Hit the gym, not the trainer

I have started working out again, after a long dry spell and a stern warning from my doctor.

“It’s about your bones,” she admonished me.

It’s funny how, as we age, we go from thinking “how does my butt look in these jeans?” to “why isn’t there a railing here, do they want me to break my hip?”

I sat in front of a trainer who had been highly recommended to me. Lying to your trainer is like lying to your dentist about flossing; one minute into the session, the truth comes out.

“When was the last time you worked out?” Mike asked me, poised to take some notes.

“One year and four months ago,” I responded.

He raised his eyebrows. “You know that specifically?”

“Yup. I had to get in shape for some pictures, and the second they were done I ate a pizza and stopped working out.”

In fact, I ate many pizzas. My abs looked like somebody had stacked a bunch of those quilted moving blankets on top of them. I told Mike he had to fix those. I also told him I didn’t want my arms to blow in the wind.

Mike started to silently curse the person who had recommended him.

A first training session is much like a first date. You’re both very polite and you both want to know pertinent information without looking too weird. Mike had to find out how much of a wreck he was taking on. He had me do a series of exercises as I pretended not to hear my knees making noises like somebody driving over broken glass.

All was going well until he handed me a skipping rope. I looked at him blankly.

“I don’t skip,” I informed him.

“Come on, everybody skips! Just give it a shot, see what you can do,” he said.

Most trainers are part cheerleader, which makes you want to simultaneously admire their optimism and punch them. I held the ends of the ropes, and carefully stepped over it. I swung it over my head and it stopped at my feet.

“Uhm, you have to jump,” he said helpfully.

I hopped over the rope. I swung it a few more times, managing to jump over it once, in a double bunny hop. I did it twice more, out of a dozen attempts.

Mike was looking at me. I’ve seen that look. It’s the “come on, everybody can skip” look. Only now it was saying, “wow. I thought everybody could skip.”

“OK, you know what? We’ll come back to skipping,” he told me.

I shook my head. We would not be returning to skipping.

We ran through a bunch of other things, mostly to my liking. If it involves weights or sit-ups, I’m happy. If it involves running, jumping or anything requiring coordination, forget it.

Mike brought out a big ball, and demonstrated how I was to sit on it, and then do some exercise. I wasn’t listening to him; I was busy telling him I can’t sit on balls.

He began his skipping pep talk again, so I sat on the ball. And fell off. I got back on, finally got balanced, when he proceeded to tell me what the exercise was.

“I though balancing on the ball was the exercise,” I patiently explained.

“You know what? We’ll come back to the ball,” he told me.

I didn’t say anything, but I mentally placed the ball beside the skipping rope. A few minutes later, a box step Mike thought I would be hopping onto joined them in exercise equipment limbo.

Something tells me one of us is going to get more of a workout than they bargained for.

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Wine, women and bad, bad art

Super_PortraitI met up with a bunch of girlfriends the other night at a bar in Toronto.

It wasn’t the usual meet-up: we were there to take part in a Paint Night, which is now a thing. You pay a few bucks, have your own canvas and smears of paint on a plate, and commence to recreate the masterwork which is displayed on a table. You have the actual artist there to direct and help.

Or in my case, to drive crazy.

I can’t draw or paint, at all. I was a few minutes late, glanced around at what my friends were all doing, and grabbed a brush.

“Hmmm,” I thought to myself. “They’re painting ocean at the bottom. I can do that.”

I ordered a glass of wine and slapped a few colours together and made wavelike brush marks across the canvas. My wine arrived. I made some more swoopy brush marks. It seemed to be nighttime in the original, so I put in more black. This wasn’t so hard.

The original had a big moon with a tree silhouetted against it. There might have been some birds flying to the right, but I never got that far. It seemed to be a night sky, which made sense with the moon. The artist was explaining how to make a purplish sky. I mixed together some colours on my plate that looked decidedly more like mud than purple, but used it anyway. It looked sad, so I threw some white on top of it. Now my brush was all gobbed up, but then I discovered another brush at my place setting.

I drank some wine.

I made more bold strokes for the sky, pleased with myself for capturing the moody quality of the painting that all the others seemed to be missing. I cleaned up a brush and started poking at the canvas with yellow paint to make a moon.

As I immersed myself in the artistic process, I vaguely heard the artist explaining that to achieve the right dimensions for the moon, we were to trace a paper plate.

