Tag Archives: memories

Winter Elegy

My father passed away eleven years ago this week, at the tail end of an unusually frigid winter much like the one we’ve just had.

I don’t know which season was his favourite, but he relished each of them. He didn’t fear or curse the cold — he took us cross-country skiing and walking in the snow whenever he could, until that last winter that he spent sick, in and out of hospital. We drove on icy roads and trudged in winter gear from the parking lot to visit him.

I wasn’t thinking about it then, but I suspect that’s when I began to hate winter.

For a long time he didn’t know it would be his last, only that he was very sick…and he was never sick. But he knew the possibility was there. He was not afraid.

When I was young, I used to love playing in the snow. Building forts, sledding, pretending I was an Arctic explorer or a princess in an ice castle (the budding writer at work). Later I tried skating and snowshoeing. Cross-country skiing was always my favourite, the clean sound of the skis in the snow, the glorious sensation of flying, the sleeping trees and pure white all around. I’ve done some of those things since he died, but nowadays I mostly just trudge.

On the day of the funeral, the winter finally broke, with a sky of clear Alberta blue, meltwater running in the cemetery. I like to think it broke for him, but then he didn’t mind the snow. Maybe it broke for us.

Even now, at this time of year I get melancholy. I still like a clean snowfall, crunchy snow and a clear winter sky, but as the season wears on, it wears at me too. I wait out the last cold days, just enduring the late-winter storms. Waiting for March to pass and spring to arrive, and life to come again.


Your Turn: First News Memory

This week is the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination — a huge event in US history, to be sure. But the extent of the coverage is kind of strange to me, because I wasn’t born yet. One newspaper bore the headline “Why we can’t stop grieving”…and all I could think was “Speak for yourself.”

It did get me thinking, though. We all have our seminal news memories — events where there was a “before” and an “after”, when our perception of the world shifted. But if you go even further back, we all have our first news memories, the first time we were aware of events that didn’t personally involve us.

I’ll tell you mine.

In October 1987, I was eight years old. I was pretty sheltered from news coverage — for example, I don’t remember the Challenger explosion or the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, which both happened the previous year.

But I do remember Baby Jessica.

That month, a toddler named Jessica McClure fell down a well in Texas and was trapped. More than two days later, after many dramatic rescue efforts, she was freed via a freshly dug parallel shaft. The whole saga was broadcast on TV, discussed endlessly in the print media with diagrams of the well shafts (I remember vividly how the tunnel that was dug between the two shafts sloped up towards the old shaft, so as not to bury Baby Jessica in dirt), and so on.

In hindsight, I don’t think it really occurred to me that she could have died down there — and she certainly could have, from the fall or exposure or even from the digging of the other shaft. It was just a captivating story…with, as it turned out, a happy ending.

(Here’s an update on Jessica as an adult.)

Your turn! What’s the first news event you remember?


We Remember

Poppies on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ottawa, Canada. Photo by Mikkel Paulson.

Poppies on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ottawa, Canada. Photo by Mikkel Paulson.

Today is Remembrance Day in Canada — a melding of both Veterans Day and Memorial Day, for the Americans in the crowd.

The first war that I remember is the Gulf War, 1990-91. I wasn’t born yet during Vietnam or Korea, let alone the two world wars. But I’ve spoken about them with people who were.

My father might well have fought in Vietnam, had he been American instead of Canadian.

My mother’s uncle died at Dieppe, along with 900 other Canadian men.

My grandfather’s generation lived through the German occupation of Norway. When I visited Norway years ago, one of my elderly relatives told me stories: how he learned German in school instead of English, how German soldiers once came to the farmhouse for food. Another relative took me to see WWII bunkers overlooking the Norwegian coast.

I had been fascinated by that war for a long time, but speaking to those who had lived through the fighting, not overseas but right in their own country, made it real to me as it had not been before.

We have new wars now, young veterans. These wars are messier, but the vets are worth honouring and supporting just the same.

So each year on November 11 I pause, and remember.


WANA Friday: Figure Skating Memories

It’s time for another edition of WANA Friday! This week’s common topic:

Tell us about something you used to be into but aren’t anymore — a hobby, an activity, a band, a TV show, etc.

Earlier this evening I happened to catch a bit of figure skating on TV and it reminded me…back in the ’90s I was a huge fan.

(Here’s another thing I used to be into: power ballads!)

