Bits and bobs

Random thoughts about random things by a random person

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What a day!!

This post is transcribed from what I wrote this earlier this afternoon in my notebook that I keep in my car.


Idyllic setting

A small patch of shade makes it all perfect!

This is where I am writing at the moment – the Jock River Landing. Other than the near-constant drone of traffic on both sides of the river, it is a pretty idyllic spot. Even better, it is only about a five-minute drive from home!

It’s an absolutely stellar day. Not a cloud in the sky, the temperature is only about 25*C and the humidity has seriously dropped off from where it’s been the past few days. There is enough of a breeze to keep the flying, biting critters at bay and to provide some musical backdrop as it rustles through the trees.

It is, in short, a perfect day for me. I’ve even found a lovely little spot in the shade. It’s literally the only shaded spot here that is big and flat enough to fit the chair that isn’t full of tall grass or bushes – it was meant to be!

Since this is, in the very literal sense, a landing, a paddle-boarder (is that what they are called?) is heading in from the Rideau. It would be rude to take a photo from this proximity, so you’ll have to imagine it yourself. I’m sure he’s had a wonderful time out on the river. A few boats – motorized and other – also zoom or float by occasionally.

I should also explain that this spot is where the Jock River meets the Rideau River. The Rideau is the one that I’m looking across in the main image above. This little cove (see below) is the mouth of the Jock, which comes from behind me to the right.

The Jock River comes from the right and empties into the Rideau River, which continues south around the point just left of centre in the photo.

Birds of various sorts are chirping and you certainly don’t need to be an ornithologist to enjoy their chattering songs.

A massive bumble bee just zig-zagged past me. There’s only grass that I can see, though. Not sure that’s any help to him. There are a couple of empty dandelion heads around, with their seeds almost all blown away, and some tall, scraggly white flowers at the left edge of the mouth, but otherwise I don’t see any signs of flowers. However, who am I to say what a bee finds appealing or not? 🙂

A father and his two young sons just showed up to go fishing. The kids are pretty happy about the prospect. Who can blame them!! I haven’t seen hide nor hair of any fish, though, so I don’t know how successful they’ll be, but when it comes to spending time with your kids and your dad, that’s not really the point, is it?

Well, enough writing! Now to put this away and just enjoy!!




Dairy Queen Discoveries: A Mental Health Me, Too

Our annual general meeting for our condo corporation was this evening and afterwards, since it was a pretty toasty and humid evening, a friend an I decided to go to DQ for a treat before heading home.

Whenever we go out, we have the best conversations, ranging from totally banal topics (such as dipping French fries in your ice cream – which is great, btw, especially if the fries are salted) to various state-of-the-world topics (we have yet to solve world hunger and world peace, though, I regret to admit). Those are my favourite types of conversations – we giggle and we think. This evening was no different and I came away edified, as usual, and even with a new term in my vocabulary: imposter syndrome.

If you’d like to go into more detail on it, you can read up on it here.

Essentially, per Wikipedia, it refers to:

…high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”…Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.

Now, I don’t think that I truly suffer from this, but parts of what it is definitely resonated with me, particularly right now.

Almost three weeks ago I had a medical emergency that required immediate treatment and I have been off work since then. (Nothing life-threatening…)

Having to take this much time off work (about three and a half weeks by the time I go back next Tuesday) has definitely thrown me for a loop, particularly because I had only been on the team just over two months at the time it happened. I can’t help feeling that everyone now thinks I’m unreliable and a terrible member of the team. I’ve left them in the lurch and that is what is foremost in their minds, especially since I haven’t been on the team long enough for them to have developed any real sense of any of my positive traits.

I should add at this point that I have had recurring issues with anxiety and depression, at varying levels, throughout my adult life (and likely before). So when I say those are the things I’ve been thinking and feeling as a result of being off, I don’t just mean that I feel kind of badly and guilty about it. I mean it’s really been playing havoc with my anxiety in a very disruptive, life-impacting kind of way.

