Rita Hartley

/Rita Hartley

About Rita Hartley

Rita Hartley is an author living in London, Ontario Canada. Read the About page on her website for her full biography.

Desperately Seeking Justice

I’m a news junkie, possibly a tragedy junkie. I blame Mom. At a memorable dinner from eons ago, throughout which my two teenage – at the time – daughters sat on the bay window sill laughing hysterically, Mom gave me a questioning look. She’d been all over the map with conversation: insisting on things that were inaccurate, flitting from topic to topic.

“They’re laughing at you Mom,” I told her.

She didn’t skip a beat. “Well,” she said, “did you hear about that young girl with the flesh-eating disease? Gangrene started in her foot, then spread up her leg. I guess the pain was unbearable. Her skin turned black. And then she died.”

My daughters stopped laughing. And chewing, what had tasted delicious: Caesar salad, garlic bread, lasagna.

But this was my life growing up, with a mother tuned into news for its shock value. She was the first to inform me of 9/11, so I initially down-played it. It didn’t take long to realize she’d nailed the historical significance of that one.

And here I am: she’s long gone and I’ve grown an extra appendage called an iPhone, which shocks me by the second with news notifications. I guess I could turn off the notifications? But I want to know! I need to know!

Do I? I reflected on this the other morning, driving home from teaching a Jazzercise class. I’d just been informed of another meth death. It was the second friend to have lost a person to the drug in a couple weeks. I hear you try meth once? You just want to replicate that amazing high, but it forever eludes you. I mentioned this to a gf and she said, yeah, well, people can feel that way about alcohol too. Truth!

I recently read this article from the UK called “Will ditching booze make you happier?” Veronica Valli put it in this unique way: “The red flag is that if you think about drinking more than you think about sandwiches. How often do most people typically think about sandwiches? Twice a week? Three or four times? Never?”

I like Pinot Grigio and sandwiches, sometimes together, but I rarely think about either one. A good sign, I suppose.

With all the chaos and injustice in the world, one can certainly appreciate another person wanting to check out of it all by trying to check into a state of euphoria. Longevity may not be in the cards, but who’s to say living a long life is the goal? It’s my goal, but maybe it’s not for everyone? Although each person should have that option, right? Hence the Pewtin in me wanting to obliterate the actual Pewtin, stat!

The radio channel I had on, CBC 93.5 FM, was doing a talk segment. An interview with a Black male music artist, talking about significant Black songs, like “Strange Fruit”, first recorded by Billie Holiday and “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye. Songs of injustice. The interview ended and I quickly switched the channel to CNN, for a war update, but instead got comedy! They were talking about the White House Correspondents dinner, which name-sounds-like Striden attended. Did you notice that Grump never attended? Have you noticed that people who can’t laugh at themselves can’t be trusted? It’s kind of like when a dog doesn’t cozy up to a human. It’s a warning.

Anyhoo, I thought, Rita, why are you always listening to news and talk? It’s a beautiful spring day! I pressed SiriusXM channel 359, North Americana, and Blue Rodeo immediately lifted my mood. I sang along. “Trust yourself. And don’t believe in anymore lies.” Ah lies! I can’t handle lies, misinformation, disinformation! Although in later years my father coined this phrase – “Truth is a luxury a liar cannot afford” – I blame Dad for making me a truth junkie. 

Singing made me notice spring. Ah. A brilliant yellow shrub. Forsythia! In bloom.

The war? It’s far away. Over there. Aside from donations, what can I do? It’s the injustice that plagues me, drags me down. I expect Lady Justice to take care of things, punish evil, reward good. Like in kids movies. But no one ever said life was fair, and witnessing what’s happening? Lady Justice is either in a coma or taking a ridiculously long nap. 

It doesn’t take a lotta digging to determine that Pewtin has jailed and killed enemies, with impunity, since coming to power on December 31, 1999. Yeah, that’s right. Y2K? A nothing burger. But, the KGB Pewtin factor? It’s taken us 22 long years of atrocities to realize that the turn of the century was gonna suck.

Meanwhile, Grump is still out there, talking, endorsing, despite his numerous and obvious illegal hijinks. And then? Upsetting, but not surprising, news recently leaked out of the Supreme Court. Don’t you love how Justice Roberts made the leak the thing, but this is justice, either asleep-at-the-wheel or held hostage by angry white men. Women’s abortion rights in the US are likely toast. George Carlin has a great riff on conservatives and abortion on YouTube, you should check it out. “Boy these conservatives are really something, aren’t they? They’re all in favour of the unborn. They will do anything for the unborn. But once you’re born? (holds up middle finger) You’re on your own.”

No one ever said life was fair. Justice? Hard to come by. Let it go, Rits. You’re in your car, music playing, on a sunny spring morning. I saw a man on the sidewalk, walking toward me, his great long greyish-white beard blowing wild in the wind. No judgement Rits. Your bro sports a long beard. But as I passed him he started screaming, loud and angry. His face glowed as red as the tulips I’d just seen at Sunripe. His arms flailed. I studied him in my side mirror, thinking that he probably carried his whole life in all those bags. What made him so agitated? Meth? Alcohol? Mental health? Injustice?

I told my husband B about it – the changing of the channel, the gift of song leading to the observation of spring in bloom, the jolt of the homeless man’s shouting – when I got home. I placed tulips in a white vase and prepared to tuck in to the hearty omelette he had ready for me. B had soft music playing; he doesn’t care for news. “I was reading something about that the other day,” he said. “Too much news. We’re addicted to suffering.”

Website photo: Lady Justice, held down by angry white men, pulled from Twitter, source unavailable.

Desperately Seeking Justice 2022-05-05T16:11:56-04:00

Flowers Trampled Underfoot

What is every living thing if not a delicate flower: springing forth, growing, blossoming, fading away? “I think we’re all flowers,” my brother-in-law, who lost his dad to cancer, once said. Then he helplessly shrugged his shoulders about the various blooms lasting varying lengths of time. It was probably in response to my pissed-offness about my late husband, Hugh, suddenly dropping dead all those years ago at the relatively young age of 46.

A tender floral image came to me recently in a dream. I was bold enough to tell Cher I was dropping by and I didn’t even tell her what time. When I got there I was impressed by her spacious home and surprised that it was in earthtones not jeweltones. She handed me a frosty orange drink in a long-stemmed glass, decorated with an enormous pale pink flower, similar to a hydrangea.

