Wednesday, 21 August 2013

My life as a house

My mother recently sold her childhood home...a place where a million of my memories were created, excruciatingly good and terrifyingly bad...and I'm over here, so I can't say goodbye.

Today, during an attempted nap (one of my last for a long time- got a full time teaching job) I began to think about the fact that I couldn't say all the spaces that have seen so many important events in my life.

In my mind, I entered the house...

I remembered the heavy door that I knew so well, which I could open and close almost soundlessly to avoid getting into trouble for getting home late. The same door that stood between me and a couple of ex-boyfriends who came to 'talk' and stayed shut but relayed my disinterest in meeting face to face. The same door where I greeted my mother after work, my friends before going out and where my grandmother would leave bags with newspaper clippings and broccoli bought on sale when she passed by when we weren't home.

I remembered the front closet that we stuffed jackets and scarves, umbrellas and mittens into. The mirror in the entrance that saw me check my outfits a final time before going out the door. The place where our dogs/furry siblings, Sara, Cody, Tisha and our sweet cat Max greeted me with joy when I came home from school or work or dinner or drinks.

I remembered the living room. With the big window that looks onto the street. Where I'd look to see if my mom had come home, where we'd watch squirrels and cardinals and robins fighting for seeds in fall and winter and spring, doing their thing...I remembered the country style furniture that symbolised my parents marriage and was later replaced, slowly, by pieces that reflected my single mom's style. The L-shaped sofa that I napped on during university and stayed up late watching shitty t.v. on when I worked shifts in the call centre. The coffee table that I covered in a mosaic of shards of glass given to me by my high school art teacher, which I only finished because my mom would not let up, she wouldn't let me abandon it. The electric green that was painted on the walls and eventually covered with mellow, moving--on beige.

I remembered the different arrangements of the 'dining room'...which at times had a table in it, where we've eaten dinners with mom's ex-boyfriends, family and friends, and other times was bare...the floor used to spread fabric on during one of my mother's impressive sewing projects. It was also a space where most of our pets' sprints started from. I remembered the light fixture that hangs in the dining room, where my mother hung my prom dress, which she had made over several weeks, taking time off work and putting every ounce of love she had for me into because it was a stupid pattern that was complicated but I loved it.

I remembered the hallway, which leads to the bathroom and bedrooms, where I had countless, never-ending late night conversations with our strange, bra-less housemate Colleen. The closet in the hallway that was always stuffed to exploding with sheets and blankets, which I endlessly tried to keep organised but was always stuffed to exploding. The closet where Max would hide and sometimes get locked in for hours at a time if one of us passed and saw the door was ajar.

I remembered the bathroom. Where I spend hours examining my face in the mirror after getting my moles removed, waiting for the scars to fade. Lying in the bath in the winter, scalding myself to warm up. Primping before going out. Talking and sometimes arguing with my mom through the shower curtain while she soaked in the bath. Feeling the carpet under my feet, which most people don't like in a bathroom, but I loved.

I looked to the left and remembered my brother's room. Where for years the sounds of boys and video games came through a closed door. Where there were always lots of toys and cars and gadgets, and once a hamster, whose water bottle broke and then died. I remembered the colour blue on the walls, which were painted and then he was kicked out, and the room became a spare room, and then my room, and I remembered when the police might have come for him while he lay in that room with his heart beating and his eyes wild and eventually did. I remember walking in, early in the morning, to wake him up for high school. I remember the few times that I agreed to play with him and the sound of Mortal Combat...haduken!! I remember thinking when the room became mine for a short time that it was a cell and when it became an office, that it was still a cell.

I remembered my mom's room. I remembered it empty. When my father had taken the bedroom furniture, the only thing he wanted in the divorce, and I came home from elementary school and all that was left were boxes of my mothers clothes against a wall. I remembered looking into that empty room for a long time. I remembered the book shelf filled with books that promised help, spirituality, understanding and the sewing box that I grabbed to fix a hundred buttons. I remember the little television that she always fell asleep to. I remembered the heavy, curtains and bedspread that she sewed for herself that transformed her room into a beautiful place. I remembered her sleeping in with Max in her bed, thinking she was so pretty. I remembered her closet, that was a private place, that held her safe and all the clothes that I tried to pilfer but none of them fit me. I remembered the windows that always stuck and I dreading trying to force open when she asked me to turn off the a/c and open up the house while she was at work.

