March 14, 2017

I have a high energy child. There I said it. When I hear The Ramones song “I Want to be Sedated” I think of her.

Now I know that most kids have a lot of energy but I have to say that my kids seems to have been given an extra shot of whatever kids get. I have often wondered what her teachers do to keep her in her seat at school all day.

Do they know something I don’t?

And yes, you judgey moms, I do have her in a lot of activities. There’s a good reason for that. She needs them.  And frankly, so do I.

Look, every kid is different. Some kids are okay with less activity. Some kids are okay with more activity. They are all different. That’s what makes them so great. Unique. Interesting.

So I’m going to keep letting her be as active as she likes. Well, within our budget that is.

The Best Thing in Life is knowing your own child and allowing them to be that child.

When I Was Your Age

snow

We all know that times have changed.  It is no longer normal, or sometimes even possible,  for kids to walk 10 miles to school, in the snow, uphill, both ways.  Yet we’ve all done it.  When our kids are whining about some insignificant first world problem that could mean the end of their world we’ve pulled out the “when I was your age” story.

Say perhaps the Japanese restaurant that we are ordering dinner from online is *gasp* out of ahi tuna.  We might say….when I was your age we ate whatever grandma put on the table and we liked it.

Or…..when we wanted to talk to our friends we went into the kitchen and called them on the phone.  That was attached to the wall.  And if they weren’t home we called back.  Because nobody had voice mail. And no, we couldn’t just text them.

Or….when we wanted to see a movie we took the bus to the theatre.  If the movie we wanted to see was no longer playing?  We were out of luck.  Yes, there was only one theatre, not eight.  No, Netflix was not a thing back then.

Or….when we had a research paper to write we had three options.  Got to the library and look up the book on the little cards in the file drawers.  Use the Encyclopedia Britannica that lined the walls of our dad’s study.  Find a Time magazine in the magazine rack that had something relevant in it.  Yes, that’s right.  Books.  Made of paper.

But then last weekend my daughter had the opportunity to dance in the West Vancouver Days celebration.  As we drove down the hill towards Ambleside I remembered when I was nine and had participated in the May Day Parade.  (The 1973 equivalent of West Van Days.). I found myself saying….. “when  I was your age”.  But this time it was different.

When I danced at Ambleside I wore a dress my mom had made for me.  Apparently in 1973 pink eyelet, high collars and long sleeves leg-o-mutton sleeves were all the rage.  I loved it!

may day dress
Olivia in my May Day dress

When we performed our special May Day for the May Queen and her court we did it on the grass and not on a stage.  The West Van Marching Band played our music and we had ribbons and everybody stopped and watched.

When the festivities were over we went for ice cream at Dairy Queen.  (Yes, they had Dairy Queen back then). Granny let me have a root beer float.

froyo
Olivia getting froyo after her dance

Yes, thing are different and sometime the “when I was your age” story gives our kids some perspective.  But it doesn’t have to be a “my life was harder than yours” kind of thing.  It can be a “we are both so lucky” kind of thing.

Sometimes the Best Thing in Life is watching your kids have the same amazing experiences you had.  Only different.

A Slow Ride Home – “Tales from the Momside”

traffic jam

“Okay, that was our last stop.  Ready to go home?”

“Ya.  I’m hungry and tired of shopping. ”

A morning of last minute Christmas errands was finally finished.  Three malls, numerous toy stores, one very crowded book store and some serious sugar cookie bribery has tired her eight year old out.  As she pulls out of the covered parking lot the rain starts again.  Great.  Traffic is chaotic and people are doing stupid things in an effort to get home quickly.

“Can you put the radio on?”

As she flicks on the radio the dj is right in the middle of the traffic report.  Apparently there is a massive accident on the bridge and their only route home is a total parking lot.  Awesome.  As she maneuvers onto the highway and into the mass of cars a little voice comes from the back seat.

“Mom I have a question.”

“Okay, but make it a good one.”

The truth is her daughter never has just one question and she has occasionally had to limit her barrage of wonderings.

“If you are gay can you have a baby?”

“Yes.  And no.”

“What?”

“That’s two questions.”

“Mom.”

Crap, she thought maybe she had an out with that one.  No such luck.  More cars are merging into the already packed lanes and if she doesn’t pay attention somebody is going to try and sneak in front of her.