Despite the “logical” side of my brain telling me, “You had to take this time off. It couldn’t be postponed and you didn’t have a choice” and “Nobody thinks you’re a horrible person for doing this,” my anxiety found fertile soil to flourish, so I’ve been dealing with that, as well.

If you’ve ever struggled with anxiety, you likely know it feeds quite well on itself when left unchecked. In my experience, one negative thought leads to another negative thought, which supports the first one and leads to others – kind of like a creeping vine. Similar to imposter syndrome, anxiety takes little to no notice of facts or reality. In full swing, in fact, otherwise completely unrealistic thoughts seem absolutely real and plausible, which, I suppose, is where they get their power.

Somewhere in the past week or so, I read a post by Wil Wheaton where he talks quite frankly about the panic attacks he was suffering through at the time. I was impressed by his openness and honesty in sharing his experience.

I don’t know Wil Wheaton outside of Star Trek and The Big Bang Theory, but somehow reading about his experience (which lead me to some of his other posts on the mental health issues he deals with) made me feel better. Not just because he’s a famous person – but because he’s, well, a person and he seems to be functioning fairly well in his life.

I am also quite fortunate to have a few friends who struggle with anxiety and/or depression. It’s easy to find people who are OK with hearing about your physical ailment (you break a bone, you need a surgery, etc.), but having people with whom you can talk about mental health issues is truly a treasure!

There’s something…liberating… when you can see, in someone else, parts of yourself that you think are “less-than” and even “crazy” – someone who you’d never dream of putting those labels on, even though you’re more than willing to put them on yourself. It’s amazing what happens when you are able to normalize it somewhat – it’s not a weird, freakish, abnormal thing and I’m not a weird, freakish, abnormal person for having it, either. It doesn’t totally make it better, but it definitely helps.

I guess this post is my bit in trying to do the same – to maybe normalize it just a bit more. Of course, my reach is a touch smaller than Wil Wheaton’s (my 45 to his however-many-thousands 😉 ), but every little bit helps, right?

So… Hello. My name is Lucy and I have anxiety and depression.



And then there were four…

There’s a scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding where Toula tells Ian about her huge Greek family. She says:

So, you have two cousins. I have 27 first cousins. Just 27 first cousins alone!

(Watch this 5-second clip to see how emphatic she is about it.)

My immediate thought when I heard that was, “27? Big whoop.” You see, there are 73 of us first cousins in my family, including me and my 3 brothers. Yup – 73. And no, we’re not Greek. 😉

Now, you might be thinking that to get that many first cousins, there have to be a lot of aunts and uncles, right? And you would be correct, but maybe there were not as many as you might think, since most of them had pretty large families themselves.

There were 7 siblings in Dad’s family (3 of whom died young) and 15 in Mom’s (4 of whom died young). All who lived to adulthood, except one, married, and all who married, except one, had children. So that’s 13 aunts and uncles (plus their spouses) who had families of their own, with a total of 73 kids – that’s an average of 5.6 kids each!

I thought that was normal. It wasn’t until later, discussing that part of the movie with friends, that I realized that my situation was actually the unusual one.

That said, I didn’t actually know most of my cousins on Mom’s side.  Geography separated me from most of them, as they were scattered across the province and country. Travel was very expensive back then and with the (obviously) large families everyone had, getting to visit with each other was not feasible. Everything I knew about those cousins came from occasional photographs, wedding announcements, and so on.

Then there were those who grew up in the same town I did, but from whom I was separated by age. Mom was one of the youngest of her siblings and she didn’t marry until the (then) ripe old age of 34. Her older siblings’ kids then, were much older than I was and had grown up and moved away by the time I was old enough to really get to know them. Most visited, though, for holidays and such, so there was still at least a closeness that we didn’t have with those who lived far away.

With Dad’s family it was somewhat different. There were still cousins on his side who were much older so that was still a bit of a challenge. But, while none of them lived in the same town where I grew up, they lived only a four- or five-hour drive away in or near the capital city of St. John’s. As such, we were able to visit them more regularly, especially as the highways improved.

