January 20, 2017

Yesterday my daughter and I made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Aside from the fact that they are now staring at me from across the kitchen, I am happy that we took the time to bake them.

When I was young all of the treats that we had were homemade. My mom was an amazing baker and considered store bought cookies “trash”. Cookies, muffins, bars, loaves and scones. Yummy.

Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies were definitely a favorite for all of us and disappeared quickly. I remember my mom attempting to slow down the cookie consumption by putting them in the freezer. Wrong. That just made them better.

We should really bake more often. It’s easy, it’s fun and it creates great memories…..but it also creates situations like this. Me sitting in the kitchen being stared down by a plate of cookies thinking about my mom.

The Best Thing in Life is fresh oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.  Miss you mom.

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TBT – Motorcycle

motorcycle

Yup, that’s me.  Don’t believe me?  Can’t say that I blame you.  It’s a far cry from the slightly greying, conservative bob cut that I am currently sporting.  My wardrobe now is a tad more conservative too.  Jeans, white crew neck tshirt and vans are more my speed these days.

I think this picture was taken in the mid ’90s which would put me at about 30 years old.  I’m basing that on the jacket I’m wearing and the hairstyle I’m sporting.  Definitely pre-kids.

So why did I pick this picture for Throw Back Thursday?  I’m not sure.  Could I be missing some “wild” in my life?  Not really.  Do I have a deep seeded desire to own a hog?  Definitely not.  It’s more likely that I am just wishing I could still hop onto a motorcycle without bones creaking and muscles spasming.

The picture was taken outside of a restaurant on Granville Island in Vancouver.  I can’t remember the event but there were a bunch of us out for dinner.  If any of my friends are reading this and remember this night please refresh my memory.  Right, that’s another thing I’m starting to miss.  The ability to recall events, names and faces.

Look, I’m not “old” but I’m not a spring chicken either.

This picture is just a little reminder for me that The Best Things in Life are memories caught on film to be looked at years later.

 

 

Christmas

stockings

I remember when I was little and Christmas Day was always at home.  Home being the house I grew up in.  And it was always the same.  Every year.  I loved it.

Bright and early Christmas morning the three of us would creep around the corner of the stairs to see if our parents were awake.  Okay, so creep isn’t really the right word.  Perhaps thunder would be more accurate.  It was stocking time.  Stockings were pretty standard.  Trinkets and socks.  Soap on a Rope.  (It was the seventies after all).

Then there was the year that my mom had a couple too many glasses of wine on Christmas Eve and put panty hose in my brother’s stocking and Old Spice deodorant in my sister’s stocking.  She can not hold her liquor.

Once stockings had been unceremoniously emptied, my mom would start breakfast.  Being British we would have eggs, sausages, grilled tomatoes, toast and tea.  If my dad was lucky my mom would have made kippers.  Oh my god they make the house stink.  A kipper is a smoked herring.  Ya, I know.  But they love them.

We almost always ended up leaving the dishes for later as if we didn’t we would be late for church.  It was one of the three days each year that we had to go.  The carols were okay, I guess, but really it was just another obstacle in the way of getting to our presents.  Occasionally a kid would come to church with a new toy that they had already unwrapped.  I was so jealous that they had been allowed to open a gift while we had to wait.

It.  Was. Torture.

When it was finally over and we could go home, my dad would start his time wasting routine.  He would go into his room and get changed, go to the bathroom, find some gift that he had forgotten to wrap, disappear into the basement.  More torture.  Why?  Why did he do that?

When he finally decided it was time, we descended on the pile of gifts under the tree.  A pile of wrapping paper soon emerged in the middle of the living room floor and hugs and thank yous were exchanged.  Done and done.

Time to eat again.

Lunch was always cold sliced ham, cheese, crusty bread and fruit.  Sounds very European doesn’t it?  Really, it was just quick and easy.  Besides we had better things to do.  Toys to play with, clothes to try on and puzzles to do. If I’m honest, this was a time when there was a tiny bit of let down.  All the anticipation and build up and hoping.  Done.  Ahead was a long empty afternoon.

