What a view!

My grandparents moved to Nepean in 1976, right around the time my sister Jen was born. The house was smaller than their old house, with less corners to explore, but we came to love it. We loved it, of course, for the family held within but also for the little things like the smell of cedar by the hedge, and playing dinky cars along the mortar on the stone fireplace, and the little toads that gathered near the leaky tap beside the kitchen door. Daddy Harold never fixed that tap in the 26 years they lived there because Nana loved the little toads just as much as we did. And we loved the tall fir tree beside the house.

Daddy Harold had two rules about the tree. We couldn’t get help up and we couldn’t drag anything over to get up. If we couldn’t get up on our own then we just weren’t old enough. My sisters are the ones who figured out a work around. We could climb the nearby fence and shimmy across a branch to the trunk and then climb. That opened up a fair bit of entertainment. Once we even climbed up the tree then across to the roof… but only once. The branches were too small and wobbly. Otherwise we’d just climb up for a bit then go back down. My sisters liked to go up and chat with each other on the branches but I liked to go up for the solitude. I’d feel the breeze against my cheeks and listen to the wind softly ruffle the fir needles. And, of course, each year it got a bit easier to climb as we got just that bit taller.

Nana and I blogEvery summer my grandparents would take each of us on our own for one week. It gave my parents a bit of a break and us a break too. I can’t remember how old I was this particular summer trip but I do remember it was a beautiful day. Nana settled down on one of those long, folding lawn chairs with a book and a wide brimmed hat while I made a beeline for the tree.

I didn’t have any plans for how far I’d climb, I was just enjoying the moment. I climbed past the roof of the house but that was no big deal or goal as they lived in a bungalow. Then I climbed a bit further and looked out through a gap in the branches.

“Nana!” I said excitedly. “I can see the pool!”

“That’s nice dear,” she said. Her head didn’t even move.

I kept climbing. The pool was, after all, only three blocks away. It wasn’t like I’d climbed that far. I got a bit higher and announced that I could see Ikea, which was in Nepean at the time and got the same remark. And onwards I went. I had to call a bit louder to say I could see the Rideau River… same with the Parliament buildings.

The trunk was quite a bit thinner by then and the branches were getting farther apart. Luckily I had really good upper body strength because I was reaching above my head and hauling myself up to the next branch. Then I reached another open space. Wow! Everything was so distant yet so detailed and there was a shimmer of water on the horizon.

“Nana! Nana! I can see the Gatineau River!!!”

“That’s nice dear,” came her exact same reply. I couldn’t see her at this point but I was reasonably sure she hadn’t looked up. That must have been one hell of a good book!

By now I was standing on my tiptoes to grasp the next branch. I knew that was risky but I was so close to reaching the top of the tree and there’s a lot more bragging power in saying I climbed to the top than there is to say I almost made it. The trunk and the branches were the same size and it moved slightly in the breeze. And then suddenly the next branch was the last.

The top of the tree was like a little nest, round and flat with branches cupped around it. I felt safe for the first time in about ten minutes, rocking gently and watching the world. The Gatineau glittered in the sunlight and, beyond it was a city. I named the only one I knew, other than Quebec, which I knew was too far away even at that age.

“Nana! Nana! Guess what? I can see Montreal!!!”

This time I could see her, still in the same position, “That’s nice d-” she stopped as her brain detangled from the novel and caught up with my words. “What did you say???”

She dropped the book and looked up… and up… and up. Her hat fell off as her head tilted.

“Kathleen Ellen Atkinson! You get down here right this instant!”

Going down was a hell of a lot harder than going up. It was scary enough to stand on my tiptoes and reach for a branch. It was ten times harder to let myself down from a branch then let go, trusting that I’d positioned myself well enough for the branch below. And doing that time and time again. I don’t particularly remember the views. I do, however, remember that trip down.

I finally made it to the ground, where my much shaken Nana was waiting for a hug.

“Don’t you ever climb that high again!” she scolded, and I didn’t. I don’t think I got much higher than roof height after that and that was just high enough for me.