“Okay, so two women, or two men, can’t physically have a baby together.  Remember we talked about how a baby is created by an egg from a woman and sperm from a man?”

“Right.”

“Well a gay woman would need some help from a man.”

“Help?”

“Wow, I suck at this.” She thinks.  Isn’t there some great way to use the traffic they are stuck in to explain this?

“A women would need to get some sperm from a man before she could have a baby in her tummy.  Once the baby is born then the other mommy could adopt the baby as their own too.”

“But what about a man?”

“Well a man could asks a woman if she would have his baby and then he and his partner could adopt that bay.  Does that make sense?”

“I guess so”

Empty silence.  Beautiful empty silence.  How long would it last?  As long as it took to get to the off ramp?

“Do gay people get divorced?”

“Sure, if they aren’t in love any more.”

“Is that why you got divorced?”

“That’s one of the reasons.”

Damn that was too open ended.  Hoping it wouldn’t result in more questions on that subject, she quickly asked her what she might want for dinner when they eventually got home.  Wow, nice deflect?  Nope.

“Will you and Daddy ever get divorced?”

“Not planning on it.”

Could this traffic go any slower?  If she could just get across the bridge and to the first exit ramp they would be home free.

“Did you have two weddings?”

“Yes, but when I married your dad it was just him and me and your brother on the beach.”

“Hmmm.”

She sneaks a peak in the rear view mirror and her daughter is gazing out the window with that look on her face.  This conversation is not over just yet.

“But you still had a wedding dress?”

“at the beach?  Yes.”

Her daughter perks up.

“Cool.  You got two dresses?”

It’s taken over an hour for them to get home and after a discussion on babies, gay marriage, gay adoption, marriage and divorce it all boils down to one thing.

She got to wear two wedding dresses.

She is clearly the parent of the year.

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.

Miss Sam

dance-teacher

If you are very lucky in life, you get to combine two things that you are passionate about into a long term career that you can do anywhere in the world and can easily fit into an already busy family schedule.  This is my dream.  This is my friend Sam’s reality.

And the kicker is that it is such a beautiful thing that she does.  Sam is a dancer who took her love of dance and married it with a strong desire to teach and voila, she became a dance teacher.  Yup I’m going to admit this up front.  I am incredibly jealous.  If she wasn’t such a lovely person I could maybe hate her for having not one, but two, clear passions in her life.  And a supportive husband and three great kids.  Wow, maybe I should hate her.

Sam started dancing at a very young age in Scotland. She started with ballet then highland dancing then added tap and eventually jazz. She danced right through until she was 17 competing in highland dance and completing her RAD (Royal Academy of Dance) exams in ballet.  When she finished school she was thinking about becoming a teacher but she still found it hard to move away from dance and ended up doing a three year dance program in her home town of Edinburgh.

As we walked in the beautiful fall sunshine, with her sweet little dog Dougal, she told me how she trained in Edinburgh and eventually auditioned in London for a job dancing with the Princess Cruise Lines.  Although she still wanted to become a teacher, this opportunity was not one to turn down.  Being paid for doing what she loved and seeing the world at the same time.  Who wouldn’t?

FYI-none of these pictures are actually of Sam

cruise ship dancers

So this shy girl from Edinburg took a plane from London to LA and started training for work on the cruise ship line.  She worked for them for a number of years, eventually meeting her husband and making life long friends along the way.  Although she loved the work, when an opportunity came up back in Edinburgh for her to get her teaching degree she took it.  She was able to go to school during the winter and continue working on the ship in the summer.

I’m starting to think that this women may have a fairy godmother in her back pocket. And yes I’m still jealous.

For the next ten years she taught primary school, ran her own dance school and had three kids.  That would have continued had her husband’s job not brought her and her family here to Vancouver.  And that’s where we met.

Sam, or Miss Sam as the girls call her, is teaching my daughter ballet this year and I couldn’t be happier. When I asked my daughter how her first class with her was she said “Great, but Miss Sam is pretty strict”. Yes, I thought, that’s perfect.  I know that being a good dancer does not guarantee that you will be a good dance teacher but I sense that her approach will work well with my girl.

“Everybody, every child, learns differently and so the way you teach them needs to be different too”.

