Day 4 of the purge

Today was a simple day. I went for my third walk. The weather was beautiful and there was a huge flock of waxwings that seemed to be following me around town. I scared them out of a couple of spruce trees as I walked past and from there they just seemed to wheel overhead wherever I went. They were a delight to watch.

I heard a little chickadee singing his Spring song and I said to him, sorry, little guy, but Spring is still a long way off. Hearing his little song made me feel hopeful, though.

Today I got rid of old hair products that I’ve had for longer than I can remember. I buy hair products usually after I’ve visited with my sisters. They are all great with hair and they take it upon themselves to do my hair whenever we’re together. I love it. I love the attention and the conversations we have while they transform me.

I’ve never been one to fuss and primp, but those girls can get me thinking that I should.

So, once our visits are over I go out and buy hairspray and mousse and serum and god-knows-what-all and fuss with my hair for a week or two. Then, it just gets to be too much work, and without them, no fun. The products get stuck in a closet or under the bed or in a drawer that I don’t use. Occasionally I’ll decide to try again, but then I wonder about chemical breakdown and whether using them could damage my hair.

But throw them out? No. That would be wasteful. Today, though, I grabbed that fifteen year old bottle of leave in conditioner that has been in my medicine cabinet since the day I bought it and I threw it in to the hazardous wastes container. Along with some twenty year old mineral make up that I only kept because it had a nice brush. That I used maybe twice.

Then I got rid of some more food stuff from the fridge. What did I think I was going to do with that single tablespoon of cherry preserves? Obviously, I forgot because it was just mouldy sludge in the bottom of the jar when I dug it out from the back of the fridge. It looked like something that Stephen King might have written about in his younger years. I was tempted to pitch the whole jar, but I couldn’t do it. It’s a glass canning jar, after all, and I can re-use it. (My purging only goes so far.)

Then there was the container of homemade chocolate sauce — maybe enough left for one dish of ice cream. I don’t remember when I made it, but I know I made it for my grand-kids. It got shoved in the back on the second shelf behind a jar of sun-dried tomatoes and some jars of bouillon. When I opened it the top was all speckly and pitted. It looked more like congealed gravy than chocolate sauce. Again, I saved the container.

I know why I hang on to things for as long as I do. It’s not because I’m thrifty, or lazy or just forgetful. It’s because these things have in some way brought me pleasure. They remind me of simple moments of joy shared with people I love.

I’m only four days in on this 100 days of purging, but I’m learning that letting go of things does not mean letting go of memories.

Day 4

A couple of things for today — a lovely lunch with my sister-in-law Michelle — we don’t often get time to just spend with one another, so that was a treat.  Then, as a Christmas present from my sister Jennifer a travel mug that she had engraved with this saying:  Blessed is Knowing the True Love and Joy of a sister!  The capital K, T, L and J are the initials of our names.  Very sweet.

The Dresses

When the urge strikes. . .

The Dresses

When I was a little girl I remember, vaguely, some dresses that my grandmother Evelyn bought for my sister Tracy and I.  One was pink and one was blue.  They had full skirts with crinolines underneath.  The tops were black (I think) with short, cap sleeves and a round neck-line.  The skirts were large print gingham with black silhouette cutouts around the bottom.  There were ladies, men and poodles as I recall.

My sister and I loved those beautiful little dresses.  Grandma even bought us matching white patent leather shoes to wear with them.  I remember feeling so pretty and so special when I put it on.  I couldn’t have been more than 4 or 5 years old at the time.

My parents were dirt poor.  My father was a private in the army and was gone a lot of the time.  My mother was left at home by herself to take care of us.  There was barely enough money for food at that time, and certainly never any money to buy us pretty things like dresses or shiny white shoes.

Of course, I knew none of that then.  All I knew is that my beautiful, tall and elegant grandmother had descended like a fairy godmother to bring my sister and I fancy dresses, like those a princess would wear.

My grandparents had come for a visit and they were taking us all out for dinner or lunch.  Sadly, I don’t remember if we ever wore those dresses more than that one time.  We wanted to wear them all the time, but of course, were not allowed. Shortly after that my father was posted to Manitoba.  Whether the dresses came with us or not is a mystery.  I certainly don’t remember ever wearing mine again.

And then, our house burnt down.  It was a ramshackle affair in a town called Wheatland.  It was situated on a dusty prairie road alongside some train tracks.  I recall that most of the people living there were poor, like us.  I don’t believe we had running water; the house was heated by a pot belly stove.  That’s why it burnt down, in fact.

