Some Days Your Bucket Is Cracked

So a Good Neighbour excitedly stopped me on the street the other day with some pretty cool news. I was happy to hear it. Thanked her for the info. Felt pretty good about it. Told a couple of the kids. Mentally crossed that one off the Bucket List. And then promptly got busy and forgot all about it. (Seriously, completely forgot about it.)

Over the weekend, my sister and her kids came over to help me and my girls start the clean out of my mom’s apartment downstairs. Mom’s become increasingly forgetful the past few months. It’s harder for her to clean up and move things around. I’ve pulled the fuse on her stove. She hasn’t been taking her meds. I’m starting to worry about her cat not being fed regularly. And she has a very long-standing and committed relationship with Publisher’s Clearinghouse. (Suddenly, the ‘clearinghouse’ part makes sense…) Before the PackRat becomes a Hoarder, we need to attack this.

Just clearing the clutter and numerous fitness gadgets made a big difference. A good kitchen wipe down and thorough vacuuming was welcomed and appreciated. But it was the boxes of books going out the door that made the biggest difference.

Mom is a reader. And a fast one. Too fast, perhaps, so that now she’ll start a book thinking it seems familiar, only to realize halfway through that she’s already read it. She’s devised a little system to help her out: she takes her brown felt tip pen and marks three ticks across the bottom edge of the pages when she’s done. Now when she sees the brown ticks on the book, she moves on. The last time I took her to the hospital for her regular blood transfusion, I found myself browsing through the clinic’s library, and wasn’t surprised to find three ticks on the bottom of virtually every book they had.

Watching the boxes of ticked books moving out to my sister’s car, I promised Mom I’d take her to the library regularly. As the doctor recently made me take her car keys, she’s not trusting me to keep my word.

Mom Getting a Library Card at Hamilton Public Library

Mom Gets A Library Card

And so on our travels today, with an hour to kill between appointments, we stopped at the library. Mom got herself a new library card, and I snapped a pic.

And that’s when I saw it.  With my own eyes – as well as my Good Neighbour’s!

I am not a selfie kind of girl. But this. This demands at least a moment of self recognition!

 

I mean, seriously. That’s my book! In the Hamilton Public Library! Right there! On the shelf!

I stood there stupidly for a while, not sure what I should do. Am I supposed to tell someone? Should I show anyone my picture on the back page?

Should I sign it?

I decided that the only thing to do was to show my mom. She was excited when I gave her a signed copy of it. And she was perfectly critical when she read it. But now it’s in the library! And I get to share one of my proudest moments with my biggest cheerleader!

Annoyed that I kept trying to get her attention and drag her this way, instead of over to the Large Print shelf, or the James Patterson Section, she finally followed me back to my shelf.

I pointed proudly. Look!

She looked, not knowing what I was pointing at. So I took my book from the shelf – the brand new copy, freshly labelled and stamped, Feb08 2017 – and handed it to her.

“I think I read this one already,” she says. And then she looks at the bottom. And there’s no tick marks. “Maybe not.” And she puts it back. And heads over to the ‘P’ shelf behind me.

There’s good days and there are bad days. And then there’s shitty days.

There was the day I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, but learned that she has Down syndrome.

There was the day that my husband died, on the eighth anniversary of our ‘Family Day,’ the day we adopted three-fifths of our kids.

And there was the day that I saw my own book on the library shelf, but realized that I was losing my mom.

I don’t care how full the glass is. If it’s cracked and leaking, it’s a shitty glass.

I have three shitty glasses on my shelf.

How To Become A Canadian Citizen

Okay, Friends. With so much talk on so many levels about Canadian Immigration and Refugee issues, and because there’s a reason we call it the ‘Dead of Winter’, I have decided that I will push for the following to become one of Canada’s Priority Criteria for Citizenship. Please feel free to share with our like-minded friends.


“As a Prospective Canadian Citizen, preferential status will hereby be given you should canadian-beer-flagyou also bring with you some cultural tradition that involves, or could be expanded upon to involve, some sort of unique and new celebratory practice. Traditions that encourage gathering of people for mutually enjoyable activities are preferable. Those that involve new culinary treats, loud music, some kind of competition, and publicly acceptable physical exertions such as dance or sport are considered more desirable. Any that provide the opportunity to drink beer will be given priority treatment.

“Should you also contribute an event-type tradition that has the potential of becoming a Holiday Monday, you will be required to immigrate all of your friends and family as well, providing the instruction and support necessary in giving us all yet one more reason to drink beer*. 

“For more information, click http://www.cic.gc.ca

Note:  St. Patrick’s Day,  Cinqo de Mayo, Victoria Day**, St. Jean de Bapstiste***, and Oktoberfest**** have already been fully integrated into Canadian Culture.

*       – the few Canadians who don’t drink beer tend to like their friends better when they do
**     – denotes Holiday Monday Exceptional Status
***   – a Quebec thing, but definitely catching on…
**** – not a Holiday Monday, but extra points for being a week-long affair”


 

How I Taught My Black Kids How To Teach White People How To Treat Black People

I’m white. Red headed, freckled, fair.

My husband was black. A beautiful shade of brown, actually. Big, strong, handsome. Larger than life.

I knew nothing of racism before I started dating him. He taught me, not only to recognize those feelings in others, but how to overcome them.