Because of all of that, there were only two first cousins I actually grew up with. Out of 69, there were only two that I grew up with. Huh – I hadn’t thought about it in that way before! Bizarre.

Now, back to the aunts and uncles and the reason for today’s post.

Mom’s oldest brother, Roche, died (before I was born) of the industrial disease that left a couple of generations of families in the town I grew up in fatherless. When I was born, then, I had 26 living aunts and uncles (in-laws included). I’m now 48, so it’s no shock that, over the years, that number has dwindled.

Yesterday, I went to Burlington, ON for a memorial service for Aunt Nora, one of Mom’s sisters, who passed away last Sunday. She had moved back to Newfoundland for a short time in the late 1990s or early 2000s which enabled me to get to know her when I went home to visit Mom and Dad. We had kept in touch after she moved back to Ontario through phone calls and letters, as well as a visit a couple of years ago. She was funny and I had enjoyed getting to know her – I remember her with a ready smile and her fingers putting in her pin curls with a magical speed.  I was saddened by her loss and very glad to be able to go to the service.

While I was there, I reflected that of all of the blood-related aunts and uncles alive at the time of my birth, there are now only 4 left: Mom’s sister Flo, her brother Vic, and Dad’s sisters Lucy and Rita. It seems like one minute they were all there and now they are gone.

I couldn’t help but think in particular of Uncle Vic and Aunt Flo – of the 15 children their mother bore, with Aunt Nora’s passing, they are now the last two. Even though they haven’t physically been around all of their siblings for much of their lives, there must have been some comfort in knowing they were there – knowing they could pick up the phone, or before cheap long-distance rates, pick up a pen and jot down a few lines.

I realize that that’s the case with all loss – we can’t just pick up the phone or the pen anymore – I feel it with both my parents being gone. But, for Aunt Flo and Uncle Vic, I have this image of a large family photo where most of the faces have faded and theirs are the only two distinct images left; the others are more like ghostly impressions than actual images. It must be a strange sensation.

Or maybe not.

We all deal with death and loss in our own ways and, because they’ve dealt with the deaths of their siblings literally throughout their entire lives, maybe it’s not as impactful as I think it might be.

I should have some sort of clear conclusion here before I end, but I don’t. I haven’t reached a conclusion on this one. It has, however, given me something to really think about.

Thanks to for the word bubble image of our family names (aunts, uncles, cousins).



A Birthday Gift

The staccato beat of the pelting rain gradually dragged me, reluctant, from my sleep. The dim early morning light pulled me further into wakefulness, but I refused to open my eyes. It was Saturday – my birthday. I did not need to get up yet. But the insistent pummelling against the window pane near my head and the ever-brightening room would not allow me to sink back into my slumber. Still, I fought against it.

It wasn’t as if I had been having some great dream that I wanted to get back to. I just did not want the day to begin. I wanted to stay there, as I was, curled up in the down comforter, buried beneath the pillows. If the day could go according to my plan – the way I would like to spend my birthday – I’d be able to do just that. I’d lay there for a while, revelling in the luxury of soft cotton against my skin and the fresh vanilla scent of the sheets, before even thinking of getting up. I would stay in my pj’s all day, maybe returning to bed occasionally to dive into a great novel. Then, sometime late in the day, I’d push myself to the shower and get cleaned up to go meet a few friends for a nice quiet dinner.

But my birthday had been kidnapped, it seemed, and me with it. I could hear the shower running and knew that Dave was probably in there whistling and excited to start the events he had planned. “Oh – you are going to LOVE it,” he virtually squealed with delight last night when he told me he had the day planned. Coming from someone with a normally booming voice, that squeal sounded quite unnatural. He wouldn’t give me any details; he just kept reassuring me it was going to be a wonderful day. Any time I protested and presented my version of how I wanted the day to go, he dismissed it out of hand. “You’re just saying you don’t want a fuss. EVERYONE wants a fuss on their birthday. Besides, it’ll be just you and me. There’s no fuss in that.”

