Wednesday, 12 October 2016

What isn't good can be great

All that is bad
Is not forbidden
And the forbidden
Can be forgivable

It's about my pleasure
Guilt-free and light-hearted

So yes to mayonnaise
And no, I will not change
French fries to
Side salad.

What isn't ideal
Can often be desired
And the desire can
Out-weigh the risk

So sure I'll take the whipped cream
Cinnamon dusting
Full fat milk
In my latte

What you deprive
Will thrive in the shadows
Itch your spine
Irritate your tongue

Bigger the denial
The higher the fall
From epicurean heaven

So smile and pay
50 cents extra for the bacon
On your quarter-pounder with cheese

Wink when someone
Offers hot fudge in your

And squeak in approval
When the last slice
Comes to you!

Because just because it's
Not good
Doesn't mean you can't enjoy
Its greatness!!


The Girl

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Not Perfect

Cracked eggs
Drop and sizzle
But the yolk broke
White edges crisp
Then brown

8 minutes in a
350°F oven
But I left it for 10
Chewy turned into

Roll out flaky pastry
Oily and yellow
Forgot to flour
The board
Now bound
Betraying my touch

Start to whip cream
Turns into butter

A beurre blanc
Recklessly turned to
Beurre noistette

How can I be so far
So distant from perfection?

Study of thought
Question of skill
Shattered confidence
And motionless motivation

Then you came
And dined burnt eggs
My dried cakes with
split whipped cream

And never asked
Why are there were holes
in my baked cherry pie

You ate
Kissed my forehead
And said,

"Thank you, it was perfect for me."


The Girl

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Candy Shop

I was about 8 or 9 years old when I was finally given permission to go on my own to the candy shop in town.

This was a crowning moment for young me.  I grew up in a highly protective family that didn't let their 'girl children' out of their sight for fear of something dreadful or dishonouring would happen, not to my family...but to me.

But I was determined that I would get my way that summer and make it there and back without getting into trouble. So I employed the only tactic I knew at the time to get what I wanted. Annoy until the word "FINE!" came huffing out of mother's mouth.

All my friends were allowed to go to the candy shop, why couldn't I? All my friends had an allowance, saved their coins and $2 bills (remember that?) to go to the store after school and I...was NEVER allowed to go.  

In hindsight, I'm very happy my parents were so protective of me. Knowing how crazy this world is, I value their keenness to keep me safe, healthy and happy.  And back then, as much as I couldn't bare being controlled and told that I 'can't' do something, I think I deep down understood, it's okay to not always do or be like everyone else.

Back to the matter of candy.

I had gotten a new bike that summer.  For a year I refused to ride my old bike as it scared me terribly.  I was a true tom boy and crashed my bike while jumping a ramp.  Needless to say, I suffered some damage and enough so that I couldn't bare the thought of getting on any bike.  Until I got a shiny new one.  Dad picked up my new mountain bike from Canadian Tire, and it was pink and purple, 8 gears and just so beautiful.  My new bike became my world.  I rode it everywhere.  To my best friend's house, to the Skylight Donuts at the end of the road to buy mom's favourite donuts (Boston cream filled) and around the block just to escape into a world of imagination.

But the vicinity in which I was allowed to trek was limited and eventually seeing the same houses, same apple trees and the same scary looking cat on Penfound Road with the messed up ear, got stale.  Why? Why couldn't I see what else this little town had to offer?

Then things changed...

"Mom?" I asked for her attention from the kitchen table.

"Yes, what now?" she was warming up a bottle of milk for my brother and plucking emerald green grapes and placing them into a bowl. She knew I was going to ask something she would need to say 'no' to.  We both smelt it in the air.

You know that smell you get right before a thunder storm? The air grows thick and electricity seems to pulse from above? Yeah...that's the feeling before an argument between mom and I.

"I want to go to the candy store," note, I didn't ask.


"Because I want to. I have my own money!" my logic was flawless. I headed her off with the money argument.  I had saved my coins in my piggy bank and my Christmas money.  I didn't get an allowance like other kids.  My parents didn't believe in paying us to do work we should know how to do as a basic survival skill or as good manners.  Making my bed, cleaning my room, clearing the table after dinner isn't "work", it's for our own good and to be paid for it seemed absurd as being clean and tidy should be rewarding enough.

