Happy New Year — September is the real beginning…

IMG_2198This is the first day of school and it is still my New Year. I have started a new cycle each September for as long as I can remember. New Year’s eve may mark the actual change in the calendar, but September changes my life. The days of summer are waning. My focus changes from holidays and relaxation, from sunshine and time away from work to planning for the year ahead.

Every year either I’ve personally gone to school, or one of my children has. This year is no different. My daughter starts a new program and things will once again change for her.

Living in a university town means that the students are coming back and some have already arrived. This changes everything. Grocery stores will be depleted (this week at least!), traffic is snarled because everyone is trying to avoid the roads around the university and don’t even try to buy alcohol; the parking lot is jammed.

I myself feel like I am at a new beginning. I started a simple program. Instead of letting my workday pull me along until I am exhausted, I’ve carved out time in my morning for meditation, reflection and writing. Sitting down each morning and having time set aside to write has had a huge impact on my entire outlook.

When you stand up and say to the world, I am making myself and my interests my priority, it shifts things. After just over a month of doing this, my entire attitude has changed. I am writing prolifically, both blogs and fiction (I’m testing the waters with fiction which is unpublished-even as blogs) and I seem to be drawing opportunity into my life.

My book sales have skyrocketed, my website visits are way up and I am receiving more and more requests for coaching. I have developed a whole new style in what I wear and how I present myself to the world and things simply feel like they are expanding. I will continue to let you know how this plays out, but let me put it this way, “I’ve put myself first and the universe has responded in kind.”

Perpetual Motion — Chapter 1

20130731-110944.jpgWe did not stay in the apartment in the house for very long. Soon, a townhouse where my mother wanted to live became available and we moved into it. It was a clean, two bedroom unit that was small but was so well designed that you could have privacy and space all at the same time. We had the coveted end unit, which is preferred because you only get noise from one side. The neighbours were all close and there was no way to not know what was going on.

There were several children there my age and I could once again walk to school, which I didn’t have to do for very long because as soon as I turned sixteen I started to drive. While still fifteen, I bought myself a $75.00 car and did all of the work necessary to get it road worthy and functioning. It did not have a radio so I wedged a transistor radio in between the dash and the car frame on the driver’s side. Also, it did not have a gas gauge or an odometer, so I had to carry a gas can in the trunk at all times. This gave the car that distinctive gasoline smell, but I didn’t care. It was a 1970 Ford Capri and I loved that car.

I managed to keep the linkage for the manual transmission functioning by having a stash of paperclips in the glove box. When one broke, or rusted and I could no longer put the car into gear, I would climb under and put in a new paper clip—problem solved.

Two doors down there was a young couple. I don’t know the details of what transpired between them but the woman moved out. I remember the husband completely disintegrating with bouts of being drunk and staggering home. He owned one of those distinctive cars that were obvious because they were so peculiar looking, a pacer I believe. Parking for the cars was supposed to be up the one side of the complex, but there was pavement behind the units and he had driven his pacer up to the space behind his place. He left his car on an angle and the safety lights were flashing. I saw this car sit like this for days. Eventually, the batteries died and the lights stopped flashing, but he never came out to move the car or shut the flashers off. I never saw him again.

The next move was to a grand old house in an established neighbourhood within walking distance of the hospital and the YMCA. The house used to be a single family dwelling, but a previous owner had made two apartments out of the left side of the house and the main part included four bedrooms upstairs, a living room and kitchen on the main floor and added a two story addition that included a huge family room that had patio doors opening onto a large backyard with an in ground pool and an upstairs space that opened onto a second floor patio. It was a gorgeous place with mature trees that housed squirrels, chipmunks and a multitude of birds and other mammals. I have no good memories of this house.

The basement reflected the age of the house and was always dark and damp. I used the basement to shower because there was no shower in the bathroom upstairs. One day when I went into the basement there was a beam of light shinning from one of the apartments. I went over to find that a piece of masking tape had dried up and had curled back exposing a perfectly drilled hole in the wall. The wall between the basement apartment and the main part of the house was a single piece of plywood.

