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Clearly not my neighbour, but someone like him.

Clearly not my neighbour, but someone like him.

One of the world’s greatest bagpipers has moved onto my street. This is a good and not-so-good thing. 

As a native Nova Scotian, I have been known to burst into tears when confronted with a pipe and drum band.  I am inordinately fond of pipe music. It makes me emotional. The sight of a line of swinging kilts clutching armloads of pipes with the drums rat-a-tat-tatting right behind never fails to send me over the edge. Blame it on all those Natal Day parades in front of Lake Banook. Where I’m from, where most people have their own tartan, a party isn’t a party unless it ends with a drunk piper wheezing on the front lawn at 4 in the morning. That’s just the way it is.

However, it takes an enormous amount of practice to be one of the best pipers in the world, and the people in my neighbourhood can tell you that this practice happens religiously between 9 and 10:30 every weeknight.  Not that we’re complaining. It’s exciting to have a celebrity musician in our midst, and who hasn’t cut loose with the stereo or an amplified electric guitar once in awhile…live and let live, right? These last few weeks, we’ve been humming along, then closing our windows and putting the kids to bed under the cooling breeze and insulating sound of a floor fan.

Except last night, something cut the practice short. I’m not sure what it was. Speculation has arisen that it might have been complaints from a protective grandmother with visiting toddlers. Maybe the piper got a blister.  Whatever prompted it, a blissful silence fell over the neighbourhood. We switched off the fans, threw open the windows and breathed the sweet night air. It was lovely while it lasted, but I hope this is just a temporary hiatus.  I’ve never been the best in the world at anything – and I respect the amount of work and sacrifice (and practice) it takes to master an instrument as difficult as the pipes. When I listen to my neighbour work at it night after night, I feel like I’m part of his clan, and frankly, I’m rooting for him. Even when I close my windows.


My mother has discovered Skype. She called last month and asked if we could try it, because her friend Fran uses it to talk to her daughter. She and Fran are fast friends, but my mother doesn’t like Fran to get ahead of her on anything, especially when it comes to connecting with daughters.

It took us three weeks and several false starts to start talking via video, while we tried to figure out why a) I could neither see nor hear her (turn camera on) b) I could see but not hear her (purchase and install microphone) c) I could hear but not see her (enable camera on Skype).  The first time it all came together I had to work to convince her to put the phone down. She didn’t believe we were talking through the computer until she actually saw me through her computer without a phone in my hand.

My mother lives in Halifax, which is about five hours away. We talk weekly on the phone and are now strangely even more connected through this magical digital phenomenon. I now risk that little phone ringing everytime I go online, but I admit it is reassuring to see her smiling brightly on the other end of the video link, having just applied lipstick and fixed up her hair for the occasion. She wants to “see” me, she says. And more to the point – she wants to “see” her grandchild. It’s lovely to see the look of glee on my mother’s face when Lucy climbs on my lap and appears onscreen. Fran doesn’t have any grandchildren yet. At least Mom’s ahead of her on that one.

VCA010-DISNEY-PRINCESS-follI apologize for being absent the last week or so, having been caught in a storm of work, home and school assignments. I am now, however, caught in the act of procrastinating so I might as well make the best of it and share some observations on the subject of Princesses. 

I am being swarmed by Princesses. We have princesses on light switches, backpacks, socks and toothbrushes. Princess notepads, colouring books, coloured pencils, cut-out dolls and markers. I found Sleeping Beauty staring at me from the bathroom doorframe the other day, where a small hand stuck her, having peeled her away from friends Snow White, Belle, Jasmine and Cinderella who linger, until the next time, on the Disney Princess sticker sheet. 

Anyone who knows a five-year-old girl, or has been one recently understands that Princess is a real, actual profession. If you ask, you will find out that Princesses live with their friend Hannah Montana in Disneyland and you have to ride a plane to see them. They wear beautiful dresses of pink, yellow and baby blue, favouring bows, ribbons, roses and crowns as accessories. They do not have body hair, toenails or bad teeth. In fact, if you look closely, you will find that their teeth are actually one solid mass of grinning white, beneath perfectly shaped Princess lips.

The downside to all this is the fact that there is only one Prince. When Cinderella and her girlfriends go to the Ball, they have to wait for the Prince to choose which one he will dance with and then marry, and then spend the rest of his life with. Happily Ever After. 

As my mother’s daughter, raised in the empowerment age of the 1970s and 1980s, it is mildly horrifying to me that my own child thinks these things and more – doesn’t believe that Princesses have armpits.

Just yesterday, Lucy and I were playing with cut-out dolls (Cinderella and Belle) on our sunny garden deck, putting stickers shaped like jewels, bows and flowers on their massive magnetic ball gowns when talk turned to armpits. 

Me: Lucy, that dress goes just under Belle’s armpits, you might need to stick her fur stole on her shoulders in case it’s cold at the Ball.

Lucy: Mommy, Princesses don’t have armpits.

Me: Of course they do, sweetie. And I bet they have to shave them too.

Lucy: No Mommy, they don’t. They are Princesses.

Me: (Masking growing hysteria, attempting ‘teachable moment’) Lucy, Princesses are grown-up girls. They have armpits and vaginas and belly buttons and all the things that real women have. Just because they….

Lucy: (Closing eyes, covering ears with hands) NO NO NO NO NO NO NOOOOO!!

I played with Barbies. I loved their long hair and strange bodies and the fact that their feet never rested flat on the ground. I don’t think this scarred me. I read all about Princess too, and never thought it meant I needed a Prince to complete my own story. I have a busy full-time job and a husband who bakes bread and does the laundry, in addition to his busy life teaching university students how to think and write. Don’t get me wrong, my husband is definitely a prince, but not the kind who rides in on the white horse to rescue me from some evil fate. 

Lucy is surrounded by strong, capable women who have jobs, body hair and brush their teeth. Her teachers, her sisters and my friends and I are all as real as they come. I hope we are modeling a reality check to that Princess fantasy so brilliantly commercialized by the Disney Corporation. I think this will all turn out okay in the end. 

After all, while I couldn’t convince Lucy of the proper anatomy of a Princess, she was the one who took off their ball gowns and sent them off to their pretend jobs with packed lunches and pretend cellphones. For the record, Belle works full-time in a candy store and Cinderella is a unionized bus driver who carries her job manual in a sparkly pink purse.

July 2018
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  • throwing my grammaaa a party today cant wait to dee the surprisment in her little face :) it makes me excitied evertime i see shes 99 now 5 years ago
  • genuine people dont come around often.If you find somebody real,enough to stay true,keep them close. 5 years ago