The Lake

It is a place we go at the end of a special day, following dinner in Chinatown or an afternoon spent in the dim and spooky light of the museum. We will retreat there for an evening walk, ice cream in hand and sandals off if we complain about the sand getting into them for long enough. We can look at the lake, but to wade in to the water means certain doom: pollution to make us sick or perhaps an undertow to drag us down. The thought of either is scary and romantic but we stand far enough down into the spongy, cold shore that the slight waves will wash over our bare feet anyway, sinking us down into the sand. We can play on the beach if we find a place in the sand that is not too littered with shards of broken beer bottles, the discarded ends of smoked cigarettes or refuse from fast-food meals. We will comb the beach for tumbled glass and interesting rocks and proof of a nefarious world that we have heard inhabits the beach late into the night – condoms perhaps or even a syringe, though we never find evidence of that kind of dark and dangerous life. We point across the lake, trying to make out the horizon of what my father says is New York, though we don’t know how that can be true since the lake is called Ontario.


The house in the beaches is called The Embassy, but since we suburban interlopers were not around at the genesis of its existence, we don’t really know why. What we know is that it is messy, smoke-filled freedom where school and parents are replaced with weed and Deadheads and a truth that cannot be found in the hallways of our schools or the manicured streets of our neighbourhoods. Our legitimacy as visitors worthy of entry to The Embassy is unquestioned by some, viewed with suspicion by others. Eventually, after a spring and summer of constant arrivals, our lives begin to intertwine. Boyfriends are procured. Unmade, unkempt beds are shared and the unstated knowledge that just because we go back to the suburbs to change our clothes but they no longer have to, can not remain a strong enough barrier against our invasion. We still don’t swim in the lake, but we can go down there at night to smoke and fuck.


The bohemian gentrification, and with it the cleanup, is complete. It is all gray-haired women walking purposefully with yoga mats tucked under their arms, and young mothers strolling together with diaper bags attached to expensive strollers attached to chubby babies. It is new boutiques and gelato stands and the old dives now shrinking back from the blinding gleam of its newly scrubbed neighbours. It is where I take my 10-day old baby on our first outing together. We live a short drive away now and this place, one neighbourhood removed from my own, is more familiar to me than the streets of my new home. I walk down the street, diaper bag attached to stroller attached to baby, and I need the layout of a familiar place, since the role I now find myself in is utterly alien to me. I look into my daughter’s clear, wide-awake blue eyes and can see that she understands my need to be in this place. We head south, where the sky opens up above the lake and the warm spring sun casts diamonds on the water. I take off my shoes and throw them in the basket beneath the stroller, and push forward a little bit more until the wheels sink into the dry sand. I take my daughter out of her seat, and we sit on the beach and I pull her close to me. As I nurse her, I wonder if the water remembers what it has witnessed. I look out across the lake and I don’t have to strain my eyes. It is a clear day and I can see New York. 



Now You Are Eight

catching wishes

You turned eight this weekend.

I have started and erased this post several times already, because I cannot get a handle on my thoughts surrounding this event. You are challenging my skills as a writer, just as you are challenging my skills as a mother, forcing me to redefine what both of those roles are when it comes to understanding just who you are as well.

This year has been a challenge. You are not the challenge – you are bright and happy and creative and defiant and confident and all the things I want for you – but you have challenged me, my child, make no mistake. For you are eight, and your role is to change, to discover, to explore, to define and defy the expectations of who you are. Your place is to grow and learn and discover and stretch and uncover and understand yourself and your world.

You are smack dab in the middle of childhood, and I want that childhood to rain surprises and experiences and joy and love and disappointments and complexities right on top of your beautiful little head.

The challenge this past year has been for me to resist holding open an umbrella to shield you from all the things that you are now conscious of and want to deal with yourself. The challenge has been for me to suppress my instincts to steer your days, your actions, your decisions, and to let you pilot your own existence, allowing the map to spread out before you just a little more each day.

I have always been your cartographer, the primary navigator of your path. And it is a path that we have always traversed together, holding hands for both protection and comfort, because the path is sometimes rocky and the woods beyond, unknown.

But this past year, you have ventured east though I may have marked the route west. There have been days when you have moved along without me, sometimes skipping ahead of me happily and sometimes breaking free of my hold with a flick of your wrist powered by frustration and intent.

You have grown so much this year, and the challenge has been for me to grow as well; to embrace not only the child you are, but the child you are becoming. And to be proud of not only the mother I am, but the mother that I must become.

And I hope that, while the path will unfold more with every passing day, our routes will never diverge too far from one another, and that if they do, we will meet again beyond the next turn.

And I hope that it will be ok if I still scan the woods for darkness, and that, though your strides grow longer and more confident every day, you will still reach back to hold my hand every now and then.