Everyone Has A Story…

Last Sunday there was a new person in church; a woman, alone, kind of stern looking. Well, I don’t know if she was new or not. It’s just that I had never seen her before. She was kind of plain looking with her hair pulled back in a tight ponytail and she wore a longer length skirt. She appeared to be middle aged.

She sat right in front of me and didn’t speak to anyone at all.

There is a point in the service when everyone passes on greetings to each other. It used to make me nervous when I didn’t know anyone in the church, but now it’s a time I look forward to: greeting everyone, shaking their hand or giving them a hug, a connection. So I went to shake the hand of the mysterious stranger in front of me. I wished her good morning. I smiled in welcome at her. She wished me good morning but she did not smile. At all.

Hmmm…

So I asked her if she was new to the church. She told me that she used to come but hadn’t been there in awhile.

Awhile…

Well, I’ve been here almost four years and I had never seen her before.

So I said, “I’m Christine, nice to meet you”, and she said, “I’m Bonnie.” But she still didn’t smile. I wondered if she was angry, sad or uncomfortable.

And then later on during a scripture reading I noticed her with a Kleenex. Wait- she was wiping her eyes.

I remembered a time a few years back, being in church and avoiding everyone. I remembered having my Kleenex at the ready, and wiping my eyes discretely. That was when I was newly divorced and felt quite hopeless.

I wondered what had brought Bonnie to church that morning. Maybe she decided that since it was a nice day, she would go to church, or maybe, just maybe, like me some years ago, she was searching for some comfort.

I’ve heard it said, ‘Everyone has a story, and some have two.’

You never know what’s behind a stoic gaze. It might not even be stoic; it might be sad.

So I prayed for Bonnie that morning.

sun

Wisdom in My Pocket

A funny thing happened on the way home from church, of all places. Well it’s not that funny, its more like pathetic, especially for a 59 year old woman who also happens to be a perfectionist.

I was driving home from church just humming along at 130 k/hr in a 100k/hr zone, feeling on top of the world from the wonderful service I had just attended. We had renewed our baptismal vows and afterwards each person dipped their hand into the fount to pull out a stone with a motivating word on it. This was to be a reminder of our baptism and what it represents.

Etched on my stone was the word WISDOM.

Fitting, I thought, since I am usually such a serious person who tries to always do the right thing.
I was thinking of that when I glanced in the rear view mirror to see flashing lights. I figured I’d better slow down to let the police pass quickly to get to whatever they were racing towards.
I slowed down.
The police slowed down.
I sped up.
The police sped up.

And that’s when I realized that it was moi they were after. I pulled off on an exit ramp and waited for what I thought was the longest minute of my life.

It wasn’t.

The young policeman cited me for going 120 k/hr in a 100 k/hr zone.
I said I was sorry, thinking that his radar gun must  have been broken because I was definitely going 130 k/hr.
He asked me why I didn’t stop sooner, and I told him I thought he was going to something very important and that there was plenty of room on the highway for him to get around me.
Wrong answer I guess.
He told me that you are supposed to pull over ANY time you see flashing lights.
I said I was sorry.
And then he went back to his cruiser and ‘wrote me up’.

Those were the longest twenty minutes of my life.

As I sat there on the exit ramp, all the other good people coming home from church could see me, plain as day, with the police cruiser right behind me. So whenever I saw a car coming, I turned my head, searching in the forest for nothing, just so as to not be recognized.

How utterly humiliating.

Finally he came back and handed me a ticket  for 224$.

Now where in the heck am I going to get 224$ to pay this?
Didn’t he know that I had spent all my spare money on the January sales?

I meekly drove the rest of the way home, fingering the stone in my pocket.

Wisdom, indeed.

What I Learned on the Way to Church

Most Sunday mornings find me driving to church between 9:30 and 10 AM. I usually listen to CBC Radio, and you could say that I’m getting an education on my way to church.

church

It used to be that on Sunday mornings all you would hear on the radio were either hymns sung by such as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, or the Catholic Mass, either in English or Latin.

Not any more!

Last Sunday on my little drive to church, I learned where the term ‘the bitter end’ came from. I always thought it had something to do with such exciting things as

the bitter end of a marriage or

the bitter end of a business or

the bitter end of a life unfulfilled.

Really, its nothing so exciting nor exotic as that.  The ‘bitter end’ is a nautical term denoting the cut end of a rope; as opposed to the working end, the looped end, the spliced end or the frayed end. So if you’re tying a knot with a length of rope, you’re working with one end of it, while the ‘bitter’ end is dangling.

bitter end

That’s what I learned on the way to church last Sunday.

The Gäst Shawl

The end of my craft show season has arrived! It’s been good, although I sold things I thought would never sell and conversely I didn’t sell much of what I thought would be in demand. Every year brings different sorts of customers, looking for something new.

For example, last winter I knit four lovely shawls from Homespun yarn. I loved them. I like to knit when we are on a long drive as it helps to pass the time. As we did a lot of driving last year I had time to knit four of these shawls.

