Monthly Archives: July 2009

Playing in the rain

I am at my third and last lake of the summer staying in the home of some very dear friends. It is generally raining and when it is not an urgent run onto the dock to soak in some precious rays and enjoy a few “docktails” you would find me wedged between the scrabble board and the lap top. Here is a little sample of some fun I have been having. With apologies for not writing sooner. I spot the sun. Off I go.

 

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Dock Notes. #2

Three girls go to a sailing race today.

 

There is a father here who refuses his daughters the joy of sailing with friends, for their objective is to win the race and the companionship of others will simply weigh down the boat and detour from his aim. His daughters cannot speak to boys, swim for fun or enjoy a silly game of tennis. Everything they do is to please their father’s manic obsession with success. It has led me to wonder about the purpose of entering into any activity at all. I appreciate the desire to compete and succeed and I understand the value in passing on ambition to our children. But still.

 

Imagine that a person loves to write, to paint, perhaps to sing or photograph. Imagine that these pursuits give the person much pleasure. Now consider that the individual is not talented in any of these activities, maybe not able to win competitions, get published or even perform. Does that eventually diminish the pleasure? Perhaps if we set our sights too far beyond the realm of creation and push them into the success and appreciation by others the pleasure of a fine day painting will be lost. Does something have to be read, purchased or applauded for it to be real?  Does my daughter have to win the sailing regatta in order to enjoy it?

I hope not.


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Dock Notes

 

Notes from a dock.

 

I am not one of those women who get up before the rest of the house to make French toast and warm fresh scones. I am not one of those ultra patient earth mothers who has 6 children and still has time and patience left over to run the summer play on the lake. I am not one of those mothers who devotes her entire life to feeding her family. I am not one of those women who always has snacks and juice and kleenex in her deep deep bag. However, I am in awe of those women who brandish their toilet pump in one hand and spatula in the other. I stare at mothers with infinite patience as if at a higher species from the planet “I am Mother, hear me Roar.”

 

Lying on a dock is an experience in self contemplation.  Between bouts of sneezing ( allergies) and regret at being a cold water wimp there is time to stare at the sky, the still smooth lake and the gentle curves of the hills, and in these moments the mind may travel. Back to the collection of mothers I encountered at the charming summer camp on the lake, all of whom had remembered towels for their children while I was still bleary eyed and grumpy from waking up before 9am. My poor cold children, towel-less and dripping were learning the hard way what it means to be Canadian. There is a posse of teens on the dock as I type and where is that super mom with the fresh baked cookies for the hungry wet swimmers?

 

Some women make mothering a profession while I stand back and wait for the moments when I want to draw my brood near for moral sustenance and a glimpse of good art or literature. I think it is amusing that part of me really wants to be one of those Betty Crocker Moms but I just can’t drag myself into the kitchen to make the leap. 

 

My sweet but snappy eldest, somewhat like a charming garden turtle, has fallen for the lake hunk. While her eyes boggle at the sight of him and her smile shyly shows her crush, I step back and let them swim and splash and feel the joy of a sunny day on a Canadian lake. For these are the days memories are made of. Better that I don’t disturb them with warm fresh cookies.

 

Don’t you think?

 

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Kitschiness

 

What is the definition of Kitsch? It is one of my favorite words and one that I take to mean that the object is so far out of fashion that it is cutting edge in. It has crossed a borderline of taste that is so far out there, it is on the way back. That is how Retro becomes so trendy. I am staying in a house that has not been touched since circa 1974. This home is being rented by our good friends and the owner lives in Ottawa. I am not certain that she comes here very often, and if she does she certainly doesn’t use her time purging old furniture, clothes or trinkets. Come July the Christmas wreath still hangs above the fireplace and ball dresses from the 60’s hang for the moths in the closet.  What I love and find terribly amusing is how much of a time warp this place is. I call it the Brady Bunch house, and can easily imagine Florence in the kitchen fiddling with the mug tree or cleaning the floral plastic table cloth. There are two card tables in the living room and judging by the vibe that lingers in these walls I am convinced there was some happy partying in this house.

