Coming home

I was so excited to come home from university for the holidays that I forgot to think about what it would be like when I got here. I was so focused on the idea of eating home cooked meals and sleeping in an actually comfortable bed and seeing my friends and family that I forgot that coming back after four months might be a little weird.

For starters, I think that my cats took a day or two to remember who I was, which was sad. They used to mob me whenever I walked through the door after school. There was other little stuff too, like the way my cereals are missing from the pantry and replaced with strange granola mixes that I assume belong to my dad’s new girlfriend. My car barely started because it had gone undriven for so long, and driving itself felt really strange after spending all semester travelling in buses and on foot.

Visiting my high school was the weirdest experience. I went with a bunch of friends, and we all agreed that we felt distinctly like we shouldn’t have come. The students all looked so young and the school felt so small. Our old teachers seemed mostly surprised and weirded out that we had come.

That being said, I had a nice time talking to my English teacher, who now tells me she is studying to get her PhD so that she can become a university prof. She says that her new AP class is not as good as ours was; she misses the noise and how I would always argue with her. English was a big part of my high school experience; I had the same teacher for three years and almost all of my friends were in that class. It was certainly a rowdy class. We had some intense debates about everything from Shakespeare to dystopias.

Ms. R: Kay they agree with everything I say! I keep trying to provoke them to argue but they don’t even react. One time I told them I thought we should drug everyone the way they do in Brave New World, and they wrote it down.

Kay: What? No one had a problem with that? Plus, I don’t think any of us ever took notes in your class.

Ms. R: Exactly!!

So that was nice. Also, seeing my friends was wonderful. I thought we would have nothing to talk about because we’re all doing different things this year and we haven’t seen each other in four months, but if anything we have more to talk about. I love hearing about everyone’s respective university experiences. I have a bunch of friends in engineering at Queen’s University, and from what I understand it’s basically a cult. They have these purple jackets and they get badges for them by doing stupid stunts like drinking their height in beer and jumping into freezing Lake Ontario in the middle of the winter. They have some great stories to tell.

I think it’s hard for the friends who stayed at home for university. It’s really different than residence, where there’s always a party going on and it’s really easy to meet people. I feel bad talking about it too much with people like Jan because she gets this wistful look on her face and I worry that I’m making her wish she had gone away this year. She says it’s been hard to meet new friends when she’s only at school a few hours a day.

It was nice seeing everyone, but it also made me realize that an era of my life is over. It’s hitting me now what presumably we were supposed to realize at graduation, that high school is really over and there’s no going back. Sure, I intend to stay close with some of my high school friends, but it will never be the same as it was. Never again will I drive the half hour to school in the city every morning. Never again will we hang out in the hallways by our lockers, or in the journalism room. Never again will we have all be doing the same things in the same place. Will we even have anything to talk about years from now?

I’ve always liked  new things, but giving up the old things is hard. I wish that having all of the new friends and experiences at university didn’t mean giving up getting to see my high school friends all the time. I guess it’s part of growing up though.

I think that the most important thing I’ve realized this week is the importance of home. I get what all of those Christmas songs are about now and why Christmas traditions are so important. It was so wonderful to just be at home with my family and putting up the Christmas tree and drinking hot chocolate. My first day at home Pal and I spent the whole day baking Christmas cookies. We were determined to make them exactly like our mom did for years. All those years I remember being annoyed that she made us help, but now I’m glad that she left us a tradition to share.

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope yours is full of friends and family and food and laughter. Most of all, I hope you get to be home for the holidays, because it is the best feeling in the world.

A happy (and weird) holiday

I just got home for the holidays, and I’m so happy to be back, but I was also prepared for this to be a pretty crappy Christmas. Or at least a weird one. My dad started dating an old friend from college in the summer, but she lived in a different province so I had only met her like once for five minutes. Two weeks after I left for university, she moved in.

Here’s the thing: I always meant to be happy for my dad when he started dating again. I knew it was what my mom wanted, because she told me. I also knew that my dad was lonely. I seriously thought I was going to be a grown up about it.

The problem is that you can’t control how you feel. In spite of the fact that I knew it was a good thing for my dad, I was mad.  I was mad because she moved in right after I left. I was mad because I barely knew her. I was mad because she wasn’t my mom.

Of course I would never let my dad know how I feel. Not only would it make him upset if he knew, but it’s also completely irrational. I decided that I would just be an adult and be nice to his girlfriend over Christmas holidays in spite of how upset I was.

And okay, so far it has been a little weird. Like it’s weird that there’s pictures of her kids sitting next to the ones of Paul and I. It’s weird that when I can’t find stuff in the pantry she knows where it is. It’s weird that my cats curl up next to her on the couch. But what I’ve realized is that her being here is also so good. The first sign was this morning, when I was listening to my dad work. He works from home and spends a lot of time on conference calls, which can often be really frustrating. I got used to hearing him yelling and seeing him throw up his hands in despair. 

