It occurs to me as I begin this letter to you, one that you'll likely never read, that writing to a writer, a lyricist, a intellect, and a poet will be trying. How could I ever put into words my sentiments tonight? The words are not beautiful enough. At least in any combinations I can find. How could I tell you, without reverting to my fourteen year-old brain, about the time when I found you and then you saved me, what you've meant to me, all along?
The fourteen year-old me would attempt to cleverly embed lyrics from her favourites songs into the prose. Like, I might have told you how you've always been Ahead by a Century, or something equally cringe-worthy and obvious. I'd have thought that was witty, you know. It's okay, though, you probably wouldn't mind.
Instead of trying to recreate the painful banter of a fourteen year-old, I'll tell you how I found you. It won't be original but it will be true.
It was 1991; I was in my grandparent's basement avoiding the grown-up party upstairs. It was hazy with cigarette smoke up there ( Export A green, if you must know) and the adults laughed too loudly and were never without a Moosehead beer in their hands. They were happy, and friendly, and just a little bit too much like my friends and I are today, but mostly boring to a teenage girl who wore a denim jacket that had Alice and Chains written on the sleeve in script like a bad tattoo, though she couldn't name a single Alice and Chains song. I can't remember what they were celebrating, a birthday, or a holiday or maybe just a Tuesday evening. My family is Irish and need little reason to celebrate. All I knew was that it was lame, and I wanted no part of it.
The basement at my grandparent's house was the epitome of cool to me. There was a bar and along one wall was a bar mirror. You know, the long skinny kind that ran the length of the wall. There were old signs hanging here and there boasting 5 cent beers and other quaint offerings. There was a couch, void of springs, a television, a coffee table and most importantly, behind that bar, many many milk crates full of albums. There were seven children born to my grandparents and it would seem at least a few of them adored rock and roll. My cousins and I would browse the expansive collection regularly, never once opening up a record because we had ghetto blasters and tape decks in '91, but nonetheless we would browse the records and pick our favourites. I was partial to the David Bowie albums because I liked his make-up. My cousins would often choose AC/DC or LED Zeppelin as their favourites. The cassette versions were often playing and we could pretend we were DJ's or clerks at a really hip record store. It never got old. Remember those? Record stores.
On that evening, as I was perusing the milk crates once again, I heard a song. Now keep in mind it was just a few short years before that I had been writing love letters to the members of New Kids on the Block, so I had yet to develop a taste for rock music, but this song struck me like nothing ever had before:
It gets so sticky down here
Better butter your cue finger up
It's the start of another new year
Better call the newspaper up
Two fifty for a hi-ball
And buck and a half for a beer
Happy hour, happy hour
Happy hour is here
Now, like any good child breaching the gap between the glam of the late eighties and the grunge developing in the early nineties I was rejecting dance music in favour of anything angry, melancholy or so hard done by (you see what I did there? The fourteen year-old got one in, after all). This song, this rock and roll song that advised we should eat our chicken slow, stirred something in me that I had been looking for. A love of music, a true love, a love that was represented by all those albums for another generation and a love that would see me through a most tumultuous teenage existence.
I crawled out from behind the bar and left the records alone. I wouldn't need them anymore. I asked my older brother (who also preferred the anonymity of the basement) who we were listening to.
"The Tragically Hip, idiot." He snapped as older brothers will do. (Don't worry, we're friends now and even enjoyed Saturday's concert together.)
Fair enough, I thought, as apparently I was late to the game.
My plan was simple. As soon as we got home I would sneak into my brother's room and search his tape collection for this band. I wanted to play that particular song on repeat as soon as I possibly could.
I found it among the Guns & Roses, Cult and Stevie Ray Vaughan cassettes. It was called Road Apples and Little Bones was the first track. Surely, I wore it out over the course of the next few weeks. Only when my brother wasn't at home, of course. On the rare occasion when I would let the tape play out rather than rewind obsessively, I would discover other gems. Cordelia and Fiddler's Green are still in my top ten. Did you know the Stereophonics do a great version? Of course you do.
I wanted more.
I did some research pre-google, which mean't I had to find a Sam the Record Man in the mall and ask the clerk my questions. He directed me to Up to Here and a self-titled album, and I purchased them with the money I made working at a movie rental store (how cliche is that?). Remember those? Movie Rental Stores.
I took them home and lay down on my bed and played the tapes while I sang along with the lyrics included inside the tape cover. I was content. More content than should be allowed for a sullen fourteen year-old girl.
That was only the beginning, Gord. There would be family strife and break-ups and things I've only ever told you, and for everything you gave me a song. Day for Night and Fully Completely were like bookends to a less than stellar high school experience. There was Grace, Too and Nautical Disaster. Then there was Courage (which had me reading Hugh McLennan before I could appreciate him) and Locked in the Trunk of a Car which was dark when I needed dark.
Later there was Ahead by a Century (So haunting, right?) and Gift Shop. I had seen you live a half dozen times by the time this album emerged. You were playing close to home again, and I went with some boyfriend or another, none of them could be you. We brought items in for the food bank and were given a ticket for a chance to win "Tickets to the Henhouse". Do you remember that tour? There was a strange kind of henhouse re-creation on the back left of the stage and the winning ticket holders would be invited to watch the show from the stage. The venue held about 7000 people so when my number was called I was beyond thrilled. We rushed up to collect our prize and sit on the stage to watch the greatest band of all time preform. Only we couldn't really see you from that weird henhouse, and we couldn't really hear you, either. We stayed though, because we were close and that was cool. We were close to greatness and it meant something.
I didn't get to see you again after that.
Life got in the way.
