Thanksgiving (went too fast) – 33 of 100

I’m writing now again on the porch in Florida. Dan has come and gone. My brother, sister and brother-in-law have all come and gone. I’m sitting here wondering how one week could possibly go so fast. How a house bouncing with voices just 24 hours ago, is suddenly so very quiet.

Every year, before our annual pilgrimage to Boca Grande for Thanksgiving, I start having vivid fantasies about being here: sand between my toes, stringy salt-water hair, green everything, letting the Gulf wrap itself around my ankles, skin smelling of chlorine and sunscreen.

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But what I loved this year the most- and I guess what I love every year – is the particular chaos that erupts from having all of us under one roof again.

We move like this globular organism – someone packing towels, someone making lunch and packing the cooler, someone calling out “can you grab the sunscreen?!”, someone getting the bocce set, beach chairs, etc. loading it all onto a golf cart and assembling again at the beach, the pool, the boat. Then, later at the dinner table with glasses of chardonnay.

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James naps. We sit around. Talk about real estate and plan the day.

We’ve spent nearly every Thanksgiving here – with maybe four or five exceptions in 35 years. Dan and Laurent – my brother-in-law- attached themselves to the tradition as if they have always been here. We’ve all grown to treasure this week. It’s boisterous and busy. Sometimes we push each other’s buttons, but we all belong here. (It’s a nice feeling – to belong somewhere.)

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Uncle Charlie

I love my family. I even love – or maybe especially love – our flaws. As much as we grow up and change, we are also the same. And then there’s the fact that they’re the only ones who have seen the entire journey of your life.

I’m so grateful for this long tradition – for the opportunity and the ability to return to this place and this crazy, fun, loving bunch.

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Uncle Laurent and Auntie Maddy – also Master Bruce Wayne.

I can only hope that someday James will want to return to us – to bounce around for a day or days – to laugh – and gather around a dinner table to tell us about the life we helped him begin.

True love is slow cooking and chocolate bars – 32 of 100

Two truly random thoughts and memories.

1. The other week, I opened the centre console in the car to get out my parking pass for our music class and found a chocolate bar – Ritter Sport – filled with crispy caramel bits. Imagine my delight. I’ve not always been a chocolate fanatic, but I am now. Plus, I’m always hungry. I gobbled it all up.

I also thought: Oh Dan left this here. Haha, he bought a chocolate bar, he loves candy. I wish he’d gotten dark chocolate, but oh well, what a great unexpected treat.

Later, on the couch, glasses of red wine in our hands, I said: “I found your chocolate bar in the car.”

And Dan said: “Oh yeah? I’m so glad! I left it there for you.”

“You did?”

“Yeah. I knew you’d be disappointed it wasn’t dark chocolate.”

I thought about how when you’re growing into an adult, you feel both desperate and terrified to be known. How when you find those people who really get you, it’s like a light shining through the clouds. Then you marry someone. You come to know them in all of these silly and yet profound ways. And you can have these conversations over space and time — it’s kind of cosmic, isn’t it? Anyway, it felt really warm to be known in that way….And that chocolate bar really was good.

2. A chronicle of this year would be completely out of touch if I didn’t mention our slow cooker.

I’ve never had a slow cooker and didn’t really ever think I needed one. But Dan had enough airmiles for us to get one so we did.

I have fallen in love. It’s a soaring, tortuous love – the way I obsess and plan and want to make sure every ingredient is just so. And as much as I had heard it was just a throw-everything-in and voila! That’s not really how it’s turning out to be. It’s turning out to be me chopping and cooking the aromatics, trimming the meat, and getting broth and coconut milk all over my copy of Slow Cooker Revolution while James has his afternoon nap.

But then, at night, he goes to sleep and voila. There is dinner. Tom Kha soup. Chilli. Balsamic braised chicken. Pulled pork tacos.

If I had to choose between my amazing-leaving-chocolate-bars-in-the-car-for-me husband and this slow cooker it would be tight race right now. But I live in a world where I don’t have to choose.

We all have our roles in our family. Feeding the boys is one of mine. I like to make sure Dan has something good to take to work. I like packing up sauces and things in little tupperwares for him and thinking that when he opens it he’ll think of me and how I made sure it was just right. I love it when he tells me that his colleagues swoon over his lunch.

It’s a nice thing. To take care of each other in little ways.

I’m finishing this in Florida and Dan’s in Calgary still. I’m missing him and wondering if he’s thinking of me. (Hi Dan.)

(P.S. Some interesting reading on love in Brain Pickings. An essay about Alain Badiou’s In Praise of Love, “an impassioned and immensely insightful defense of both love as a human faculty and love as a worthwhile philosophical pursuit.”

Badiou writes: “Love… is a quest for truth… truth in relation to something quite precise: what kind of world does one see when one experiences it from the point of view of two and not one? What is the world like when it is experienced, developed and lived from the point of view of difference and not identity? That is what I believe love to be.”

Like Badiou, I believe love-the real long-term stuff- as a lifelong project, of sorts. Something we are always working on; “a tenacious adventure”.)

 

Unwrapped as I am – it’s all happening – 31 of 100

People always said, “Once you feel like you’ve got a handle on things, everything will change.”

Oh- but when things are going well, it’s so seductive to believe you’re over some magical hump and it’s all smooth sailing from there on out.

Last week, James started cutting his first teeth. Also, he decided to start getting up 2-3 times in the night instead of just once. Oh, and he decided that 5 a.m. would be a really great time for everyone to start their day.

The temperature dropped, big time. I took him to an indoor garden downtown and after we had spent a nice little while watching the koi fish swim around, we sat down on a bench. I looked away for a split second to get something out of my purse and turned to find him front flipping off of the bench, exploding into screams as he ka-BOOM-ed on the tile floor. It’s so so great when strangers can witness what a negligent mother you are!

