It was about 5 o’clock. I’m not actually sure this is right, time was merely an idea up there. But the sun beginning its descent into the mountains behind the lake hinted that the evening was almost upon us. The golden hour. Everything was tinted pink and the air tasted of residual warmth.
I was lying on a blue, circular floaty, big enough to comfortably fit 3 people. These blow-up air mattresses didn’t last us more than a summer, between the tumultuous storms we’d force it to endure, floating aggressively in the cozy waves. Or the hours jumping on it from the dock, only to further its torture by pushing each other off of its surface. We called this game Shark, for the simple reason that we’d personify fish and swim under the mattress, flipping each other off with playful malice.
On this specific night, the floaty and I were not at odds. My sun kissed body was sprawled on the circular raft, listening to the joyful sounds of my cousins playing soccer on the grass behind me. A few neighbors and anyone else who was nearby were also in earshot, enjoying each others company with cheesies and a beer. A beautifully cliché scene.
I closed my eyes blissfully and soon another sound was added to the orchestra of cabin glee. My mom’s feet were paddling in the water. She made her way towards me, beaming.
“Your hair is wet.”
“I’m fun now klunk.”
When I was 9, maybe 10, I professed that my mom was far more fun when her hair was wet. This rock-solid theory stemmed from a trip to Harrison Hot Springs, when she dunked her head underwater. This is an incredibly rare occurrence; my mom avoids any chance of being cold and wet hair is an infallible stop on the journey to being frigid. We proceeded to play hide and seek all over the pool. Lying in my starchy hotel bed that night, my juvenile mind connected The Greatest Hide and Seek Game of All Time with my mom’s hair being wet. I stand by the science to this day.
I shifted on the floaty so I she could join me. She dramatically groaned as she pulled herself up and we lay side by side; the sounds of laughter and lingering ski boats our white noise. I turned to face her and asked about her day. She regaled tales of tanning in the grass, a brisk walk in the woods and a fantastic coffee with uncle Brad next door. Nothing extraordinary but thoroughly fulfilling.
Unbeknownst to me, my hands had been playing in the water, so much so that my mom got a bit of a splash. She turned to me, a look of lively mischief illuminating her face. My mom’s brain is configured in such a way that splashing is the tantamount to guerrilla warfare. Immediately, I was ambushed with a thrash of water. She giggled and it was confirmed that the poor blue floaty would once again be involved (against its will) in another family battle.
The next 10 minutes were a flurry of spirited threats, inner tube flips and destructive splashes. All my focus was centered on totally annihilating my mom in Shark but I was able to turn away long enough to see my grandma and aunt cheering us on. This of course, was a fatal mistake for I was promptly tossed off the blue air mattress. I felt my body sink to the bottom, opened my eyes and watched my mom’s legs floating in the green tinted water. I resurfaced and threw my arms onto the tube in a fit of defeat. She smiled at me and together we paddled back to shore, relishing in that beautiful exhaustion that one can only experience from an exquisite day.
Moms are a focal point. We look to them for guidance and support and acceptance. My mom is someone who I am constantly compared to, and I frequently thank my lucky stars that I take this comparison (in both looks and character) as a compliment.
My mom has shown me that you can be independent, successful, creative, assertive, ambitious, kind, empathetic and strong. And you can still be a woman.
Aside from her eyes, I have inherited my mom’s incessant travel bug.
S***ty airplane cookies that are more salty than sweet. The rental car smell. The crisp crease of the map that would soon mold to your hands. The hot sand burning your toes. Actually getting tired of eating out. Transit systems becoming familiar. Learning hello, thank you and bathroom? Hotel shampoo collections. Wi-Fi passwords. Straw huts with no power.
These things make my heart ache for the weeks and months my mom and I spent together, either in rooms the size of my closet or on a train across four states. There’s something magical about the realization that you are somewhere else; somewhere new. That you’re traversing a piece of land or city or country that you’ve never stepped foot in before. History occurred here. People lived here; died here. And then you grasp the idea that you can do this all over again, somewhere else. Hola, ciao, salle de bains.
