“Be the change you want to see in the world” ~Ghandi

•December 24, 2010 • Leave a Comment

‘Be the change you want to see in the world’ by Ghandi.

The Au Pair

•December 20, 2008 • 1 Comment

I’m an au pair for the Karn’s who live on Depew Avenue in Buffalo, New York. I get to take the bus on Friday after school from Ridgeway across the Peace Bridge, black leather satchel packed for a weekend of watching their children. Until Sunday night, I have my own attic bed sitting room on the third floor. Knotty pine, narrow bed against the window, round pedestal oak table, and navy carpeting and big bathtub with clawed feet and I’m away from home and free.


My price to pay for freedom is to care for six month old baby Daniela: pick her up when she fusses, feed her a bottle, change her diaper, put her down to sleep. I am 16 and I wear Janie’s fur coat down the street with Daniela in the carriage and Aiden walking alongside, and I pretend to be ‘the mother.’ Aiden is four and I feed him his snack and help him make it to the bathroom on time when he has a movement. When Janie and Archie go out I wear her pink plush bathrobe, admire her Chanel No. 5 perfume bottles, flip through her wedding album, wander through the sunken living room and dream. She is so calm, so serene, so articulate, so poised, so rich. When entertaining their friends they include me—I help prepare dinner, peeling and de-veining fresh shrimp, washing the fresh cauliflower for a dip, checking the dishes, setting the table, making the salad. I clear the table and wash up afterwards. While the Karn’s enjoy after dinner conversation on their Swedish designed furniture, I put the children to bed. This is my favourite time. Blinds are drawn, bathroom trips made, glass of water by the bed. A bottle for Daniela in the rocker and her soft eyes lock into mine with tranquil trust. Stories for Aiden by his pillow, feather lashes flutter, fighting sleep. Baby powder and bubble gun, yellow gingham and navy blue blinds. A boy and a girl. I am mother but not mother. They are mine but not mine. Included yet excluded. They pay me $25 for the weekend.


Archie asks me to recite the song I have memorized, ‘Alone Again, Naturally’ that I have been hearing that summer. I know every word and he listens intently. A friend works for the Lafayette Public Library in Buffalo and he will publish my poems full of teen angst and laments of black holes of love and loneliness. I want to be a writer. I want to experience life. I’m going to go to college. I’m going to get out of Crystal Beach.


We visit the Albright Knox Art Gallery, the Buffalo Zoo, and their cottage on Lake Chautauqua. We ride the speed boat and eat fresh baked coconut macaroons and go for neighbourhood cookouts. The women and children sleep upstairs in the boat house. I do not know where the men sleep. In the morning the grandmother is fishing with a bobber off the dock with Aiden. I get Daniela from her crib and give her a morning bottle and place her in her playpen, then put on my bathing suit for a swim. It is different here….spongy bottom, not sandy like my beach. I have to tread water and not touch. I still cannot call either of them by name, so in awe am I of this little family. I am awed by their privilege, their grammar, their manners, their civility, their grace and their wealth. Janie has been to charm school, sold her piano to buy a Volkswagen, and once designed clothes—woven wool ponchos with fringe. She even had her own brochures, posing with her sleek, fine Audrey Hepburn looks. She has a simplicity, grace and elegance I want to have when I grow up. So, years later, when I meet my husband-to-be, I just assume he knows the script, how it will be. We shall be married at 23, have our first child at 27 and he shall be named Aiden. And when he wants to buy me perfume, I say, ‘I only wear Chanel No. 5.’


The Maplewood Queen

•December 20, 2008 • 3 Comments

Mushroom scent of rotting logs, crackling leaves underfoot, I’m tromping through the underbrush to the woods. There’s one tree-I’m surrounded by trees-but there’s one tree I always climb. It has ladder branches and my strong hands grab the bark as I hoist myself up with strong, young arms. I climb, watching ahead, observing, planning, plotting my next foothold, my next move, my next branch. I find another and another and another. Higher. Higher. Just a little higher. Then, I look down through sun dappled leaves—things are smaller. Hushed. All I can see are the tops of heads and they’re not paying any attention to me whatsoever. I am queen of all I survey. I can see hills and valleys, I can see rooftops, I can see cornfields. I see blue skies above me with whirling white clouds. I am happy—the pit of my stomach is all butterflies and I am happy. I sit in the crook of two branches and I belong there. I rest and look closely at tree bark and small crevices and little ants and new growth. And I want to stay here forever.


‘Come on. Let’s go,’ the voices seem so far away. I don’t want to budge. It’s a moment in time. In the treetops, above the world, solitary and free.


Slowly, carefully—because climbing down is much, much harder to do than climbing up—I make my way down. Retrace my route, watch for the grips, hand over hand, find a foothold, steady my legs, solid grip. I am a strong girl child. On the lowest branch, I stop, hang upside down by my legs, swinging and laughing out loud. A topsy turvy world, while the blood rushes to my head and giggles echo through leaves, grass, woods. My palms grasp tree bark as my feet land with a thud on black earth. I’m happy because I’ve climbed another maple tree and, forever now, it’s mine. 



Night Magic in Lake Ahmic

•December 20, 2008 • 2 Comments


A misty August morning at Camp Kahquah on Lake Ahmic, Megnatawan, Ontario.

A misty August morning at Camp Kahquah on Lake Ahmic, Magnetawan, Ontario.