In waking life, I follow Cher on Twitter. She’s outspoken; she cracks me up. And, as you may expect, she is liberal in her use of emojis. Also? She has potty mouth. Her most recent tweet:

“TEXAS ITS FKNG HISTORY”, along with an image of the book White Bird by R. J. Palacio. A parent felt that this graphic novel – “about a Jewish teen living in France after Nazis seized power – should be banned because it’s ‘biased’ and could lead to the ‘skewing of a young child’s mind’.” Wow.

In 1597, Sir Francis Bacon wrote, “knowledge itself is power”, but what if knowledge is summarily rejected? Or deemed “fake”? What actual “knowledge” should we gobble up to gain this “power”?

Knowledge is scattershot, yes? I want to blame social media. Truth is hard to unearth. What are your sources? Are they reliable? And also, the rise of effusively-lying leaders like Pewtin and name-sounds-like Stump leaves truth as tattered as a rope toy in the rabid mouth of a Pit Bull. But historian Yuval Noah Harari deftly points out in 21 Lessons for the 21stCentury that there’s never been a “halcyon age of truth”. Humans thrive on stories and rely on fictions to function. “We are the only mammals that can cooperate with numerous strangers,” writes Harari, “because only we can invent fictional stories, spread them around, and convince millions of others to believe in them.”

Lest you be tempted to believe the Russian response to atrocities currently being uncovered in Bucha, Ukraine – “Moscow says the images are fabricated,” The Washington Post – consider how Russia overtook Crimea in 2014. “The Russian government and President Putin in person repeatedly denied that these were Russian troops,” writes Harari, “describing them instead as spontaneous ‘self-defense groups’ that may have acquired Russian-looking equipment from local shops.”

The higher truth – the one that makes Pewtin’s lies acceptable – for Russian nationalists? The preservation of the sacred Russian nation. Despite the fact that Kyiv and Moscow were only part of the same country for 300 of the last thousand years, a chilling recent Russian opinion piece translated by Chris Brown for CBC News claims, “The idea of Ukrainian culture and identity is fake.” (Are you as weary of that word “fake” as I am?) The writer of the piece, Timofei Sergeitsev, “claims the word ‘Ukraine’ itself is synonymous with Nazism and cannot be allowed to exist.”

You understand what Sergeitsev is laying down here, right? Genocide. Humans know well the horror of the Holocaust. Then Mao Tse-tung’s Cultural Revolution. Then the Killing Fields in Cambodia. Then Bosnia and Herzegovinia – the Srebrenica genocide of July 1995 in which more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were massacred. Rwanda. Darfur, ongoing. And now Ukraine. We may know, but do we learn?

“Alas, even if it remains impossible to wage successful wars in the twenty-first century, that would not give us an absolute guarantee of peace,” writes Harari. “We should never underestimate human stupidity.”

Roger Cohen, Paris bureau chief for The New York Times, puts it this way: “Peace, in terms of the sweep of history, is an exceptional state. It’s an unusual state and it takes great effort to preserve it.”

“All we are saying is give peace a chance,” John Lennon sang so eloquently, before his beautiful flower was blown to smithereens.

Cohen points out that prior to the killing in the Bosnian War, these people were neighbours, friends. Indeed, I recall a Serbian named Davor escaping the violence by dealing Black Jack on a cruise in the 90’s. His face was stricken white as he told Hugh and I how shocking it was that one day they were friends and the next? They were pointing guns at one another. “All it takes,” says Cohen, “is for a leader to designate those former neighbours as your enemy and for somebody to start shooting. The virus of hatred is always there, just beneath the surface.”

Because name-sounds-like Striden labelled Pewtin a war criminal, Cohen was on The Daily podcast to discuss the long and winding road to holding war criminals to account. “Those bodies lying in Bucha,” he says, “they had families, right? They had kids. Some justice being brought, even if it’s ten years down the road, that will be meaningful.”

Website Photo: A Rita Hartley painting, of the Ukrainian flower, recently given to my aunt for her birthday.

Flowers Trampled Underfoot 2022-04-18T16:02:48-04:00

Duck and Cover

Did you take things literally as a child? Pretty naïve over here. I recall the giant ’62 pale blue Olds floating down the road: Dad driving, Mom riding shotgun – but we didn’t call it that back then. It was the read-the-map, or more accurately misread-the-map-and-get-in-trouble, spot. Why would anyone want to sit there? As my older brother and I did gymnastics in the humongous back seat, I overheard the parents talking about a billboard we’d just passed.

“That’s misleading advertising!” Mom declared.

But this is what I heard: a teacher, named Miss Leading, was advertising something. I wanted to know what. The parents couldn’t really explain it.

The Iron Curtain was another one. “Mom. What’s an Iron Curtain?” Of course, I pictured an enormously heavy, grey curtain made of iron. How would it be held up and who would want such a thing?

Somehow Mom actually got this one through to me. It had to do with politics, she explained. The ears disengaged at that word, “politics”, but I did hear this: west is best! Communism sounded cold and dark, whereas I knew democracy to be warm and light.

Now, as I study up on the Iron Curtain, I see that it was much larger than I pictured as a child, a full 7,000-kilometres worth of fences, walls, minefields and watchtowers that divided the “east” and “west”. Perhaps, to keep it to something I could understand, Mom pretty much equated it with the Berlin Wall dividing East and West Germany. It made me immensely sad thinking about people from the same country, the same city even – Berlin – being kept apart by this ugly concrete wall with barbed wire on top of it. I did not like the Iron Curtain and, although I was run ragged with my three young kids when the wall fell on November 9, 1989, I did take the time to breathe a life-long sigh of relief. Thanks to peaceful protests by East Berliners, known as the “Monday Demonstrations” that eventually swelled to number half a million people, dreaded threats from my childhood – “Cold War”, “A-bomb”, “Nuclear War” – became obsolete. Phew.

And, you know, like so many things from childhood it’s hard to pinpoint the specific moment that threat was born. After a recent book club discussion about Pewtin’s Pewtrid War, one of our members pulled up an old black and white video of Duck and Cover drills, with a cartoon Bert the Turtle. Oh, this feels pretty familiar; for sure we saw and practiced this in elementary school. Bert’s a smart turtle, and he knows to just get into his shell at the first sign of threat. As we’re not turtles, we can use our desks. (Sadly, these have a similar feel to current day active shooter drills in the US.) It’s all friendly and light; prepare, but don’t scare.

There were movies too, like Atomic Attack(1954), starring Walter Mathieu, about a family trying to flee the fallout of an atomic bomb that falls on NYC. Something like that was probably playing on the old RCA Victor in the corner of the living room one night when I couldn’t sleep, crept down, caught a few horrific images, sounds.

