Well. Time to take stock. In one week, it will be 2011, by the Gregorian Calendar. huh. I guess i’ll enter the 201’s then, ’cause i was not gonna be anywhere near the 2000’s while there were more than one zero in the name of the year. Zero’s make me nervous. They’re so–haunting and limitless and far away. So much space to fill in.
I’ve got candles lit, and it’s a rainy grey day and i’m kinda foggy from being up so late last night and a diet of beige food all month. Last night i worked at the night shelter. The Women’s Centre where I work operates a drop-in during the day as well as a shelter at night. It was Christmas Eve. sometimes during the night, the rain was so cold it froze to sleet. Outisde the front door there is a puddle so deep women have to practically swim to get to the door. “hey, we could do christmas water polo out there, got a stick?” nah. The women just wanted to have a smoke.
Outside there is only a little traffic noise. an hour ago I heard sirens. A truck is backing up a few blocks away. I talked to Mom, my brother, my sister-in-law, my nephew. “Can’t wait to see you…” we told each other, “Merry Christmas”. Then I called Dani and Andi and their two daughters. The girls are excited. They had not yet opened their presents. When i’m in town, I often go there for part of christmas. Have done for years and years. Last year I was home with Mom. The year before I was with them, though. My heartbreak year.
December 26–Ah. sorry i got distracted there. went off to work at the Women’s Centre–four hours of food, presents and mayhem. whoa. We kept serving food all day. Waffles and sausage for breakfast, then pannetone and cake, some left over quiche, a bit of fruit, the usual bad bitter coffee, more cake, chocolates…too much all at once. Got into a ridiculous fight with a co-worker. the deal was, as women leave at 4, we call up tables one by one, each woman gets a gift as she leaves. No gifts before 4. aim for consistency. women see others getting gifts before four, they’ll raise a ruckus. So, what does co-worker do, but give a couple of women gifts mid day. sigh. When a couple of other workers challenged this, she said, “Everyone else does stuff like this all the time, why is it suddenly a big deal when I do it?”uh. It’s not that big a deal, but why not try to keep your agreements? This is a small thing, but it is indicative of the problems with that place, too. Make agreements with co-workers about how we’re gonna work together, and then break those agreements if it suits us. In fact, mostly, there are no agreements, there’s no unity there. There is no sense of what we’re trying to achieve, either. We’ll never get beyond putting out fires and slappin’ on band-aids, not from down here at the lowest common denominator. We settle for so little–for the women we are supposed to be helping and from each other.
But my friends Val and Jackie came to help out! I haven’t seen either of them for most of the year, and it was just delightful to be together. They’re a mother-daughter team and I’ve known them both for as long as I’ve lived in Vancouver, when Val and I were about the same age Jackie is now. We lost touch for a few years after my break up with a good friend of Val’s, but something stuck, our friendship lay dormant, but when conditions were right it blossomed again, as these things can do. We see each other rarely, but when we are together again it’s like we were mid-sentence and the conversation continues. With all three of us. I love that.
the giving of the gifts was awful. There was so much stuff, and so many women and I don’t know how to make sense of the mess that happens when we dole stuff out. the mad rush happens when we just toss things into the middle of the room, too, all the women just leap into the pile of stuff and take as much of the shit they don’t even need, it’s like putting a pile of blow in the middle of the road. mayhem. It is like that. There’s no sense to it. We tried, we said, “Okay, women, there’s lots for everyone, we’re gonna try to be orderly and patient, please stay seated until your table is called.” But maybe it’s that thing about there being no expectations, maybe it’s that–“you are the poor, your job is to receive our cast off stuff all year, and at Christmas we give you new things. It’s best if you don’t have autonomy, you don’t mind, do you? No? Good.”
There was a mad rush, and then the women who were sitting and waiting, they got nervous because other women were pushing to the door, and so they got up too, and there was shouting and pushing and I stood between two women and said, “Hey! Hey! I’m not feelin’ the love here–where’d it go?” Women want to be good, and to be useful and we all want to be loved and loving too, and there’s just so little available, ya? All our training as women pits us against each other, and then when the staff (also women, also having the same conditioning) don’t have agreements about how or why we’re doing this stuff, it all just exacerbates the competition for the meagre resources, the limited power, the teeny tiny bit of influence…yick.
Then, of course, in the middle of all that chaos and shouting, come miracles–one group of women started singing at their table. “Silent Night” they sang, and it was lovely, that small peaceful carol spread slow over the drop-in and some peace came as a shared smile rippled across the crowd. And for a while, as I stood beside the slowly moving line of somewhat cranky tired women, everyone who passed me reached over for a hug. And that was a miraculous, too. Holding on to each other, sharing the love, knowing we matter .
