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Skin flint…

April 5, 2010

I had to go to school in two hours and write a fifteen-hundred-word story that included a triggering point,

a climax,

and a resolution…

On my way home I came up with my first sentence…

“The administration passed her around for beatings like a hookah pipe at a Turkish wedding…”

which got panned by Mr. Quiring…

“No, no,”

he said…

He tapped me hard on the forehead…

He didn’t even bother reading the rest of it…

So far in English I was not allowed to write about Khalil Gibran,

Marianne Faithful lyrics,

marigold seeds,

Holden Caulfield,

Neitzsche,

Django,

Nabokov,

preternatural gifts for self-analysis,

urges,

blowtorches,

and now Turkish weddings…

— in A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews

I told Starshine and Little Gem that I wanted to change my name…

They both said,

No Mama, don’t do it…

Your name is perfect for you…

Why would you want to change your name???

I told them that that’s what people do after they’ve had a mid-life crisis…

They said,

We thought you had anemia…

I said,

Maybe they’re the same thing and doctors haven’t figured that out yet…

They asked,

What do you want to change your name to???

I said,

I was toying around with the idea of Shakira,

but Beyonce feels more natural…

Starshine said,

Ohmigod Mama…

I would die if you did that…

I immediately added that idea to my preemptive list,

of how to embarrass teenage children…

When I discovered that I was pregnant with Starshine,

I went to my doctor and said,

I want to have this baby in water…

Where can I do that???

She gave me the name of two midwives,

and she added,

Your timing is perfect…

As of a few months ago midwifery care is covered by basic medical…

You can have your baby in a pool at home…

I few weeks later I became part of the Provincial Home Birth Project…

People thought I was nuts…

I thought I was doing exactly what I wanted to do,

and then I did it…

When I signed up at S.F.U. for graduate studies people said,

You can’t be eclectic…

You have to choose a theory and stick to it…

I wrote them a poem that said,

No way Jose…

The same people said,

You have to have a bibliography at the end of your paper…

I said,

I’m tired…

I don’t feel like it…

And I’ve said all I want to say…

I still got my degree,

because at Master’s level,

if you’ve paid your money,

nobody gets a fail…

When I went back for doctoral studies there were some old dogs in the room…

The same faded plastic kind that sit on the dash of your car,

and nod their heads at everything…

They told me,

more than once,

from behind their laptops,

If you want to play in the playground,

you have to use the language of the playground,

otherwise you can’t play,

because no one will understand you…

I always taught my students,

when they were five and six years old,

If you don’t like the language that is being used on the playground,

and the way people are playing doesn’t work for you,

DO something different…

The others may not understand you at first,

but they’ll come around…

Just don’t ever give up on changing…

The noon hour supervisors always told me,

We know which children are from your class…

They don’t talk like the others do…

They seem to have their own language,

and they play by their own set of rules…

And everyone else wants to join in their games…

My great-great grandfather brought his family from Norway,

in the late 1800’s,

and settled in Minnesota…

My great-grandfather brought his family from Minnesota to Saskatchewan,

and settled in Meota as a grain farmer…

I have my great-grandmother’s wedding skirt in my basement…

It is fancy in its practicality,

defying both tradition,

and convention…

But the best thing about it is,

the lingering scent,

of the old wood stove,

held in the fibre…

I didn’t see last nights Canucks game against the Minnesota Wild,

because it was a pay per view,

and we were watching a movie about history coming alive,

at night…

But I watched the post-game highlights,

and interviews…

Three pucks in the back of the goal in the last minute to tie things up,

is not what one would expect,

but it happens…

And when it does,

you need to stay focused to turn things around,

and hammer it home for honour…

All day long I'd biddy biddy bum...

Things shouldn’t hinge on so very little…

Sneeze and you’re highway carnage…

Remove one tiny stone and bang you’re an avalanche statistic…

But I guess if you can die without ever understanding how it happened then you can also live without a complete understanding of how…

And in a way that is kind of relaxing…

— in A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews…

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