And some people back in the day, like my uncle in New Brunswick, had fallout shelters. I knew that “fallout” had something to do with the “A-bomb”, but I never saw that space being used for anything but parties: the adults played Country and Western LPs, danced the 1, 1-2 step with each other and drank bitter drinks. Mom gave me a sip of her Schooner beer one night. Disgusting! And the more they drank? The louder the talk and laughter.

Born in the late 50s, I’ve enjoyed all the benefits of being a Boomer: a stable middle class environment, access to education and health care. While nuclear often loomed large in the imagination, as you know it never became a reality; I’ve enjoyed a lifetime of peace.

My father, a sensitive soul like me, was not so lucky. Conscripted to serve in WWII, he, his brother (fallout shelter owner) and a cousin made a pact not to fight, were labelled “zombies”, and therefore did a lot of KP duty. Still, Dad was on the 3rd Canadian Division tasked with liberating Amersfoort, a concentration camp in the Netherlands, so he no doubt saw unpleasant things. Things he never talked about, as was expected of a man at that time.

And now, our social media feeds and televisions have erupted with unpleasant things. Ukraine: bombed, blasted and bloodied. Geopolitical analyst Ian Bremmer says we’ve abruptly moved into a post-post-Cold War period. More significantly, he calls it the end of the “peace dividend”, defined as “a sum of public money which becomes available for other purposes when spending on defense is reduced”. At a time when global cooperation and funding is needed, more than ever, to tackle critical climate change issues? Global stability has been disrupted and spending on military will be increased.

Do you feel sad? Sick? Horrified? Helpless? Besides being shocked and worried, we can resort to donations, of money and needed items, but it sure doesn’t feel like enough.

I watched name-sounds-like Hero-ensky via video link addressing US Congress, and while I’m continuously struck by his courage and resolve, I’m also impressed by how he tailors each request to the country he’s speaking to. Recall Pearl Harbor, recall 9/11; attacks from the sky, as he begs for a no-fly zone. “I have a dream”, became “I have a need”. He followed up his requests with a heart-wrenching video contrasting scenes of Ukrainian’s major cities prior to February 24th, to the current ones of the Russian invasion. It’s graphic. If you have a heart, you cannot watch this video without sobbing.

A 7-year-old Ukrainian boy pointed out this pointlessness to his mom as they took a brief hiatus from sheltering in their basement to wander around town. The boy rambled in an impassioned way about the damage, the fact that he (Pewtin) might get their land, but it would be totally destroyed. Why would he want a ruined country?!

If a 7-year-old, under duck and cover in his basement, gets this, why can’t a 69-year-old, no doubt under duck and cover in his bunker right now, get this?

Website photo: Bert the Turtle practising Duck and Cover.

 

 

Duck and Cover 2022-03-16T11:05:53-04:00

We Had Us a Convoy

“‘Cause we got a little ol’ convoy
Rockin’ through the night
Yeah, we got a little ol’ convoy
Ain’t she a beautiful sight?”
“Convoy” by C. W. McCall

Not “little ol’”, big ol’! A “beautiful sight”? A matter of personal preference. And it certainly was “rockin’ through” a lotta nights in Ottawa, our nation’s capital.

How did you feel about it? It seems many a Canadian maple leaf-shaped heart swelled with national pride. Maybe you agree with my MP from Lambton-Kent-Middlesex, Lianne Rood, CPC, who said, while debating the Emergencies Act in the House, “It was like a Canada Day times a thousand.”

Oh man. Guys. Sorry. I’ve been struggling to see this from both sides now, but despite pandemic fatigue? My values tell me that regaining certain personal rights by removing those of others – the residents of Ottawa, a city used to protests, so complaints valid – is absolutely NOT the way to get your point across.

People counter, well, guy whose name rhymes with Boudreau should have met with them, listened to their concerns. I counter: Who would he have met with? The alleged organizers of this movement rolled loudly into town with a Memorandum of Understanding pledging to bring down the federal government. They walked this back, acknowledged that this document created some misunderstanding. Although some of these organizers mistakenly (and humourously) cited the US Constitution, pleading 1st Amendment rights, freedom of speech, while in court discussing bail, according to an article in The Conversation, “They ‘clarified’ that the spirit of the document was to bring ‘the government of Canada and all Canadian citizens into agreement; that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms should be upheld for all.’”

Freedom is not absolute though, right? With freedom comes responsibility? So much talk of freedom, it was called the “Freedom Convoy” after all, and protesters often yelled, “Freedom!” (And every time? I couldn’t help it, I heard and pictured QAnon Shaman from Jan 6.)

The legal test for Sec. 1 in our Charter was set by the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v Oakes, “In each case courts will be required to balance the interests of society with those of individuals and groups.”

Which brings us back around to the purpose of the protests (besides opposition to the sorta rhymes with Rondeau Liberal government), opposition to Covid-19 mandates. We are getting close to what we’d call freedom there, yes? Too soon for some, way too slow for others?

After a (heated at times) discussion with a cousin on the enactment of the Emergencies Act, I’m thinking perhaps the experience of our personal realities has a lot to do with trust. Don’t have it? For government, mainstream “lamestream fake news” (so-labeled by the former President, name rhymes with Chump) media, public health officials and so on, then just do your own research. Everyone has access to the internet. My cousin cited recent studies by WHO that showed inefficacy of Covid-19 vaccines and I would quote them here, but try as I might, I can’t find them.

When I got my booster, I shyly admitted to the woman administering it that I didn’t quite understand about the immune system response and the possibility of too many antibodies with the spike protein. She patted my arm, said, “You don’t need to know that dear,” plunged the needle and that was that. (Blind) trust (upraised-arms emoji)?

Hesitancy about this particular vaccine is warranted. I do know people who’ve experienced adverse reactions: Bell’s Palsy, myocarditis, severe menstrual cycle issues (recognized now, but previously unknown due to the swiftness with which the vaccine was rolled out.)

Many people bring up that rush, the lack of long-term data on Covid-19 vaccines. Did you know the polio shot was rushed too? American parents offered up more than 1.8 million children (doubtful this would happen today) to test the polio vaccine in 1954. It was just one year later that, with great relief, my aunt Mildred and parents went together, rolled up their sleeves for it.

The emergence of Omicron has made this one start to feel more like a flu shot though, hasn’t it? So comparing it to polio? Apples to oranges?

