Wednesday, June 23, 2010

If I'd known there was going to be an earthquake, I would have shaved my legs

At 1:41 p.m. on June 23, 2010, somewhere 18 km below the surface of the earth, under the sleepy Quebec town of Val-des-Bois, a sudden pressure release occurred, probably along reactivated faults on the failed Precambrian rift stretching the length of the West Quebec Seismic Zone.

Seismic waves rushed out in all directions, through rock and sediment, rippling up to and across the earth's surface, rolling through fields and forests, villages and cities, lakes and rivers.

The magnitude 5.0 earthquake hit Ottawa fairly hard and moved outwards, rumbling through most of Ontario and Quebec and parts of New York state.

In Ottawa, frightened people ran from buildings as first the up-and-down motion of the P waves and then the side-to-side movement of the S waves shook the city. Cell phone systems were jammed. Schools and office buildings were evacuated. Thousands of people milled aimlessly around outside government buildings waiting for the all clear from the teams that had gone back inside to check for structural damage.

And one government worker tried to remain as inconspicuous as possible among the throngs of people, seeing as she had run out of the house late that morning, dressed in a short skirt to combat the forecast hot and sticky temperatures and safe in the knowledge that even though she had not had time to shave, no one would see her unshaven legs, as she would be alone in her office all day.


Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Great moments in motherhood -- not so much

Last night we rode our bikes to soccer practice. Which meant that I spent an hour sitting on a blanket on the sidelines instead of in my semi-comfy folding chair, which has no case with straps and therefore can't be transported by bicycle. I did this because the girls really, really wanted to ride their bikes to practice. And because I try to be a good mum.

Apparently, it worked, because as we were coming back into the house, Rae looked up at me and said, "This was the Best. Day. Ever." (Note: we have a lot of Best. Days. Ever. around our house, and Worst. Days. Ever. are not altogether uncommon either. The younger inhabitants of the Casa de los EstrĂ³genos are pretty dramatic on a fairly regular basis.) "And you are the Best. Mother. In. The. Whole. World." she added. (and yeah, I am also the Worst. Most. Terrible. Mother. In. The. Whole. World. too sometimes. Often in the same day.)

So I asked Rae, in a joking sort of way, "Am I really the best mother in the whole world?" "Yes," she said, nodding solemnly, before pausing and adding, "except for the Christmas concert. Do you remember the Christmas concert? And the football helmet with the head in it. Oh, and the train station. Apart from that, you are the best mother in the world." Then she patted me on the arm and added, "And those really weren't all your fault. [longer pause] Well, the concert one wasn't."

So there are three reasons that Rachel will end up in therapy that are only partially my fault: the Christmas concert, the football helmet, and the train station.

The Christmas concert:

When Rachel was in junior kindergarten (4 years old), I missed her Christmas concert. The very first Christmas concert of her school career. We had flown down to Phoenix to visit my dad in early December, and so Rae was not at school on the day the memo about the time and date for the concert was sent home. Compounding the problem was the fact that a substitute teacher was on duty the day they were handed out, and thus didn't know to keep a copy for Rachel when she returned. And unlike her older sister, who gave me a daily countdown to her class Christmas concert when she was in JK, along with a set list complete with demonstrations, Rae didn't say a word. So imagine my surprise when my daycare provider phoned me one December afternoon and asked why I hadn't attended -- Rae was crying at her house because all the other kids' parents had been at the concert. Every last one. Except me.

When I rushed to pick her up at the end of the day, in tears myself, she looked at me sadly and said, "I kept waiting and waiting for you to come. And then I saw your purple jacket, and I was so happy, but it was only Grace's mother. But it's OK. After we sang, when we all got to have snacks with our parents and show them our artwork, Cameron's mum and dad let me sit with them. And they gave me a donut." Ummm, Mother fail.

The football helmet:

I have a pretty busy life. With work, the commute, the girls, the girls' activities, the house, the yard, etc., etc., and no one to backstop me, I need my little pleasures. Like vast amounts of red wine Thursday night TV. I'm not a big TV watcher, but I do watch C.S.I. and Grey's Anatomy on Thursday nights. And one Thursday, Rae wasn't feeling well. She wanted cuddles and reassurance, and I really, really did not want to miss C.S.I. So I decided to multitask. I put her in my bed at 7:30 with the bedroom TV on and cuddled with her. She dropped off to sleep in about 20 minutes. I extricated myself from her, and popped out to the kitchen to make a drink and a snack, and arrived back in the room to find her sitting up and watching the TV.

C.S. I.
had just started, and a football helmet was bouncing down the road in slow motion to an orchestral arrangement of The Blue Danube. Just as I reached the bed and went to grab the remote to turn off the TV, the camera zoomed in to show, as you might have guessed (though Rae didn't), that the helmet contained a gory, bloody, severed head. Cue screams, tears and a nightmare. Mother fail.

The train station:

A couple of years ago, the girls and I took the train down to Windsor, where my family lives. The trip involved a rather lengthy stopover in Toronto's Union Station where we had to change trains. This was made more lengthy when the train we were transferring to was delayed coming out of Montreal. We were all on edge waiting, and I had staked out a position at the very front of the line so that the girls and I could get one of the seating areas on the train where four seats were arranged with two seats facing two seats, so that none of us would have to be in a different row from the others.

The line got longer and longer. Finally a boarding call was made, along with an announcement that we would be boarding from a gate on the opposite side of the concourse to the one we'd been waiting at. The crowd turned and headed for the new gate. I had Rae by one hand and was pulling a suitcase on wheels in the other, with duffle bags and a purse hanging from my shoulders. "Keep up with me," I yelled to Leah, and took off at a run, in order not to lose my spot at the head of the line.
"Mum!" said Leah, with some urgency.
"Not now, Leah," I snapped. "Just keep up with me."
"But Mum...."
"Leah, no talking. Running."
"But Mum, Rachel's fallen down."
I stopped and looked down. Sure enough, I'd pulled her off her feet and she was lying face down on the floor, crying. I was so concerned with getting a good seat, and was already carrying so much weight, that I didn't even notice that I was was dragging her across the wide marble floor, practically dislocating her shoulder in the process. Uh, yeah, Mother fail.

She still brings these up occasionally, when she's been bad, to try to make me feel sorry for her. It almost never works. I just remind her of the time she wandered away from me at the Carp Farmers' Market when she was three years old and scared five years off my life. I figure we're even.