More videos below the cut…

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WANA Friday: Hide-and-Seek and a Turtleduck Press Announcement

Welcome to another installment of WANA Friday! It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, so just to refresh your memory, here’s how it works. Participating bloggers all do a post on a common topic, keeping it short and sweet so readers can go blog-hopping and read everyone’s different takes. You can read my previous WANA Friday posts here.

This week’s topic is:

Share an early childhood memory, or a photo that brings back a memory of childhood or family.

But before we get there, I have a special Turtleduck Press announcement…

Best of Turtleduck Press, Vol. 1

This summer marks three years since the inception of Turtleduck Press. To celebrate, we’ve put together a sampler anthology featuring our very best stories (and one poem) from our first three years.

Because TDP is a co-op press, “best” was determined by voting from our members, and arranged by the head editor — me. So we have three SF&F short stories (one by yours truly!), one poem, and a teaser from our next novel, coming in December.

More info, including BUY links, can be found here.

If you like what you see, and you write SF or F, won’t you think about joining us?

Now, back to your (ir)regularly scheduled programming.

I had to really wrack my brain for a childhood memory. Not that I couldn’t think of any! I wanted one as early as possible, but a lot of what I could recall came from my tween years, or was too vague to date, or was a conglomeration of a lot of different times — like all the family camping trips we took to the Rockies…I have a pretty good sense of what they were like generally, but precious few specific memories from a single incident.

But here’s a specific event that I know happened around age 6, give or take a year.

My younger sister and I are playing hide-and-seek with our dad in a treed area behind our house. It’s not exactly wild, just an urban park with a small area of bush, but to us it’s a forest.

One of us girls is It. The other sister is found quickly. But we can’t find our dad anywhere, no matter how we search.

When our confusion starts to turn to panic, we hear his voice calling out to us. But we still can’t find him…until he says, “Look up here.”

He’s in a tree, a thick-trunked leafy tree with almost a platform between the branches, above the level of our heads. We’d never thought to look up.

He helps us climb up and sit in the tree with him, exhilarated at having found a secret spot.

And that marks the beginning of our tree-climbing phase. Not long after, we move away, but our new neighbourhood has other parks and other trees to hide in and to climb. Much later, we discover rock-climbing…but that’s another story.

Other childhood memories shared this week (check back for new additions to this list!):

That’s it for now. See you next week!

Watching Movies With My Dad

Yesterday was Father’s Day, so I’ve been thinking a lot about my dad, who passed away just over ten years ago.

For Mother’s Day, I told you about how my mom passed on her love of books to me. My dad wasn’t much of a reader (at least not of fiction — being first a Lutheran minister and then a pastoral counsellor and trainer, he read a lot of work-related non-fiction). But what he did love was movies.

When we were little, he used to take us to the Princess Theatre, a venerable, old-fashioned place with a balcony and a red curtain over the screen that was raised and lowered for every show. They showed children’s classics on Saturdays — Disney animated films, Swiss Family Robinson, Treasure Island. We saw the newer Disney movies, too. I remember all three of us kids being completely obsessed with The Lion King.

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Announcement and Three Things I Love About Norway

First of all, I am thrilled to announce that Turtleduck Press, the indie co-op press I’m a part of, is opening to new members as of today. We’re looking for novel submissions from science fiction and fantasy writers. I’ll be talking more about this on Monday, but in the meantime, to learn more, check out the announcement at Turtleduck Press!

Second, a bit of trivia for you. Norway is my ancestral home — three of my grandparents were born there — and I was lucky enough to visit in 2001.

This Friday is the Seventeenth of May, the Norwegian equivalent of Independence Day or Canada Day. It originally commemorated the signing of the Norwegian constitution in 1814, although Norway didn’t achieve independence (from its union with Sweden) until nearly a century later, in 1905.

As a holiday, the Seventeenth of May, or Syttende Mai in Norwegian, has become a day to celebrate the country, mainly with flags and children’s parades and the singing of the anthem — “Ja, vi elsker dette landet”, or “Yes, We Love This Country”.

So in honour of Syttende Mai, here are three things I love about Norway:

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Memories Less Travelled

This week is a little unusual for the blog. First, I was unexpectedly without Internet for several days, so I missed posting on Monday for just about the first time ever. Second, I’m taking time out from travel blogging for a special post.

