Happy Birthday

Today is my husband’s birthday.

(I would like to say it’s also our niece, Betsy’s birthday.  She’s celebrating with her husband, children and mother this evening and I know they’ll have a wonderful time.  Happiest Day Betsy!!  But this is another story…)

This is not one of the “big” birthdays, ending in a zero or a five but it’s still significant.  It’s his birthday! and that, to me, means a little celebration and a little contemplation.

The celebrating comes this evening when we go out for dinner at a restaurant we’re both keen to try… a little red meat, a little seafood, a little wine, it’s going to be nice.  And it’s going to be romantic.  ’cause he’s still a very romantic man.

He’s also a very dependable man.  He does what he says he’s going to do and he does it to the best of his ability.  He’s accomplished around the house; he’s a very good musician and music teacher; he loves to ski and play golf and fish for trout; he loves The Grey Cat and me in pretty equal measure; and every day, at least once a day, he makes me laugh and that is priceless.

He’s a wonderful son and a very good brother, a fun uncle, a great friend, and the best kind of partner in crime for me.  (Almost) all the things I am not, he is.  (Almost) all the things I wish I knew or understood, he does.  Goodness knows he has his quirks and more than a few things that he does or says that drive me nuts… but I have more than my share of peculiarities which make him just as crazy so we’re probably even on that.

What makes me know that he is very special is that we married on faith.  We didn’t date, really, before we were married.  In the five years we knew each other before we married, we spent 16 days together… including the day (night) of our wedding rehearsal.  The day part, I should say, was for me a mess (although not nearly as much so as the day of our evening wedding; now that was a mess!!)  We married knowing each other through letters and stories exchanged and stolen time spent alone amongst my younger brothers and his recovery from an airplane crash.  He surprised me, surprised me very very much, when he asked me to marry him but he had faith we could make it work.  I believed him. I said yes.

So celebrating the moments and days in our lives which should be celebrated — his birthday and mine, our anniversary, Family Day, getting good news about work projects, and so on — all of those things are even sweeter because I’m celebrating with him

Tomorrow, he celebrates with friends and a couple of my brothers, his brother, with the annual poker game, pool tournament and pork fest.  Tonight, it’s just us.  Marking another milestone, grateful for our time together, growing older together, looking forward to saying, many more times:

 

chocolate_cakeLove you Bunky…

Part 5: Loving Others’ Children

My friend Doug, who has a blog called Valley Road Rambler, wrote very recently about love, specifically about the nature of being and growing in love.  I thought it was an excellent meditation, but one which pointed out something I have believed for a long time: we don’t have enough words to express the sentiment “love”.

We use the same word when we describe our romantic feelings of being in love with another person, or loving our family members, or our friends, or a beautiful day or a favourite food.  The same word but not the same feeling… not really.  At least, I hope the love I feel for a good sweet melon in August is quite different from the love I feel watching my nieces and nephews play, which in turn is different from the two different sorts of love I feel when watching Jeffrey fix my grandfather’s lamp and then watching him walk across the house naked, on his way to the bath.

I have written elsewhere about another kind of love I learned about a couple of years ago – the love of a child when you’re responsible for her.  Like the love that rather overwhelmed me when Durita came into our lives as an exchange student.  She live with us for a little more than five months, and filled our house with laughter and chaos and delight and shoes, and I really haven’t been the same since.  She’s her mother’s child, but sometimes I think she’s also just a little bit mine, and I love that feeling.

We don’t have children by birth, but we have always been surrounded by children, in our families and in our work.  So many of them have pieces of our hearts, but I love them all separately and differently.  Durita, of course, is top of mind, but so are our other two children – another exchange student, Julie, who would tell her family in Norway that I was more than the older sister she had always wished she had.  And Bryan, a hockey goalie who lived with us for pretty much two seasons – so different having a boy than girls!  but a wonderful difference that I love and cherish, as I do him.

As for other family ties… there are 13 nieces and nephews on my side (plus a step-niece I think is pretty terrific) and 5 nieces and nephews on Jeff’s side, plus six great-nieces & nephews.  They range in age now from 6 to 27, certainly not all children any more.  It is, I’m afraid, a huge age gap, one which might keep them all from getting to know each other.  And certainly I don’t know all 24 of them as well as I wish I did – time, geography, family circumstances being what they are – but the love I feel for them is very strong, based not just on family ties but on who they are for themselves.

So many of the kids with whom I have worked stand out in my mind now too.  They enriched my life with their humour, their quick wit, their work ethic, their inability to tidy up a bedroom if their lives depended on it.  Of all the things that changed for me when SFT changed their mind about me, the one I miss the most is the chance to work with kids who love theatre as much as I do.  It’s something I hope I can find again soon – that opportunity to engage and enlarge the imagination of a child.

It’s a huge responsibility, that one of teaching.  You hope you’re hitting a nerve with the kids, giving them new ideas, offering new directions, but you can’t be sure, not right away, maybe not for months or years.  What you do know is that as a teacher, as an aunt, as a host parent you have given away some parts of your heart you’re never getting back.  You’ve love and have loved, and that has enriched your world in ways which you might not have suspected, but for which you can be forever grateful.

Service a la Quebec

This is one of a few entries I wrote, and was unable to post, for the past couple of weeks.  Please accept my apologies for bringing you so much delight all at one time!!

 

There is real customer service in the world, people!

You will find it in Quebec.

Other people, when they travel to la belle province will tell you about the beauty of the scenery, the incredible food & wine, the thrill and wonder of history in a 400+ year old place.  So you’ve heard it all before and we can move on.  To the service!

Everywhere we went – large chain grocery stores (where one can buy the most amazing things, from fruits & cheeses one never sees in Ontario, to incredible fresh, prepared foods that make one want to cry, one is so happy….), Mont Blanc ski lift lines (well, that would be Jeff alone), liquor stores, delicious restaurants, tiny epiceries in the neighbourhood where we were staying – we were treated like we were special, like our custom was actually important to the people whose business we were patronizing.

My spoken French is poor, although my ability to read it good and to understand it when spoken to me fine; Jeff does not speak French at all.  It did not matter in the least – we made the effort to say “bon jour” when we walked into an establishment, because that is how every single person who walks in is greeted!” (Can you imagine anything crazier than saying hello to someone who’s come into your shop??)  And from bon jour, we generally, although not always, segued into English.   But it didn’t matter – we were still important customers to them! Every moment of their time we needed, we got.  We weren’t made to feel as if we were imposing.  We weren’t made to feel rushed.  We weren’t made to feel stupid for being in that establishment.  And not once did I feel like a middle-aged invisible woman – how amazing is that?

(My middle-aged woman friends will tell you what that experience is like. I should blog about that some time….)

And it’s not that we spent a lot of money anywhere because this was a holiday for fools who aren’t working (much) but when we did drag out a couple of twenty dollar bills, they were appreciated.

I would like to add, at this point, that part of the reason we didn’t spend a lot of money is because nothing was really expensive, not even in the tourist-oriented businesses and activities.  Aside from dinner our first night in the city, and that was an intended splurge which we enjoyed thoroughly (and paid for just a little the next morning), the single most expensive purchase we made was 90 minutes of time in a caleche ride.  And even if I had to save up quarters for a year to do it again, I would.  Our driver was delightful, Quebec City is so fantastic, and the air of romance could not be denied.

Merci, Quebec.  Je t’adore!  And we will be back.