Friday, December 30, 2005

I remember being afraid of the toilet in the middle of the night.

When I was a little kid, we lived in an old farmhouse out in the country. My bedroom was upstairs, and the ceiling sloped on both a larger house, it would have been the attic, I guess. My bed was tucked into the narrow place where the ceiling met with the wall. I had to watch how I sat up in the middle of the night, or I'd bonk my head!

The trip to the bathroom in the dark of night is where my fear comes in. Unlike many kids, I wasn't aware of any monsters under my bed or in my closet. My fear was directed towards the toilet. I knew with certainty that if I wasn't back in bed before the toilet stopped flushing, that I would be dragged back and sucked into the vortex. Being close to my bed didn't count...I was sure I could be dragged back down the stairs, through the piano room, through the kitchen and into the bathroom and sucked down the toilet unless I was in my bed with my head under the covers.

So, here's how it would go. I'd relieve myself. I'd put my hand on the lever and assume the "On your marks" position. Then flush, run like my life depended on it, back through the obstacle course of the first floor, up the stairs, and dive into my bed, heart racing.

I never told anyone about this fear. It was mine, and I didn't want to share it. As an adult, I watch this whole memory with amusement, but also with wonder. Almost every night I faced a near-death experience and won! I had set up for myself an almost impossible obstacle, and then would conquer it every time I had to relieve myself. Talk about esteem-building! Is that what our childhood fears are we can practice survival in the face of our fears?

Thanks to Papa Herman for sparking this memory for me.

Friday, December 23, 2005

I remember being witnessed to by a true Rastafarian. (Warning, dear children, there will be drug references in this memory!)

I was hanging out at the Channel 1 Klub in Vancouver, just down some stairs from Denman Street. There were three or four guys from Jamaica, dreadlocks, big funny hats and everything. I got into a conversation with one guy, and he asked me if I wanted to smoke a joint with the time, that was a bit of a rhetorical question with no need for an answer from me. We headed to a car park for some privacy, and Mr. Rasta (I can't remember his name) pulled out one of the fattest doobies I'd ever seen. We shared it, then headed back into the club. As we sat down by the bar to talk, he pulled a little well-worn New Testament from his back pocket. He opened it and asked me if I knew that Jesus loved me.

I burst into fits of giggles...I just couldn't quite put the whole experience together in my head. First, Mr. Rasta gets me more wasted than I'd ever been before up to that time, then he starts sharing the gospel with me. 'Interesting witnessing technique', I remember thinking, 'If people smoked you up first, you might be more inclined to listen to people proselytize!'

He shared the whole thing with me, the whole Romans Road...and I just kept giggling. I kept seeing myself in Sunday School memorizing the very verses he was reading to me, and then seeing myself at that moment, sitting in the dark club listening to him. The two images just didn't juxtapose.

Part of me wonders...was God reminding me that He was there, watching over me? I was certainly trying to ignore Him as much as possible, yet somehow He was always there, peeking through a window, eye to the keyhole, ear to the wall...unobtrusive, yet inescapable. Nice thought...

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

I remember winning "Most Improved" in our college choir.

If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you'll remember Mr. Janz. He was conducting us through Handel's "Elijah" for Masterworks Choir at Trinity Western University. This was going to be a big deal, a performance with professional soloists, an orchestra...we were excited and nervous to take on this mammoth challenge.

It seemed that Mr. Janz was constantly singling me out. For the first part of the semester, he would stop the music and say something like, "Did everyone hear how Paula did that? It was wrong. Paula, let's try it..." and I'd have to work the part out in front of everybody until it was right. Mr. Janz, as all good musicians should be, was a perfectionist. Couple my crush on him with my own perfectionism, and you can imagine how humiliating this whole process was for me.

But by the end of the semester, he would stop the music and say, "Did everyone hear how Paula did that? She was the only one who did it right!! Now, Paula, sing it for us so everyone can hear how to do it." (In case you haven't guessed, I sing loudly whether I know what I'm doing or not...) And when it came time to vote for "Most Improved", apparently I was the obvious choice, the only one brash enough to make my mistakes and improvements in full view of the class.

