I wrote this into the void not knowing if anyone would read it, in the very early days of the pandemic. I own a baby store in Kitchener called Baby Charlotte, and we were one of the first businesses to close at the time due to the fears my staff (and I) had at the time. But now, in a place that was usually bustling with moms and grandmas and little ones, there was silence. It was deafening. We hadn't figured out curbside pick up yet, so it was just my husband Tom, my daughter Emily's boyfriend Scott (who works at BC), and me sitting in a very empty store. I decided to reach out to our followers on social media to see how everyone was doing. I thought that if my words could bring a little comfort, could make even one connection, it would be worthwhile. So, I started writing, and posted a different story almost every day that things were so quiet. Sometimes just mulling over the mess we (the world) were in, and sometimes dusting off old family stories. The stuff of legends, really. And while I won't pretend they haven't had some embellishments over the years, just about every word is true, to the best of my recollection, (more about that tomorrow). And amazingly, some people wrote back, just to say hello; just to fill the void and share their own experience. Some asked me if they could pick up orders, or if we could deliver to them directly, a practice we still offer because if you've ever had a child fall asleep at home or in the back of your car you know that not waking them is paramount. Then the phone started to ring. And the orders started to come in. And, sometimes, people would order something just to come out and talk for a few minutes of normalcy, in our parking lot. Sometimes the kids would run in circles, so happy to be free for a few moments and see others their own age. We fit little ones for shoes on the back stoop. Offered sidewalk chalk or water to others. Whatever they needed. We were always so glad to see them, not just for the sales, but for the contact in that weird no-contact world of summer, 2020. These stories, and those wonderful people saved my little store. I will always be grateful.
Original post date: March 28, 2020
I can tell by the lack of traffic outside that you are mostly in your homes now, and while it may seem unsettling at first, there is comfort in knowing you are all being safe. I know, some people are still hurrying, trying to get all they need to settle in, but for those of you already tucked in, I thought I'd post another blog here. I was thinking about something I said earlier, about waiting for a storm. It reminded me of one of our great family stories - the stuff of legends, really. To appreciate this story, you need to know some things about my older sister.
1. She is fearless in a crisis (at least on the outside, where it counts!)
2. She does not suffer fools easily (me, being one of the biggest fools in her life).
3. She would probably give her own life for those she loves; certainly, her own comfort.
Now, when we were very young, a great blizzard struck Waterloo Region without warning. It was January, 1977, and I was just five years old; my sister only seven. We had trudged to school as usual, over freshly fallen and frozen snow-pack. I remember this so clearly, this little flash of memory on that extraordinary day. The snow looked as though it had been scattered with diamonds. I was gleefully walking over top of it, and she, being older and a little bigger, was falling in, almost to her chest as we walked across the frozen field to get to school. I kept having to turn around and pull her up, laughing. I loved that I could walk unencumbered while she fell in! Finally, we reached our school and got out of our soaked snow suits. She went off to her classroom and I squished off to mine, having stepped in a puddle and soaked my socks. At some point, around noon, our teacher stopped talking and just stared at the wall of white outside of our classroom windows. Snow was working its way in around the windowsills and the sound of the wind was overwhelming. The walls shook. I know, it seems odd that I would remember that so clearly, but I think it was the fear on her face that got through to me. It was nothing I had seen before. Adults were always supposed to know what to do, and she was afraid. Now, I don't remember this next part, but my parents have told me that the school principal closed the school and sent us all home as soon as the sky cleared a little. Before setting out, my sister made sure my galoshes were tightly buckled over my shoes, pants tucked in and snow pants secured over top. She pulled my hat over my head, covering my eyes, and I shoved it back up with a mittened hand and peered out at her. “You need a scarf. Where’s your scarf?” “ I dunno”. I always had great answers for the things I lost. And I was always losing things. She sighed and wrapped her own scarf around my head, coiling it like a turtleneck and a shroud, all in one. And we left, together, in the bright sunshine. I can remember looking up, and seeing sun dogs around the sun. “Rainbows!”, I said. She looked at them and frowned a little. “Lets go.” And so, we headed out in the cold for home, which was almost a mile away. It was hard going, since the sidewalks weren’t shoveled. I wanted to walk in the street, but she wouldn’t let me. I can remember the ache in my legs, and how I wanted to stop, but she wouldn’t let me. About half-way home, the wind struck again, disorienting, in its white fury. I could hardly catch my breath, and the scarf which had been soaked with my breath froze until it was crunchy and rasped against my lips. I started to cry, and she turned and pulled the scarf right over my eyes. She had to yell, so I could hear her, and said, “Hold onto my coat. Don’t let go! Stay close.” I grabbed the hem of her coat with both hands and we continued through the snow, me following in the path she made. At one point, she stopped, and I remember banging into her. She yelled in my ear, “We have to go up the hill now!” I pulled my scarf down and saw only blinding white. She pulled it back up and, holding onto each other, we climbed and crawled through the deep and drifting snow, until we got to the top of the hill where our house was. My mother cried when she saw us. My father had gone out looking for us, and I remember her pressing her dishtowel to her eyes when he came in, safe at last. If I close my eyes, I can still feel the ferocity of his hug as he pulled us into his arms. Safe at home, is a big theme for me in my songwriting, and in the way I try to keep my family together in these uncertain times. Together, apart. My parents are safe in their home. My sisters are safe at their homes. And I am safe as well. Aside from going between my empty shop and home, and being with those closest to me - my family, my parents, I know I can weather this storm, too. And I will see my sisters when this is over. The storm we are weathering will pass. The skies will clear. And we will, once again, be able to hold the ones we love. Take comfort in that. When I think about what could have happened, it frightens me. The house we turned at was the very last one before a vast and frozen field. But somehow, she led the way. I will never know how she knew where to turn. Was it her inner compass, or was she able to catch a glimpse of the house we turned at? I do know, that if it were not for her sense of calm and purpose, we wouldn’t have made it. I do know, in my heart of hearts, that it was her faith that we would be alright, that led us home.