But then there was the annual Christmas walk.  Rain. Sun. Snow.  No matter what, we would put the turkey in the oven then head out the door.  My favorite walk was down 29th Street to the beach, along the beach to 31st Street then back up over the railway tracks to a house that was filled with the scent of food.  As a grown up I now appreciate the fact that I could eat more after that walk.

By now my mom was in full “cooking” mode.  Usually we would have guests for Christmas dinner.  My parents would contact an organization that helped out any sailors/workers who were in port that day and wanted to celebrate the holiday.  It made for some interesting conversations as they didn’t always speak a lot of English. If I thought that English cooking was odd can you imagine what they thought?

Time to eat again.

Bring on the full Christmas meal.  Roast turkey, roast potatoes, stuffing, stuffing balls (meatball size balls of stuffing fried in butter), veggies, gravy and bread sauce.  Bread sauce?  Another British delicacy.  Simmer a whole onion studded with cloves in milk for a couple of hours.  Discard the onion and fold in fresh white bread crumbs.  Yup, savory porridge.

xmas

Christmas Day always, always, ended with all of us in the living room.  A tray of chocolates and nuts (because we needed more food) and my dad pouring us all shots of Grand Marnier, port or brandy.  So what if we were only kids.  This is the one British tradition I enjoyed.

The Best Thing in Life is still remembering these things and passing on the stories to my kids.  They think they are ridiculous but one day they will be our family history.

Being Kind

As she parked in the parking lot the nerves started to grow. She hadn’t seen some of these people in years. Would they even know who she was? Would she recognize anybody? The receptionist directed her upstairs to the banquet rooms. She made a quick stop in the bathroom to check her hair and makeup. Did she really need to impress anybody? She was happily married with two great kids and a loving husband. Old habits die hard she told herself. When she finally made her way to the room where her twentieth high school reunion was being held, her nerves seemed to disappear and all she felt was excitement.

At the door to the banquet room there was a table covered in name tags and a dark haired woman was bent over putting them in order. She looked up suddenly and squealed. “Oh my god it’s so great to see you. How are you? You look great. Here, I have your name tag. Wow, it’s been so long but you look just the same. I would know that smile anywhere.” As the greeter rattled on she thought “She has no idea who I am.” You could have knocked her over with a feather. She stood before the table smiling and nodding and remembering. The greeter looked just the same too. She would never forget her. Not after that day so many years ago.

It was grade five and she was in Mr. McBride’s class at West Bay Elementary School. She had been outside at lunch playing dodge ball in the courtyard with a bunch of other kids. A silly school yard game but hey, she was in grade five and that’s what they did at lunch time. When the bell rang she ran up the stairs past the library and janitors room to her classroom. As she entered the room she saw one of her girlfriends and said hi. Her friend looked at her, but then quickly looked away and whispered something to the girl beside her. That’s a bit weird, she thought and took her seat. During the rest of the afternoon she caught them whispering a few more times. She even noticed them whispering to another friend as they came back from art class. Hm, wonder what’s up? She thought.

The afternoon dragged on forever but when the bell finally rang she grabbed her bag and coat and headed for the door. “Forgetting something?” Darn, she had forgotten that Mr. McBride had asked her to stay and go over her multiplication tables. She really needed to know what was going in with her friends so she told a small lie and said that she forgot she had piano that day. “Okay, but tomorrow for sure?” Sure, she said, and turned away quickly, feeling guilty. She burst out the door and ran straight into a group of her friends. “Hey, what’s up? What is everybody whispering about?” They all turned to look at her but only one person spoke. “You. We’re talking about you.” The dark haired girl said. Me, why would they be talking about me she wondered? “We’re all really sick of how immature you are. We saw you today on the playground jumping around like a preschooler. What is wrong with you?”

She looked around at the group of fourth grade girls now surrounding her. Some of them looked away, some of them looked at the girl speaking and some looked back at her blankly. Acting immature? She had been playing dodgeball? She stammered trying to find the words to explain what she had done. What she had done? She hadn’t DONE anything. What was going on? She looked at each of them for some kind of explanation. Her face was suddenly hot and her hands were shaking. She turned away and ran towards the bathrooms. She stayed in one of the stalls for what seemed like hours. When she finally ventured out the halls were quiet and empty. She walked home that day feeling hurt, embarrassed and confused.

