Friday, June 25, 2010

And Yet Another Milestone

How is it that these babes grow up so fast?

Our own were grown and gone in the blink of an eye, and it's not slowing down with this next generation.

Lauren graduated from Kindergarten, now it's on to full days, every day - which makes her perfectly happy. She likes school and is very good at it.

I had to laugh - she's quite an independent little soul.  She chose the gigantic bear her Aunt Alyssa gave her to the graduationTeddy Bear Picnic. Jae was informed as she carried the big honkin' thing in, that the instructions had been: 'no big bears' ... it was a safety/tripping thing.  Fortunately they didn't banish Beary. They put her at the end and someone helped her carry him up the stairs. As it turned out, he was the perfect lounger for Spencer.

It is so wonderful to witness the unabashed joy and confidence of six year olds. The Junior and Senior Kindergarten classes performed an upbeat, happy song about Jesus. They had their hearts and voices right into it. During the slide show, the song came on again and Lauren and a few of her friends got up, not caring one bit that there was a room full of people looking at them, and started singing and dancing to the song. It was remarkable - within seconds, children were coming from all over the gymnasium to join in the impromptu performance. 

 Oh, if they were only to keep that enthusiasm, spontaneity and freedom. But you know they won't. Probably within a year, they'll be second guessing whether they should or shouldn't; they'll be checking for adult approval; they'll be looking around to see if anyone else is going to do it; they'll be worried about looking silly or people judging them.  It's a shame.

We could all use more of the heart of a six year old.

Spencer was real glad that Lauren brought Beary.  While I was snapping the photo, Lauren just happened to come up on the slide show.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ten Years

There’s a time capsule feature in our newspaper that reports what happened on this day, ten/twenty five and fifty years ago. I used to only recognize the decade mark, but now it’s gotten that I remember all the quarter century stuff and the reality is that pretty soon the half century events are going to be fresh in my mind as well.

The entry for this date hit me like a sledge hammer in the gut.  Under the Ten Years Ago heading it said:

"Sebringville native Buddy Wellwood, one of the most respected harness horsemen in Canada, died at the age of 45 years."

I don’t know why I had such a strong reaction. The fact that my brother died ten years ago today certainly has been on my mind a lot. Milestones do that. I have gone through the past couple weeks thinking ‘It was ten years ago that I last was with him, ten years since I last heard his voice, ten years since I last saw that grin'. There was a melancholy attached to those thoughts though, not the unexpected stab of pain that seeing it in the paper brought.  It was like a knife ripping open a carefully controlled floodgate of emotion, making the grief as fresh and intense as it was ten years ago.

I carry the reality of the loss of my beloved brother quietly in my heart every day. He’s seldom far from my thoughts, and when the remembrances pop into my head it is with fondness and often a smile; with regret of course, but also acceptance because that is simply the way it is. I'm used to our family thinking and talking about it – we do it all the time.  It must have been seeing it in print that made it too real again and caused the knot in my heart.

I wrote of my sweet brother in a post on 04/14/09 entitled ‘My Buddy’ when I found myself with a little face that reminded me of him.  I shared a few remembrances of him then. There’s another story though that very few people know about. It’s was Bud’s last gift to me, one that I treasure and cherish. One that proves to me that there is more to life and death than we can possibly understand. It really was a gift of Hope.  Perhaps now, ten years later, it’s time to share the story.

It was June 5th, 2000: Bud was turning 45 on June 12th. Myself and a dear high school friend of mine, whom Bud had a life long crush on since he was twelve years old, decided that we would have a little birthday party with the three of us. We had a wonderful evening of reminiscing about the good ol’ days; laughing about the crazy stuff that we had done as kids and digging up all kinds of silliness that we hadn’t thought about for years.

At one point, Bud said to me: “Do you remember when I backed into your car?”  “Oh yeah… I DO remember that!” I assured him. I was 18 years old and had just gotten my first car.  He was 16 years old and had just gotten his license.  He backed my parent’s big old boat of a Ford right into the side of my shiny new Maverick.  He said: “Do you remember the note I left you?”No, I don’t remember a note.” I replied. He grinned: “I said: “Don’t worry, I’m alright. “Well,” I laughed, “I don’t remember that but it certainly sounds like something you would do.”