Ugh. That’s all I could think. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. I was hoping that Dave’s plans involved outdoor activities that would have to be cancelled because of the rain. I hoped that when he came out of the shower he’d look totally disappointed and come sit by the side of the bed, “I’m so sorry, honey. I’ve had to cancel everything. But don’t you worry. It will still be a wonderful day! You stay right there…” Now THAT would be a beautiful thing!

Soon, I heard the shower turn off and a short time later, I heard Dave’s soft steps come around to the side of the bed I slept on.

“Wakey, wakey, sunshine! It’s your special day and we need to get you ready for it!”

Even with my eyes still closed, I could see the sparkle in his eyes. No chance of any plans being squashed by the rain it seemed. Ugh again.

“I’ll give you a few more minutes and then I’m going to come back and rip the covers off of you,” he said in a tone that told me he was only half joking. With that he was off.

Now he was really annoying me. He was acting like some over-zealous activities director on a cruise ship.

My back was up and I decided to give him a battle. If he wanted this day, he would have to earn it. OK…so I wasn’t really going to fight him for it, but it felt good just pretending that I would. Or that I could, for that matter.

Still, I curled tighter into the blankets to enjoy the last few relaxing moments of the day before Dave’s promised return.

As I sank back into my comfortable cocoon, I could hear Dave tinkering away in the kitchen. He was making me breakfast. He was determined, I’d give him that, but Dave was not a good cook. The only chance he had to make this a positive start to the day would be if breakfast was simply a yogurt cup and a spoon. Beyond that and it was bound to be a catastrophe – he couldn’t even slice fruit. Even as I thought that, though, I could hear the sizzle of bacon. Oh no.

Soon enough the bacon sizzle was followed by the smell of burnt bacon, a few crashes and a series of uh-oh type exclamations.

I pulled the covers completely over my head and asked myself, “Why couldn’t he have just listened and let me have this day the way I wanted it? What was so hard about that?”

I had barely thought those words when I flashed back to a Mother’s Day when I was about five years old. I had seen a TV show where the kids had made their mother breakfast in bed for Mother’s Day and the mom was thrilled. I wanted to do that for my Mom.

I knew we weren’t allowed in the kitchen ourselves, but the kids on TV didn’t get in trouble and their breakfast seemed to turn out great, so I figured I could pull it off, too. So, I got up early, and quietly tiptoed to the kitchen, careful not to wake either my parents or my brothers who, obviously (in my mind) would be of no help at all.

My breakfast-making skills at the time were very limited, but, thankfully, I assumed that Mom would want my favourite breakfast, which was pretty simple and mostly safe. There were two things that I loved for breakfast: Cap’n Crunch cereal and toast with Nutella and sliced banana.

We didn’t have any Cap’n Crunch or bananas, but, using one of the kitchen chairs as a ladder, I found a bag puffed rice cereal. When Mom sprinkled sugar on it, it was almost palatable. The way Mom and Dad sang its praises, I assumed they must both love it, so I thought it would be a good substitute for the Cap’n. I did some more digging and found the Nutella, which Mom kept hidden for special occasions. I got the milk and sugar out and made up a bowl of the puffed rice. I pulled the toaster to the front of the counter and popped the bread in, so pleased about using it all by myself. I knew Mom loved tea first thing in the morning, but I couldn’t work the kettle. Not to be discouraged, I just put a bag in a mug, and filled it up with tap water. I thought it would be OK because this way Mom wouldn’t have to blow on her tea, like she did for mine, to make it cool enough to drink.

When it was all done, I surveyed my work and was thrilled. I had done it! Yeah, there was a mess. Nutella was splotched all over the counter and, despite the fact that both the cereal and the milk were almost empty and therefore manageable for me to lift, I had spilled both. But I didn’t really notice. I was too excited that I had done it – I had made breakfast for Mom. She was going to be so happy!!!

