Baby in the Corner

Darlings, it’s a perfectly puffy-eyed situation happening over here.  Last night I sat outside and basked in the warm evening sunlight, and stared up into the tree that hangs over the patio.  I could see patches of sky-blue through all the leafy green, wondered how far through the forest I would have to trudge to see a glimmer of success.  It’s not the end of the world, it’s just a contest, it’s just disappointment.  My husband has gently pointed out that perhaps it is not the contest, but that it is a deeper issue.  I’m not in a satisfying career, strike action is taking place in Immigration sectors, and we have no idea what the future holds.  And mostly, that I have so much to offer;  a heart that is about to burst from wanting so much, but it feels like like few things are possible at this juncture.    I’ve received some lovely emails, and comforting shout-outs, and I really appreciate it. What I’d like to do is print my competitive piece here.  It’s not everyone’s cup, but I’m proud of it. And after all, nobody puts Baby in the corner…


It’s the middle of the week, I’m eight years old, I’m wearing a second-hand Brownie uniform, and my mother has just invited me to watch the last ten minutes of Dirty Dancing.  Sitting on the sofa, crossing my legs like a lady, I recognized this as a rite of passage.  If ever my parents brought a film into the house, it was promptly previewed with scrutinizing eyes.  Many were considered unacceptable for viewing.  Nonetheless, my mother decided the final dance sequence of this film passed the test.  And I didn’t blame her.  I had no idea what was happening, but I knew one thing: this couple had charisma.  Their energy was so infectious that the only cure was for everyone to dance.  I had so many questions.  Who are these people? Why are they dancing? How did the homely girl come to be in the corner? And just who is this Johnny Castle character?  All questions melted away as the scene progressed to its climax.  Baby in her pink skirt, leaping into Johnny’s muscular arms and being lifted up into the lights, her arms stretched out, her heart open wide My pulse was racing.   Patrick Swayze was the most magnificent creature I had ever seen. It was then I made a silent declaration: that one day I would experience the entirety of this movie. 

The following summer my Grandmother visited from Wales.  She was a strange creature from the Old World, with a thick indecipherable accent.  Alone with her one afternoon I seized an opportunity.  “Do you like movies Grandma?”  “Oh, I like Coronation Street”, her Welsh accent a musical swing-set, swaying up and down as she spoke.  “Have you ever seen Dirty Dancing?” “Can’t say that I have”.  “Really? Wow… it’s pretty much my favourite movie”.  “What’s it about then?” “It’s…um, it’s about…dancing…that is dirty?” “I don’t know if I’d like that”, her frown line deepened.  “No! Not “dirty” I’m not describing it properly”, I’m panicked, sweating.  “Maybe we should take a stroll to the corner shop and look for it”.  I knew there was a copy at Bob’s Mini Mart; whenever my parents went there to buy cigarettes or milk, I’d spot it on the shelf.  I’d clutch the display case in my pudgy fingers, rubbing my thumb over Patrick’s face.  Now with my grandmother in tow, anything was possible.  Who was I to deny her an authentic North American experience? She had come all the way from the United Kingdom to stay a month in this sleepy little town, with few amenities beyond gas stations and grocery stores.  She had never even heard of Patrick Swayze.  Poor dear.  We were both in need of an education. 

“That was a nice film wasn’t it?” my grandmother smiled, satisfied as the credits rolled.  I drifted featherweight back to reality.  Nice didn’t even begin to cover it—this film was spectacular.   As a family of six we didn’t travel much.  Resorts that employed tough, yet tender dance instructors to teach lessons about life and love was beyond reach.  That was a real concern for me; if I never went anywhere, how would my true love find me? At school I had few friends and was unpopular with boys—I had thick eyebrows, chubby thighs and an overbite; I was socially incapable and totally uncool.  Often overcome with loneliness, I retreated into a cinematic fantasy world, yearning for love and adventure.  Staring out the window onto the trailer park lot, I’d imagine Johnny Castle rescuing me from my unhappy corner of the world.  How I wanted my very own musical montage, dancing to Hungry Eyes with a sweaty Swayze all up in my mix.  He’d write She’s like the Wind about me, and nobody would blame him.  I wanted to run, leap and be lifted overhead, light as air, my pink ballerina skirt floating angelically.  I wanted to be raised up and swept away.

Twenty years later, I met my husband in New Zealand.  In amidst a music festival crowd I saw Benjamin and knew that I was home.  Our partnership was immediately tempered by deadlines, departure dates and other logistical elements of our different birth rights.  We married eight months after meeting, and fuelled by temporary working visas we travelled for two years before settling in Canada.  We were finally faced with the dreaded immigration process, which pressed on a visceral, adolescent nerve.  Johnny and Baby didn’t want to be separated either.  They were divided briefly; the conservative type at Kellerman’s couldn’t accept their attachment. But in the end, Johnny came back for her and much dancing ensued.  But would they really have stayed together after the summer in the Catskills?  Would Baby not attend Mount Holyoke College or join the Peace Corps as planned? Would they just ‘promise to keep in touch’? Somehow I can’t imagine Johnny Castle being your pen to paper, stamp to envelope kind of guy; he’s a lover not a writer. 

