Tag Archives: parents

A Stitch in Time

I sold a sewing machine last night, for far less than I’d wanted to, and found myself ever so emotional after the fact.

I remember the day my mother bought that 1917 Singer (Model 027) oak-cabinet sewing machine, some 30 years ago. We’d had a yard sale, with my parents constantly on their “reduce the clutter and make some bucks for the mortgage” kick. An old lady came by to browse, admiring a couple of the antiques my mother was trying to unload so she could obsessively pick up more antiques, feeding her  new passion.

They got gabbing, as yard-salers are so likely to do. Naturally the old woman started talking about this old sewing machine. In the end, Mom took a walk, bought the thing, and Dad got stuck not only cleaning up the yard sale, but taking all their earnings over to pay off the old woman and tote the heavy damn machine home.

I’m sad. I’ll miss the machine and what it represented. Memories of Mom hunched over and pumping the treadle, stitching together my clothes and bedding. A rolling shadow across a winter night’s living room wall: Mom and her mission to clothe us all.

The last time she ever sewed on it was sometime in ’98, making a fleece jacket for my almost-a-toddler nephew then, hunter-green with teddy-bears all over it. I found the patterns in the bottom of the machine yesterday, then decided to recycle those, too.

The woman who bought it was a new grandmother, moving into a smaller apartment and excited about the life ahead of her as she’s about to turn 60.

My mother never hit 60.

It was a bitter-sweet night. I fought some tears as I imagined how much my mother would approve of that woman taking possession of the machine. I remembered sadly the excitement she had for being a grandmother herself, the oath she made me give her about how good an aunt I’d always be after she died.

Our lives don’t go how we want them to, they never do. Little things around us can remind us of that. As much as I loved that machine, I think it made me remember sadness more than happiness. Never a good thing.

***

I’m 37 in about 6 weeks now. Sometime before then, I have to arrange for a windsurfing lesson. My mother did windsurfing only once, and I still remember it.

She went with my brother — it wasn’t my kinda thing (read: meant actually using energy and burning calories) — but I remember how the next few years began to be of rapid change for her, as if doing the windsurfing was her way of saying I’m Changed, I’m Tough, I Want More.

She then learned to sail, got her real estate license, separated from my father, climbed mountains in China, raced boats in the Mediterranean, and had an affair with a sailor who lived on his yacht, all in the decade before her death.

I would very much like to become my mother’s daughter, and look to be on schedule to do so 10 years earlier than she did. It makes me laugh that I now see what role her windsurfing may have played in her life, since I didn’t think of that connection when I seized the “70%-off” Groupon deal for a $15, 2-hour lesson — mostly because my goal had been to learn to surf this year, but becoming unemployed meant that couldn’t happen for financial reasons, and I thought “Windsurfing’s a good consolation prize.”

It’s funny how life works. I can surmise it was the windsurfing that threw open her threshold of change. I’ll never know for sure, but I’d like to believe so, as my lesson looms in the next two weeks.

I’m in this place of late where I’m thinking of where I’m going next — the long-term future I face in life, and what all might entail with that. My mother was in this place in the months before her death, before she even knew she was sick.

It’s a very weird place to be now. They say that the mid-30s are when a young woman misses her dead mother the most — because she’s now becoming the woman she saw her mother as being, a woman she never saw the “after” phase for, because her mother died too young. The loss, they say, can become more core-shattering and filled with a deeper longing than she’s ever experienced before, even years after thinking she’s done “mourning,” just because of that experiential transition between ages that we all go through. Without the corresponding parental figure there, it’s sort of a more bump-in-the-night experience, one of loss and wonderment.

I certainly understand that these days. Some of my recent accomplishments have rung painfully hollow, leaving me emptier than I could have imagined, mostly because I know it was so important for my mother to find herself as a stronger, more independent woman than she felt she’d been, and that she would really enjoy watching the process I’ve been going through. I can imagine the things she’d say, and that hurts at times.

It hurts today.

There’s nothing a child wants more than to show their parents just how far they’ve come. I never had that chance with my mother, someone I admired more than most people I’ve ever met. To get robbed of that is a lifetime of loss and “something’s missing”.