I still wonder if he ever got married. Ahem...
Not really about remembering at all....but rules are made to be broken, yes?

Your Inner European is Italian!

Passionate and colorful.
You show the world what culture really is.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

I remember shopping for a winter coat with my mom.

We lived near Three Hills, I was about 12, and I needed a new winter coat. We drove into town and went to Fields. I think it was Fields even way back then...I could be wrong. I'm sure the location was the same as the Fields now; not much changes in these small towns.

I remember walking into the store and seeing the coats on the racks. I walked over, picked out a red down-filled coat, tried it on, and said, "This is the one, Mom. I like this one." She made me try on every other coat in the store to see if I liked some other coat better. I didn't. We spent an hour in there, and in the end I walked out of the store with the coat I had known I liked from the very first.

I am sure this confused my mother. I know I was certainly confused by her that day. Why try on more coats if you've already found the One?

Monday, December 05, 2005

I remember New Year's Day with my roommate and his mother...

Don was Danish, and his mom asked us over for a smorgesboard to celebrate New Year's Day with her. I had never met her before, but Don assured me she was nice. She lived in a little apartment by herself. The dining room table was covered with little plates with all kinds of food on them, all covered in plastic wrap. As the afternoon began, she unwrapped a few of the little plates, and we'd all help ourselves. After a few of the plates had been tackled, she disappeared into the kitchen and came back with a liqueur she'd been keeping in the freezer, Aquavit. She poured us each a little glassful, and then we all knocked it back in one quick gulp. It was refreshing! Then more little plates would be uncovered, then more Aquavit, etc. Always the Aquavit would be put back in the freezer right away.

I had to ask a lot of questions, as there were many foods that I had never seen before, or never had enough courage to try. Pickled herring, lots of different white fish, a spread for crackers made of beef fat, all kinds of little strange nibblies. I'm not sure what the ratio of plates to Aquavit was, but Don's mom seemed to have an equation all worked out. By the end of the last little covered plate, we were all getting happily sloshed, Danish style!

It seemed very strange to me at first to be drinking with someone's MOM. Drinking is something you hide from your mom, isn't it? My parents are teetotallers and look down on drinking. I had never shared a drink of alcohol with my parents, but after dancing around the living room singing "I Wanna Be Like Yoo-oo-ou" from the Jungle Book with Don and his mom, I began to wonder if maybe MY family was the weird one, and that maybe I had been missing out.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

I remember my first shoplifting experience.

I was about 8 or 9 years old, and we lived in a very small town with a very conservative Bible School. This very conservative Bible School had a book store full of books, Bibles, cards, and every other thing that you can think of that can have a Bible verse stamped on it. This particular day I was drawn to the rotating display of Chick tracts. I loved comics, and these little gospel tracts were all in comic book form, and just exactly the right size to slip into my pocket. Mom was busy talking to the saleslady, and I knew I didn't have 7 I put it in my pocket. It was easy.

As I followed Mom out of the store, the cash register at the door loomed over me like a judge pointing an accusing finger...but I made it by, cool as a cucumber. I kept the tract in my bedroom under my pillow for awhile, but I felt so darn guilty every time I read it that I couldn't enjoy it! I thought if maybe I gave it to an unsaved friend that the good would even out the guilt and I could go back to normal. (Thankfully, I resisted that urge...Have you read Chick tracts? Yikes!!)

In the end, I saved my pennies and went to the book store and quietly left the change on the counter, no explanation, no apology...just a quiet righting of the wrong.

Friday, November 18, 2005

I remember a bus driver treating me like a human.

This is a tough one for me, because the memory itself is in patches, as if it were a picture sewn on a quilt, but parts of the fabric have frayed, and I don't remember my motivation or how I got into the mental state I was in.....but I digress. I'll try and start the story from the beginning. No, not the beginning...but as close to the beginning as I can.