"Oh yeah? You're a big woman now!" She said with a suspicious smile on her face. "What will you buy with all that money?" she asked.

"Well I wanted to get some sour gum balls, jaw breakers and a ring pop. Cherry." I felt being specific made me sound more grown up.  Adults know everything.  They have the details down and I knew I had to have my details down before hand, I could make a good case.

"How much money do you have?" she inquired.

I shoved my hands into my corduroy pants pocket.  They were green and I wore a white turtleneck with tiny purple flowers with green leaves.  I matched in true 1990's style. I fished out some Loonies and quarters and a $5 bill, placing it on the kitchen table. In total it was $7.75.  Big money for a 9 year old in the 90's.  It's enough to get beat up for in the school yard, not that I fancied a fight. I had more money in my piggy bank, but I wanted to wait for some reason.  

"Hmm, okay," she calculated in her mind.  Adults can do math without using their fingers. How do they do that without getting confused?

"I can ride my bike super fast and come back. It's by the school yard. Like going to school!" see that logic? Brilliant.

"Listen, don't argue with me.  I already told you before, the answer is no." 

What? Wait a second. I'm sure I have my ducks in a row.  Let's recap...

"Why? I have my money and I know how to get there! Please, please mom."

"What did I say?" oh here comes the dialogue of repeating back to the elders on what was just said.

"You said no I can't.  But it isn't fair.  It's not bad, mom.  I can do it on my own and I'll come back right away, without stopping.  I promise!"

It went silent.  This means two things in my house:
1) run to your room before it gets worse
2) there might be a slim chance of success...slim but a chance nonetheless

I didn't say anymore.  I felt my face grow hot and the tears began to bubble up to the corners of my eyes.  I looked down and all of a sudden accepted defeat. 

"When you pay, try to pay with exact change. Learn how to do the calculation in your head so you don't lose track," mom said.

It was too late, I had already begun to cry.  Why can't I ever do things that I....wait, what?

"I can go?" I asked.

"You have until 3:30pm to go and come back.  If you come back on time, with a receipt, and no other nonsense, I'll let you go more often." she declared with a sad smile.  

Sad smiles. Moms know how to do them really well.  My mom was a master of it.  The hurt behind the smirk is a chilling sight and I didn't quite understand the reason for it at this particular moment.  All I knew is that I could finally take my bike beyond the boarders of my usual confines.

"Really? I'm going now!"

Without thinking, I snatched up my coins and bills and rammed them back into my pocket. I put on my L.A. Gear running shoes and snapped on my helmet.  Since the wipe out of last summer, my parents insisted I wear this ugly safety headdress.  I felt I looked like a walking ping pong ball.

I wore the house key around my neck with an old shoe string as a necklace.  I sped down the hill, across the path and through the tunnel.  From there, I took a sharp right and sped down another hill and around the bend in the street.  I saw my friend, Megan playing with her dog on the front yard. 

"Hi! Wanna come over?" She yelled, "I got the new Teen Pop Magazine,"

I was curious. But I am also on a mission to not screw up.

"Bring it to school!" I hollered back. "I'm going to the candy store!"

She waved and smiled and I continued to peddle.

I stopped at the cross walk and hopped off my 8 speed chariot.  I walked it across the road which was very quiet but very wide.  Waverly Road was a main road in town and trucks, tractors and high school kids in their dad's old Le Baron's would barrel down this road with a mighty speed. But I was lucky, the road was empty and I crossed with ease.

I bought a chain lock with my money at K-Mart and I learned how to use it inside dad's garage. He showed me how to wrap it through the spokes and around the bars to make sure it stayed tight and couldn't be yanked away. I arrived and recollected my locking skills.  

I opened the shop door and the bell chimed.  It wasn't very well lit, and I was a little taken a-back as it looked nothing like the candy shop I had in my mind.  I was picturing a scene out of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, but it was more like...I don't know what, but definitely NOT song and dance worthy.