After a wonderfully memorable evening, as we were leaving, I said to him: “I’ve gone to a lot of trouble for your birthday, the least you can do is call me on mine.” The image of him sitting on the couch with us standing at the door – the look on his face and his very voice is frozen in my head forever. He said, all too seriously: “I’ll be dead by your birthday.”  My friend expressed her shock that he would say something like that. I just responded: “Yeah right… that’s six weeks - you’re telling me that you’re going to check out by  then. Call me!”  

Nineteen days later he was gone. No lingering, no goodbyes – just walked into his house a little past midnight, took his watch off and dropped over dead.

So ten years ago tonight, I was looking for photos for a memory board for the funeral home. I was specifically in search of an article from when he was 18 years old and was named ‘Rookie of the Year’. We had so many laughs about that. It’s like the Oscars of horse racing: a major event at the Royal York in Toronto where they call the winners up to present them with an award.  In front of hundreds of people, they gave it to him, shook his hand and asked if he’d like to say something. He said ‘No thanks.’ and walked off the stage. We got a lot of mileage with that over the years.

I looked in every conceivable spot for that article. The only place left was left was up in the attic. I knew there was no possibility of it being there, but I was walking in circles anyway and I had no where else to look. Before I even got started, the phone rang and I had to go downstairs and make arrangements for his burial plot.

After that, I didn’t have the heart or the energy to continue my quest and went back upstairs to just turn off the light.  I was exhausted. I did not have an ounce of energy or desire left.  So when I saw the piece of paper laying in the middle of the steps on my way back down, my first response was to leave it lie.  A voice, for lack of any other description, kept urging me – insisting actually, that I PICK IT UP.  I specifically recall arguing with myself that I was too tired, I could NOT stoop down and pick it up. Besides, I didn’t care.  PICK IT UP something insisted.

So I did.  It was a lined piece of paper, the kind with the holes for a three ringed binder. It was folded in half with a piece of masking tape still stuck to the top. I opened it and saw a note to me in Bud’s handwriting. THE note. It said: “I ran into your car. Don’t worry. I’m all right. See you soon … Buddy Wellwood.”

There is no logical explanation for that note. When he wrote it 28 years earlier, I had been living at home. I moved away to college, I got married and had three major moves. I never once came across it. In fact, up to just days before I didn’t even recall that it had ever existed. It was Bud who brought it up, and he who remembered the exact words that he had written almost three decades before: “Don’t worry. I’m all right.”  Spelling was never one of his strong suits.

The note was definitely not there the first time I went up the stairs. They are bare wooden steps so it’s impossible to miss something on them. I chuckled that Bud knew that he had to be blatantly obvious for me to get the message. A sense of peace came over me, and gratitude.  He knew how much I loved and cared about him, and worried about him.  He knew how devastated that I would be and somehow orchestrated it all so that I would know that he was indeed ‘all right’. 

As we headed to the funeral home, I folded the note in quarters and put it in my pocket. Approaching him there for the first time was somehow not as difficult as it could have been. I had a message back for him. "Thank you." I whispered to my dear brother at rest "Just, thank you."

I kept the note with me through the entire process … visitations, the funeral, the drive to where he would lay and the graveside service. I held on to that piece of paper so tight, as I did the message. I had it in writing. He was alright.

But I still miss him.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Boys

At this point, for a short time we have totally evened our family out. The first edition was three girls and a boy; second edition is three boys and a girl. In just a few weeks though, that is going to change with the one who will take us to the next level – more kids in this generation than the last.

It’s so sweet to watch the boys together.  Gibson just worships Scotty, he shadows every move he makes.  He’s like a little puppy following him around with pure adoration.  Scotty feels exactly the same; he’s so loving and patient, probably even more so than a big brother since they don’t have to go through the little irritations that go naturally with being together too much.  What a wonderful relationship for both of them.

Even with an age spread of six years, they have a lot in common.  Sports for one - both of them always have a ball or hockey stick in hand. They are also both particularly nurturing and love babies. And of course, frogs.  It is just a delight to watch them together.
Before the arrival of the baby, Scotty proclaimed that he wanted a 'little brother JUST LIKE GIBSON.'  When I talked to him in the hospital,  I said "Now you have your own little Gibby." I will never forget the joy and tenderness in his voice as he  was quiet for a second, then responded thoughtfully: "Yes, I do.", as if it suddenly hit him and it was the very best thing in the world.