It was all flooding back as she stood there at the entrance to the banquet room. It was years ago, but at this moment it seemed like just yesterday. The greeter apparently didn’t remember, as she had already moved on to the next person coming down the hall. It hadn’t happened again after that day but she would never forget the hurtful words directed at her. The embarrassment of being singled out and that the dark haired girl had, for that moment, turned her friends against her. She would never know why and it truly didn’t matter. The damage was done with just a few words in only a matter of moments. As she stepped into the room full of her school friends she reminded herself that The Best Thing in Life is to teach your kids to be kind.

TBT – Halloween

How many of your Halloween costumes do you remember?  My most memorable costume was the year that my best friend, her sister and her best friend and I went as the crew from the Wizard of Oz.  Katherine was the tallest so she was the tin man, Joanna had freckles so she got to be Dorothy, Angela was the scarecrow and I was the lion.  My mom made my costume and it was amazing.

Unfortunately I have no pictures.   I do, however, have pictures of my kids……ya I know but hey, its Halloween.

witch and a fire man

When my son was three he wanted to be a witch.  We went to the store and I showed him the dress and hat that made up a witches costume.  He loved it!  Not once did he or I or anyone question his choice.  He was a witch and her rocked it.  We’ve never talked about it since than and he may have forgotten.  Until now.  Sorry bud.

2008b

My daughter’s first Halloween (that she was able to walk for) she was dressed as a penguin.  When I was pregnant my husband and son used to joke that I was going to have a penguin.  I’m not sure why.  My husband has always wanted a pet penguin.  Again, I’m not sure why.  So it was only fitting that this be her first costume.  Thank you Old Navy.

Power Ranger

Are Power Rangers still a thing?  In 1995 it was ever little boy’s dream to be a Ranger.  I’m guessing that the number of Power Ranger costumes sold has recently been replaced by Minecraft or perhaps Skylanders?  I was a bit worried about the mask that came with this costume but apparently going out without is was nothing short of sacrilegious. Go Power Rangers.

three cuties

What little girl didn’t dream of being a fairy princess for Halloween?  Of course dressing like a fairy princess in Vancouver at the end of October has some logistical issues.  Turtle necks for example don’t always fit underneath gauzy sequined dresses.  Sling back slippers and mushy wet leaves do not mix.  Still she managed to pull it off don’t you think?  How cute are her buddies the mermaid and the queen?

sarah palin

The last costume I wore was in 2008 and was Sarah Palin.  There was talk of my husband dressing up as a moose but it never happened.  My friends annual Halloween costume was the perfect way to let our imaginations go and yup, that’s the best I could come up with.  You betcha!

The Best Thing in Life is that I do not have a picture of the year that I dressed up as Catwoman.  Black vinyl is not flattering.  Just sayin’

TBT – Private School

Yes, I went to a girls private school. Before you go thinking that I come from privilege and all that, I have to tell you how it came to be.

crofton (2)
One night in a bar in Revelstoke (a small mill town in Central BC) my dad was having drinks with a client who worked for an up and coming logging company. While I’m sure my dad was not completely sober, his client was, from all accounts, three sheets to the wind. Nobody’s sure why (or they’re not saying) but the client decided to give my dad an envelope with a fairly substantial pile of company stock in it. In the coming months the company boomed and voila, we all got sent to private school.

Contrary to popular belief not all girls are sent to private school because they are rebellious hellions. Sure, some are, but….well that’s another story. I was just entering grade nine and I hated it! For the first few weeks I would come home every day and cry. By the start of October my mom said that if I still hated it at Christmas time that I could go back to my old school. Four years later I graduated from Crofton House School for Girls.

It had everything a good private girls school should have. Tartan skirts, navy blazers, ivy covered walls, bad boarding house food and a stern Head Mistress.