As a girl growing up in ‘The Main,’ the old Italian-Jewish section of Montreal, winters I’d play in the snowbank in front of our second storey apartment, riding the buses with my ‘Nanny’ to the fish market and bagel shops.  Summers I’d pretend I was a jazz singer on the top steps out back and on the counter of the corner grocer. The front sidewalk and back alley are where I met my English friends to play skipping and learn French swear words so we could fight with the French Canadian kids.


When I was seven our fortunes improved. We moved to southern Ontario, to a house on the hill where the grass was greener, the air sweeter and I had open fields in which to run and play. Now I had an acre of land on which to roam, catch butterflies and bees, tadpoles and snakes and build forts and climb trees. Across the street was a woods, down the street a rocky beach.  I’d head out pedalling on my blue bike with banana seat and sissy bar, hearing, ‘Go out and play,’ and the only ironclad rule ‘Be home by 4.’


A five minute walk away was Crystal Beach, named for the endless sparkling white crystal sand and water so clean you could see your toes wiggling amongst the minnows. From then on,  throwing a towel over my shoulder, with bathing suit under my shorts, and an orange for a snack, I spent every day of every summer swimming in the crystal clear waters, walking the sandy shores, or best of all, exploring the adjacent  rocky beach. Blustery days were best when we’d dodge the waves. With the onset of winter, we could skate on the lake if it froze flat, or climb the dunes if the winds had come in November.


It was a paradise in a way. But, is it human nature to always want what you don’t have? I envied those who went ‘away’ to a cottage. I yearned to hear a screen door slam, sit by a crackling bonfire, hear waves lapping the shoreline and the plaintive call of a loon while drifting off to sleep.


And so, after marriage and divorce and buying and selling assorted houses, I embarked on travels that took me around the world and back. I lightened the load, and simplified my life long before it was in fashion, riding a bike instead of owning a car and selling my accumulated ‘stuff.’  I decided I didn’t really need to ‘own’ a cottage. I had discovered Camp Kahquah, and it was better!

At Camp Kahquah I could stay in rustic ‘Little Look Out’ cabin on the shores of Lake Ahmic with gentle breezes that stirred through evergreens and white birch. When the bell rang for meals, I’d follow the pine needle path to the main lodge to be with other campers, to talk, to laugh, to sing and to pray. I could be alone again for an afternoon swim, diving off the dock’s edge to be enveloped by silky black water where I’d swim far, far, farther. Just a little farther. I’d stay treading water, absorbing my surroundings- above the blue sky and a few white clouds, in front the Jesus Rock, behind the island, and along the flat water’s edge the distant tree line worn down by weather and time. A fish-woman, I’d suck in my breath and swim back with the steady rhythm of arms slicing the water’s surface, submerged with eyes on the water line. Then dive in and do it all over again. I’d splash and kick just for the sheer joy of watching the bubbles reflected in the August sunlight.


Later, warm and dry, with a cup of tea and a novel, I’d head high up on the Hiawatha Trail, find a flat rock overlooking the water and read and doze the afternoon away. Only red squirrels and chipmunks would disturb the sweet woods serenity. Later, down at water’s edge at my secret-lookout, I would watch the sunset at day’s end, reds and purples reflected in the coming twilight.  


Always before sleeping there would be the sound of waves on the shore. On windy nights branches scratch the windows, a door will slam and my flashlight will reveal a deer mouse, its pink ears and nose curiously studying me. One night something brushed my neck clinging to my hand and the next morning I woke with an angry red spider bite. One night it took my breath away when I awoke to fairy dust on the lake.


I had been staying at ‘Little Look Out’ over many summers now. Waking in the middle of the night, I would often creep onto the porch to look over the waters, check for a full moon, watch the wind moving the grey clouds, gaze up at the stars, and feel the warm night breeze in the trees. With an eerie sense of humans sleeping while creatures in water and woods were awake, I’d creep back into bed to nestle into my still-warm sleeping bag.


But once at the bewitching hour of 3 am, I awoke and it was as if Lake Ahmic had been sprinkled with fairy dust! Every star in the sky was atwinkle, water shimmering with strange white phosphorescence against the black night. The luminous light glowed with an eerie brilliance. I couldn’t make out the moon, only a breathtaking vista of thousands of stars shimmering, twinkling and reflecting off the misty waters and soft darkness of night. I was sure the Lake Ahmic fairies had secretly been at work while we campers innocently slumbered.


Yes, over the years, I’ve listened to rain on the rooftop and watched it darken the giant spruce silhouetted against the water. I’ve sat by a crackling camp fire late into the night, roasting marshmallows golden brown and telling stories while the full moon moved above the tree line. More than once I’ve seen the blue heron that lives on the lake, and drifted off to the lonely night call of the loon, and then I know my summer is complete. Then I know, through the wind in the trees and the waves on the rocks, the ephemeral presence of God.  Though I’ve often awakened since hoping for a repeat of the mystical night magic, only once at Camp Kahquah did I experience the beautiful breath-taking illumination of Lake Ahmic.  


Hello world!

•December 19, 2008 • 1 Comment

Welcome to my webpage and writing blog. As a former newspaper writer, editor and photographer who now works as an English teacher, I love to write. I also love an exchange of opinions. I also love photography and water colour painting. I write daily. So, watch this space for my opinion pieces, creative memoirs, excerpts from my upcoming first novel, and photographs. It’s a work in progress, so I look forward to your feedback, and an exchange of ideas. Cheers, Victoria.