The Best Summers

My super men.

Today I wanted it to be super summery, a really hot and sunny day. I have a swimming lesson this afternoon, Rory’s at sailing camp after being invited by a friend and we’re having dinner and another swim tonight with those friends. These things will all still happen, however because of the lack of sun and cooler temperatures, I might now have much feeling left in my fingers and toes by the end of the day.

And I feel kind of sick and my back hurts. So right now I’m in bed after trying to have a nap, it didn’t work. But it’s cozy under my quilt and the wind in the trees outside my open window is lovely and it’s dark and cool. It’s got me thinking of some of my favourite summers.

When I was small we went to cottages every summer. We didn’t own one, but my grandfather who worked for Chrysler, would rent one from a friend or co -worker each year. The best ones were in Sauble Beach, or maybe those were just the ones we went to most often and when I was older so I remember them most. Or maybe my memories are from a combination of many summers, it doesn’t matter.

I remember lakes that I loved, learning to swim with a small inflatable mattress with a picture of E.T. on it. My grandfather, my Boppa, who loved the summers and the lakes as much as I did, was always there with me in the water. Today, I can’t stand waist high in a lake and have the waves push me forward, without thinking of him, without missing him.

He taught me to play catch at cottages. We spent hours outside the front of one home, surrounded by a wooden porch where we threw a baseball back and forth while watching squirrels fight over the peanuts he’d left along the top of the railings. Queen Anne’s Lace surrounded us, acting as back catcher for when his throw went sailing past. I still know I can throw and catch a ball pretty well though, thanks to his constant praise. Boppa never said five words if two would do, so I’d hold tight to them because they meant so much.

I remember driving into towns, restaurants for pop and pizza subs, penny candies and Teen Beat Magazines. One had a centerfold of a young Michael J Fox which I left open on my bed, loving the thought of Alex P Keaton waiting around just for me.

I remember cool mornings and new pjs and Dr Seuss books leftover on a bookshelf. The smell of new crayons in plastic containers that snapped closed and you could carry around by a handle. Mine was red and the inside was black, a special slot for each crayon, possibly some circles of paint and a few brushes. My favourite crayon for was always Blue- Green, the only one worn down to a nub by the end of the summer.

I remember antique stores and collecting tiny glass animal figurines and one summer Flintstone figures my sister and I would line up on the table between our single beds. The beds we slept soundly in each night, only learning years later of the mouse infestation one summer than kept our adults wide awake.

But it’s Boppa that means summer to me the most. Even when cottages stopped and I was an adult, summer was the smell of his pots of basil and the tomatoes he grew on his own deck. The way I understand, only as an adult, how unhappy the winters made him, how much pain his legs were in as he got older, and how the summers were more than a relief for him, but a solace. Sitting in his chair with a book we’d both read and talk about later and a rum and coke. Making us burgers for dinner with fresh tomatoes he’d grown himself.

He’s gone now, he died almost four years ago, and we don’t go to cottages with our kids. I’d love to but it’s hard for different reasons, it doesn’t matter. And as I get older, I find the summers hard, the heat is sometimes just too much. But today, an overcast, cool day that didn’t start out feeling so summery, has left me feeling nostalgic and so grateful for some of the best summer memories of my life. And for Boppa.

A Very Summery Post

Traditional gift for 18 years married is obvs ice cream.

I have about half an hour. One kid is at a friend’s and the other is at his volunteering gig. I wanted to sit still (albeit feelings jittery after flitting around all morning in order to make things happen and because this humidity is the pits) and write. Write about good things.

This past week, we celebrated being married for 18 years. Scott made us eggs benedict for breakfast which is so amazing he has ruined all other eggs benedict for me forever. Then we drove to Guelph to do what we love best, ice cream and books. We hit up one of my favourite bookstores, The Bookshelf where I found a copy of Pachinko by Min Jin Lee which I am so late to the party for but was reminded of it when Kerry Clare mentioned it the other day on Instagram.

We went to a comic book/ game store and an amazing ice cream and candy store called Sweet! which was right across from a splash pad at city hall. We found an amazing used bookstore and everyone found books to buy. We came home, made hamburgers for dinner and rounded out the night watching Stranger Things. So yes, it was a simple and a good day.

My time is up, I need to run and do pick ups. Other good things: Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett was amazing, my hammock, beer raddlers, watching the US Office with the kids, and swimming!