I’m not feeling sorry for myself, it just is what my life is. I wouldn’t be who I am with my mother alive today, so I’m not really wishing she never died. I don’t know what I wish. I just know I feel this whirlwind around how full of “searching” she was at her death — like I am now — and how torn she was about her obligations.

And it was all tied up in that little sewing machine that’d been eating up a third of my storage space for the better part of the last decade.

And now it’s gone.

But here I am, still on this journey to take me someplace that I think my mother could tell me an awful lot about, from first-hard experience, if only she was still alive.

But she’s not.

So I get to experience it all, and find myself in quiet moments at the end of the night, when I get to think, “Gee, how would Mom have felt today? What would she have learned? What would she tell me?”

It’s been eleven years this week that she died.

I always worried I’d forget her face, her smell, the way her hands felt when she held mine to console me. And maybe there’s an aspect I forget, but somehow it’s more real to me than ever before, it hits me deeper than it ever has.

They say the first sign of true adulthood is when you really start understanding where your parents were coming from, what they had to endure to get where they were going.

Lately, I feel like I was a child until this year. Now I really get it. I get what kept my mother awake at night, what made her want for more.

When youngins in their 20s tell me how mature they are, I keep chuckling, because I remember how wise I thought I was (because everyone told me I was) at such a young age.

I didn’t know jack. Still likely don’t.

Funny, selling an old antique and getting a little cash for groceries proved to be one of the most emotional experiences of the last year for me, and one of the largest lessons in how I’m Not That Kid anymore.

I’m not that kid. Not a kid. I’m a woman pushing 40 who’s learning more and more of the simple truths that makes quiet everyday-days feel A Little Bit More Meaningful.

Goodbye, sewing machine. Hello, wisdom.

And please, don’t do the whole “Oh, I’m sure your mother is watching” blah-de-blah thing, okay? It just rings so hollow sometimes, regardless of how you intend it. I know. Trust me, I fuckin’ know. But thanks. Just don’t.

Sex, You, and Your Kid: How Parents Are Failing

Parents bear so much responsibility for how kids view sex. It’s a shame most of them don’t handle the subject better, and terrible that so little emphasis is placed on sexual education.

Two things caused me to spend years questioning sex and feeling like a whore for engaging in it: the Catholic Church and my mother.

The Catholic Church is a given. I had to laugh when I received an email the other day for a “Sexosopher’s Café” at a local sex shop, where they wanted to do a philosophical discussion of whether “religion is sex-negative.”

Come on, you had to think about that one? Oh, please. What’s the last church you went to that encouraged you to tie your lover up and pleasure them? What’s the last church you visited that said consensual sex could include just about anything under the sun? That’s right, none, ever. Sex, when it comes to religion, is only good when done in certain ways.

Am I stereotyping? Fucking right I am, but rightly so, too.

My Catholic guilt still tugs at my heartstrings now and again, but as long as I live, I will never, ever come to understand how my mother could have fucked sex up for me as much as she did.

I never, ever, ever got the conversation about what sex was from either of my parents. I saw them fucking once, and I still remember the horrified look on my mother’s face – before they realized I was standing in the doorway. Most damaging, though, was something my mother said to me when I was 15 and they had split up.

She commented, quite casually, that the thing she was most grateful for about the separation was how she no longer had to fear my father coming to bed and wanting sex.

My father was heavy then, but he was always a kind and gentle man, so I knew instinctively she didn’t mean in a violent or demanding way. She meant she loathed sex. She told me she’d sleep as close to the edge as possible, so she could more easily dissuade him from making advances. And then she expressed how relieved she was that she could now sleep anyplace she wanted on that bed.

Between her lightly dismissing my question on blowjobs at age 8, her horrified look mid-coitus, and this new complaint about fearing sex, I was quickly developing a perception that sex was something women had to do to satisfy men, and something worth dreading.

I didn’t know sex could be enjoyable. I never learned it was an expression of how much you cared for someone, or a really wild way to spend a night in. I didn’t know it wasn’t (really) painful, and I sure as hell didn’t know I was supposed to love having it.

For me, sex has been a long journey to where I am now, and there’s still road to travel. There are new destinations I’d like to reach, particularly considering my traveling companion of late, and the idea of sex is still something I’m ever curious about.

It’s a far cry from the girl who was terrified to sleep with her boyfriend shortly before she turned 18, who was sure it would hurt like hell, who was adamant she was doing him a favour and it wasn’t something she would be benefiting from.