I bent down to peer through the hole and my stomach clenched. It was a perfect view across the bathtub and into the washroom of the other apartment. On a day that I was in the downstairs apartment I had a look from the other side. The hole had been drilled in the black centre of a flower that was part of the pattern of the wallpaper in the bathroom. I later met a woman that had lived down there before my mother owned the place and she said that one of the reasons that she moved out was that the landlord creeped her out. I did not tell her about the hole.

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Oak Street — Chapter 1

IMGP6205That was the day that I moved out of Oak Street, but I was there, off and on for six years. These years saw me through public school and into my first year of high school. By grade 10 I was too far away to walk to high school, but from Oak Street, the high school was only a couple of blocks away.

One of the advantages of living that close to the school is that you can go home for lunch. It was expected in grade school. We got out at 11:50 a.m. so that we could observe the proper time for lunch, which was 12 noon exactly. Then, we did not have to be back to school until 1:20 p.m. This meant that you could finish up your meal, help clear the table and do the dishes and then return to school.

Nowadays most children stay at school over the lunch. It is a necessity of the working family that is not in the house to supervise a meal, much less prepare it. My mother took advantage of this great expanse of time by having us deliver something for her during our lunch hours. I remember phone books, dessert samples, plastic bags with soap or shampoo samples in them and a bunch of other things.

There was no question that my mother had ambition that she was trying to tamp down or find an outlet for. Before we had left the A-frame she was trying to collect enough points to win some sort of contest. In order to do this you had to buy a certain cat food, a type of puffed wheat that came in huge bags and some other items. We had excessive amounts of these things in the house. Another peculiar thing to remember. My mother used to mass buy products.

Unfortunately for me, the cat food gave my cat diarrhea. And everyone knows what happens to a cat that has diarrhea for an extended period of time, they get taken to the farm. This alleged farm visit occurred at a very similar time to our move to the new house. It would be consistent with the facts, as I understand them now, that my cat was simply left at the A-frame house. She probably just had no idea where we were or where we went.

I have clear and vivid memories of my cat Squirt. When I got her she was just a handful of a kitten even for a young child. I don’t know how old I was but I do remember walking home with her in my arms. I walked right through the round piece of grass in our neighbourhood and every child from the crescent came out to get a look at Squirt. I was very protective of her. My mother had told me stories of cats that had simply been mauled to death, so I was very careful to not let many people handle her. I felt a deep love for this kitten. She was a soft, short hair, tabby cat that was grey, black and white. She may have had a little brown in her. The pattern of her fur formed an “M” on her forehead, which happened to be my last initial.

But I digress, my mother seemed to have a lot of ambition that she couldn’t direct in a way that she found satisfying. In addition to all of these deliveries, she also took a job at a new start up classified add newspaper. These were a new idea at the time and had yet to become truly viable businesses. She worked hard at this newspaper.

By the time that I was ten I was no longer getting picked up at school to work for my mother. At this time, grade five, I was able to come home and make myself some lunch. One of the things I remember making was Kraft Dinner. This is not the same KD that you can buy nowadays. The flavours were balanced when this KD was reconstituted with margarine. It also had a firm noodle, not the kind that can be microwaved and always gives you the feeling that you’ve slightly overcooked it. These were real noodles.

I had boiled the water, added the noodles and set the timer. When the noodles were done I took the pot over to the sink to drain it into a strainer. I poured too fast and the water splashed up over my left hand scalding it. The skin bubbled up and filled with water. I did not try to call anyone. I did not tell anyone that it had happened. I knew that I was supposed to pull my sleeve down over the burnt part of my hand in order to protect it and I went back to school.

I was in Mrs. Walkers grade five class. I always admired this teacher. She had a calm respect about her. No one misbehaved when she left the room. We all knew how we were supposed to act and it was just expected. I sat behind this large guy who felt like a well of peace and calmness. I told him about my hand after he understood that he was not allowed to tell anyone.

When I got home that night, and my mother returned, she first wanted to “pop” the skin and let the water out. I wouldn’t let her do it. Then, she was concerned that I had called her mother and forbade me from telling her mother that I was cooking my own lunch. Then,…she decided to have a doctor look at it. Essentially, they put a light cast over the area and sent me home. There is no scar.