Wait. What? I looked up.

I’d done my circle freehand. It was wobbly. I’d put so much white in the sky, my moon looked more like a sun. Sort of.

I pondered how to add the foreboding tree outline, then realized that trees can’t grow out of the ocean. I asked my friend Jenn why we were trying to paint trees growing out of the ocean.

“That’s not supposed to be water,” she replied, carefully tracing her paper plate moon. “It’s ground.”

I decided to forgo the tree all together. What is art if not free expression?

My right hand was getting tired with all the big, swoopy motions so I switched to my left. It made little difference to the end result.

I asked Jenn if she would like me to demonstrate my stabby technique to help her with her moon. She politely declined.

I could hear the artist giving advice to everybody as their creations began to look more and more like the original. Mine continued to look less and less like the original.

She stood behind mine, and paused.

“I like it,” she lied.

I decided I was done and proceeded to mingle with my friends while my masterpiece dried. A guitar player tuned up, and started playing Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon.”

“Oh! This is the perfect song,” I told a waiter who brought me more wine, as I nodded at the paintings.

“Well, we do karaoke every Wednesday night. You should come then,” he replied.

“I sing like I paint,” I replied.

“Then maybe you shouldn’t,” he smiled.

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If you buy me gadgets, I will throw them away

The Halloween decorations are finally down (they went up in August), which can only mean one thing: it is officially gadget season.

You thought I was gonna say Christmas? No, though it’s understandable why there could be some confusion. This is not about seasonal festivities; it is about the purchasing of tonnes and tonnes of useless gadgets because everybody feels obligated to buy something — anything — whether the intended recipient will want it, need it, or use it. It’s when gift giving goes from being from the heart to running down a list. It’s why we have singing bass on plaques, corkscrews as big as anvils, Patty Stackers, ThighMasters, Pet Rocks and Chia Pets.

One year, my sister got a Very Ugly Vase as a wedding gift. It’s the kind you see in the store window of a dollar store and think, who would buy a fake crystal Very Ugly Vase for five bucks? It was bad. I have a couple of Very Beautiful Vases that were wedding gifts, and while I have divested myself of nearly everything that reminds me of being married, even I admit these vases, that I rarely use, are beautiful and I like the way the light flicks through them. A little beautiful crystal goes a long way.

The Very Ugly Vase has gone a long way, as well, because for years, it kept popping up as a gift to someone in the family on some occasion. Whoever had it would hold on to it just long enough to let it slip from memory then, bam. You got nailed with the Very Ugly Vase.

Sometimes we filled it jelly beans. Sometimes we disguised it in huge boxes. The Sommerfeld sisters know how to have fun. The problem is that, like gadgets, the Very Ugly Vase is only a momentary joke and then someone is stuck slugging it around for years.

Maybe it’s because I just spent most of the past year tossing things out and stripping my home to the bare walls, but you can learn my lesson early. I’ve had to clear not just the accumulated crap of my lifetime but much of my parents’, as well. Tucked at the back of cupboards and closets, stored in boxes in attics and basements, stashed in crawl spaces and stowed in trunks — junk.

Oh sure, some gems popped out, like a few years’ worth of old magazines that made an artist who hauled them off very happy. That trunk itself, battered and bruised, is now my coffee table.

But for the most part, it was simply a burden of things. My mother arrived from England with almost nothing, and my father came from the prairies with even less. The things they accumulated had to be considered and saved for, unlike today’s Dollar Shop stockpiles amassed weekly, randomly, flippantly. I’ve often thought the fact I was so broke when I got divorced and the boys were tiny was a good thing; I had to watch every dollar and the only thing we could get for a buck was a movie rental from Six Penny Mini Mart on Friday nights.

I think gag gifts should have to serve two purposes, like something that makes you laugh and then you can eat it, or something that makes you laugh and then you can use it as kindling.

Give someone good socks instead of a Christmas CD; give them a new snow shovel instead of a Duck Dynasty bobblehead; a bottle of wine instead of a remote controlled flying shark.

I tossed the Very Ugly Vase this year.

At least I told my sisters I did.

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I will not scan my own things; I want to protect your job

Saint Lorraine, the champion of lost causes.

