Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Last Sunday was the one year memorial of Papa Greek's death.  The Greeks do a lot of memorializing.  There is a 40-day memorial, and, should you so choose, a 3-month memorial, a 6-month memorial, and a 3-year memorial.  If a Greek woman's husband dies and she doesn't wear black for at least a year, people talk - at least, that's  according to Mama Greek.  Who, by the way, is glad to be getting back into her pinks and purples.

"My husband gone," she'll say, plucking her black cardigan as if it were made of sandpaper. "Why I need to look bad too?"


At the memorial, I sit at the front of the church with the rest of the family, listening to the priest drone on in ancient Greek.  Standing up and sitting down with everyone else, I wish, as usual, that I were anywhere but here, had eaten a proper breakfast, and were wearing more comfortable shoes.  I have long ago accepted the fact that having incense thrust in my face and listening to a dead language is not how I celebrate Papa Greek's life.  I miss him in my own way, usually at Canadian Tire, or lying on the couch in Mama Greek's basement, and thinking the last time we were all down there together, watching the Stanley Cup Finals.


Back in church, Tony's cousin's daughters, 6-year old Sasha and 4-year old Alexa, make their way to our pew and stand next to me.  I look down at their pigtailed hair, and out of nowhere, I start to cry.  Silent tears gush into torrential, snotty, ugly-cry, to the point that Mama Greek completely stops paying attention to the service and starts throwing Kleenex at me.  Tony fends her off, and his aunt Olga, who is a force of nature and could take down parliament if she put her mind to it, takes my hand and starts weeping too. 

The worst part is, I'm not actually crying for Papa Greek.  I'm crying because of the two little girls beside me, and how badly, much to my dismay, I wish one of them were mine.


The memorial is followed by a ritual of coffee, cognac, and cheese.  

Don't ask.

I head to the bathroom, to get in a few minutes of hiding before it's time to shake hands with Greek strangers, who give me their condolences, even though I knew my father-in-law for 5 years and they knew him for half a century.  But no sooner am I through the door when an old lady grabs me by the arm and starts speaking very quickly in Greek.  Once I get across that I don't understand what she's saying, she pauses, looks me straight in the eyes, and says, 

"You are decent girl.  Not too many like you no more."  

Then she disappears, leaving me staring in the mirror at my mascara-stained face - the face of an impostor; the kind of girl who cries at a memorial for all the wrong reasons.


At the cemetery, as is the tradition, Mama Greek puts fresh flowers in the vase affixed to Papa Greek's tombstone, and chucks the old withered ones on the neighboring grave - something that never fails to bring a smile to my face. As sweeps and dusts the tombstone, Sasha and Alexa show up, standing at a respectful distance while their dad explains that Papou Menio is gone, and this is how we remember him.  Mama Greek and Tony start to argue about whether or not to replace the candle, and Sasha shimmies over to me.

"Do you know how to make a wish?" she asks.

"No," I say, surprised.

"You don't?" Sasha gasps, in disbelief.  "What kind of person are you?"

We climb back into the cars to head to the traditional post-memorial souvlaki restaurant, and I discover that I am deeply disturbed, both by the fact that I don't know how to make a wish, and that I have suddenly convinced myself that a 6-year old holds the secret to the universe.  I decide I must find a way to get it out of her, and that this way will be French fries.

 Sasha, age 3, dancing at our wedding

Later, with the promise of potatoes boiled in oil, I lure Sasha round to my side of the table.

"Sasha," I whisper into her ear, deathly afraid that Olga is going to overhear and check me into the Douglas.  "Will you tell me how to make a wish?"

Sasha looks at me oddly, and shrugs.

"You just think about something you really want," she says, "and then it comes true."

Then she dances off, singing Michael Jackson at the top of her lungs.  And I realize that maybe,  between this 6-year old pigtailed girl, the old lady in the bathroom, and the ghost of my father-in-law, there is something to be said for crying in church.  Or, at the very least, for spending a Sunday morning thinking about something you really want, surrounded by tzatziki, and people who love you, despite yourself.