Today’s kids are in a strange, strange world. They’re bombarded with sexuality from the moment they emerge from the womb. Cartoon characters (Disney in particular) are sexier than they’ve ever been, clothes are more provocative, and MTV borders on porn most days. When they’re not getting hit by sexuality from the world at large, they’re playing on the internet, surfing at random, probably landing on smutty sites like this or worse, (don’t read this, kids), or still worse yet, engaging in cybersex.

Am I a conservative? Not by a long stretch, but I’m sick and tired of seeing kids being raised in a Fuck Me Now world, where sex is the only currency that counts. I think sex is important. Hell, it’s crucial to my quality of life. A day with sex is better than a day without it, and that’s just how I feel. I’ll never be a sex-negative person, but it doesn’t mean I can’t be objective about this oversexed world we’re living in. There’s a fine line, and I think we’ve crossed it of late.

What kills me are the conservatives, the true conservatives. It’s so fucking ironic, their POV. They can’t control the endless stream of sexuality pouring in from media and marketing today, so instead they want to limit sexual education and birth control. Does it make sense? Not in the least. To pretend kids are not surrounded – bombarded – by images of sex and sexuality is akin to confessing a belief in the Easter Bunny. There’s no question that it’s out there, that dirty s-e-x thing, but to ignore it and hope that sticking your head in a hole in the ground will somehow make the world around you more palatable to your moral beliefs is delusional.

(As an example, Kansas has adopted opt-in sexual education. Meaning, if the kid doesn’t show up with a note from the parents that gives permission to teach them about sex, the kid can’t take sex ed. Isn’t it precisely those kids who are most in need of sexual education? Christ. Can someone, anyone, teach these people how to fucking connect the dots?)

How is ignoring the fact that we live in a world that doesn’t respect sex the way it should, doesn’t portray it the way it should, going to help anyone? That’s the perfect reason why kids need to learn more sex-positive education both in the home and at schools, so they can negate this overwhelming pornification of sexuality seen constantly in the media.

I’m not saying I want to do away with any images of sexuality, I’m just saying I sure as shit wish there were more sex-positive images, because there aren’t many.

I’m tired of knowing that I’m not the only person who never actually learned about sex from my parents. Sex isn’t biology, people. It’s passion, it’s emotion, it’s mind games, it’s exploration, it’s creativity, it’s dangerous, it’s satiating, it’s intense, it’s anything you want it to be. But it ain’t biology, and it ain’t all reproduction, and kids need to learn about what it is, and what it isn’t. They need frank, honest discussion, or else we’re going to continue having young adults who need to get past wrong perceptions of what sex is.

Considering all the head games and mind-fucks that come with courtship and relationships, dealing with mixed-up, backwards perceptions on what sex is, is probably the last thing any of us needs to waste headspace on. In the face of AIDS and other STDs, ignorance is a pretty horrifying prospect, but one that’s rampant as I type.

By teaching kids the realities of what sex includes – from the wet spot to day-after pains and aches to STDs and emotions – a little of the allure might be swept away, but so too will the unrealistic expectations and the fear, and maybe even the blasé attitudes most kids today have about getting shagged.

Here’s a very, very simple consideration for parents to take under advisory: Imagine your kid has come to you and asked you about sex and all the things that happen during it. Imagine your discomfort. Imagine the awkwardness of trying to explain it. Imagine the weirdness of divulging to your offspring about how you essentially created them. Imagine sweating under the pressure you would feel to do a good job. Imagine you cut it short and explain instead just the biology of what happens, and not how to be a good lover, or the emotions that come with, or the potential fall-out after the fact.

And now imagine your kid going out into the world with barely even an understanding of the biology, let alone the rest of the sexual happenings. Imagine them going into a sexual experience clueless about what should go down. Imagine the panic and worry they’ll feel afterwards when they wonder unnecessarily if one of them has gotten pregnant, and how pregnancy really works. Imagine they can’t figure out what way a condom goes on or how careful they need to be when pulling it out. Imagine the guilt and shame they’ll feel for doing what we all inevitably experience at some point in our lives. Imagine the self-loathing they’ll feel when they suspect they’re a bad lover. Imagine the awkardness of trying to fumble towards ecstasy without your help.