I have a hilariously lovely memory of being in Talum, Mexico with my mom. We were staying in this gorgeous forest, in a wooden hut with netting walls (and running water). We had just had an amazing meal across the sandy road at an Italian restaurant, also in the woods. We were in our hut, full but awake. It was only 8pm. And we were also cold which is not a sensation you’re supposed to feel in Mexico. We packed very little in terms of warm clothes so we made do with two fleeces, a beach wrap turned scarf and thin leggings. And a lot of blankets. We still weren’t tired so we snuggled into our big bed and decided it was totally reasonable to stream something off of Netflix. So we did. And then waited for 20 minutes because forest Wi-Fi is on its own timeline. And that’s how I found myself wearing in an outfit that would usually bring me societal shame, watching How I Met Your Mother with my mom in a wooden hut in Talum. And it rocked.
In my thank you card to my mom, the one that’s manifesting itself via my own life and discoveries, I hope to portray to her the gratitude I have for the gift she gave me. The desire to explore.
The rain had been coming down for only a few minutes and we were drenched. It was a sheet of moisture, the foreground to the trees and the tents. I can’t remember exactly where we were when the weather shift occurred but I do vividly recall seeking refuge in our tent.
Acquiring a joy for camping, through my mom, has also allowed me to acquire a certain love for a lot of sounds.
• The zipper on the tent first thing in the morning, right after you’ve groggily exited your sleeping bag and put on your damp hiking boots
• Blue Rodeo out the car window, and out of both our mouths. We’re not very good singers.
• The fire crackle
• Birds at 6 in the morning
• The output of air from the thermarest
• The metallic whisper of the miniature gas stove sparking
So we escaped into the tent. We didn’t have phones to sidetrack us or computers to escape into via YouTube. We had the people we were with. And the splatter of rain against the nylon structure. We played word games and did crosswords and read books and talked. Or just lay in silence because somehow silence is so much more acceptable in the wilderness.
Eventually the rain subsided and we strolled back to the communal eating area to dine on a gourmet meal (slightly soaked from the downpour), probably consisting of trail mix and pre-packaged pasta or rice. Carbs carbs carbs!!! The hiker’s meal plan is a dieter's worst nightmare.
We ended the night playing “s***storm”: an aptly named card game involving too much strategy and too many opportunities for mom to turn to me with her classic sad face and over exaggerated frown. For such a strong lady, she has a real knack for looking pathetic. I might’ve won or maybe the 10-year-old boy we were traveling with (alongside his mom) did. We brushed our teeth behind a bush, making sure to spit far away from human activity (bears!) and settled into the tent for the night. Within minutes we were both lost to the world.
And you dream when you’re sleeping in the trees. Serenity breeds subconscious fantasies.
We took a lot of adventures. Not as many as he’d like to have but we had some beautiful times. We both share this imbedded love for our respective cabins; our second (real) homes. I have a very distinct and gorgeous memory of taking a bus home from my spot up in the Okanagan. We were departing on a dreary, grey day at around noon. Maybe 11:30. We’d just spent 5 days together. These days were full of both immense bliss and complete sadness.
Grandma caught on pretty quick.
I remember waking up on the third morning to have coffee with her. I acquired my love for waking up early from her I think. The house was quiet, albeit the subtle sound of grandpa’s snores. Grandma was very ecstatic about the recent development in my life: my acceptance to my school of choice, in Toronto. We chatted about that over steaming cups of her extra strong brew. Then she asked how I was.
“Something was off between you two last night. That game of cards was very quiet.”
Her parental radar was not far off. Things had not been right. The sorrow that’s accompanying my departure halfway across the country in August was catching up to him. Unfortunately, this was occurring at my favourite place on earth. So not only was he truly sad but also guilty. And that did not make for a happy me.
“Yes, he’s very sad. So am I.”
Eventually, him and I talked it through. We had the (agonizing) decision to either end things now, and save ourselves from more misery in August, or relish in our final months.
An adult decision for people who were not yet adult.
We were eating tomato soup and grapes, and he made the very selfless choice of being with me despite my leaving in 5 months. A decision that would prove to still tear him apart. This isn’t me trying to inflame my own self worth and claim that this guy just wants to be with me so badly that he’s choosing between colossal anguish at my cabin or in the airport seeing me off. It’s a very complex situation for seemingly uncomplexed people. Although, through each other we’ve had the privilege of understanding that individually, we are both very complicated.