 

Maybe even a key party or two.

 

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More summer limes.

 

Sun desperately trying to get through these dark clouds. I haven’t been this cold in a long time. In London during the snow storm of the century I was cold, but then, it was snowing, it was to be expected. It has been forever proven that I am a warm weather girl. I get very sad when my bones ache with cold. At night I sleep clenched, trying to stay warm, longing for a hot water bottle. Last Saturday, at 4pm on July 4th as I sat huddled, practically in the fire place, I decided once and for all that I will never own a country house here in Quebec. That was quite the epiphany moment there. This is my home, the place I love and I have decided that I will never again own a home here. I simply hate to be cold.

Now please don’t imagine that I am complaining. Yes, I might grumble now and again as I borrow another sweater but I am still happy to be here.

 

And I do live in hope, I have a pretty Trini sundress hanging in the closet.

 

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Does anybody know a remedy for the problem of teens and their selective blindness? Pull out a pack of cigarettes to have a quiet and sneaky cig and they are as sharp as a hungry seagull. Walk into a room and see a pair of crotch in your face underwear left centre stage and they are as blind as a mole. I point them out. Even walk them through the room like a private visitor to an exclusive gallery, but even if they see it, the mess, the strewn clothes, it is with the blurry vision of the carefree teen. These things are just not important!

But I think they are, along with table manners, talking back and general politeness. I know a lot of parents, tired from the constant fighting, just give it up and sweep the discord under the proverbial rug. Then bitterness ensues, complacency and the eventual silence at the dinner table. Parents then become so surprised to learn that it was their child who gate crashed the party in a bikini.

So I might be the nag, the mom who forces then to pick up, the recipient of many a rolled eye ball, but I believe in the old fashioned fundamentals.

 

So bring on the dropped knickers and I’ll lead the gallery tour.

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 




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Summer limes

A few slices of summer lime

 

Yesterday I sat in front of a fire with two sweaters on. Welcome to July in Quebec. It was bloody cold, especially for my spoilt disposition so attuned to the tropics.

 

Yet today it is beautiful here. Very still, calm and fresh. It feels Northern. The green is as fresh and pale as a Boreal forest should be. The sky crisp, the sun sharp. 

I had been sensitized to the northern climate, the trees, sounds and tastes and now I have a new found appreciation for what was once ordinary. That is the beauty of living away; I can retain the pleasure of experiencing the new.

 

 

We went to a market over the weekend in a small country town. I saw happy hippies and city weekenders shopping for their lunch, greeting each other with familiar smiles. The small kiosks were proudly selling their homemade foods. I sampled wine, cheese  and maple syrup but I could have also tried milk fed piglet or gourmet sausage. There was a pride in their food and the tasteful (and sometimes kitch) presentation. This is a land of food snobs.

 

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Since arriving in Montreal I have eaten meals that have tasted intense and fresh. I had not experienced a sensation quite like a fresh Quebec strawberry in some time. My taste buds have been deprived of these northern flavours, the sweet but tart berry, the pungent wet cheese, the nectarine dripping in juice. And visually the food looks perfect, the carrots are small and neat and orange, the eggplant firm in its purple fatness and the lettuce looks as crisp as its crunch. 

 

A Canadian summer means drinks at the dock, laughter with friends, the icy dip or the comfort of a roaring fireplace. For me it also means a return to my adopted home and time spent with my sisterhood of girlfriends. There is comfort in returning home to the familiar and seeing the gasp of recognition and joy spread over my daughters’ faces.

 

Things are often too long. Movies, books, classes, days, plays; but a Canadian summer is always too short. Staring at a Canadian lake bordered by gentle hills is so relaxing that after a while you feel akin to floating.

 

I must confess that no part of my anatomy has yet dared to experience the piercing and heart thumping cold of a lake swim.

 

Saving that for another day. Not quite that brave yet.

 

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