And now own your failures as a parent. So, I say this to every parent out there: Get the fuck over yourselves, and do your jobs. This is too important to continue letting kids learn by bump in the night, and the price paid for it is far too high.

You can’t explain it? Then buy a good book that explains about sex and give it to the kid. Better yet, pick up a pack of condoms and some lube and grab the book, and give them to your kid, and then tell them you hope they’ll be mature and responsible enough to wait for someone special when it comes to sex, because if they sleep with the wrong person the first time, they’re probably going to always wish they’d decided differently.

You may not appreciate the idea of your kid fucking in the back seat of a Ford, but the reality is, it’s gonna happen, whether you’re on page or not. You’ve done so much for your kid over the years; is it really worth abandoning them on the issue of sex so you can save yourself a panic attack?

Think about it.

"Mommy, what’s a blowjob?"

One of the all-time fave sex conversations I had with my mother transpired when I was about eight years old.

We were watching a video of Steve Martin’s “The Jerk” one day, and there was a joke about a blowjob. Mom howled with laughter, wiping tears from her eyes. She was a sucker for Steve. I didn’t get the joke. I furrowed my little blond brows and turned to scrutinize her.

“Mom, what’s a blowjob?”

“Hmm?”

“A blowjob, what is it?”

“Oh, that’s when a woman sucks on a man’s penis, dear.”

“Ew! Why would she want to do that?”

She shrugged and said, “Ah, you got me, sweetie. You got me.”

This casual dismissal of blowjobs made me think they were insane. “She sucks on his pee-pee?” was the thought running through my head. “How icky. EW.”

She rewound the segment, played the joke again, and this time I giggled, too, with a hint of revulsion.

I was more of a Fudgsicle girl way back when.

Thinking Too Much, Too Late

This isn’t really off topic… it’s masturbation of a sort. Literary masturbation.

Tonight, I can’t stop thinking of how I got from point “A” to this point of my life. I don’t know when this mood struck me. I made a comment in response to one of my readers earlier today, “It’s amazing, the footprints left when people walk out of our lives.”

It got me reflecting on some people I’ve known, experiences I’ve had – all that profound shit that shakes down from the tree of life.

I get a lot of emails from this site, people wanting to connect, forge something, interact, I don’t know. Sometimes it seems they want to know more about me, I get questions. They divulge deeply personal things to me, profound problems, fears, experiences. It can be daunting, but it’s very rewarding. I try to respond to everyone, to share a bit of who I am in trade for their confessions.

Another reason I’ve been thinking about myself is that I had this email sent to me about “Stop Internet Censorship,” a new-ish blog formed with a mission, that has a number of esteemed contributors. I was asked to join it, and have, because I think censorship’s bullshit. But it has had me thinking. How does this concern me?

Really, I’m not sure it does. Not yet. It probably will. But I’m pretty open about who I am, thus why I get really personal things sent to me, I guess. I leave myself vulnerable here, only because I feel invulnerable.

Everyone in my life knows I write this. They all know I do everything from sex advice and tips to ponderous deliberations. From my father and family to my employers to my friends, they all know. They accept that this is just who I am, and I’m not ever judged for it. I couldn’t much care if I’m outted tomorrow. It would impact my life little, I suspect. I’d flinch and grit my teeth because I’m a control freak and would rather decide on my terms when to let my identity be known, though.

A reader commented (on this posting) last week, and for all I know, hasn’t been back, that I was, essentially, a hypocrite. It pissed me off. It really, really pissed me the fuck off. So, let’s go with that for a moment. You know what you know about me because of my grace, generosity, and openness. It’s my gift to you, this intimacy with this stranger you may never know. I’m not being arrogant, I’m being honest. That is, in its essence, what blogging is. Allowed voyeurism, by we, the brave provocateurs.

Those of us who do this, who put ourselves out here in the raw – with the hurts, with the reality, with the insights – we do so for our own reasons. We have gracefully allowed you, the world, to be players in our mix. You’re the voyeurs we’re humouring by leaving our blinds up. You owe each of us the very simple respect of acknowledging we all have our stopping points. There are things that, for whatever stupid reasons we have, we do not wish to share. That is our right. When it comes to what it is we divulge, you have no say.

Those are the facts.