There was an old man at the counter, well at least there's was the old man, I thought to myself. He smiled

I walked up the aisle and suddenly lost track of life. I hit the jackpot!

So what if this place is dark and drab! It's paradise!

Sour gum balls! Mini ones, and regular ones! Jumbo!? They make those!? Ones in different colours I hadn't seen before on the school yard.  It was the popular thing to run off school property and buy candy during recess, then show off your score to your friends at the lunch break or in your desk during class.

Then there was hard candies like jaw breakers, Gob-stoppers that changed colour as you sucked on them.  There were different types of ring pops and pop rocks that exploded on your tongue. Tootsie pops were always a guarantee win-win situation as you got great candy coating but that soft chocolatey centre that was a pleasant change after trying to count how many licks it takes to get to the centre! Almost always losing track...I still don't know how many it takes.

Popeye sticks and bubble tape. Nerds and pixie sticks. 

Wait do I choose? I haven't even CONSIDERED the chocolate options yet!   

I was on a time constraint and I needed to act fast.  The bell rang at the front again. Some high school kids entered.  Part of me worried as I know big kids like to pick on little ones.  And I was pretty little.

I picked up a pack of Dip-Sticks. A hard candy that you licked and stuck into a pouch of flavoured sugar power and the licked again to enjoy the contrast of tastes.  50 cents.

I looked at the ring pops.  I picked one up and stuck on my index finger.  I admired my edible jewelry, and then stuck 2 more on the following fingers.  A row of ring pops, how glamorous! I took two off and kept one.  75 cents.

I liked Twizzlers a lot.  And I forgot about them as an option.  But then I saw the Nibs and felt compelled.  $1.25. Twizzlers could be bitten off on both ends and used a straw as well.  I picked up a pack. Then thought, nevermind.

I can get 5 gumballs for a $1. This makes sense.  Get 5. 

I think that's it.  I didn't want the jaw breakers anymore. Actually everything else was so much better, how could I limit myself? 

I walked up to the counter, looked up at the old man.  I placed my spoils on the counter. It was a raised one, and he seemed very tall and towered over me. 

"Is that all for you today?" he asked.

"Yes," I answered. 

"What about milk or bread?" why is he asking? 

"Nope," in hindsight as I write this, I know why he asked.  I could image there were a lot of kids who were originally sent to pick up their mother's grocery needs like milk, bread, eggs, stick of butter, but ended up bringing home Kit-kat bars and ice cream sandwiches. Haha! 

I think to myself at that moment, I needed to do the math in my head like mom told me.


*carry the 1...ok so the last number is 0....remember that!*
*7+3 is 10, then add 5.  Carry the 1 again and the second last number is a 5*
*1+1 then another 1, that's 3. Okay so it's going to be $3.50*

The process took me a few minutes.  The old man was still looking down at me as I counted silently.

I could hear the rowdy teenagers in the back, giggling and laughing.  The distinct crackle of a potato chip bag opening distracted me for a moment.

"$3.50 dear, where do you live?"

Mom said not to talk to strangers or answer questions. Especially about where I live. But I panicked. What do I tell him?

"In Canada!" I answered.
He smiled. And stretched out his hand.

I counted out two quarters and a Loonie. Then a $2 bill.  See, exact change, mom!

He placed everything in a white plastic bag and handed me a tiny white paper

"Thank you! Bye!" and I left.  

I hooked the bag on the handle, unlocked my chain and hopped on my iron stallion of pink and purple and sped off. 

Down the street, across the road and uphill I rode with all my heart. 

If there was one thing I feared it was disappointing my parents.  I wasn't a terrible kid.  I was shy yet mischievous.  I was easily intimidated in school, very often due to the colour of my skin.  Racism was subtle (as Canadians tend to be with everything controversial) but it was there.  I was a decent student but I wasn't good at reading and writing which lead to my language teachers to always give me remedial readers instead of novels and books.  Hard to believe, right?  In hindsight, I don't really know if it was a bad reader and writer, or if I was a product of a stereotypical educational system that just assumed because I wasn't white that my English language capabilities would be substandard.  

