The Birthday I Became “Grand”

I was looking forward to my 43rd birthday like I had every single one since I can remember: with gratitude, joy, and, well, just the promise it held. I had never been one to worry about my age, or try and hide it. Still don’t. Everyday I wake up is a blessing. Every anniversary of my birth, a miracle….a promise, an opportunity.

Over the years, I have watched and listened with true curiosity when a sister fell apart as she turned 30; a friend lied her way into 50; a child tried hard to rush headlong into their 20s while they were still in their teens. I didn’t get it. I have loved every age I have been, and while some years have certainly been better than others; some decades more rewarding, each has brought with it many gifts, but none like that birthday all those years ago.

Our daughter, who was expecting, was living with us, and over the months prior, I had done what I could to ensure she had a healthy, happy pregnancy.

At first it was just her and I, as my husband finished off his work commitments in another community. We were living on the top floor of a three story apartment building…with no elevator…and no outdoor space.

Everyday after work, and on weekends we would walk all over town, getting to know our community by exploring it on foot. We would walk to the grocery store and carry our bags home and up those three flights of stairs where we ate healthy meals. I loved every second of those days. We grew closer than ever and looking back, those were some of the happiest days I’d ever had being a Mum.

Some weekends we went exploring, taking what I thought were shortcuts, but weren’t. Like two billy goats we climbed rock bluffs, cut through back yards, and laughed our way around obstacles in our path.

As spring turned to summer, we found a cheap little car which broadened the horizons of our adventurers.

Weekends came and we’d pack a picnic lunch and head out of town. Talking the whole way, we would stop when a place looked interesting, and we’d go exploring. Crawling our way across still melting rivers and small waterfalls, I watched as my daughter blossomed. Her skin became sun kissed, her eyes sparkled again, her heart healed and her soul soared with the thought of impending motherhood. She was healthy in body and spirit, in amazing physical shape for the upcoming birth, and happy. Hearing her laughter was like feeling sunshine on my face. My heart swelled with love…and wonder, and the realization that I was going to be a GRANDMOTHER.

We talked of names, wondered what gender the baby would be, and laughed with joy as the little one growing inside her kicked happily to the music at a summer street festival. We joked about her due date…my birthday, and how women never give birth on their due dates…especially with their first child.

I watched with love and pride as she sat with headphones on her growing belly, or sat quietly reading aloud to the life inside her. We searched yard sales for baby gear, and found all we needed for this wee one that would soon be joining our family. We scrubbed the carriage, the highchair, bathtub, and washed stacks of baby clothes. And talked, and laughed, and shared our hopes and dreams for the future of their lives….her and her child. I wished every night that my daughter would have her own daughter…but we both knew it wouldn’t matter. This child would be loved and nurtured.

But she knew. She knew, even as she decided on names for both a boy and a girl, she knew the baby she was giving life to would be her daughter. Just as I knew when I was carrying her, that she would be a girl. In fact, like me, she never really settled on a name for a son. Just a daughter. A Gaelic name, to honour her Grandmother and her Scottish heritage.

The days passed, and soon it was the day before her due date…the eve of the anniversary of MY birth. The three of us; her Dad had finally joined us, took the dogs out for their evening walk. Just as we started the trek back up the hill we had wandered down, it began to sprinkle. As we reached the top of the hill, we all stopped short. There, right in front of us, was the most beautiful double rainbow. Not faint, but in full vibrant colours, it’s arch and ends clearly visible in the mist of the evening shower. 

Joking, I laughed as I hugged my own baby girl and said, “It’s a sign!” As we three and two dogs piled into the truck, that rainbow stayed in our line of vision all the way home. We delighted in the splendour of it all…but our ‘signs’ had just begun.

The light autumn shower had stopped by the time we got home, and the rainbow disappeared into the warmer colours of the coming dusk. We had a nice dinner, and as I began clearing the table with my daughters help, I said to her…”I’ll do this. You relax”.   A short time later she went out on our balcony for some fresh air. The evening was one of those rare autumn evenings in the north. Still and warm, but with just a hint of chill in the air.