The night police retook Ottawa I should have felt great, but I tossed and turned, weirdly wishing I still had my mommy to talk to. Images from Ottawa’s streets haunted me, mostly the flags, some hate-filled, but the precious maple leaf: upside down (distress), written on, plunked into swear words. My polite little Canadian identity? Shredded.

It turns out trucks are a super-effective way to protest. Crowds in Ottawa were estimated at only 5,000-18,000, whereas huge climate marches, minus big rigs, in September 2019 were 500,000 in Montreal and 120,000 in Vancouver. And Canada is now the origin of a worldwide movement! So many people, onboard with these convoys. Is there something wrong with me?

Due to varying opinions swirling around, I’d pretty much exiled myself lest I upset someone with my negativity toward protesters. This quote, by that former President again, name rhymes with Bump, came to mind: “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”

I wrote my MP, in an effort to procure a common reality. I suggested that, due to the triggering nature of pandemic mandates, let’s pick a different topic. Recall that in the spring of 2019, a zoo moved into Grand Bend, onto a property that was previously a zoo, but had been rezoned residential. Council quickly passed an exotic animal by-law, but it took almost a year to have a superior court rule that the animals must be removed.

I used to hold a Canada Day Jazzercise fitness and charity event at the Observation Deck on the main beach in Grand Bend. I spun a tale about “what if”? What if I got my permit, but I’d had it with these lions and tigers, feared they’d escape, could no longer enjoy my property, could not listen to them roaring one more night. I wanted my freedom back, dammit!

So, I mobilized on social media, gathered up a bunch of people with big trucks, got a GoFundMe started (there are lots of people afraid of lions and tigers!) and we roared (pun intended) down main street in Grand Bend on Canada Day morning, parking rigs along both sides of the street, around the circle in front of the Observation Deck and down the road to the pier. Sorry to disrupt the live music and fireworks, but our DJ rocks. Oh, and since we planned to stay a while, we set up a staging area on that vacant lot up on Ontario Street, with food, fuel, diapers, etc. If only the mayor would hurry up and get those lions and tigers out of town . . .

Perhaps this recent quote from BC Premier John Horgan applies: “We can agree to disagree, but we should not be disagreeable.”

Full Disclosure: My new habit of “name rhymes with” comes from Amy Schumer. She used it, to good effect, in The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, and it cracks me up every time (sideways- laughing-with-tears emoji).

We Had Us a Convoy 2022-02-23T10:17:17-05:00

Love and Language

As a speaker of the English language, do you think your experience of love is limited by vocabulary? We employ just one sweet four-letter word to describe all forms of it: L-O-V-E.

The Greeks have many and I’ve written about them on the blog before:
*Eros: sexual passion
*Philia: deep friendship
*Ludus: playful love
*Agape: love for everyone
*Pragma: long-standing love
*Philautia: love of self
*Storge: familial love
*Mania: obsessive love

As a love-obsessed teenager (mania anyone?), I wrote a well-received [at the time, by my family (storge) and teacher (agape)]poem entitled “Love”. Here’s a small excerpt:

“It’s beautiful and strong
and you want it longer
but it goes”

I was thirteen. My cigarette-smoking bad-boy had left me, probably for a girl who had breasts. What on earth did I know about love?

I guess knew what I saw on TV, heard in songs, and read in books. The word made me blush; I thought love was romance. I thought love was something that went together with “marriage” and a “horse and carriage”. I thought love was something I lacked. Society was subliminally telling me I needed to get out there and find it! Stat!

Okay. Lest you think my parents withheld love, I’ll explain. They were, let’s say, from the British Isles’ stiffer-upper-lip society. My mom was heaps friendlier than my dad – and certainly way more hug-gy as she got older – but they didn’t go fawning over each other, or us. It wasn’t like, lovey-dovey all the time. It was more likey-likey. I felt safe and secure. I belonged.

Although I know it now as love, I wouldn’t have called my family experience “love” back then, which is a shame. I wish there was a special English word for it, something fun, like . . . “famjam” perhaps? That’s what my famjam calls our group text thread. I feel all warm and fuzzy just typing it. Famjam. Yeah. Those are my closest peeps, the ones I’d do anything for. We’ve got the strongest bond; don’t go trying to mess with it!

So, I obviously misspoke – or miswrote – in my “Love” poem, when I said “it goes”. Sure, “puppy love” comes and goes (don’t bother talking to a teenager about puppy love, they can’t hear you), but true love, of all the varieties the Greeks identified? True love is persistent, resistant, and abundant. To exist is to love, yes? In our chests beat small suns capable of radiating infinite warmth, joy and love to every other human being – and creation – we encounter.

I love (ludus) what Michael A. Singer writes in The Untethered Soul about the sun. He makes the observation that the sun doesn’t shine differently on this person or that, this tree or that. It shines equally on all. Surely we can, and should, too?

What stops us? Well, I wrote about that recently in Cruella and Me. That voice inside your head – call it Beast, Cruella, or say Judgy-McJudge (what a good friend says one of her kids calls her when she expresses a strong opinion) – is always chirping. I like this. I don’t like that. Why did he say this? Why did she do that? The more salacious the better. The human mind loves (mania? philautia?) drama, huh?

And there’s so much of it to be found out there right now. The divide. It grows, over so many issues. Climate. Pandemic response. Politics. To cancel or not to cancel? That is the question. Ha. Are there too many people of various backgrounds with too many needs and desires? Or did we just stop loving, preferring to just go with fear? Our negativity bias does prefer fear.

When I’m feeling fearful, these great lyrics from Van Morrison come to mind:

I forgot that love existed, trouble in my mind
Heartache after heartache, worried all the time
I forgot that love existed
Then I saw the light
Everyone around me made everything alright

What’s that you say? You’ve canceled Van the Man? Why? He’s an a-hole? My husband B says that’s how he comes across in biographies on him. Or was it because of his views on the pandemic, which some consider problematic, like those of Eric Clapton?

Michael Schur, (The Good Place, The Office, Parks and Recreation and author of How to Be Perfect) has a cool take on cancel culture. I think we’d all agree that Schur’s comedy in the above shows has made us laugh, lightened our moods on dark days, yet who was his greatest comedic influence? Woody Allen. I know. Yikes! But Schur argues, how does he throw everything Woody Allen away? You end up having to hold two things to be true. Allen’s comedy kicks butt. His bad behaviour kicks butt too, but in a most reprehensible way!

If you’ve followed my blog, you know there’s a certain former politician (name rhymes with rump) who’s bad behaviour I abhor. But if I dig deep, even I can see a positive in his political existence. He made so many people interested in and passionate about politics. Even me! I have a much better handle on my beliefs, and it’s a crucial time, globally, to be engaged. He made politics salacious, which, see above, the mind loves.