My sister and I saw it happen.  We had gotten up to go to the bathroom and came down to use the toilet beside my parents bedroom.  We saw that the pile of newspapers next to the stove had caught fire.  We were afraid to wake my parents up and so we just ran right back up the stairs to our bedroom, which was right above the stove, and crawled back in to bed.  We laid there, awake, scared, crying and not knowing what to do when suddenly we heard my mother and father screaming and shouting.

My father came up the stairs and got each of us (there were six of us at that time, including my infant brother, Shawn).  The stairs were on fire already and he had to throw us through the flames to our mother who was waiting to catch us at the bottom of the stairs. Thankfully, I have blocked all that out.   Tracy and I were put in charge of our siblings, including Shawn, (we were 5 and 6 at the time) while my parents did their best to salvage what they could.

The next day, or maybe it was many days later, when we came back to see the house I remember Tracy and I crying and asking what happened to our dresses.  My mother, obviously stressed to the breaking point, screamed at us that we were selfish little girls and said something about “those goddamned dresses” .

I know now as an adult that there were some big issues between my mother and my grandmother.  Probably the fact that we were so distraught over something trivial like a pretty party dress reminded her of all that she had given up for the kind of life she had.  We had lost everything, and we didn’t have much to begin with, we were homeless, we were poor and we were alone, thousands of miles away from ‘home’, Ontario, where both my parents had grown up.  I can’t imagine the kind of despair they must have felt.

Still, when ever I think back on that time I wonder about those dresses.  And I have mixed feelings of joy and sorrow for those little girls who got to feel so pretty and so special for such a brief moment in their lives.   There never was another pretty dress for either of us, until we grew up enough to afford them ourselves.

©Kathy Larson, 2012
All rights reserved.


Monday, and I’m b-a-a-a-ck

. . . that just never looks as good in print as hearing Jack Nicholson saying it.

Ah, well, the point is, I’m back.  My trip to New York was fantastic.  Just the break I needed.  Although. . .

. . . we had full, busy days — up early and then out pounding the streets and riding the subway.  It was just all too much fun!

We saw two plays while we were there — Wicked and Race.  Wicked is the untold story of the relationship between the witches before Dorothy and Toto ever make the scene.  It was wonderful — very funny, with lavish sets and a great story line.  Can’t wait for it to come here so I can take my grand-daughter, Hailey.  She would love it, especially Glinda, who is really a girly girl.  Race, was a dark comedy exploring society’s attitude towards well, what else, racial stereotypes and prejudice.  It was very thought-provoking while at the same time crazily funny.  A David Mamet play, so lots of profanity and no fear of saying the politically incorrect.  Loved it.

There is just something about New York.  I, like millions of others, simply love the place.  And I say that with the full knowledge that my love of the place is superficial and naive.  I am a tourist when I’m there, nothing more and I know little or nothing of the average life of a true New Yorker.  In our travels about the city — and those were confined to Upper, Middle and Lower Manhattan — we encountered very few real citizens.  Those we did were working and for the most part seemed resigned to answering the touristy questions we posed (and they’d heard for probably the millionth time).  They weren’t exactly friendly, but they were polite, which is okay.

The funniest thing I heard was when we were coming out of Tiffany’s.  (I bought myself a lovely little silver chain and initial pendant — surprisingly very affordable!)  A little boy of about 5 was complaining to his father about the streets being too busy.  His dad said, “I know, son, it’s because there’s so many tourists right now.  Unfortunately, we need the tourists to survive.”  I laughed right out loud.  With my pretty little blue Tiffany’s bag swinging gaily from my hand.  I guess Audrey shouldn’t have made the place so famous.

This was my second trip to the big apple and having been there once before really came in handy.  As Tim and I had taken the subway before I wasn’t at all hesitant about getting in to them again.  Each day we would go and get an unlimited ride pass and then we would take that subway all over the place.  Though the terminals themselves are nearly unbearably hot, the cars are blessedly air-conditioned.  Well, except for one.  Day two we’re down in the terminal waiting for our train.  It’s busy, lots of people.  We worry about getting separated when it’s that busy, so as the train pulls up we see a car that is practically empty.  We make a bee-line for it.  The doors whoosh open and we rush in — it’s stifling hot!  But now it’s too late to switch cars, so we’re stuck.  We laughed so hard at our stupidity, and, never made that mistake again!

Now, let’s talk about the food.  All of it was fantastic.  We ate at Tom’s Restaurant — the one from Seinfeld — our first night there.  Very good, homestyle meals.  Tom, I believe that was him, anyway, came over and talked to us — a couple of us got our picture taken with him.  He was a nice man who runs a landmark restaurant.  The service was fast and friendly, I would definitely recommend this as a place to go.  Other than that we ate hotdogs and kebabs off the street carts, had Chinese in China-town, dinner at Carmine’s — the BEST for Italian food — but avoid the drinks, too pricy and not sure they actually have any booze in them.  We also had Turkish food at a great little restaurant in Morningside where we were staying, breakfast at a French cafe,and  pizza at Grimaldi’s under the Brooklyn Bridge.  Other than Grimaldi’s, where we stood in line in the sweltering heat for 45 minutes, but it was so totally worth it, we never had to wait for a seat in a restaurant, ever.

