Friday, January 18, 2008

I wish I had a river

For the love of hockey and feminists, this Canadian gal finally taught herself to skate in her mid-30s. It's not that I had never tried before. When I was a child, there were always skates kicking around the house. "Girl skates" we called them: always white with that awkward claw of toe-picks that would force you to hobble-glide around the ice if by chance clutz and not lutz was your athletic destiny. It was clear from early on in my childhood that I was nothing more than a Katarina Twit. You'll still see women of my generation working their way around the rink using that tell-tale prissy hobble. I often wonder if those same women are soul sisters: bullied from the rec room by their brothers for asking too many stupid questions when the Leafs played the Habs; coerced into an interest in figure skating; and living for the winter Olympics just to watch the speed skaters fly.

Any skates I wore as a child were ill-fitting. As kid number 5, little was new, little was mine. When I did skate, it was never at a rink. No, "us kids" would trudge across two farmer's fields, dragging shovels, boards and skates to get back to the crick. My prairie husband might call the crick a slough. I don't know what your regional flourish is for a small pool of standing water in the middle of farm country.

We'd arrive at the crick tired from the knee-deep hike and then spend a half an hour clearing the ice before tightening our skates with knuckleless frozen fingers. Five minutes later, after falling repeatedly on the ice's wind-rippled surface, we'd head home for hot chocolate. I'd strip off my wet clothes at the register vent inside the back door and then sit in my underwear, nursing the warm choclately goodness while watching my thighs turn from pink to frost-patchy white to red before settling into their pale mottledness. The whole affair was a make-work production designed to make us patriots if perhaps not skaters.

In my 30s, I joined the Library School women's Co-Rec hockey team. The ability to skate was not a prerequisite in this league. Punny team names were, however, de rigeur. Sadly I cannot take credit for christening The Infomaniacs but my second team a year later, The Booby Orrs, that was all my doing. We were a mixed collection of academic feminists who actually did manage to bring a high degree of collegiality to team sports. And, when it came to skating, being on a hockey team changed everything. I had padding and a stick for stability. I had a purpose with rules to define it. At long last, I wanted to learn. I wanted to be a Canadian Amazon of the Ice. I began showing up for noon hour public skates. I started jumping the boards of my local outdoor community league at midnight. I sought advice: watch the bum of the skater in front of you to establish a rhythm; don't tighten your laces across the foot to prevent cramping but strap your ankles in with all your might, push your heels out from the bum on down to slow down quickly... And, dear readers, at long last I bought hockey skates--still used, but hockey skates nonetheless.

Little by little, I learned that wonderful rocking motion that feels a bit like oblivious escape. I lived in Edmonton at the time where I could skate on the lake at Hawrelak Park or go a few rounds on the Victoria Oval, places where you could build up speed and begin to lose yourself in thought. Outdoor skating offered clean fresh air and endorphins. Other people dream their wanderlust to being by flying to foreign lands. Not me. All I need is a clear, bright -10 day and a patch of unending ice.

Ah but then I moved out here to the Maritimes--where women's hockey is actually played by real Acadian Amazons NOT aging, pudgy feminists with a penchant for living life for its metaphorical resonance. My teammates had little time or sympathy for my spazzy stops and my inability to skate backwards. I spent one season miserable on a flatly named team that was filled with hyper-competitive asshats. I drove to games an hour out of town at 6 am on -20 January days. I practiced the drills. I ate the pizza and drank the beer. I hated every single minute of it.

Now, a few years after quitting, I guess I am a true Canadian skater at long last: you know, the kind of person who can only get access to ice time at public, noon-hour skates. As such, two lunch hours every week, I go around in tight circles, breathing Zamboni fumes and making friendly chit-chat. In this teetering obstacle course of fitness, I am surrounded by the Old Timer hot dogs who stop short of body checking in their efforts to claim ice real estate and by the teetering international students looking for the le vrai chose Canadienne--all the while surrounding the Intolerable Cranstons, figure skaters doomed to spin and leap at centre ice. Theirs is a circle of icy hell more circumscribed than mine. Yet, that rocking hockey motion is sufficiently seductive to keep me coming back week after week, year after year.

Each winter day, I dream of of lakes, rivers and canals, expanses of ice that promise a wintery escape.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Miss M's semi-annual reading round-up

Blog, blog, blog. Awards, awards, awards. You will recall a time when my mother wrote this blog FOR ME and ABOUT ME. AS IT SHOULD BE. It's time I took over this hobby horse to bring just a bit of the FAMILY back to this so-called family blog. All you mommies and daddies had better get set for a trip to the library with your kidlets because here is my list of the 100 books that tickled my fancy in the last 6 months. By the way, I am almost 3.

I'm still a cultural nationalist in training. The + means the writer and or picture maker is from Canada. I didn't list all the picture makers but some of them I liked a lot. Bossy Mommy decided to use a different colour for the 25 books that we both liked best. If only I could type myself!