Her name was Miss Addison but she was affectionately known as AD. Looking back, she wasn’t really that bad, but in the moment, she was terrifying. I remember one weekend my girlfriend, who was a boarder (she lived at the school) was staying with me and we went to a party together. The party was awesome and she went back to the school on Sunday evening. Monday morning we both got called to the headmistress office. Somehow she had found out that we had not only gone to the party but had been driven by a friend of mine and not my parents. A big no-no for a boarder. How she found out we never knew but we got a stern talking to and were shaking in our Oxfords by the time we left.

The ivy covered walls that surrounded the ten acres of grounds served to not only keep us in, but to keep others out. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. For example, there was the time that a dozen barely dressed grade twelve boys from Point Grey High School found their way into our morning prayer assembly. I can’t imagine why my parents disapproved of me dating one of them?

crofton girls (2)

That’s me, second from the left in the middle

With only 49 girls in my graduating class we were all pretty close. Sure there were cliques and the obligatory hierarchy of popular girls, but at the end of the day we all participated in school pranks and went to the same parties. And let me tell you, private school girls can party. If parents were sending their daughter to Crofton to get them away from drugs, sex and alcohol they were making a huge mistake. HUGE.

I often get asked if I feel that a private school education was worth it. For somebody like me? Yes. I was an average student who really didn’t care much about school or grades, but at private school I was forced to work harder. There was no coasting through. You worked hard or you dealt with the consequences. For me, the most important part of a private school education was not the grades or the college prep. What Crofton House taught me was how to be a better person. Okay, so maybe being able to eat grapes with a fork and spoon (thank you etiquette class) isn’t a valuable life skill, but being able to speak in public and respect authority, among other things, has served me well.

I have so many incredible memories (and some blackmail worthy photos) from my four years at Crofton House. Girlfriends that I get together with after over thirty years and still laugh at the things we did. The school itself has changed quite a bit but the motto has not. Sevabo Fidem. Keep the Faith.

TBT – Easter Memories

I found this picture of my sister, brother and I all dolled up for Easter church.  (I’m the one in pink if you hadn’t guessed.)

easter

My earliest memories of Easter are of my mom getting us ready for church in pastel coloured dresses with white gloves and white wicker purses covered in fake flowers. Even though we were the Christmas , Easter and Thanksgiving only church family, my mom ensured that when we did go, we were dressed appropriately. I remember her inspecting our hands to be sure that we didn’t have any chocolate on our sticky little fingers. In those days the Easter Bunny came very early in the morning and left a beautiful egg on our breakfast plate. Hollow in the middle and decorated with our names in royal icing. “How did that bunny know our names?” I wondered. I learned later on that my mom was actually the bunny and would order the big chocolate Easter eggs from Woodward’s department store.

When we were a bit older the best memories are of Easter Sunday bonfires. It was Spring, the weather was getting better and my mom and dad would have been working in the yard to get ready for the summer. The yard waste needed to be disposed of and, for us,that meant a great big bonfire at the bottom of the yard. Usually a couple of other families would come over for the day and there would be a dozen kids standing around the fire roasting hot dogs and burning marshmallows for lunch.

Yup, that’s when destroying the ozone, processed meats and sugar were all good.

The big draw for the kids was the tire swing. A large tree stood at the top of a grassy hill and dad had hung a rope from the tree and then attached it to an old tire. When pushed properly you would swing out over the hill and hang 20 feet over the back lawn. I can not even count the number of times I fell off and had the breath knocked out of me. How none of us ended up in the emergency room is a mystery. Every year we had a contest to see how many of us could get on the swing at the same time without falling. Again, can’t believe we all live through it every year.

And then there was the egg hunt. The only acceptable candy was foil wrapped mini chocolate Easter eggs, mainly because they could withstand being tucked into crevices and hidden under logs or rocks in the garden and could survive being transplanted by squirrels if the hiding had been done the day before. Frantically we would search for those little eggs in every inch of that 3/4 acre space. I remember hitting pay dirt at the bottom of the tree that my sister fell out of when she broke her arm. I guess whoever was hiding the eggs got tired and dumped the last dozen or so in a hollow at the bottom of the tree. Score!