I came away thinking how incredibly lucky she was to have been able to take her loves and this great approach to teaching and have something she will be able to do for years.  But then, as it usually does, it came to me. Wow, she is a good teacher,because I just learnt something.  The Best Thing in Life is not to be jealous of somebody else’s life but to learn from them and admire their passion.

A Boy Becomes a Man

dirty laundry

This past weekend I taught my son to do his own laundry. Well, I tried to. Yes, I know, he’s eighteen and should have been doing it himself for a while now. I have no good excuse really, other than he spends half his time at his dad’s house and well, it’s just been easier for me to keep track of his clothes this way. Lame excuse, but it’s all I have.

It went well. The concept of sorting seemed to confuse him a bit but once we got past that I think he caught on. I still have my doubts as to whether he will actually remember to go back and move the wet clothes into the drier. There’s a big empty space of time between washer and dryer that could suck him back into the vortex of YouTube videos and Game of Thrones episodes. He will learn. Damp socks and underwear are no fun.

He’s already pretty good at feeding himself. Given the right ingredients he can actually make a decent meal. FYI – Having a girlfriend is a huge incentive to learn how to cook. Apparently teenage girls swoon over boys who can cook. I don’t think a boy cooked for me until I was well into my twenties. He has been making his own school lunches since he was in grade six. I did get some pushback on that one.

Him: I don’t have to do this at my dad’s house.
Me: That’s too bad buddy. Make your lunch.

I suppose I could just keep doing all this stuff for him. It might be easier in the short-term. Realistically though, one day I won’t be around to pick up his dirty socks or the towel he leaves on the bathroom floor. I won’t be around to make him breakfast or a snack after work. He will need to know how to do this stuff himself. He will, eventually, move out. Won’t he?

I’ve always known that I wanted him to be self-sufficient. I don’t want him to be the thirty year old man that doesn’t know how to boil water. But what’s more important is that he needs to know that HE can do this stuff. He needs to feel independent. It’s actually not that much different from when he first went to the bathroom on his own. He needs to do it alone and I need to trust that he will. (We are still working on the toilet flushing component of this by the way)

It feels like it’s one of the last steps towards independence. A last-minute check before he becomes a man. A man. My son is a man. A man who can make his own meals and wash his own clothes. No, no. I’m not getting sentimental and weepy. Okay, maybe a little.  Really I’m proud and happy that we have made it this far.

The Best Thing in Life is that I still have my seven-year old daughter to fulfill my need for someone to mother. She doesn’t know it yet but she will be helping to ease me into the whole empty nest thing.

Oh My God I’m An 18 Year Old Boy!

Me and Everett June 2104

In my ongoing search for my “thing” in life I have come to a startling realization. I am way more like my eighteen year old son than I ever thought. Last June he graduated from high school and has spent the past nine months working. He has three jobs right now, all in different fields. He got all three jobs on his own and has been incredibly responsible in keeping track of his schedule and being on time. Mostly. He is not sure, however, of his next steps. He has looked at some university programs but isn’t 100% committed. I left my job a year ago and have spent the last twelve months keeping track of my traveling husband and my active seven-year old. Oh, and writing this blog. Where are the next few years going to take me? I don’t really know, but I do feel a need to find something to set my sights on.

So, how are we alike?

1. We both feel, deep down, that we have some unique, creative thing to offer the world but we just don’t know what it is or how to get it out there. While writing this blog has been great and I continue to enjoy the process and the opportunity it has given me to reconnect with old friends, I can’t help but feel unsure of where I am heading with it. My son had thought that he might pursue a career in video game design and animation. He took a number of courses in high school and looked at continuing that into college. As its turns out, it is really more of an interest than something he felt he wanted do as a career. I think that this was largely because he is not a strong drawer. Being creative means being judged subjectively and we are both wary of that.

2.  We both gravitate towards things that offer us instant (or close to it) gratification. Probably why I never went back to school. I have, for many years, berated my poor son on his ability to sit at the computer for hours playing video games. Not the shoot ’em up kind but the multi player on-line battles like Defense of the Ancients. (go look it up) When I asked him why he loves them so much he said it was because they gave him instant gratification. Honestly, I rolled my eyes and sighed but I am now slightly embarrassed to say that I get it. I think that I too look for things in my life that give me regular reinforcement and encouraging pats on the back. I think it’s why I enjoy running so much. I can do it and instantly know exactly how far and fast I have gone. If we can’t see the goal we lose sight of the meaning.