I’m in love…

He’s short, bald, toothless, and well under half my age but I’m blissfully, happily in love. He’s my 7 week old grandson and he’s an absolute doll.

I watched him last night while my daughter and her boyfriend went out for the evening and got to spend hours snuggling him and watching him sleep, while taking short cat naps of my own. He was wired and ready to party at 1am and his Mommy and I didn’t get to bed until 4:30am but it was still wonderful.

I forgot how magical those first gummy smiles are. How they stretch with their whole body. How they belly breathe… their little tummies expanding to Buddha belly size. How absolutely tiny their little toes and fingers are. Their dimpled knuckles. That first faint scatter of new hair.

He’s perfect, like all babies are, perfection in miniature, and I can see glimpses in him of the toddler and child he’s going to be. Soon he’ll be eager to go. To crawl and walk and explore. But for now he’s content to be snuggled and I am more than content to do the snuggling.

The best birthday present ever…

Aka, I love my parents đŸ™‚

I should know my Mom by now. I get my complete inability to handle surprise situations from her. She tends to get upset and lashes out when faced with an unfamiliar situation, only to be totally fine later on.

This morning (once we buried poor Bean) we headed off to our favourite Thai restaurant for lunch with Emma. Then, following Jeremy’s counseling appointment, we headed over to my parents’ house. Emma and Jeremy went immediately upstairs to work on Jeremy’s hair. I wandered up a little while later and knocked on the door.

“Can I come in?” I asked.

“Sure. You’re good,” Emma replied.

I stepped inside and Jeremy spun to face me. He was wearing a navy blue sleeveless dress and his hair was pulled back from his face with black barrettes.

“You look very pretty,” I commented before giving him a quick hug.

“Thanks,” he replied with a smile. He spun back to the mirror and his smile grew more uncertain. “I don’t know why I look so good in women’s clothes.”

“C’mon,” Emma urged. “Let’s go put on some makeup.”

Emma loved dressing Jeremy up and trying different styles of makeup on him when they were little. This faded over the years; when I look back it was around the same time she grew more frustrated with him. I had a heartfelt talk with her a few weeks ago and she tearfully told me she’d been being hard on Jeremy because she was scared of him getting bullied. She hadn’t realized how much her behaviour was hurting him.

I headed back downstairs to chat with my parents and came back up a half hour later to tell them it was dinner time. Jeremy had changed out of Emma’s dress but his shirt was sweaty so Emma had given him a tank top to wear along with a sports bra. He quickly covered them up with a plaid shirt and went to scrub his face. Most of the makeup washed away but he went downstairs wearing his sister’s shirt, mascara, and black barrettes.

My parents said nothing about his appearance. They laughed and joked with him like usual while Jeremy tried to pass his quietness off as being tired. He picked at his meal. Then came dessert. My Mom usually makes angel food cake for birthdays but there’s no way to make that vegan, so she had ice cream, sorbet, and fruit salad. Jeremy got himself a big bowl of ice cream then my Dad snuck it.

“Granddad,” Jeremy laughed. “That’s mine, give it back!”

My Dad laughed as well, wrapping his arms around the bowl. “No, it’s mine,” he insisted.

Jeremy made a feign then grabbed the bowl back and the ice was broken. Once his bowl was empty, he turned to Emma.

“Can we go back upstairs now to do my hair?” he asked. And off they went.

I was showing my parents how to download pictures from Facebook when Jeremy and Emma came downstairs. Emma had made two small braids at the front of his hair and something called a fish tail on the back.

My parents looked over.

“Your hair looks nice,” my Mom said warmly and my Dad nodded agreement. Then both kids went outside.

Nothing was said about the purple metallic nail polish on Jeremy’s toes or the pinkish-beige polish on his fingers. It was, hands down, the best birthday present ever.

One of my regrets from when Jeremy and Emma were younger was I never took pictures of Jeremy dressed in anything but boys’ clothing. I was so worried about embarrassing him when he grew up with silly pictures of his childhood; it never dawned on me that he might want them or how he’d feel about his photo-happy mother never taking those photos. Today I took a tonne.