The space across the street from our house is being turned into a park. Many of my front yard photos from the past 14 years have featured this little white house, above. That’s a demolition sign tacked onto its front porch, and a metal fence erected around it. Work began last week.
As you can see, the little white house is no more. I was out of the house on the day it came down. The children had a PD day, so I left them to their own devices and exited the scene. I biked to campus and worked like a student in a library carrel, which was blissful. I do have an office, but it’s cramped, weirdly hot, and shared with four other people. The library is infinitely preferable. Anyway, when I got home, the little white house was gone. It had been standing that morning and by late afternoon was nothing but a pile of rubble with a large machine sitting atop. I must confess I was sad to have missed the excitement. I’m the classic nosy neighbour character, observing the proceedings (any proceedings, really) out of various windows and from behind the screen of lilac bushes. In my absence, none of the children watched, apparently. They just complained about the noise. Can you imagine complaining about the noise — the noise of a house getting knocked down! — and not going out to watch? Whose children are these?
Here is the lot after it got cleaned up. A dump truck was kept very busy. A few more buildings are slated to fall before the park space is completely opened up, so I will keep you posted. Our view is changing.
To get slightly philosophical, before I go pick up my eldest from his part-time job (he bikes to get there, but I don’t like him biking home after dark), I’ve been reflecting on how much dedicated effort and organization it took to clean up the rubble across the street. From one house. With at least three expert-looking people on the site and a dump truck, a large digger machine, a porta-potty and safety fencing at their disposal. And then I think about places devastated by this season’s storms, like Puerto Rico or Houston, and I can’t wrap my head around the effort it will take to clean up and rebuild.
In other news, I’m back to coaching soccer again. Tryouts for next season are already underway (believe it or not). And I’m teaching. So writing time is precious and fleeting and jammed in, but I have to tell you, it’s happening. I’m making it happen! Last night I wrote The End on a first draft — a complete first draft! I have no perspective on its objective merits at this particular moment in time, but I feel ELATED. I truly do. All day, I felt like running around yelling and screaming the news. (But I didn’t.) (I’m so low-key. I’m only telling you guys).
In France, Girl Runner is being published under a different title next spring (March, 2016, by Gallimard): “Invisible sous la lumière.” I love the poetry of it. And I just received the cover. Look at the focus and passion in this runner’s eyes.
It reminds me of a photo of Myrtle Cook, who won gold for Canada in 1928 in the 4 x 100 metre race. The photo, below, was sent to me by Myrtle’s son, Don McGowan. She’s clearly posing for a photographer and not at the start-line of a race. Nevertheless, I’m struck by the intensity of her expression, the challenging gaze tempered by an almost-smile. I asked Don what his mother had wrapped around her right wrist (it looks like a band or bracelet of some sort) and he didn’t know, but said his mother was very superstitious, and the band might have been related to that. Any guesses?
Sunday morning soccer, Owen Sound, Ontario
The house is so quiet.
You know when you wish for something and then it arrives and you wonder why you were wishing for it? That’s what this morning feels like, and it’s a taste of the months to come, after the kids return to school: house empty during school hours, just me and the dogs, no one dashing into my office to demand/beg/complain/tattle, no need for ear plugs, no discoveries en route to the bathroom of kitchen disasters and the remains of lunch. Just me.
Interrupted by my own distractions, demands, hunger, anxieties.
This week, one child is at a friend’s cottage. Two are at overnight camp. The fourth is home, but is at a soccer camp during the day.
Here he is at supper last night, playing the part of only child without apparent effort. “I can’t see without my glasses,” he joked. He helped Kevin clean the back porch, which we are finally painting after years of neglect. He was affable, talkative, and snuggly after supper, playing a game with Kevin, brushing teeth, putting on PJs, reading a story with me.
But then it came time for bed. And suddenly the emptiness of the house struck him too. His lonely room, no sister reading by flashlight or humming her “Suzi dog songs” in the bunk overhead. Couldn’t he sleep with me? At the end of the bed? On the floor? Here, or here?
It’s kind of how I feel this morning. I can’t quite settle. After longing for alone time, I miss the mess.
I don’t know how someone so strongly inclined toward solo pursuits got so lucky as to acquire a life filled with chaos, but lucky I am. And oh how I appreciate the gift of disruption in this quiet quiet house. Kevin and I took advantage of having built-in babysitters home on Saturday, and slipped out to see Boyhood. We loved it. It’s the parents who stick with me, complicated, loving, mistaken sometimes, sometimes wise, trying even while they know they’re failing in some profound way, but that’s what we do as parents–try even while we see ourselves being clumsy, repeating mistakes. The scene that haunts me today is the mother crying in her kitchen as her son packs up his room to leave for college. “This is the saddest day of my whole life,” she says (or I remember her saying). “I knew it was coming, but I didn’t know you’d be so happy to be leaving.”
The other piece that sticks with me is how much advice the boy is given by well-meaning adults over the course of his boyhood. And how rarely that advice is what he wants or needs. Yet how compelled the adults are to offer it. Makes me want to hold my advice-giving-tongue and instead listen, ask questions, be around.
* A note on the photos: these are #unedited #cameraphone. My photo computer died last week, and until it returns to life, I am without editing options, or the ability to download pictures from my Nikon. So for the meantime, I’ve exchanged quality for spontaneity. There’s always an upside to the down.
Summer is here. And I am not, so much, here.
I keep taking photos of everywhere we go, and everything we do, but my photo computer is dying a long slow death (probably caused by the photos), making processing next to impossible. And time is of the essence. I wonder who first expressed that phrase. Time is of the essence. Could it have been Shakespeare? AppleApple and I listened to Bill Bryson’s biography of Shakespeare on our long drive this weekend. We both got a kick out of it.