I couldn’t carry everything to their room at the same time, so I made three trips. First I brought the cereal in and quietly laid it on the night stand by Mom’s side of the bed, aided by the light from the hallway and the tiniest glimmer of dawn that crept through the curtains. The toast came in next, followed by the mug of tea.

Then I stood at the foot of the bed and waited. On the TV show, the mom seemed to know that her perfectly dressed children were standing at the foot of her bed with a perfectly cooked breakfast. She opened her eyes without anyone speaking a word, beckoned her children to her and they all joined her on the bed, each exclaiming what their contribution had been.

But niether Mom nor Dad woke up. After what seemed like an eternity, I tiptoed up to Mom, tapped her on the shoulder, and whispered, “Happy Day, Mommy!” Nothing. So a stronger tap and a louder whisper. Still nothing, so stronger and louder still. That did it. My very groggy mother opened her eyes and asked me what was wrong. I, very excitedly, told her I had made her breakfast.

By this time, Dad was also awake, asking what was going on.

“Marcy made me breakfast,” my mother informed him.

“What? Now? What time is it?” he asked, obviously confused as he looked at the clock.

He started to say something about going back to bed, but my mother cut him off. She leaned over and turned on the lamp on her night stand. She took in the bowl of cereal and the toast and lifted the mug briefly before putting it back down. She looked at my beaming face and smiled.

“Did you do this all by yourself?” she asked. I beamed. I was so excited. She sat up and held out her arms to me. As I climbed into her embrace, she whispered in my ear, “Thank you, my sweet girl. Thank you so much!”

I found out years later that not only had I made quite a mess – more so that I had even remembered – but I had bungled more than the tea. It’s true that puffed rice cereal is palatable with a little sugar sprinkled on it. But it’s also true that you need to eat it pretty quickly because it goes completely to mush in the milk if not eaten almost right away. I put the milk on the cereal before even putting the bread in the toaster. By the time Mom saw it, it was a congealed blob of goo in a bowl.

Even the toast hadn’t made it out unscathed. While I knew the general operation of a toaster, I didn’t know that ours was old and sort of broken. You had to watch it very carefully and unplug it in order to get it to pop when you thought it had browned the bread enough. Since I didn’t have that critical piece of information, I waited until it popped itself, which happened to be when the bread was one or two shades lighter than midnight black. I didn’t burn myself on it because when it popped I was busily working on making the cold tea, so when I got back to the toast it had cooled enough to the touch and was ready for me to pile on the Nutella. Apparently I had used up almost an entire new jar on those two slices.

I also learned the reason why it had been so easy for me to sneak around before anybody else got up: It turned out that I had made this wonderful breakfast at about 4:30 a.m. Everybody was well and truly sound asleep.

I didn’t know any of that for years because neither Mom nor Dad mentioned any of those things. I didn’t even know that Mom hadn’t eaten it – or, rather, couldn’t eat it. She acted as though it was the best breakfast she had ever had.

As I came back to my birthday morning cocoon, I realized that my attempt to give my mother a special Mother’s Day was very likely at the bottom of the list of things she wanted to happen that morning. She was probably hoping to sleep in and have Dad take care of the regular morning routines. Burnt toast and gross, soggy cereal with cold tea were definitely not on the list – and certainly not at 4:30.

I thought about how I would have felt if, instead of opening her arms to me at that early-morning wake up so long ago, my mother had scolded me for waking her up and wasting the expensive Nutella. Or if she had thrown it all in the garbage in front of me, instead of very discreetly having my Dad dispose of it while she and I cuddled. I would have been crushed.

Then I heard Dave singing. He really did sound genuinely excited. My grumbles receded.

I realized that my Mom had known something that I either didn’t know or, at the very least, had forgotten as I lay in bed: Sometimes it’s not about you. Even if it’s your day, it’s not always about you.

At the next crash from the kitchen, I smiled, threw the covers aside and ran to the kitchen to embrace my husband – and my day.


Wise words about listening

Do you watch the TV show Black-ish? I do…I really like it. It combines two of my favourite things: learning and laughing.