Lauren is a little left out on their missions, but fortunately it doesn’t seem to bother her.  With all the women in the family, she’s always got someone to hang with. After the initial irritation of not getting the sister that she ordered, she’s enjoying the role of ‘only girl’ ... for a time anyway.

It’s so interesting to watch these precious children grow and develop their relationships. And especially heartwarming to look out and see little ones playing here once again.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer Solstice

What a magnificent way to celebrate the beginning of Summer.  Solstice 2010 will be a memory that I take out and enjoy time and time again.  A wonderfully memorable day all way around.

The crew came home for Father’s Day.  It was a spectacular day to be outside with the kids – our first big family get-together since the arrival of the latest edition. After that fun, I headed over to my dear friend and neighbour’s home for a Summer Solstice event.

It was such a lovely evening.  I so enjoy having the opportunity to meet interesting new friends and have different experiences. We spent time in the medicine wheel garden, then after a meaningful meditation, enjoyed sharing around the campfire.

A dozen of us stayed and were up at 4:30 in the morning, coffee in hand, to watch the sun rise on a new season. Not as impressive as the 20,000 who were at Stonehenge, but still not real shabby in the fact that every single one of us were out of bed.

I have seen the sunrise – not too often, mind you; but I have seen it. I saw it with different eyes today. And it wasn’t because they were bleary from only a couple hours sleep. Maybe it was the atmosphere of our peaceful surroundings. Or perhaps it was the company I was in.  At any rate, it was amazing.

It was totally silent to begin with, then one bird chirped in the distance. It was as if he was the alarm clock for the feathered world, and we found ourselves serenaded with a great symphony of singing and chirping and squawking.  I like to think that they were celebrating with us, but in all likelihood, their conversation was probably more like this: "Bernice, have you ever seen anything like it? All those humans out at this hour, just sittin' there starin' into space."  "I know Walter, but I don't think they're that bright. They probably heard about that Early Bird thing but didn't figure out that they're supposed to be looking DOWN."

As the sun rose and became more and more brilliant, it literally pulsated with a ring of colour.  It was electric. It was remarkable. It truly was glorious. 

We spent the morning working on a creative project. At about ten o'clock, I needed something and slipped home for a minute.  And there, to my complete surprise, was another little treasure to mark the day. 

Likely about the same time that the sun was rising, Victoria was giving birth to our latest and last babe of the season. Three for three on Special Days. A sweet little pitch black jennet.

Just as the others have two names … Paddy O’Malley & Molly Malone, she shall be Summer Solstice, so I can sound downright poetic when I go out and call to them: 'Hey there, O’Mally,  O’Molly and Summer O’Solly’. 

Summer Solstice ’10 … memorable indeed.

Friday, June 18, 2010

New Recruit Photo Shoot.

You'd think that it would be the easiest thing in the world.  Tiny babe who just sleeps and sleeps and sleeps. Doesn't squirm or gawk around all over the place; doesn't get up and run away or stick his finger up his nose. Piece of cake. 

I dragged everything up to my studio that I thought might make a good prop for a sleeping baby. Dogs and bears and blankets and baskets. Even a tiny saddle and little cowboy boots. I had it all lined up with different backgrounds, ready to play 'Anne Geddes'.

The little model has been exactly that. A model of the Perfect Baby.  Laid back, relaxed and sleeping most of the time.  Ah yes... piece of cake.  Twenty minutes and we'll have a few hundred perfect shots.

Spencer on a little quilt made by his Great-Great-Great Grandmother.
Hah. He was all fine and dandy when he was swaddled up, but as soon as he was out there in his birthday suit, his eyes popped open like he was absolutely not trusting what we were about to put him though. And really, as cute and sweet as a newborn is, they are definitely cuter and sweeter with their eyes closed. They're kind of alien looking when they open those rheumy slits of eyes and look at you like they know something about life that you don't.  

This child is beautiful - the loveliest little peaceful face.  But, because he technically shouldn't even be here yet, he lacks a little in Baby Plump. He has Old Man Butt.  Very, VERY old man... skinny, bony and saggy. Buttless actually. And the longest legs and arms, and biggest hands and feet. And he likes to stretch them waaaaaaay out. No more fetal position for this dude; he's had enough of cramped spaces - he's switching Womb for Room, and plenty of it.

He was supposed to be laying with Jack in just a cute little outfit, but oh no - it was swaddled up or nothin' - take it or leave it. All fine and dandy, but not all that 'artful'.

