Let’s Talk About the Weather

I’m thankful I don’t live in New York or Boston’s sudden winter wonderland?- hell? Though I’m not currently buried under snow, though I will be in a month or two, I wouldn’t call Montreal’s climate temperate. It’s volatile. One day I breeze down the cracked but dry pavement in my ivory suede boots (they’re really nice), the next I dredge along in winter boots. They’re deep purple, a colour I regret. One day Joanie is dressed in her cute furry bear outfit, the next she’s wriggling frantically in an ugly down snowsuit that’s too big for her. It was a last minute purchase when the temperature plummeted over night. Eric and I bussed up to the Joe Fresh by Parc metro to find that the only snowsuit in Joanie’s size was pink with polka dots, ruffles and a skirt. I refuse to dress her in a snowsuit with ruffles, so we bought one from the boy’s section, a size too big, but at least it has no superfluous skirts.

I’ve lived in Montreal for almost twenty years and I should expect dramatic climate shifts, but I wasn’t prepared for the extra forty-five minutes it takes to get anywhere. Aside from the twenty minutes it takes to zip and strap a seven-month-old into a snowsuit that she hates, I have to account for twenty-five minutes of pushing a stroller like a broken sleigh over ice frozen in clumps around the foot-prints of all the people moving faster than I. When she’s not in the stroller I have her strapped under my maternity coat screaming all the way to day care and back. She’s hidden under a special insert, so to passersby it looks I have some kind of shouting tumour on my chest.

Then, because it is Montreal and the weather is so unpredictable, the next day I’ll wake up to a dry sidewalk. I’ll be carrying a screaming child, the jacket she has shed, her back pack with the giraffe on it, while sweating through my parka.

Next week… Next week… Wait… Next week, I promise

Standing in the middle of my living room, up to my knees in stuffed animals, discarded socks and receiving blankets, I remember a time when my apartment was tidy, minimal except for the alphabetically organized books. I might even venture to call it sleek. Order was maintained with little effort, but since Joanie’s birth, when we returned home and collapsed in an explosion of wipes and forms, pills and bottles, I have been frantically scrambling to catch up with all the annoying chores that compose my life. No matter how many post-it memos I leave myself I can’t pay my bills on time, I always forget items at the grocery store, I order pizza too often, and I still haven’t written my will.

On weekends I serve brunch at a restaurant in my neighbourhood. At the end of my shift on Sunday I slump onto the couch, order pizza and watch an episode of Gossip Girl, despite my promise that I wouldn’t watch that stupid hallow show anymore. In my state of exhaustion I say to myself, “next week I am going to be on top of everything.”

This affirmation reminds me of a similar pronouncement I would repeat when I was twenty. I was living in an apartment with my best friend, a performance artist, an international student, and a university professor whom I never met and would never meet. Most nights I’d work the overnight shift at a diner, then meet up with bartender friends for breakfast, go home and sleep until three or four in the afternoon. For an entire winter I didn’t see sunlight and on days I didn’t work I’d go to a carpeted bar to drink and dance. It was loads of fun, but outside of work and drinking I didn’t do much. My bills were left unpaid, the floor of my room was littered with pizza boxes and Lord help you if you expected me to respond to an email. And just like I do now, I’d wake up once a week and say, “this week I’m going to get my shit together.”

When friends hold Joanie on their knees and watch her wobble on her six month old legs, they laugh at a joke I’ve heard time and time again: “she’s like a little drunk person.” Babies may stumble through life as it they were intoxicated but I assure you it is the parents who live as drunks do. We’re sleep-deprived, we walk into doors, and we insist on talking about gross things nobody wants to hear about (see my other posts on poop). Most importantly, parents are constantly trying to catch up with their own lives, wishing there were twenty-eight hours in a day. Even as I write this, I should be calling Canada Revenue to wade through some bureaucratic nonsense. But it’s Friday. Tomorrow I work and I’m sure, come Sunday evening, I will make all sorts of promises about the week ahead.

Hear Me, Hear Me

(Please excuse the silly title but I couldn’t resist.)

Last April I told a story at Confabulation’s Lies My Parents Told Me and the good folks at No More Radio were kind enough to have me on Confabulation’s podcast. Feel free to picture me eight months pregnant to complete the visual as you listen to my tale of the Blood Sucking Hermit Pope.

Listen here!

Everything I don’t Know About Boys and All the New French Words I’ve Learned

To hear a full grown woman with a medical degree ask another full grown woman how many “pee-pees” and “ka-kas” she has a day is off-putting. I asked a Francophone and translator friend of mine about this and she said it’s a common French idiom, at least in Quebec. I don’t care how common it is. It’s infantilizing and it makes me uncomfortable.

While on the subject, my friend and I discussed another word, one I have just recently learned: zi-zi, meaning penis. It is similar in tone to the way a child might say wee-wee, but more widely used. I first heard it in a conversation between two of Joanie’s caregivers at daycare, Lise and Esfir.

(I’ve translated their conversation because my French grammar is hopeless.)

Lise: Why is Lawrence wet?

Esfir: He is not. Is he?

Lise: He is. Touch his leg.

Esfir: (With her thumb and index finger around Lawrence fat baby thigh) Eh? It makes no sense I just changes him.