When is a summer romance really worth fighting for?  How do you know that you have truly found ‘the one’?  When you are willing to fill out the paperwork?  The permanent residency process is a totally unromantic yet completely necessary venture, and an excellent device to weed out the weak.  The fine folks at Immigration in Vegreville, Alberta need to know everything about you and your partner.  To prove that our marriage was a genuine, conjugal relationship a paper trail was required. We provided forms, financial documents and supplemental appendixes, with references, letters, photographs and old bills addressed to both parties.    This lengthy task combined two fears: not finding a common country with my husband, and really complicated paperwork.  We were happy to confirm that we had not desecrated churches, partaken in genocide or organized any political uprisings. We had confidence in the evidence that supported the legitimacy of our marriage.  For us, the medical exam was the greatest cause for concern.  “What if they find something and I have to leave the country… I’d have tuberculosis and you’d be on the other side of the world”.  Benjamin whispered as he squeezed my hand in the waiting room. “You’ll be just fine…there’s nothing wrong with you” I assured him. Of course I don’t know that, I’m not a doctor; I don’t even watch enough Grey’s Anatomy to peg a guess.  But his nervousness planted a seed of doubt inside my mind: what if something was wrong?  In life and in health, nothing is certain.  Patrick Swayze, once physically fit, athletic, healthy and gorgeous, died at 57.  It’s as if Johnny Castle is the immortal girlhood fantasy, but Swayze represents the crushing weight of reality.  There are no certainties, the universe is not fair; my existence is not the exception, nor is the life of the man that I love.

During Benjamin’s medical I waited in the reception area, tucked in the corner with a magazine, a noose of anxiety tightening around my neck.  The reading material was limited so I lingered over the calorie-wise recipes and parenting tips in the lone issue of Canadian Living.  An elderly couple appeared at the desk and were discussing the woman’s upcoming surgery with a doctor.  The doctor answered her questions with a smile, offering support and information.  She blurted out, her voice quivering: “I’m really scared. Will I be alright?” Yikes.  The doctor didn’t respond with absolute certainty, he simply offered wishes for a surgery well done.  Being an empathetic eavesdropper, her vulnerability made my heart swell with sadness.  The doctor excused himself. The couple, stooped and weathered, slowly shuffled to the exit.  He was holding her small beige handbag in his left hand.  On his right his wife lifted her tiny arm and linked herself to the crook in his elbow.  They exchanged a familiar glance, leaned closely together, passed a corridor and disappeared from sight.

Tears strained against my eyes like a storm front against a window pane.  I held my breath to cease the impending waterworks.  I wondered if they remembered being young and in love and just starting out, whether their relationship grew from flimsy childish illusions about romance to a solid refuge of sustenance and care.  I wondered if any of their past struggles and sacrifices even mattered anymore as they edged out of the clinic and closer to the end of their lives.  Sitting in the stillness of the clinic waiting for my husband to return, I thought about what happens after young love. After summer sunshine when autumn leaves fall and frigid winter sets in, when it is harder, when we are older, is when love burns its brightest.  It is when you are backed into a corner and somebody who loves you pulls you out of the shadows and lifts you up into the light.

2685_5Images Courtesy of Google

The Golden Ticket

The long list for a contest I entered, and so badly wanted to be nominated for came out this morning.  I started my shift at five am, I thought it best to not not look until after the ten hour shift.  I sent the piece off in January, before I started my blog, before I wrote everyday.  As time has passed, I began to meditate on how much I wanted to be considered, to have a shot at platform-building prizes.  What it would mean to see my name on that list.

My name was not on the list.

In fact, the alphabetical list started on “C” (I could think of another c-word, if pressed hard enough).  My husband reckons it is not my writing, it is that this national contest is prejudiced against “A” names.   At least, that’s what I think he said, I was blubbering and making this sad little sound that sounded like the airplane noise you make when trying to entice a toddler into eating cold pea mash.

Needless to say, there are little mountains of sopping wet tissues all over the house.  These formations have colonized the house, starting in the living room, and trailing to the office, the bedroom and everywhere in between.

This is why I didn’t check at work, this kind of blow is not what you want to receive in gumboots and an apron.  But I thought about it. What it could mean.  I thought about Charlie Bucket and the golden ticket in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory“.  I kept thinking about when Charlie’s family hears on the news that the final ticket was found.  His Grandpa says, ‘let’s not wake him, lets let him have one more dream’.  But then the camera cuts to Charlie, wide awake and well aware.


So essentially old Chuck Bucket was my inspiration for waiting. He’s a poor bastard anyhow, he’s such a sad, goony kid who wears nerdy turtlenecks and has all four grandparents sleeping in the same bed.  It’s like “Bob & Carol &Ted & Alice“, but with arthritis and bedsores.