As the years passed and my sister, brother and I each got married and had our own kids, things changed. Nobody goes to church anymore, bonfires are now prohibited and the tree that held the tire swing died and the swing was lost. That may have been a good thing as my mom and dad ended up with six grandsons who I can say, without hesitation, would not have been as fortunate as us in not getting injured. But with that change and those grandchildren came different traditions.

untitled

I’m not sure how or when it happened but at some point the chaotic search for foil covered Easter eggs in the garden became an Easter scavenger hunt. The Easter egg hunt evolved into my mom and dad creating elaborate clues that took the grandkids around the house and garden. The little ones had pictures to follow and usually an older cousins to help them out. The older ones had the task of not only following the clues but deciphering Granny’s handwriting. If you stood on the front doorstep you would see them standing scratching their heads, looking at the clue and then suddenly tearing around the side of the house when they realized that “Minki’s Flowers” meant the patch of daffodils that bloomed every year where my mom and dad had buried our dead cat’s ashes. (creepy yes, but really pretty.)

Easter at Granny and Poppas

Now the house where all these memories originated stands empty and the yard is a series of little holes where my parent’s friends have dug up my dad’s lilies, roses and yes, the daffodils. We will all go on to create our own Best Things in Life and memories for our kids around the holidays in our own homes. I can only hope that they are half as good as the ones my parents created for us.

A Shoebox Full of Memories

Venice 2

I have a shoebox of pictures that has been sitting in a corner of my bedroom for many months. Today I picked it up and looked through it. Pictures from when I was a baby, a toddler and a school kid. Pictures of me and my friends from high school, college and my early twenties. Pictures of my wedding and my kids. What will I do with this shoebox of memories? I will use it as the inspiration for Throw Back Thursdays. Each week (hopefully) I will pick a picture and try to recreate the story behind that picture or pictures. Wish me luck.

The picture I chose today is of me at age twenty in St. Mark’s Square in Venice. This was about two and a half months into a four-month adventure in Europe with my friend Kathryn. We had taken the overnight train the night before from Florence and were spending the day wandering around the city. The pigeons in St Mark’s were ridiculous. They were, at times, a little frightening. If you stopped feeding them they would follow you around pecking at your feet and reminding you that they were there. Just in case you hadn’t noticed the few thousand of them lurking around. Every once in a while something would startle them and they would all rise and fly around for a few seconds. The noise from their wings was deafening.

At lunch time we found a little cafe with tables and chairs outside on one of the canals. We thought we had ordered sandwiches and two glasses of wine that we could afford but the waiter brought out a bottle and plopped it on the table. Even though we protested in our best Italian we ended up blowing the whole day’s budget on a bottle of red wine that was so delicious that in the end we didn’t care how much it cost. Guess we would be eating crackers for dinner. The sun was shining and we had no cares, other than the fact we would be eating crackers for dinner. The waiters were no doubt having a good laugh at our expense. They probably hadn’t thought about the fact that they wouldn’t be getting a good tip. If they got one at all.

We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the tiny streets and looking into the stores. The carnival masks, that were everywhere, were beautiful but kind of creepy at the same time. Brilliant colours and dramatic shapes covered in bright ribbons and jewels. Crimson lips and smoky eyes seemed to be watching you from the stores walls. I could picture some of them on a tall man with a long black cape and hood skulking around corners and sweeping unsuspecting young girls into dark corners. Venice, for me, was one of those cities that I found exciting and scary. It felt mysterious and just a little dark. Not a place I would want to be late at night yet I imagined they have some great parties.

At the end of a long day we took the ferry back to our hostel. Kate fished the bottle of Amaretto we had bought in Florence the day before out of her backpack and we sat on her bunk, toasted Venice and ate crackers. The next day we would take the train to Vienna and our adventure would continue.  The Best Thing in Life is remembering days like this and smiling a little.