 This one's for you, Papa Greek.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

manif en cours - villeray

We beat our trum-tookers
We slammed our sloo-slunkers
We beat our blum-blookers
We whammed our hoo-whunkers


Monday, May 14, 2012

Magic Chalkboard Monday

I recently discovered Danielle LaPorte.  She is one of those go-get-it, entrepreneurial, you-can-do-it, feisty-as-hell women whom I'm pretty sure doesn't sleep.  I watched this video and the thing that stuck with me the most is:

I am constantly telling myself that I don't know what to do.  Why I ever thought that would help, I don't know.

Give it a try.  Tell me what happens.

Friday, May 11, 2012

your self esteem is not going to arrive by email

... and other gems, found in writer Leanna Tankersley's list, 10 things I've learned from Anne Lamott.

It also includes the fact that great hair isn't going to make me feel worthy.

Which is something I very much need to be reminded of every so often.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

phone call with my husband, on his way to the dentist

Me: Hello? 

Husband: Hey.

M: Hey.

H:  I’m calling because I just wanted to tell you, I had a revelation this morning.

M: Oh, really?

H: Yeah.  I realized that this is all we got – this life is all we got, and I’m glad I’m spending it with you.

M: You only realized that this morning?

H:  No!  No.  I just… you know when something hits you?  All of a sudden?  I just felt thankful for you.

M:  I feel thankful for you every day.

H:  So do I!  Listen, I shouldn’t have called it a revelation, because that makes it sound like it’s the first time it occurred to me.

M:  That’s right.

H:  It was more of a deeper feeling of appreciation.

M:  What brought it on?

H:  I don’t know.  Maybe the peace.  Maybe watching you sleep.  I don’t know.

M:  Well, thanks for saying that.  I’m glad I’m spending my life with you, too, even when you piss me off.

H:  Sorry, you cut out for a minute there. What did you say?

M:  I said “I’m glad I’m spending my life with you, too.”

H:  You said something else at the end.

M:  I said, “Good luck at the dentist.”

H: Oh.  Thank you.

M:  You’re welcome.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

It's Official

I'm hooked.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Higher Ground

We bear our children at the feet of mountains.

Not literally.  I mean, some people might.  Personally, I’m still on the fence about giving birth any further than 10 feet from a spinal tap, but figuratively everyone is born at base camp.  And it’s only uphill from there.

We give our children tools for the climb.  Encouragement, maybe.  Trust.  The benefit of the doubt.  We celebrate what makes them unique.  We respect their fears without indulging them.  With these tools, they discover self-confidence.  Inner strength.  A positive attitude. 

Or, we give them criticism.  Judgment.  Disapproval.  Even abuse.  These may look like tools, and many of us believe they are tools, because they are what our parents gave us.  We have forgotten that they don’t work.  We refuse to believe that they might serve for a few years, but that they will eventually break and splinter, leaving our children empty-handed.

The children without tools will stop climbing.

They might start looking for tools that do work.  They might stay where they are, oxygen-deprived and confused, wondering where they went wrong.  Or they might numb themselves when the pain of climbing with bare hands has become too much.

I am not yet a parent, but I know this: shame, disappointment, telling a child they should be different than they are - these are not tools.  And scaring a child by telling them they’re never going to make it is an excellent way to make sure they don't.

And what is "it"? What’s at the top of the mountain? 

Money?  Maybe.

Fame?  Possibly.

Glory?  You never know.

Happiness?  Definitely.   And peace.  And the knowledge of a life being lived full to bursting.

Who will get there first?  The brightest?  The strongest?  The most beautiful?  Sometimes.

The ones with the right tools?  Yes.   

They’ll be there, waiting.  Cheering everyone else on.  And preparing their own kids to climb the next mountain.