I'm in Vancouver. I am on the sidewalk outside the Channel 1 Klub, not on the Denman entrance, but around the corner on the side street. I am feeling very angry and frustrated, desparate. I think I may have gone into the Channel 1 to ask my friend for some money, and been told to piss off...and I needed the money, I'm sure. But whatever the reason, I am feeling so hopeless that I begin to bang my forehead against the wall of the building. Bang it, over and over, as hard as I can. I think I am trying to knock myself unconscious so I won't have to feel like such a loser.

"Stop that! What are you doing?" I look up, and it's a city bus driver who I'm on "Hi, how are ya" basis with. He must have been on his break, looked over and seen my scene. He proceeds to talk to me for about five minutes, not a lot of time. Hardly any time at all. But in those few minutes I begin to feel like a human again, like someone with enough dignity to not mutilate their forehead in public.

I can see why, as I look back into my brain for this memory, I have remembered the parts I have. The reason for my despair was unimportant. The almost anonymous man who was perhaps an angel....I will never forget.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

I remember husking corn on sunny September afternoons.

My mother grew a huge garden, really truly huge...the canning and freezing of produce kept our family of six in vegetables all winter long. This meant a lot of work for us kids, a lot of weeding all summer long, a lot of picking of peas and carrots and raspberries and tomatoes and beans and......well, you get the picture. The day we husked corn, though...that was maybe my favourite day.

Dad and my older sisters would be picking corn all morning, and my little sister and I would cart it in our little red wagon to a sunny spot beside the house and dump it in a mountainous pile, then head back to the garden for another load. Once all the corn was picked, then we started husking.

Can you smell the warm sun heating the pile of corn so it smells like golden bread? Can you see the pale green and yellow as we strip ear after unashamed ear naked of their husks? To me the whole memory is infused with slanted September sunlight, gilding every kernel of corn, every strand of silk, every bug hiding in the husks with harvest gold. We would make wigs of the silk, we would make dolls of the husks, it seemed the whole of the day was filled with play...yet somehow we always made it to the bottom of the pile.

I think I needed this memory to prod me to approach work now as I did do I make it fun for myself? How do I remove the drudgery and replace it with joy?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

I remember punching a biker in the face.

I was at the Commodore Ballroom, watching some band or other. At one point I was heading from the amazing, spring-loaded (I'm not kidding, the floor actually kind of bounces when everyone is dancing!) dance floor up one of the short flights of stairs to the second level. In front of me was a very large biker trying to come down the stairs. He was VERY drunk; in fact, he could hardly stand, and his gang of "brothers" were trying to maneuver him down the five or six steps. The large, drunk biker and I were all of a sudden blocking each other's path.

I wish you could see his face. It's like his eyes were open, but he was actually somewhere far away...and then he resurfaced for a moment, and there, right in front of his bleary eyes, was my chest. He looked like a little boy who just opened a present on Christmas morning, and he reached out his hand and grabbed my left breast. I didn't even think. I just popped him one as hard as I could, right in the face. His expression changed, still a little boy, but this time caught with his hand in the cookie was almost funny. He mumbled something about "sorry"...and then I became aware of all his biker buddies who were holding him up.

I realized at that moment that maybe punching someone so big and with so many big friends wasn't the most intelligent thing to do. Thankfully, after the brief pause of silence, that moment where the situation could turn in any way it pleased--they all started laughing and congratulating me. "Way to go, sister!" "That'll teach him to keep his hands to himself!! Harr har harr!!" "Did you see her?" etc. as they began again to move the big hulk unsteadily towards the dance floor, and probably the exit.

And I fully understood, perhaps for the first time, how that old cliche "sigh of relief" actually feels.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

This has nothing to do with remembering. But I'm such a Lord of the Rings freak that I had to share my result with the world....

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

Monday, October 24, 2005

I remember wanting to go see Star Wars when it first came out.