In hind site it is remarkable that I knew how to take care of my hand. I was protective of it and covered it so that it would not get damaged. It was probably the first memory I have of being taken care of, in the larger sense. The knowledge I needed was available to me when I needed it.

Keep Reading: Absence of Parents

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Everything Changes — Chapter 1

IMG_0500The most discreet and defining change in my life was about to happen shortly. My mother was very socially conscious and living in a wartime home was simply not good enough. She wanted to be looked up to, envied and seen as having it all. With this in mind, my parents set out to buy a new home.

The purchase of the appropriate home was essential to how they saw themselves, or at the very least how my mother saw herself. My mother’s family was farmers by spirit, but my grandfather had taken a factory job. I don’t know the details of when they left the farm or when they moved into the city, but I do know that they always managed to live well, despite food stamps and the recession. They always had an abundance of food and enough money to buy what they needed.

The way that this was explained to me was that certain allotments of food stamps were for cigarettes and alcohol. Since my grandparents did not partake of either of these, they would trade these stamps for baking ingredients; sugar and flour. My grandmother could bake. It is not adequate to say that she could bake really well, because that cannot possibly describe how her fudge would melt in your mouth, or how a mouthful of butter tart was so delicious that you simply could not speak while eating one. She gave out fudge for Halloween and I witnessed a man that had drove from a neighbouring city to visit her house on Halloween in order to receive a piece of her fudge. She sold these baked goods for a tidy profit.

My father’s family was city folk. His father was in the police force and his mother, his father’s second wife, was a schoolteacher and significantly younger than her husband. I still don’t know how many half cousins I have on my father’s side because there was an almost complete split between the two families. My father had not gone past grade twelve himself. Not because he was not capable, but because it was not necessary.

We lived in chemical valley where crude oil is converted into gasoline and other products. He was hired full time right out of high school and was doing very well financially. This had to be demonstrated to everyone by the type of home that we lived in, or so my mother felt.

We visited these gorgeous places. I remember running around the schoolyard describing beautiful homes to my friends. I had to tell everyone. There were patio doors that looked out onto landscaped back yards, there were pools, there were large rec rooms and finished basements. The possibilities seemed endless. We were moving out of our old home, that was heated with a stove that sat in one corner of a livingroom, into places with central heat. I didn’t know what central heat meant but it sounded exciting to me.

The visits to the homes for sale went on long enough that my friends started to not want to hear about it anymore. Lost in the excitement of the move, I had totally missed the fact that I would be leaving most of these friends, to never see them again, or only see them in passing. That did not concern me very much.

When new students came to our school, they were celebrities. Everyone would flock around them to try to get to know them first. They were coveted potential new friends and everyone wanted to meet them. I assumed it was like this at all schools.

The conflict between my parents was unseen by me, at the time. My father was a very practical man. I know that my father wanted a garage and that he wanted to deal with the issue in a logical way. My mother wanted some place extravagant. I don’t know if money was an issue. The house that was decided on, my father explained to me, was largely because the person selling the house would also buy our A-frame from us. This was practical and straightforward. It was important to my father that this detail be taken care of. I don’t know if this purchase preceded the ability to put an offer on a house conditional on the sale of your other house, but if it did, that would explain my father’s decision. To be stuck with two homes would be a problem for any family, at any time.

My mother was not happy with the house.

I was not happy either. It was terrible when I realized that I was losing all of my friends, my backyard, my maple tree, my large bedroom, my tree lined neighbourhood and my family as it turns out.

The new house was a three bedroom bungalow, situated on the corner of a very busy four lane road, in a newer part of town. It was a block from the school. My father had to back out into traffic in order to get the car out of the driveway. There was no backyard because it was a corner lot and the large two-story double car garage took up most of the yard and blocked out any sun that may have entered the small sliver of lawn. There was no room for a pool, or a garden and there were certainly no trees of mention.

Vicki and I flipped a coin for the large bedroom and I lost. The room that I was now in was so small that my bed needed to be replaced with a single bed because there was not enough room for the old one. The basement had been divided into several small rooms, so even though it had a rec room, it was not much of a room. It was also uninviting in a way that some basements are.