I became an adult and though you continued to be prominent on my playlist during those university years, there was no more extra cash to find you in concert. You didn't come around the East Coast as much anymore. Phantom Power was making its rounds with the greatest song I've ever had the pleasure to hear, Bobcaygeon, but I wouldn't see it live and I'll forever regret that.
Later when I was really grown-up, like 'getting married and starting a family' kind of grown-up, a time when it just wasn't that cool to be 'right into your music', I lost touch with some of your later albums. I guess I was becoming part of a generation that downloaded singles and gone were the days when we would buy the whole album and lay on our beds and read along with the lyrics that came along inside the cassette case. Now, we would let record charts decide which songs we needed to hear. Much Music no longer played in the background while I was pretending to do homework. Now, my iPod shuffled whatever plethora of songs I decided were worth my $1.99 and work beckoned.
You're still on every single one of my playlists, you know. It's usually Bobcaygeon, or So Hard Done By. Sometimes, I need something a little more nostalgic so it's Twist my Arm or Little Bones. (I had a cat named Little Bones, you know.) I thought you would like that.
Anyway Gord, I don't want this letter to be about my reaction to the news of your cancer. I want to tell you how I found you and where I've kept you all along. I hope I did that.
I was watching Saturday night when you and the band played to over eleven million Canadians live to remind us that you weren't giving up. You, the most intellectual of thinkers, the most prolific of poets stood on stage and told us that you weren't done serving Canada.
Gord, you make Canada so righteously cool. Your albums are the soundtrack of all of our lives.
I love you
I'll miss you
Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, let me first state that being part of the Netflix StreamTeam is my favourite gig of all. I love the perks and the people and most of all the merch (that's a fancy industry word for merchandise that I learned recently so expect me to use it whenever I can).
Anyway, month after month our mailbox is full of surprises for the whole family. Netflix socks for Alex (he is still talking about them and looking for more. You'd think the electronics they send would be his thing, but no he's into the socks). There are always toys for the kids, and gift cards and clothing for me. We are spoiled to say the least.
So, what's my damn problem, you ask? What's there to complain about?
This month, Netflix saw fit to send musical instruments. My house just got a little louder and a whole lot more annoying. So, as much as my kids appreciate it, and they do, this mama would like to remind Netflix that they forget to send the earplugs (and the wine).
Now, since the theme of the kit this month is this impossibly cute new Netflix show called Beat Bugs ( a cartoon set to Beatles music) you must check out the Beat Bugs inspired video the girls made below. As you can see I made them do it outside!
Don't forget to like, comment or share for a chance to win a 3 month Netflix subscription.
"Every parent wonders, I'm sure. What will they be like when they grow up? Will they be successful? Happy? Fulfilled? Have we prepared them? Have we sacrificed enough?
I wonder these things, too.
I lie awake, at night, imagining scenarios.
What will it be like for her? Will her sister always take care of her?
At the grocery store today our cashier was chatty. A nervous chatter, accompanied by little eye contact. She was young and keenly efficient in her running though of our order. She didn't read my 'too tired to talk' expression and began asking questions about my order, while interjecting tidbits about her favourite items to buy at the store. "Do you always buy ice-cream? I love ice-cream. My favourite kinds are Ben and Jerry's and Chapman's but only when they are on sale. My best friend loves ice-cream, too. He likes Baskin Robbins but not me, I like Ben and Jerry's and Chapman's but only when they are on sale." She went on, and I managed a smile, relieved that I wouldn't really have to participate in the conversation. As she went on expertly bagging our groceries I let the thought enter my mind. I didn't want to think it, I didn't want to go there today. Today was for getting groceries and visiting friends and enjoying summer. The thought nagged, and just as our cashier began to chat about the virtues of neapolitan, my brain defianlty asked:
'Will this be Kate, someday?'
Will she be the girl working at the grocery store? Considered by her colleagues to be on the seriously quirky side of normal. Too high-functioning (to use a dangerous phrase) to receive any kind of services, and too socially awkward to develop meaningful relationships. Will the moms that go through her line be too tired to listen to her chatter on in a futile attempt to make a connection, any connection?
Will her unusual ways make it impossible for her to work, at all? Will she continue to struggle with language and misread intentions to the point where she cannot find a place in the working world? She's so confident right now, you know. She's so convinced that she is a superhero; famous for this silly little blog, and a total ham. What if that is not enough?
Will she find her groove? Will the language piece someday click? Will the thousands of hours of therapy give her the social skills she needs to compete? Can she regulate her nervous system, her emotions, her sensory issues well enough to manage? I know she is perfect to us, but will that be enough for her?
Our cashier is asking for my credit card. My girls have been silently listening to her ice-cream monologue while my brain defies me once again. She has so quickly and efficiently run through my order. She is obviously wonderful at her job. I hand her my card, feeling guilty for my thoughts. She smiles at my girls, they smile back. She really is very lovely.
"Hague Daas", I say. "Anything with caramel."
She makes eye contact. Her smile genuine, her laugh easy.
"That's my dad's favourite, too."
"He sounds like a smart man." I say.
"Probably average." She says, all too seriously.
We exchange more smiles and we're off.
"She seemed happy didn't she girls? Sort of, fulfilled."
It's NSD Oakley's 4th birthday! So, what's a girl and her service dog to do? Head to the beach for some fun and photos, of course. Some of you may know that Kate loves to take pictures so if she isn't in the shot she likely took it. Big sister is less interested in being in photos but we caught her in a few.
Happy Mail to:
27 Wellington Row
Saint John, NB
Click below for info on getting a custom illustration of your pet, by yours truly!
Grace and Kate's mom. (Shanell)