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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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Acts of Kindness

When my daughter died in August of 2011, I couldn’t remember how to breathe. It would be some time before I could do much of what once came naturally to me. Now, 16 months later, there are still some things, some events and some people I just can’t do.

The events of the last week, watching freshly grieving parents, renewed elements of grief I thought had passed. I suspect it will always be so. I’ve watched closely the reactions, responses and words of others as they spoke about the families. I couldn’t pay attention when I was in it. I doubt they can, either.

There is one part of it all that has been pleasant to recall. I heard about the people moved to start expressing their condolences by paying forward acts of kindness and it made me remember the impact something my daughter said to me had on the people who came together to remember her. She so wanted to have children but could not. She talked about adoption but her health was too fragile. She turned then to Africa, to the children there that had so little. She asked her Dad and I to adopt a foster child with her. It was in the works but not yet completed when she left us.

We included in her obituary a plea from her to any that might be so inclined to foster a child in Africa as a way for her life to continue to have meaning after her death. At last count there were upwards of 45 children and families receiving assistance as a result of her simple request. And I was reminded of this. Sometimes it takes asking so little to accomplish so much. And sometimes it takes 16 months of grief to remember it. Today, finally, I remember it.

© Kim Reynolds 2012

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2012 in Where's My Kid?

 

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Ave Maria

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She and I were connected to Schubert’s Ave Maria just as we are tied to each other now. I must have heard it a thousand times without it registering but when we heard it together that day, it moved us. We were in a White Rock music studio, perched over the water, the sun finding us from every direction and we were selecting the orchestra’s music for her wedding. With the final strains fading, we looked over at each other and we were both bawling snotty, messy tears; not the tidy kind you see on television wedding shows. The woman, whose home we were in, laughed large. I guess we’ve found the marriage song, then. I guess so.

I was reminded of that day when I read the message a young woman I’ve never met left on my daughter’s obituary page. It reads:

I will never stop thinking of Sadie. I look at the sunshine and I see her, because she was pure sunshine to me. I love her so much and I know I am blessed to have had her in my life. Sadie means more to me than she could ever have known. I love you, Sadie.

I simply couldn’t have said it any better. This young woman’s words reflect my memory of our Ave Maria day exactly. Pure sunshine. Since my daughter died, I mourn as much for days like that as I do for her.

We found ourselves in London, the city offering a soothing salve to our broken hearts. We feel close to her there. After a morning spent at the National Gallery, I stepped into Trafalgar Square and balmy, warm December sun. There was a violinist in the square and he turned to me and as he did he raised his violin and began to play. I knew what was coming next. Ave Maria.

Two days later, we were mooching about in Covent Garden. There’s a centre space downstairs where the students from the National Opera School gather daily to sing for spare change and adoration. We leaned over the railing with the other tourists just waiting for one of them to step forward. A young woman finally did. I felt the first note more than I heard it. Ave Maria.

Fast forward, Leeds Castle. We had the place to ourselves and went in opposite directions to fully explore this magnificent building. I found myself on a wide, high, stone staircase. It was silent. I was focused on the artwork around me and it took me unaware. There had been no music. A piano, from somewhere deep inside those walls, sounded the first note and there it was again. Alone, inside this ancient place with this music in my heart, I spoke to her, and we communed there a little while. When I went to light a candle for her at St. Paul’s Cathedral, I was momentarily turned around in traffic and lost my bearings. I looked up at the street sign and could do nothing but smile. Ave Maria Lane.

When I ponder the meaning of this music to she and me, I land not on the lyrics assigned to the piece. Instead I am drawn to the words of her friend and the light that emanates from them. How many people would remember me like that? I think I know the answer. Perhaps only her, in pure sunshine.

© Kim Reynolds 2012

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2012 in Where's My Kid?

 

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