Last week’s episode (which I watched on Thursday night – gotta love a PVR!) was pretty sad, though. It was all about how the two lead characters, a husband and wife duo, have grown apart. In case you haven’t seen it and would like to, I won’t say anything else about the plot. The only other thing I will say is that they did an amazing job at portraying the emotions of the situation.

Fast forward to Friday night. I was looking for some painting projects on YouTube when I saw there was a clip with Henry Winkler on The Late, Late Show with James Corden. I love Henry Winkler. Truth be told, I love everything Happy Days. So I watched the clip. It was James Corden with David Duchovny and Henry Winkler on the couch. It turns out, Henry and his wife just celebrated 40 years of marriage.

I’m sure you won’t be surprised when I tell you that the conversation inevitably led to Henry being asked what he thought was the secret to a long and happy marriage. A few jokey answers were given, but then he said something that made me pause. Literally, I paused the video so I could write it down:

Respect what the other person heard as opposed to what you thought you said.

Go ahead…read it again. Realllllllllllllllllly read it and let it sink in.

It’s not rocket science. Communications specialists have been telling us something similar for years: Listening isn’t about us; it’s about the other person.

I really like what this quote says about it. So often, we get frustrated and upset because the person we are talking to just doesn’t “get it”. At the same time, because we are so focused on them not getting what we are trying to convey, and planning what else we are going to say, that we are equally not getting it. We are misunderstanding them. And when we stay focused on our own perspectives, things go awry.

We all live our own experiences (obviously) so when we say things, we say them through our own filter. And when we hear things, we hear them through our filter. The exact same words heard by 10 different people can be heard very differently by each of them because of that. So when we say something, whoever hears it may hear it completely differently than we, through our filters, intended to say it. I think this is particularly true in conversations that are very serious or important.

I know it’s just a TV show, but I couldn’t help but relate the quote to what I had seen the night before on Black-ish. Probably because it was so relatable. How many relationships head towards, or go into, the toilet because we don’t validate what the other person says, needs, or feels? And how many can be saved if we do the opposite?

Obviously, relationships are much more complicated than that – both personally and professionally.

I don’t pretend to any sort of expertise in that regard, but I do know, from experience, that when I’ve paid more attention to the other person in a conversation than to my own agenda, things have gone better. I also know that when speaking with someone who makes me feel that they are genuinely interested in my perspective, I’m automatically more interested in finding a positive resolution.

If you’d like some more information on communication, I recommend you check out the book Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss what Matters Most. It’s a super easy read and (yippee!) it’s fairly short. I love it and have gone back to it several times over the years. I’ve given it as a gift and recommended it to lots of people.

Anyhoooo…just some thoughts that I wanted to share. Hopefully you’ll find them interesting and maybe even helpful!!

Please feel free to share your own thoughts in the comments below.  And don’t forget to click on Follow if you’d like to be notified whenever I post. 🙂



From Cowtown to Fog City

This post is a follow-up to an earlier post, So glad I said yes. If you haven’t read it, you might want to as it provides some context for this post, but you don’t have to.

Today’s post is to share with you some photos of my road trip across the continent when I moved from Calgary, Alberta back to St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador with my dear ol’ Dad. Calgary is Cowtown, as it it sometimes affectionately referred to, and St. John’s is Fog City because of a restaurant there took that name in homage (or perhaps to spite?) a regular feature of the climate.

Without further ado…let’s get this show started!

First up…the map!

Caveat: The map isn’t 100% accurate. Unfortunately, even though I adjusted the map to more closely represent the route we took, it didn’t save any of the changes. While it isn’t our actual route, it will help you to see the scale of this trip.

Next, some pictures from Dad’s arrival in Calgary to our two-night lay-over in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where a couple of friends of mine, Rob and Chris, were wonderful hosts. I had been a couple of times before so for this visit they went out of their way to make sure there would be things Dad would enjoy. And he did. There were so many parts of the prairies that he loved. He had never seen such massive, oceanic farm fields before and if I had a dollar for every time he said, “Look at the wheat! That’s wheat! Look at it!” I’d be able to retire. It was so much fun to see a 71-year-old man look at things with the wonder of a child – something we all need to do more often.