I know. There is already an official desperation saint – Jude, but my self-anointing act is for a very specific cause: we need to get rid of self-checkouts in stores and iPad ordering in restaurants. Every time I see new self-checkouts appear, I see real people losing their jobs.

Home Depot has done it for years, but their system is so hopeless they have to have someone oversee each transaction anyway. Ikea’s checkout area reminds me of a cattle drive, and half the time I’m not sure what chute I’m standing in. So I leave, my Bostrom candleholders (that’s my private inside baseball Swedish joke; you can Google it) stuffed in a bin, having checked out with neither a real person nor a machine — no doubt assembled with an Allen key and much swearing.

I noticed a McDonald’s last year sporting kiosks so you could order your own, but I also noticed the strained looks on the faces of the staff who knew their hours were about to be cut as well as their numbers. Shopper’s Drug Mart installed a row recently, and I resolutely ducked them like I do the others, though I know it’s pointless.

Automation has rewritten many industries, and we don’t question that robots assemble our cars, our electronics, our food and everything else. It’s been happening for decades, yet as we decry the loss of good jobs on this side of the world we continue to buy ridiculous amounts of junk made on the other. The reason that television and those shoes are so cheap is because your neighbour didn’t make them. Hell, they’re so cheap, it’s not even worth having another neighbour repair them when they break; buy new ones!

And so we’ve watched job creation be mainly in service sectors, where you ask one person to supersize that before you head to the next place and ask another if those jeans make your butt look big. We don’t need anyone to build, it seems, though we do need to be served, and we continue to consume. Bricks and mortar malls are hollowing out, once meccas of consumption now leaving communities pondering what do with acres of … nothing. How many fitness places do we need? We order everything online, including the next computer to continue ordering online.

But now even those service jobs are under threat, in our quest for streamlining.

I can barely – just barely – remember when my mom’s groceries were bagged (in paper) at Steinberg’s by a separate bag boy. What’s a bag boy, you ask. Then checkers did the bagging, and you marvelled at the skill involved in creating the perfect balance by weight and volume; this one has your eggs in it, be careful. Now, of course, your groceries tumble down the belt askew, buttons pushed to hurry things along, those peppers you carefully chose mashing against the shampoo bottles like elevator doors encountering a hand or a foot.

Maybe you want to do away with those who take your order, who scan your merchandise. Maybe we’ve made their jobs so thankless, we believe we’re better off without them. Maybe we can quantify mistakes made; I worked retail for a decade and our mistakes were real, and counted, and sometimes caused a customer inconvenience.

But I also helped your youngster buy your birthday present, I lifted heavy things into your car, I called you when something came in that I knew you were waiting for and I suggested things that might work when what you wanted was sold out.

It’s called customer service. If you want it, you have to help protect it.

Not scanning.

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You paid for my breasts; I promise to take good care of them

BRA Day was recently held at Juravinski Hospital.

Breast Reconstruction Awareness is an apt acronym; the day is a chance for women to find out what’s happening in the medical field, ask questions and try to ascertain their best course of action. It’s also an opportunity for some of us who have already trodden this path to doff our tops and put a face and a voice to the experience.

I stood there wearing just jeans and boots, and I was not the brave one. My prophylactic double mastectomy and reconstruction had headed off a bad outcome. My experience is not a stitch on those who are forced into the treatment trenches, battling a vile disease that continues to take too many too soon, and forces the rest to scale mountains nobody is equipped to tackle.

The women I spoke with who thought I was baring my soul, as well as my breasts, will never know they were showing me so much more. In the midst of the swirl of uncertainty, fear and overwhelming damned sadness, they were revealing the core of who we are and how we move forward.

I stared into eyes of women young enough to be my daughters and I had no words. I wanted to hold them all, to fix them all, to swallow their fear and their pain and do that thing that parents do, that women do, of mopping up the broken glass, sponging up the spilled blood.

I looked at women my own age and wanted them to know if I could do this, they could do this. I looked at women older than I am and wanted them to know strength often comes from surprising places. We all have it.

Breast cancer, and the threat of breast cancer, attacks families but ultimately it is up to a woman to face it down alone. Your body. Your mind. Your emotions.

Doctors deal in the actual blood and guts and I’m grateful they do. To hear them speak about what qualifies as a good outcome and to know they’re considering a woman’s sense of self, her sexuality as well as her survival, is a tremendous affirmation that we are more than the sum of our parts.