The sad moments appeared to outweigh the pleasant ones. But, we humans have a way of persevering and we both had the ability to still appreciate where we were and the opportunity the universe had thrown at us to spend 5 days in the place that brings me ridiculous joy.
The bus was pulling out of the station and we watched the blurry foliage out the window. We spent the next 5 hours doing what we do best.
I have so much gratitude for being in a relationship; a partnership, with someone who likes to both give and receive the freedom to explore what it means to communicate. We talked about habanero peppers and Alzheimer's and raindrops, unpretentiously. It was so goddamn comfortable. We laughed at the intensely monotone voice of our fateful bus driver. We edited photos and shared Spotify playlists, while the outside world passed us by.
And then we were home. And the 5 days that felt like 10 were behind us. That log cabin watched us weigh out the choice between caution and risk; witnessed us examine what it meant to love. It saw us pretend to be grown up, and maybe, the universe was catapulting our first experience of being adult at us. And how one can both be one and love with a certain air of youthful freedom.
Wooden logs, grandma’s cookies, feet scratched from manhunt mishap, sunset corn on the cob carcinogen marshmallows, bunkhouse secrets, 11am brunch, boat motor alarm clocks, 4 hour rummy games.
Us against the waves
Late night walks in the forest. No bears, just the threat.
Kayak paddle boards.
“Honey they have to sell the cabin. Grandpa’s Alzheimer’s will progress and grandma won’t be able to man the ship without him.”
Savour every summer. Every weekend getaway to your favourite place. Every Christmas morning that you actually wake up with snow. Every Easter egg hunt with the whole family. Every turkey dinner (minus the turkey because that cabin has seen you go from a meat eater to someone who pays attention to the world). Savour those days where you were up till 2am laughing with Jesse because he dances so damn funny. Relish in the cool blue water. The clean blue water. Soak in those boat rides where your feet hang off the front of the boat, and despite your atheist tendencies you actually believe you’re walking on water. Revel in the dinners on the deck, overlooking the lake, where you can’t count the people there on two hands but you can count the smiles because everyone has one.
“We don’t know when it’s going to be sold. Or who’s going to buy it. But the cabin now has an expiration date”
It’s not a jug of milk.
“Just make the memories last.”
Grandma, mom and I are walking on Granville Street. Next Tattoo parlour is approaching our foreground and we enter, apprehension and elation prevalent. The next hour is a flurry of fonts, risk contracts and hand sanitizer.
We enter the artist’s lair, his walls plastered with stunning art. Grandma is first, and she opts for the ankle
“If I’m gonna put something on me forever I want people to see it!”
She’s always been cheeky.
Grandma doesn’t even flinch. The artist is impressed. So am I.
I’m next, and not feeling nearly as brave as she was. My foot is about to be branded forever, it’s a little hard to remain calm. The buzz of the needle fills the room and I close my eyes. He asks if I am ready and I nod. Only slightly. I sense him lowering it to my foot and then there’s hot, vivid pain. I picture bees consuming my flesh. Or maybe miniature men with tiny knives carving into my skin. I scrunch my face up, repeating the mantra “this too shall pass” in my head. The 15 minutes are slow and agonizing but if grandma can do it, so can I.
And then it’s over.
I wipe my palms on my shorts and gingerly pull myself off the table.
Mom goes last, and like me, she displays visible pain (as one should). We finish, take an obligatory picture and leave the parlour with washing instructions and euphoric pride.
Now I won’t forget the marshmallows or the capture the flag at dusk or the campfires or the bunkhouse shenanigans or the boat rides, watching my cousins recklessly fall of tubes. The black ink on my foot won’t let me forget.
Allow me the courtesy of painting you a picture.
There are colours everywhere. They’re moving and flashing and swishing. The ground below you is vibrating, or more accurately, it’s pulsing. Like a triumphant heart. You’re hot in the best way possible, because you know it’s from dancing. And moving. You look down at your feet. Your white shoes are covered in grass stains and dirt. And the footprint of the girl in front of you who’s feeling the passion around her so powerfully, it’s like oxygen.
