A Room with a View

Here it is
And here it goes
What it means
No One knows
I wish I did
I wish I could
I wish I had
I think I should
Life is fleeting
Love is blind
You is special
You is kind
Dark to light
And light to dark
The sun comes up
A new day starts
I wish I may
I wish I might
Live each day
From morn to night
With passion and purpose
And wonder and joy
Not overthinking
Our brain redeploy
To a place of peace & quiet
A room with a view
A space without stress
A place we once knew
A mind of a child
Simple, honest and clear
No worries no hang-ups
A smile so sincere
A heart that is full
Of laughter and life
Hugged by a world
That does not struggle with strife
This is my wish
This is my dream
This is my purpose
This is my scheme
Let’s do it together
Let’s go all in!
We have only one life
It’s time to begin

Copyright 2018 by Judy Kucharuk

Eileen Kucharuk Sept 25, 1927 – Feb 1, 2018

She stood at the bow of the Aquitania – one of the 43,000 war brides who arrived by ship to Pier 21 in Halifax after World War II. The crossing could not have been easy with the unpredictable Atlantic during the cold month of January 1947. I imagine her standing there, her petite frame struggling to stand against the wind, dressed in her long skirt and jacket, lively red hair tucked neatly under her cap. She would have been excited about the new adventure that waited, but wary of this new world of which she had only heard stories.

Can you imagine leaving your Father and sisters behind as you traveled alone at 19 years of age across the Atlantic? I liken her at that age to a colt that could not be tamed, struggling against the reins of status quo, willing to give everything she knew up for the man she loved.

The Halifax port loomed larger and larger and finally the big ship docked. As she disembarked from the steel giant, she lightly stepped onto the cold Canadian soil with very fashionable, yet impractical footwear – her open toed shoes.

The trip via train from Halifax to Spirit River would have been long and exhausting. I can imagine as she laid her head against the cold glass of the train window, watching the foreign landscape speed by, she would have reflected on her life.

Born in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales September 25th, 1927, Eileen was the youngest of 10 children. Her mother, Elizabeth, passed away when she was only three years old, leaving Eileen in the care of her widowed father and older siblings. This is where her strength began to develop out of necessity; coupled with her red hair and welsh/Irish heritage – Eileen grew strong and resourceful.

I spoke at Jack’s funeral about their first meeting in a restaurant. I wondered if he spied her across the crowded room and noticed her twinkling, laughing eyes and lovely red hair. A petite sprite, with an almost uncontainable zest for life.

There is a quote that I recently read that speaks to her nature and it is, “There’s only one place I want to go and it’s to all the places I’ve never been.” That was Eileen – always looking forward to the next thing, the next step.

When her train arrived in Spirit River, she stepped off the train with those open toed shoes into what would have seemed like a frozen wasteland.

Many of us would have wanted to get back on that train and head home to Britain and the familiarity of family. In fact, many did just that – they turned around and went home.

But no….Eileen was committed to this adventure and although part of her might have been wary, her free spirit would have been enthusiastically embracing it!

After living for a time with a family in Spirit River, Eileen and Jack made their home on the farm. There were no cobblestone streets like London, but there were also no air raid sirens or buildings in rubble. She left that behind for the wide Peace Country skies.

I can’t imagine how both exciting AND challenging this time would have been, coupled with wee Jacqueline being born in November of 1947. As we recall, Eileen lost her own mother 17 years previous, so she had no one to guide her through this emotional and exhausting time of her life.

Both Eileen and Jack worked very hard. The land that had been provided to Jack upon his return from WW2 by the Canadian government was completely tree covered and needed to be broken in order to grow both a crop and a garden. It was a stressful time in their lives as they made both a home for themselves and developed a livelihood.

Life went on and with that came their second child Linda in the warm, summer sun of June of 1953. Their family was growing.

In 1958, the Kucharuk’s moved to the big city of Dawson Creek and settled into the Blue Bird Motel as they searched for more permanent accommodation. This did not mean that they abandoned the farm – no, far from it. They continued to farm the land and every summer were spent there, tending to the crops and garden.

After their short stay at the Blue Bird Motel, they moved into a rental home not far from where they built the existing home in 1961. During that time, they welcomed Bob or “Bobby” as his parents and siblings affectionately referred to him.