3.  We are social but not social butterflies. I love a good party and feel that friends are an immensely important part of anybody’s life. I am also quite comfortable being alone and have been known to pass on social invitations in favor of my jammies. While my jammies are comfortable and all, I have been burnt and some times I use them as an excuse to close myself off a bit. My son has never had a large circle of friends and I often felt that he needed to be more assertive in going out and creating relationships. Now I see that he is also okay being on his own. In the past few months, through his new jobs, he has developed some friendships which is great. But I also see him holding back a bit. Not wanting to dive in too deep. Just in case.

4.  We are more than willing to work hard so long as what we need to do is clearly mapped out in front of us. Or organized. Love a well-organized project. You tell me what to do and I will work my ass off until it is done. Conversely, If I don’t have a set plan I tend to wander off and end up being unproductive. The past year has shown me that in spades. If I am being 100% honest with this I need to say that for my part,this is probably due to a of lack of confidence. In high school if my son had a project assigned to him he tended to leave it until the last-minute and then panic. Not because he didn’t want to do the work but because he often didn’t know how to get started. He is, however, happily holding down three jobs with not one complaint. In fact he has never been happier to be told what to do and get paid for it.

As I read this back to myself some things become clearer while other are still unresolved. Have I managed to make it to fifty without ever really growing up? How can I expect him to know where he is going when I don’t? Have I done enough to foster a feeling of confidence in my son?

How can I move past what is holding me back and in turn show him the way?

The Best Thing in Life is that learning never ends.

In Search of Higher Education

grad cap

Over the years, whenever I’ve come to a crossroads in my life, I’ve entertained the idea of going back to school to finish a degree I halfheartedly started after high school. For one reason or another it has never happened and now, at fifty, I’m pretty sure it never will. I have no regrets though, because I know that if it was meant to be it would have happened. My friend Karen, however, came to a point in her life, at 47, and realized that she did want to further her education. Growing up in Saskatchewan, Karen’s mom didn’t have a formal post secondary school education and as a single mother she struggled. Seeing that, Karen knew from an early age that she wanted more for herself. She would go to university, get an education and have a career. It was never a question, it was just something she would do. Her life has taken some twists and turns along the way but the desire to better herself has never faded. At 50 years of age she is five months away from earning her MBA.

After high school Karen earned a degree in Commerce and Computer Science at the University of Saskatchewan then took a year off and travelled in Southeast Asia. At the end of that year she needed to make a decision on what to do and where to go. “I sat in a bar in Bangkok and tried to decide if I should go to Australia or the UK”. Although the lure of beaches and surfing was strong, the UK won out. Securing a work visa, she headed to London. Even though she had her degree, she was in her early twenties and had no real life work experience so she joined a temp secretarial pool. Her programming background and her wicked typing skills got her plenty of jobs and within a few months she was offered a full time programming position. There’s no doubt in my mind that it wasn’t just her university degree that propelled her into this job. Karen has, what I would call, moxy.

Okay, so quick life segway…..While working in London Karen met her soon to be husband. They returned to Canada and had two boys who are now 18 and 16. She took a programming position at a telecommunications company and continued to move up the corporate ladder. About 2002 she met me. (Okay, so maybe that’s not really a “life moment” but it was at a time that her life was changing so I’m putting it in the story). A few years later she found herself going through a divorce. Having been through a divorce, I know how all consuming it can be. From what I saw, Karen took it all in stride. She put her head down, worked hard and raised her sons. All the while continuing to better herself personally and professionally. I truly admire that.

Getting an executive MBA requires a lot of things. Working for an organization that believes in people is a great place to start, and Karen’s employer has been behind her all the way. But ultimately you need to have a full support team. Work peers, friends and family. At one point in her first year Karen was struggling to juggle work, school and parenting . Feeling like she was, perhaps, not fully there for one of her sons as he reported a less than stellar grade, she said to him, “I think I should just quit this and be more available for you.” As her eyes filled with tears she recalled that her son had adamantly told her, no way was she going to quit. They were behind her 100%. Now if only she could get them to study as much as she did. Unfortunately it hasn’t all been as good as that. “I wish that women would support women more.” She’s left friendships behind because some friends, female friends, couldn’t support, or understand, what she would gain from this venture. Feeling that there was no room for negativity in her life, she has forced to moved on.

