An Unexpected Day

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What was your best day?  Of course, there never is just one best day.  There are a myriad of them because there are so many categories that these days can fit into.  When I look back, I think about the birth of my daughter, my wedding day with Nick, the convocations when I got both my B.Ed. and my M.Ed.  But this isn’t what I am talking about.  All of these days were wonderful and come galloping across my thoughts with regularity.  These days were planned for, anticipated, expected and enjoyed.  I, however, am thinking more about the unexpected day.  The one that just crept up on you, the one that just…happened.  My “just happened” day was on July 27, 2010.

Venice, Italy

On our travels through Italy, Nick, Miyuki and I stayed in a house full of students when we were in Padua.  Our main host was a brilliant young math student named Luca Lago.  Luca was a wonderful host.  He cooked for us, toured us around Padua and on our second day he took us to Venice.  Venice is an amazing, magical place.  I have described her before as the dowager Empress of the Adriatic and it is an apt description.  It is a city that should be on everyone’s bucket list and I feel blessed that I have been able to visit her twice.  

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The best way to visit anywhere is to go with a local, but in Venice this is profoundly true.  Luca took us up and down side canals and alley ways.  When we crossed the Rialto Bridge, when we stood in Piazza di San Marco, we were surrounded by tourists and Venetians alike.  Luca guided us off the main traffic routes and into alleys and across bridges that were quiet and isolated.  In spite of the bright sun, some of the canals were shadowed and reminded me of watching Donald Sutherland chasing down the alleys in the 1973 film Don’t Look Now.

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Around corners we found things to surprise us.  Musicians, people in costumes, masks in storefronts, unexpected bridges, hidden cafes.  

 

But every time we crossed by a canal with a gondola, Miyuki and I sighed wistfully.  We both wanted more than anything to ride in a gondola but we both knew that, at €100 for half an hour, a gondola ride was not going to happen on this trip.  Luca knew that we wanted the experience and that we figured we couldn’t afford it.  As we wandered into the late afternoon, Luca brought us back out onto the Grand Canal with a huge grin.  In front of us was a gondola tied to the side of the canal.  Luca pointed at the gondola and said, “Get in!”  When I began to protest, he waved my objections away.  “This gondola takes you from one side of the Grand Canal to the other and it costs just €0.50.”  €0.50?  That was less than 75¢!  We climbed into the wobbly gondola.  The gondoliers laughed at me and said in Italian, “No, sit here.” When I moved they responded with, “No, sit here!” gesturing at another seat.  I moved twice before I realized they were having me on, but it didn’t matter, I was sitting in a gondola on the Grand Canal.

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Look at the smile on my face.  For me, the trip from one side of the canal to the other is up there in the top five experiences of my life.    The canal water was only inches away from where we sat.  Motor boats sputtered past us, other gondolas crossed our paths, the sun beat down on our heads.  It lasted only ten minutes but it felt like a glorious, joyful lifetime.  

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I will never forget that moment.  And I will never forget that I shared that moment with my husband and my daughter and that our new friend, Luca, had given it to us.

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Thinking About 2012

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Every year, for a long time, I would listen to John Lennon’s And So This is Christmas (War is Over) and then I would write a list of things I had done or accomplished that year.  I haven’t written a list  for a very long time but now that I am blogging, it seemed like a […]

Wishing Peace Upon Us All

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I loved this sculpture when I first saw it in Agrigento in the Valley of the Temples.  I love the open hands – to me they represent peace.  Open hands, upturned and cupped together, can neither make a fist to strike nor slap nor backhand.  They offer something to us.  The peace that is inherent in their form.  So, in keeping with this lovely piece of art, I wish everyone a peaceful Christmas, belated Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, New Years or whichever winter holiday you celebrate.

December Photo a Day Challenge: Family

December Photo a Day Challenge: Family

This picture was not taken by me (as I am in the middle in the photo), it was taken by one of my students who is now carving out a career in photography. She took pictures at my wedding and did a wonderful job. Her name is Naomi Fraser.

This is three generations of women in my family. My mother, myself and my daughter.

December Photo a Day Challenge: What am I Reading Right Now and Wrapping Paper

December Photo a Day Challenge: What am I Reading Right Now and Wrapping Paper

This is my Christmas card list (it looks a little empty because I removed the addresses) which I am madly reading to finish my Christmas cards. The list and the cards are lying on some advertising flyers. I stopped buying wrapping paper a few years ago because I didn’t want to buy non-recycled wrapping paper (recycled wrapping paper is difficult to find). So now I wrap presents in coloured advertising flyers which come in the free community newspaper that is delivered to our house twice a week.

December Photo a Day Challenge: Ornaments

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Our Christmas tree never looks like the trees in the department stores.  That is because the ornaments that mean the most to me are not the really pretty ones necessarily, but the ones that have some story behind them.  Here are the stories:

1. Seven years ago I went back to the UK for the first time since I was 13.  I stayed with Andrea, one of my dearest friends, in London.  My daughter came with me and we had a wonderful holiday.  One day she wanted to stay in Andrea’s flat and MSN with her friends.  I went down to Buckingham Palace and watched the changing of the guards.  On my way back I discovered that Buckingham Palace has its own store!  Who’da thunk!  Anyhow, everytime I look at this guard on our Christmas tree it reminds me of that wonderful holiday.

2 & 3 I will explain when I get to 10.

4. This is a little mouse made out of a walnut shell, googley eyes, felt, and glitter.  The first Christmas we spent with Nick (boyfriend then, now husband) my daughter and I made a boxful of these.  Nick had collected boxes of the walnuts from his tree.  We used the shells from his tree to cover our Christmas tree that year.

5. This is the closest thing we have to a department store ornament.  We bought this for our tree the first year we lived together.

6. This glittery snowman was a gift from my mother.

7. I bought this one for my daughter’s first Christmas.

8. Every year my daughter begs me to throw this away.  She made this in kindergarten (she is 19 now).  Every student in her class made a home-made play-do Christmas tree ornament.  This was a cross between a mouse and a snowman.  I know it is ugly, but I love it anyhow.

9. Back in the 80s I lived in Japan for a while.  My best friend, Leslie, came to live there around the same time.  At Christmas, I bought a little fake Christmas tree but I had no ornaments.  When she came over for dinner (I cooked a roast chicken in a toaster oven but I will save that for a different blog post) she brought me three of these little Santas.  I only have one left, but it always has a place of honour on my tree.

2, 3 & 10.  Let’s start with #10.  When I was a little kid, there was a lady who lived down the street – Mrs. Summerfield.  She lived on a huge lot with three houses.  Her house was a big old Victorian era house.  Twice a year she would hold a rummage sale to raise money for children in Africa.  This was the early 60s and people, at least in my neighbourhood, were not as aware of global issues as we are today.  I LOVED Mrs. Summerfield’s rummage sales.  There were always amazing and beautiful (to my 3 or 4 or 5 year old eyes) treasures.  One year, she had an angel dressed in a green dress with green net wings.  I loved that angel.  My mother bought this angel and it was the tree topper on our Christmas tree every year until three years ago when my husband and my daughter complained so vociferously that I finally compromised, got another tree topper as long as I could hang the angel right below it.  (This is picture #2).  Ironically, I think that our Father Christmas is uglier than the angel. (This is picture #3)

I will always love this angel.