The Miscellaneous Things We Are Good At

Source of photo: Alcoholics Anonymous

Many years ago, I was a conference in Montreal for literacy teachers and their adult students. During the day, we attended workshops, had lunch together and discussed the many things we were learning, over coffee break. Evenings were free. In a city like Montreal, there was no lack of things to do and places to go. One evening, I ended up with several other conference-goers in a well-known smoked-meat restaurant. We had just finished a delicious meal and were lined up at the cash register to pay when I spotted a friend and colleague – a young teacher – having what was clearly an argument on the sidewalk outside with one of her teenaged students. A tall and physically-imposing young man, he stood head and shoulders over his tiny little teacher. Even under the light of a streetlamp, I could see that she looked frightened and way out of her element.

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Hunkering Down for the Winter

Author’s photo

I am nothing if not a creature of habit.

It’s funny, the things we get used to; the things we come to expect, year in and year out. I would be utterly miserable living in a climate with no crisp fall; no bitterly-cold winter. It’s what I have always known; what I have gotten used to.

There is something exciting, to me, about hunkering down for the winter.

I love how the world changes; sometimes on a dime: one day it is hot and muggy and the next, the year has deliberately done an about-face in a new direction. The air turns chilly, especially at night: the stars come out in bright contrast against the clear blackness of a night sky that is crisp and humidity free. The trees start to change colour – almost imperceptibly at first – and suddenly, the whole world is a riot of brilliant oranges, reds and yellows. The geese get loud again, noisily heading northward every morning in search for food in farmers’ fields and loudly flying southward in the evenings to bed down for the night. They will do this for a good month or more – the flock growing increasingly big and very loud – until one crisp day when you can smell snow on the air, they will head southward and won’t come back until spring.

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Teachable Moment

Source of photo: Gâtineau Hills Fiddle Festival/ Ottawa Tourism

I’m watching a band that has come in to perform at my mother’s seniors’ home. Not one of the members of the band looks to be under age seventy and the lead singer is a spry eighty-six-year-old. I pride myself in my very eclectic set of musical tastes but I have to admit to my Mom that I barely know any of the songs they are singing (or playing on the fiddle), and none of them well.

Nonetheless, the music makes your toes tap and we enthusiastically clap along as the band entertains the crowd.

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At one point, my Mom leans in and tells me, “I know a dirty song to this tune.” And then she proceeds to sing me a few snippets. After my first, surprised, loud belly laugh, I do my best thereafter to only quietly snort my mirth.

As the band is leaving, Mom catches the eye of the lead singer (the eighty-six-year-old J) and he stops to chat with us. Before he even has time to react, Mom is telling him she pays the fiddle as she gently but insistently pulls the fiddle from his hands and puts it in to her chin to play him a little tune she knows. While I’m a little embarrassed, I’m not overly worried (I know Mom won’t be rough with it). I am definitely dismayed for the man, though, as he is clearly not used to handing his beautiful fiddle over to a perfect stranger. I relax as he relaxes; as he notes that Mom knows how to hold it and what to do with the bow. Being very rusty, it doesn’t take her long to hand it back to him in any case.

This is the woman who taught me good manners. This is the woman who showed me how to behave in public; who taught me to be courteous; to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. She behaves as innocently as a child now.

I’ve reflected how an event like this one would have been the perfect time for a ‘teachable moment’ when my children were little: “Next time, sweet pea, make sure you ask the nice man first. People like to be asked before you touch their belongings. And do be polite if he says ‘no’, as is his right.”

As Mom slips further into a rather endearing childhood sweetness, I understand that the days of teachable moments are over for her. All my sister and I can do is hover nearby and quietly apologise for her when it’s appropriate to do so, knowing she is the one who taught us such good manners in the first place.

Luckily, the nice musician understood, and she still talks about how kind he was – the actual lead singer of the band!! – to take the time to stop and talk to her that day; to let her play him a tune.

Perhaps he learned his manners from his Mom, too…

Patti Moore Wilson/© wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com

The Day I Learned About Cruelty and Intolerance

Source of photo: Vecteezy

I recall clearly that it was a beautiful sunny day: the kind of day that happens on that first day in the spring where everyone goes outside without a coat for the first time and the air smells fresh and new and full of possibility.