A big part of the program she is enrolled in involves working in teams and networking. Some of the members of her team are VPs of huge corporations and are well connected men and women in Vancouver business. At first she was a bit intimidated, but then one night over beers she realized she was just as smart, if not smarter, than most of them. Hey, she thought, I could do your job. One day she probably will. As she gets ready to travel to Mexico next month to complete the International portion of her degree, she thinks about how good it will feel to be done. She has specific goals in mind for her future and opportunities and connections that will take her anywhere she wants to go.

This is the reason I write this blog. Exploring other people’s Best Things in Life and searching for mine over the last nine months has shown me so many different approaches to doing what you love. So many different ways to be happy. I will not go back to school. It’s not in me. But I admire Karen so much for what she is doing and I think that not only will she succeed in all that she does, but along the way she will teach others a thing or two. She has taught me that some things are really hard to achieve. Sometimes the road to them is long, winding and full of pot holes. But if you can navigate that road, as Karen has, great things await you. The Best Thing in Life await you.

Coincidence or Kismet?

piano

Do you every think that things are just meant to happen when they happen? That the universe has a plan and you just don’t know about it? Today was one of those days for me. At a time when I was lacking motivation, questioning my decisions and wondering if the direction I was going in was leading me the right way, I had an Oprah moment. You know the one. The quintessential “aha” moment. I wasn’t unhappy, I was just unsure of where things were going or if they even needed to go anywhere. Should I soldier on or reevaluate and make a change? I felt I was lacking a focus. Then I had lunch with a very wise and lovely friend that I had been trying to connect with for months. Coincidence?

A classically trained pianist who grew up in, of all places, Prince George, Stephanie and I met when our kids attended the same pre-school. She started playing the piano when she was two and her piano teacher recognized her talent early on. By the time she was fourteen she was flying down to Vancouver once a month for lessons. She was accepted to Juliard, Peabody and Eastman – the creme de la creme of music schools in the US. After choosing and studying at Eastman she was destined for a career as a concert pianist. She, however, had a defining moment when her panic attacks started to get the best of her. She also never felt the pull that many performers feel for an adoring audience or a standing ovation. Many performers continue for the ego boost, but she realized that the direction she was heading was not meant to be. What was meant to be, was to bring the pure joy of music, that she felt, to others. As a teacher.

Her approach to teaching is truly organic. As I ate the delicious spicy Mexican soup she had made us for lunch, I listened to her explaining how learning music is not just about the notes and the technique, but the feeling you get from playing. She has been known to tell a student to “go and watch water”. The point being, to teach the lightness and finesse of playing the notes. To mimic the way the water flows and bubbles. “Some kids get it, some don’t”. She went on to say, that teaching young kids comes with a unique opportunity to mold the way they approach playing and practicing. Most would start with the easy stuff and go on from there. She encourages them to start with the most challenging part. That is a difficult thing for anybody to do at any age.

water

The most important thing she tries to instill in her students is that music should come from a place of happiness – not from a place of ego. You could win a hundred music competitions and still not understand the meaning of the music you have played. Some of the best musicians play for the pure love of it. If they are able to make a living doing it, then it really is just icing on the cake. The need for a gold star or, in my case, verification that somebody is reading my blogs and that I am making a difference, is a huge stumbling block for me. She reminded me that perhaps there was somebody out there reading my blog and thinking “wow, that’s exactly how I’m feeling too”. I could be making somebody think a different way or see a different side to something. Maybe I’m just allowing somebody to steal a few minutes from their day, read a story and enjoy the way it makes them feel.  Like a piece of music.

As usual I went into this situation with one idea and came away with a completely different point if view. I started out being envious of my friend’s passion for music and the way that she had been able to take that and use it to teach children and left feeling like maybe, just maybe, I too had a path to follow. An opportunity to catch up and learn about her music career turned into a life lesson for me. Go figure. I left her house feeling inspired, rejuvenated and happy to have reconnected with such a kind and insightful friend. Even if nobody is reading my blog, I am doing what makes me happy. Perhaps I am not “over achieving” but my family is happy too. I need to live my life for the joy and not for the gold star. The Best Thing in Life is just letting things happen the way the universe wants them to happen and enjoying the kismet.

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.