I struggle with extreme anger in politics, though. And disrespect. I know people are upset with a certain Canadian leader right now (name rhymes roughly with Cousteau) but do we have to wave flags with the “F” word on them? Do these flag-wavers really want to make love to him? Do they know there are young children out there who can read? Or has the time finally come, due to overuse, that the impact of the word has been diminished? (My first mother-in-law would make them destroy that flag, then wash their mouths out with soap!)

But politics was never, nor has it ever been, about love. It’s about power. Plato pointed out the quandary of leadership over 2,300 years ago in the Allegory of the Cave. Those who seek office do it to assuage the ego, so they tend to exploit power. Those who would be good leaders often fail to seek leadership due to the lack of ego driving them.

Positive change happens from the ground up. The people. Us, with all these bright and shining suns pulsing in our chests. Communities, pulling together. Agape. Love for all.

 

 

Love and Language 2022-02-09T13:12:09-05:00

Cruella and Me

Who is your roomie? And no. I don’t mean a person you happen to live with, someone like, outside of your actual body. I mean that awful b*tch who has lived rent-free inside your head since the day you were born.

My eight-year-old granddaughter calls hers “Beast”. One night a while back when she was having trouble sleeping she confessed to her mom: “There’s a voice inside my head and it’s saying bad things.” Then she hesitated, feeling guilty. “I think it’s saying the ‘h’ word.” Hate. The ‘h’ word is hate. How precious is that?

Her mom, my daughter, Jetanne – who’s very spiritual – laughed and explained to her how there is the you in there, which you could call your soul, and then there’s this other voice that pops up, which you could call your ego. Because it’s needy and over-protective, it tends to say unhelpful, negative things. She suggested giving it a name, telling it to take a hike. “Go away Beast!” they said.

Invaluable information to have as a child, yes? If I’d known this way back when, maybe I could have evicted my beast by now? Or had it partially tamed at least?

Cruella. My roomie’s Cruella. Because she’s cruel. Evil. And like my granddaughter’s Beast, she’s exceptionally chirpy at bedtime. The other night, when I couldn’t sleep:

Cruella: You can’t get to sleep because you’re hungry. Those salty, crunchy, wavy kettle chips are down there.

Me: I am not hungry.

Cruella: But you love those chips.

Me: I do love those chips. So salty, crunchy, satisfying.

Cruella: You had a long walk today. Go for it! You’ve earned them.

Me: No. They’re inflammatory. Fattening.

Cruella: YOLO!

Me: Shut up, Cruella!

Cruella (because she knows how hard I’m working on enlightenment): See. Look at you! Telling me to “shut up”. You expect to achieve enlightenment talking like that? You actually think that you, of all people, will be able to fully embrace this “pure consciousness inside a human form” thing from that book, The Untethered Soul? You’ll always be afraid of death and that you will have been nothing. Zwhipp! (a sound Cruella must have channeled from my mom) Gone!

Me: Let’s not talk about death right now. I’m trying to sleep.

Cruella: Sleep?! While death exists! It’s always going to be out there, you know, waiting for you.

Me (grasping for whatever morsel of enlightenment I can): Waiting for me? No. It’s waiting for you, Cruella. My soul? Will survive! And besides, I’m perfectly fine right now. I’ve got these soft cotton sheets. A warm home. Everything is ok.

Cruella: Everything is certainly NOT ok! Have you seen the news lately?! You think someone is going to just snap their fingers, end this pandemic? And what about climate change? Is anyone even doing anything about it? And racial injustice! What about that article you read on that Uyghur woman in China, who has a memoir coming out? How I Survived a Chinese “Reeducation” Camp. How she was tortured, kept in horrifying conditions, lights on 24/7, made to confess to things that weren’t true?

Me (groaning softly, so as not to wake my husband B): Let’s face it, Cruella. There will always be evil in the world. I mean, look at you. Lol.

Cruella: Not funny.

We sleep, briefly, and the moment we wake up, she’s right back at it.

Cruella: Ok. So the author of this soul book, Singer, says, “No matter what it is, let it go. The bigger it is, the higher the reward of letting go and the worse the fall if you don’t.” What if something happens to one of your loved ones? You telling me you just gonna “let it go”? I mean, c’mon sista.

Oh man. She’s got a point there. As we embark on Year Friggin Three of this damn pandemic, IT’s no longer, for me and my loved ones, a distant threat, a thing out there. Both of my kids in BC had IT over the Xmas season and one of them is still suffering from some post-Covid symptoms: brain fog, trouble sleeping. And just because there’s Covid? Doesn’t mean other health issues have gone away. Jetanne called recently because she thought her nine-year-old daughter had appendicitis. Turned out to be a kidney infection, she’s on some powerful antibiotics and is doing great (“let it go”!). Then? Jetanne came down with a fever, body aches and, after a negative rapid Covid test? Got one that said, Bingo! Positive.

A positive in this case is truly a negative. The family is isolating and B and I are laying low too, as we were exposed. It’s weird, huh? Knowing you were exposed to IT? Your roomie is thrilled at the chance to crank it up. “Oh, what about that tightness in your chest? What about that feeling in your stomach? Oh, you’re so hot. Is that a fever setting in?”

I say, “No, Cruella. Just a hot flash.”

This is all a good reminder that life is constant change and sometimes there are challenging seasons. That’s why I picked up the soul book, to calm myself, get a different perspective, continue to work toward spiritual growth.

Sometimes Cruella’s voice does sound like Mom’s. This phrase has been on repeat: “Is there ever any good news?” But! Although Mom had a super-loud rambunctious extreme roomie prone to hyperbole? When Dad was struggling with alcoholism, the “Serenity Prayer” often helped her drown out the roar of the beast:

God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And Wisdom to know the difference.

Take that, Cruella!

 

 

Cruella and Me 2022-01-25T15:26:35-05:00

The Gold Inside

From the moment of birth we reach, arms wide, fingers opening, closing, for something out there: Mama’s smile, scent, breast, embrace.

We get older and continue to reach, for our phone, a chocolate, a drink, retail therapy perhaps. A hit. Some dopamine, please.

Another year passes, we reflect on our choices. Good? Bad? Indifferent?

The outside world is always indifferent. I read somewhere that the Universe is ambivalent and I believe it to be true. Does Omicron (throughout the holidays I called it Grinchicron) give one whit that we’re fed up with the pandemic? No.