Poster - Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice_04He doesn’t fit in, has no social networks.  There’s no money for sweets, and he has no pleasure in his life.  What this kid needs is a better hair cut and an opportunity to shine.  A golden ticket.

charlie bucket candy

Obviously, there was a misunderstanding with Charlie, and he eventually gains access to Willy Wonka‘s delicious fortress, and learns of the many riches and quirks of the Chocolate Factory.  No matter, this prize is clearly the Robert Redford to my Meryl Streep in “Out of Africa“. It was not mine.


Yes I’m mixing movie metaphors, I’m delirious with grief over here.  This is also why I most likely don’t win contests.

There’s a line to be drawn, a balance between hope and reality.  I hope I look like Heidi Klum, but in reality I look like Snooki without the hair and makeup.  Hoping to win is not the same as winning.  But you also want to have an open heart, believe that these things are possible, and not fall apart when things don’t work out.  Like I always say about Mick Jagger, and what he always says, “You can’t always get what you want,  but you get what you need”.

Yeah, I guess Mick. If you say so.  But for now, I’m just going to have a good cry.

audry h cryingAll Images Courtesy of Google

No Woman, No Cry

Blank screen and blinking cursor–I hate this place.  Its been a very long day and I’m feeling exceptionally weepy.  This is my default emotional reaction: crying.  I weep when I’m tired, sob when I’m frustrated, wail when I’m bereft.  I even cry when I’m happy.  And I’m most likely clasping my hands and gazing in wonderment, tears streaming down my face.  I once cried three times during one episode of “Glee”.  Everything makes me cry–songs, newspaper articles, documentaries, of course movies–don’t even talk to me about “The Notebook”.  The ending of “Superbad” makes me cry people…”Superbad“.  (But it’s a really well told coming-of-age story, and I highly recommend it).  I think I get this from my mother, who can’t even begin to tell you about the ending of “Saving Private Ryan” or the beginning of “Love Actually” without getting choked up.

crying 3

I just asked my husband for his thoughts on what makes me cry…and he looked as if I just asked him to describe what it was like for him in his mother’s womb.  His eyes get really wide at the concept of recollection.  “Wow…everything…just everything”.  This makes me sound like a Sylvia Plath sort of gal, but I’m really not meant for the bell jar , I’m just extremely sentimental.  This is a salty cocktail when mixed with my busy and romantic imagination.  I get really worked up over biographies.  I once cried on my husband’s lap because I would never know Audrey Hepburn, I’ve cried because Marilyn Monroe died alone.  Once while working on a construction site in Australia, I was so hot and frustrated that I cried in front of my foreman, who blanched at the sight of my tears.  “You cut that out now–I get enough of that from my wife at home”.  But I can’t help it, I’m a sensitive sort.  The tears are here to stay.


Shortly after my fiance and I broke off our engagement, I watched “500 Days of Summer” at the cinema with a group of people I didn’t know terribly well. Now…if you have never seen this movie, let me warn you right now–if you have just gone through a devastating breakup, and/or have a propensity to shed tears, DO NOT see this movie in public.  This movie beautifully depicts how two people come together and fall apart.  It’s well acted, poetic, stylish, and completely heartbreaking. The film’s content was trying, but I maintained my composure.  And suddenly there’s this scene with a gorgeous wedding–my dream wedding, and playing in the background is Feist’s “Mushaboom” and I feel a tempest of tears crashing against insides of my ocular cavities. There had been a tall person sitting ahead of me, so I had moved one seat over to see better.  Sitting separately from the others, staring up at the screen, slowly unraveling over the story, I had never felt so alone in all my life.   I slipped into the emotional equivalent of having one drink too many–there is no going back, these tears would come.  And it will be an embarrassment.


The film ends and the credits roll, and we gather in the lobby, and my eyes projectile vomited involuntary tears.  It revolted from my body and my whole face contorted like a really ugly sneeze and a flash flood of fluid rushed from my face.  I retreated to the ladies room.  I splashed cold water on my face, and looked at myself in the mirror, I wished for an enormous pair of sunglasses…or a Hannibal Lecter mask, whatever was available. When I returned everyone had polite smiles and I could hardly look anyone in the face.  What a fabulous impression.  That chapter of my life was full of capital-c Crying, (remind me to tell you sometime about when I cried on a plane and my sopping tissue wound up on my unknowing neighbors’ lap, and I had to pluck it with lighting speed off her cotton-poly blend trousers before she looked up from “The Da Vinci Code”).  Christ, I could fill a book with what makes me cry—and today, tired and frustrated as a child, I feel as though I could open the floodgates and dehydrate myself with sobs.  But somehow, writing about crying does put a finger in the dam.  Soon enough I’ll wrench my hand away and the tears will flow like fine wine, but not at this moment…not for the next five minutes at least.  And for me…that’s gotta be a new record.


Images Courtesy of Google