Category Archives: Childhood

Trying to Be (In)Visible

 

A couple of weeks ago, I was driving along with all my windows open and the Fluffy Dog in the back of the car, when an impatient driver raced up behind me. I had seen her coming in my rearview. You know the kind: weaving in and out of traffic, trying to get the advantage of one more carlength. I needed to be in the next lane anyway, so I signaled and and pulled into the gap to my left to let her race by, at which point there was a blaring horn and I realised that the same impatient driver had simultaneously pulled to the left at high acceleration to get around me. She screeched back into the right lane and pulled up beside me at the next light, lowered her window, and began to scream and swear at me. (The Fluffy Dog raised his head at the commotion but didn’t bestir himself to look at all threatening or even concerned, the big old dope.) Continue reading

The Shit People Say at Work (or, Flashbacks at my Desk)

Content warning for discussion of flashbacks, child abuse, domestic abuse, and trauma.

 

Workplace cubicles don’t allow for privacy.

On the small floor where I work, a small second floor perched like a hat on a larger building, the windowed offices ring a large area which has been packed with cubicles. At one end of this rectangle is the access stairwell. At the very far end from that stairwell is my workspace. The cubicles end, and my desk and filing cabinets are in the stub of space just past the fire exit stairwell.

It’s an old building. The heating and cooling are iffy, approximate, and likely controlled by someone in a different time zone. As a result, people tend keep their office doors open to improve air circulation.

This means everyone hears everything. We all know about each other’s kidney stones,  grandchildren, car troubles, and how well we all slept last night.

 

(Content warning for below the cut)

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Don’t Ask Questions

One thing about growing up with secrecy, silence, and paranoia in an authoritarian family is that it gets really hard to untangle the effects of emotional abuse from one’s actual personality.

Until recently, for example, I rarely asked questions. Part of that is because because so many of my childhood and adolescent questions were answered with :

  • contempt: “You stupid kid”
  • ridicule: “I can’t believe you don’t know that”
  • silent treatment: absolute silence as if I had not spoken
  • dismissal: “You don’t need to know that”
  • anger: “Don’t ask things like that!”
  • annoyance “Don’t bother me with that”
  • mockery: “Why do you care about that?”
  • impatience: “I don’t have time for this.”

I learned that questions are irritating, intrusive, inappropriate, and unwelcome. I learned that I would be mocked, ridiculed, and subject to anger or silent treatments if I asked questions or showed curiosity. Continue reading

Holding Grief and Happiness in the Same Hands

A few days ago, I wrote about a retirement party I attended, and talked about the importance of paying attention to life transitions. The past week has been very full of those, with a workplace baby on the way, two funerals, and the ongoing decline of the Brindle Dog. And today in particular is special because it’s the birthday of an amazing woman who is a talented artist and a wonderful friend. (I know you sometimes read my blog, J., so happy birthday to you in yet another public venue–did I do Instagram yet? ๐Ÿ™‚ )

It’s been hard. Exhausting. Heartbreaking. But also beautiful and hopeful. Continue reading

The Brindle Dog Loves her Oma. And her Food. And her Massages. And her Stick.

The Brindle Dog’s tumour is hungry. Cancer sometimes works that way. She eats and eats but doesn’t gain weight. She eats about a third more than the Fluffy Dog who outweighs her by a good twenty pounds.

Until recently, I fed the dogs raw food. I hope to do so again soon, but there’s been a glitch in my system, so for now, they get grain-free Canadian kibble with extra toppings of delicious (ugh) organs like liver and kidney and spleen. After consulting with several vets (my regular vet, my friend who is a vet, and the complementary / alternative / holistic medicine vet), I’ve made some changes to the Brindle Dog’s diet. For the most part, she approves of these changes: Continue reading

1978: The Steve Miller Band opens for The Eagles

 

Blogger sonofabeach96 posts often about music history. One of his recent posts reminded me of the very first concert I ever attended. So this throwback post is for you, son. ๐Ÿ™‚

On July 27, 1978, the Steve Miller Band opened for the Eagles at Assiniboia Downs in Winnipeg. My mom, who was only 32 at the time, really wanted to go but couldn’t find anyone to go with her. So she took me (just turned 8), my brother (6), and two of my cousins (9 and 12). The venue was an open field with rush “seating” (grab a spot and stake out your tarp, basically).