Jacquie, Lindy and Bobby – the family was complete.

Eileen flourished in her new home, finally able to tend to a flower garden once again which no doubt reminded her of her beloved England.

While Jack worked away from home, Eileen immersed herself in the goings on of the community. In fact, from 1957 onward, Eileen worked for Elections Canada in various positions of authority. In her time with Elections Canada she was a part of every Prime Minister elected from John Diefenbaker to Justin Trudeau. From the 18th Prime Minister of Canada to the 29th Prime Minister – Eileen was a part of the process.

Her unwavering community service and her intense desire to continually improve herself was known by those who knew her well. Perhaps it was because she was a proud immigrant to Canada or perhaps it was because she needed constant change and personal fulfillment – whatever the case, the list of organizations that she contributed to is endless.

Two projects that I recall clearly were the fundraising campaign for the DC Hospital CT Scanner and the paving of the road in front of their home. While different in scope, both were projects where Eileen could leverage her negotiating skills.

Have you ever negotiated with Eileen? Well…..let’s just say that she came out on top most of the time. As publicity manager for the CT campaign, Eileen cajoled Jack into participating as well, which was no small feat! When she became determined that she was “no longer going to live with a dirt road in front of her home!”, she petitioned her neighbours and led the charge for fresh asphalt – that red haired English rose was in full bloom!

We say that it was because she was a Libran that Eileen was devoted to fairness and equality for her fellow human beings. She would stanchly defend the underdog and speak up for those who could not or would not speak up for themselves. As someone surrounded by Librans, I do believe that it is true. I am looking at you Bob, Michele, Amy, and Jessie.

Eileen was a career woman – she worked for many years at the Hudson’s Bay as well as she was a ticket agent for Pacific Western or PWA. Airline work seems to run in the family with Jacqueline, Linda, Brian and myself all working for airlines.

Working at the airport no doubt fed her desire to travel and both she and Jack did a lot of traveling over the years: They went overseas, stuck their toes in the sand of Hawaii and Mexico and traveled to Eastern Canada. I see that same desire in her children and her grandchildren as they travel frequently to all corners of the world.

We all agree that without the passion of Eileen and her incredible desire to better herself and her surroundings that Jack might have been content to stay home and tend his garden. She pushed him gently (and sometimes not so gently) out of his comfort zone and the reluctance he felt most often gave way to pure enjoyment once he arrived at his destination.

Food was a big part of Eileen’s life – not only was she a great cook, but she loved great food! She had an incredible palette and could pin point even the most minor of gastronomic errors. One time while camping, I was making her some hot chocolate before bed. I was tired and therefore I microwaved the water and mixed in the coco. Handing it to her she took a sip and made a wee face.

She then asked, “Did you boil the water?” and I was caught red handed! So I lied and said, “Of course I boiled the water…..just the way you like it”.

Jacqueline’s discovered a love of cooking from her mother and her ability to make satisfying, nutritious comfort food. Linda’s love of fruitcake and subsequent recipe tweaking was a result of being introduced to the heavy, fruity dessert by Eileen. Linda went on to make up her own recipe, complete with ‘raisins that make me feel funny mummy’ – as poor Brian was sneaking rum soaked raisins from the kitchen.

Bob shares Eileen’s red hair and her temperament and has the same fierce sense of fairness. He too fights for the underdog.

After Jack’s passing 6 years ago, Eileen could have given up…..but she didn’t. Her incredible strength allowed her to rebuild her life as her own person and she blossomed. Her companion and dear friend John was someone who helped her thrive and live her final years so fulfilled. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you John.

Last night as we visited with Pastor Cory, he said something that really struck home. He spoke about living a life with passion instead of perfection. That is exactly what Mom, Eileen, Grandma, Grandma K and Great Grandma did in her 90 years – she lived her life with a passion for life and a wicked sense of humour. A life of perfection would have been boring – can’t we all agree?

Eileen passed away in her own home, with her children at her side in the wee hours of February 1st. She leaves behind her children Jacqueline and husband Lorne, Linda, Bob and his wife Judy. Grandchildren Deris, Michele and her husband Greg, Brian and his wife Krista, Jennifer and husband Bob, Amy and husband Ian, Matthew and wife Samantha. Greatgrandhildren Charlie, Carter & Bennet, Dylan and Isla.