Next up, our stop in Ottawa and a snippet of upstate New York. We took advantage of the chance to visit with one of my brothers and his girlfriend on Ottawa. (Another brother who lives there was away at the time…I can’t remember why.) From Ottawa, we headed south to the States – into upstate New York, where we spent the night in Canton, NY. We drove over Lake Champlain into Vermont and then to New Hampshire, where we spent another night.


The final leg of our journey saw us in Bar Harbor, Maine. At the time, there was a ferry from there to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia so that’s why we were there. It’s a beautiful place in its own right, though, so I recommend visiting if you get the chance. We stopped overnight in the Halifax/Dartmouth area and visited with a couple of my best friends from high school. From there we headed to North Sydney to catch the ferry that would take us to Argentia, NL, which would leave us with only one and a half hours of driving till home sweet home!


While the trip is technically over by this point, it wouldn’t be right not to include a picture of Dad proudly displaying his catch of salted cod, drying on the line. 🙂

2007-09-18_Drying fish 5 - Dad and Mariette

Dad and my sister-in-law admiring some cod he had caught and salted, as part of the food fishery. Paradise, NL. (There has been a moratorium on commercial fishing of cod since 1992.)


A random flash of childhood memories

I can’t be more than five or six. Johnny Drake and his sister, and maybe some other kids from the bottom of the hill, came to ask if we wanted to go swimming at Clark’s Pond, or was it Shoal Pond? I knew I wasn’t allowed to go because there weren’t any adults. They were a couple of years older, but still not old enough. I loved swimming, though, so I went. Now I’m hiding, still wet, under my bed in my favourite swimsuit, black on the bottom and white with black alphabet letters scattered around on top. I can hear them calling for me. I know I’ll be in trouble when they find me.


I’m maybe 10. I’m sitting in my favourite tree, on my favourite branch. Often I climb trees with my brothers, but today I’m by myself. I like it up here alone.


I’m eight. I’m in my white communion dress and veil. My Aunt Tess gives me a gift, which I take in my white-gloved hands. It’s a pretty white rosary and a prayer book.


I’m 12. It’s recess, or maybe before school starts. The older boys are picking on Jerry again. They are so mean. They are in a circle and throwing him back and forth between them, laughing. It’s not funny. It’s horrible. There are so many kids around, older mostly because we are in grade 7 and the school goes up to grade 12, but nobody does anything. I watch and then, unable to bear it anymore, I scream, “Why don’t you pick on someone your own size?” They stop. Everyone stops. I don’t normally speak. I’m usually very quiet so this is not normal to them. Or to me. Then one of the boys, Chickie, comes over to me, puts his hand around my collar and roughly pushes back against the cement wall behind me. “You’re lucky your father’s the principal here.” Words come out, but I don’t know what I say. He glares and I’m afraid, but I do my best to try not to look it. After what seems like an eternity, he lets me go and walks away. Jerry is nowhere to be seen.


I’m about 11. It’s winter and the school is out for a sledding day on the hill to the north of the field by the school. Charlene and I are on a red Crazy Carpet. Is it mine or is it hers? She’s on the back and the toes of my boots are stuck through the handle. The cold air whips my face as we careen down the hill, gaining air from snow-covered bumps and laughing as only children can, even when we land hard.


I was seven. It was Boxing Day. The phone rang early. It was still dark. My Mom was crying. There was a fire in the Goulds, in the Home where Aunt Normie, her youngest sister, lived. She didn’t make it. None of them did. My Mom was sad a lot after that.


I was six. We are on our way back from the Goulds to St. Lawrence. We stop in to see Aunt Normie on our way. She gives the wettest, sloppiest kisses, and she laughs and smiles a lot so, even though I complain about the kisses, I don’t mind. She’s a grown up, but she’s more fun that regular grown ups.