It would appear that he will be tall and slim, which is nice for a man, but it makes it darn hard to take cuddly, plump little curled up baby pictures.  And for the sleeping baby part, not a chance. He'd be sound asleep, but the minute we'd lay him down,his eyes would pop open and he'd get those long legs going & propel himself right off the spot that was carefully prepared for him.

Four hours and only a couple of shots that wouldn't do.  Finally, he was comfortable with a big furry dog and it seemed that I'd get to play after all.  But nope.  The water works began. And then the other end.  And then - 'hah - fooled ya, I'm awake now.'

Yep, those sleeping baby photos look like they'd be the easiest thing in the world to capture. Apparently not so.

"Okay, okay -  I'm sleeping - be quick about it!."

"Like really ... this is ridiculous, I have to put a stop to this silliness."
"This should put a halt to it  ... I'll teach them to take away my clothes."
"Ah yeah ... pretty funny watching them scamper around.
 Spencer: ONE. Mom and Nana: Zero."

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

An Early Morning Walk

"Seven.  Seven AM?  Like… ‘in the morning?" Linda really must have been wondering what kind of lazy sod I was, when that was my response to her invitation to come walking through the Dolan area with them today.  She sensed my hesitation and offered that we could consider it another time. “Nope – I can do it.” I assured her. “I WILL do it!”

And I did.

I was up at the crack of dawn, drove to their place and was bright eyed and bushy tailed for our 7 AM rendezvous.  What a wonderful time of day. What a wonderful start to the day. I was thinking, ‘why don’t I do this more often? Why don’t I do this every day.’  The walking part AND the getting up part.

I am up around 7 each day, but I am cozied up in my chair with a coffee and some sort of reading material. I have not reached my destination by that time. I am just in the consideration part of the day. Considering whether I should have a second coffee.

Today I was in the woods with my adventurous friends by that time.  Being committed naturalists, plant experts and bird watchers, I had much to learn from them.  The first being, you gotta get up early in the morning to catch the best time of the day – to hear the birds, to enjoy the tranquility.  It was absolutely worth leaving my blanket and cup of coffee for.

A virtual United Nations of feathered fowl surrounded us. Cat birds and finches; indigo blue buntings and red winged blackbirds; chickadees, robins and even a Great Blue Heron.  Joan recognizes all their calls. I would like to have her with me all the time to identify the legion of voices that I hear in my yard. I would love to have a face to go with their song.  Like the Cat Bird. More than once I have been in search of a lost kitten or cat in distress, only to finally figure out that it’s some trickster in the trees.  I have never been able to identify the culprit who was responsible for my concern.

Linda and Nick are masters at plant identification.  Things that I have seen all my life but couldn’t put a name to.  I was honoured to be the student and glean all kinds of information that I likely won’t remember by nightfall. They had their binoculars and I had my camera and we spied all kinds of marvelous sights.  I find the weeds in the woods as appealing in their simplicity as any flower in a botanical garden.

The walk ended with the most wonderful gourmet meal; a feast for the eyes and the palate.  An uplifting walk through nature, a delightful breakfast and stimulating conversation with good friends; that sure beats sitting groggy and bleary eyed, all by myself with my cup of coffee.

A Seven AM date is a pretty awesome thing.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Ass Capades

My travel mate for Ireland was my dear friend and kindred spirit, Jan.  We were home less than a week and I headed off to Newfoundland, and she very generously came out here for the duration to stay with Abby and keep an eye on things.  Abby loves her and is so happy to have her here and so are we.

Last year when she was here, one of the donkeys had a baby - her first experience with that type of event.  That didn't scare her off - thank goodness - and she agreed to come again.

Well, sure enough, it happened again; in broad daylight this time, which is quite unusual. She went to town at noon and when she came home at 4 pm, there was she was - a sweet little jennet.  A big surprise also because she is pure white - except for the tip of one ear. I can't decide whether it looks like she was held by one ear and dipped in white, or started to be dipped in chocolate and someone said 'no, that one's supposed to be white!'  She is only the second white donkey that Samantha has ever had, and Chip's first. 

My girls, when they called, said 'Why is there a donkey today; this isn't any particular day.' We have all come to expect the blessed event to mark a special day, as if the birth of a much loved long earred friend isn't special enough.

"Well, actually is." I assured them, "A VERY special day!" It was Wednesday, May 26th which happened to be Jan's Dad's 80th birthday and she was having a party for him at the farm. The babe's timing was perfect - just an hour before the guests started to arrive.  