Women. we are complicated creatures. infuriating and troublesome and magic and radiant.
Then I rode my bike in the rain and the slender traffic to Laura’s for dinner. Laura and I met when she lived in Kelowna. Or Kamploops, (i always get those two mixed up. They’re very different, but they both start with “K”. you know how that can be sometimes). She would come to visit, or drop her daughter off to see her father, and then she’d stay with Mike and Sharon (Sharon of the “sharon at the doorway” post, sometime in May or June, i think). So we first met when she was just finishing Nursing school. Then, when Sharon was dying, Laura was there too. And that’s when we really fell in love. We have the same kinda whacked out humour, we love to talk about words, she’s really really smart and acerbic and funny and we enjoy each others’ minds and…
what a hoot! Laura, it runs out, has the voice of an angel. Honestly. She was singing Brahms! Fucking Brahms as she was basting the turkey and setting the table and cutting up the organ meats to give to the dog. I could not stop grinning. The tv was on to the channel that has the fireplace logs on it, and every time the hand came to adjust the logs, we had to yell, “the Hand!” and take a drink. I don’t drink, but I was happy to yell, “the hand!” and facilitate everyone else’s drinking. I said to Susan, Laura’s sister (who is a concert violinist–wow) “I didn’t know Laura sang” and Susan said, “Only when she’s drinking. In that way, I’m a good influence.” We had the crackers, you know the ones that you yank on and sparks fly with a great “crack!” and you get a hat and a joke (mine was, “Father: Our son gets his intelligence from me, don’t you think? Mother: Must have. I seem to have kept mine.”) and a prize. I got a tape measure.
My former lover, the one who broke my heart into smithereens in 2008, she used to make the Christmas crackers out of toilet paper rolls. It was my job to buy the prizes, ’cause i had the whacked-out sense of humour, I guess. I miss that family, but less as the passage of time stitches the heart bits together. This year was the first that I didn’t send her mother a card. I don’t love her less. But she never responds, so I guess that means, well. Judging from the last conversation we had, it means any reference to me is met with hostility or disapproval (from my ex, not her mom). Anyhow. I would get pretty good prizes. buttons that said stuff like, “I found Jesus. He was behind the sofa the whole time”, and packs of chewing gum with titles like, “Satan’s Choice Fire Stick”. Little noise makers and puzzles and fortune telling devices.
This year I am single again, but not nearly so piteous as i was two years ago. Joanna (recent ex, always friend) had given me candy and cookies she baked and we’d spent a little time together a few days ago. My old friend and ally D. talked with me for nearly two hours last week and we finally started getting to the bottom of the conflict we’ve been having, but ignoring (to disastrous results) for the last couple of years. I was so relieved. Two years ago, D and A invited me (as they have done every Christmas), and me and my broken heart took the frozen skytrain across town to spend the evening in the warmth and light and care of their home. I played with their new wii with their daughters. we played boxing and tennis and something else riotous. This year, the invitation came late, ’cause we were fighting, and I’d already said yes to Laura, and that was okay, because I talked to all of the girls in their house and they know i love them and will be coming around a bit more again. I hope. We need each other.
last night, we dressed the dog, Violet (who is a very big black-spotted greyhound) in a red coat with big bells on it and a santa hat with a beard flowing down, and a few of us went out for a walk to look at the lights. Oh, that was so fun, too. Trinity Street is decked out. Every year most of the neighbours tart up their houses with lights and snow people and inflatable penguins and reindeer on roofs and candles in windows and trees blossoming l.e.d. lights and so on. We walked and talked and argued and giggled and sang and picked up bits of clothing that Violet flung off herself at irregular intervals.
When we got home, Mike suggested we choreograph a line dance to the song, “imagine” and we had a little fun trying to do that without stumbling too much into the furniture. then Sue brought over a cd of Flamenco music. I think it was Flamenco. There was lots of clapping and strumming on many-stringed guitars. I struggled into my rain gear and rode my bike home along the quiet rainy streets. my belly and my heart full, humming what i could recollect of the Brahms Laura had been singing.
Before I left, Laura said, “I love you so much! I mean, I really hardly know you, but I’ve loved you from the moment we met.” Of course taking Sharon’s last steps together sealed it, we all had so much humour and grace then, and it all meant that we will always know each other.
I’m still full from last night, of music and laughter and lovin and turkey and Stella’s Ek-Mek . Stella is Laura’s daughter. She’s 17 and her favourite Christmas gift this year was a collection of Abert Camus’ essays, Lyrical and Critical Essays. She got it from her mother. How fucking cool is that? I told her a bit about Simone de Beauvior, who she is now going to look up. Anyhow, her Ek-Mek is divine, and creamy and sweet and rich.
oh. life. what a life.