Thursday, June 24, 2010

Rainy Interlude

I’ve been away on a little Father's Day weekend camping trip with Gem and my grandsons. After an absence of over a month the boys are static cling, full of secrets and kisses, hands and fingers entangled in my hair and gripping my neck, folding into me, owning me. M brings his face an inch from mine and places an open palm on each of my cheeks. "I love you, Nana", he declares earnestly. We stare at each other, eyes clownishly wide, lash-to-lash. Almost unbearable sweetness. Something deep and visceral, animal, takes root.

When the rain starts, Gem rigs up a large tarp and the boys move their elaborate game of monster trucks under it. Their clothes become soaked and caked with mud. They are in some private, blissed-out world of invention and play that absorbs them wholly. When bedtime is announced, they look at me puzzled. "But Nana, how did the time happen so quick?", asks D.

Yes, sweet grandson of mine, how does time happen so quickly?

On me they are etched, but more as a phantom limb as they grow up and away. Every day each is more himself, full of his own opinions and priorities, leaving me with an intense mix of joy, protectiveness, fear and pride.

Exhausted, yet sated. Three hours of sleep ... a sodden, rain-soaked travel trailer ... drying hiking boots by the campfire ... sticky s'mores and charred hotdogs ... 4 am smothered giggles. Awakening to more relentless rain. A mad dash to the truck, Gem and I each holding a sleep-warm little boy ... The scent of wet dog and damp earth and strong, black coffee. We sit in the warmth of the truck watching the greys patterning the wet morning. M entertains us with song. D covers his head and burrows deeply into his blanket, eyes closed.

Of course now that we are home, the weather is glorious!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

'It's All Your State of Mind' ....

When they learned that I was moving away, family, friends and co-workers told me that I was fortunate, that I’d now have time to do all the things I hadn’t had time for previously. I’m starting to realise that I was, in fact, already doing all the things I wanted to do.

I’m missing my grandchildren terribly. I’m missing my daughter, my sons, and my friends. I’m missing my working life; the interaction with patients and co-workers. I’m missing the pulse of my old life as I struggle to re-define myself in the light of the new one. I miss the energy of my old house; the small shoes piled up at the door, the scattered toy cars, the laughter and tears of children, their sheer noisiness.

I’m having trouble sleeping at night. I can’t find the sweet center, the angle of repose. I remember as a child I had a bedtime ritual which consisted of setting stuffed animal beside stuffed animal, shoe beside shoe, doll beside doll, book beside book. I could never abandon one single thing to loneliness. I wish it were that simple right now. The aroma of change, the altered light is inescapable.

“Are you okay?”, asks Gem as he heads out to the university.
“Sure”, I nod.
“Come over and have lunch with me today?”, he says.
“I will”, I tell him.

One of my favourite bands is Great Big Sea, a Canadian group from NewFoundland. Their song ‘Ordinary Day’ never fails to brighten and comfort me. So, I’ve put that on ... and I’m going to get dressed and finish the hanging basket I started yesterday. Later, I’ll walk to the beautiful campus where Gem works and we’ll find somewhere lovely on the grounds to eat our picnic lunch.

Here for your enjoyment, some of the lyrics of 'It’s an Ordinary Day' from Great Big Sea.

“And I say way-hey-hey, it's just an ordinary day
and it's all your state of mind.
At the end of the day, you've still got to say,
it's all right.”

Saturday, June 5, 2010

A Life in Dolls

This week's Sepia Saturday photograph, taken in 1965, is of four little sisters and their dolls on a sunny June morning. From left to right is Jo 8, Amanda 4, Connie 7 and Suzanne 2. Our newest sister, Alice, was only a few weeks old and babies would have been on our minds. This picture still has the power to elate with the sweetness and strength of its history.

I was very much a little girl who loved her dolls. I admit that I was probably around twelve before I reluctantly stopped requesting them for gifts. The doll in front of me in the picture is a cloth and vinyl combination ‘Baby Dear’ doll. My next-in-line sister, Connie, and I had received them for Christmas. I named mine Caroline and often dressed her in discarded real baby clothes.

This photo awakens a sleeping self in me; stirs something from the well of my childhood. I am reminded of all the dolls I had over the years. I am the oldest of six sisters, so consequently none of my dolls survived the successive and varied mothering they received over the years. I was, in turn, the proud owner of:

A 'Posie' doll:

A 'Tiny Tears',

A Skipper,

A Betsy Wetsy,

And perhaps the strangest of all:

A Nun doll.
My earliest years at Primary school were spent at a convent school and I held an admixture of fascination, fear and awe of the nuns who educated me. I had requested my nun doll repeatedly and my mother had no easy task finding her. I named her Sister Mary Rosary ... odd, I know ... but I was only six years old at the time.

Perhaps, though, the dolls I loved the most were my huge family of paper cut-out dolls.

I literally spent hours engaged in play with them. There was something intensely satisfying to me about carefully cutting out their clothes and staging endless games as I whisked them in and out of their extensive wardrobes. They all had names and I created a rich series of relationships between them. I kept them in a box under my bed ... safe from the prying eyes and fingers of my little sisters.

My sister Connie, who is sixteen months younger than me, remembers with delight the stories I used to make-up for her each night when we went to bed. Most of these involved our dolls coming alive and the adventures they had. I don’t recall the specific details, but I do remember the two of us cuddled in our beds as the stories I created took shape in the shadowed darkness.

Humanity’s childhood shares with all created things the primal dreams and desires of embodiment. The little girl who loved her dolls so tenderly grew-up to become something of a ‘baby whisperer’. I have the reputation of being able to calm any baby down. Last year, late one evening, there was a knock at the door. It was a neighbour, the new mother of twin boys (and also of two other little boys under the age of five). She was carrying a frantically crying baby. “I hope you don’t mind”, she said anxiously. “I saw your lights were still on and I’m at the end of my tether.” Her words dissolved into tears. I took the tiny, squalling wee man from her and she followed me into the house. As Gem made tea, I rocked and soothed little Beckham (yes, that’s his real given name) until he fell asleep against my chest.

Perhaps that healing embrace of comfort has its roots in a story of long ago; a little girl playing with her dolls.

(A proud, tired Nana Jo with her real life 'dolls' ... my first grandchildren, A and D, born almost exactly one month apart on August 4th & September 3rd, 2003.)