And then there’s the song.
It’s the song you listened to walking home from your s***ty job. The job you keep working at because it’s the first time in your life you’re making money independently. It’s the song you blasted out your car window with your best friend next to you, driving across that bridge. You both know every word and you don’t care who knows.
It’s the song you fell asleep to. And woke up to.
And now it’s the song you’re experiencing with thousands of other people at a festival in the mountains. Everyone around you is singing and dancing, like one throbbing entity. The word beauty crosses your mind. These people have lost themselves in the people around them.
It’s both unifying and strikingly isolating.
The grass is always greener.
You have a phone from 2016 but baby that iPhone 7 is out and you’re convinced you need it to cope, to live. Mom lets you stay out until midnight but Sally’s allowed out till 12:30. That can’t possibly be fair.
Films are the perfect tool for an escape and a desire for something better. Our world and our surroundings create a space we call reality and films are an escape. They provide an opportunity to see what could be. We immerse ourselves in these characters, we crave their presence or better yet we crave to become them. Youth comes with the extra bonus of wanting to be something you’re not. We always want to make just a slight edit on our body or our psyche. These people in these films appear to have everything laid out for them and if it’s not, it’s only not for the purpose of their story.
I once wrote: what I love about movies is everything is intentional; has a purpose. Nothing is there or happens by accident. There is no mistake in the mistakes. If life was like that, if everything had a point, people would gave intent. Everything happens for a reason, I guess, but movies really mean it. I jotted this down after watching a film that moved me. I can’t remember what it was. I hope to one day give someone else that feeling of euphoria or contemplation through a story. I’m not sure if that’s going to stem from experience or pain or loss or even joy. But passion can work wonders in partnership with creation. At this pivotal crossroads in my life, the idea of having an intentional life is inviting; it’s paramount.
Films are two hours of something that you are not. They give you a glimpse of “the other.” They inspire, they hurt, they scare, they motivate, they bore. They are a platform to share a story that will hopefully force you to think and perceive the world around you just a little bit differently.
Films are a tool, a hammer layered in felt and fairy dust and daggers. They make us feel human. And sometimes when life is a flurry of chaos, two hours in a dark room with someone else’s life portrayed in front of you is a wonderful notion.
It’s a very specific feeling, the feeling of being trapped. This, of course, is completely melodramatic. We’ve been handed a free education on a (mostly) silver platter but we constantly bash on its very existence. We just want OUT. And yet our entire world is encompassed in this concrete box.
That girl whispering about your thick thighs will stay in your head until you escape into restless slumber, her comment manifesting itself into a leech, attached to the intangible thing in your brain trying to break free: self-love.
That 85% you got on your chem test is most definitely the equivalent to your house burning down because you were so damn close to that A, you could’ve tried harder, you could’ve stayed up later, you could’ve requested that extra espresso shot.
The beautiful contrary to this thing I like to call the “high school vortex” is friendship. Your friends are you rocks, your world, your nutrition. They are your source of joy and warmth. Your balance beams; your sugar high. The idea of not seeing them for 48 hours frightens you to your core.
I’ve been very blessed with the people I’m surrounded by. We’ve fought like dogs and cried until we were thirsty. But we’ve laughed till our abs popped and walked down the middle of streets at midnight like we owned them. We shared music and relationships and halves of our sandwiches. We wept in diners and annihilated each other in beach soccer. We chased the sunset in our parent’s cars. We’ve FaceTimed at 11pm about boys and girls and English essays. We gave ourselves to each other fearlessly while simultaneously terrified of text message repercussions.
At this stage in my life, my friendships are my respiration system. The tiny planet I’m surviving on revolves around the connection made in these halls or elsewhere. We’re stuck together with twine, that at times is faulty and on the brink of breaking or being slashed with scissors but otherwise it’s sturdy and steady and strong. I’m internally grateful for that twine. And I’m scared s***less about it breaking. I hope that’s a testament to how imperative it is to have a network of humans that love you and give you the privilege to love them back.