Family Lines

stories for you

Tag: memoir (page 5 of 14)

Take a funky interlude

Sea King.

A Canadian CH-124 Sea King performs deck landing. qualifications on board dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) during PANAMAX 2007. PANAMAX 2007 is a joint and multinational training exercise tailored to the defense of the Panama Canal, involving civil and military forces from the region. U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Brett Dawson (RELEASED)

If you lived in the Maritimes in the 90s, you might remember TV interludes. Every now and then a video put to music popped up on the screen instead of a commercial. Why there were interludes, I’m not sure, but it was a nice break from ads.

ATV (CTV in the Maritimes) broadcast the interludes and I have often wondered if the musical breaks were just a Maritime thing. Or if across the country, we were all glued to the 90s version of Vine. Whatever the reason, take a funky little respite with these three interludes.

Sea King over Halifax interlude

ATV downhill skiing interlude

Christmas interlude

Who are you?

Painting of a soldier.

Do you know who this soldier is?

A few summers ago I bought a painting at a yard sale in Vernon, B.C. It’s acrylic on velvet; almost like one of those velvet Elvis pictures you see hanging in someone’s creepy wood-panelled basement. Except it’s not Elvis staring back at me, it’s a soldier. This soldier is nameless and nationless but his story may have been revealed by a click of a mouse.

The painting appealed to me: the colours, the texture of the “canvas,” the subject, and I brought the piece of art home for four dollars. The unknown soldier has travelled with me around Western Canada and now lives in Calgary. Even though we’ve been living together for about seven years, I don’t know anything about him.

One friend who met the soldier thought he was a Gurkha, a fearsome soldier from Nepal. Their famous motto is, “Better to die than be a coward.” Gurkhas still carry their traditional weapon called a kukri, an 18-inch long curved knife. An interesting speculation but I don’t think this guy one of these warriors.

The other day I was wasting time online when I clicked on a BBC News link: Why the Indian soldiers of WW1 were forgotten. The article’s main photo was in black and white but I immediately recognized the uniforms: my soldier’s kit. Was he an Indian solider in the First World War?

I don’t know. But through the article by I learned that the feats and the losses and the stories of these soldiers are missing from most of our history books. Some people, including me, have no idea of the contribution of the Indian units. It also makes me think about the time when I lived in The Gambia, West Africa. My roommate and I walked past the Fajara War Cemetery a couple of times and I wondered why we don’t hear about Gambian veterans. Where are their stories?

There’s no signature on my soldier’s likeness. No markings to tell me where he is from or where he belongs. Nothing to identify him. However, his silence spoke to me and opened a new portal into the past and introduced me to some forgotten sacrifices.

Welcome to the work world

Scarf.

This isn’t a Gap outfit but I am wearing a scarf. This photo was taken in New York City.

Every time I walk into a Gap, I have the urge to tuck tags into shirts and fold sweaters that have been messily discarded by shoppers. The Gap was once a major part of my life in a time when I was falling apart at the seams. (Insert joke here.) Now the retailer is closing a quarter of its stores, maybe even the one I worked in.

It was the late nineties, spring, and I had just graduated from journalism school. This was degree #2. Confident I would get a reporting job in Toronto, where I had been living for two years and where my boyfriend was, I stayed in the big city. That’s where all the opportunities would be anyway. Right?

There was a recession during that time and it slowed down the job market. No one was hiring a green journalist right out of school. No matter how much I made my resume stand out. (I had seen job seeker experts who told me to do something different with my CV. So I put a photo of me rock climbing.) The eye-catching picture along with the aspirational headline about no challenge being too tough, did not net me any work.

In early September, I was finding life a little more difficult than I thought it would be. My boyfriend broke up with me and I hadn’t realized my dream of becoming a globetrotting journo. I also only had $4 to my name and I couldn’t even take it out of the bank machine because withdrawals had to be at least $5. There was no way I was asking my parents for money. I’m an adult now, I thought. Independent. Independent adults look for any way to make a buck. Not just in their fields.

