Back from away…

My brother's backyard

It’s twenty degrees out, and I’m sitting in my brother’s backyard. If this is Waterloo living (as in warm), I don’t think I’ll ever want to leave here again.

Walking about the city, I’m no longer anonymous. People I know say hello. I’ve already hung out with three friends, and it’s not even dinnertime.

Back in car-land, I’ve put more miles on my borrowed wheels in half a day than I do in Halifax in a month.

And oh. I can’t believe I forgot about the kamikaze squirrels that dart in front of cars when you drive. I haven’t hit one yet, but I’m sorry, I want to because I also remember how they ate all the food out of my bird feeders at my old house. I’m sure there must be squirrels in Halifax; I just haven’t seen one yet.

Hello also to rabbits, rabbits, and more rabbits.

Then there is King Street, and its assorted arteries being all torn up for LRT construction purposes. Having an easier way to get around a couple years from now, means for the moment, it’s impossibly difficult to get anywhere directly, while the backdrop hum of idling traffic is everywhere and all the time.

Hello Waterloo. I missed you.

**************************************************

At 7:45pm, I’m at the table with three friends, and we are down to the last two courses of our Tapas dinner—cheese and dessert. I jab at the remaining bits and score the last mouthful of stupidly-good ice cream.

My belly is so full I want to unzip my pants. And I thank Goddess my top is loose and blousy. So I can upzip my pants, without anyone noticing.

By far, we are the loudest table in the joint, and I’m pretty sure our laughing is the single greatest contribution to the ruckus. Megan’s new-to-me, eye-popping stories are way more interesting than anything I’ve seen, heard or done for ages (and don’t worry Megan, my lips are sealed forever—promise I won’t tell).

There are four of us—Sabine, a friend from grade 9, plus Heather and Megan, who are newer friends, which in Waterloo time means more than five years but less than a decade. They came compliments of Sabine’s friend posse because Sabine shares her friends.

Full of food and caught up from my time away, we square up our bills, stroll outside, and three hugs later, I’m on my way.

At 8:15, I pull into a different Heather’s driveway, which is my final scheduled stop of the night. Both she and another friend, Susan, greet me at the door with more hugs. There’s wine, popcorn, chocolate, and dessert waiting for me inside, and I manage to make space in my belly to sample everything. We spend a few hours sitting around the kitchen island, swapping stories. There’s even an extra in the room, Heather’s husband Glen, and he digs in with the talk and tales right alongside us.

By midnight, I’m cuddled up on my pseudo bed (pull out couch) in my brother and sister-in-law’s house.

I am, once more, homeless in Waterloo, but so happy.

**************************************************

The next day is a most memorable afternoon tea with my friend Joyce and her husband Graham. They’ve just moved into their new home, and after a quick tour, we plunk ourselves on her back deck to enjoy the gorgeous sunshine.

Joyce shows me a recent book, which is a collection of essays, and there is one in it written about the book she published many years ago. I read it, and we ponder how the author came to ascribe her own interpretive meanings into Joyce’s words and whether they matched Joyce’s thoughts. It’s a valuable and unexpected excercise to remember for my own MFA.

A few times, depending on what we’re talking about, we giggle together schoolgirl style, with little mind to our 30-year age difference. Age matters, except when it doesn’t. And with Joyce, it doesn’t.

Thanks also to Joyce, I get an unexpected invitation to attend the Munk Debate in Toronto, a couple days later, and her son is a panelist. Rats his side doesn’t win though, especially since Joyce and I both agree when we chat on the phone after the debate that, hands down, Malcolm did have the best arguments.

My Waterloo visit goes on with a steady stream of breakfasts, lunches, coffees and/or dinners, with girlfriends and manfriends—cue the food, wine and jibber-jabber, not to mention probable weight gain.

The days go fast, and before I know it, I am in the car and on my way to Toronto with my brother, first stop the AGO for a dose of art. And then I will spend my last two days with my sons (and meet their new girlfriends), catch up for dinner with my Toronto Writer’s group, and lunch with Nellwyn who is in my MFA program.