Eileen is predeceased by her husband Jack and her 8 sisters and one brother.

The family would like to thank each and every one of you who touched Eileen’s life and for coming here to support us today. Thank you to Jaki Stanley for the lovely movie presentation and the cozy crocheted blanket that she dropped by the house for Eileen – we are in your debt.

In closing I would like to read a poem by Mary Elizabeth Frye.

Mother, you were just a girl,
So many years ago.
You had your loves and had your dreams,
You watched us come and go.

You watched us make the same mistakes,
That you had made before,
But that just made you hold us tight,
And love us all the more.

We haven’t always thought about
The things that you have seen.
To us you’ve just been ‘Mother’,
No thought of who you’ve been.

But we remember now in love,
Your life from start to end,
And we’re just glad we knew you,
As Mother, and as Friend.

We will miss you, Love Judy

Stupid Elf on the Stupid Shelf

Stupid Elf…….

Nothing gives me more pleasure than knowing that in 4 or 5 years, on this very day, Amy will be on the phone with me b$tching about the Elf on the Shelf!

Both of my kids: Amy and Matthew were very evolved children…one could say they were ‘ahead of their time’  Elf on the Shelf had not been invented yet when they were young and admittedly, neither child REALLY believed in Santa Claus. But……they did believe in a stupid elf and they would make a bed for it out of a matchbox and leave a letter for him/her.

Thankfully they dropped that Elf like a bad habit and I was never forced to prop it up on weird places overnight like parents do now.

I am thankful because I would probably forget to do the Elf thing at night and the kids would wake up and the Elf would be in the same spot and ask, “What happened to the Elf?” and I would be forced to make up a story about how the Elf had experienced a wee cough so a shot of Nyquil had been administered the night before and then the Elf had a bad reaction that rendered him/her unconscious and unable to move. After a few times of that occurring, the kids would lament about our family getting, “a sick Elf” and why do other kids have such fun elves. Then I would guilt them back and tell them that, “all Elves deserve to make a living and that our Elf was doing the best he/she could while suffering from poor health and we should be more generous of spirit, etc.”

Christmas miracle would have been achieved……

Sometimes I feel like the ‘Girl on the Train’

Sometime when I am out on my deck, I feel like the ‘Girl on the Train’ with my neighbours Dawn and Ralph. Of course I have never been married to Ralph and they don’t live in my old house or anything like the book/movie and….so far I haven’t witnessed a murder (watch yourself Ralph). But everything else is the same….well except I am not on a train, I am on the deck…but the point is I can see them through their dining room window and I make up stories about their day.

Today for example, Ralph is wearing both his hat and his jacket in the house, so I called Dawn and said, “Is Ralph cold? He is wearing his jacket in the house.”

I am a bit of a creeper I guess, but I have been watching the Dawn and Ralph show for so many years, I feel like I know them really well (I actually do know them really well even without the creepy watching them through their window).

We are really fortunate having such wonderful neighbours. Dawn Johnston and Ralph on one side and Kim and Julian and kidlets on the other.

The Skin family got a dog recently….”Pickle” is his name and now I get to watch the kids play with their new dog and live vicariously through them (RIP Ozzie and Riley) as they love their new puppy.

Their children are ahhhhhmazing kids and we love seeing them play in the park across from our house. I even had a wee tear when their oldest moved out, I was gonna miss him!

I also can determine how many kids are getting into their vehicle by the sounds of the SUV door’s slamming. One time, we heard so many doors shutting, Bob and I turned to one another and said, “Exactly how many kids is Kim driving to school today?” Yes…..Bob and I are creepy people like that – with nothing better to do than make assumptions based on sound.

We have become THOSE neighbours.

I wonder what they think about us? They probably don’t have the time to creep on us like we creep on them. Is it creeping if they know we are doing it though? I guess we will see after this post and Julian goes out and builds a higher fence and Dawn and Ralph close their blinds (please don’t….this is the best part of my day!)

Neighbours are more than people who live next door – neighbours become like family. We watch out for one another, we care about one another and we watch each other’s families grow. We consider both neighbours dear friends and would be there for them in an instant as they would be for us.