The patio door opened and, with those huge blue eyes sparkling, she said, “Mum, you’ve got to see this.” As I joined her on the deck, the intake of my breath was audible.

The sky above us was a swirl of red, and mauve and green. Like the flowing skirts of many dancers one moment, to the slow drawn out brush strokes of a painter, the Aurora Borealis were really putting on a show.  As I pulled my sweet woman-child close, I began to cry. My heart was so full of love in that moment…and hope. Together we stood looking up at those dancing lights. And we knew. Her child, protected and loved in that safe, warm place was about to enter the world.

About 4am that next morning, a soft tapping on our bedroom door woke me from a deep, untroubled sleep. There she was, standing there whispering “It’s time Mum.” Suddenly the quiet of those early morning moments exploded into a flurry of action. Truck heated up, brother called, bag remembered, and dogs let out. It could be a long day, after all – her birth had taken nearly 36 hours.

She, the calm one in our little family that descended on the hospital, had asked me weeks prior if I would go in the delivery room with her. I told her I’d think about it. I am a tad squeamish and didn’t want any attention on me ‘when’ I passed out. Plus, it was one thing to go through labour myself…I didn’t think I could bear to see my own child in that kind of pain. I finally, after many sleepless nights, discussions with her Dad, and thinking it through, told her I would be there with her.

All I remember about those next hours are showers, back rubs and nurses telling her what great shape she was in and it would surely help her labour. My mind wandered back to all those hikes, walks and stairs…more to avoid the present than anything.

About 9:30am, I went out and told her Dad and brother they might as well go home and get some sleep. It would be awhile. Her brother stayed while her Dad left to check on the dogs and grab some breakfast. 30 minutes later, I had her brother call him back…it wouldn’t be long after all.

Her calmness and focus during this whole time caught me off guard. I had expected her to be frightened…to be overwhelmed, with the pain of labour, but also with the enormity of what was about to happen. She was neither. Grace under pressure. Strength. Quiet determination. Fearless.

Suddenly it was happening. Seven hours after that tap on my bedroom door. It was time. The baby was coming. I stood by her head holding one hand while a nurse stood on the other side, coaching her and holding her other hand. Suddenly the room began to spin. OH MY GAWD!!! Don’t you DARE pass out!!! Those were the thoughts racing through my head as the nurse touched my shoulder and said ‘Perhaps you should sit down’….at which point those enormous blue eyes snapped up and me and she said “Mum please don’t let go. Don’t sit down.” I snapped out of it. I was right. It IS difficult to see your daughter in that kind of pain. No epidurals for her. Natural childbirth. She wanted her strength and love to be the only thing that brought her child into this world.

Suddenly, the words we’d been waiting nine months to hear. “IT’S A GIRL.” Those blue eyes locked mine and a small smile lit that beautiful, exhausted face. With a squeeze of my hand, she said “Happy birthday Mum.”  Kylie. In Gaelic, or in English…she is indeed Beautiful.

 

Happy Mother’s Day Brandi.

Endings and Beginnings

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2016. The year that drug on and on and on. The year I felt confused, disconnected and bewildered. It was unnerving to be truthful. To feel so addled for most of the year. I almost felt….well, lost is the best way I can describe it.

It didn’t start out that way. I had planned to write, paint and quilt and build things….none of that happened. I just couldn’t get myself together. I couldn’t seem to finish anything I started. I was all over the place…lost.

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While the year progressed I became more frustrated with the things happening in the world…I got caught in an eddy of negativity …a whirlpool of anger at what I saw as the stupidity of people accepting what was going on around them, and worse…participating in it…the indignation that I felt didn’t seem to be common place and it frightened me.

And then I stepped back, looking in the mirror. What was happening to me, I wondered…often aloud. When did I become so distracted that my own life was becoming a mess?

As the year wore on, and I became more aware of what had been happening, I knew the answer. I had lost my concentration, my centre of gravity so to speak. off-balanced-man

I am a believer in like attracts like, so of course the more disarmed I became, the more of that confusion and frustration I attracted. Even writing this….I find it difficult to get the words to come.