Around the corner from our apartment were a couple of grocers.  One was 24/7 and you could get anything you wanted there, any time of day.  And it was always fresh!  They had a wonderful fresh salad and deli bar, a coffee bar, vast fruit stands, freshly baked bread, cookies and pastries, a large dairy case, and a really good selection of dried and canned foods which reflected ethnic diversity.  This is where we picked up stuff for our breakfasts — it was called the Westside Market on Broadway and 110th.  There are lots of these places around, really worth checking out if you’re planning a longer visit to New York.

The only problem we ever had was locating a place to buy wine.  We could get beer anywhere, but buying wine was a bit of a trial.  Then we were told, on our second last day, to go over to Amsterdam Ave.   There were dozens of little wine stores over there.  Never fear, though, we made sure we stopped several times throughout the day for a drink at some little cafe or restaurant.  I think the most frivolous fun we

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

had was the day we went and had drinks at the Plaza Hotel.  What a stunningly gorgeous place!  And we in our shorts and tees, covered in sweat and looking every inch the Canadian tourist.  But, they were extremely gracious and seated us in the champagne bar.  We had our server laughing and in the end I think we got a complimentary tray of nuts because of it.  Suffice it to say the drinks, a tray of cheese and crackers with  a few grapes and a halved strawberry, and a plate with two large pieces of bruschetta (the most amazing tasting bruschetta I’ve ever had!) cost us a pretty penny.  But you know what?  It was so worth it!  Drinks at the Plaza — you only live once, I say.

We did so much, saw so much, experienced so much — I could probably write all day trying to get it all down.  But I think I’ll take a break for now.  Post a few pictures from our trip and get back at it again tomorrow.

Friday, July 2

Well, my, my, my. . . I’m finally on holiday!  Unbelievable how great it feels!  It’s always a little disconcerting the first few days when I wake up and think I need to be rushing to get ready for work, and then I go “wait!  I’m on holidays!  I don’t have to go anywhere!”  (Sorry for all the exclamation points — sign of very immature writing, but, really that’s how I’m thinking in my head at this moment.)!

Okay, more mature Kathy is taking over.  An explanation is in order I guess for my absence lately.  My son took my computer to fix it — but he’s had no time to do that.  I have access to this laptop, which is essentially not mine — it belongs to the union for which I am a member (president of, actually — sounds more impressive than it is, so I try not to advertise too much) .  ANYWAY, being the kind of person I am — slightly skewed — I try not to use it for anything but union business.  I’ll do the odd little thing on here, but anything personal I reserve for my personal computer.

Is any of that making sense?

To continue. . .

. . . I haven’t blogged then for over a week, because of my computer woes.  I am feeling the effects.  I have taken many pictures that I’d love to share and so, have decided to damn my ethics and post a blog or two by using this laptop.  (thunder-clap in the background).  don’t know whether or not I’ll be able to get pics downloaded — because the software for the cameras is filed away somewhere that I can’t recall.  I really hate my organization skills sometimes — they make all the sense in the world when I’m in the midst of organizing — later, however, I can’t remember what rationale I used when I was putting things in order.  Sigh.

I’m starting to get geared up for my trip to New York next week.  I’ve got the hair under control, tomorrow it’s the toenails.  Pretty toes for the summer!  woo hoo!  In the meantime I’ve got all the little details to take care of — like getting some US dollars, making sure reservations are still in effect, etc.  I am so looking forward to this trip!  It’s been 2 years in the planning.  The last year was researching and getting the details ironed out.  With me in Alberta, sister #1 in Manitoba, sister #2 in Ontario and sister-in-law in Nova Scotia, it’s been a little bit of a challenge.  However, we have managed to coordinate things seamlessly and agree unanimously on everything we’ve got planned.  We’re going to have such a blast!  Can’t wait to get together with them all.  The train ride for Niagara Falls, NY to New York city is going to give us our first chance in a year to be face to face.  Bring on the travel Scrabble!  Hope that train has a bar car!

Well, this blog is kind of going nowhere — just me blithering, but that’s what happens when you’re away for a while.  Kind of a mental and verbal diarrhea.  Will endeavor to be better for the next  one.

Am going to attempt to download pics.  Fingers crossed!

Have a good day everyone.