No More Pity Parties For Me

No_Pity_Party

It was Sunday night and my husband was packing his bags for yet another week away. I felt a small pity party coming on. He has a job that requires him to travel a lot. Typically he is away for at least three weeks a month and often that involves being away for the weekends too. It’s hard on all of us. He practically lives in a hotel and misses out on so many little things that happen at home. Our seven-year old misses him like crazy and knows exactly how many minutes it takes for him to get home once his plane has landed. But, as he packed and I felt the typical Sunday evening disappointment of being alone again creeping in, I stopped for a moment. The night before we had enjoyed dinner with our friend Nicole and her son Jacob. Jacob is three weeks younger than my daughter. The love of Nicole’s life and Jacob’s father died four years ago. They are alone all the time.

Lucas was only 29 in late 2005 when he was first diagnosed with small cell lung cancer. It wasn’t found in his lungs though. The first tumor was found in his nasal passages. After a horrific surgery Lucas and Nicole thought they were in the clear. Wrong. During the appointment to have his surgical staples removed they were given some literature and an appointment date with the BC Cancer Agency. They asked why and were told “Oh, it’s cancer. You didn’t know that?”  They were shocked but still weren’t particularly worried though as the doctor didn’t seem to be. But after meeting with an oncologist and doing what every sick person does, googling his condition, Lucas and Nicole realized just how bad things were. The doctors were now saying “we will do all we can” but the odds were not in their favor. Somehow in that horrific, stress filled time of radiation and chemo and sickness there was a bright spot. Early in 2007 Nicole discovered that she was pregnant.

Jacob was born on September 26, 2007. Fortunately, the next eighteen months were free of treatment for Lucas. It was a welcome change from all they had been through so far. I remember those times well. My daughter and Jacob as babies. Lucas playing Lego with the two of them at one of Jacob’s birthday parties. Comparing milestones, as all new parents do. The joy that Lucas had for being a dad. It wouldn’t last though. Over the course of six years the cancer came back 7 times and Lucas had 5 rounds of radiation, 3 rounds of intense chemo, 2 brain surgeries, a hip replacement, and countless other appointments and tests. Sadly on January 30, 2011 Lucas passed away. Aside from losing her husband, Nicole was now the sole provider for her family and at the young age of 38, a widow. Your not supposed to be a widow at that age. But she was and despite the fact that she has an amazing family and support group, she and Jacob were now on their own.

Feb 25 Jacob and Olivia...aren't we cute!

It’s not a particularly fun thing to do, but try to imagine your life right now if your husband was gone. Not just for a week-long business trip, but forever. Think of all the things that you rely on when your spouse walks through the door at the end of the day. I know that I struggle with things when my husband is away. Typically it revolves around discipline. Was I too hard on her? Should I have let that one go? Maybe I should have been stricter? Not having your spouse there to bounce things off of can make you question yourself. It breaks my heart to hear Nicole say. “I would give anything to have him by my side to tell me I’m doing alright. Even if just for one minute”. She often finds herself wondering in those times “What would Lucas do? To Nicole’s credit, Jacob is the sweetest little boy. He does well in school, loves to swim, loves Lego and can keep up with my crazy daughter on the dance floor. No small feat.

Liv and Jacob

Jacob is seven now and a great kid. He is a mini Lucas. Kind, funny, smart and energetic. But he is having a bit of a hard time right now understanding why all the other kids in school have dads and he doesn’t? He’s even gone so far as to ask Nicole “will I ever have a new daddy”. If that doesn’t break your heart then I don’t know what will. Can’t even imagine how you would answer that question. Nicole keeps Lucas’ memory alive as best she can for Jacob. They look at pictures and she shares stories of Lucas. His love of sports and the Miami Dolphins. Most stories, she says, include the word “fart.” Its a boy thing. Lucas liked a good “fart” story too. He was a big kid with a huge smile and a positive attitude about everything. Mostly she tells Jacob how proud Lucas would be of him.

I’m pretty sure that if all of this happened to me that I would find a dark closet corner somewhere and curl up into a ball. I can’t even imagine how hard it would be to not only lose the love of your life but to then be a single mom and entrusted with raising a little boy without his father. Nicole doesn’t understand how people see her as an inspiration but if you met her and saw the love in her eyes for that little boy and the smile that is on her face every day, you would understand. When I asked her if she had any advice for somebody else going through this she said. “Be easy on yourself. It’s a tough journey”.  What keeps her going?