The first time I recall encountering the blind distaste of the uninformed by myself was a beautiful summer day in a small town where my husband was working for the season. I had taken two of my kids, my son who was aged six at the time, and my daughter who wasn’t yet two on the long drive into town. I wanted to stop in a country craft store to pick up a few things, and peeking in the windows, saw it wasn’t the kind of place to bring four very curious little hands.

The shop was in a small commercial building, its windows fronting on to the street, but its entrance located just inside the building, along a large wide corridor that led to other shops within the building. I left the kids together, baby in the stroller, 6-year-old proudly standing guard, and popped into the store. I was in there about fifteen minutes, found what I wanted, and was waiting in line at the cashier beside the door.

It was a feeling more than exact words that drew my attention from the packages in my hand to the customers around me. The cashier, who also happened to be the owner of the shop, was confidently discussing the lack of parenting skills it takes to raise such brats. My first thought was that I was going to catch it for leaving my kids alone outside, despite my white privilege knowing them to be perfectly safe.

But that wasn’t it. The cashier was doing her best to convince the other customers – there were four ahead of me – that (whatever it was that my kids were doing) was to be expected from ‘those’ children, ‘obviously raised by imbeciles who shouldn’t be having so many kids in the first place,’ etc. etc.

I could just make out the top of my son’s head from where I was standing; they were fine. So I continued to listen to this woman’s critique of me and my family. As the first customer in line left the store, I could hear my daughter laughing loudly, and knew her brother was doing his best to entertain her while he was in charge.

So I eavesdropped some more. The cashier went on with the next customer, and the next, and the next. While none of the customers outright agreed with her, there was the odd nod of agreement, and not one defied her claims. I was looking forward to paying for my items, my inner mama-bear taking a deep breath and prepping for battle.

And then I heard my husband’s words in my head.

Racism isn’t hate; it’s fear.

Some people just don’t know better.

Getting mad at them doesn’t solve anything.

Know when to walk away.

I got to the counter and the woman greeted me warmly, but with an apology for the ridiculous behaviour of that coloured (!) kid right behind her on the other side of the window. Despite all instinct to pull her eyelids up and over the back of her head, I reacted calmly and rationally.

“What exactly is he doing?” I asked.

“I just paid to have that window cleaned, and that kid is out there licking it. Licking it! All over, like a dog with an ice cream cone. ”

I cringed on the inside. Not one of my proudest Mom-moments.

She took a deep breath to begin again, but I stopped her, interrupting sternly. “I’m sure he means no harm by it. He’s just a little boy.” I smiled, paid quickly, and stepped away from the counter before she could go on. But she continued her tirade with the customer behind me.

I stepped out the door to find my son, face pressed up against the glass, blowing against it so his cheeks would puff out, and, yes, licking the window. As my daughter fell over in her stroller in peels of laughter.

He wasn’t being just some kid; he was being an awesome kid.

I crouched down beside him and hugged him tight.

“I love that you’re such a great big brother,” I told him. “But the lady who owns the shop is really angry that you messed up her window.”

He looked at me with bright eyes, clearly considering the window for the first time. He looked at it, all smeared and lip printed, not sure if he was in trouble.

“Oh Sweety, I’m not mad. But I think someone needs a lesson here.”

“I’m sorry, Mom. I won’t do it again,” he promised earnestly.

“No, not you. The lady inside.”

He looked genuinely confused.

“That lady got mad that you messed up her window. She didn’t care that you were making your sister laugh. She didn’t care that you were having fun. She didn’t care that you’re only six years old. She only saw that you’re black. So she thinks you’re bad.

“Now it’s our job to go change that. It’s not ok for people to treat you like that. You have to teach them how to treat you. And you do that by showing them that you’re a good person.” He seemed agreeable enough.

So we went back into the store, waited patiently in line, and I will never forget the look on that poor woman’s face when she recognized me, connected me with the kids, and realized what an ignorant fool she’d been.

Before she could apologize, I pushed my son up front and centre. He was amazing.

“I was the one licking your window. I was only doing it to make my sister laugh. I’m sorry I made a mess. If you can give me a cloth I’ll go clean it up.”

The woman looked at me and my mama-pride screamed loud and clear that he had come up with that on his own.

She looked back down at him and visibly melted. I felt the win.

She came around the counter, squatted down to him and my daughter and apologized to him for thinking he was a bad boy when she didn’t even know him. They swapped names, had a bit of a talk, and then she happily returned his great big little boy hug. She told him not to worry about the window, apologized to me, and we headed home feeling like we’d made the world just a little nicer that day.

Dad was pretty proud of us, too.

We saw that woman around town several more times that summer. She always stopped to say hi, introduced us to whomever she happened to be out with. And I am positive that she’s shared this story with others over the years as well.

Now, fifteen years later, all five of my kids know that they are ambassadors for their people. All of their people: the black, the white, the mixed-race, the short, the tall, the overweight, the underweight, the disabled, the mentally ill; they cover quite a few subgroups!

It’s a big responsibility; and they’re ok with that. They understand that they are role models, whether they like it or not, whether they want it or not. The minute they get out of bed in the morning, someone is watching them. Someone is making assumptions and opinions based on their behaviour, every minute of every day – and more so these days. And while they’re certainly not perfect – did I mention one of them spent 15 minutes licking a shop window once? – they make me proud.

And maybe, just maybe, one of the best things they’ll ever teach anyone, is how to teach others how to treat them with respect and dignity.