I remembered the thin wall that divided her room from mine, which allowed sound to pass through so easily. That fucking wall. I couldn't cough in my room after ten. I could hear everything coming from her side. I remembered the sound of my mother crying, softly, trying not to be heard. Often. I remembered hearing my mother talk in her sleep through that wall. I remembered talking to her purposely through that wall. I remembered her yelling for me to go to sleep through that wall. I remember yelling back that I would.

I remembered my room. With the poster on the door that covered the hole my brother punched in it during one of our many fights through it. The fights that were usually my fault. I remembered taking the girly wallpaper down and the crazy paint job my mom let me do, which I wanted to look like clouds but looked like a drunk had painted the wall with a big toothbrush. I remembered my closet, which hung all the clothes that saw me through different phases, stored my canvases for a time and was always jammed to capacity. I remembered looking into it for a time when it held all of my brothers toys and pictures which were stored there as a punishment to him, and thinking that I was somehow guilty. I remembered my wonderful, soft, welcoming bed which I laid on for hours, talking to crushes on the phone, hanging out with friends and later falling asleep while trying to study. I remembered my desk, where I sat writing millions of papers for high school and university. Where my mother typed out my long hand written essays before I got fast. Always with a cat or dog at my feet. I remembered the sliding doors that received full morning sun, and I would look out of while I fell asleep watching the moon. I remembered that room as my studio, study, and sanctuary.

And then I hurried down the hallway, back towards the door and for a second, before it faded almost instantly, I remembered my parents in the kitchen together. And then I remembered doing a million dishes in the sink when I was much older. I remembered Cody dying on the floor in front of the oven. I remembered getting splattered by Steve's bacon fat on the stove. I remembered the turnstile in the cupboard that was filled with Mr.Gouda's chick peas and Kraft Dinner and cans of tuna and other stuff. I remembered making Mother's Day breakfast with my brother. I remembered calling to my mom, asking if she wanted a tea. I remembered seeing my beautiful brother in the doorway when he came to visit and sometimes lived there and he was arriving or leaving and thinking how big and tall and strong and special he was. Always in that spot. I remembered all the meals, which eventually became fewer and farther between that I shared with my mom and brother and guests in that kitchen. 

And then I started to cry. And I felt grateful to have so many memories, which I know are biased and only a fraction of what that house witnessed, what it gave And then I started to write this, because, knowing my memory, what little I remembered during my final visit will be gone soon enough. And I cried again, because goodbyes suck.

I'm glad I had the chance to say goodbye.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Ladybug Invasion!

A few months ago, just as the weather was turning cold, we had an invasion....Ladybugs. Thousands of them. In the afternoon, when the air was cool but the side of our apartment was warm from the sun beating on it all day, these happy insects would literally bounce off the wall, fly into my hair, and crawl along the walls, windows and railing for hours each evening.

I have always thought of ladybugs as a 'sign' of good things coming my way, and initially I thought it could have been a major sign (like a baby in my tummy?!?) but this was ridiculous. Funny how things can change...
We had to be careful to shut all the windows tight each afternoon or there would literally be 30 ladybugs crawling around the inside of the window frame each evening.

At first, I thought of this as a confirmation, a sign like I had in the past, of me being in the right place, doing the right thing, needing only to be patient...then I realised that it was just a lot of friggin' ladybugs, searching for warmth in the the cold fall air...I wish I was able to go back to the time when they were a talisman, a lucky charm, a reason for hope.

Now, somehow even through the winter, we continue to find ladybugs in the house. Though not in the crazy numbers we found them in the fall....and the sad part is that because they are sluggish and obviously not finding all the yummy aphids they need to survive, more often then not, they end up under one of our slippers...crunch.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Dreading the Haircut- In 3 parts

For as long as Marco and I have been together, whenever he meets someone new and sometimes when he's with an old friend, they ask...'how long have you been growing your dreads?'.

The answer is more than ten years.

So when this summer he looked me in the eye and said he wanted to cut his hair, I only half believed he'd actually do it.

Ten long years of his adult life he's been growing the dreads that I fell in love with him with, that people have identified him with, that have grown along with him in all the twists and turns life has presented...
He says it every summer, when the heat is made unbearable (I imagine) by the hair-blanket that covers him down to his waist. It's also a big decision, to part with a part of yourself...But this summer he actually did it. Well, I did it.

No matter how nice it sounds to say 'what you look like doesn't matter', it really isn't true. And when you've had dreads most of your adult life, I'm sure that having the dreads is even more of a big deal, compared with having say, another hair style or hair colour.

When we were living in London, dreads (most of them Jamaican I guess) used to give him what we called 'brother love', a smile and a fist proudly raised to their heart in a salute...Marco usually just returned the greeting with a smile...