One went to my mom for Christmas, and she found it very cozy and warm.

Another one I kept for myself, and it has become somewhat of my ‘security blanket’.  It’s warm, it’s soft, and it smacks of comfort in a  “slippers and rocking chair” sort of way.

There were two left, and they just sat in a bag in my office until October of this year. As I was preparing for my first show around mid month, my husband asked me if I was going to bring those two shawls along. I told him I would not because I didn’t think anyone would want to buy them. Also, I would have to charge 40$ for them, and no one goes to craft shows and spends that much on one item. At least not in the area where we live.

He said that I needed a little gimmick, something to attract people to the shawls. For example, the shawl would be just another knitted thing in a sea of other knitted things at the show…unless…unless it was a Guest Room Shawl. Something to put aside for when people come to visit and they find it a little cool.

Yes, he might have something there!

So he wrote up a little ‘Swedish Legend’, and looked up the Swedish word for Guest.  It went something like this:

Gäst Shawl

Legend says that in some Northern

Scandinavian villages, it was

customary to have a shawl available

for guests when they visited, as the

homes were often cold.

The shawl hung near a fireplace

or in a guest room and was

   always returned there when the guest left.

 

I agreed to pin the little legend to each shawl and put them on display.

A star was born!

Those two shawls sold at my first show, and then I went on to make and sell six more throughout the crafting season. People loved them! Actually no one else was selling knitted shawls. The one I made was a type of prayer shawl, very simple and very pretty.

There were different types of people who bought them as well. I had thought that only seniors would be interested. I was wrong.

One woman bought hers because she was going to be 40 soon and the shawl was 40$.

Another person bought one for her mother, whose shawl was old and tattered.

Yet another bought hers because it fit in with her color scheme.

A few women bought them as a gift to present to a friend, relative, or just for themselves.

And one lady bought hers to bring to work because of the air conditioning, and she didn’t want to always wear a sweater.

No one bought a shawl for the guest room, but the little sign with the legend made them stop and look.

I think I’ll knit up a few more of them this year; they were so well received, I may use some for gifts myself.

shawl1

shawl2

I Feel an Empty Nest Coming On

I can now join the ranks of empty nesters. However, I can’t say I come from a long line of empty nesters, as I am the first of my brother and sisters to experience this phenomenon.

I’ve been an empty nester now for about 30 hours.

See, yesterday Dave and I drove my youngest son to his new home, our alma mater, to join the ranks of other Faour and Jones family members who have been or are, students of St Francis Xavier University. I went to St FX, so did two of my sisters, my brother, three of his children, my husband and also his daughter and brother. We have all studied at X.

I don’t think Aaron had any idea what he was in for! On the way to Antigonish NS, we stopped at a Timmies for some breakfast. There was an incredibly long line up, which surprised me, given the hour. Aaron was surprised to discover that everyone in the line up, bar none, was St FX bound. Some had on X t-shirts, parents included, and excitement reigned, even at that ungodly hour. Us old folk flashed X rings.

When we arrived in Antigonish there were signs directing us to X. Not that you could have missed it- the Frosh Welcoming Committee were there waving signs, singing and dancing everywhere. They were dressed in neon brights: hot pink, fluo orange, neon green, gaudy yellow.

Hello? Times have certainly changed; I don’t remember any of this exuberant welcome when I arrived at St FX back in 1971.

Aaron started to brighten up. A big grin spread across his face. We got him into his room, met his roommate, a nice guy from New Brunswick. The guy next door to him is from Dubai. Interesting. Then the long line up for photo ID, business department and other necessary details. Aaron showed me a text from one of his friends who was still on the way there with her parents. Apparently her mom was crying because her baby was leaving home. Actually there were many moms crying. Not me. Aaron told me he was glad I wasn’t carrying on like that. Well.

My son was growing in stature and confidence right before my very eyes. Speaking of eyes, his were sparkling, and the excitement was palpable. I was just so darned happy for him. How could I be thinking of the ‘empty nest’ I was going home to?

All too soon the tasks of getting him 100% in were done. There was nothing left to do but to say goodbye, don’t forget to brush your teeth, make your bed, be good, call home, study hard, I love you. Hugs all around and then Dave and I were leaving.

Empty nest? Nah.

We got home several hours later and the house seemed so empty. Hell, it was empty. Not that Aaron ever took up much space in the house, just that now there would be just Dave and I.

It seemed really empty.

I went to bed and cried myself to sleep. Then this morning I told Dave I couldn’t go downstairs for awhile because I was going to lose it. The downstairs was Aaron’s, and now he and everything connected with him was residing at MacNeil House at St FX.

I miss my son, not because he’s gone to university, but because he will never live at home again. He has left the nest, and so that makes for major changes in his life and also in mine.

This is the first time in twenty-seven years that I don’t have children living at home, and that feels just plain strange…

Suit Yourself!

 

Last December 3rd my husband and I were in Halifax for a gala dinner and evening at the Delta Halifax. I had brought my best dress for the occasion, a brown sleeveless shift that would be appropriate. With brown pumps to match and a shawl that sort of went with it all, I wouldn’t be the belle of the ball, but it would do.