So, in the summer of 1971, I found myself a freshly minted nine year old that did not have any friends, any backyard and no place to spread my toys out to play. To top it off, my cat did not make the trip. I heard that there was another nine year old girl on the block and I decided to go down and introduce myself. Now all I had was to go to the new school in September and see how that went.

Keep Reading: New Friends

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Martha Beck teaches you how to navigate the ever changing landscape of your life.

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Only the Edges are Sharp — Chapter 1 (Beginning of Book)

IMG_1129I’m sitting at my new MacBook Pro looking out the bay window of my office, which faces exactly east. I can see into my front yard, which is in terrible need of water. It has been a gorgeous July if you like to swim and sun bathe, which I do, but a terrible one if you are into water conservation. You would never know that there are any watering restrictions, or restrictions in the use of herbicides, for that matter, in my neighbourhood because it is the ultimate, multiracial, middle class neighbourhood on the edge of a university town, population 100,000.

Life is jubilant. I am in good health. Solvent. I have a lovely home, a great dog, four daughters, good friends and a steady job. I really did wake up in paradise, which raises the question, “How did I get here?”

My earliest memories are of a small A-frame house; the kind that were made by the thousands to accommodate the soldiers when they returned from WWII. It was built on a child friendly crescent. The road had too sharp of a bend for cars to drive quickly and they had no choice but to slow down. It encircled a small grass lawn which was common area for the children to play on, which we all did. The house was about thirty years old by the time that I remember it and the trees reflected that. I had several really large trees of my own in the back yard.

There was a row of tall, pointed trees on the property line. My father explained that this type of tree had been planted because they grow so tall so quickly. He remarked that no one considered how hard it would be to cut them down, in the small backyards, once they towered above all of the houses. My yard also boasted a mature maple with broad dark green leaves that my father built a tree fort in. He also built a sand box in the back corner of the yard. We were lucky that the grade in our yard had not been done properly. After a rain, or a melt in the winter, a puddle often formed in the middle of the yard. This meant for great body surfing fun in the summer and a maintenance free ice rink, of our very own, in the winter.

We also had an old metal swing set that had a slide going down one side and a glider in addition to two swings. The glider was like a small two sided porch swing designed so that you could enter from the side and sit across from someone. When the slider was pushed, you went first toward the person you were facing and then away from them.

This idyllic setting belies the fact that if examined by today’s standards, I was not cared for very well. My most prominent type of memory is one of being alone. I remember sitting in front of the television alone; climbing up on the kitchen counter to reach the food that was safely stored in the upper cupboards, alone; knowing that I would get in trouble if I woke my mother, alone.

I have memories of “swimming” in garbage cans that were kept in back of the house and had become full of water and maggots because they had been left without lids in the rain. I remember fights about milk going missing and cereal that was unaccounted for. There were great arguments between my parents. I was ever so afraid of doing something wrong, but I did not know why. I have vivid memories of stealing chocolate barrels that were filled with caramel and covered in a yellow gold foil. My mother bought these chocolates in a bulk mixture and they were intended for ‘guests’.

One evening my parents were getting ready to go out. The house had the characteristic feeling of anticipation. I could smell my mother’s perfume and my father’s aftershave. It was late and the sun was already down. There was light pouring out of the bathroom, where my father was, and the odd accent light on illuminating an otherwise dark house. The babysitter was expected and I knew that meant that there would be a 69 cent bag of potato chips purchased, which I’m guessing was a full pound of potato chips, but I don’t know for sure.

I was trying to answer a scientific question. My father used a hand held razor. By turning the handle, the top of the razor came apart in the centre and the two halves opened up from the middle leaving an opening for the blade. Inside there was a flat surface for the blade to lie against with a screw in the centre that held the head of the razor onto the handle. When the blade was dropped into its place the handle was turned in the opposite direction to close the housing on the blade. The blade itself was a rectangle with two long sharp sides that were the cutting blades and a keyhole shaped opening in the middle that kept the blade in place and made room for the screw head that was attached to the handle.