This week is the anniversary of my father’s passing. He died ten years ago tomorrow, on March 14, 2003, after a short battle with cancer. I can’t believe it’s been that long already — it’s strange to realize how many experiences I’ve had that he never got to see. He never even knew that I moved to Toronto, and it’s been my home for years now.

I don’t think about him very often anymore. When I do, I have my favourite memories and impressions, the ones I go over and over, like a string of rosary beads. But he was more than those few memories, and if I don’t hold onto the rest, they’ll be lost. So here are a few more sides of my father to add to that string of beads…

He knew everybody. He was a pastor first, then a hospital chaplain and a trainer of other chaplains, so he met a lot of people. And he remembered them all, somehow. I wish I knew the trick. He used to take his children on long bike rides through the river valley trail system, and inevitably he would run into an acquaintance. They would stop and chat, and we would be annoyed and also a bit amazed. (Side note: I can’t talk anymore. A few weeks ago I visited the Taj Mahal, and guess what? Someone I knew came up and said hi!) At his funeral, the church was packed, and the entire front pew was full of pastors in robes, come to pay their respects.

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Of Gifts and Love and Family

First, a bit of anthology news. Kit Campbell, the author of the anthology’s spring story, has a post up about the genesis and evolution of her story.

Just a reminder — Seasons Eternal is available in paperback (and it’s a very pretty book; I’ve seen it!) or the ebook format of your choice. All the info is on the Turtleduck Press website, here.

As Christmas approaches, I find that I’m missing my family a lot. My family of origin, I should say, because I won’t be alone — I’ll be celebrating with my husband and my in-laws, for the first time in our own house. This isn’t the first year I’ve been away for the holidays, either. Maybe I’m missing them particularly because I’m thinking about creating traditions. Or maybe I miss them this much every year, and I’ve just forgotten.

When my siblings and I were little, we used to meet in the hallway well before sunrise on Christmas Day, and creep down the hall so we’d all see the living room at the same time — the tree already lit, casting a multicoloured glow on the heap of wrapped presents beneath. That moment was one of my favourites, because anything might be in those gifts.

We’d open our stockings first — cooked up as a ploy by our parents to enable them to sleep in just a little longer. The stockings always included baggies of cereal and Christmas oranges. By the time we finished breakfast, our parents were awake and the unwrapping could begin. Whoever sat closest to the tree got to be Santa’s helper and pass out gifts that we’d take turns opening, prolonging the anticipation.

Afterwards, surrounded by new books (oh, and sometimes things that weren’t books…), we’d curl up contentedly and read the day away until turkey dinner time.

Gifts in my family tend to be modest, but carefully chosen; say what you will about commercialism, but I’m delighted when I find a present that I know will make the recipient’s eyes light up. For me, gift-giving is an expression of love. I don’t feel pressure to be extravagant and spend too much, but I do feel pressure to find (or make) the perfect gift. The one that expresses the connection between giver and recipient. (Which is why I’m not a big fan of gift cards. But I might cave this year.) Of course, that road leads to craziness…but I still try.

Of course, Christmas isn’t really about presents. It’s about people. We had Boxing Day dinners with extended family. When my parents divorced, we had two Christmases on consecutive days, often involving two turkey dinners (or a turkey and a ham). After my husband and I started dating lo these many years ago, we sometimes had three Christmases. I have fond memories of all of them. They all involved being together with loved ones, sharing a feast and family traditions, no matter the permutation of family.

And that is something I will have this year. It’ll just be a new permutation.

Besides, I think I’ve found some pretty great, ahem, expressions of love this time.

How do you feel about gifts and Christmas?

Remembering My Autumn Vacation

As a follow-up to Monday’s post, here’s what I want to remember about this year’s writing retreat…

Writing in a lounge chair on the dock, under the canopy, with a bottle of Smirnoff Ice close at hand. The lap of waves and the rocking of the wooden platform, and all the trees enclosing the bay.

Enjoying the crispness of early fall with leaves just starting to turn. Roasting marshmallows one night, eating clam chowder on a rainy day, drinking chocolate chai tea, snuggling up under cozy covers.

The four-poster bed, with intricately carved headboard and footboard, so tall I had to climb up into it before sinking down into its warmth.

Rediscovering the joy of writing — creating and editing a new story that just poured out of me, remembering the things that made me want to write an older story and then edging back into it.

Feeling completely free of all the usual pressures and responsibilities of life, which have been myriad lately. Just me, the beautiful surroundings, the good company, and the keyboard. And the words.