I had my first swim lesson last week and it was amazing! It’s at 4:30 Friday afternoons and the pool is outside and perfect. There were two instructors and only three students. One teacher for me and one for the others who came as a pair. The instructors knew exactly how to not make a forty- something year old woman feel anything but great for showing up. I passed all of the criteria for Adult 1 in forty-five minutes and was promoted to Adult 2. The hair in my face and the glare in my eyes was tough so I’ve got a cap and goggles all ready for tomorrow. It’s kind of the best way ever to end the week.

A Good Day

Office Hours

On a good day I read and I write, and starting tomorrow afternoon, I swim. I am trying something new this summer and it’s working so well. I have lowered my expectation of writing 1000 words a day and aim for 250, most days I do more, every day (except weekends) I hit my goal. The best thing about this, besides the words and pages that are starting to add up (I’ve got 14, which isn’t much but still!) is this technique is slowing down my writing. I always tend to write very quickly, I think that’s partly because I type so quickly and have since I was in second grade (more on that in another post) but also because when I sit down to write there is so much to get down on the page. This leads to a lack of control in quality but it definitely works in starting (but not finishing) shitty first drafts. However, right now with my 250 words a day, I am staying longer in the moment, in a scene, in a description. There isn’t a point to look ahead because I won’t be getting there today. And this is how I’m going to finish this shitty first draft, a novel about a young woman named Flora.

And writing these words a day is making it feel so much better to come here.

As for the reading, lately I have loved Elizabeth Gilbert’s City of Girls. I’ve never been a huge fan of her non-fiction but her novels are among the best. If Eat, Pray, Love has kept you from devouring them, please get over it and pick them up. I loved, loved Every Little Piece of Me by Amy Jones, which is so different and so wonderful from any other book I’ve ever read and I was heartbroken when it ended. Autopsy of a Boring Wife was terrific and funny and not at all unhappy, written by Marie-Renee Lavoie. And I just finished Kate Atkinson’s Transcription which I gobbled up over the long weekend and loved so much because it was exactly what I wanted to read – a British spy novel with twists and a sarcastic and witty protagonist.

And that’s only been the past two weeks, things are off to a good start thanks to low expectations.

Something To Keep me Afloat

This is not the pool where I will be going this Friday at 4:30pm to start my swimming lessons (!!!) but they will be at an outdoor pool and I can’t wait. This is the first summer in a few years where I have been at home full-time and I want to seize something that’s all mine. Of course there’s reading and also writing, the kids know that’s happening and it did today, hooray! But this will be a big challenge, something new to do and to think about. Not to mention I need exercise. When I signed up for the lessons weeks ago I wasn’t sure if I’d follow through, but now that the first class is almost here, I can’t wait! I catch myself dreaming of swimming laps all winter long (albeit indoors) with my newly claimed superpower. I can walk to the pool, which is a bonus and it will be the perfect ending to each week throughout the summer. I guess it was only a matter of time until this blog became a little bit about pink fish swims.

What Matters Most

The past 48 hours have been beyond strange. Today is one of those days you wake up having no idea what day it is, whether school is over or what needs to be done. I think one thing we can say with some certainty this morning is that everyone is happy.

Two days ago it was Rory’s graduation from the sixth grade. It was a great morning, William was able to come because he was out of school early. His own grad was that evening and early dismissal for hair appointments is how most people roll. We went to Rory’s school and it was the last primary school assembly we will ever attend which was sad. The diplomas were handed out to the students along with locks for their lockers in grade seven at the middle school next fall. Awards were given out and Rory received the last one, the one that had only one winner, presented by the principal to Rory, who had been chosen by the staff. I don’t remember that last time I felt that happy. I stood up, felt silly for half a second, thought who cares, and stood back up. I did that crazy laughing/crying thing. It was wonderful and it meant everything to my kid.

The afternoon was a down time before we headed off to William’s graduation which was held at the Kitchener Aud because there were over 200 students graduating. It was long and William really didn’t want to go but we had fun. Rory, Scott and I ate Smarties in our chairs while enjoying all the fancy dresses. By the time we got home it was nearing ten o’clock and we were exhausted.

