Tuesday, January 22, 2008

walk down memory lane

whenever i've read anything about the structure of early native societies, i've always been interested in that person whose job it was to be the guardian of the tribes' lineage. that guy who could trace families for generations and could recount the causes for change and upset in the structure of the village.

i'm always impressed by people who have the unique ability to remember names, first and last. am stunned when someone tells a story and is able to include not only the year something happened (skill i lost when i was no longer able to mark years by the grade i was in...) but the season as well!! incredible!

i recently had occasion to spend some time with a "time tracker" in the form of my aunt. she's visiting from ireland. swapping stories one evening she proved to have an encyclopedic knowledge of not only our family's history in each of the regions in which it's taken root, but the histories of our neighbours and relatives thrice removed.

as she spoke, effortlessly weaving names and dates into anecdotes, i began to wonder what her secret was.

a bit of a backseat thriver myself i immediately speculated that, like me, she's always just had her feelers out wherever she's been, taking it all in, unnoticed. i wondered, did she collect these names and connections like i did images? did she write them down or make a mental map when she'd meet someone new, pencilling in a connective line from one to another already embedded in the web?

and how do these lines become etched? are they rehearsed over tea in a neighbour's kitchen when there's nothing on tv? is the information swapped like trading cards on a schoolyard?

women's work it seems. as the idea emerges, i take stock of my previous encounters of these "social web savants" and note that there's not a man in the bunch.

i think of my own trunkful of memories that serves as my coffee table. constant reminder of things past. ever present in my present.

when i question her about her abilities, she shrugs, confused. simply survival. would've been chastised and shut out by the local women if she weren't able to keep the connections straight. wouldn't be able to participate in the conversation if she couldn't keep up. when you're in a small irish town there are rules, scripts to follow.

guess it's like an organizing pattern, a tool , a schema you can use across situations to get yourself sorted, to put things in their place, to determine your place...

as she spoke i kept thinking that someone should write it all down, should film it. felt like hers was a knowledge that couldn't be constructed from paper at a later date by a less skilled hand. listening to her was like watching a skilled craftsman of a trade that few apprentice anymore.

i've lived in my building for five years and don't know a single neighbour by name. ours isn't a shared story anymore. my history isn't stored by those whose walls border mine, it's in cyberspace and digital cameras, happening in parallel with the person at the other end of the telephone line, or email or camera.

who will tell the street's story? where will the new lines be drawn?

don't know that i have answers for that one, don't know that it's necessarily something to be upset about (would be the first to bitch about being stifled by a community that had decided who i was before i opened my mouth..).

just know that i have a sense that i was in the presence of something more than just a storyteller.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

these boots are made for more than walkin!

so it's thursday and thanks to some nasty salt damage and some fallen hems i ran out of pants for the week and had to wear a skirt to work. for those womanly women out there who wear tailored suits daily with cute fitted jackets and gorgeous heels this may seem an odd conundrum, but let me explain. as an elementary teacher my outfit on any given day has to take me from sitting in a rocking chair-where kids have a prime view up said skirt if not the proper length, to teaching a gym or dance class where i am required to cavort with the rest of them demonstrating a grand jetee or lying down and doing crunches, to supervising students at recess on yard duty. given these conditions i have to choose my outfits carefully and skirts usually only come out on non yard duty, non gym days, which is why this was a bit of an occasion for me.

but i digress...

so i am wearing a skirt. a black skirt. a black skirt and i only have comfy brown boots. which means that if i don't want to be shamed on the subway i have to wear my black boots. which is fine except that they're my "make my legs look long and my feet womanly" boots with high heels and pointed toes which are only meant to be worn for a couple of hours, tops. i decide to bite the bullet and pray that i can prolong the hobbling phase of the anticipated pain until noon where i can walk around in my socks for awhile until my students get back from lunch.

as i walk toward the subway my feet make that click clack sound and my girly shoes beget a girly walk and before i know it i feel fantastic. like i actually am one of those polished women i see and marvel at from time to time.

when the kids arrive they're full of compliments, "miss, i like your boots, yeah your skirt is nice too,"...so sweet. it's one of the things they don't tell you about in teacher's college, they notice every detail of your being. i cant work a new ring into rotation without it being noticed. i remember the first time i wore open toed shoes with painted nails i had to publicly address it and have everyone have a look because they were so distracted by looking at my toes that my lesson was going nowhere. so today i caught them staring at my feet while they were at the carpet, some of them reaching out to touch them at one point.

so i'm feelin good, havin a good day, knocked eight items off my to do list and decide that i am going to reopen my lavalife profile and see what's out there.

not two minutes in, while checking a message i received from a guy in atlanta addressed "hello dear"..(groan) i get an instant message "hello" from a guy in mississauga. now instant messaging kind of freaks me out. i don't mind the chat it's just that ending the chat is very awkward and sometimes i'm not ready for the sudden diversions in direction they sometimes take.

so i tell myself i'll just make conversation. period. just breezy and non committal, what the chill crowd calls fun! so i dive in and after asking me what i am doing mr. romantico (his name, not mine) replies that he's just chillin followed by the letters "oic" for about four of my other responses in the conversation.

while the text messaging lingo is making my language loving soul cringe, i overlook it and try to focus on the message...except that the message "oh, i see" is not giving me much to hang my hat on.

just as i am composing something sweet yet definitive to free myself of the awkward situation he types "so do you want to get together for a coffee or dinner?"


so now i have to backspace my exit clause and think fast on my feet. i thank him for the offer but say that it may be a little too soon just yet....

he then asks a couple of questions about where i live in mississauga. clearly didn't read my profile.

i'm confused and stalling and then he asks if i have instant messenger and offers his address.

i'm clicking on his backstage pass to try to glean some more information about this kamakaze dater and before i know it, he's giving me his phone number!

i keep turning him down as gently as i can and am running out of diversionary tactics.

such a strange situation. most times i am waiting for a guy to make a move after drawn out get to know you random but safe questions and "lol"s and now i've got one who's ready to go, out of the gate. so complicated.

not sure what's worse, feeling a connection with someone who doesn't ask you out, or chatting with someone that isn't into knowing you, that does.

ah well, at least i tried.

damn boots are more powerful than i imagined!

Thursday, January 3, 2008


one of the things i love best about my job is the fact that it affords me regular opportunities to take a break every few months in the form of holidays.

the first few days are always about running errands and slowly winding down. then, once i've had some me time where i'm not accountable to anyone but my couch i get to make dates with friends who i keep in touch with but rarely see in person.

so important to invest time in friendships, create new memories rather than rehash old ones. luckily, at this stage of my life i have the kind of friendships that allow me to step in and pick up where i left off. good people are good people and are who they are despite what the years or circumstance have thrown their way.

remembered this year through visits with friends that there's a depth of strength and fun and inspiration in these people that i've not really turned to enough. too busy, too tired to drag my ass out of my hood and my routine sometimes to take advantage of it.

it's been great seeing how we're all trying to make our way in the world the best that we can and that everyone's just as unsure about it all as i am. there's comfort in our collective struggle to live our lives meaningfully.

hard to believe another year's upon us. i'll be 35 in march. scary. so foreign. still get it wrong when i'm asked how old i am, don't identify with the number that represents me and my journey so far. feel about 26. feel like there's still so much to learn and do and be and experience. thought i'd be further along that mental list than i am but don't know what i would've had to give up in exchange for a different path.

that said my resolution for the year is to try to get my feet a little bit dirtier by getting out into the world beyond my cozy world even when i'm tired. going to try to build upon what i have instead of what i feel i lack. going to try to face the age that scares me to death with a brave face instead of a defeated one. going to try.