My question was a simple one. Was there something inherently sharp about the metal or were only the edges sharp? There was a very direct way to find this out. It was simple. All that I had to do was to take a razor blade and stick my finger into the hole in the centre to see if it was as sharp as the edges were. I knew that I was not supposed to touch the blades. There was no question that what I was doing was not permitted, so when my mother walked into the living room I thrust my hands under the pillow on the sofa. Unfortunately, when you are holding a razor blade in your hand, making a fist around it to hide what you are doing under a pillow is not such a great idea.

All I remember after that was that there was a great amount of blood and my mother being very upset. I don’t remember if they went out for the evening. I know that there were other evenings that they went out. An examination of my hands now does not reveal any permanent scaring so I couldn’t have hurt myself too badly.

By the way, only the long edges are sharp.

Keep Reading: Jumping to Conclusions

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Steering

IMG_3468“At seventy miles an hour you don’t steer you just aim,” my father said to me, a really long time ago. I have to agree. Once you reach a certain speed you are no longer actually changing direction, it is more of just an adjustment to the direction, in very small increments. A very important adjustment if you don’t want to end up in a ditch. What I did not know at the time was how true that was for life.

Life, it turns out, begins with steering and becomes about aiming. It is the million, simple, small decisions and choices that we make every day that determine the direction of our lives. The seemingly inconsequential decision to buy a good pair of shoes, or go to the movies can be life changing in ways that we cannot predict. Small choices appear to have no significance but can have an accumulative effect. Think of a loved one that you used to contact and then contacted less and less.

As any adult can tell you, life speeds up to a pace that makes Christmas seem as frequent as weekends – or close anyway… The five years I spent at one school seemed to last way, way longer than the last decade has. This phenomenon is experienced more and more as you age. I said, “You don’t know how long a decade is, until you are thirty,” to a woman in line at the grocery store. A septuagenarian ahead of us in line replied, “You don’t know how short youth is until you’re seventy.” But the pace is what surprises me.

Unlike the large questions of youth, “What career should I choose?”; “Should I marry?”; “Children?” the decisions as you age are more of an adjustment to your life, more subtle but no less significant. Simple, small choices, have the potential to change the entire direction of your life. If you are aiming it is important to know what your target is. These targets can be way more elusive than more obvious decisions like where to live. Problem is, failure to make a choice is still making a choice not to decide. Just thoughts…

Steering

IMG_3468“At seventy miles an hour you don’t steer you just aim,” my father said to me, a really long time ago. I have to agree. Once you reach a certain speed you are no longer actually changing direction, it is more of just an adjustment to the direction, in very small increments. A very important adjustment if you don’t want to end up in a ditch. What I did not know at the time was how true that was for life.

Life, it turns out, begins with steering and becomes about aiming. It is the million, simple, small decisions and choices that we make every day that determine the direction of our lives. The seemingly inconsequential decision to buy a good pair of shoes, or go to the movies can be life changing in ways that we cannot predict. Small choices appear to have no significance but can have an accumulative effect. Think of a loved one that you used to contact and then contacted less and less.

As any adult can tell you, life speeds up to a pace that makes Christmas seem as frequent as weekends – or close anyway… The five years I spent at one school seemed to last way, way longer than the last decade has. This phenomenon is experienced more and more as you age. I said, “You don’t know how long a decade is, until you are thirty,” to a woman in line at the grocery store. A septuagenarian ahead of us in line replied, “You don’t know how short youth is until you’re seventy.” But the pace is what surprises me.

Unlike the large questions of youth, “What career should I choose?”; “Should I marry?”; “Children?” the decisions as you age are more of an adjustment to your life, more subtle but no less significant. Simple, small choices, have the potential to change the entire direction of your life. If you are aiming it is important to know what your target is. These targets can be way more elusive than more obvious decisions like where to live. Problem is, failure to make a choice is still making a choice not to decide. Just thoughts…

Spring Morning

IMG_0816I needed both of the quilts that my daughters made for me in order to sit out back on the deck this morning. It is too cold otherwise. Spring brings that calm after the storm and promises that summer will soon burst from the buds.