Note: Kim, Julian and Family have a fairly large tree that blocks most of my view, so no ‘Girl on the Train’ looky-loo happening there – no worries about that Kim.

Ladybug, Ladybug

Yesterday my Mom told me that she had seen a ladybug in the kitchen and had picked it up and placed it in a plant.

This morning at 6:30 a.m. that same ladybug (I am assuming it’s the same one because…..winter and all) was crawling outside her bedroom door. I picked it up and carried it into the kitchen where I had my glasses so I could take a look at it because at that point I was thinking, “Is this a tick?”. That would be me….pick up something thinking it is a ladybug only to find that it was an engorged tick and then get bitten and infected with Lyme disease or ebola or whatever else ticks pass along. Anyhoo……

I go into the kitchen, put on my glasses and see that it was indeed a ladybug and then I promptly dropped it. It survived the fall and crawled away. (I watched it until it crawled away to live its very best life because the alternative would be crawling under the stove to die).

I knew that ladybugs were special, so I googled them this morning and this is what google said, “Ladybugs bring good luck, are a symbol of protection ‘A talisman for safety and protection against all harm’, are a symbol of love, a symbol of self reliance and they even have a religious significance!

THANK GOODNESS I didn’t kill it when I dropped it! And I feel a bit better knowing that the ladybug is crawling around my parents home keeping them safe and protecting them.

Ambulance, Paramedics, Fire Department…oh my!

(Originally posted in the Alaska Highway News and the Dawson Creek Mirror in my column ‘From the Desk of the Green-eyed girl’

What happens when you lose trust in something you believed to be rock solid? Something that you never questioned, that you never stopped for one minute to wonder about.

How do you go on? How do you move forward? How do you continue with your life now that you have a seed of doubt permanently planted into your psyche?

Our family recently were saturated in a downpour of seeds of doubt and left us questioning. Let me explain.

On Nov. 19, I received a call from one of my sisters that my mother had fallen down the stairs and she was hurt. Dad had called the ambulance and they were on their way. I said, “Holy crap (or something not as pretty),” and that I would meet them at the hospital. That call came to me at around 12:30 p.m.

I arrived at the hospital and began waiting for the ambulance. It shouldn’t take long: they live in Dawson Creek proper and nothing is more than 10 minutes away, even with rush hour. I’m thinking a half hour or so to get mom stabilized and transported to the hospital.

A half hour passed, so I anxiously called my sister and asked, “What is going on?”

Because mom was lying at the bottom of the stairs, the two Paramedics apparently needed  the assistance of a second ambulance to help extricate and load her for transport. They had contacted Kamloops dispatch and one should be arriving shortly.

More than an hour had now passed and still no second ambulance. My 75-year-old mother had now been lying with a suspected femoral fracture at the bottom of the basement steps for an hour and 15 minutes. Thankfully, the Paramedics had been able to stabilize her and get pain meds into her—but still no sign of the additional ambulance.

I texted my sister: “Why not call the fire department to assist? What’s going on?”

At this point, someone must have made the call to find out where the missing ambulance was, and were advised that the call for the second ambulance had been inadvertently dropped—meaning that the request didn’t make it from the phone to the computer. No second ambulance was coming.

Thank goodness for the Dawson Creek Fire Department, because now they were dispatched and were on the scene in minutes. They helped lift and load mom into the ambulance and she was on her way to the hospital, 90 minutes after the incident occurred. It was 2 p.m.

But 90 minutes—90 minutes for my mom to lay on the bottom of the basement steps, 90 minutes for my father to wring his hands with anxiety about his wife of 50-plus years in pain and unable to do anything.

I heard the ambulance arrive at the hospital and my mother being brought inside. My sisters had driven my father down in their car and were coming into the hospital at the same time. He immediately went to check on mom and to be there by her side.

The next moment we heard screaming and I realized it was my mother and sister. I ran to the back to see my father had collapsed, my mother watching on from the gurney. Medical professionals are swarming the area, rapidly responding to the now changing emergent medical situation. In between the “stay with us, dad,” and the “Mom, its going to be okay,” we realized dad might have had a stroke or a heart episode. I truly believed it was brought on by the stress of the situation.

