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Talking Turkey

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My late daughter was the original Christmas-phile. Anywhere, anytime – there’s never a wrong time for yuletide. It infused all parts of her life and it was only a matter of time before she’d cook a Tom turkey of her own.

She was living in Rits at the University of British Columbia, the joint Japanese-Canadian residential program. Her four-bedroom apartment consisted of two Canadian students and two Japanese students. She, this girl of mine, took cultural exposure to a new level and she took it seriously. Not a single event went uncelebrated and she dragged her new-to-Canada roomies into each experience with a vengeance. From Thanksgiving to Hallowe’en pumpkins with toasty, salted seeds and costume parties at frat houses I worked hard to ignore to Christmas and, along with it, her commitment to provide a Christmas dinner with all the trimmings shoved unceremoniously between Term 1 final exams like some kind of mortar.
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How do you buy a turkey? Fresh or frozen? What’s the stuff inside called? Do I have to put my hands in there to stuff it? At the store, frozen is cheaper, the gizzards, yes. That was just the first phone call. We booked a phone appointment for a stuffing tutorial from her Dad – the resident expert – and away she went over course content ranging from defrosting a turkey to making trifle for dessert – my personal specialty. She opened the doors and fed the floor and when she came home from school that holiday season she brought with her a new appreciation for what it takes to put a meal that size on the table.

That year, that Christmas holiday, provides me now with one of my dearest parent memories. I was making yet another pot of coffee in the kitchen one morning, indulging the luxury of having both kids home from school at the same time. They talked in the living room while we, out of sight, eavesdropped, unable to keep the permanent grin from our faces.

Don’t you love how there’s always food in the fridge and you never have to buy it, my son said.

It’s like a warm blanket, she said. They make better coffee, too, she whispered.

We two, in our hidden perch, choked to keep the laugh inside. Sweet, sweet memory now.
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Once back at school in the New Year, her cultural quest continued unabated. Valentine’s Day gave way to St. Patrick’s Day replete with green beer, bawdy Irish tunes at the bar and tiny, matching green miniskirts covered in shamrocks procured from Old Navy. She went all-out every time and when she couldn’t explain the significance of certain customs to her roomies, she made it up.

It never occurred to me before, she said on the phone to me one fine Spring day, just how stupid the notion of bunnies having eggs is. I never heard what explanation she gave them for that. I only know she was armed with painted eggs and bunny ears for all come Easter Sunday morning. On to Victoria Day!

© Kim Reynolds 2012

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Posted by on December 13, 2012 in Where's My Kid?

 

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Aside

The journey forward is tentative for those of us who find ourselves with a lifetime membership in the world’s least-desired club, the one made up of parents who outlived their children. The dues are endless, and they change from day to day, month to month, reflecting both moments of hope and despair, woven intricately together in a design guaranteed to surprise you when you least expect it.

Some arrive here at this destination suddenly, and with no preparation. Others, like me, spend years deluding themselves into thinking they’ve made peace with the inevitable. I went back to school to do my Master’s degree reasoning that if the worst thing happened, I’d be able to keep moving forward. When it did happen – the worst thing, that is – I felt the collision occur. It was me, grinding to a halt while my daughter’s foot from the other side pushed in opposition, the result an impasse between the two worlds in which we find ourselves. She won, though. I knew she would. So did she. I’m finished school and the project that kept me sane throughout holds the two of us together still, the glue that binds us while she and I figure out our new universe.

Now it’s time to graduate and as I contemplate walking across that Chan Centre stage at UBC, instead of dreading it I find myself seeking it. She waits for me there and just as she and her voice inhabited the theatre in life, I know she’ll watch the procession and convocation from her centre spot in the choir stall above with the same ear-to-ear grin she wore every time she sang there.

There isn’t a place on that campus I don’t see her. The Rose Garden? We met there every Tuesday for lunch and planned her wedding on warm fall days. The turnabout on Main Mall and Memorial? She sang ‘O Canada’ there to the Queen. I ducked out of Spanish class early to watch but when I arrived, they were ten deep. A very nice cameraman let me climb up his ladder to get a peek at her. There it was, that grin again. The pub at the SUB? Oh yeah, I picked her up there a few times on Greek Mondays, too tipsy to talk, asleep in the back seat, content that she was packing all she could into what she always knew would be a too-truncated life. She knew it, even as the rest of us tried to fool ourselves.

I told her I went back to school partly for her; to do at least one of the post-graduate degrees she wanted to do herself. We’re finished school now, she and I. When you see me take the eight-second walk on graduation day, look hard and you’ll see her, too. Look up, to the choir stall above the faculty seats. She’ll be front and centre. You’ll recognize her grin.

© Kim Reynolds 2012

Graduation

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2012 in Where's My Kid?

 

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