Category: childhood

We looked like giants

When I was little, I lived in a world of unicorns and fields of giant marshmallows. In every shady wood or sunny meadow, I swore I would see a unicorn. Once, I made up a story and told enough people that I’d almost convinced myself.


But there really were giant marshmallows in the field.

The first time I saw them, I remember blinking, checking my eyes, saying incredulously: “What’s that?!
“Oh, just a field of giant marshmallows,” my dad replied.
“Where did you think marshmallows came from?”
“They grow in fields?!” And they did. Giant white cylinders against the horizon. I craned my neck to watch them as we drove past.

Of course, at some point I learned that they weren’t really marshmallows, though I’m sure I believed in soundly for at least a few weeks. They were just white plastic wrapped bails of hay.

I’m starting my first grown up job on Monday. Today, I bought a suit.

But when I was driving through the stretch of fields this morning, I swear for a second they were still full of marshmallows. But don’t worry, I kept my eyes on the road to avoid hitting unicorns.

In the clouds

I’m painting my childhood room. I moved back in with my parents when I came back from England, because I have absolutely no money and currently no prospects of making any.

For the past couple of days I’ve been wading through memories. Taking down high school photos and posters of Orlando Bloom. Sorting through clouds, fairies and unicorns (yes, I was that kind of kid, and no, I didn’t decorate at 8 but rather 15… I like to call it whimsical, not lame, okay?)

It’s eerie. This room, with doodles and pictures and stickers everywhere, used to be so definitively me. Cluttered, sporadic, colourful and a bit odd. Now it just seems so past, so yesterday. I smile in remembrance of the song lyrics scrawled on my white board, but I haven’t listened to those songs in years.

It’s very strange, going back and trying to still move forward. There’s a lot of throwing away and boxing up and sometimes donating in hopes that someone, somewhere, will love these things as much as I once did.

Where you want to be

I like to think that cities have souls. That there’s something that reaches out to us in your favourite cities - atmosphere, feeling, life. Something that draws us to them.

Are you a small town person, a where-everybody-knows-your-name person? Are you a big city, metropolis, crowded subway person? Are you trees and parks or skyscrapers and shopping malls? Are you peace and quiet or lively and happening? Maybe you aren’t these things. But your favourite city is. Maybe it’s the opposite of you. Maybe you’re really shy and quiet but you love a city that screams around you and you just fade into the background?

london underground, par moi

I love London. I have since the first time I stepped off the tube from Heathrow. I’ve been four times in the last two years, and I have never run out of things to do. I like the feeling of London. It’s a huge city- the world happens in London. But it has neighbourhoods and sections that are basically autonomous.  Like Neil Gaiman said in his short story, Keepsakes and Treasures, “London is mad. Multiple personality problems. All these little towns and villages that grew and crashed into each other to make one big city, but never forget the old borders.”

It’s strange because I don’t generally like big cities. In fact, I normally hate them. I don’t do well in crowded places and I find it very difficult to look past crowded high streets and chain stores to find the character of a big city.

I hated New York City. I didn’t much care for most of Dublin. But I loved Galway.


Galway felt like home. On the bus ride from Dublin to Galway, you pass a beautiful ruined castle on the ocean. The tide was out and there were little tide pools among the rocks. Even though I had originally planned to live in Dublin for the summer, the minute I saw Galway I knew it was where I wanted to be. Galway is a small city, though the third largest in Ireland. It’s cobblestones, small pubs and buskers. It’s the famous Galway Bay of songs. It’s beautiful.

I don’t really feel any attachment to Newcastle. It isn’t, technically, a very big city. But it is a lot larger than I expected and it’s definitely quite crowded downtown. There’s no character in the city centre. There are only chain restaurants serving bad food and big stores. I don’t know if independent business even exists in Newcastle.

I remember, years ago, Fae told me that she was in the car coming back from somewhere, some vacation. When you drive into Pittsburgh, it suddenly appears in front of you from the highway, all hills and rivers and lights. And she said that she knew then that it was home. That no matter where she went in the world, Pittsburgh was home.

pittsburgh, par moi

I didn’t understand it at the time.

When I was young I wanted to be anywhere but there. Growing up in the suburbs leaves lots of things up to the imagination and provides very little inspiration. I rarely saw Ottawa at all, except on Canada Day or when we caught a bus to go shopping downtown. Yes, my house was home. I hadn’t known any other. But my city was not.

Now, I’m wondering what to think of this city that I come from - the one with snow and the streets I know. I used to think those streets would never take me anywhere. But at least I know where I am.