It doesn’t change much for me. I still plan to tell you a little more about who I am and how I got here. But just keep in mind that I have a line in my sand, and if you cross it, I’ll mince no words in telling you so. What I choose to tell is always going to be my choice. Fortunately for us all, I love to take requests. It’s just so spiffy and interactive, like a game. I do so enjoy games, after all.

Anyhow, most people treat me wonderfully around here, and I love it, and love those of you who it applies to. I do love to please a crowd. There’s just the occasional twit, and I wanted to say something this time.

But I do digress.

I think it’s safe to say we all know I’m a pretty introspective individual. My life has made me that way, through a variety of experiences. I’ve had a lot of strange encounters with death, a lot of struggle, a lot of experience, in all ways, shapes, and forms.

I guess it’s part of why I’ve been riding the masturbation topic this week. I’ve spent a lot of time alone in my life – I’d have to, to write as much as I do these days. But I love being alone. I can be the life of any party, and my personality, when I turn it on, can win over just about any person, any time. And though I love people, I’m protective of my space. That space is precisely what has seen me through all the struggles and hardships I’ve had. It’s also what makes me an engaging person to befriend and know.

Over the next week or two, I’ll be wanting to spend a little time taking a look at myself, and I hope to have an interesting post of how a girl like me gets formed. Not necessarily because it’s been a request, but because it’s my blog and I’ll do what I wanna. (Oh, I’m just playing. It’s actually something I do every spring… a stop-and-smell-the-self or something.)

I said earlier about the footprints left in our lives when people walk on out, and there’s been no bigger tread than that of the one left by my mother. Six-plus years have passed since her death and the loss still finds me from time to time, and this week has been no exception. Some sad topics came up when talking to my father the other night, and I’ll be expounding on that another time, but tonight it’s too much for me to think on.

I will tell one story, though, of one day spent with her that has profoundly affected the way in which I live my life today, something I hope the parents out there can learn from.

My mother wasn’t well educated, and I remember her getting her GED (high school equivalency) when I was in Grade 3, but she had the most common sense of anyone I’ve ever met. My father made me flush with pride the other night when he said that, then told me I got mine from hers, and took it further than she had managed. I’m proud I had her as a role model.

Something she forgot how to do as she got older, sick, and tired of the struggle in her life (the result of a bad menopause), was how to stop and smell the proverbial roses. But she taught us how to do it in our youth. I remember being in Grade 2 at a Catholic elementary school. We’d take the bus all the way from White Rock, out into the valley, and the whole thing would be a 45-minute ride, up and down the streets in the valley, before ending at that small school by the church.

I remember this morning in particular – a spellbinding onslaught of spring. One of those days after a warm rainy spell, when the April sky explodes in blue and light, and the world just comes alive. The birds sang, flowers bloomed big, the air was rich and aromatic. We couldn’t have been in class for more than a half-hour, when what should happen?

My mother arrives, tells the principal we have doctor’s appointments, picks us both up from class, and makes a beeline to Vancouver’s famous Stanley Park, which was carpeted with baby daisies and little purple flowers I’ve never learned the names of.

She took our shoes off, bought us ice cream before it was even lunch, and told us to play nearby after she hugged us both and told us it was a day made by God.

She then sat down on the grass with a sketch book, and began sketching as we ran wild all over the grass. I remember nothing of that day except the happiness and freedom I felt.

I learned then that life comes with a pause button. To this day, I never let things get too hectic without remembering I can say fuck it and stop it all. I did that again today, the second time in a week. I went for a long bike ride in the rain and just felt incredible.

That day, my mother just sat there, watching us. She looked so damned beautiful, but then, she always did.

Never underestimate the power of spontanaeity – not in life, not in love, not in sex. There’s nothing more spell-binding than a well-chosen change in plans. My life is richer today as the result of a seemingly innocuous little day at the park, spent at the whim of a woman who loved to hear birds chirping, and who’d been overwhelmed by a shitty streak of rain.

And never, ever underestimate the impact it might have on those along for the ride.

In the next couple of weeks, I’ll choose a couple more things that have profoundly shaped who I am, and maybe share with you the lessons I’ve come to learn as a result. Self-indulgent, but perhaps a couple people might find it interesting.

It’s fitting I end this post in the middle of the rousing chorus of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.”