Monday, December 23, 2002

2002-12-06 - 8:19 a.m.

I remember Carol crying on Christmas Eve. She was my sister, a decade older than me, and I adored her. We were all at Grandma B.'s for the holiday. Carol was a college student at the time and low on funds, so she decided to make Nanaimo Bars for our brother-in-law, Jim's, Christmas present. I don't know if you've ever made Nanaimo Bars, but they are kind of fussy to make. When Carol took them out of the fridge and tried to cut them up into squares, the whole pan crumbled into a gooey mess. Carol burst into uncontrollable tears!

I was thirteen or fourteen, and I remember wondering why she was so upset. I did a lot of baking, and I never cried if a cake didn't rise or a jello didn't set.

Carol has been dead now for eighteen years, and I still remember her shoulders heaving, the sobs wracking her body. She must have felt completely inadequate. "I can't even make Nanaimo Bars!" I would love to talk to her about that now. She was completely unafraid to hide her emotions, unconcerned of what we might think. She became more human to me that day, brought down off the pedestal I viewed her on...but I became more fully human, too.

Thank you, Carol.
2002-12-06 - 8:12 a.m.

I remember my cat, Poots. He was a huge tabby tom-cat, the fiercest hunter in the west. He often caught and ate gophers, and one memorable day he dragged home a rabbit, ate the whole thing (except for the stomach and tail), then lay on his back for two or three days without moving!

Yet he was also the most docile play-mate. My younger sister and I would dress him up in our doll clothes and pose him, and he would just purr lazily. If he was in a good mood you could do ANYTHING to him, even pick him up by the tail, and he would just purr.

I want to be like that. I want to be so secure in who I am that nothing phases me. Poots wasn't afraid to show his "feminine side". He wasn't afraid to kill things, either. He was comfortable with his contradictions, at peace with his paradoxes. That's how I want to be.
2002-11-05 - 8:05 a.m.

I remember being able to fly. I'm not kidding. I think it is my earliest memory. We lived in Regina, Saskatchewan, in a little house with crystal doorknobs. I remember spreading my arms, lifting my feet, and catching the air. I would soar down the hallway and all through the house, watching the linoleum woosh past, and I could feel the air rushing under my belly.

Common sense tells me I am remembering something I imagined or dreamed, yet the memory is so vivid, the sensation is right there in my does make me wonder!
2002-10-08 - 7:48 a.m.

I remember Grade Three, sitting in class one day...our teacher, Mrs. Hannah, was old and near retirement, and ruled us with an iron hand. This particular day we were sitting in our desks, waiting to be dismissed for recess, when Mrs. H. announced: "Someone threw orange peels on the floor of our class room. Until that person comes to the front and puts them in the garbage, we will all sit here waiting."

Dead silence.

We all knew that a kid from a different class had chucked the peels in, but we were all so afraid of Mrs. H. that we didn't know what to do. So we sat. All through recess.

I really felt the injustice of this. I finally decided that I would risk the punishment and sacrifice myself for the good of the class. I got up from my desk and quietly picked up the peels to put them in the garbage. I could feel everyone's eyes on the back of my neck.

"Did you put those peels on the floor?"

I shrunk. "No, ma'am. But none of us did, it was someone from another class!"

"Leave them there!" she snapped.

I went back to my desk and we kept sitting. I don't remember for how long.
2002-09-23 - 9:08 p.m.

I remember losing my virginity, but I don't remember who he was. It's pathetic to admit, it's embarassing. I don't remember his name, or even what he looked like. He meant that much to me.

I was nineteen. I had held out for that long! I was living in a little travel trailer in New Westminster, BC. It was a sweet rental deal, totally cheap, with electricity and gas and the use of laundry facilities in the house it was parked behind. One day when my trailer-mate was out, the neighbour came over. I think we had been chumming around a bit, I really don't remember. He had alcohol in some form, and before I knew it, we were doin' it. Sigh. I seem to recall that he had bad acne.

It certainly wasn't the way I'd dreamed it would always happen. Not even in my worst nightmares. But sometimes life happens that way; reality is warped and distorted by our own weaknesses, until we can't even remember what we were hoping for. So then we laugh and pretend "we meant to do that".

I didn't mean to do that.
2002-09-06 - 6:53 a.m.

I remember saving a mouse from my cat.

In Alberta, when the spring comes, it comes all at once, fiercely almost. All the piles of snow that fell that winter were melting in the course of hours, and our backyard was transformed into a network of rivers and streams. Naturally my sister and I had on our rubber boots and were playing like mad, jumping from snow island to snow island, making futile attempts to dam up tributaries, and generally splashing about like fools. It was really fun!