We live in a country that gives us choices — overwhelming choices, at times — but choices. In other countries, including the one to the south of us, too many women must wither before they are allowed to take charge and decide for themselves. It is often too late. We suffer from choice; others suffer from no choice.

I spent too long trying to defend rebuilding my body as a vanity project. I could convince myself I was allowed to live, but it took far longer to decide I was worthy of living a version of myself that made me feel whole.

Surely breasts, long past their physiological need at my age, could be lost without recourse. I considered removing them and moving on. Some fabulous women have done just that, and they look amazing.

But the same way they could choose and celebrate that, I wanted something else. I wanted some semblance of who I used to be, even if I had no way of knowing what that would actually look like. Every woman is different, and surgeons can only guess at outcomes.

Two other women shared the room with me that day, both happy to show and share what some of those outcomes can be. We’re on the other side of the bridge, hoping only to reach out a hand to those beginning the journey.

No matter what we look like on the outside, these are warrior hearts beating beneath.

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Camo, you had one job

You would think a tendency to wear a lot of camouflage clothing would make me less susceptible to sporting noticeable gravy stains. You would be wrong.

I started dressing like a 13-year-old boy when Christopher was 14. I simply started taking things he’d outgrown and calling them my own. Kids’ clothing is expensive and they wear it for about 10 minutes before you’re off to the store to replace them — the clothing, not the kids. I am thrifty; not terribly stylish, but definitely thrifty. I’d always liked men’s jeans better than women’s, and now I had a reason to wear them.

On a recent trip, I emerged dressed for dinner and a fellow guest’s eyes widened slightly as he announced I had a very eclectic fashion sense. If I had more money, I’d be considered eccentric. I do not, so I have to stick with eclectic, which means weird, no matter how much your friends try to tell you it doesn’t. On this particular evening, it was my camo pants, though teamed with very darling boots and a snappy jacket, which led him to his declaration.

The thing with camo is, it’s cheap. I get my camo pants at Old Navy for about twenty bucks, in the men’s section. They put that stuff on sale all the time and as long as it sort of fits, I’m going to call that a find. I broke my own code on that same vacation, however, and found a camo jacket that was not cheap but was also too fabulous to leave behind.

While attending a fairly swank event the other night, I was wearing my new jacket. They had several food stations set up, the kind where they feature upscale versions of food you recognize. They had a poutine bar; I am not a fan of poutine, but it had the shortest line and I was hungry.

I decided I’d just take a few high-end fries and grab another glass of wine. As I waved off the cheese, the poutine-maker plopped some gravy on the fries. I think gravy on fries is kind of gross, but I reasoned it would be designer gravy and I was hungry. Whatever.

I ferried the fancy china scoopy bowl of fries back to the table, a fork and a glass of wine in the other hand. One fry later, and the fork was on the floor. I’d rested it in the bowl, and it had launched itself out.

The woman next to me said she’d done the same thing.

I stared forlornly at my little pile of high-end fries lying in their little puddle of designer gravy. I debated trying to eat them with my fingers, but heard my late mother gasp somewhere in the back of my head.

Someone handed me another fork.

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My trash is not just anyone’s treasure

I missed the “blue binners” controversy in this paper by a few weeks. I was busy having a binner controversy of my own.

I am startlingly lazy, which means I don’t return wine and beer bottles and cans to the store for whatever refund they nickel-and-dimed me for when I purchase them. I have no interest in building a stash until I lump them all to some place, usually managing to leak onto the carpet of my vehicle so it smells like a beer parlour. Instead, I put them out in recycling.

As a kid, gathering up beer empties was a source of income. I used to scour the local parks on Saturday and Sunday mornings, grocery bags swinging from the handles of my bike as I scored two cents a bottle and felt like a Pilsner princess. My father was immensely proud; he had no problem building a wall of beer empties himself and would add my grungy collection to his horde and, more often than not, let me keep the entire reward. The best day of my young life was finding a 24 case intact, and balancing it home on my handlebars. My father was bursting with pride; my mother ran and hid.

For several years now, I know a man has quietly come and retrieved my empties. This is OK with me; hell, this is a variation of what I used to do. I try to separate things out for him, even. He uses a cart and he is incredibly tidy. Have at it, Recycling Man, I say to myself.

