Tag Archives: memories

Remembering The Things That Matter

6 May

I am participating in the 2012 Wordcount Blogathon, which means one post every day for the month of May.

Walking down the aisle with my brother

This week, my first wedding anniversary came and went without me really posting anything about it, other than a status update on Facebook, in which I tagged my beloved.

For about three months before my wedding I was fraught with stress. Had I sent out the invitations with enough time to spare? Would we get a DJ? Would the venue be OK? Where would I get shoes that were comfortable?

I worried about whether a wedding would be too overwhelming for a child with autism. I had a falling-out with the lady who was supposed to make the cake. We couldn’t afford to pay for decor and we hoped that what the venue was providing would be sufficient. My intended and I had silly little arguments over nothing.

My bridesmaid, speaking from the comfort of her decade-old marriage, assured me that no-one would care about the details. When people looked back on our wedding, they would not remember what colour the napkins were or the fact that I hadn’t been able to pony up the cash for chair covers.

To tell the truth, I barely remember those details myself. The stuff I do remember seems so much more important. Like the fact that my friend Fran, who was doing the music for the ceremony, arrived a few days in advance and along with my mom, helped me wrap the guest favours and take care of final details. Or the fact that her friend, who was accompanying her to the wedding, arrived two nights before and in spite of  being a complete stranger to me, cheerfully rolled up his sleeves to lend a hand.

I remember the fantastic respite worker who took charge of the kids for the day and helped them have a wonderful time. And my maid of honour and bridesmaid, who showed up on my wedding day and whisked me off to get my hair and makeup done.

I recall the humour in the fact that the only time Jehovah’s Witnesses have ever come to my house, it was on my wedding day. And how funny it was when various people had to take turns doing up the buttons on my dress.

And I remember – with such fondness and love – walking down the aisle on the arm of my brother, who looked so proud (and possibly relieved to finally be marrying me off) as he ushered me in to my future.

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Three Generations Of Cheese Lovers

12 Apr

I am participating in the Health Activist Writers Month Challenge, in which I publish a post every day for the month of April, based on health-related prompts.

April 12 – Stream of consciousness day: Start with the sentence “_______”just write, don’t stop, don’t edit. To select an opening sentence, I asked my Facebook friends to post suggestions. I put them all into a hat and drew one out!

How much do you really think about cheese?

Since I’m the second generation in what’s turning out to be a line of cheese-lovers, this is actually a valid pondering for me. Many of my musings about cheese are related to thoughts about my dad, with whom I shared many interests, like reading, running and yes, cheese. Going grocery shopping with him was a real treat, because the pair of us would spend ages at the fancy cheese display picking out our next great delicacy. Meanwhile, my mom would be sitting at home wondering what we were going to buy that would make the rest of the fridge contents smell funny.

One Christmas, when I was a young adult still living in the parental home, Dad received a cellophane-wrapped basket containing boxes of crackers and a variety of different cheeses. When I wandered into the kitchen a couple of evenings later, I saw Dad working away at the packaging of one of the cheeses.

“Would you like to try some Gorgonzola?” he asked me.

“Is the Pope Catholic?” I responded. Meaning, Yes please, I would love some Gorgonzola.

“Let me show you the best way to eat Gorgonzola,” said Dad, reaching for a cake tin on the counter.

Ten minutes later, Mom came back from wherever she’d been. She walked onto the front porch and saw Dad and I sipping glasses of red wine and happily munching on slices of Christmas fruit cake topped with thin slices of Gorgonzola. She was utterly horrified to see the Christmas cake she had worked so hard to make being defaced in such a manner, but it was absolutely delicious.

Now that Dad is no longer with us, I have no-one to share my love of stinky cheese with. Not yet, anyway. My older son George is a trainee cheese lover, but his autistic sensibilities limit him to plain old Cheddar. The smell, the taste, and frankly, the look of the fancy smelly stuff is more than a little off-putting to him. That’s not to say I haven’t tried.

“Do you want some cheese, George?” I asked him one day, holding my triangle of Danish Blue aloft as if it was an Academy Award.

He came closer to take a look, and then said, “That’s not cheese!”

Carefully hiding my excitement at this unprompted-yet-contextually-appropriate verbal utterance, I said, “It is! It’s blue cheese! Do you want some?”

George curled his little face up in an expression of distaste and issued his verdict.

“Yuck!”

And that was that.

Still, even though he only likes Cheddar, he likes it with admirable dedication. I have hope that, with a bit of time, we will make a cheese connoisseur out of him yet.

Goodbye To A Lady

2 Feb

To my beautiful Aunt Ann,

For months, I have been telling myself that I would write you a letter. The Internet never made its way to the charming old farmhouse that has been home to you for your whole life. Since I moved to Canada eleven years ago, we have kept up with each other’s lives through my Mom, the occasional phone call, my two visits home, and the odd piece of snail mail.

