THE TRAVELLING TRUNK

My earliest memory of my obsession with objects from the past, was a trunk I found in my mother’s basement. The travelling trunk had come with my grandparents when they travelled across the Atlantic from Ireland to Canada many years before. The trunk had a big lock on the front and wooden slats that ran horizontally around the trunk. What looked like straps of black leather, ran vertically from the top of the trunk to the bottom. When you lifted the top of the trunk and looked inside there were compartments that held pockets that you could lift out creating layers for all of your personal belongings allowing our ancestors to pack virtually their entire lives in that trunk. I imagined my grandmother had a good dress, a working dress, a few hats, gloves, linens, silverware, maybe some dishes and not much else. I was fascinated with the trunk as a young girl and obsessively opened it and pulled it apart only to put it back together again imagining I was fleeing some hopeless situation.

Moving my hands across the top and the sides of the trunk, I would close my eyes and see if I could get a sense of my grandparents as a young man and woman fleeing poor conditions in Ireland and coming to Canada on a boat with the hope of finding a job and settling in a new country. I can’t even imagine but as I ran my hand over the trunk feeling the bumps, grooves and the ruggedness of the time, I was able to feel fear and uncertainty, yet hope and promise at the same time.

My grandparents settled with many other Irish descendants in Montreal, Quebec and there my grandfather settled into labour jobs and worked hard to support his eventual family of three boys and five girls. Two of the children were twins and unfortunately, one of the boys died at the young age of 18 months of scarlet fever. My Irish grandfather was a staunch, bold and stubborn man and from what I understand from my mother he was difficult to live with, thought nothing of throwing the girls’ boyfriends down the stairs if he thought they were disrespectful. Yet while raising his young family, there were times there wasn’t enough food in the house to feed all, he would go to his labour job without food to make sure there was enough food to feed his children.

They were poor, my mother remembers part of her weekly routine was standing in bread lines. My mother recounted how a Christian group at the local Catholic church dropped by with poor boxes for Christmas, my grandfather took exception to the fact that a gift of a sled for one of his children, included with this box, was full of dog shit and in poor condition. He took that sled and walked up to the local church and gave the Pastor hell for allowing his church to give children such poor gifts and my grandfather wanted to know if most of the children in that Pastor’s church received toys in such poor condition covered with dog shit. My grandfather insisted that what was good enough for the children of his parish he expected for his children and threw the sled at him and walked home. He was a proud man, there was no doubt about that and from my earliest memories of my grandfather, I remember his proudness.

Interesting, he was a story teller. Something I don’t remember very well, but my older siblings remember and when he came over for family dinners, he would gather all the children around him and tell stories of how the dead came to life at wakes and many other harrowing stories that scared all the children, yet my siblings assure me that they loved his stories and loved being around him. The trunk was my first encounter with my grandparents’ earlier life, a life before any of us, a time when all they had was each other and the contents of that trunk. Digging through the trunk and inhaling the scent of the time, I realized that I was born from that trunk, the trunk of hopes and dreams of a better life was a symbol of the empire my grandparents built of families with their own hopes and dreams of a better life.

REBELLIOUS FREEDOM – FRIDAY’S PHLOG FOR MARCH 27, 2015

bikes

I love bikes and there is nothing I like more than riding
on the back of one.
When I was a teenager, a good friend of mine used to drive
me around on the back of his bike for hours.
My mother was completely against bikes, I used to meet
him on the next block and slip away in rebellious
freedom..

HOW DID I END UP HERE……

As I was standing in the drug store with my 15 year old son looking at early pregnancy tests, I thought “how did I end up here?” I turned 50 this past November and I don’t feel depressed about my age, I don’t stress about grey hair or lines on my face, I feel really good, probably better than I felt at 20, but pregnant at 50 is definitely not something that is in the cards for me. So why was I standing in a drugstore talking to my 15 year old about the possibility of being pregnant. I was close to 24 days late, there was a romantic incident with my husband that happened when I could have been fertile, I suffered several incidents of being nauseous that past week and I was extremely tired and bitchy. All signs felt the same as when I was pregnant with both boys.

I finally told my husband of my suspicion and his answer was “that’s awesome baby, just think of all the fun we can have, it’s not like you can get more pregnant.” “Honey, I’m serious, there is a real possibility I could be pregnant, I’m not kidding.” “Either am I, we’ll work it out,” he says with a wink and a sly grin. I go a few more days wondering, not wanting to test to find out the truth, because the truth be told, there is no bloody way I want to be pregnant at this point in my life.

A couple of days later, I’m driving the boys home from school and my oldest looks like someone peed in his cornflakes. “What’s up with you, you look miserable?” I say. “Nothing mom, but I’ve been in a real bad mood the last couple of days and I’m not sure why.” “Oh really, try being me, I think I’m pregnant!” Not missing a beat Brendan lights up and leans over the front seat and says, “mom that’s awesome, a new baby, that would be great.” “Just think, I can train a baby brother and get him to the NHL.” “Brendan, why do you assume it’s a boy, could be a girl.” “Then I’ll train her to the Olympics.” “Brendan, I’m serious.” “So am I mom, a baby would be awesome.” My 13 year old’s jaw is still dropped and he looks like he’s gone into shock. “How did this happen?” “Well Matt, remember that hockey tournament in the States, Dad and I sent you and your brother off with the coaches for dinner and we stayed back, well…” “Stop right there mom, I don’t need to know any more than that, this is not good mom, we do not need a baby in the house.”

