I cobbled together a sampling of where we went and what we did from mid-June to September first. What struck me about these images is what they don’t tell you and what I may not remember ten years from now – the temperatures, smells, and feelings behind each shot. Maybe most importantly, why the photo was taken and the context.
None of these photos will be printed and saved. It has been years since I made a photo album either digitally or the old-school method of printing and placing them in tidy chronological order. I justify this as a blessing to my children who won’t have to sift through dozens of albums after I die and toss out 99% of them because they will have no meaning to them at all.
So, kind reader, indulge me in a September wallow down recent memory lane. Below each photo you’ll find a short background story.
My husband and I took our first holiday without children in June and spent a week in Victoria, BC on Vancouver Island. The illuminating – and slightly distressing – thing I learned is that spending 24 hours a day alone with my husband was stressful. How will we manage retirement together? Suddenly, working a few more years doesn’t seem so awful after all. Before I quit my day job, a bridge – a really big bridge – needs building, a structure for togetherness that won’t drive us to jump, or take a long walk off a short pier with stones in our pockets.
Fortunately, we can kayak together separately, like toddlers who parallel play. We recently tried a double kayak because I thought that way I wouldn’t need to paddle so hard. I sat in the front and he, being the captain and in charge of the rudder, sat in the back controlling our destination/destiny. With every stroke he splashed me and I arrived back at the dock soaked. We’ll keep our solo kayaks for the good of our marriage.
Such a pretty day on Granville Island in Vancouver but what you don’t see is grief. My family had gathered for a celebration. I struggle with that word in relation to death but the celebration was in honour of my niece, Klahanie – Becky to us – who died from breast cancer in May. We were in Vancouver, one of Canada’s most beautiful cities, to say goodbye.
You also don’t see love in this photo. My family members are spread across Canada – from Newfoundland to British Columbia – and though we were not close to Becky who grew up so far away from us, we wanted to be with our sister and her family to show our love.
In July, I proposed a family getaway before our eldest daughter moved to a new city to continue her education at the end of August. We consulted at length trying to decide where to go, what to do. We all like music. I suggested the Osheaga music festival but the two hipsters among us expressed concern that we would be unwelcome due to our age. I interpreted that as they would feel too awkward hanging out with us.
Next, I found a circus festival in Montreal to which my husband replied he’d rather pummel his big toe with a hammer than watch circus performers. We finally settled on a Trevor Noah performance at the Montreal Just for Laughs comedy festival.
Just for laughs, my daughter invited her boyfriend and there went the last family getaway. Or maybe I should reframe that thought because he may one day be family, right? And just for laughs, as we walked around the city, we came across an acrobatic performance happening on the wall of a building. She who laughs last, laughs best. Ha, ha, ha!
Off we drove to Toronto at the end of July – just three of us. The two elder daughters were busy being independent young women. A vacation to Toronto with their parents did not appeal. Pfft, we said. We catered to the youngest daughter’s every whim. No negotiating required. No feelings were hurt. No one felt left out or neglected. No one lost.
I realized a small dream after 24 years of waiting when my husband and I created this petite garden oasis in the backyard. In this spot, I engage in woolgathering.
In memory of my mother, I planted Scarlet Runner beans in two tiny planters at the front of the house. The vines produce bright red flowers that attract bees and sometimes a hummingbird. My mother made “dilly beans” using scarlet runners and nothing evokes my childhood home more than the bean and the flower. I never thought the plants would yield anything growing in such tight quarters but look-y here! And there are more on the vine. I feel so agricultural. Thank you, mom.
We put our daughter on a bus to her new home last week. I thought I was okay but I’m not. I cried as the bus pulled out of the station and sobbed all the way home. I worry about everything she still has to learn, like the cost of Claritin for her allergies or how to make porridge from scratch and not Quaker’s convenient pre-packed pouches. I sat in her room, the walls bare, the bookshelves empty, and cried some more.
The next day we loaded up a white Econoline van with all her worldly goods and drove and drove and drove. We unpacked and unpacked and then slept on her couch, guests in her new abode. I felt displaced.
We comforted ourselves on the return trip with award winning butter tarts from Betty’s in Coburg, Ontario. We ignored the hollow sound of the empty van as we hurtled down the highway eating our treat.
This year, the September Labour Day weekend brings a knot to my stomach. The house feels off-kilter without our eldest. As we pulled away from her in the van, she stood with a look on her face that I interpreted as awkward sadness. She wants to feel confident but there’s uncertainty. She’s embarking on a new stage in life a long way away from her home base towards a new career and a new path twists ahead and she can’t see around the bend. She doesn’t know yet that this is normal. I do, but it doesn’t make it any easier.