**************************************************

Monday night, I’m walking down Bloor Street, sandwiched between sons Cary and Graham. The street is busy, and though we walk three abreast, foot traffic coming from the other direction splits to go round, rather than through us.

“Cary’s got a girlfriend. Cary’s got a girlfriend,” Graham teases.

“Ma, make him stop. Would ya?” Cary pleads with me.

We’d just had dinner with Myra, Cary’s new girlfriend, and I’d met Graham’s new girlfriend, Andi, as well. They are lovely girls, and it is three for three now, with Warren’s girlfriend, Sara. And yes, I like them all.

“Ma, you like Andi best. Right?” asks Graham.

They don’t really need or want me to answer, and there is really no right answer anyway. So I smile and link my arms between one arm of each son, and for once, they don’t shake me off. I hold tight to them, listening to their boy banter as we walk along the street.

**************************************************

And then, all of a sudden, it’s Tuesday and time to return to Halifax.

We are in restaurant, not too far from Cary’s place, for the last bits of time before we head to the subway station. We will part there—me heading to the airport and Cary heading to his girlfriend’s flat.

I sit across from Cary, munching on my bison burger, and listen to my son share his thoughts, hopes and dreams, none of which are remotely set in stone, yet thankfully, seem to be going in the right direction. I hang on my son’s words and gestures because I’m working on making every second last forever. But it never works, does it? Time is relentless, and somehow, I went from rocking my firstborn in my arms to sitting across from a 6’2” and 27 year-old son, all grown up, just like his brothers.

And not that I am ancient, but I feel the beginnings of the switch happening. I led my three sons for years, and here in Toronto, they lead me, each on high alert to my movements. Sometimes they grab onto my arm, as if I will trundle off the wrong way, though I’d rather believe it’s to give me an affectionate squeeze.

It’s a short walk to the Keele subway station. On the escalator, we hear the whoosh of the train arriving, and run the last few steps, so I won’t miss it. Cary hustles me to my train and urges me to get on, but not before a hug good-bye. I scoot on the train, seconds before the doors start to close.

“I love you,” I call out to Cary before they’ve shut, and he calls back, “Love you ma.”

From inside the train, I look out the glass and see this tall, lanky man, my son, waving at me as the train pulls away.

*****************************************

And here I am, back in Halifax.

This morning, I ran through the park and toward the shipyards. My usual. I was blocked though, by a train that had come out of the yard and stretched itself across the road, stopping traffic and me. It wasn’t moving. The last time this happened, I waited it out, but not this time. I walked up to it, climbed up the rails, across the caboose and back down the steps on the other side.

Happy with my little train adventure, I started running again, until a honk caught my attention.

I looked to my right and inside a car, an older man was gesturing me toward him. Gray and grizzled, he had a friendly face and smiled as he leaned his body across the passenger seat.

“Hey there,” he said through the window. “You want to be careful and not do that.”

“Oh,” I said and added “Why?” as if part of me didn’t know I probably shouldn’t have done that.

“You can be fined $450 if you’re caught doing that. I know because I got fined. Just thought you should know.”

I smiled, thanked him, and then went on my way, grateful for this new information and warmed up inside by the gentle, familiar, friendly ways of the east, not to mention my first view of the ocean since being back.

I’m at my computer now, and my writing routine is slowly returning. I’ve written three of five essay critiques and happy day, received my essay back with an ‘A.’

I am from away, but for now anyway, I’m home.

Oh yes. Last week, I did end my blog wondering how I would feel to be back in Waterloo. The answer is easy. Loved.

PS To the peeps I got to see and those I didn’t… I miss you and back in December!!!

PPS Munk Debate Link http://munkdebates.com/livestream

Audio: The Gaslamp Killer – Veins & Neil Young – If I Could Have Her Tonight


3 thoughts on “Back from away…

  1. Hi Kar, Glad you had such a great time back in old Waterloo – you really picked a good weekend to come. And just so you feel better it’s rainy, cool and dismal again. Hope it’s nicer there, I’m sure you’ll start experiencing that renowned eastern winter weather soon. Have a nice weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

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