At 5:50 PM we were ready to go to the Bluenose Room on the 8th floor for cocktails. Cocktails were from 6 to 7, and then, THE MEAL. Just before leaving our room, I happened to glance in the mirror. Big mistake.

“Oh no! My roots are showing.”

“Yes they are”, my husband replied.

“Shut up!”

“And my purple bra doesn’t really go with this brown dress. You can see it!”

“Hmmm…you’ll have to make sure you keep your arms down”

“Shut up!”

“And really, this dress is too big. I’ve lost weight since I last wore it.”

“Yeah, it really is loose on you.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“And my feet hurt already in these shoes.”

“Well put on your black ones, even if they don’t go with your dress.”

“You’re really not helping.”

And that’s when I started lamenting the fact that I didn’t buy the beautiful dress I had tried on that afternoon at an upscale dress shop down by the waterfront. I had stopped in to see the specials while power walking. It fit perfectly, had sleeves, it went with my black shoes, and it was on sale. My husband asked me if I wanted to go get it.

Now?

Yes.

So we raced through Halifax’s suppertime rush hour traffic, dodging buses, taxis and other peons that were in our way. I think I left my stomach somewhere back on Bishop Street. Dave was a man with a mission. He told me that the store might not still be open, but we would do our utmost best to get there on time.

At 6:01 PM we arrived. Dave let me out in the middle of the street and went to park the car. With dismay, I looked in the window of the shop, and it was all darkness.

Darn.

But wait – I could see through the window the girls just locking up and taking a big bag of garbage. I furiously knocked on the window and as Dave came up behind me, we ran around to the door where the girls were. Out of breath, I asked them if I could ‘just get something’, as I noticed that they had closed at 5:30. Well, they said, if you just want to get it, ok. That’s when I told them I had to try it on for my hubby. So two of them volunteered to stay behind and oblige me.

They turned on the lights and ushered me into the dressing room. Seconds later out came I, arms outstretched, looking for approval. Great! Sexy! Beautiful! So while one lady took payment for the dress, the other cut the tags off.

At 6:20 Dave and I walked demurely into the Bluenose Room for cocktails, he in a suit and moi wearing my newest acquisition. Honestly I got more compliments that evening than I ever did on any other outfit. More than on my wedding day, if you can imagine.

Only in Halifax!

Thank you SO much to those two lovely ladies at Suit Yourself who, seeing my desperation and disappointment on December 3rd, took the time to cater to me when they were already way past closing time.

 

 

 

“…and What do You Do?” Thoughts on Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day has come and gone, and with it my anxiety over whether or not I would feel special on that day. I’m told that the biggest long distance phone call day in the year is Mother’s day, topping even Christmas. I don’t know if that is true; it’s just what I have been told. Interestingly, Father’s day is the busiest collect long distance calling day of the year. Now what kind of a statement does that make?

I don’t know about you, but the anticipation of Mother’s Day has always been one of my most anxious times in the calendar year. Am I good enough? Do my children recognize my place in their lives? I mean, I carried each of them for nine months, fed them, raised them, homeschooled them, cheered them on in all their endeavors, and supported them financially, emotionally, spiritually and physically for the past twenty-six years. Does that count for something? Who will remind them that Mother’s Day is coming and they might like to recognize me, acknowledge me or at least call or send a card?

I guess Motherhood is a job description that never ends – or does it? The other day I was at a meeting and everyone had to state their occupation. As each person around the table stated theirs, I started to panic. I heard, among others, manager, instructor, B&B owner, and librarian. And then it was my turn. Well the only jobs I had held for pay in the past twenty-seven years were substitute teacher and sales counselor at a lavender farm boutique; and I am presently not working, aside from my writing. So when my turn came, I just mumbled, “Retired”. They looked at me: although I am 57 years old, I don’t always look and act like I am 57 years old. Darn. Wrong answer.

Well, I wondered and discussed with my husband, I’m kinda retired from motherhood; or am I? My older sons who are 24 and 26 don’t need me anymore. Or do they? And my 17-year-old son sure doesn’t seem to need me, or at least that’s what he lets on. Does a Mother (note the capital “M”) ever retire? My mother is 82 years old and I still need her approval and love; I always have. She is still the first person I call to share news with and I still bask in her compliments when I read her something I am working on. Hmmm… I think maybe I’ll never retire from this job, and I’m not sure I’ll ever want to.

My Mom and I

My Mother’s Day was great, by the way; a parcel in the mail with a wonderful letter from one son; another parcel on the way from another son in Korea; a gift card for my favorite store from son number three. And lots of love from my husband, who took me to a great Mother’s Day buffet in beautiful Baddeck, on the shores of the Bras d’Or Lakes. Yes, I felt special, loved and acknowledged.

Oh, and when I told Aaron I loved him yesterday, he actually mumbled back, “I love you too, Mom.” Those five words were worth more to me than anything. “I love you too, son.”