Major problem...we were not allowed to go to movie theatres. Ever. For any reason. This did not make sense to me, and at the age of 11, I was seriously grilling my mother for reasons why. "Why can't I go?" "What is the big deal with movie theatres?" "Why?" She could never give me a satisfactory answer, and I was the only person in my whole school who hadn't seen Star Wars when I was in Grade 7. I would sit on the school bus and listen to the other kids talk about how many times they had seen it, and I would just want to cry.

This led to an obsession with Star Wars on my part. I bought the Star Wars novel. I bought Star Wars trading cards. I imagined I was Princess Leia kicking the snot out of overly-religious parents who wouldn't let their children go to see movies in a theatre.

The obsession is mainly over now, though I will always remember with fondness the first three movies. Anybody want some trading cards? I have almost the whole set....but they're in really crappy condition. I spent too much time looking at them, playing with them, using them to tell myself the story of the movie, counting them, sleeping with get the picture. On second thought, I think I'll keep the cards.

Monday, October 17, 2005

I remember watching an old man trying on boots.

It was the late 1980's, and I was making my semi-regular trip to my personal Mecca...Fluevog Shoes on Granville Street in Vancouver. I'd look at shoes and boots, dreaming about owning just one more pair. Everywhere on display were black leather pointy-toed boots with buckles and zippers, all kinds of shoes and boots, all very avant-garde and unique.

I headed past the unisex and men's shoes in the front part of the store and into the room that had women's shoes and boots to see if there were any new styles. There was a man talking to the salesman. The man was old, short of height and thick around the middle, balding head with wisps of grey hair around the edges, and wearing a grey suit. He was saying to the salesman, "I'd like to see them in a size 11, please." The young, trendy-looking salesman popped to the very back of the store, while I continued to look at shoes. (I can look at shoes for a long time...) He came back with a large pair of red leather, thigh-high boots with four-inch stiletto heels and very pointed toes. He handed the boots to the old man.

All of a sudden I wasn't quite sure where to look; I had a feeling it would be impolite to stare! I managed to maneuver myself into a place where I could watch by looking in a reflection, and saw the old man pull up his pant leg and try on the boot. He zipped it up the back and stood looking at himself in the mirror, turning this way and that to see if looked right. He walked around the shop a bit to get the feel of the boot.

I left. I didn't want to know if he actually bought the boots or not. I didn't want to imagine him wearing those boots. I kept hoping that maybe his wife happened to have very large feet just the same size as his, and he was buying her a present. I was trying so hard to not be from a small town, and I'd keep running into stuff like this, making me uncomfortable.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

I remember getting a Hot Wheels Fat Track for Christmas one year when I was really little.

We had been opening and opening the presents, and there wasn't one for me from Santa. This was very disheartening, and I almost didn't want to mention it...wouldn't that be admitting that Santa thought I was bad, that I didn't deserve a present?...but I had to ask if maybe it was somewhere else and I'd missed it. My dad said he thought he saw something in their bedroom that morning, maybe I should look. I ran to the door (right off the living room, of COURSE Santa would leave something there for me, why didn't I think of that?) and burst into the room. There, with a bow on the Juice Pump (battery pack), was an oval Hot Wheels Fat Track plus two cars. Yahoo!

Santa never let me down by bringing Barbies or dresses...he always came through with a toy revolver or something...and this year was the best ever. My own race track!! Cooler than the boys at school had!!! None of the other presents mattered anymore at ALL, and I played with that track non-stop. You could juice up the cars at the battery station, then they'd race anywhere, even on the kitchen linoleum! You didn't need an electric line on the track to keep them going...very cool. I miss that track. I'd play with it now if I had it.

Friday, September 30, 2005

A quick janitorial-type notice: I changed the number of posts on the main page here...all the blog entries are still available in my archives. Now that I have high-speed, I sometimes forget about people who have to wait for minutes out of their life for a big page to load. Sorry it took me so long to figure that out.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

I remember finding a mummified cat.