Lise: (Taking Lawrence to the change table. Bursting with laughter after removing the diaper) Esfir, Esfir, comes see. You put his zi-zi to the side and he peed out the leg hole.

Two things strike me about this exchange. One: adults can call a penis zi-zi in conversation with each other and apparently it’s not weird. Two: parents of boys have to worry about the direction of the zi-zi. It has occurred to me that while I have learned so much about parenting, and I understand that gender is fluid, and I believe that most of what is true for baby girls is true for baby boys, there are things about boys that will never apply to girls. I am so glad that I never have to worry about zi-zi direction. That is unless I have another child and it’s a boy. Then I’ll be fluent in zi-zi and speak comfortably about pee-pee direction with all the other full grown adults.

Note: I asked my friend if there was a female equivalent to zi-zi and there isn’t. Any word she came up with was either vulgar or Georgio O’Keefe.

If you missed me at Yarn

A couple of weeks ago I posted about an upcoming performance. If you didn’t have a chance to come out, which you probably didn’t given that so many of you don’t live in Montreal, that’s okay. My dear friends Bianca and Rita filmed and edited the story.

Please enjoy and forgive my nervousness.

My Damn Dog

Frank is an eleven year old cockapoo. Actually he’s a mix of cockapoo and cocker spaniel, so a more apt title would be cocka-cockapoo. His full name is Franklin Dogdog Roosevelt and his favourite thing in the world is his rubber blue bear. He’s my dog and I hate him.

Here is our story:

Five years ago, Frank moved in with Leigh. He had been living with her mum whose migratory life no longer suited a dog. The move was seamless. He got along with all of Leigh’s roommates and they loved dressing him up. One night Leigh came home to find them all celebrating an evening of cross dressing. Hari and Tyler wore skirts and blouses, Melinda wore slacks and suspenders, and Frank wore a string of pearls and a floral head scarf.

Frank gave Leigh something to chat about and introduced her to a community of dog owners who, if you asked Leigh, are strange and obsessive but very nice. They went for walks in Montreal’s beautiful city parks, sat on terraces in the hot sun, and curl up on the couch to watch Deep Space Nine. For a few years they were inseparable. They were best friends. They even shared cloths on occasion. Yes, it was weird, but Leigh had left her roommates, been living by herself, and there’s only so much Star Trek a girl can watch.

Things were going well for the best friends; that is until the falling out. It happened after the birth of Joanie, Leigh’s daughter, who entered into their lives and took up all the love.

When the pair first moved in together, Frank was an exceptionally well behaved dog. He’d been to puppy academy and graduated top of his puppy class. He could sit, stay, play dead, and roll over. He even pranced when he walked, each paw springing up from the pavement like a small child’s feet in hot sand. Leigh’s mum had worked hard to make him a good dog, but Leigh didn’t have the same patience. She figured he didn’t need to roll over or play dead, and prancing, while adorable, was unnecessary. She let him go unpracticed.

As the tricks waned so too did all the other discipline. Soon he was barking at the door and pulling so hard on the leash his breathing became wheezy pants. It wasn’t long before Leigh had to keep the garbage pale on the counter to stop Frank from spreading carrot peels and coffee grinds all over the apartment. Finally when Joanie was born, and the last remnants of attention Frank received disappeared, he started leaving surprises on the living room floor in front of the television.

One night, when Joanie was a week shy of six months and Eric was on business in Germany, Frank pushed Leigh’s patience until it fell over the anger cliff and disappeared in the ocean of fury. She had picked up her daughter from daycare, walked home in the pouring rain and lugged the buggy up three flights of stairs. She wanted nothing more than to collapse on the couch and zone out to an episode of Sesame Street. In the half an hour she was gone, Frank tipped the garbage can, strew its contents down the hall, vomited whatever he had eaten onto her bathrobe, and pissed a big astringent puddle on Joanie’s foam play mat. After putting her baby down to nap, cleaning up the mess, shedding her soiled socks and crying all the while, Leigh called her mum.

“It’s too much. I don’t trust myself. I’m going to take him to the park and leave him there,” she cried.

“No you’re not,” her mother assured her, knowing all she needed were comforting words, “you’re not a monster.” Leigh was calmed, but her relationship with Frank remained tense. She ignored him when he looked up for scratches and pushed him back to the ground when he tried to snuggle with her on the couch.

That was recent and I’m still having difficulties feeling close to Frank, though I have a new resolve to be a better dog owner. When that dog moved in with me I made a commitment. For a while I would say my life is so vastly far way from that which I had imagined when I got a dog, that if I had known I was going to have a baby I would have remained pet-less. But that’s just an excuse. If at any point in my life I could see the future I would have made different decisions. If I had that power I would never do anything, paralyzed by the fear of what could happen. I make choices that I have to live with for better or for worse and Frank was a choice that I made, a responsibility I am committed to. So I try hard to visit the dog park, and I take him to the groomers, albeit not often enough, and I introduce him gently to Joanie in an effort to make him part of the family. It’s tough and I’m lazy but as I write this I am reminded of all the companionship Frank has given me, and I figure I owe the little guy some love.

He’s a good dog. I’m a bad owner.