In The Parking Lot

We had finished our morning cross-country ski and were sliding our equipment into the trunk of the car when a half dozen cars pulled into the snow-covered parking lot. Women emerged, individually of course, as we are duty-bound to travel alone in cars with non-family members these Covid days. They laughed and chatted amongst themselves, carrying their skis, and headed for the trail that started beside our car.

All were dressed in colourful cross-country ski gear – mostly snug fitting Lycra tights, spiffy, form-fitting, hip-length jackets with lots of zippered pockets for lip balm, ski wax, and a cell phone, too, I suppose. Season passes dangled from side pocket zippers, swaying snappily as they walked. A few had the word “Sofit Ski” on the backs of their jackets. So fit. So not me but, man, they looked cool. They reminded me of the hip girls in school, the ones that had the newest, slickest gear, the sleekest muscles, the prettiest mascaraless eyelashes who smelled of baby powder and mashed potatoes. I said to my husband, “They look like a fun crew. Maybe I could join them.”  I immediately retracted my statement.

“Nah. I’d feel peer pressure to wear Lycra instead of my comfy, baggy wind-pants and my not-cool fleece lined Louis Garneau windbreaker with only two standard-issue pockets. Plus, they’d laugh at my handknit toque.”

On the drive home I considered my aversion to groups. I’m initially attracted. I long for the camaraderie but fear the intimacy and the storytelling, commiserating, sympathizing required in female groups. Bonding, I guess is the word. So much of socializing among girls and women depends on sharing stories of our lives, our loves, our joys, and disappointments – spilling your guts. But as a kid, this kind of friendship building meant potentially exposing our family weakness – my father’s alcoholism – and so I grew up gun-shy of such intimacy.

In an alcoholic family, the non-alcoholic members learn to keep secrets about their addicted family member. Added to the secret are the twins of embarrassment and shame. I couldn’t have sleepovers in case my father came home drunk. I was discouraged from inviting friends over to play or to stay for supper in case my father came home drunk. My mother did not have female friends in case my father came home drunk. Other than family, no one visited.

In the last years of my father’s alcoholism, my mother withdrew from socializing altogether. She couldn’t risk the shame of others knowing.  I grew up thinking of people not in our clan as dangerous outsiders and I believe this is why I have a profound suspicion of groups. Nonetheless, I feel a push-pull of yearning. We’re herd animals, after all. Or pack critters. We need each other for love, support, and comfort. I know my response towards the “Sofit” women was a reflexive defensive posture so deeply attached to my out-of-whack survival system that I almost missed it. I did that “I reject you before you reject me” thing. But you know what? This ruminating is hilarious because I’m not going to join the group anyway – I can’t afford the peer pressure. (Did I just deflect again?) But the encounter reminded me that I must make a bigger effort to connect with my friends, especially now, when pandemic induced isolation threatens my mental health. I don’t have to hang out in a large group, but I do need to see my friends – outside, six feet apart, wearing cute hand-knit toques and mitts for a walk through the neighbourhood.

My Bouncing Boy

goldenguy

The Sé Cathedral of Evora, Portugal

 

Your stride is a rubber ball bouncing down the street.
You ribbed, “Scientists studied my feet to improve
rocket launchers, and they said my feet hear
heat and that’s why there’s air beneath my heels.”

On Gower Street that rotten urchin, Andy,
called you “Springs”. I expect he’s dead now,
little shit, or living in the Goulds with the missus,
his Lazy-boy recliner stick rubbed shiny,

the carpet farting mouldy biscuit and white bread
aroma from 40 years of spilled Black Horse lager.
Womp womp. But you – thank you! – bounced us
out of there.

“You’ll find your soul mate too late,” wasn’t true.
I knew the deal when I saw your naked feet, not
bionic or battery operated at all, just wide, muscles
at ease. They smelled like sweat and antifungal

cream. You exceeded the dream I never had and
after all these years you still bounce like that boy,
your head bob-bobbing above the rest, your
eternal spring our crow’s nest.

**

Written for d’Verse‘s prompt “thankfulness” and posted in open link night. Lovely work to be read there. Pop over and discover poets and poetry to suit all tastes.

 

For sale: red dress

RedDress

Vintage. Size 8. Worn three times in 1992.

The reason
I wore the dress for the first time at a Meeting Planners International (Ottawa Chapter) Gala. I won “Planner of the Year”, for which I received a plaque. Now when I hear the word plaque I think gum disease and heart attack but back then it meant achievement. I was good at a job that, among other things, demanded good feet. Back then when scouting a location for a 1200 delegate conference and 200,000 square feet of exhibit space, I walked every inch of too many hotel function rooms and concrete floored trade show halls – in stilettos. I tromped service corridors and loading bays. I hoofed the cobblestone streets of old Montreal surrounding the Montreal Convention Centre. I pounded the paved cruise ship docks beside the Vancouver Convention Centre and marched up and down Halifax’s hills to and from the harbour and up to the Citadel because back then there was no Google Earth or Mapquest to help situate the convention site within a city. I had to see it for myself. In stilletos. Because. Fashion. Continue reading

Games I don’t play

It is a few evenings before Christmas and we’re in the living room of my brother’s house in St. John’s, Newfoundland.  A low fire winks behind the screen of the small coal burning fireplace and undernotes of coffee mixed with alcohol intermittently finds my nose. Continue reading

For Cynthia*

Cynthia Jobin, a blogging friend, passed away last month. I knew her voice through her poetry and generous, insightful comments on my blog and many others. Her comments bit sometimes too, and made me mad but those comments got me to look at my writing from a different viewpoint. She was honest – unreservedly so. I miss her presence.

At 7:00 this morning, as black turned to grey the colour of old long johns, a trio of Continue reading

The legs of love

legs

chair legs sound as anchors below our
wobbly as a New Year’s Eve sky table top

it’s elbowed down wood hides a mess of
knocked crossed knees and bunched sock toes

bound like thumbless mittened fists
recoiling at an accidental bump

but not in bed where I seek and find
entwine your thighs close tight and sleep

_______

This is a response to a prompt given on a free (free!) on-line poetry mini-course which I learned about through Trish Hopkinson. Unlike my truly poetic friends, Luanne Castle, John Dofflemyer, and Cynthia Jobin, I am new at this poetry business and have been working at it without much knowledge other than that acquired as an occasional reader of poetry and a lapsed student of English Literature. The course is helpful and in short modules with exercises you can do if you are inclined. It is basic stuff but I’m finding it instructive.