summer. We were outside playing from dawn to dusk in the days of free-range parenting. I can confirm having several unsupervised hair-raising experiences.
The year I got my Crissy doll. Turn a dial embedded in her back, and her hair would grow. I'm sure there was a North American-wide parental scramble to get her that December. I loved her. She got a permanent brush cut at some point — you know, regular brother stuff.
My unique spirit was developing. What a gem.
The occasion for a feast or family time can be fun. But it's not everything.
I see the kids navigating blended families. Divorce changes the season. Even in amicable situations, there are complications. We mostly tell a fairy tale narrative about family and the holidays. I was older when my parents split, but I still remember my heart hurting.
And I have another perspective on the season from being on my own for years. There is great pleasure in stepping out of the christian days-long party and joining with the rest of the free world. The 25th is another day for a lot of people.
If you work in a kitchen, you might feel tired in the final sprint of the year. I hope there's enough left to fill your own spirit up.
I said yes to a pair of tickets for Rupi Kaur on Friday night at Massey Hall. Brought a friend who loves her poetry. A lovely night in the thick of December. There will be trips to galleries and movies in the few days off — the Kent Monkman show at the ROM and Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows at the AGO.
Joy is the orchestral opening of this song. So rare to better the Rolling Stones, but The Verve did it. I love the bell ringing in the middle of this extended version.
Two years old. Can you believe it was taken on Christmas? I look straight out of The Shining. Obviously, I'd missed a nap or, worse, a meal. I want to know who was behind the camera — my dad, mom, or maybe my grandmother Theo. Bet it was the last person on the list.
But the bangs and the teal velvet dress with the fox and raccoon embroidery are sweet. And look at that deluxe buggy. A few months later, I went on a real dangerous walkabout with it — a hair-raising experience for my parents.
I'm still that bitch (and old enough to know everyone has it in them). I trust most parents have seen something similar in their young children.
Those ponytails were so tight when my mom took them out, and my scalp relaxed, it felt like undoing the zipper on too-tight pants after a holiday dinner.
In the season of infinite pressures, mental health is everything. Tend to yourself.
Movies in the theatre are where I find refuge. When the lights go down, the world drops away. Bliss. Watching movies at home is just okay. A late afternoon matinee is good for my spirit. At that time of day, getting choice seats requires no plan. I saw All the Beauty and Bloodshed and Aftersun this week. Both were brilliant and troubling. I'm game for a mob film or some James Bond too. I'll see more movies before the year's over. When I'm on my own on the 25th, I usually go. It is busy and fun (without the christians).
If at anytime during the holidays you feel like how I look in that photo, it is normal.
I was taking all this week's smoke breaks on Friday morning at Dear Grains Bread on Geary Ave — real leisurely-like. I love their onion scones, pan loaf sourdough, and cortados. This song was playing, and a few of us around the counter were quietly grooving. If a disco ball had dropped, we might have put our backs into it. I asked about the song and then listened to it, walking back to work.
Get up and dance...in your bathrobe...grab the person near you.
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