I’m conflicted about Ottawa. I will always be drawn to it, it’s so much a part of who I am, there are so many memories here.

And feeling drawn to a city is what makes it home, rather than just a place you live.

When I grow up


A little blonde haired girl sits on a grey rug, surrounded by scattered crayons and one subject notebooks, the kind with the map of Canada on the front. Clutching a pencil, she’s drawing ugly unicorns and naming them after the words on her favourite crayons, the sparkly ones. She gives them a history, knows which ones like each other, which ones are good and which are bad. She sits like this for hours, imagining.

When she learns to read music, from a Pocahontas themed recorder book, she pretends that D is the bad guy, that G is protecting A and C from D, and B is unpredictable. In math, odd and even numbers have different characters. On long car rides, she writes songs about rose gardens in her head (and sometimes outloud). She plays elaborate make believe games with her friends, spends Saturdays racing through the park as Sailor Moon or some character of her own creation.

I meet a lot of people in archaeology who talk about spending their childhoods digging in sandboxes and watching Indiana Jones. They always knew that they wanted to be an archaeologist, this is their dream come true. And it makes me stop and think. I wasn’t dreaming of arrowheads and potsherds, digging up my parents backyard.

I was writing and telling stories. Always. For as long as I can remember, writing has been an enormous part of my life. From the role playing games and fanfiction that introduced me to my best friend to the years of emo poems (not all bad) that I wrote in high school. In school, I was always pretty sure I would get a good grade if it involved writing. Because I’ve been doing it since I learned how. I have so much practice of fitting words together, of expressing my ideas. And I love it. Even now, as my fingers glide over the keyboard and try desperately to keep up with my train of thought, the thrill of being able to say what I want fills me with a sense of completion.

Writing, for me, is like breathing. Absolutely necessary. I wake up in the middle of the night to write down sentences and words that are spinning through my head. I can’t sleep for the story I’m creating as I lie awake.

But I tend to forget that. I always say that my dream is to someday write books. But I never let myself fully pursue that dream. I always say that I’ll do it in my spare time, as I’m doing another, preferably well paying, job.

When I went into journalism, I thought I had found the best of both worlds. I would get to write, but I would also satisfy my need for stability, for a “career path” or a Plan. But journalism, while arguably it is writing and telling stories, simply sucked the fun out of writing for me. It’s more of a formula than an art. When I decided to do a Master’s, I went towards my other love, history, and chose archaeology. A more pratical approach that would hopefully lead me to a career in museums.

None of these paths I have chosen have been perfect for me. All because I don’t have the courage to pursue my true passion - to actually become a writer. To live as a writer. To open myself up to the possibility that I may fail and that I may have to live a less predictable life. I don’t know if I have it in me to be that person.

But as I start to discover more and more about who I truly am, about what I want in my life, it’s becoming obvious that I should have taken the path I chose from the very start. That what I really want to do is write.

I don’t know what I’m going to do with this new found revelation quite yet. I still have an MA to finish and debts to pay off. But I’m starting to think about my future and ways of keeping writing in my life, of someday being able to call myself a writer by profession. Right now I’m thinking that after this MA, I will work for a few years and then possible do an MFA in Creative Writing. I think it would be amazing. To finally be in an environment where I am constantly thinking about my writing, about being inspired.

And until then, I’ll continue writing on my own, because that’s what I’ve always done and always will do.

Learning how to fall

cottage sunset

I’ve been standing here for almost 22 years, on the edge of this dock staring at the water. When I was little, someone would be standing at the end to catch me. With little floatie wings I’d jump, arms and legs flailing, trustingly towards outstretched arms. When I was a little older, I would run the length. Panels of wood would disappear under my bare feet. Careful not to trip, I would jump in with a determined, triumphant splash.

As I grew older I spent more time on the dock and less in the water. Now I stand on the edge. The setting sun paints the water a golden pink. The still, hot day makes the water calm and inviting. I want to be in the water, I’ve already decided to swim. I don’t want to be standing on the dock in my ridiculous bargain polka dot bathing suit, my hair hastily pulled from a French braid, frizzy and shapeless. And yet every time I take a step forward I find myself hesitating. I try to think of the cool water against my hot skin, or the freedom from the bugs swarming around my head, and yet I still stand. Waiting.

“Aren’t you afraid to fall?” I ask my sister. Terrified of heights and prone to falling from my short 5′3″, I’ve never quite understood her desire to be several feet taller, on stilts, and then proceed to do tricks.

“Why should I be? I stilt as if I can’t fall,” she answers.

I wish I could live life that way, I thought. Unafraid to fall or to jump.