At this point, I need to say our medical team at the Dawson Creek hospital were amazing and our entire family is very grateful to have such a committed group of professionals at our local hospital. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you.

Meanwhile, they were stabilizing Dad, trying to determine what happened, and he and mom were lying side by side in the emergency ward. All my sisters and I are there by their bedside and the scene resembled one of those Kardashian Family Christmas card photoshoots.

As the hours wore on, my dad regained his speech and strength, and after having a CT it was determined he had probably suffered something called a TIA. Mom, on the other hand had suffered a femoral fracture/hip fracture, and was scheduled for surgery the following day. She was moved upstairs onto the ward to await surgery and dad was kept for observation in emergency.

Quite a day, right? Our lives were changing in a blink of the eye and we were powerless to do anything to stop the train wreck.

BC Ambulance, we have lost trust in a system that we felt was working. We were under the impression it was working because we had not tested it before. I’m certain hundreds of calls happen where the dispatch is seamless but, in our case, it wasn’t and that terrified us.

I spoke with Kamloops dispatch and they did admit a ball was dropped and a mistake occurred. They were very empathetic and took responsibility, and gave us the contact information to follow up with an independent investigation.

We all realize a system reliant on human beings will, at some point, have a human error. We just never consider we will bear witness to the error.

Where do we go from here? How do we go about our lives with that reoccurring thought, “what happens next time?”

 

 

Thigh High!

 

I noticed a coworkers boots yesterday. They were a lovely pair that fit her perfectly. The boots were a beautiful shade of brown and had a lovely little detail on the ankle. I said to her enviously, “I love your boots!” to which she responded with the name of her favourite go-to store for boots.

I looked down at my suede boots that are two years old. They have been repaired a couple of times because I hated to part with them, but they have definitely seen better days. I had ordered them online because…..well…….wide calf boots are not always available in store. Yes….I have the dreaded wide calves. All my life I have had ‘athletic’ calves which has made boot shopping difficult. Now they can be called ‘fat’ calves as no athletics have been attempted in the making of these calves. Heaven forbid if I ever tried to purchase thigh high boots! The radius of the boot would need to be ginormous! The conversation with the clerk would go something like, “Do you have these in a 36″?” as I held up a pair of boots for her to see.

Actually, because I am vertically challenged and horizontally robust, thigh high boots are on my never, ever, ever, ever, EVER list of things to try to purchase or wear. In fact, even normal height boots (wide calf of course) can look strange on me. If I am lucky enough to find a pair that fit over my generous calves, then I need to consider how tall they are and if they hit me in that strange spot that makes me appear like the cat from the movie Shrek. Way too much math required to find a pair of nice boots!

That is what happens when I go into a store like Penningtons or Addition Elle and look at their boots. Guaranteed they will have wide calf sizes, but the height of the boots is totally out of proportion for me. It is as if they are saying, “Okey dokey….if you have this big of calves you must be 7 feet tall!”.

Are there not wide calf boots for fat…err…voluptuous but petite (short legged) women?

Sincerely, Judy

Ants…….with wings

(Originally posted in my column ‘From the Desk of the Green Eyed Girl’ in the Alaska Highway News)

I would like a gold star, applause, and perhaps flowers sent to my home for a recent accomplishment. Why? Well….when I was young, I was afraid of many things, but I was especially horrified when it was ‘flying ant day’ (that one day where God said to the ants – you have a crappy life so I am going to give you one day to experience the freedom of flight, perhaps mate once or twice and then your wings will fall off. But……..although we are taking away the superhero power miracle of flight, we will allow you to retain superhero strength and you will be able to lift objects ten to fifty times your size).

We recently experienced ‘flying ant day’ in the Peace region and our Grandson Dylan came over during the height (is that a pun?) of the flying ant activity. Dylan is very much like his Grandma, in that he is terrified of the flying ants. I wrestled with how I could reassure him that the creepy crawlies would not hurt him so he could enjoy his time outside. So…. I did the unthinkable….the unimaginable….the ‘that grandma lifted a car up all by herself with no help to save her grandchild’ scenario: I picked up a flying ant in my HAND and placed it in a jar with a lid so that Dylan could get a good look at it and know that it wasn’t scary.

Excuse me while I stop a minute…….even writing the words make me a wee bit verklempt as it brings me back to the feeling *gag* of that ant *gag* CRAWLING on my hand.

