Travels

My mom, sister, sister-in-law, and I follow each other into the crowded room to a small table near the stage.

I turn to look around at everyone squished in beside us. My mom leans over the tea-light in the middle of the table. “Do you recognize anyone?” she asks.

I crane my head to get a good look but see no familiar faces. I’m a bit surprised–even though we’re in the big city–since these seem like my kind of people and I frequented this place in years past. Then, after listening to the tattooed, dredlocked performer a while, it dawns on me. I don’t recognize anyone because I’m “old”. The first clue was the men around me; lithe, with stretched holes in their ears and funky hair, they don’t resemble the balding, beer-bellied males in my cohort. It’s hard to believe I don’t look like the 22-year old women around me either, but my sister confirms it. “Yep. Definitely younger than you,” she says.

The friends I used to know aren’t here because they’re probably doing homework with their 10-year-olds or adding toilet paper and lunchables to their grocery list. Something I’d be doing myself, if I weren’t on a girls’ weekend away.

“Do you miss this life?” Kristalyn asks me.

No. No I don’t. But I’m happy to be here now, out with my women, wondering what exactly makes me look older when I feel so young.

After my long-anticipated weekend away, Stan and I make a last-minute decision to visit his parents and brother’s family. Two flights and a seven hour drive later we’re rolling down our rental car windows, waving our pasty white arms in the warm breeze, giddy to have found spring on our way to Grandma and Grandpa’s. It seems nothing inspires patriotism more than a few budding trees; between shrieks of joy and pointing out daffodils in the ditches, Susanna asks her Dad if he remembers how to sing the Star Spangled Banner. Stan needs no other invitation and gives a heartfelt rendition, quickening all our Canadian winter-worn hearts.

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Making a fort in G+G’s woods

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Remember how awkward it was to play with the children of your parent’s old friends? I don’t know how these guys do it but they seem to skip through the awkwardness every year. The Haywoods’ personalities help.

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helping grandpa split wood

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One of the best parts, and our impetus for going, is seeing Lucy. Lucy smiling. Lucy leaning in for another kiss. Lucy bugging her brother. Lucy eating hummus. Lucy tolerating lavish attention and excessive cousin-handling…

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Grandpa, Uncle Philip, Lucy and Simon

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Grandma’s specialty: Easter egg treasure hunt

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A day in Chicago (at the Shed aquarium) before flying home

The day after we get home Stan spots the first (local) robin of the season. He stops playing his guitar, mid-strum, and raises his hands jubilantly. “I see it!” He hoots. “I see the first robin!”

At this point chaos ensues. The first robin-sighting is a big deal around here; the observant family member gets to choose where we go out for ice cream. Susanna is crushed because it’s been years since she was the first one to see the spring robin. We try to tell her the honour is nominal–we all get to eat ice cream and we go to the same place every year, no matter who sees the bird, but she’s not convinced. Unfortunately for her the rest of us are unsympathetic because, well, the robins are back!

Happy spring (even though it snowed yesterday),

Tricia

PS. Besides robins, this book is getting me into the spring/gardening mood. If you don’t like vegetables, either growing or cooking them, you’ll find it excruciating. I can’t wait to pick it up every night–it’s almost as good as An Everlasting Meal.

What happened during Lent

We’re eating Easter dinner when Uncle Ken looks across the table and asks me a question.

“So Tricia, I was wondering how your decision to give up the internet until noon went?”

I pass the pile of mashed potatoes to my right and wonder how I should answer. I’m glad he’s asked the question (it means someone else besides my mother has been reading my blog) and that he’s sincerely interested, but I’m not entirely happy with my answer. I would love to humbly describe how consistent and disciplined I was through Lent; how I blazed through all 40 days with unwavering commitment. Instead I fumble awkwardly saying something like I tried my best and I made it most of the time to 10:30 am without checking my email or blog…

As far as strictly observing lent, I failed. But in spite of my weak resolve, or maybe because of my weak resolve, I learned a few things. Perhaps failing is the point of Lent.

I learned that my impulse to reach for the mouse and hear the clacking of the keyboard is stronger than I thought it was.

I learned that checking emails isn’t as life changing as I think it will be. The mornings I spent at home writing were the worst. Checking my clock every ten minutes to see if I could finally open my email built anticipation with every passing moment. When the time finally came I would eagerly type my password only to be greeted with subject lines that read Don’t miss the next West Jet promotion! or Your inbox is 99% full. In a slump of disappointment I would close it and wonder what I had been waiting for in the first place. What kind of news was I hoping to find? How fulfilling could a digital message be?

I learned that starting my day with stillness instead of search engines makes a difference. Like re-setting a cheap watch or tuning a violin, my perspective seems to need frequent upkeep. If I let it go unchecked everything starts to spiral inwards until all I can think about is the little universe of Tricia: the salsa fermenting in my cupboard, the next job I have at school, our summer plans, the unwritten chapter of my book, who I will invite for supper, the shirt I need to buy for my daughter… The more my world shrinks, the more suffocated I feel. But it’s a drowsy suffocation; like sucking in fumes inside a closed garage.

Somehow being still and reading the story of Jesus or prophecies told to a tribe in the Middle East provides release. It opens the garage door a little. Before I am totally inebriated with myself I read a verse, pray for someone, or sit quietly to listen and my narrow world of self begins to expand. It’s a slow, creaky process and not nearly as dramatic as I would like. But it’s a start. A crack to let in the Light and fresh air. I read the following passage yesterday, and I think it helps to explain what I’m trying to say.

Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you have have no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and your soul will delight in the riches of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
hear me, that your soul may live
(Isaiah 55 1-3)

Thanks for asking the question Ken…

Tricia

PS. Here are more pictures of our week with family in Indiana:

Grandma taught both girls how to sew on their own!

Grandma taught both girls how to sew on their own!

...and they actually produced wearable skirts (with a little extra help)

They actually produced wearable skirts (with a little extra help)

Susie, me, and Belén (with her homemade skirt) rollerskating. We decided tying roller skates was much better than freezing our fingers at the outdoor rinks where we live.

Susie, me, and Belén (with her homemade skirt) rollerskating. We decided tying roller skates was much better than freezing our fingers at the outdoor rinks where we live.

Belén, cousin Simon, and Aunty Anne working on the eggs

Belén, cousin Simon (pondering the meaning of life), and Aunty Anne working on the eggs

Easter eggs, decorated with white crayon before getting dipped in colour.

Susanna’s favourite moment with cousin Lucy

Aunty Anne finally gets a chance to hold her own baby!

And of course, cutting wood…

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Grandpa going strong!

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