But all of these things hung over me like a cloud as a 9 year old.  Which in turn made me feel like I could very easily let down mom and dad for not being as good as the white kids.

They never talked to me about it. They just wanted me to bust my tail in school day in and day out.  And as an obedient child (most of the time), I did so.

These thoughts ran through my mind as I sped home for fear of causing hurt towards mom. 

I was approaching the tunnel, and I passed by Mrs. Pecanbrock's house.  Mrs. Pecanbrock was one of my favourite teachers and she lived just on the other side of tunnel and I passed her house on the way to school.  She was our history/music/art teacher. She always spoke to us about different cultures and how the world worked in a simplistic way.  She also understood my background and was encouraging towards acceptance of all people with the students.

I rolled by her house and smiled.  I liked her.  I felt she was smarter than everyone that taught me. I wanted to be like her.

Soon I took a quick left turn and rode through puddles in the dark tunnel that lead to my house.  I popped a wheelie and jumped up on the sidewalk.  I felt the bag swing and hit my knee as I pushed one peddle at a time towards home.

I lived in the last townhouse at the bottom the hill.  Our front lawn was large and we had a giant maple tree next to the house.  Our backyard was also the biggest on the block.  We always had places to stretch out, roll down the hill or just day dream.  

I can see our oil slicked drive way and I pulled in with a mighty speed. I squeezed the handle break and came to a stop.  I put down the kick stand and walked up to the front door.  I took the shoestring necklace off and unlocked the front down with my key.

"Mom?" I yelled up the stairs.

"Yes, lock the door behind you!" she yelled back. 

I could hear the television was on, the theme music of General Hospital was playing.  Mom's favourite show was Young & The Restless. The rerun would show everyday at 12:30pm to 1:30pm and a new episode would start at 4:30pm.  We don't disturb mom during this time.  During this time, I was asked to do my homework at the kitchen table or read from my remedial reader which was so defeating it hurt.

"Come, show me what you bought," she said.   

I opened the bag and raised it up to her. At this age I was still shorter than her. 

"Show the receipt and the change," she demanded.

I fished out the tiny white chit and gave it to her. I pulled the change out of the corduroy home it lived in. Everything was in order and I was celebrating in my heart.

See!? I did it! I came back and on time with my change, the chit and most importantly, the candy! 

Panic ran through my heart and mind, mom can still be upset about something...I felt she had the right to; that all parents had the right to be upset at the lack of perfection. My parents never let me see my own report card and on report card day I would live in sheer turmoil for a the short walk home shaking and praying that things were okay. I was so nervous that by the time dad got home I was in tears.  Was it good enough?

His voice would ask...95% in science, what happened to the other 5%?

"Okay, you won't eat any of this until after dinner.  Give me the bag and I'll put it up in the cupboard."

She took the bag, walked to the kitchen and I hear the creak of a door and the closing of it.  

She didn't talk after that.  By this time, it was close to 4:30pm and not far off from Y&R time.  I felt a sense of uncertainty. Why isn't she yelling or upset? I feel this is something I should fear, a lack of reaction. 

My brother was asleep in his play-pen, which used to be mine many years before. I grabbed my backpack and opened it. I pulled out my reader and my heart sank more. I wanted to cry. 

The thought of candy didn't help me. I didn't even look forward to it. Not while holding this yellow-covered book.  Holding it made me feel stupid. I can ride to a candy shop, pay with exact change and ride back in record timing but I'm stuck with this book, sitting at my kitchen table feeling less than I was before.  

It was then in that moment I discovered that my fight for independence was beyond candy or being able to ride down the road and through the tunnel. It was going to be a long journey as I was not like everyone else, not like my friends, and not like the other cousins I had in the city who could go to sleepoversI would learn in that moment, the proof of my abilities would always be up on the block for inspection and acknowledgment even scrutiny.

It wasn't a ride to the town candy shop anymore, that's why mom didn't say anything, because it was a journey to proving to her that I can. Without error.

Did I eat my candy after dinner? To be honest, I don't remember. But then again, it was never really about the candy...

Thank you for reading.

Warmest regards,

The Girl