Aylesworth, Jim
(retold by). Aunt Pitty Patty's Piggy. Illustrated by Barbara McClintock
Aylesworth, Jim (retold by). The Gingerbread Man. Illustrated by Barbara McClintock
Baker, Tanya and Carlton Holm. Harvey the Hiccupping Hippopotamus
Bang, Molly. When Sophie Gets Angry. Really, Really Angry
+Bogart, Jo Ellen. Gifts. Illustrated by Barbara Reid
Two Too Many
+Bourgeous, Paulette. Franklin Goes to School
Franklin is Messy
Franklin's Class Trip
Hurry Up, Franklin
Brett, Jan. Annie and the Wild Animals
Armadillo Rodeo

Berlioz the Bear

Comet's Nine Lives
Fritz and the Beautiful Horses

The Mitten

Town Mouse, Country Mouse
Trouble with Trolls
Carle, Eric. The Very Lonely Firefly
The Very Quiet Cricket
Child, Lauren. My School Play: Sticker Stories (Mom keeps promising me more Charlie and Lola books from the library but they're always checked out.)
Cooper, Helen. The Baby Who Wouldn't Go To Sleep
Delicious, A Pumpkin Soup Story
A Pipkin of Pepper for the Pumpkin Soup (but you really have to start with the original Pumpkin Soup if you haven't read it. It made my first book list. And don't forget Tatty Ratty!)
+Downey, Shirley. Mud Muddelicious Mud: Verse for the Very Young
+Drawson, Blair. Mary Margaret's Tree
Eastman, P. D. Are You My Mother?
+Edwards, Wallace. Mixed Beasts. Verses by Kenyon Cox
+Gagnon, Cecil. A New House. Translated by Patricia Claxton
+Gilman, Phoebe. The Balloon Tree
Hawkes, Kevin. His Royal Buckliness
Healey, Tim. Bear in a Chair
The Cat with Two Homes
Mouse's Magic Paints
Posey's Patterns
Skiddle-dee-daddle (a first book of noises)
Hill, Eric. Spot's Playtime Story book (Mommy cannot bear Spot. She uses the word sycophant but I don't know what that means yet. I think it just might mean that Spot is really, really nice.)
Holmelund Minarik, Else. Father Bear Comes Home
Hughes, Shirley. Helpers
+Hutchins, Hazel. Katie's Babbling Brother
Juster, Norton. The Hello, Goodbye Window Illustrated by Chris Raschka
Lobel, Arnold. Mouse Soup
Mayer, Mercer. All By Myself
I'm Sorry
Just a Mess
Just a Toy
Just For You
Just Going to the Dentist
McCloskey, Robert. Blueberries for Sal
Moss, Lloyd. Zin!, Zin!, Zin!: A Violin
Murphy, Jill. All in One Piece
+Oppel, Kenneth. Peg and the Yeti (There's nothing like a good Newfoundland yarn especially when it features pork scruncheons.)
Oxenbury, Helen. A Bit of Dancing
The Helen Oxenbury Nursery Collection (Ha! I knew I was right. Red Riding Hood talked to strangers and she got eaten up. I knew it. I just knew it would happen.)
Pooley, Sarah. A Day of Rhymes
Reid, Barbara. The Subway Mouse
Rey, H.A. and Margaret. Curious George

Daddy busts a gut at this image

Curious George takes a Job
My Mommy, on the other hand, is fond of the page that includes this

Curious George Rides a Bike
Curious George George Gets a Medal
Curious George Flies a Kite

Curious George Learns the Alphabet
Curious George Goes to the Hospital

Curious George's First Day of School

Curious George's Dinosaur Discovery

Reynolds, Adrian. Pete and Polo's Big School Adventure
Silverstein, Shel. Where the Sidewalk Ends
+Simard, Rémy. My Dog is an Elephant
Sims, Lesley (retold by). How Elephants Got their Wings
+Spinelli, Eileen. City Angel
+Van Laan, Nancy. Busy, Busy Moose
Viorst, Judith. Super Completely and Totally the Messiest
Ward, Cindy. Cookie's Week
Wells, Rosemary. Emily's First 100 Days of School
Noisy Nora
Ruby's Magic Act
Max is it (Santa put these two books in my stocking. I love them. They're really short and they tell the stories of two of my favourite TV episodes. When Mommy saw the Canada Council for the Arts logo in the back of the books, I saw fire blow from her ears. I heard her say something to Daddy about why theatre is a dying art.)
Whybrow, Ian. Bella Gets her Skates On
Willems, Mo. Knufflebunny
There is a Bird on Your Head
Winnie the Pooh: Sing along Songs (Mommy says there is no author for this one, whatsoever. Only the word she used was, uh, bastardized. I don't know what that means exactly but I love pushing the buttons and singing the songs.)

Hallowe'en Books
Bond, Felicia. The Halloween Play
Cuyler, Margery. Skeleton Hiccups
Donaldson, Julia. Room on the Broom
Herman, R.A. The Littlest Pumpkin
Metzger, Steve. Five Spooky Ghosts Playing Tricks at School
Minor, Wendell. Pumpkin Heads
Slater, Teddy. The Spookiest Halloween Ever

Christmas Books
Brett, Jan. Who's That Knocking on Christmas Eve?
The Wild Christmas Reindeer

Burmingham, John. Harvey Slumfenburger's Christmas Present
Dewan, Ted. Crispin: The Pig Who Had it All
+Little, Jean. Pippin the Christmas Pig
Meyer, Mercer. Merry Christmas Mom and Dad
Moore, Clement. The Night Before Christmas (we have 3 editions of it--you can never have too many.)
The Mother Goose Book of Christmas Carols
Roberts, Bethany. Christmas Mice!
Speirs, John. The Best Christmas Hunt Ever
Wood, Don and Audrey. Merry Christmas, Big Hungry Bear

I've also been reading quite a few Chirp magazines that my oh-so-mature friend Alison gave me last fall. They were hers 8 years ago! When Mommy saw how much I liked them, she bought an entire subscription. Lucky for us, Alison's school was selling them.

If you are new to my book lists, there are three more. You can find them on the side bar. I try not to repeat any titles but I sometimes slip up.

Oh, Mommy wants me to remind you all to vote for the people she nominated in the Canadian Blog Awards. Just read the next post to find out who and then vote. And you know, she is my mommy so maybe you could vote for her too while you're there.