I hope to start a website soon. Stay tuned.
Thursday, April 5, 2018
Wednesday, March 28, 2018
BEYOND FACEBOOK: Reality Refugees--Born to the Dream
Of course the child would be born on a cold night which turned snow to ice pellets to rain and sleet. Before Easter he was born to this world. He is the first native-born Canadian in the family and he is bright with newness, pink plump with a full head of hair. He is a gift. He is a promise. He is beautiful.
His mother is glorious with her accomplishment with that rare vulnerable essence that speaks of the ultimate strength of women caught like light at her eyes. She is also exhausted.
The father of course is proud as punch and I left them as he was holding the baby against his skin. They ask that now of new fathers when the mother is momentarily preoccupied. The father’s skin is warmer than the mothers and the baby needs that warmth. The little guy was quiet. I think he will be a studious sort. But his wide mouth looks ready for the smile of bedevilment.
We in Canada cannot appreciate the level of community that this family left behind. In Syria before the war the mother at this point would be surrounded by intergenerational family, women clucking and cooing and handling things; the cooking, the cleaning, the comforting, the stories. In Canada, technology attempts to replace that with Skype to relatives back home. I felt a great sadness that without knowledge of Arabic I had so little to offer. I tried to explain to the father at one point that his baby now “is.” He is the ultimate expression of the verb “to be” and present tense even.
The father has found work. He is happy.
He has also registered for a month long evening course in English in Ottawa. He is a determined man. In Quebec no such courses seem to exist in this region. Politics and reality sometimes don’t agree. My hour weekly simply cannot bridge the knowledge gap he has to leap. It’s a big leap.
Simply looking at written Arabic shows us how big a leap it is. Their beautiful almost pictorial language is full of nuance and meaning. The letters of our alphabet to them is as if we were presented with Arabic and being asked to learn it in six months to a year. And your very livelihood depends on it. The father insists that Arabic is far far easier. The way they handle past, present and future seems interesting from what I can grasp. The verbs don’t change but the addition of yesterday or tomorrow informs the verb. I’m quite fuzzy on that. Their language seems beyond my capacity beginning with the sound that comes from the throat. I laugh with the young son because he keeps insisting I learn that sound. And I’m utterly hopeless. Similar to my husband’s Polish, where 6 consonants in a row is simply inconceivable to an English speaker. I am, if nothing else, a source of great amusement trying to speak either Polish or Arabic. I’m absolutely certain I’m pronouncing it exactly as I hear it. But I am not. It is humbling to be a source of great gales of laughter. I suppose. There is no place for pride when learning another language. But humour. That wins every time.
Driving home in the sleet on the empty streets along Verendrye avenue I work at paying attention to the bright red lights and green lights shimmering on surfaces and catching at the dull slush of the road. I know I have to concentrate because my mind waxes philosophical. And birth of a child ranks right up there with musings. What world will he have? Will he grow up strong, tolerant, wise? Will this country embrace him and all that he will be? Are we a tolerant multi-cultural nation? Will he understand that? Will he love Canada geese sweeping high in the sky? No matter where he might go in this world he will always be ours. He was born here.
Welcome to the world child. It’s not perfect but it is yours.
Posted by Sylvia Shawcross at 2:56 PM
Wednesday, March 21, 2018
Life: It’s meaning
There was this thing. I found it one day in my less than stellar wanderings attempting to spring clean. It was a metal thing painted blue, about four feet long and it had a thingamajig at the top connected to a doohickymabob and at the other end there was a crooked whatchamacallit. I had no idea what it was. But we had it. It was there. It must have been a thing worth having at some point by someone in our life. So I took this thingamajig dookhickymabob to Himself and put it on his lap and said: “What is this?” And he examined it closely, turning it about in his hands and holding it up to the light and then putting it on the floor. Finally he looked up at me and said, “I have no bloody idea.” So we both looked at this thing with great reverie. And so then I eventually said, “Should we keep this thing?” And he said, “Well, we don’t know what it is. We don’t know what it is for. We don’t know where it came from and so, Yes, we should keep this thing.” And I agreed. And this was the conclusion we came to. Because it was the obvious conclusion to us.
So I would occasionally come across this thing and I would sneak it under George’s pillow so when he went to bed he’d find it. Sometimes I put it in the shower stall at night knowing he would come across it in the morning. Once I put it on the car seat. And once I put it inside his winter coat. One day I snuck it inside my jacket into Giant Tiger and put it in the sock bin before George made his way down the aisle to the sock bin. The unexpected. I did this just because it was bloody absurd. It became a game to play all our years together. Putting this thing where it was least expected. He would hide it after my prank and it would take me a few weeks to find it again. But I always did. I would drag it out of the back of the linen closet and put it on top of the wood pile where he would be chopping kindling the next day. Once I wrapped it carefully in a big box and gave it to him as a birthday present. He would look at me with a ragged flat expression and sigh. And I would do my triumphant smirk. And then we would laugh and the game would begin again.
There are people who are reading this who are trying in their head to figure out what that thing was. I can see their brains logically reconstructing and supposing and concluding. There are others who can’t understand the whole point of this and why we didn’t throw the doohickymabob out. And then there are the other ones who realize how funny it is. But most importantly there are those who truly understand how extraordinarily funny it is. Those are my kind of people.
Life is a doohickymabob: We don’t know what it is for. We don’t know where it came from. We decide to keep it because it is there. We don’t know what to do with it. We hide it when we can. Sometimes we pull it out and play with it and laugh. It always keeps turning up somewhere when we least expect it.
There are many people who think that we are living in a hell world now. That we have culminated our entire human history into an amorphous mass of conflicting angry and righteous opinions without sense. That we have descended into a theatre of opinion and rationalizations. Some think we are in the post-Ideological age, or on the cusp of robotic dominance, or creatures now reduced to living in a meaningless universe. We are none of these things. We are simply absurd. Meaningfully absurd in a foolish kind of way. And in our deepest being we know this. That our lives are a bitter irony leading to our biggest fear, that of death. That we are, after all is said and done, insignificant. I’m going to tell you something. We "are" insignificant. We are deeply absurdly utterly insignificant. It is this fact alone that makes life worth living. How in hell else can we not find that deeply worth living for? It’s extremely funny. And the search for our own significance is the funniest thing we ever will do. How many times do we find ourselves sitting inside the shambles of our deepest failures and darkest despondency desperately attempting to at least pretend to look like we’re not bloody idiots? How many times do we rush out to buy a book to teach us how not to look like bloody idiots? Or take up causes so we can join all the other bloody idiots trying not to look like idiots? We are all idiots. There are no exceptions.
The only difference between the bloody idiocy of our lives up until now has been the number of choices we have to mitigate our own idiocy. We have a lot more choices now. We’re standing at the Starbucks counter of life looking at the menus trying to pick the right coffee. No one ever chooses the coconut latino raspberry latte. Because nobody in their right mind would choose the coconut latino raspberry latte. This is why you have to try the coconut latino raspberry latte. George taught me that. It’s not the fact of life we need consider. It is the fun we can make of it. And the ultimate answer to life is the love that guides us in that direction.
In memory of my George. August 24, 1953 - March 21, 2016
I will always love you.
Posted by Sylvia Shawcross at 4:33 PM