At Christmas, there was an envelope tucked under the wiper blade of one of the cars in the driveway. It was a card from Recycling Man, thanking us. I took it as a sign he appreciated my thoughtfulness; my sister said it was a sign the household drank too much.

But a couple of weeks ago, a car pulled up outside my house. I’d put my blue bins out perhaps an hour before, and as I watched from inside, a couple rifled through them and also snagged a couple of 12 packs I’d neatly stacked beside the bins. For my Recycling Man. Not for some couple who were driving door to door. Don’t ask me why I cared who took away something I was chucking out; that is not the point. For some reason, that is not the point.

The other evening I was still out front when the familiar car pulled up to my curb, yet again. Out hopped a woman who immediately grabbed my bins and began to hand bottles and cans through the open door to the driver. I stared at her.

“I’m taking all your beer empties for you,” she said.

“I see that. But they’re not yours.”

I could have told her they are technically now the city’s, or still mine if they’re on my lawn. There is a never-enforced fine for people raiding blue bins, and the city has a return policy with a contractor for my empties. No, I wasn’t bothering to argue that she was breaking the law.

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Why adult children are the best

I know people who lament their babies growing up.

I am not one of those people. My life is so much easier now that my kids are adults and I am unashamed to admit it.

I actually took a holiday recently, a solid week that wasn’t work. It’s been 20 years since I did that and it took me about 10 seconds to decide that I like it. And it would have been far harder to do if it weren’t for the fact that I was leaving young adults behind instead of ankle-biters.

Sarah moved in to watch the cats. She is old enough to live in my home, and responsible enough for me to think about my cats exactly zero times during my entire trip. Except for the absence of cat hair on my clothing, I forgot about them. One of my now grown up babies made that possible.

Pammy supplied airport rides. She was on time, and the rides both ways were seamless. I flipped her the itinerary a few weeks in advance — weeks — and didn’t really have to remind her. It is not lost on me that so far, my examples have been about young people who I didn’t actually give birth to. But still.

I used to have to sort out car schedules before I went away. I used to fill the fridge, find everybody’s health cards, leave a list of emergency numbers pinned up and remind them not to spend the money on the counter all on beer. I used to hide extra house keys so when they texted me about being locked out, I could direct them to a new key. I did none of those things this time.

In previous years, they knew my travel schedule was tight, heading to places often out of reach. It could be hard to contact me but I would still stress about finding ways to touch base and put out fires like some kind of remote emotional fire truck.

This time, I lugged along a laptop I never turned on and had a phone that sat uncharged for days at a time. I took a holiday and my kids barely noticed.

I hate shopping but felt I should bring something back. I’ve heard that’s a thing people do, and I recall my own mother taking empty suitcases with her so she could return laden with trinkets from England and, of course, chocolate.

I’m the queen of carry-on so, instead, I spent all my time driving incredible Italian roads and eating my weight in cheese. I kept thinking I should buy the boys something but in the end, I brought earrings for the girls because they were easier to carry and I knew my sons — those adults — wouldn’t care.

There are four excellent bottles of wine in the suitcase which reminded me once more of our new dynamic.

They’re old enough to want to share, and smart enough to appreciate it.

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What if nobody wants your china when you’re gone?

When my mother was dying, she’d make lists and notes — and corner each of her daughters trying to determine where all her things would end up.

It wasn’t that we couldn’t have anything we might have wanted, it was that most of us really didn’t want anything. She desperately wanted us to cherish things she’d spent a lifetime collecting. The reality is that adult children have usually accumulated their own households, and no matter how good that couch is (“it really is worth recovering”), we already have couches. And linens. And artwork.

I know people with four or five sets of china, passed down to hands that must say yes and when they want to say no. Times change, and the idea of waiting to use things that bring you joy is odd to me. If you love your china, use it. Because when you’re gone, the chances are good it will end up turfed. The world has too many sets of china.

I’ve recently been helping some friends faced with the enormous task of sorting and dispersing their late parents’ life. Every picture tells a story, it seems, and so does every piece of crystal and each set of old skis and all those books and cabinets and tables.

The siblings and their children did claiming rounds, slowly naming pieces that could augment their homes. This is a special family, with everyone wanting to be certain items ended up with whomever it meant the most to. There was little rhyme or reason about what something might be worth; this is a time of emotion, and emotion rarely makes sense.