Well of course, the baby was Jan's to name and she chose 'Molly', in honour of our Irish excursion. Perfect!! She didn't know that my very first woman donkey - the foundation of our herd and Samantha's mother, was named Molly. To differentiate this gal, we've added Malone, which sounds quite charming with the little one who had been born just the week before: Paddy O'Malley and Molly Malone. Nice ring. Actually, the first of our three white donkeys that we've had in 28 years, was named 'Malone', so it's significant all way around.

Oh my though, I do wish I would have been a fly on the fence the following Wednesday. Jan told me that if she had a blog, she surely would have written about it. So I will.

It seems on that morning, wee Molly Malone was on the wrong side of the fence. She must have been laying near it and rolled over, as they never get out. The baby was running up and down the fence and there wasn't a snowball's chance of catching the little dickens. So Jan called Ashley, who caring for five children at the time and not able to come and rescue her. Ashley advised her to 'grab the mom, bring her out and the donkey babe will follow her back.'  Proper advice to be sure. IF Samantha would have had a halter on.  Poor Jan.  She took Ashley's advice but had no way of knowing that Ransom possesses super-radar for an unlocked gate.

Being ever helpful to his herd mates, when the wind caught the gate, Ranson spearheaded the Great Escape. Poor, poor Jan.  She was supposed to be on her way to work. She had to call to tell them that she'd be late as she had to capture a bunch of silly asses (I'm sure she didn't say that), to which the person on the other end of the phone declared that that was the first time they'd ever had that excuse.

Ransom is a sweet, dear, lovely fella; but he is a transport truck.  He is so big and thick and strong that he can easily go wherever he wants, whenever he wants.  He also did not have a halter on.  Jan said that she got a few of them in, which for an unseasoned donkey catcher, was quite a remarkable feat.  She  captured big ol' Ransom and got him back. 'How did you do that?'  I asked - quite impressed with that achievement.  'I just put my arms around his neck and led him in.' she stated matter-of-factly.  Oh how I would have loved to see that.  Jan is not a country girl. She's an animal lover to be sure, but to most people, Ransom would be totally intimidating for his sheer size in comparison to everyone else. She got a couple of the other ones in too, which would have been tricky beyond belief to do that alone with a big long gate that swings open too fast and too wide.

Meanwhile, she had to get to work. Ashley couldn't come, and Jaime was no help as she was in the midst of delivering Spencer. Again, Jan turned to Ashley for advice. 'Just leave them.' Ash advised her. 'They're fine, they won't go anywhere.'  With no one else to rescue her, she had no other choice. And indeed, the donkeys just would hang out, leisurely enjoying the afternoon, delighted to finally get to the grass on the other side of the fence.

Still concerned about having to go home to wild asses everywhere, Jan recruited someone to come from the city to help her round them up. By this time, apparently it was pouring rain and I'm sure she was dreading the task at hand.  But lo and behold, when she arrived, they were all safely in the field, most likely having a little chuckle about 'entertaining the rookie'.

I kinda feel bad about putting poor Jan in that situation. I certainly should have had the phone numbers of the numerous wonderful neighbours who would have gladly come to her rescue. Actually, it was a kindly neighbour who noticed them out and put them back in. And I should have shared the secret of Capturing Loose Asses.  I get a slice of bread. I hold it up and say 'Look what I have.' and they follow me anywhere. I just walk one step ahead of them like a Pied Piper, well, a Breaded Piper in this case. If ever their minds start to wander and they get sidetracked, I just hold it up again and the bread magnet snaps them right back into line.

I am quite afraid that when it comes time for us to head to Newfoundland again and we are hoping that Jan will give up her comfortable city life to move out here to the boonies, that she'll say, 'Are you crazy? No more donkey farming for me!!'. She tells me though, that it was 'the most excitement and fun' that she's had in a long time.  I hope that she wasn't just saying that to ease my guilt.  What a sport.  She can add Donkey Catcher to her resume which already lists two-time Donkey Midwife.

Hopefully she doesn't change her mind about that, after she starts thinking about how bizarre it really was. But I'm truly hoping that she's been indoctrinated so deeply with being godmother/namer of Molly Malone, that she'll be agreeable to adding further chapters to her journal: 'Ass Capades in Avonbank.'

The only dark marking on wee Molly Malone.