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James’s sweet new Spyder snowsuit!

Later, in the privacy of our own home, he stabbed his eyelid with a coaster, slammed his finger in a drawer and bonked himself in the face with one of his blocks. He had the cuts and bruises to show for it…which meant it looked like I was lightly beating him in the face.

I had also landed a small writing project- a book review. So every nap and evening were devoted to plowing through the book and then compiling my thoughts in 500 eloquent words. And putting together three more compelling pitches for a new piece.

All the while, my house conspired against me. Sometimes I feel like there are evil elves living in the walls. They slink out when I turn my back and throw everything around just to fuck with me. Every time the house finally feels contained and clean, it’s a wreck again. And then I realize there are no elves: IT’S ME. I am the evil elf!

But amidst the chaos, two messages arrived.

My best friend sent me Cheryl Strayed’s Brave Enough.

After taking a two-year hiatus from writing, writing here, regularly, has re-inspired me. As my excitement builds, so too does my fear and trepidation. Building a career at this seems impossible to me on most days. So impossible, I’m a little too scared to even say out loud that it’s something I might want. For now, I’m trying to stay focused on doing the work – on sitting down at the keyboard and typing.

But those gold letters shining out from the bright green background–just two words.

Brave Enough

Brave Enough. Brave enough, brave enough. 

Followed by my friend’s three: Because you are brave.

And then, in Lenny Letter (the awesome new newsletter from Jenni Konner and Lena Dunham – you must read The Watermelon Skirt!), my horoscope (or Lennyscope as they call it) read: Everything is so not OK, and it’s fine. Like, you’re just never going to get to the place where you have everything under wraps: your body, career, relationship, living space. Honestly, what would you even do if everything were under wraps? You would probably panic and unwrap something, just to avoid a greater sense of Now what? I want you to know that unwrapped as you are, you are killing it. Believe that, and you will always be wrapped in your own way underneath the fraying ends.

I want you to know that unwrapped as you are, you are killing it.

I don’t know if I am brave or if I am killing it – but I held those two messages close last week. It’s funny how things like that arrive at just the moment you need them.

I felt so grateful – for the good faith of the editor that assigned me the book review. For women like Cheryl Strayed and Lena Dunham (both also host excellent podcasts: Dear Sugar Radio and Women of the Hour, respectively) who use their creative work and platform to lift other people up (especially women!). For my friend.

We used to watch Almost Famous all the time in college, she and I. “It’s all happening!” we would squeal – just like Penny Lane – when something exciting was afoot. One of my grad school teachers would always admonish me for using unattached ‘It’s at the beginning of sentences. But here, the ‘it’ is so perfect – available for whatever you please. The ‘all’ too – a deep empty chasm – you drop anything in and it overflows, like a magic trick.

I think that thing about everything changing as soon as you get a handle on it probably applies to life as much as it does to babies. And I look at James’s tiny little teeth poking through his gums and think: Yes. It is all happening.

(P.S. Found this sleep website for any moms out there. Here’s a great post about the 8-10 month sleep regression. Took her advice on the earlier bedtime and it worked wonders.)

Halloween is awesome – 30 of 100

Halloween is awesome. We woke up a little hungover and blissed out on Sunday. “Wasn’t last night fun?” Dan asked me every 20 minutes. I kept laughing at him – yes, honey, like I said before: It was fun. But I understood. He asked again and again because over the course of the question he could duck back into the glow.

After approximately 22 years (oh my, that’s a lot!) I finally have a reason to Trick or Treat again. Of course in those intervening years there have been excellent costumes and adult parties. Some of those parties have been pretty epic. (I can’t bring myself to unsubscribe from the GhostShip mailing list. I’ll never forget the first year they put it on in the airplane hanger on Treasure Island…massive pirate ship, silent disco, DJs galore. Reading descriptions like “Prime the detonators, and pile up the dynamite because you are about to experience Annihilation at Ghost Ship Halloween 2015″ make me smile…)

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Observe James skillfully holding his Trick or Treat bucket

And while Halloween is known for hedonism, tricks and scares, this year, I remembered that Halloween has a wholesome side too. The joy of getting dressed up with your family- everyone invited to be creative, silly, scary or whatever it is they want to be. Of neighbours giving out treats to each other’s kids (I mean, the community aspect of Halloween is just plain cool) Kids squealing with delight. Sunday’s social media feed full of baby strawberries, bears, Star Wars characters, and smiles stretching ear to ear.

Dan was buzzing all day and insisted on getting makeup to draw blood on our faces (we were campers who had been attacked by our little James bear) and carving a pumpkin. We went over to see James’s cousins who really go the extra mile on decorations and costumes – including fog machine, rats and dog skeleton with red eyes.

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Charlotte, Georgia, James and Will

James held his little pumpkin bucket and cooed all through the night while Dan proudly carried him from door to door.

Later, we sat around our backyard fire pit with friends and ate Thai-spiced pumpkin soup and pumpkin bread pudding and drank too much wine.

I had this funny feeling all night, standing back at the curb while the kids ran to the doors or holding James as adults dropped candy in his bucket. A feeling about the order of things. I’ve been an adult for nearly half my life and yet I had delusions before James came along –  after all, our parents still call us the ‘kids’ and even if I knew we weren’t kids, I could still argue that on the spectrum of adults, we were young.  But I can’t even pretend that we are the ones at the beginning of our lives anymore.

The kid is the one in the little bear suit. His life is just beginning. We are the parents – our lives somewhere in the middle- standing behind him.
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