When I got married last year, you painted me a picture. A bright, beautiful picture of flowers. It brightens up my mantle and I think of you every time I look at it. And although I sent you a card to say thank you, I promised myself that I would write you a proper letter, full of news and anecdotes. Maybe I would put in some pictures of my boys, the great-nephews who filled you with joy even though you never met them.

Now you are gone, tragically taken from us while the letter in my head remains forever unwritten.

When Mom called in the early hours of this morning to give me the news, I could not believe it. You have always been such a big, influential part of my life, and I cannot help wondering if my world will ever be able to adjust to your absence.

You were, to me, the epitome of a lady. Stylish and elegant, you were utterly beautiful inside and out. The many wonderful qualities about you will never be forgotten: your warmth and kindness, your generosity, your patience, and of course, your second-to-none baking skills.

Memories of you are playing in my head like a slideshow.

…the countless times you helped me prepare for my piano exams, showing me with infinite patience where I was going wrong and applauding what I was doing right.

…the times I walked around your large property with you and your dogs, helping you feed the pigeons.

…the times I played checkers with Granny when she was still alive, while you tried out a sewing experiment at the other end of the table.

…the way I admired the garden that you put so much love and care into.

…the lazy summer days I whiled away on the hammock in your front yard while you happily pruned roses nearby.

…the times I ate the shortbread that only you could make just right, that you dipped into melted chocolate.

…the little “Happy Birthday” music box you had, that you would play over the phone to whoever was celebrating a birthday.

…the time you took me and two of my cousins to the lion park.

…the time you tried to firmly but lovingly talk sense into me when I made a stupid decision that would have far-reaching effects.

…your home renovation escapades that made the rest of the family alternately despair and laugh.

…the way you folded me in your warm, loving embrace when my Dad died, comforting me even while you grieved the loss of one of your best friends.

…the day, shortly after Dad’s funeral, when you and I broke the corkscrew while it was still in the cork and we ended up having to strain the wine, and we agreed that Dad was messing with us.

…your absolute delight when we welcomed my firstborn child into the world the day before your birthday.

At the beginning of this week, I was gripped with inexplicable intense anxiety that wouldn’t go away. For three days I was living with the iron first of dread, and I didn’t know why. Little did I know that my universe was bracing itself for your sudden departure.

It is surreal to think that you left your house expecting to be gone for a short time – just long enough to walk your dogs down the road and back. You probably thought you would return home, have a cup of tea and maybe a sandwich for your lunch, and spend the rest of the day relaxing in your garden with your dogs.

I wonder if you had any sense of what was to come as the car approached, starting off the chain of events that would lead to your death. I hope you went quickly, without feeling any pain.

I love you, and I always have. I am going to miss you more than words can possibly express. And I am grateful that I had the honour of being your niece, that you were such a big part of my life, and that you helped shape me into the person I am today.

I know that you will be worrying about Mom. She is devastated. You were her best friend and she will miss you so much. But we will take care of her. We will make sure she is OK.

Rest in peace, beautiful lady. Someday, I’ll see you on the other side.

Kirsten

KCJ0001

Looking For Heaven

17 Nov

Jade crouched in the corner of the dark, dirty room and wondered when her food was coming. She hadn’t eaten all day and she was hungry. She kept listening for the familiar sounds of The Master’s footsteps above her, but all she heard was an eerie silence. She supposed The Master had been drinking that gold liquid again, the stuff that made his breath smell funny. Sometimes it made him sleep for a whole day. Jade lay down on the filthy mattress and covered herself with her worn old blanket. The Master would come tomorrow.

Every night as she lay waiting for sleep, Jade thought of Mama and Papa. When they had been here, so long ago now, she had been allowed to play outside. Papa would lift her up and swing her round and round as she squealed with delight, and then, at night, Mama would read to her from the huge storybook beside her bed.

Then one day, Papa had gone away. Mama said he’d gone to Heaven, but Jade didn’t know where that was. She had promised herself that someday, she would find out where Heaven was and go there to see Papa.

After Papa left, there was no money, and Mama started saying they would have to go to the poorhouse. Jade didn’t know where that was either, but it didn’t sound good. When The Master came to stay, it seemed like all of their prayers had been answered. The Master had enough money to buy them food, and they didn’t have to go to the poorhouse.

But then Mama had gone away to Heaven as well, when Jade was twelve. The Master had started locking her in this room for longer and longer periods to punish her for being bad. One day, he simply hadn’t let her out again. Every day, he’d come in to give her food and empty the bucket he left in the corner of the room for her. Sometimes he’d come in to “keep her company”, but she had taught herself not to think of that.

