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The Backyard Rink

It should have come as no surprise to me that my late daughter would pursue prairie life as an adult. All the signs were there early on but never so clear as the year she became determined to build a backyard rink. In Vancouver. At sea level. Good luck with that.

A girl with a lifelong passion for hockey, we’d given her a book called “How to Build a Backyard Rink” the previous Christmas. We didn’t know she’d spent the year from one December to the next analyzing the appropriate barometric pressure combinations of temperature and humidity to determine the exact conditions needed for said rink. We would find out soon enough.

It was a colder than usual winter that December in 1996. She wore that look she’d get when she knew the tumblers were falling into place – a Cheshire cat meets the Holy Grail kind of look. We knew we were in trouble when she started dragging lumber out of the garage.

She announced it at dinner. We’re building a rink – all of us – and she stared her brother down with a don’t-get-me-started look and we readily agreed. We knew, he and I, that his Dad and sister would build it together while I made the cocoa and he stoked the fire. It’s just the way our world worked back then.

Build it they did. The temperature dropped daily and the two built the frame and she checked the weather hourly. These are the days before there was a weather channel on television. She had the weather centre number programmed on speed-dial.

Down the temperature went as the humidity rose and each night we received our weather tutorial from her. It’ll snow tonight, she said. It did – for days. She’d come home from school, her Dad from work, and out they’d go – tamping, flooding, smoothing – until, against all the west coast odds, a beautiful backyard rink emerged.
Sadierink
This photo here is my favourite. She’s bursting through the door, ecstatic with the outcome. I hear her voice as if she’s in the room. Come on, you guys. It’s done! It’s a beauty. And so it was. More beautiful than the rink, however, was this girl of mine and her belief that if you will it so, it will be.

She became so adept at this, she willed her body to last at least two years beyond its natural life. I’ll know when it’s time to go, when he’s ready, she said of her husband. As always, her timing was impeccable.

On this December night, the clouds gather, the temperature drops. We no longer live at sea level. Up here, high on this mountain, a fresh snowfall looms. We bought this house for her – a perfect place for a perfect rink, but she’s not here to share it. One day we’ll build it for her, though, and when we do I’m pretty sure we’ll hear her loud and clear. It’s done! It’s a beauty, all right. Just like her.

© Kim Reynolds 2012

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Posted by on December 23, 2012 in Where's My Kid?

 

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November 1st

holiday-lights-christmas-wallpaper

From the age of eight, my late daughter listened to Christmas music 12 months of the year. This caused no small amount of conflict around our house. Fortunately the advent of headphones allowed for resolution and we all moved on – sort of.

The strains of Jingle Bells could still be heard leaking from her open bedroom window on occasion on a warm June night; she was compelled to accompany her brother’s requested birthday dinner of turkey and fixings each July with seasonal song and; for good measure and a laugh, she’d slide a little Mariah Carey Christmas CD into his discman on an August road trip just to get a rise. Oh, she got a rise, all right.

It was, then, in the spirit of that kind of humour that I jumped in to do my part. Long after they’d grown and graduated to pagers and cell phones and university dorms, I’d take a page out her book and torment her brother, always within the guidelines of our negotiated peace. Years earlier we’d convened a family meeting around the dinner table, replete with talking stick, to find a solution to the sibling seasonal song assault. After much heated discussion and dissent we emerged with an agreement. Christmas music allowed within the household airwaves from November 1 to January 1; restricted to headphones the other ten months of the year with the exception of to-be-determined “special” agreed upon dates.

The first year they were both living in residence at university, I set my alarm clock for 5:30 am on the 1st of November, turned on the coffee pot and cued the boombox with the most rousing version of Here Comes Santa Claus I could find. I called his pager at 5:59, cranked the music and let it rip. Joy.

Each year a new delivery system; every time exhilaration. I was beginning to appreciate his sister’s pleasure at getting a rise. This is the happiness that never comes again when a loved one dies. The big loss is obvious to all. The small, personal moments, however, become the endangered species when grief threatens to overtake and drown all that you once were as a family.

Once my daughter had her own home, all bets were off. Her home might be festooned with Christmas into March and you might be confronted with Silent Night anytime. Get used to it, she said. You never know which Christmas will be your last. Indeed. She got that right.

This year, two days before Hallowe’en, I went to work collecting all that I would need. On November 1st, I picked my granddaughter up from preschool, took her home and together we decorated every square inch of the front window with Christmas paraphernalia. We chose the music, waited until we heard her dad’s footsteps on the front stoop and blasted Frosty the Snowman as loud as it would go.

He stepped inside the house, a smirk on his face. I’m grown up now you know, he said. It’s true and as he held me close in a hard hug designed to squeeze the grief from me, I held close a small moment that occurred earlier as I’d finished decorating his winterland windows.

As my granddaughter danced to the Christmas music (tutu intact) and I admired our holiday handiwork, the front door inexplicably opened. I’m not a bit surprised you’d come today, I said. Come in. Get comfortable. In spite of what stands between she and us now, his sister had arrived on cue. She can still get a rise – sort of.

© Kim Reynolds 2012

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2012 in Where's My Kid?

 

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