After a week of terrible one-day jobs like shilling bulk tickets to a comedy show, I was wilting. Who knew being grown-up was so hard? A friend saw my distress and helped me. His sister worked at a temp agency and she hooked me up with work. My first placement was on Bay Street with a well-known investment firm.

The night before work, a woman from the firm called me and told me to dress appropriately. I was to wear nice trousers and a nice blouse and nice shoes.

“Oh, and don’t forget to accessorise. Wear a scarf,” she suggested.

That wouldn’t be a problem. I always got compliments on my fashion sense. I’m sure that I’ll blend in with the rest of the corporate employees. In the morning, I left feeling fine and dandy and ready to work. Here I come working world!

My day on Bay Street revolved around putting mail in people’s inboxes. That’s the extent I remember. It wasn’t the best job but it wasn’t the worst. I was getting paid.

Gap store.

I once worked at a Gap. And spent many an hour folding.

I went home that evening and my roommate and I celebrated my new job by getting lost walking around Toronto trying to find a Dairy Queen. Later that night, around 10 p.m., the investors woman called me and asked what I had worn to my new job that almost-done-day. I told her and emphasized I had even put on a scarf. This didn’t impress her.

“They told me you looked like you worked at the Gap,” is what she said to me. “Don’t come back.”

My Bay Street days were over. Now what was I going to do? Even though the investment company woman was incredibly rude and kind of hurt my feelings, she gave me an idea. I was going to apply to work at the Gap: and I did.

I was a “sales associate” at a shop on Queen Street West. It wasn’t a great job but it paid me and I got a clothing discount. Besides that, I leaned some valuable customer service lessons that I use to this day. The Gap was a weird anchor for me in a time that was frustrating and sad. While it was a time I don’t want to re-live, it was a time that gave me lots of perspective and now, funny stories.

Campfires and pirates

Campfire.Stuart McLean was telling stories about singing songs yesterday. The Vinyl Cafe was all about using your voice to carry a tune and carry a tale. Something many of my friends can do. Not me.

I like music. I was in band in school. I was in choir too and I also took piano lessons for many years. Now a days I listen to songs on the internet or through my mobile. I almost never hum along. I don’t like singing. Except, I just remembered, around a campfire.

I was a Brownie and a Girl Guide and a Pathfinder and a Ranger. Camping is a big part of the Guiding movement and I went every summer to live outdoors for a week. After sun soaked days of hiking or sailing or jumping off the dock into the lake, we sat in a circle singing campfire songs. Songs written years before we were born. Songs that wove stories of tragedy like the Titanic into melodies. We sung the words without sadness. Because we were young and the worst thing to happen that day was a wasp sting.

My favourite song to sing around the flames is Barges. It’s a simple composition with lyrics about ocean-going vessels bringing treasures from one part of the world to the other. There are even pirates fighting in the midst of the score. Barges is a song that harmonizes music with a good story. Any voice can carry this tune and every imagination can take to the seas when singing this story under a starry night.

Listen to Barges: http://bit.ly/1LaqVCt

Make memories today

bike rider.

Beginning, middle and end

Toronto.

Toronto skyline.

I instruct writing workshops and one thing I teach is a story has to have a beginning, middle and end. An easy way to accomplish this in a piece is to remember to use the three o’s: objective, obstacle and outcome.

To get the point across I split a class into groups of three. Then I have everyone write an objective (beginning) and pass their paper on to the next person. That person then has to add the tale and write the obstacle (middle) of the first person’s story. After he or she is finished, they pass the story on to the next person, who concludes the story with the outcome.

The end result is usually a pretty cool story: even though it’s been written by three people. But the point is not to write a masterpiece but to show how easy it is to craft a story when there’s structure. Some amazing tales have come out of this exercise. Here is one:

Oct. 23 2013

It was supposed to be a nice day and he hoped the sun would keep shining. He had a ring in his pocket and a proposal on his mind. He loved his girl and it was time to make her his wife.