She wasn’t sure how long she had been living in this room. She thought she was about sixteen now.

When Jade woke up the following morning, her stomach was growling and she felt sick. She put her ear right up to the door, but all she could hear was absolute silence. She sat on the mattress and waited.

A long time later, The Master still hadn’t come. Jade’s head was starting to swim. She stood nervously by the door, trying to get up the nerve to knock or call out. She knew she would get into trouble, but she really needed to eat. She listened one last time, and hearing nothing, she tapped tentatively on the door. Emboldened by the lack of response, she knocked a little louder and started calling out, softly at first, and then louder and louder.

Still, there was nothing. Not a single sound.

With a superhuman strength fuelled by the instinct to survive, Jade sobbed and launched her entire body at the door. She screamed in fright as the door gave way and she stumbled into the narrow hallway.

She scooted back into the room and crouched in the corner, terrified. The Master’s punishment for this would be like nothing she had ever known. But despite the screaming and crashing, the silence prevailed.

Jade slowly unfolded herself and stood up. She peeked out into the hallway. Seeing and hearing nothing, she crept up the stairs. At the top, she opened another door and stumbled as the sunlight, which she had not seen in four years, assaulted her senses. It was a long time before she was able to crack her eyes open wide enough to look around.

She found him in the kitchen. He was lying on his back on the floor, staring blankly at the ceiling. The blood on his head had long since dried. At first she started, thinking he would be able to see her. But he didn’t move, even when she tentatively nudged him with her toe. He seemed to be sleeping with his eyes open.

Jade saw a loaf of bread on the counter. She clawed wildly at it and shovelled it into her mouth. It felt so good to eat.

She was halfway down the stairs, going back to her room, when a thought struck her. What if she went outside, just for a little while? She yearned to feel the grass under her bare feet, the way she remembered it from when Mama and Papa were here. She could go now, before The Master woke up, and he would never know.

Jade didn’t understand that The Master was never waking up again.

When she went outside, she almost darted back immediately, scared of the sounds and the sunlight. She still couldn’t open her eyes all the way. But then she stepped onto the grass, and her mind was immediately flooded with memories of her childhood.

Driven by a force that she didn’t really understand, Jade kept walking. She didn’t know where she was going or what she would do when she got there.

Maybe she would try to find Heaven so she could see Mama and Papa, and feel safe again.

This week’s Indie Ink Challenge came from evenstarwen, who gave me this prompt: Write a story, in any genre, about or inspired by this photo: http://i.imgur.com/Xrhe0.jpg.
I challenged  Lance with the prompt:Write about the missed opportunity you regret the most.

Groundhog Day

27 Oct

Edie sipped her tea while she waited for The Beast to boot up. She hated The Beast. It kept making her download updates that she didn’t understand, and most of the emails that she got were rubbish. Damien had bought it for her when he’d been transferred to Utah, insisting that they would have to communicate daily by email. She supposed that she shouldn’t complain. Other people’s kids moved away and forgot all about them. At least her son wanted to stay in touch, and to her surprise, their daily email exchanges had become a patch of sunshine in her otherwise monotonous days.

Edie’s gaze drifted to the picture of herself and Sammy that had been taken when they were both seven. They had been best friends: when Edie and her family had been rounded up and taken to the concentration camp, they had been thrust into a small, cramped room already occupied by Sammy and his parents. Sammy had taken her under his wing. Somehow he had made her feel less afraid.

The two children had spent hours playing in the tiny room, or on the small square of dirt outside. Whenever he eluded her during tag games, or outwitted her as they played with their makeshift Checkers set, he would smile, tap the side of his head, and say, “You gotta think like a groundhog.” Edie didn’t know what this meant or what a groundhog was, but it made her laugh every time. Despite the life they were living, they were happy in their own way.

And then, one day, Edie had come back to the room with her mother to discover that Sammy and his parents were gone. Edie did not need to ask where they were or if she would ever see Sammy again. She had become used to the people around her disappearing. She knew that they went into the big building at the far end of the compound and never came out.

Now, as she looked at the picture, she shed a silent tear for her sweet, funny friend. She wondered if he had been afraid while he was walking to his death. She gently touched his image and whispered, “You gotta think like a groundhog.”

The Beast had finally booted up. Edie opened her email and sighed as her screen filled with messages from people trying to sell things, tell her fortune, or entice her to try online dating. Damien called these messages spam, which Edie didn’t really understand.

In her haste to delete the messages, Edie accidentally opened one of them: an advertisement for Go Get ‘Em Exterminators & Pest Control. As she moved her mouse to the X in the corner of the message, a line of text in the advertisement caught her attention.

