Thursday, June 27, 2013


I don’t remember the bathroom in the first house I lived in. But I remember the first time I saw the next one.

In between the living room and the kitchen, three large block steps led to the warmest room in the house. The room where my mother would leave cloth-covered trays of breads and rolls to rise before baking. The room where I concocted exotic experiments with the science kit found under the tree. The room where we were forbidden to touch the old ringer washer, a consequence of my mother’s fear that we would send our arms through the ringer the way her mother had when she was a child.

The room with a bag-filled bucket.

In high school, the first day of school delivered year-defining discoveries. Which flat. Which room. Which roommate.

I was unusually lucky in all three categories, all five years that I spent traipsing the hallowed stone halls of Canada’s oldest co-ed boarding school in my too-short black watch kilt and Bass Weejuns. But while being caught on an infraction was the single greatest mistake, being caught in the shared bathroom facilities empty handed was next in line. And sneaking down to the park on a Saturday night confirmed that females should never frolic in the dark. In the woods. In the presence of beverages.

And that not all leaves are kind.

In college, life revolved around Thursday nights. I had set my sights on a top university, recognized as much for its academics as for its social credentials. A beautiful campus with dramatic stone buildings, a cavernous library and lush greens surrounded by beautiful homes, tree lined roads and a soothing river that ran through it, my university of choice offered a dance club and on-campus pubs within walking distance of a full medical center, if one so needed. And if you weren’t in line for The Ceeps by 5 p.m. on Thursday, you were left out in the cold wishing you were inside the legendary 120-plus-year-old watering hole. For four years I reveled in literature and linguistics and purple and alphas, gammas and deltas. I walked away with honors, but my crowning achievement came in the affirmation of three things.

I hate math. Bring your own toilet paper to parties. Perfect the art of using a frat house toilet without actually touching it.

As a mother, I learned how to navigate tiny, premature diapers and that tiny parts should be tucked just so and I race to bring fresh rolls to those in stranded distress. I pray for kegel fortitude – eternally grateful for the emergency c-sections that preserved elasticity and control – as I unload three overloaded satchels, a purse, empty water bottles all while trying to focus on the excited “Mom, guess what happened today!”’s as I realize too late that I have not taken a break since the start of the day.

Sitting here in the silence of the cafĂ© restroom, alone for the first time in days, I can’t help but wish.

That I had a square to spare.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Forever and a Day.

“Will Daddy’s stone be here forever?”

“Yes, sweetheart. It will be here forever.”

Under the shade of the tree, it doesn’t seem so unbearable. The blinding desert sunlight of midday peeks through the leaves and three balloons float this way and that into the clear blue sky above. Fresh flowers dot the gravestones and miniature flags, faded and dry, snap periodically in the light breeze that provides the only reprieve from the heat. Chimes ring softly and a teddy bear lies lifeless in the grass, mementos left behind in gestures of solace.

Looking across the grass an old woman bends over, the love and sadness seeping from the hands that place fresh flowers in the vase. Sensing that she is being watched her eyes meet mine, a silent acknowledgement of the misery that lies in this peaceful place.

It is our fifth pilgrimage. An annual visitation that mommies do in lieu of the things that daddies no longer do.

Sitting here in the breeze, his greatest gifts quiet and close, I collect the thoughts that have scattered all week. Holidays are an uncomfortable truth and while I no longer douse them with tears and wine and anger, they are an irritating inconvenience that simply serves to remind me of the solitude left to me. It’s not about him. 

It’s very much about me, what I want and what I do not have.

Father’s Day is about them, what they want and what they do not have. There is a void in their childhood. The slivered memories they have do not represent the man that he was or the father he was destined to be, and they crave the stories that form the image they are left with. Five years have vanished and with them the simple childhood joys that they crave and that a father would bring. I have given so much and yet I cannot give them what matters most.

Memories of laughter and simple things.

Eight years ago as we welcomed my daughter, new life collided with the unchangeable reality that my own father, a man among men to his children, would reach his own mortality. Four months, at best. And yet he defied the odds and stood strong and silent and unbending. Four months became years. And suddenly the tables turned, and he was there when the man who was supposed to stand by me vanished.

There will come a day when I join my children in remembering a father gone. But I will remember him with a lifetime of memories whereas they cling to the few they still remember. I remember the laughter and the anger, the good and the bad. They remember the bad and idolize the stories that make the man. They ask for a dad that will toss them in the air and tickle them. A dad that will take them places and watch movies with them and build things and play games and explore and splash in the pool and draw pictures and teach him how to drive and walk her down the aisle. A dad that will teach them about life and take care of their mom and make her smile.

They ask for what I have.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


At Christmas, I remember an ornate silver nutcracker nestled among almonds and walnuts and pecans and macadamia nuts, whole and round in their ridged skins. 

With the entire assortment at my fingertips, I chose carefully.

As an adult, I am no different. Christmas nuts are the same as any-other-day-of-the-year nuts, and if one happened to enter my mouth it was a rare and special nut, indeed. Extolling the health benefits, my nutritionist has advised that I should be eating a handful of nuts every day. “Nuts in moderation” and I diligently follow her direction, chafing at “moderation” and staring wistfully at the bag of nuts on the counter wishing for more.

Thinking back on the bowl of Christmas nuts, I realize my reluctance was borne more of fear than distaste. The silver nutcracker was heavy, the violence of the shell cracking unpredictable. And by the time the skin was revealed beneath the shell, in the end I was almost always hurt while the nut remained whole and apart from where I expected it to be.

I’ve never found pleasure in cracking nuts.

And then I had to grow a pair.

I had to stand up and be the woman and the man. The mom and the dad. The breadwinner, the bill payer, the bike fixer, the grocery getter and the skate lacer. The laundry doer, the activity coordinator, the vacation planner, the party hoster, the present getter, the errand runner and the TV fixer. The yard worker, the pipe fixer, the bug zapper and the tire inflator. The issue fixer, the band aid wrapper and the cheerleader.

My nuts are cracked on a daily basis.

Staring at the 20-foot long penis etched in chalk on my sidewalk I wonder.

Who's got the cojones to take me on?