I love the changing of the seasons more than the seasons themselves. There are great things about all seasons but it is the renewal, the chance to see things in a new light that I find most thrilling.

As Byron Katie reminds us, the simple act of questioning what we believe frees us from suffering. Seeing things in a new light can bring us peace.

Kathryn Shultz, in her TEDtalk, explains that we all think we’re right. When people disagree with us we first think they don’t know the truth and if they have the same facts, we assume they have a hidden agenda, they are evil.

This sets us up for conflict. We all base our beliefs on our knowledge and experience. Since there is no way that two people will ever live identical lives we will disagree.

Consider the possibility that you may believe something that isn’t true. Wouldn’t it be easier to recognize that it may not be true? This allows us to question things we tell ourselves that cause us stress. It also allows us to be gracious when we disagree with someone else which is better than seeing them as evil.

Questioning your beliefs has the potential to improve how you feel both within yourself and within your relationships. This brings peace and makes listening to the birds singing that much nicer even if it is still a two quilt morning.

 The essential book for examining your thoughts.

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A step by step guide on how to discover who you were meant to be.  The study guide for this book is also available click on the icon below.

Perpetual Motion — Chapter 1

20130731-110944.jpgWe did not stay in the apartment in the house for very long. Soon, a townhouse where my mother wanted to live became available and we moved into it. It was a clean, two bedroom unit that was small but was so well designed that you could have privacy and space all at the same time. We had the coveted end unit, which is preferred because you only get noise from one side. The neighbours were all close and there was no way to not know what was going on.

There were several children there my age and I could once again walk to school, which I didn’t have to do for very long because as soon as I turned sixteen I started to drive. While still fifteen, I bought myself a $75.00 car and did all of the work necessary to get it road worthy and functioning. It did not have a radio so I wedged a transistor radio in between the dash and the car frame on the driver’s side. Also, it did not have a gas gauge or an odometer, so I had to carry a gas can in the trunk at all times. This gave the car that distinctive gasoline smell, but I didn’t care. It was a 1970 Ford Capri and I loved that car.

I managed to keep the linkage for the manual transmission functioning by having a stash of paperclips in the glove box. When one broke, or rusted and I could no longer put the car into gear, I would climb under and put in a new paper clip—problem solved.

Two doors down there was a young couple. I don’t know the details of what transpired between them but the woman moved out. I remember the husband completely disintegrating with bouts of being drunk and staggering home. He owned one of those distinctive cars that were obvious because they were so peculiar looking, a pacer I believe. Parking for the cars was supposed to be up the one side of the complex, but there was pavement behind the units and he had driven his pacer up to the space behind his place. He left his car on an angle and the safety lights were flashing. I saw this car sit like this for days. Eventually, the batteries died and the lights stopped flashing, but he never came out to move the car or shut the flashers off. I never saw him again.

The next move was to a grand old house in an established neighbourhood within walking distance of the hospital and the YMCA. The house used to be a single family dwelling, but a previous owner had made two apartments out of the left side of the house and the main part included four bedrooms upstairs, a living room and kitchen on the main floor and added a two story addition that included a huge family room that had patio doors opening onto a large backyard with an in ground pool and an upstairs space that opened onto a second floor patio. It was a gorgeous place with mature trees that housed squirrels, chipmunks and a multitude of birds and other mammals. I have no good memories of this house.

The basement reflected the age of the house and was always dark and damp. I used the basement to shower because there was no shower in the bathroom upstairs. One day when I went into the basement there was a beam of light shinning from one of the apartments. I went over to find that a piece of masking tape had dried up and had curled back exposing a perfectly drilled hole in the wall. The wall between the basement apartment and the main part of the house was a single piece of plywood.

I bent down to peer through the hole and my stomach clenched. It was a perfect view across the bathtub and into the washroom of the other apartment. On a day that I was in the downstairs apartment I had a look from the other side. The hole had been drilled in the black centre of a flower that was part of the pattern of the wallpaper in the bathroom. I later met a woman that had lived down there before my mother owned the place and she said that one of the reasons that she moved out was that the landlord creeped her out. I did not tell her about the hole.