To catch the critters… you gotta think like a groundhog.

Edie stared at the screen in shock, her mind starting to race. Could it be possible that two people would come up with the same phrase almost seventy years apart? Or – Edie barely dared to allow herself to think it – could it be possible that Sammy had somehow escaped?

Could Sammy be alive?

With shaking hands, she picked up the phone and dialed the number in the advertisement. Although seventy years had passed, Edie instantly recognized the inflections in the voice that answered.

“Sammy? It’s Edie.”

This week’s Indie Ink Challenge came from Carrie, who gave me this prompt: A spam email that turns out to be more than expected.
I challenged  femmefauxpas with the prompt: Tell us a ghost story. The kind you would tell while sitting around a campfire eating roasted marshmallows.

Why I Don’t Eat Lentils, And Other Stories

2 Jul

My grandmother

It is the mid-1980’s. I am fourteen years old, in ninth grade, and I am sleeping soundly. In the early hours of the morning, I suddenly wake up with a jolt. Somehow, I just know that my grandmother has died. I know this with the same certainty that I know the sun rises in the east. Granny has had a cold, but her health has been as good as can be expected for a woman in her 80’s. There has certainly been nothing to indicate her impending death. And yet, as I wake up, I know for a fact that she is gone, but I don’t have a clue as to how this knowledge has come to me.

As I lie in bed wondering what to do with this knowledge, I hear the phone ring. I listen to the sounds of feet running to answer the phone, followed by the muted tones of conversation. My door opens and Mom comes into the room. She seems surprised to find me awake so early.

“Granny has died,” Mom tells me.

“I know,” I say. Mom looks at me a little oddly, but lets my remark go, probably putting it down to just-woken-up bleariness. I sit up in my bed and Mom and I hug one another. She has lost her mother and now has no surviving parents. I have lost my grandmother, a woman I had loved dearly.

This loss is going to be hard on both of us.

One of the earliest memories I have of my grandmother is her lentil soup. The woman was a marvel in the kitchen – not so much because of the quality of her cooking, but because of her uncanny ability to create full meals with virtually no ingredients. She had raised three kids on her own while my grandfather was fighting in World War II, and lack of both supplies and money had made her very inventive and resourceful.

She used a lot of lentils. Lentils were cheap and nutritious, and there was apparently no problem getting hold of them during the war. Old habits die hard, I suppose, so thirty years after the war had ended, when supplies were plentiful and the economy was strong, my grandmother was still making her lentil soup.

It was, without any doubt whatsoever, the worst lentil soup. Ever. Granny would dish out these bowls of the stuff for her seven grandchildren, and make us sit at the table until we had finished it all. I mean, I know it was good for us and everything, but it just tasted so – horrible.

To this day, my friends, I cannot eat lentils. Not in soup, not in salad, not in anything. Those dark days of lentil soup tyranny ruined me for lentils forever.

Fortunately, there was a flip side to the lentil soup. My grandmother made the BEST banana fritters in the whole world. Let me tell you how good these things were. I don’t like bananas. I hate the taste, and I hate the texture, and I’d rather set my face on fire than eat them. But Granny’s banana fritters? I could eat those things until the cows came home. And she was the only one who could make them. She did give me the recipe, and I tried, but she just had that magic touch. When she died, so did the fritters.

I was quite an accomplished pianist in those days. I was very serious about it, and every year I would do practical piano exams to advance another level. I was always allowed to take the whole day off school on music exam days, and when the exam was done, my mom would drive me straight over to my grandmother’s place, where there would be some freshly made banana fritters waiting for me, made in honour of that day’s accomplishment.

Every summer, I spent a week or so with my grandmother. She lived on a large property off the beaten track, and there were acres of open space to play in. She had loads of dogs (including an ancient fox terrier named Chaka Charlie who always made me feel a little freaked out), and a coop full of pigeons. My cousins lived just down the road, and together we would play elaborate adventure games in Granny’s massive yard.

And in the evenings, after dinner, Granny and I would spend hours playing checkers. We would drink our tea and eat chocolate-dipped shortbread made by my aunt, who lived with my grandmother and still lives in the house today. And we would play endless games of checkers. Granny was a master at the game, and although I did win from time to time, this was very, very rare.

The last time I stayed over at my grandmother’s place, she asked me if I would teach her to play chess. Immediately, I agreed. This would be fun. My grandmother definitely had the mind for chess. She would have been fantastic at it.

As it happened, though, I woke up one morning when I was fourteen, and before the phone had even rung, I knew that my grandmother was no longer with us. I never got to teach her how to play chess.

I’ll always have the memories, though.

I just wish I could figure out how to make those banana fritters.