Jacob-the reason she gets up each day
Family-her mom and brothers
Friends
Lucas’ strength of never giving up
Wine-it’s not an answer but some days it sure helps!

So going forward I will not hold pity parties. Whenever I am feeling like the world has dealt me a poor hand or if I feel like I just can’t quite make it through a difficult time, I will think of Lucas, Nicole and Jacob. They were all short-changed in the game of life but somehow have managed to move on and are seeing all that is good in what they do have. Beautiful memories, love and family. The Best Things in Life.

 

Being Kind

As she parked in the parking lot the nerves started to grow. She hadn’t seen some of these people in years. Would they even know who she was? Would she recognize anybody? The receptionist directed her upstairs to the banquet rooms. She made a quick stop in the bathroom to check her hair and makeup. Did she really need to impress anybody? She was happily married with two great kids and a loving husband. Old habits die hard she told herself. When she finally made her way to the room where her twentieth high school reunion was being held, her nerves seemed to disappear and all she felt was excitement.

At the door to the banquet room there was a table covered in name tags and a dark haired woman was bent over putting them in order. She looked up suddenly and squealed. “Oh my god it’s so great to see you. How are you? You look great. Here, I have your name tag. Wow, it’s been so long but you look just the same. I would know that smile anywhere.” As the greeter rattled on she thought “She has no idea who I am.” You could have knocked her over with a feather. She stood before the table smiling and nodding and remembering. The greeter looked just the same too. She would never forget her. Not after that day so many years ago.

It was grade five and she was in Mr. McBride’s class at West Bay Elementary School. She had been outside at lunch playing dodge ball in the courtyard with a bunch of other kids. A silly school yard game but hey, she was in grade five and that’s what they did at lunch time. When the bell rang she ran up the stairs past the library and janitors room to her classroom. As she entered the room she saw one of her girlfriends and said hi. Her friend looked at her, but then quickly looked away and whispered something to the girl beside her. That’s a bit weird, she thought and took her seat. During the rest of the afternoon she caught them whispering a few more times. She even noticed them whispering to another friend as they came back from art class. Hm, wonder what’s up? She thought.

The afternoon dragged on forever but when the bell finally rang she grabbed her bag and coat and headed for the door. “Forgetting something?” Darn, she had forgotten that Mr. McBride had asked her to stay and go over her multiplication tables. She really needed to know what was going in with her friends so she told a small lie and said that she forgot she had piano that day. “Okay, but tomorrow for sure?” Sure, she said, and turned away quickly, feeling guilty. She burst out the door and ran straight into a group of her friends. “Hey, what’s up? What is everybody whispering about?” They all turned to look at her but only one person spoke. “You. We’re talking about you.” The dark haired girl said. Me, why would they be talking about me she wondered? “We’re all really sick of how immature you are. We saw you today on the playground jumping around like a preschooler. What is wrong with you?”

She looked around at the group of fourth grade girls now surrounding her. Some of them looked away, some of them looked at the girl speaking and some looked back at her blankly. Acting immature? She had been playing dodgeball? She stammered trying to find the words to explain what she had done. What she had done? She hadn’t DONE anything. What was going on? She looked at each of them for some kind of explanation. Her face was suddenly hot and her hands were shaking. She turned away and ran towards the bathrooms. She stayed in one of the stalls for what seemed like hours. When she finally ventured out the halls were quiet and empty. She walked home that day feeling hurt, embarrassed and confused.

It was all flooding back as she stood there at the entrance to the banquet room. It was years ago, but at this moment it seemed like just yesterday. The greeter apparently didn’t remember, as she had already moved on to the next person coming down the hall. It hadn’t happened again after that day but she would never forget the hurtful words directed at her. The embarrassment of being singled out and that the dark haired girl had, for that moment, turned her friends against her. She would never know why and it truly didn’t matter. The damage was done with just a few words in only a matter of moments. As she stepped into the room full of her school friends she reminded herself that The Best Thing in Life is to teach your kids to be kind.