I left out the part in the middle. The part when our old neighbour from across the street met our car as we pulled up so happy from Rory’s cermony. He began threatening and screaming at us to clean up our front yard and what terrible, lazy people we are. It was horrible, and I’ll admit, a little scary. Luckily the kids didn’t care, this neighbour is known for being a crank but this was more extreme than usual. We don’t keep a golf course for a front lawn, there are weeds and lots of pretty wild flowers and a little path Scott made. It is diverse and the bees love it. It looks different from the other golf courses on our street and we never need sprinklers or pesticides. We are also lazy at times, admittedly but that hardly makes us horrible people.

Yesterday the grade 8 class drove in a coach bus to Muskoka, over three hours away for a three day camping trip. William was so excited and at the school for 6am (after which Scott came home and weeded 🙂 I went on a field trip to an outdoor pool with Rory’s class. I got a call in the afternoon and after arranging for Rory to stay for as long as needed with a dear friend, Scott and I drove to Muskoka to pick up William who just couldn’t do it. We drove seven hours, ate crappy Burger King, and picked Rory up by 10pm. William woke up happy this morning, happy with his decision and happy it was summer.

We are beyond tired and so very ready for days of nothing. We know we are not horrible people, probably not even that lazy. Our neighbour screamed at us for not taking care of the most important thing we will even own. But I know we do.

Bingo’s all I Need

This picture is lovely and still. I’m happy sitting outside on a not scorching hot day with my dog while wearing my new birthday sweatshirt from Books Are Magic, the store where I work in my dreams. I have been 43 for a few days, things are good. And weeks later, things are still good but it is June so things are not so calm.

It seems there are less events this month then there were in May. Birthday seasons are crazy in our house, May is about William and I, he just turned 14 (14!) while November is all about Rory and Scott. I would be lying if I said I am not happy that the birthday spring edition is over. So many ups and downs.

There are not as many events but the events there are in June are huge. Monday the 24 is Graduation day, for both kids. Rory from grade 6 in the morning (I know ) and William from grade 8 in the evening. The next morning Rory and I head off with his class to a water park while William gets on a bus with his school for a two hour ride to a camp where they’ll be for two night and three days. For many, this is nothing. For us, this is huge and will involve special planning. Although in the end, I am sure it will be hardest on me.

So that’s all. This morning was just a morning of filling out forms and paying for trips and so I wandered over here for a break as I think I will need to do more often in the next new weeks and months. This summer is the first in a long time that I will be not working and therefore home with the boys. This also will involve more planning. I wanted it to maybe involve the getting of a second dog but no one else in my home agreed this would be a good idea. It would be, it would be a great idea, but I live in a democracy. I had however even found the dog I wanted to become Bingo’s sister, a mixed bred named Flossy with neurological problems that causes her to spend time each day walking in circles. Maybe there is more to her adorable face that drew me in and the feeling that she needed me. Perhaps there was something else I connected to – the feeling of walking in circles some days and getting nowhere.

Why I Need to Blog

Can I say it’s because Michelle Obama wants me to? I can and I will, because it’s actually true. This past Saturday, my Aunt Bonnie and I went to see her speak in front of 15, 000 others in Toronto. We did dress up more than in the photo, but once we bought our Michelle hoodies like proper nerds, what did it matter?

Michelle was interviewed by Phoebe Robinson who I know as on of the 2 Dope Queens along with Jessica Williams. These women are all funny and brilliant and I’ve listened to some of their podcasts, especially the ones with Michelle.

To say she was amazing is an understatement. I’d spent the week reading Becoming so I knew my stuff. She touched on her past, of course, her relationship with her brother, father and mother, her grumpy grandpa, her aunt who lived on the first floor of their house. She spoke of the importance of large families – either the one you are born into or the one you choose – and how necessary these people are because of their different voices and their stories. Different stories as we grow and of course, ‘become’, are crucial because they keep are minds open and people close. When people are close to us through their stories – around the dinner table, over Netflix or through blogs – it becomes impossible to put people into groups out of fear and hate, despite the horrors others may be trying to push into our ears.

It doesn’t take a genius to see where this is going. I’ve been toying with the idea of really committing to this blog, I even paid the yearly fee to get rid of the hideous ads that pop up. But then I struggle so much and worry about sounding narcissistic. But if I’m writing my stories it means I’m also listening to yours, and then we talk and we learn and there is community. Sitting in that arena, deafened by the screams of thousands of like-minded and good people was the most overwhelming part of the night. It’s so easy to forget that there is more good than bad around us, but there is, and I refuse to think otherwise. So if use this little space to share my stories and get to know you and yours, I think we’ll make Michelle proud.