I was in grade three, walking hand-in-hand with another little girl, through the school playground. I clearly recall how wonderful it felt, to have a friend who didn’t mind showing the entire world that she liked me enough to hold my hand. I was not a particularly popular child in my early elementary years so any public demonstration of affection was a feather in my cap; a sign that I was popular too (sad, that even at age 8, I already understood the concept of ‘popular’).

“LIZZIES!!! Look at the two lizzies!” shouted an older kid, pointing at us and laughing loudly. At the time, I was sure that every single kid on the playground turned to look.

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Time for a Reset?

Source of photo: Dreamstime.com

I was videoconferencing my daughter recently and the connection broke at least five times as we talked. “Sorry”, she told me early on. “My phone’s getting old. I really have to get a new model.”

“Gee,” I answered, “It doesn’t seem like you’ve had it that long: it’s just a couple years old, isn’t it?”

“No, it’s ancient.” She sighed. “I got it six years ago, Mom.”

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Psychopath

Source of photo: Snakes in Suits Wikipedia

The following is a work on fiction, based on a composite of a generous number of people I have warily watched from a distance over the years. According to statistics (* sources below), 1% of the human population meets the clinical criteria for psychopathy. In my country of 38.1 million people, that means nearly 400,000 people. We always imagine psychopaths as serial killers or other hardened criminals, but in reality, most psychopaths hide in plain sight among us. In order from 1 to 10, the professions that draw the most psychopaths are: CEOs, lawyers, the media, salespersons, surgeons, journalists, police officers, clergy, chefs and civil servants. While the percentage of psychopaths in these professions is still very low (statistics cite anywhere from 3-4% to 10.42%), you have likely met one or two in your lifetime. I know I have…

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The Voice (aka ‘Da Voice’)

Source of photo: Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Research and Institute Centre

My father was diagnosed with throat cancer when he was in his mid-fifties – younger than I am now. While he was very proud that he had managed – two years before he got the cancer – to beat a life-long smoking habit, he had unfortunately not stopped soon enough. I had been on his back to stop smoking for many years. When I was around 12 years old, I rushed home from school one day to tell him that ‘all the kids at school’ swore by a stop-smoking trick called ‘eating’ cold turkey. It seemed so easy to me; we ate a lot of turkey so he had effortless access to an easy cure (Dad was kind enough not to laugh but I do recall that he was biting down – hard – on the insides of his cheeks in his effort to remain serious).

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I Don’t Know the Answer to That

Source of first Image: Pinterest

I clearly remember how awesome I felt, coming home for a visit after my first quarter-term at university. I was nineteen years old and in those few months, I had magically learned absolutely all there was to know about life. I was ready to change the world. I was particularly scholarly and knowledgeable with regard to the handful of Psyc 101 classes I had attended up to that point, which had provided me with great insights into my parents. I quickly set to work to teach them everything I knew, knowing how happy they would be that I could ‘fix’ them now.

My father, in particular, was not amused.

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I Hate When You Tell Me That

Source of photo: parade.com

I loved being a Mom. I loved the never-ending ‘why’ questions. I loved the snuggles; the bedtime stories; even the tantrums. Because I truly felt I was playing a role in helping my kids become whoever they were meant to be. My kids are all grown up now and while I do love getting to know the amazing people they are becoming, I do miss those days of being… well, their everything.

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What Do You Do, All Day?

Source of photo: enkiquotes

I envy my friends and family who have boundless, inexhaustible energy. You know the type: they’re up at the crack of dawn, unable to stay in bed because they simply cannot wait another moment to start their day. They go for a run before breakfast; they stop on their way to work to run a few errands; they work late and still manage to throw a little get-together that evening for friends – with food they cooked themselves. They volunteer for at least a dozen organisations. They have time-consuming hobbies that require gobs of energy to complete. They’re the ones who throw wonderful surprise parties; who cook up a meal for you when you’re sick; who always seem to have time for, well, anybody who asks.

They live life with gusto. They suck every drop of marrow from the bones of life.

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