He hasn’t been like since I’ve gotten back. I hear him calmly reasoning with people and that’s about it. That’s just one thing though; there are others. The house is cleaner, and full of more healthy foods than my dad would normally buy. And he has so much to say. He and his girlfriend have all these stories to tell about places they’ve visited and stuff they’ve done. They’re both musicians, so they’re in the church choir together and write music. 

He’s happy, I realized. Really really happy for the first time since my mom died. I forgot what he used to be like; for so long him being sad was the norm. Knowing that she makes him happy makes it really hard to be mad.

It’s still going to be a little weird, but I think it’s going to be a good Christmas, possibly the best in years. It’s been a long time since there’s been real joy in our house at this time of year. I’m ready to enjoy it, I think.

The life of a waitress

Waitress is actually one of my new favorite movies, and not just because I am one

Waitress is actually one of my new favorite movies, and not just because I am one

Here’s another waitressing rant, because that’s mostly what I’ve been doing this summer. We get about five different types of customers at the restaurant I work at, which is a low quality, high volume sort of diner place.

First there’s the little old couples. They make up a huge portion of our clientelle and they sit there quietly sipping their coffees and share the clubhouse and fries and maybe they’ll have soup as well on a special occasion. They’re adorable and sweet, although half the time I’m pretty sure they can’t hear what I’m saying. Also, they haven’t quite caught up with inflation, so their tips tend to be a few quarters.

There’s always the teenagers and twenty somethings, who are really chill and don’t need a lot of attention, but always order the most annoying items like milkshakes which take me forever to make. And they constantly need refills. Apparently we teenagers are thirsty people I guess.

There’s always a lot of young families too, and they’re generally nice, but always look tired and overwhelmed by the whole restaurant experience. They’re the most likely to say something like, “do you just have a ham sandwich?” because they’re too exhausted or busy dealing with their kids to read the menu. The kids always make a big mess, but most parents at least make some effort to clean up after them and smile at me apologetically as they leave. I appreciate the thought at least.

Then there’s the empty nesters, who are maybe in their late forties or early fifties and have nothing to do but go out for every meal. One of them (usually the woman, sorry girls) tends to be overly picky. I don’t know why this is true for this age group, but I swear, whenever a middle aged couple comes one of them is all like, no tomatoes, mushrooms instead, and can I add bacon? And do you have raspberry vinaigrette dressing? No? Well then I don’t want dressing. Actually I’ll have oil and vinegar then. On the side. And chicken grilled, not breaded. And this coffee tastes old hon, you better make me a new pot. And I want milk with my coffee, not cream and honey instead of sugar.

….ARGHHHHH! Okay I get that people have personal preferences; I myself like milk in my coffee instead of cream. But I feel like some people honestly just do this to make my life worse.

If there’s anything waitressing has taught me it’s that I’m not as normal as I thought I was, at least not when it comes to eating out. First of all, I order off the menu. I’ve never tried to order something that wasn’t on the menu, but I would say about a third of my customers do. The other thing is that I actually read the menu. I would say three quarters or more of the people who come into the diner choose their meal based on the pictures. We have these awesome banana pecan pancakes, but I swear that the reason no one orders them is because there’s no picture. The two most common items ordered also happen to be the two that have the biggest pictures. That’s hardly a coincidence, and honestly, it makes me kind of sad. People also never read to see what sides their meal comes with, and they always seem surprised when I ask them. A lot of times I’m like, “how do you like your eggs?” and they’re like, “this comes with eggs?”

The jury is out on this whole waitressing thing. On one hand it’s both tiring and depressing, but on the other hand, some customers are really great and they make my day. I love the sarcastic old guys who come in and tease me, and the older ladies who come in together to catch up and laugh. I love our cook, who is always trying to make me smile, and the other waitresses who are so excited for me and want to hear all about my university plans.

And okay, the tips don’t suck.

P.S. I’m on Twitter now! Check me out @kaysfairytale

Started a pandemic whoopsies

Grad was awesome. My hair and make up turned out just right, my friends and I had a ton of fun and I didn’t spill punch on my white dress, flash anyone while getting out of the limo, or break my ankle on my four inch heels (although I did get a really nasty blister. I should’ve broken those suckers in).

It was an amazing night, except for the part where I infected everyone with a deadly disease.

Okay, not deadly exactly. But it was pretty bad. Let me explain. The weekend before grad my cousin flew in from Toronto for my grandma’s birthday shindig, and she was supposed to sing and play piano at the party, except that she had an awful cold and had lost her voice. I didn’t think anything of it. I probably hugged her fifteen or so times. I might have even shared a glass with her or something, I don’t remember.

