23 November 2010

2:00 AM

It's 2:00 AM, and I just downloaded Eat, Pray, Love for my ebook reader. No, really, I did. I needed that book today. Especially the part where Liz is up at 2:00 AM, making life-changing decisions. No, I'm not going to walk out on my husband- it took me far too long to get used to him, and get him used to me. A good thing shouldn't be given up that easily, especially if it continues being a good thing (and this one is an excellent one).

But there are parts of my life that need to be given up at 2:00 AM. Namely, my library job. It's taken a year-and-a-half of my life. I've loved this job; it was perfect. To start with. Then I learned how to do it, and the perfection wore off. And the last few months have been, well, to put it bluntly, mostly a drag. I loved the parts where I got to deal with the customers. I especially loved it when my job was the venue for meeting my neighbours- the people who've lived on my street for as long as I have, and I'd never talked to before. I've also loved the parts when I got to deal with kids, got to read storybooks to preschoolers, be silly with puppets (I do that well, even if I say so myself), bring my guitar and sing "Puff the Magic Dragon" to them, or booktalk "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" and leave the school kids with a cliff hanger just as the sea serpent is about to crush the ship. I've loved recommending Miss Read to the lady who likes gentle romantic fiction, and Ngaio Marsh to the one who prefers Golden Age mysteries. I've thoroughly enjoyed talking about watercolour painting with the art gallery organizer, and about reading skills with the dad who brings in his young boy to encourage his learning.

But then it got lonely. I'm by myself for most of the time. Handing out internet passes to the fruit pickers who came swarming in in the summer got boring; shelving and re-shelving books got tedious; getting stressed about finding the time to reorganize the Junior Fiction became a pain. Even thinking of themes for displays lost its charm, and became yet another "have-to".

So I think it's time to move on. There are other fish to fry- or sauté, boil, bake, or barbeque. And other fish-fryers who could do a better job than I, I think. My customers can do without me. And, what's more important, my kids cannot. The job was wonderful for the time being, but it took me away from my family. When I enjoyed it, it actually benefitted all of us. I was a happier mother, more capable of doing what I needed to do. But now, it's making me a cranky mother, an unavailable mother. I snap at the kids when I come home from work because I'm so tired. I drink too much in order to relax, so when I go to bed I can actually drop off to sleep. I've put on weight from eating too many empty carbohydrates, because I don't have time to cook and eat a proper dinner every night. It's time for a change.

And, just like Elizabeth Gilbert experienced, there's the voice that speaks, clearly and unequivocally:
Go back to bed.

12 November 2010

Batwing Returns

Have you ever noticed that Life has no sense of appropriateness? It mixes the deadly serious with the absurd without even an attempt at apology. Well, I figure if Life can do it, perhaps I could get away with it, as well.

You know the saying that "History Repeats Itself"? It does, oh boy, does it ever. Hence Remembrance Day, because if we remember, perhaps there are certain aspects of history, the ones that really matter, we might not be doomed to live over again. At least that is our hope and prayer.

But then there are other aspects that we seem to be unable to get away from. I was looking at the Sears catalogue this morning, and noticed that the batwing sleeve is making a comeback. (What can I say; that's where I get my fashion info. I'm a geek.) Wow, a style I recognize! And then the realization burst on me that, just for once, I'm already ahead of the game! I hotfooted it to the basement, crawled into the storage space under the stairs (something smells down there. A dead mouse, perhaps?), and pulled out the box labelled "handmade sweaters". And sure enough, it was in there: the batwing sweater that my grandmother knitted for me about twenty-five years ago, the last time batwings were in style. Yes, I know this dates me; but if you haven't figured out yet what the "1967" in my blog address means, anyway, I'm not going to spell it out for you.

And yes, this was the very grandmother I mentioned in my last post. By the time I knew her, her black hair had gone all grey. She was an inveterate knitter, but only ever on weekdays- knitting was work, and so not to be done on Sundays. I don't know how many sweaters she made for me and her seven other grandchildren; I can think of at least five for me during my teen years alone. One of them had a gorgeous fair isle pattern around the neck and shoulders and cuffs. My sister got the same one, the colours in reverse of mine; hers had a white body with the pattern in navy blue and burgundy; mine was the dark navy in the body with the white and burgundy on the pattern. Oma said she'd never knit with a yarn that dark again; trying to see the stitches was really hard on her eyes. I remember feeling vaguely guilty about that, as it was my sweater... It was a beautiful sweater; I wore it a lot. I believe I wore it out or outgrew it, which is why I no longer have it.

But I kept the batwing one. And now I'll be in style again for a little while. Or maybe my daughter might wear it, if she wants; she's the same age now as I was when Oma made it for me. History repeats itself, and sometimes, that's a good thing. But please- please!- let's not bring back the mullet. It was a bad hairstyle in the 80's, and wouldn't be any better today. That's one case where history had best be forgotten.

Oh, and one more thing: I did still get a poppy to wear this year, for the first time. And I was glad to wear it.

09 November 2010

Poppy Conflict

Here it is again, the week of Poppy Conflict. Every year, this happens. Most people around me are wearing the red poppy to keep Remembrance Day. And I- I avert my eyes from the young cadets with their poppy trays in front of the drugstore, and sidle by, trying not to be noticed. Why? Because the language that goes with wearing the poppy says that "Let us remember those who fought for our freedom!" Well, according to that statement, my family fought against freedom. My uncle fell on the Russian front (aged 22), my grandfather was killed by an allied bomber (leaving a widow with four children under nine years old, the youngest a newborn), my uncle-in-law was left on the fields of Normandy (he wasn't even 20). Lest we forget. If wearing the poppy means honouring the veterans who "fought for freedom", then would it not also mean dishonouring those who fought against them- whether they wanted to or not?

To be honest, it's the language that gets me. The rhetoric of honouring the sacrifice of the allied soldiers of World War II. Don't get me wrong- PLEASE don't get me wrong. I honour the men and women who fought in the wars, who sacrificed their lives- if not literally by dying, then by spending years of their lives separated from their families, having to endure the horrors of combat and the pain and tedium of Prisoner-of-War camp. That, too, is a sacrifice of one's life.

No, it is not that that which, up to now, has kept me from wearing the poppy. It's that the language of heroism still permeates Remembrance Day. They "fought for our freedom". Yes, they did. But they hardly had a choice. Their country went to war, and so they marched. As did those on the other side. Do you think my grandfather wanted to leave his pregnant wife and three small children to look after the farm alone? He died because he was a farmer who could not swim. In an air raid on his army base, he tried to run for shelter and drowned in a pond he had not seen in the dark. The bomber pilot- American, English, perhaps even Canadian- who flew the raid, was he any more of a hero, any more of a freedom fighter than this man who had no interest in politics, who just wanted to be left alone to live his life- but was on that army base because he had no other choice? The pilot, too, had no choice. Both of them lost their lives, in one way or another, to forces greater than themselves.

Yes, there was much heroic action on both sides of the war. And some of that action was on the part of a woman who, on Christmas Eve 1944, was confronted by two army officers delivering the news of her husband's death, and who kept the news to herself for another day so as not to spoil her young children's Christmas celebration. Countless acts of heroism, by countless humans all over the globe, caught up in forces beyond themselves. Remembrance Day, for me, is about remembering what happened, reminding ourselves of what still is happening, so that we never again allow those forces to build to such a point.

The fight for freedom is not the fight for the political supremacy of any one country, of any one ideological system. It is the fight for freedom from those forces that catch up all of us, and compel us to lay down our lives; the fight for the freedom of the human race.

I might be able to wear the poppy, after all. Lest We Forget.