I got my mom to retell the story the other day, and she put a lot of emphasis on how often we kids all had to use the toilet. At one point, the lineup for the women’s toilets was super long, and there was nobody waiting for the men’s. My mom says I just sized up the situation, zipped into the men’s washroom, and emerged drying my freshly-washed hands and looking very pleased with myself (that does sound like me). She was laughing at how much of the concert she viewed from the toilet lineups.

I asked her why in the world she would take four little kids to a concert like that with no other adult to help, and she just shrugged “I thought it would be fun!” And besides, she added, my 12-year-old cousin could be trusted with two kids at the blanket while she took the fourth kid to the can. So it all worked out!

I have two memories of that concert. In one, we are all sitting on a blanket. In my memory, it is one of those acrylic blankets with the wide satin trim—remember those? But my mom says she can’t remember what blanket it was (and kind of side-eyed me for asking about such a detail, haha!). I remember jostling for space with the others, and there were lots of people around us.

I think there were several opening acts. By the time the penultimate band played, we kids were exhausted, so my mom had to start packing up to take us home. My second memory of the concert is of sitting on a bench in the dark and seeing the stage very far away and bright, with tiny people on it. The crowd was a sea of shadowy heads. My mom remembers this as well. She said that as we were headed for the parking lot, the Eagles started playing Hotel California. She stopped at a bench to listen to that song. I loved hearing her retell this story for lots of reasons, but mostly because of the smile on her face when she remembered this.

When I was a kid, my mom’s music was my music. I was probably twelve or so before I realised that other types of music weren’t random anomalies but actual genres. Mostly I thought all music was the Eagles, and Led Zeppelin, and Meatloaf. Foreigner and Loverboy and Toto and 10CC and Eric Clapton and Neil Young and the Who and the Guess Who and Supertramp and the Rolling Stones and CSNY and Bob Dylan and Billy Joel and Queen. Van Morrison, ELO, the Moody Blues, Elton John, Dire Straits, Tom Petty, ZZ Top, Boney M… And above all, Pink Floyd. The family still goes wild for Pink Floyd; my uncles close their eyes and moan, and my mom sings along happily.

It’s not my music anymore, not in terms of what I choose to listen to around the house. But when I hear it, I am carried back to my childhood. The nights I spent falling asleep in my bunk-bed to the comforting vibration of bass, the way my mom and her siblings let their faces open up with joy when their favourite music plays, the lyrics to hundreds of 70s songs that still pop fully-formed into my mind when the first notes of those old songs play… These are some of my best childhood memories. I’m grateful that my mom thought it would be fun to take a pack of kids to an outdoor concert. We don’t often listen to the same music anymore, but we still talk about music a lot. I listen when she has something special to play for me, and she has made it out to a couple of my gigs. I’m glad that she has always loved music so much, and that she has passed that appreciation on to me.

In true sonofabeach96 style, here’s a list of some of faves from when I was just a pup:

Pink Floyd: One of These Days

Boney M: Rasputin

10CC: Dreadlock Holiday

The Guess Who: American Woman

Santana: Black Magic Woman

The Moody Blues: Melancholy Man

Electric Light Orchestra: Don’t Bring Me Down

Loverboy: Turn Me Loose

Some Sources of My Christmas Stress

People at work keep stopping by my desk to harass me about Christmas. Well, to be fair, they are stopping by everyone’s desk, and they probably think of it as “small talk” rather than “harassment.”

But honestly I am getting so sick of deflecting the casual questions. Are you ready for Christmas? Got your tree up? Have you done all your Christmas shopping? What are you doing for Christmas? Got a big Christmas planned? Spending time with your family for Christmas this year?