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Oak Street — Chapter 1

IMGP6205That was the day that I moved out of Oak Street, but I was there, off and on for six years. These years saw me through public school and into my first year of high school. By grade 10 I was too far away to walk to high school, but from Oak Street, the high school was only a couple of blocks away.

One of the advantages of living that close to the school is that you can go home for lunch. It was expected in grade school. We got out at 11:50 a.m. so that we could observe the proper time for lunch, which was 12 noon exactly. Then, we did not have to be back to school until 1:20 p.m. This meant that you could finish up your meal, help clear the table and do the dishes and then return to school.

Nowadays most children stay at school over the lunch. It is a necessity of the working family that is not in the house to supervise a meal, much less prepare it. My mother took advantage of this great expanse of time by having us deliver something for her during our lunch hours. I remember phone books, dessert samples, plastic bags with soap or shampoo samples in them and a bunch of other things.

There was no question that my mother had ambition that she was trying to tamp down or find an outlet for. Before we had left the A-frame she was trying to collect enough points to win some sort of contest. In order to do this you had to buy a certain cat food, a type of puffed wheat that came in huge bags and some other items. We had excessive amounts of these things in the house. Another peculiar thing to remember. My mother used to mass buy products.

Unfortunately for me, the cat food gave my cat diarrhea. And everyone knows what happens to a cat that has diarrhea for an extended period of time, they get taken to the farm. This alleged farm visit occurred at a very similar time to our move to the new house. It would be consistent with the facts, as I understand them now, that my cat was simply left at the A-frame house. She probably just had no idea where we were or where we went.

I have clear and vivid memories of my cat Squirt. When I got her she was just a handful of a kitten even for a young child. I don’t know how old I was but I do remember walking home with her in my arms. I walked right through the round piece of grass in our neighbourhood and every child from the crescent came out to get a look at Squirt. I was very protective of her. My mother had told me stories of cats that had simply been mauled to death, so I was very careful to not let many people handle her. I felt a deep love for this kitten. She was a soft, short hair, tabby cat that was grey, black and white. She may have had a little brown in her. The pattern of her fur formed an “M” on her forehead, which happened to be my last initial.

But I digress, my mother seemed to have a lot of ambition that she couldn’t direct in a way that she found satisfying. In addition to all of these deliveries, she also took a job at a new start up classified add newspaper. These were a new idea at the time and had yet to become truly viable businesses. She worked hard at this newspaper.

By the time that I was ten I was no longer getting picked up at school to work for my mother. At this time, grade five, I was able to come home and make myself some lunch. One of the things I remember making was Kraft Dinner. This is not the same KD that you can buy nowadays. The flavours were balanced when this KD was reconstituted with margarine. It also had a firm noodle, not the kind that can be microwaved and always gives you the feeling that you’ve slightly overcooked it. These were real noodles.

I had boiled the water, added the noodles and set the timer. When the noodles were done I took the pot over to the sink to drain it into a strainer. I poured too fast and the water splashed up over my left hand scalding it. The skin bubbled up and filled with water. I did not try to call anyone. I did not tell anyone that it had happened. I knew that I was supposed to pull my sleeve down over the burnt part of my hand in order to protect it and I went back to school.

I was in Mrs. Walkers grade five class. I always admired this teacher. She had a calm respect about her. No one misbehaved when she left the room. We all knew how we were supposed to act and it was just expected. I sat behind this large guy who felt like a well of peace and calmness. I told him about my hand after he understood that he was not allowed to tell anyone.

When I got home that night, and my mother returned, she first wanted to “pop” the skin and let the water out. I wouldn’t let her do it. Then, she was concerned that I had called her mother and forbade me from telling her mother that I was cooking my own lunch. Then,…she decided to have a doctor look at it. Essentially, they put a light cast over the area and sent me home. There is no scar.

In hind site it is remarkable that I knew how to take care of my hand. I was protective of it and covered it so that it would not get damaged. It was probably the first memory I have of being taken care of, in the larger sense. The knowledge I needed was available to me when I needed it.

Keep Reading: Absence of Parents

Read the entire book, now available
Read the entire book, now available

 

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