One of the daughters, my friend Jill, lives overseas. It was difficult to know some of the things she desperately wanted — a blanket box, some crystal glasses — would be so hard to get to her. Moving companies go by weight and size, not by the fact your grandfather carved this or your great grandmother quilted that. There is what something costs and there is what something is worth, and at no other time in life — the end of it — is this disparity so startling. If you’ve ever asked yourself, “How could I possibly put a price on that?” try to ship it overseas and they’ll put a price on it for you.

Even after choosing and delivering so many things, so many more remained. A monster garage sale was held, where those in attendance got some beautiful items for a pittance. More was donated and much was hauled away. And through it all, I’d remember my mother’s pleading eyes and the lies we told her to let her rest.

When I bought this house, it came chock full of my parents’ possessions. Mom had cherry-picked what she wanted for her new, smaller place and the rest was mine.

My father was a collector, to put it kindly, and it took dumpster after dumpster to make a dent in the basement, the garage and the shed. Over the years I’ve pared even more, and after fake-moving this spring, I had the place cleared to the bare walls.

It’s taken me most of the summer to move back in and make it home, even though I never left. I am decidedly not accumulating much for two reasons: I like being unencumbered, and so my sons don’t have to face this taxing process when I go. I’m going to create memories, not collect china.

I’m getting on a plane tomorrow with a box marked ‘fragile’ in my lap. It means a lot when a mother and daughter both value the same thing; I can’t quite tug a blanket box into the overhead compartment for my friend, but I can deliver her mother’s crystal.

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Birthday cake and onions

This family always celebrated the end of summer and the start of school with a party.

Ari’s birthday is the end of August, so it’s been morphing from childhood birthday parties into teenage craziness and now? Well, now it’s a sitdown dinner and their friends still come, but I can once again supply all the food and drink because nobody is playing beer games or barfing in the shrubs. My babies have grown up.

We don’t do presents, because as I remind all of the kids all of the time: having me for a mother (or mother substitute, like: I Can’t Believe it’s Not Mother) is present enough. I am a gift, I tell them, and they pretend to accept it.

I actually got Ari a cake this year, and had them put balloons on it because it felt festive. White with chocolate icing, and “Happy Birthday Ari” scrawled on it like he was 3 instead of 23.

Ari and Taryn have gone the full vegetarian route now, which makes me do a cautious menu selection. The true test of accommodating half your guests is people fighting over everything served at the table, not staring forlornly at the neutered sawdust patty on their plate.

I’m not sure how my son has left steak behind but it’s easy enough, especially this time of year, to make vegetables the star of the table.

Taryn came through the door with a big bucket full of beautiful flowers. Her sister, along with her fiancé, works a farm, and Ari and Taryn spend a lot of time on the weekends helping out.

“Bouquets for all the girls!” announced Taryn, and I swiftly grabbed a bunch featuring sunflowers. I don’t usually do flowers; these were stunning, and as each “girl” arrived they claimed their prize.

“Wait, there’s something else,” said Ari, heading back to the car.

He came back wielding two glorious onions, stalks a couple of feet long and dirt still clinging to the bulbs.

“These are from the ones I planted in the spring. They are so good; we just sliced and ate one the other night. Here. Try it.”

I pretended it was the onion that made me a little teary as I added it to the roasting pan.

My father grew onions. My father ate those onions right from the knife. My father bragged about his onions, and he had every right to because he grew fabulous onions. And his grandson, who can’t remember him, was doing the same thing with the same joy in his voice.

Yeah, it was the onions that were making me cry.

A couple of days later as I scrolled through friends posting first day of school pictures of their little — and not so little — ones, I got a note from Ari.

“This Mexican thing is fantastic. Taryn and I split the leftovers to take to work.”

I’d sent everything home with both sets of kids, just like my mother had always done. Christopher and Ari had agreed to split the birthday cake, which was actually more surprising than the fact there was any left over at all.

On someone’s Facebook feed, some grouch asked why first-day-of-school pictures even matter. I smiled and knew before I checked that he had no children.

Kids hold signs in those pictures now; mine just squinted into the sun and told me to hurry up. Though I often had to cajole and bribe Ari and Christer to get those pictures, they are the mile markers of childhood.

Nothing reminds me of that so much as seeing them as adults now, bringing me flowers and onions and sharing birthday cake.

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