I'm sure that a lot of people also thought that Marco smokes a load of weed. My father did for sure...and Marco was always getting stopped in the streets asking if he wanted weed or if he had rolling papers or a lighter. He'd always say no and send them to me (not for the weed but for the smoking paraphernalia!)...alas he couldn't uphold the stereotype.

Over the years I've asked him if he thought it made a difference- having the dreads- and if people treated him differently. I thought he'd say that yes, in a negative way, people perceived him differently. But I was mistaken. From his perspective, people were nice to him and open to finding out more about him, partially because of his 'alternative' hair style. I grew up in a conservative world, working in the 'service' industry at 16 years old and appearance (a conservative, 'presentable' one) has always been pushed on me. Serving fish in Red Lobster with dreads to my waist was unfortunately never an option. Instead, I had to wear my hair tied back to match my khaki pants and shirt with fish all over it.

So his choice to cut his long, beautiful dreads was a practical one. And an emotional one, for both of us.

The first cut happened one sunny morning in Angera in July. We had heard and read online that the best way to cut really long dreads was gradually. They are super heavy and the strain on the scalp and follicle are pretty great, so best to be conservative and take it slow...

 We cut the longest at the root and the rest at the halfway point. I got a nice dread bouquet, how romantic!
A month or so afterwards, we cut them again. This time they just reached his shoulders. He looked like a teenager! And even though they were much more manageable and light, he said that he'd cut them all off soon enough...
We went camping at the beginning of September and after pitching our tent and sleeping there the night, Marco dropped the bomb..."cut it all".

 It was seriously difficult and strangely stressful. I was sweating and shaking...Marco took it quite well.
 And as the pile of dreads grew, Marco was revealed in his currently form, at the beginning reminding me of a baby bird. His hair so soft, the back of his neck almost like baby skin after being protected and covered for so many years.

He was not too happy when it was all said and done, but within a few days he'd adjusted and is now completely comfortable. It probably helps that since cutting his dreads he's beat me in swimming races at the pool, taken record fast showers and walks straighter. I think he really likes his new (old) haircut and although he sometimes sees guys with beautiful, long dreads and watches them with a look of nostalgia, when I ask if he misses them, he says no.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Hand Embroidered for a special friend

I embroidered this for our friend who lives in Rome to celebrate his new, snazzy apartment
...a Roman from Zaragoza

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Book Review- InterRail by Alessandro Gallenzi

Months back I was offered a copy of  InterRail to review.


It's a travel narrative written by Alessandro Gallenzi. While the summer flew by, family came and went, travels of my own were taken, I eventually got to read the book.

It's a good book for a person who hasn't travelled before but wants to know what could happen if they go on a solo journey. It might also be appreciated by someone who's taken a few solo trips already and wants to reminisce, with literary prompts by the book.

Gallenzi's travelling Francesco makes the most out his encounters and takes time to enjoy all that travel has to offer, from opening his mind, getting into bits of trouble and even beginning new relationships, which I can certainly identify with. While it was, at times, too far fetched and difficult to get absorbed in, it was an entertaining read.

You can check out the publisher/ author's site here.

Happy travels.

Val D'Ultimo...a getaway good for the soul

Shortly after hitting a wall in terms of optimism while living here, we took a few days to get away with dear friends. Picking them up at the airport, we drove north towards the Austrian border and didn't stop until reached our guest house, at more than 2500 meters.
We hiked during the day, picnicking on speck and bread...

And the scent of the apples we munched on beckoned horses that were out grazing on the hills for the summer...

We walked through villages with perfectly ordered gardens, which inspired the artist and the gardener in me...

We paused at mountain refuges and met the locals...

We enjoyed the view and listened to the absolute silence that was only interrupted by the whistling of the wind and the ding-dong of cow bells...

We felt a good incredible nature is...the mountains, so enormous and powerful...yet so calming...

We had more than one excellent pint...

We found amazing perspectives all around us...

Even from the road, while waiting for a religious procession to wrap up...

I discovered that Elderflower water, an exotic and sublime drink I hadn't had since my teens, is actually a regional speciality... called Succo di Sambucco...

I began to feel less and less to enjoy more 'moments' and worry less about the future...

Being at the top of mountains does something to my way of seeing things...helps to take you out of your own head and out into the atmosphere...

And of course, the special moments (and local treats) shared with friends and my husband were abundant...

And of course...a monopoly tournament is a must in a mountain cabin, when it gets dark and the village is asleep at 9pm.
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Friday, 12 October 2012


This is a very special song...and video...really speaks to the suffocated artist inside of me :)
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