She and I were in Ottawa all weekend for provincials. She won a silver medal with her relay team, and achieved personal bests in all of her swims, making for a happy time at the pool. (I watched World Cup matches on a TV hung on the wall just outside the pool deck doors, which, I won’t lie, was an awesome way to see the games — instant community.) Out of the pool, we walked to Parliament Hill, spent time with family, and I went for early morning runs along the Rideau Canal. “You should have brought your running shoes!” I said on the first evening, picturing a mother-daughter jog beside the still waters, and she said, “Mom, do you remember why we’re here? My coach said I’m not supposed to run before races!” Oh, right. Swimming. Not holidaying. I’m glad I forgot for a bit. I’m glad it felt like a holiday.
While we were away, my baby went off to camp for the first time. Two nights. And I wasn’t even there. I miss him in a way that I can’t even express so I’m trying instead to suppress. Know what I mean? “Mom, I think he’s handling this better than you are.”
School is out. It’s hot.
I need more alone time. I’m wearing ear plugs. We have a lost library book to deal with and a wrong-sized swim suit to return and swim lessons starting today. I have no idea how I will get any work done this summer; or more specifically, today, or on any day this coming week. I’m feeling slightly afraid; also overwhelmed. With everyone around it seems like there is less time to be writer-me. I can figure this out, right?
I’m on the cover of the summer edition of Quill & Quire. It may be out, in fact, but I haven’t seen it yet, I’ve only seen this, posted on Twitter by Stacey May Fowles: Wrote about the charming and insightful @carrieasnyder and Girl Runner for @quillandquire. cc @HouseofAnansihttp://instagram.com/p/pyqO1djjyz/
Kevin mopped the house while we were away. It looks incredibly clean.
He also decided we should teach the kids LIFE SKILLS this summer. How to clip your own nails. How to poach an egg. How to make a smoothie and clean the counter afterwards. Etc. Things they should probably already know, but perhaps don’t, that we expect them to know intuitively, but they just don’t. He should be in charge more often.
I have such beautiful photos from our time at my brother and sister-in-law’s farm this weekend. You’d never guess there were swarms of mosquitos, which is the beauty of photographs. They transport you somewhere else without physical immersion, and that is also their downside, I suppose, too. You’re there, but not there.
We were there.
And now we’re not.
I’m spending these last few days before school’s out working rather frantically to organize myself for the summer. I’ve got a long list of must-does and want-to-does and due dates. Posting to the blog is a want-to-do. I’ve decided to do it even though it means not neglecting a must-do. Even though it will be done in a rush before I need to meet the school bus.
Snapshot: yesterday, 8:35PM. Home.
I pull into the driveway with AppleApple. We climb out of vehicle, her loaded with soccer gear, me with rain gear and computer. Dogs at the door barking frantically. “Knock,” I direct her, searching for keys. “Why am I knocking?” “Your brother should be home from his party. He’s here.”
Van pulls into driveway. Kevin and Fooey and CJ emerge from friends’ vehicle, Kevin loaded with soccer gear, Fooey with soccer gear, CJ with school backpack.
Brother opens door. Frantic barking. “Someone let the dogs outside!” More frantic barking. “Not out the front door!”
Pile of wet soccer cleats, socks, and shin pads blocks front hall, along with school backpacks. I stumble in. Fooey reports on game. CJ reports on something I can’t take in. Everyone hungry. “How was the pool party?” I want to know. “Was it rained out?”
AppleApple and I sit down to eat cold supper. Fooey reads out loud from her report card; coincidentally it is the section on reading. I prevent AppleApple from pointing out the irony, as Fooey struggles with the big words. CJ opens his report card, stacks pieces of paper beside my plate, moans that Fooey is taking too long. Kevin emerges from dragging soccer balls to basement, makes CJ a bedtime snack. I interrupt Fooey to summarize CJ’s report card out loud. Fooey complains. I read part of her report card out loud. She gets to work filling out her section of the report card.
I clear food off table. Kevin starts school lunches.
Fooey and CJ argue in the bathroom over who gets to brush teeth first. I try to gather up everyone’s loose bits of report cards and pile them together. Haul up laundry basket from basement. Wipe down table. Pick CJ up. Wait while CJ updates Kevin on the outcomes of recess soccer games; too much detail. Arm muscles fading. Carry CJ, still reporting on recess soccer games, upstairs. Tuck CJ in. Try to convince CJ to stop talking. Point out time: good grief, it’s 9:27! Retreat. Return. Retreat.
Tuck in Fooey.
Invite son downstairs to report further on pool party and open report card. Son comes down. Report card scrutinized. Questions about party asked. Start folding laundry on the dining-room table. “Is that all the questions?” “I might have a few more …” “If that’s all the questions, I’m going upstairs.” Forget to remind him to brush his teeth.
Notice AppleApple on couch, doing email. “Are you still up? Aren’t you swimming in the morning?” “Am I?” “I’ll check with your coaches.” Email coaches. Coach confirms practice. Child goes to bed.
“How many days of laundry is this? Look at this basket. It’s not even half-empty.” Despairingly observe it’s after 10PM.
Kevin doing dishes.
Discussion of … soccer, news items, report cards, flotsam and jetsam.
Laundry folded. Remember there’s another load in the drier. Decide to forget I’ve remembered. Set alarm for 5AM. Don’t decide to forget to comment on and sign report cards; just forget. The dogs are still up. The dishes are done. And there’s still time to read in bed.
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