Here I sit, another January, and if I wasn’t locked down by a pandemic, I’d be locked down by snow and ice. A flash freeze has sidewalks and trails slick and dangerous for walking on. I watch snow fall in great white chunks, hesitant, drifting sideways, up, then down, dancing and whirling, like teenagers flirting. I’m here, no here, no over here. Come catch me if you can. Multiple tales of young love. Gentle. Sweet. Coy. Silent.

If it could give voice to its feelings, the snow, what would it say? Nature is abundant. Resilient. Look at how many of us – each a unique and sparkling creation – exist? In unison. No complaints. We fall, like magic. We endure. We fall, only to melt at the next warming. Only to be trampled underfoot. To be shoveled, scraped off, tossed aside. To be scoffed at, complained about. Do we care? We fall anyway. Why? Why not?

The conditions were/are right for us snowflakes to come about. I heard this in a meditation. About patience. Acceptance. People are the way they are, certain conditions exist, there is no use fighting against such things. One may not be able to control people or events, out there, but one can exert “influence”. You change your attitude, your approach; you speak, act in certain ways, control yourself, you notice later, perhaps, that conditions around you are altered. Patience, my dear.

Instead of reaching out? Ah. What would the great golden Buddha say? “The way is not in the sky; the way is in the heart.”

And also this, from Indigenous knowledge keeper Chief Darrell Bob of the St’at’imic Nation: “The longest journey we will ever make as human beings is the journey from the mind to the heart.” It may be the “longest journey”, but it’s an important one, wouldn’t you say? For the heart is so much smarter than the mind, yes?

The incredible – and wise – singer/songwriter Jewel laments on this in her must-listen-to podcast with Joe Rogan from October, 2021. Okay. I know it’s a looong one at three hours and forty minutes, but you will be so much wiser, and I daresay more compassionate – at the very least a more grateful human – for having taken the time to listen.

Jewel talks about the “allegory of the golden statue” coming to mind while processing the fact that her mother, as her manager for the previous decade, stole more money from her than most will see in their lifetime. Not only was she deceived, her mother offered up no apologies, just vanished.

This “golden statue”, of which I’d never heard, gifted me with synchronicity, which is always cool. I heard about it from Jewel on the weekend then, just after writing about it? Author (Trusting the Gold: Uncovering Your Natural Goodness) and clinical psychologist Tara Brach brought it up on a Ten Percent Happier podcast I was listening to!

There are various versions of the tale, but basically it’s about a pure gold statue of the Buddha believed to have been built around 1403. In 1757 the Burmese Army was invading Thailand and, because they were known to steal gold artifacts and melt them down, monks covered the statue with plaster and inlaid it with bits of coloured glass. The golden statue remained thus concealed until 1957 (which also happened to coincide with the 2500thanniversary of Buddhism) when a monastery was being moved. Either a crack, or rains, revealed the golden light emanating from within the clay.

Comparing our origin to the golden Buddha, Jewel says, “What if it’s that a soul, or your nature, or whatever you want to call it, isn’t like a chair or a cup that can be broken? What if it exists perfectly at all times, like a quantum thing? You can’t break it. And so, what if I just have to do a really loving archaeological dig back to my true nature?”

What stops us from reaching in more than out? Pain? Fear? Shame? Does it feel safer out there than in here?

Sitting with hard things, “demons”, is challenging, scary, but it is the first step in that long journey from brain to heart. Ah, this is what that pain, fear, shame feel like in my body. Give them time and space to reveal themselves, then say, “See ya later, bye.”

And if, no when – perhaps you have already? – you uncover that golden soul the outside world buried, splattered with plaster, and you can finally let it shine? How free, joyous and real will you feel?

This is me! I was here all along. I’m eternally golden. The world, other people, can try to break me, but it’s impossible. I am everlasting, of more value than can be quantified. As recent Kennedy Center Honoree Joni Mitchell sang years ago in her song “Woodstock”, “We are golden.”

 

 

The Gold Inside 2022-01-11T12:06:13-05:00

The Beginning’s End

In a dream I heard a voice saying “fear not, come rejoice
It’s the end of the beginning, praise the new born king”
“Christmas Must Be Tonight” by The Band

This is one of my favourite Christmas songs and when I hear it? I drive my husband B crazy by singing, over and over, “How a little baby boy brought the people so much joy”! So much joy, in a baby boy, and in the Christmas season.

It’s interesting that Robbie Robertson chose the above words to describe this season of rebirth: “the end of the beginning”. A riddle, a play on words, perhaps? For what else can occur at the beginning’s end, but another beginning? As American novelist Louis L’Amour once wrote, “There will come a time when you believe everything is finished; that will be the beginning.”

As a child, on Christmas Eve, did you not just plead for the dang night to be finished? The anticipation was unbearable; you did not know the anticipation was the point.

Remarkably, my favourite Santa gift came by rocketship not sleigh. It was 1965, I was 7. The space race was on and there’d been no snow so far for Santa’s sleigh to work properly. Adults in varying stages of drunkenness, some of them smelling exotically of cigarette smoke – my parents did not smoke and I did not know yet I was allergic to it – took turns coming into my room to settle me down, give my parents a break. Pulling aside my ballerina curtains, they’d peer out my window to spin fantastic stories of Santa’s rocketship being on the way: “Oh, there! I think I see it way off! Lights in the sky! Lay quiet. Listen.”

I was afraid to look myself; he’d see me, not come. Far too excited to do my normal kid-mind-trickery to get to sleep – picking a word, like say “bay”, then perusing the entire alphabet to see how many words rhymed with it – I lay there vibrating, eyes twitching, ears trying to drown out Hank Snow on the Hi-Fi: “I wonder where you are tonight.” I pictured the adults out there in the living room, all dressed up, spinning around – one, one-two – like the way my dad taught me to dance, standing on his shoes, one hand holding his hand, the other holding his pocket. Why can’t I stay up later? And where, exactly, is Santa tonight?

I slept, eventually, and, like every child on Christmas morning, at the first sign of daybreak – or perhaps the first sound of a sibling – I raced from my bed. Down the hall with my brother to see, shining, glowing under the tree: a golden piano?! For me? How on earth could Santa know I wanted a gold piano when I didn’t even know myself? It was truly magic of the highest order.

No natural musical talent here, though. I wasn’t like Springsteen in “Thunder Road”: “Well I got this guitar (gold piano), and I learned how to make it talk.” Squawk maybe? Or, to put it more succinctly: plink. Plink, plink, plink. But she was a beaut, that golden goddess, and she stayed around long after losing her legs, and I’d slouch over her, like Schroeder on Peanuts, pretending.

