It was 1975 - my sister had just gotten married, and we were making our first trip to Prince Edward Island, to stay at our summer cottage that my parents had just purchased. I was 11 years old.
About halfway there, our car broke down. It needed a transmission or something else very expensive. We were stuck in a small town while waiting for a mechanic to go and pick up the parts we needed to keep going.
We had missed our ferry to the Island; the only way to get there. We were going to have to stay in a Hotel for the night, and obviously, my parents had to incur an expense they didn't expect. It was a time when few had credit cards, and some 500 miles away from home, they probably just wrote a check for the damages.
As we were waiting, we were eating dinner at McDonald's - again something that wasn't very common in my life in 1976. My dad had a cheeseburger or something like that, and he took a bite of it, and pulls a pickle out of his mouth. He was like, "YUCK!!! There's nothing worse than a warm pickle."
Right at that moment, he and I, sharing the same slightly sarcastic and ironic personality, burst into laughter. What a silly statement--a bazillion things going wrong -- of course, something has to be worse than a warm pickle!
So, that became a funny phrase between the two of us when things went wrong over the years. And the strange thing was, the worse things were, the funnier the line got to us. Many times in my life when I've felt badly or saddened by something, I've heard my father's voice reminding me that, at least, it wasn't a warm pickle.
I've had lots of warm pickle moments this week. I was deeply moved by the memorials of 9-11 -- a time when I realize that I am not living in my own country and feeling all of those feelings of senselessness all over again.
And on Wednesday, with the shootings in Montreal at Dawson College, I was again reminded of how we just never know in this world...
A post from another blogger this week who is facing a very challenging time with her own daughter has touched me deeply. I feel her words, and wish that I could pack up a hug and send it along to her. I feel the heaviness in her post, as she struggles with the reality that she has no choice but to pick herself up by her bootstraps and plod through the mud.
I've felt very protective of my children this week--more so than usual. I admit that my greatest weakness as a mother is over protectiveness. I fuss over them and fret for them, and want to jump in at every chance to take care of them. I was, and still am one of "those moms" - conscious of what they eat, what they wear, of their friends, etc.
My worry is deeper for Dakotah than it is for Paige. That has not always been the case. Of course when Paige was young and often very ill, she was the one I fretted over. But always there has been that nag that I'm going to let my guard down with Dakotah and get blind-sided by something I cannot control--an illness, an accident, etc.
I can still protect Paige better, watch over her. Dakotah is at the point in her life where I must begin to give her freedom, and let her learn the lessons of life.
Its hard to let her "hang out" with friends at the park, just two blocks from here, when I still breathe a sigh of relief every single day when she gets off the school bus.
Its hard to let her spend hours chatting with school friends on the internet, although I've put all the protections in place...she knows if she erases histories, that she has lost her privileges until her 16th birthday. I don't even read them, but she needs to understand that they must remain. Her usage is monitored, she has been lectured over and over again about the dangers of the internet.
Yet, every time I watch an episode of Dateline with the internet predators, I feel my heart race -- for every creep they catch, there are probably hundreds who are successful in their quest for young teens on the net.
She tells me every detail of her day, and for that, I should be grateful. But I over-analyze it, and want to fix whatever I feel needs fixing, even when she is fine.
She does have to grow up in a way that is much different than the way I did. That's not to say that there weren't things in my teen years that my parents weren't way better off not knowing...
But, this week, they had "practice lockdowns" at school...they have been given very real scenarios of what could happen in her high school. Periodically, the drug-dogs are brought in for random locker checks - a procedure that we have to agree to before our children are allowed to enroll at the Catholic High School where she goes.
I have had to have very frank conversations with her, because I know that she is hearing information from other kids at school. Her group of girlfriends are popular and beautiful and oogled at -- a double-edged sword to say the least. I want her to be well-liked -- just not so much so, lol.
In the end, I can only give her tools and roots -- she must put them to use and learn to fly on her own.
And all of my life lessons and examples are basically left to a prayer, a whisper in the night that she will come through it all gloriously and beautifully -- a set of crossed fingers that the worse that will happen to her is that warm pickle in a cheap cheeseburger at McDonalds.