I used to just go along with it and shove down all my holiday stress to not make the conversation awkward. But now, I think screw that, why should I be uncomfortable because you are asking some personal questions loaded with cultural assumptions and obliviousness? Continue reading

My Very First Art Lesson (in which I learned I’m no good)

When I was six, I learned that I would never be an artist.

Like any other kid, I loved to draw and fingerpaint and glue stuff onto other stuff, especially if beads or glitter were involved. In the homes of my grandparents, my father, and my aunt, I was surrounded by evidence of art and artists: my great-grandfather was a master painter back in the Old Country (Denmark), and my grandfather had been apprenticed to him. My grandparents met when my grandmother took a class with the master painter, and my grandfather would offer to walk her home and carry her painting gear. The walls of my grandparents’ home were filled with paintings and drawings and woven tapestries and other work by my grandfather, grandmother, great-grandfather, aunt, and other artists. Every bit of wall space was filled. Continue reading

Hair Matters

My actual hair now.

My actual hair now.

A few days ago, whereshappy posted about getting a horribly disappointing perm when she was eleven years old. That post made me laugh and it made me sad. I remember well how disappointed I was with a couple of perms I had when I was kid. I went in envisioning lovely big loose curls and I ended up looking like a poodle. But my mom and aunt (who performed the act) were so pleased with the results that I pretended I was delighted, although inside I felt uglier and more loserly than ever.

When that first perm faded away, my mom took me back for another one. Continue reading

My Grandmother’s Birthday

My grandmother offering tomatoes from her garden.

My grandmother offering tomatoes from her garden.

Today would have been my grandmother’s 102nd birthday and I miss her with each breath and I am glad she’s dead. Continue reading

Being a Kid in the 1970s

We'd burn all kinds of stuff in the fire pit.

We’d burn all kinds of stuff in the fire pit. Photo credit probably goes to my dad.

My brother and I were reminiscing the other day about what it was like being little kids in the seventies. We used to run around in the bush down by the creek with our dog, building forts and climbing on beaver dams, and dodging trains on the train bridge. Man, we were little and brave. Our dad would give a long wailing whistle using both his hands flapping in front of his mouth like wings. The dog’s ears would perk up; our ears would perk up; all three of us would turn our faces towards home and scramble up embankments and over logs as fast as our little legs could move. (Well, the dog’s legs were considerably longer!) It was the seventies: kids could play in the bush by a creek for hours, and nobody was worried.

Out at Uncle Wally’s cabin, the adults would give us some sawed off stubs of two-by-fours, a couple of hammers, and a rusty can of nails. Continue reading

Father’s Day: Not Always “Happy”

Father’s Day is hard for so many people. I imagine this day must be as bitter for my estranged father as it is for me. At least I hope it is as bitter for him, because that might mean that he still cares and that one day we might have a relationship again.

Father’s Day is hard for people whose dad is dead, for dads whose kids are dead, for the men who want to be dads but can’t be, for the kids and dads who are separated from each other, for people whose dads were / are abusive, for kids who never knew their deadbeat dads but are forced by the teacher to make a card for Daddy anyway (true story from a colleague), for the people whose dads are frankly nothing to celebrate.

I know my dad used to love me. I hope he still does. As much as I hate this estrangement, it’s better than dealing with how he and his wife were treating me. But Father’s Day is still bitter because I miss him, and our time for reconciliation gets shorter each year.

Children: To Hit or Not to Hit? (spoiler: NOT!)

The text in this image can be found at the bottom of the post.

Children Learn What They Live poem by Dorothy Law Nolte from http://www.docstoc.com/docs/158159649/Children-Learn-What-They-Live

Another facebook friend is advocating hitting children. In the wake of another local bullying incident, my news feed is once again spattered with variations on the meme of โ€œIf there was more of THIS {image of a child being spanked}, thereโ€™d be less of THIS {image of young criminals*}.โ€ Continue reading