The only problem was she lived in Toronto and he lived in Calgary. Neither of them had enough money to visit each other in person, even though we were able to converse over e-mail. The man had heard that sometimes web dating didn’t work out because a lovely woman could turn out to be a burly guy. But in his heart, he knew his situation was different.

“That’s it!” he said to himself. “I have to get to Toronto. Nothing will stand in my way.”

He took the ring and pawned it. With the money from the trade he bought a ticket to Toronto. If she loves him as much as he loves her, she won’t care that he don’t have the bling.

Technobility

blackboard.How do I use technology for my business’ advantage?

Find out here: http://bit.ly/1F9WR2E.

Stand by your (NHL) man

Maple Leaf Gardens

Maple Leaf Gardens in 2009.

Don’t laugh at me but I like the Leafs. Yes, the Toronto Maple Leafs. My team hasn’t done well all year and definitely aren’t in the running for the Stanley Cup so I’m rooting for my next favourite team, the Calgary Flames. (Update: they lost last night.) My husband is a diehard Montreal Canadians fan and I’m not going there.

I went to Ryerson University in downtown Toronto. My second year, I lived in Cabbagetown, east of Yonge Street and about a 10 minute walk from class. Going to and fro I passed Maple Leaf Gardens, the large brick building that was the home of the Maple Leafs.

I didn’t favour one hockey team over another back then. The Maritimes don’t have an NHL team, so I never felt an affinity for one squad or another. But being in Toronto and having Maple Leaf Gardens nearby made me a Leafs fan. I used the see the players walking in and out from a game or practice. On cold winter nights that turned the outdoor light blue, joyous crowds would cram through the Gardens’ doors and hit the streets. I weaved my way through their happy (most of the time) braying and would hear their dissections of the winning goal.

Sometimes I saw players from the visiting team standing outside, like Wayne Gretzky and

Leaf jersey.

Go Leafs! (Next year.)

Marty McSorley when they played for the L.A. Kings. They were getting ready to hop on the bus parked on Carlton Street. Headed home. Like me.

Those moments created a member of Leafs Nation. It wasn’t any specific hockey stat, player, or game. I actually haven’t seen them play other than on TV. But it doesn’t matter. I will never Leaf them. Although I’m crossing my fingers (and toes) they pick up their game next season.

Mum’s not just a mum

mum, dad and baby.

My parents and I.

I don’t have a first memory of my mother. She’s always been there: picking me up, carrying me, holding my hand and teaching me about life. For the past few months, I’ve been collecting my mother’s stories. Now I’m learning about her life.

You’d think that I’d already know a lot about my mother. Of course I do. She told my sisters and I many stories about growing up in northwestern Ontario on a farm. Her anecdotes are rich with detail and humour and tie her family stories to us, the next generation. My niece and nephew have even created heritage projects in school using their grandmother’s (my mother’s) memoirs about her dad, a Second World War veteran. But it’s different hearing family stories when you’re young compared to when you’re 40.

 

At the age I am now, I have different questions. They lead to different insights. I see the sadness behind some of the funny stories. I understand the context. I hear the love in her voice when she talks about her parents, remembering them through the lens of maturity.

My mother’s memoirs are not close to being being done. I’ve interviewed her up to when she met my father, a quirkier story than I realized. My mother’s story isn’t done either because she has so much more life to live. She continues to be there for my sisters and I. We’ll always be her babies, she always tells us, and there’s nothing she wouldn’t do for us.

Happy Mother’s Day to my mother and every other mother too.

Have a treasured memory of your mom to share – but don’t have the time to write it down?Mother's Day logo.

Talk to me.

Tell me your tale in half an hour, I’ll turn it into a story she’ll keep forever.

$50 (Payment required via Interac e-transfer.)

For more information, contact LeaStorry@ourfamilylines.ca or 403-700-5435.

Springshine

Woman and dogs walking.

Photo by Lewis Benedict.

 

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