As I began to think about my plans for 2017, I knew I couldn’t start the year in the same frame of mind I had been in for most of 2016. I am generally a very organized, methodical person. I needed help.

I went back to something that my friend Dana had introduced me to a few years ago. Choosing one word to be sort of your north star during the coming year. The guiding light of your life as it were. I had done this for a few years before, but Dana introduced the concept of formalizing it…focusing on choosing that one word.

As I thought about it, it was evident that once again, the word chose me. FOCUS. That is my word for 2017. I had lost my focus in 2016. It shan’t happen again. This year I have help. You see we lost Dana on Christmas Eve, 2016. But we only lost her on this plain. I feel her presence as I end this blog post…and truly, as I type these last lines, I feel more focused than I did writing this whole thing. I know that going forward into this new year, I have regained my FOCUS…

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Dream a Little Dream

15865504_mI’ve had a dream. I know I’ve had this dream more than once. It is familiar, like the sound of the clock ticking on my Grandmother’s mantel in the kitchen.

My Daddy and Uncle went away for a few days. Far away. I think they went to Ontario. I’m not certain of that but I think that’s where my Mama said they went. When they came back Daddy was driving this beautiful blue car. He said it was a Buick. 3733125

We’d never had a car before. There is a button that you push to start it after you push on the gas pedal….and you need to know which pedal is for gas because there are three: one for gas, one for the brake and one for the clutch. There is another button on the floor to dim or brighten the headlights. The dash is filled with gleaming chrome, and on the inside of the woodgrain steering wheel is another made of chrome. That is what you push to honk the horn.

It’s the fanciest car I’ve seen, with it’s velour like seats and in the back, hanging from the back of the front seat is a golden rope. It lets passengers in the back hang on if you go over bumps and such.

There are cranks for all the windows, except for the two small windows in the front that remind me of butterfly wings. They have little latches that you slide open and then you can push the window open.

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Me and two of my younger sisters ready for Sunday school.

The car stays parked most days but on Sunday, after church and Sunday school, we all pile into that car and get to go for a drive. Daddy drives of course, because he’s the only one that knows how. Mama sits across from him in the front seat. My sisters and I crawl in the backseat, hoisting ourselves along with the golden rope.

That car makes it far easier to get to Nannie’s camp, or Sunday school picnics and such. As we drive around our small island, passings friends and neighbours Daddy would honk the horn and wave, causing giggles of delight from the three of us in back. We would often sing on those outings following Daddy’s lead while we watched the gentle swaying of the golden rope on the back of the front seat.

Then there is always the last part of our drive. It is always the same, every single Sunday, sort of like the part where you finally get to open your birthday gift. Our drive aways ends with a trip to Western Light where we turn around and head home. Not far from the ‘new’ cemetery is a bump in the road. It isn’t huge, but it must be just the way it sat on that old dirt road that made it special. We call it Thrill Hill, and just before we get to it, Daddy grins and shouts over his shoulder, “Okay girls, hang on!” and he depresses the gas pedal.

We grab that golden rope and hang on for dear life, butterflies flitting around our tummies as we, eyes growing ever wider, begin giggling and laughing, working our way to a full crescendo of shrieks and hiccups. Three little girls in the backseat of an old Buick, made giddy with glee by a small bump in an old gravel road and a Daddy that took great joy in our happiness.

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Me on the left, with my Dad and two of my younger sisters.

I awake. I can feel the smile on my face even before my eyelids flutter open. Another memory comes pushing to the front of my consciousness. I recall once pushing that starter button so many times I bounced my sister and I right into the middle of the roses bushes! There were many cars after that, and while I remember each one, none ever compared with that old blue Buick. Given the shape of it, I’m fairly certain it was a 1940’s model and probably that push button was a vacuum operated starter, but it doesn’t really matter. What matters are the memories, of happy times when little things delighted three small girls and times were simpler, and full of laughter and love. Lots of love.