And then we saw our cat, Poots, a formidable hunter, playing with a little wet mouse on one of the snow islands in the middle of one of the raging run-off rivers. The mouse could not escape or he would drown. Poots would whack at the mouse with a paw, then watch it run around. He would pick it up in his teeth, toss it up, and casually wait for it to land. It was awful to watch. We immediately felt so sorry for the mouse that we ran to its rescue.

I can't remember if it was me or my sister that scooped up the mouse in our mittened hands and placed it on drier ground. One of us ran to the garage to get some food for Poots so he would still love us.

We felt like we had done something very good that day. We felt like God would be proud of us.
2002-09-05 - 2:52 p.m.

I remember the first time I played guitar in public. I could only play three or four chords, but that was enough to write a song, and I had three or four songs written. I had only played them for friends, until one evening, red-haired Tom and his almost-albino girlfriend, Karen, ran up the six flights of stairs to my warehouse apartment on the edge of Gastown. "Come on, Paula...there's an open-mike night at the Classical Joint, and we put you on the list! Hurry!!!" I tried to explain that my songs weren't good enough to perform, but they just put my guitar in my hand and pushed me out the door.

The Classical Joint wasn't even a block away, but I was sweating by the time we got there. I didn't know how to play guitar! I prepared myself to be embarrassed, and waited with dread for my turn to perform.

When my name was called, I went up to the chair and began explaining to everyone that I didn't know how to play, that these were just dumb songs I'd written about a dumb ex-boyfriend, and that I'd be done soon and hoped they would put up with me. And then I sang my songs. The crowd clapped along, laughed at the jokes, beamed at me with such love and joy that I was awestruck. They not only didn't expect me to be perfect, they accepted me whole-heartedly!

From that moment on, I knew that I was a performer. I knew that communicating with an audience was possible and worthwhile. I have been performing in some capacity ever since.

I don't know where Tom is. I don't know where Karen is. But I will never forget their faith in me, and I will always be thankful.
2002-09-05 - 6:58 a.m.

I remember my bright yellow high-top sneakers. I bought them right before I went to university, and soon everyone on campus could tell who I was even from two blocks away. People would call out, "Hey, Paula!" and wave madly, and I would have no idea who they were because they were so far away, and their shoes were ordinary.

My music professor, Mr. Janz, loved my sneakers. He was fairly young, very single, and I had quite a crush on him. He would drive around campus in his little car, listening to Beethoven as loud as most people would listen to the Ramones. He often commented on my sneakers. Maybe it was a safe way to connect, pupil to professor, just leaving it at the shoes.

I wonder if he ever got married?
2002-08-30 - 9:05 a.m.

I remember laying outside on a snow bank in our front yard. It was after supper, late enough for it to be completely dark outside. I was wearing my snow suit, so I wasn't cold. I lay there snuggled into the snow, looking up at the stars. Oh, the stars! We lived six miles from town, so there were no lights to compete with their glory. I don't know how long I laid there in the quiet, but I will never forget that sense of wonder and awe. The worship that lifted from my childish heart toward the Creator at that moment was pure and unrehearsed. I was maybe nine or ten, out in the country in Alberta.
2002-08-29 - 7:47 a.m.

I remember being at a gig at Club Soda in Vancouver, back in the late 80's. The band playing was Death Sentence. I was drunk, very drunk, and I remember sitting on the floor by the toilet in the bathroom, resting my head on the cool seat. The song the band was playing at that very moment was "Dawn of the Dead". The lyrics: "Dawn of the Dead, I'll do anything for drugs these days. My whole welfare checque, I spent it on f***ing DA...Dawn of the Dead, Dawn of the dead..." I remember laughing, thinking what a perfect song that was as a soundtrack for my life at that moment.
2002-08-28 - 7:37 a.m.

I remember: one day at school, the teacher was really getting under my skin. I was 11. By lunch time, I had had it. I took my lunch and quietly walked off the school ground and headed toward the highway. "He thinks he rules me? I'm walking to the city." The city was 70 miles away. I remember I was wearing a blue-and-white checkered dress, sort of a large gingham check, with a big bow in the back. It was made of polyester. I walked for hours on Highway 21, heading to Calgary. I didn't know what a prostitute did, but I did know that if you ran away, that was your way to make money, so I was determined to become one as soon as I got to the city. Thoughts of my family would fleetingly enter my head, but I'd push them aside. I was stubborn enough that I probably would have walked to Calgary, except for a man in a big sedan, driving the other way, heading back to my home. He pulled over and called out to me. "What are you doing by yourself way out here?" I lied to him, quick as thought, "I live near here, and I'm just out for a walk." Thankfully, he didn't believe me, and suggested that maybe I needed a ride back to town. I sighed. I got in his car. When we got back to town, I realized I had just missed the school bus, so I had to call home and lie again. And the next day at school, I had to lie to my stupid teacher as well.