Pretending, like childhood, can end. Hormones turned me into a serious, sullen teenager, distantly observing Christmas through the eyes of my much younger sister. Tolerating family moments to get to the moments that mattered: time with friends, listening to hard rock, talking our talk.

My own early parental years were a frantic blur of activity and lists: decorations, gifts, groceries, Xmas cards, all while working full time. I wondered: Where is the time for wonder?

And now that I’m older, with less actual time ahead, ironically, I feel I have more time, for time, for wonder. Slowly hauling out decorations and placing them with care, painting a hairy beast and turning it into a Xmas card, spending an entire afternoon Xmas shopping with B even though there really aren’t that many on the list anymore.

The end of the beginning? The beginning of the end?

The omniscient eye of Santa is now the omniscient eye of the Creator. Year after year, laying a dying season to rest, making way for something new.

But, as time diminishes, who needs an entire year for renewal? Twenty-four hours could be enough?

Here’s my journal entry from December 1st: December is here, with all its madness, its hyper-active energy, its fun. There is a beautiful orange bruise on the eastern horizon this morning. Day! It’s happening again! Something to be joyful for, yes? Another day.

Another day. Another year. Savour the season, every sparkling moment of it.

 

 

The Beginning’s End 2021-12-09T12:47:53-05:00

Hello It’s Me

I’m sweating on the morning stage, flooded by brilliant November sunshine, teaching Jazzercise. At the 23-minute mark of a 60-minute set, I feel a vibration on my left wrist. It’s Fitbit, telling me a call is coming in. Since I’m doing the highest level cardio routine – and it’s a new one – I don’t bother to look at my watch, see the phone number. I’m glad I didn’t; I’d have messed up the routine more than I did.

Several minutes later I feel four more hits on Fitbit, little ones. Blip, blip, blip, blip. Texts. I hope everything’s ok, I think. I have an opportunity after a stretch, as class members gather weights, to peek at my phone. It’s my daughter texting, nothing major, just a typical mom thing. One of the kids is driving her nuts. She must have been the one calling; I’ll call her after I pack up.

I’m ready to go and four of the ladies are gathered in their socially distant yakking circle when I take a closer look at my phone. Time stops. Chills flood my spine. It wasn’t my daughter calling at all. It was her father. At the end of this month, he’ll have been dead for 17 years.

I show the ladies my phone. “It’s my husband’s number,” I declare. And then, of course, I must clarify, as I do have a living husband. “My dead husband.”

“Well, it would make sense,” one of them points out, “that someone else would have his number.”

“Yeah. Agreed. But why is that someone else calling my number?”

The ladies get requisite chills as well. I call “that someone else”, a message tells me it’s a man who isn’t my late husband, and I hang up.

Happenstance? Sheer coincidence? I prefer to think of it as synchronicity. Here’s a great definition by goop.com: “Synchronicities are incidents of spiritual significance that ask us to momentarily dampen our self-obsession and consider the possibility of the divine.”

For a brief moment, looking at my phone, I knew Hugh had managed to reach out to me from the great beyond. For a brief moment, I felt us reconnect, communicate. Our two cell phones – I still have the same number – together again!

Yeah, so if you’ve done the math, you’ll know that Hugh died in 2004, a year which was like two years for the price of one, really. Like Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . .”.

Trips! Tahiti. Florida. The east coast of Canada. The Mayan Riviera. All exotic and fun.

Deaths! Mom! Preceded by a beloved family dog, followed by an old tomcat. All within the first two months. All sudden and unexpected.

What I want to get at, though, is the numerous synchronicities. The visits from the divine. The “woo-woo” stuff. Back home from the Tahiti/Florida trip in March of that year, I had this thought while driving to work: Well Universe, it’s Wednesday (“the worst of times” seemed to be happening on Wednesdays), I’m back in Canada. What have you got for me? A giant transformer – you know, one of those HUGE cans that perch atop electrical poles – promptly exploded before my eyes, raining sparks down on my car. Wow. Universe! You’ve got my attention.

The next month? Some foreshadowing. You must understand this about Hugh. He was extreme. He worked hard. He played hard. While playing hard one evening he vanished. I spoke to him on his cell briefly the next morning, which was a Wednesday darn it, perhaps that’s why my antennae were over-stimulated. He didn’t sound good. He did not materialize. That afternoon, I drove around the country corner to his parents’ house, sat in a chair in their office and sobbed, uncontrollably.

“He’s dead!” I cried. His parents looked at me like that was a tad dramatic. He came home, dazed, but quite alive, that evening.

My April wail became true November 29th, but still, I was unprepared. While Mom’s death was sudden and unexpected, it did have a cause, a bleeding stroke. Hugh’s however, the result of a sudden arrhythmia that an AED could not shock back into submission, would eventually be labeled by a coroner’s office “sudden and unexplained”. No cause of death leaves myriad unanswered questions, slashes gaping holes in hearts and psyches.

In late December 2004, I talked on the phone with a longtime business friend, sharing the story of Hugh’s passing. “I know how it feels to die that way,” was her surprising response. And you have to understand this about her. Her life’s work was in the computer business. And computers can be a source of frustration and mystery for many. Not this beautiful woman; regardless of computer glitches, she’d remain calm, matter-of-fact. Stoic even.

She’d been in the hospital having tests on her heart when it went into an arrhythmia. Because she was in the hospital, she did not die that day. She said, “That’s the way to go, boy. No pain.”

And yet? She was indeed dead before the year ended. At her visitation, her memorial card reminded me that she and Hugh shared the same birth date, same year. If that isn’t a clear message from beyond, I don’t know what is.

Because it was so sudden and unexpected, Hugh was quite unprepared for his own death. In the months that followed, he tended to communicate through electricity. Previously, in our Clarke Road home, I’d never observed lighting fluctuations, but they became commonplace. A brown-out one night was so extreme, that a visiting friend and I ran around the house, frantic, trying to determine a cause. Nothing.

The second Christmas after his passing, I decided to take our three young adult kids away from it all, try to start working on that new bond with them as a single mom. When we left the airport in London, Ontario? The electricity was out. When we arrived at our tropical destination? The electricity was out.

Make of it what you will. I know Hugh called to say, “Hello. It’s me. I miss you! And the kids! They’re doing great. We crammed a work ethic into them, huh?

“And grandkids?! Wow. Growing like bad weeds. Dad says, ‘We need to put a brick on their heads’. Don’t worry (he knows I will anyway, it’s my thing). I’m keepin’ an eye on them. But a different kind of eye, if you get what I’m layin’ down.