Actually, I didn't find it . . . my boyfriend at the time, Rob, found it in a mostly empty warehouse that a friend of ours was using as an artist studio/living space. He couldn't wait to show it to me, and to show me where he had found it while poking around behind some boards on one of the abandoned floors. The cat was a normal sized house-cat in the exact same pose as the "Restricted" panther, one paw forward and in low slink mode. All the skin was there but thin, like wasp paper, and shrunken over the bones. Just like the warning growl a living cat gives before attacking, its face was pulled back into a tight grimace. All in all, it looked remarkably life-like. We were fascinated with the cat! What a find!! Naturally Rob put it in a place of honour in his room. How a dead creature could mummify in the moist humidity of the West Coast, I'll never know. I do know it felt like a gift to find it.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

I remember drinking tea with my friend, Sheri.

This was back in the early '80's, and Celestial Seasonings was still relatively new to us, and we bought new tea if we liked the picture on the box, or if the quote impressed us. We didn't care if we actually liked the tea inside. We would save the empty boxes and pile them against our walls, arranging and rearranging them into pleasing patterns. The tea made us feel artsy and unique and creative, which is a lot to ask of a little tea bag. I never did like the Red Berry Zinger all that much, but it had a cool box, so I'd just put a lot of honey into the cup and drink it anyway.

This past summer I managed to take a tour of the Celestial Tea factory in Boulder, Colorado. It was more fun than I expected! But I realized as I watched the endless parade of neat and tidy little tea boxes on the assembly line that something like "artsy" and "unique" and "creative" can be used as marketing tools, and that they worked on me for a long time. I don't buy tea anymore unless I think I'll like the flavour. If I want to look at the boxes, I go to the store and look at them.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

I remember the first time I dyed my hair.

I was 20, hanging out on Granville Street with a bunch of street punks. I was quite attracted to a 16 year old guy named Adam--he reminded me of Sid Vicious. It didn't strike me as strange at the time that I wanted to go out with a boy instead of a man...I didn't know who I was, and he seemed so confident about his identity. It was quite alluring! So when he suggested I dye my hair black, I jumped at it. Anything to break ties with who I used to be.

One problem...I grew up in a house without hair-dye. I had never seen anyone dye their hair. Adam and his friend, Kale, said they'd help me. Oh boy!! Two for real punk rockers....fur-coat-hating, metal-stud wearing, tattooed vegetarian punk rockers were going to dye my hair!!! I couldn't wait. We went back to Adam's apartment and Kale, who turned out to be surprisingly gentle considering his large girth, took care of the dyeing process. I remember looking up into Kale's eyes as he rinsed the dye out in the bathroom sink. I was so happy. I felt so daring! I was going to look so unique!

It was 18 years before I grew out all the many and various colours I put into my hair. Now it is North American mousy brown with a generous sprinkling of kinky grey. I like it! I look intelligent. I look distinguished. I know for certain that nobody else on the planet has hair quite like mine. And I had thought uniqueness could be bought in a box from the drug store...I'm glad I figured that one out.

Monday, May 09, 2005

I remember bowling with our youth group. Our church was too small, so I went to the MB (Mennonite Brethren) youth group, with my parents' blessing. As far as I knew, everyone was as good and well-behaved as I was. There was no drinking or carousing or sex. We were so shut-down by our upbringing that we had to be told how to goof off! We'd all go bowling, and instead of just naturally being goofy, which we would have been too unsure of ourselves to do, the leaders would hand us a list of goofy ways to bowl each frame. "Bowl left-handed" or "Bowl backwards" or "Bowl like Fred Flinstone". Oh good, rules! A list!! Now we could all safely goof off because we were told to. We knew what was expected of us, no surprises. And no freedom. What if I wanted to bowl every frame like Fred Flinstone? Would I have been mistrusted as a potential troublemaker? "She was goofing off out of order, Mrs. Rempel--we thought you'd want to know."