I then tried to get Dylan to hold the jar in his hand and get a good look at the ant who was now angry and no doubt thinking, “Sure……I get only a few hours with wings and some stupid human decides to use me as a prop to teach her grandchild a life lesson”. Dylan demonstrated unequivocal resolve – he would not actually touch the jar to get a closer look. If I set the jar down on the sundeck, he would lower himself into a crouching position and watch the ant, but there was no way he was getting any closer.

I don’t blame him. Honestly……if we had something called ‘flying spider’ day…..a day in which the spiders received wings, I would not leave the house. You think I am kidding but I am not. So, while I was uber impressed that I had picked up the bug, I KNEW that if it had been a spider, Dylan was on his own.

When I picked up that ant and its wings fluttered in my hand, I was terrified – sweaty with terror, but I saw Dylan’s face and I knew that I couldn’t show my fear or else he would end up just like me. He watched me closely, looking for some sign that I was afraid, but I was unflinching (paralyzed with fear but at least I didn’t show it).

Now that the ants are no longer flying, Dylan has become something of an ant assassin. He spies them with his fantastic 2 year old vision and runs up to squish them into the sidewalk and says [clapping], “No more bug”. The pendulum has swung from terror to delight and Dylan is dispatching the ant population one by one with no thought for his karmic account balance.

Sigh……I wish there was something between the two extremes. I wish there was something in between the tears resulting from the paralyzing fear of the ants and the bravado exhibited after their untimely death. It is really one of life’s lessons….isn’t it? Instead of learning tolerance and acceptance, we find comfort in destroying what we fear the most.

Or maybe it was just about squishing ants……

The ‘Lowered Expectations’ Garden Tour will now begin……

 

Originally posted in the Alaska Highway News (August 3rd, 2017 in my column ‘From the Desk of the Green Eyed Girl’)

The airbrakes release on the tour bus with a ‘whoosh’: The door opens and large group of women, overflowing wine glasses clenched in hands, stumble down the steps, giggling and laughing.

Marie, the tour guide who is also clutching a full glass of white wine, leans against the side of the bus and waits for the group of ladies to quit laughing and talking long enough so that she can begin her description of the final garden of their tour.

Draining her glass, Marie clears her throat and begins (slurring slightly). “To our left is a triangular flower bed filled with long forgotten perennials and a generous abundance of peace country weeds. Oh……and the weird circle on the lawn is called Fairy Ring.”

Raucous laughter breaks out, with one woman yelling “Bravo! It’s beautiful”.

Marie is unfazed by the silliness – to be fair, this is the 5th or 6th glass of wine for many in the group and it’s been a long day. She speaks loudly to be heard amongst the chatter. “Let’s make our way into the back yard where our host promises an obstacle course of children’s toys and unfinished projects. Note the partially stained deck with the expensive paint-brush left out to be destroyed in the hot sun”.

The group gives a collective “ahhhhhhhhhhh” in response to the description, nodding in unison.

In case you were wondering, this is no ordinary summer garden tour – THIS garden tour is titled, “Lowered Expectations” and is an imaginary garden tour of 80% of homes.

Wouldn’t it be fun? Wouldn’t it be fun to go on a garden tour of overgrown vegetable plots and aphid eaten flowerbeds? The homeowner telling you, “Don’t worry about where you walk – I can’t tell where the weeds end and the vegetables begin”.

The Lowered Expectations tour would not be designed to inspire anyone – it would be designed to give a collective middle finger to the expectation that our summer be spent hunched over a raised vegetable bed, pulling weeds in preparation for an afternoon where strangers trample through your yard in silent judgment (unless of course that is your thing).

Don’t get me wrong……this is written very tongue in cheek. Of course I admire those who devote all of their time and energy to their lovely yards and I have been one of those touring and trampling through in silent judgment.

I am not judging them…..the silent judgment is directed at myself and why I can’t have the same type of tidy yard and then I remember, “Oh right Judy….you are lazy”.

Speaking with friends the other day via Facebook, we agreed that we should have a garden tour for the average woman and perhaps a few under achievers to make ourselves feel better. Oh…..and wine….the tour bus needed wine.

Can someone make this happen? I promise you the tickets would sell out.