“Don’t forget what I told you in tough times: ‘Things always have a way of working themselves out.’ Oh and this: ‘It’s going to be a great day today!’

“Great days here are . . . well, they’re kinda woo-woo. Things are totally loosie-goosie. ‘Vertical time’. Heard of it? Ha. Kinda like how I used to do things. Wasn’t that great at telling time, was I? Late for this, late for that. Too much to do, too little . . .

“Time is . . . woo-woo. Come on. You felt it, right? When you looked at your phone and knew for certain I’d made contact after all this . . . time?”

 

 

 

 

Hello It’s Me 2021-11-24T14:37:18-05:00

Sticks and Stones

As a kid, I recall being with my dad while he registered my older brother Ray at the hospital. I don’t remember what he was in for, but he was the kind of kid who got into fights; the bridge of his thick glasses was perpetually held together with white tape.

Dad was a devout atheist, so answering this question they used to ask – Religion? – would irritate him. Then, when he told the receptionist Ray’s name and she asked, “Short for Raymond?” he answered back, “No, George.”

Dad had specifically helped Mom pick out names for us that could not easily be turned into nicknames: Ray, Rita, Jana. Which, when you think about it, is a bit hypocritical. Dad’s given name was Vincent and everyone called him Vince.

Ray tried to foist the nickname “Hub” on me. No idea where this came from. He’d pin me to the ground, as older brothers will do, slapping the sides of my face and saying, “Hubba-hubba-hubba”, over and over. Thankfully it didn’t stick.

At school, kids called me “Ritard” on occasion. And, of course, Hartley morphed into “Fartley” from time to time. Luckily I’d learned, from having an older brother, to just ignore it, as in “sticks and stones”, and it will go away.

When I met my future husband Hugh in high school he told me he did not like it when people called him Hughie. But Hugh is a hard name to say. Before our first few dates I went around talking about “Hugh” this and “Hugh” that to practice; he was the first Hugh I’d met. One of Hugh’s best friends at the time, a teenager you would not want to correct as he looked 24 at 17, called him “You” or “You-ie”. He could not physically say the “Ha” sound followed by the “Ya” sound.

Once Hugh and I got to know each other better I found out his football team had a successful play that went, “One-Spook-Fly”. The “Spook”? Him. Although he was white, his sandy brown hair was a frizzy Black texture that he’d grown out into a humongous afro, quite “in” in the late 70s. (That was one of my practice chats at home: “Mom! Not one word about Hugh’s hair.”)

As our school was predominantly white (I say predominantly, but there were zero Black students at that time), I was unaware of the racist history of the word “spook”. And I suppose Hugh could have been accused of cultural appropriation with the afro, but Black Lives Matter issues and cancel culture were decades off. Hugh was just capitalizing on radical natural hair, which made him a magnet for cops and drug purchasers.

That hair, and Hugh’s skinniness at 17, also produced the nickname “Q-tip”. It was several years into our relationship before I found out his grandma had called him “Hughie-Dewey-Dumplin’-Footer” when he was little.

By then, I realized that some nicknames are just downright adorable. And they’re a sign of unending love for the recipient, right? Unfortunately, the only one Hugh ever came up with for me was “Riter-big-eater”. (I have a friend who used this phrase – “highly motivated by food” – to describe one of her grandchildren. If the phrase fits, wear it and I do, along with the extra pounds.)

In adulthood, Hugh came up with one for himself while at an NFL game. Standing on the bleachers, swilling beer, the guy next to him asked his name. He slurred it: “I’m Huge!” I know. “Huge” is easier to say than “Hugh”, but I never called him that.

The nicknames for our kids came quick. Our first, Jetanne, became “Ta” because that’s all her eldest cousin, who was three at the time, could say. Consequently, most of us called her “Tan”. Then her sister Randelle came along and became “Randy” (I spelled it “Randi” or “Rande” for a time, trying to feminize it, but she eventually settled on the male spelling.)

There’s something special about fathers and daughters; Hugh naturally called Jetanne his “princess”. When Randy came along? She was a little shorter, a little rounder and became his “button”. It was so sweet, until the day Randy got old enough to ask, “Dad, how come she’s your princess and I’m just a button?”

Then Jay completed our family, but dang it. The name was too short; we had to lengthen it to “Jaybird”. In high school many of his friends just called him “Bird” or “Birdman”.

Now, that’s a decent collection of nicknames, but there was something about losing Hugh in 2004 that brought about a whole new era. Me? The nickname-less one? Friends and family started calling me “Reets”. Finally, a decent nickname that stuck. After years of calling Jetanne “Tan”? Well, now I often call her “Jet”. Randelle is still usually Randy, but sometimes she’s “Delle”. Jay? Still a bird. He’s just got this cool thing about him – people point this out all the time – and birds are cool, right?

But bananas? Not cool! At a bar, pre-pandemic, I tried to be helpful with name association when introducing myself and my sister to a woman we’d just met.

“Just think of us as the banana sisters,” I said. “Rita-Chicita and Jana-Banana.”

And she said, “Oh, like,” and she did this rude thing with right hand up to her mouth and her tongue prodding her cheek.

“NO!” I said.

Of course, we’ve carried on the nicknaming to the next generation. The first grandchild, Simone, became “Mone.” And she got to nickname me. We tried out “Grita” – a G, for grandma – in front of my name. (Perhaps in miniscule denial about aging, I did not want to be Grandma, Granny, Nana.) But it’s hard for little ones to get their mouths around a hard “G”, so it came out “Gia”. And I love it!

Now, Simone’s little sister’s name, Naomi, seems quite different at first glance, but when you shorten it to “Nomes”? It sounds a lot like Mone. When their little brother Beau – or “Beauie” – came along he was confused for a while. Did he have two sisters or one? Did they have the same name? Now, at five, he often pluralizes them: “Girls!”

My dad’s been gone a while now. I suppose I should apologize to him, in absentia, for being on this lifelong nicknaming binge. I certainly don’t think he loved me any less, because he never called me his precious little pearl, or anything. (I’ve looked it up. “Rita” is a derivative of “Margarita”, meaning “Pearl”.) Dad was an atheist, a realist. See it, taste it, touch it, smell it, hear it? It’s real. Anything else? Well, that’s all “woo-woo”. Fact: he and Mom named me Rita – after the actress Rita Hayworth – not George or Pearl or Reets.

 

Sticks and Stones 2021-11-02T13:14:44-04:00