Now I know Matt’s motivation for not wanting a baby in the house is because he’ll no longer be the baby and he is not ready to give up that status. His motivation is completely self absorbed and I could not agree with him more – I don’t think we need another baby either, especially not at 50. Brendan is still going on that it would be great and I quickly remind him that at 50 I find him, at times, difficult and that I can’t imagine being 65 with a bloody 15 year old teenager, nope don’t want it. “Brendan, I don’t even want a dog never mind a baby.” “Mom, you can’t compare a dog to a baby.”

After dinner that night, Brendan and I went to the gym. Typical we get to the gym, he goes his way and I go my way. Halfway through my workout he comes over to my area and loudly announces “Don’t you just have to pee on a stick to find out if your pregnant?” “Yeah, I whisper, but I don’t need everyone here to know that!” “Do you have any money?” he says. “Yeah why?” “Because we should stop at the drugstore mom and pick up that stick.” “Brendan I’m not ready to pee on the stick.” “Come on mom I need to know.” An expression my Irish grandmother use to say pops into my head, “Jesus, Mary and Joseph, give me a hand here.”

Thirty minutes later, I found myself in the drugstore looking at sticks with my 15 year old. Threw the stick in with a few other purchases and home we went. I’m not in the house five minutes and Brendan is asking me if I’ve peed on the stick yet. I tell him that I’m waiting until morning as the HCG hormone is stronger in the morning.

The next morning first thing I do is take the test and the stick shows negative. It was a little early to wake the boys, but I couldn’t resist. I go into Brendan’s room and wake him, when he opens his eyes I flash him the stick. “What does it mean mom?” It means my dear that you will not get to train your NHL star.” I go to Matt’s room and repeat the same, he says “What does it mean mom?” “It means that you are still the baby in this house.” To that he gives me a big smile and a two thumbs up. My husband who is in his office finishing up his midnight shift, “hey take a look,” as I show him the stick. “Negative he says.” “No wild freedom sex honey,” I say as I’m walking out of the room and to that my husband is shouting something as I’m walking down the hall. There are times my severe hearing loss is such a blessing and this was one of those times!

THE WALL

Art washes from the soul the dust of every day life.” Picasso

wall art 2

The Daily post weekly challenge – wall – couldn’t resist this one – I adore wall art. When an artist can take a dull and ugly building and turn it into a piece of art, I gaze upon it in complete awe. I took this shot while driving along the Oregon Coast – this beautiful piece was painted on an old fish cannery. The stench from that building was nauseating, yet this mural caught the beauty of the coastal town.

Remembering ‘hidden’ moms on Mothers Day.

An interesting Irish tale with a twist..

My thoughts on a page.

This is a true story.
It is one I wrote two years ago, but I am always reminded of it on Mothers Day (which in Ireland is today). As I’m pretty sure most of you have never read the original I’ll tell it to you once more.small__495579635

Years ago I was on a training course. Towards the end of it we were doing a night on loss. The idea behind the night, is that unless you deal with your own demons you cannot help others deal with their difficulties. We were all nervous, as we had been informed that our guest tutor was extremely experienced in this area and most people ended up in quite a state. I attended that night like one going to a hypnotist. He would not get to me. I would not break.

The night was very interesting letting us know that loss is about so…

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HURRY UP AND DIE ALREADY!

“If I had known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.”
― Mae West

Standing in the line up at the grocery store with my 15-year-old son, the cover of Maclean’s magazine caught my attention: “Hurry up and die already.”  The article is about parents living longer and screwing up their kids’ financial ambitions by not dying at a younger age and leaving an inheritance.   I looked at Brendan and said “don’t rely on me for your financial plans later on in life because if I still have money left after the money your dad and I have spent to give you a good start in life, I’m spending it and enjoying my life to the fullest.”

I hit 50 this past November and true to myself, I entered into the half a century club quietly.  There was no party no big celebration, just time with the boys and my husband enjoying being with one another.  I’ve been blessed with good health and every day I celebrate that good health by eating well and moving my body.  Exercise clears my mind and helps relieve stress, something I’ve been doing since my early 20’s.  My reasons for exercising back then had nothing to do with good health, it had to do with beating my nicotine addiction.

I picked up the nasty habit of smoking and decided I wanted to quit, figured I could drop the habit easily.  Did not go as planned, I quit and picked up the smokes over and over again.  I got the idea if I started running I would feel so bad during a run that it would give me the strength to stay away from cigarettes.  I remember the first time I went for a run, couldn’t even make it around the block and I felt pathetic.  I became determined to get myself into running shape and leave the smokes behind.  It worked, I gave up smoking and picked up running.  Once I was in shape I ventured into swimming, hiking, yoga, pilates, biking  – I tried everything.  I made a promise to my 20-year-old self that when I turned 50, I would still be exercising and I’m happy to say that exercise is still a big part of my life.   I move daily – running, weight lifting,yoga, swimming and three years ago I decided to try my hand at hockey.   I joined a womens’ league at the urging of a friend.   The hockey was challenging as I had not skated since I was a very young girl and I’ve never played  hockey or, for that matter, a team sport.  I’m still playing and I love it. It may sound peculiar to some people but when I’m on the ice chasing the puck, my focus is on the puck, passing and scoring and I don’t think of anything else, like work, kids, husband nor my age.  Playing hockey is a bigger stress reliever for me than running.

Now that I’m 50, I’ve made a promise to myself that I will still be moving every day when I’m 70.  Living in the present is something I’m also trying to do everyday, especially as you get older.  My mother use to say to me, “the older you get the faster your life goes.”  As I enter into this phase of my life, I plan to live it my way and my boys won’t see any of my money anytime soon!