Let’s get back to the tour……Marie gathers everyone and asks for silence. “Ladies! Can I have your attention please! We saved this until the very last home. If I could get you all to look up a bit….yes….up towards the roof…yup…do you see it?”

The group begins to clap and cheer as they all see what Marie is pointing to on the home. Faded Christmas lights dangle from the eavestrough – the perfect ending to an imperfect garden tour.

Ruuuuuuuuuuun!

“Ruuuuuuuuuun!!!” my father would scream from the chalked sidelines of the 100 yard dash (pre metric system days), the guttural, almost animalistic quality of his voice spurred my short little legs to turn over faster and faster until my chest hit the ribbon at the end. “Run THROUGH the ribbon he would say – never slow down until you have gone through that ribbon!”. He had already explained previously that races are lost in the final few feet of a race and you can never hold back….even for a second.

I was probably in grade 2 at the time, but already my type A over achieving personality was developing. I was also a people pleaser and the most important ‘people’ was my father so I was going to win each race or competition if it killed me!

Sports Day in a small town was a BIG deal back in the day. In our tiny community, parents took a break from farming so that they could attend Sports Day at The School. I say ‘The School’ because there was only one school and it housed every grade 1 through 12. I am not going to say that the torch of past rivalries were handed down to the children to carry like a anxiety ridden, emotional burden……but….let’s just say there might have been some sideline betting and perhaps some quiet parental pre-race whispers of “Did I tell you that I won this race when I went to school?”, followed with, “Just do your best”. Basically, my father was the 1972 version of a hype guy.

Sports Day was always an extremely hot, sunny day: Pre-global warming so no sunscreen tucked into a backpack (BACKPACK? What the heck was a backpack?). There were no cooling shelters, no hovering parents or teachers ensuring we were hydrated. There were hot dogs and full sugar pop and candy and SILKY, SOFT, BEAUTIFUL RIBBONS that were pinned to your chest that blew in the wind like little flags.

Dogs these days are more cared for than we were as children circa 1970’s.

Running long jump, standing long jump, 100-yard dash, ball throw and high jump were set up in the large field behind the school.

Field competition was big, but the track competition was the biggest. I had already won 1st place in every field competition and the ribbons were pinned to the front of my white t-shirt. There was no way that a blue ribbon would sully the beautiful sightline of the silky red ribbons – no second place ribbon for me and if I was somehow relegated to receiving a [gasp] white third place ribbon…well…..I cross that bridge when I came to it.

The racing happened at the end of the day – about an hour before the buses began lining up to take us all home. The uneven grassy surface had been measured and marked with lanes and as each heat was run, my chances for that coveted 1st place ribbon grew within reach.

I Usain Bolted the heats….barely breaking a sweat as I dispatched my fellow grade 2 students one by one. Until……it was the final race and I was standing shoulder to shoulder with Patty….my nemesis. Patty was tall and thin with long hair that hung straight down her back in its shiny glory. Patty was pretty like Susan Dey from the Patridge Family and we competed in everything. We both vied for the top spot at our small school. Need I remind you: we were both 7 years old.

Mr. Rampuri held the starter pistol high above his head and said the magic words, “Get Ready, Get Set……GO!!!” and go we went….running as fast as we could over the uneven, grassy field, never stopping….not for a moment until the familiar pressure of the tape against my chest indicated that I was the victor. Patty was only one step behind and took her loss in stride, seemingly bored with the entire proceedings, a demeanor that only popular, pretty girls can carry off.

This day I was the winner. This day I went home with 6 red ribbons, a sunburn and heat stroke. This day I ran to the bus and laid my hot face against the cool red vinyl of the bus seats and prayed that I didn’t throw up.

The importance of knowing how to win and lose graciously is not lost on me. Patty and I exchanged the winning laurels back and forth through elementary school until I moved away. As I grew older I realized that I didn’t have to win at something to enjoy it, but that I needed to always do my best and having competition inspired me to always do better.

Don’t let this new world we live in take away the gentle, but firm pressure of trying your hardest, doing your best and making improvements. We may only give out purple participant ribbons these days, but that doesn’t mean that you cannot still celebrate excellence and hard work.

(originally posted in the Alaska Highway News June 2017)

Judy