Anyway, flash forward to that Monday night, when I’m suddenly running a fever of like 1000 degrees (1000 degrees Celsius, not Fahrenheit obviously). Tuesday I spent laying on the couch catching up on General Hospital and feeling like I was swallowing razorblades. Finally, Wednesday I started feeling more like a human and less like a snot machine. Yesss I thought. I’ll be better just in time for grad! Except Thursday was rainy, and it was also the divisional track meet and soccer practice back to back. In other words, Kay outside in the rain all day. Great way to cure a cold, seriously, I so recommend it.

Friday was grad day and I was too excited to care that my throat was sore. I shoved some tissues in my clutch and popped an Advil cold and sucked it up. I was the prettiest booger monster the world had ever seen.

As far as anyone can tell, the infection started to spread at the after-grad party. There was a fair amount of beer cup sharing and shot glass sharing (apparently alcohol doesn’t sterilize as well as we’d thought) and 40 people sleeping on the floor of one person’s basement is never exactly germ free. Also, pulling an all nighter as Jan, Sar, Dee, and I did is not a good disease fighting technique either.

We didn’t have to go to school until Wednesday, but even so, the casualties from the pandemic were evident when I walked into class that day. Dee, Jo, and Alt were all missing (Jo and Alt are dating, so it’s kind of implied that when one is sick, they’re both sick). Mat walked in late with bags under his eyes, and Jan sat quietly in the corner with a tissue box. Sniffles were coming from every direction. The only ones who were safe from the pandemic seemed to be Vee and Andy, most likely because they spent most of the party in one of the bedrooms doing who knows what.

Was the fun we had at grad worth spreading my disease to all my friends? I think so, but obviously I can’t speak for them. It is worth mentioning that I got the worst of it. All day Saturday I literally couldn’t speak at all.

Even now, nearly a week later, my throat is still burning and people are still dropping from the dread disease. At this point, it could last indefinitely. If I were you guys, I would start stashing canned goods and hiding in your basement. I wouldn’t say no to those surgeon mask things either. This is getting pretty intense. If you don’t hear from me again…I’m probably the first casualty of what will soon be a worldwide pandemic.

And all in the name of grad.

On growing up

I like to joke about how at 18 I don’t feel qualified to be an adult. However, the truth is that it’s been a long time since I’ve really felt like a kid. Probably at least since before I started high school.

I mean, I know that I’m lucky. I’ve never been poor or starving, and I spent most of my childhood with two parents who loved me. And at least I got to have a childhood. Most of the kids I met in Kenya learned to cook and do laundry and take care of their younger siblings at maybe four or five years old.

That’s why I’ve never let myself complain about my mom’s death, or use it as an excuse. It could be so much worse. I’m constantly reminding myself of that.

My mom always ran a tight ship. She was the one who enforced rules and made my brother and I clean up after ourselves and be on time for dinner and take responsibility for household chores. That feels so distant now. It’s been years since then.

Now that it’s just me and my dad, it’s different. Some days it’s easy. I like being independent and I like that at my house I don’t have a curfew and I can come and go as I please. I like that I eat when I want and go to bed when I want and when I need something I buy it myself and my dad just pays me back. I’m good at doing things on my own.

But every now and then, maybe every month or two, it hits me that there’s no going back. Gone are the days when I had someone to remind me to wipe off the counter or get ready for soccer practice. My dad loves me to pieces, but he’s never been good at that stuff. Now there are crumbs left on the counter and I remember to go to practice on my own.

In the past few years I’ve learned what it means to be an adult: it means freedom and independence, but it’s also tiring and lonely. Some days I wake up and think, I don’t want to do this anymore. Sometimes I wish I could go back to the days before I drove my mom to chemo appointments and pushed her wheelchair and made her soup and cleaned the floor when she puked it back up. Back when she baked muffins for my school lunch and nagged me to practice piano. If only I could go back there.

These are dangerous thoughts to have; they’re the kind that could break me if I’m not careful.

Church: all the cool kids are doing it

I feel like I can talk to my school friends about anything and it’s awesome. However, there are two exceptions. The first is my mom’s death, because people who have never known someone who died get freaked out about the whole idea of like, dying and stuff. Plus, I think that the fact that I’m so cavalier about the whole thing even though it was only two years ago freaks people out even more.

The other thing that my friends get weird about is when I talk about church. I always forget that as a regular church-goer I’m a minority in my generation. For me, it’s always been a part of my life, so it rarely occurs to me that there are people who have never even walked into a church. I think a lot of people are scared of the whole idea.

I blame the religious crazies for all the church stigma. I don’t just mean terrorists and rapey priests either. I mean those regular people who feel the need to go up to random strangers and be all like, “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour?” Everyone knows those people. That form of relies craziness bugs me so much because it doesn’t attract people to the church, it scares them away from it. I’m all in favour of evangelism, but you don’t get people to accept God into their lives by being all confrontational.

I want people to know that church isn’t like that. Or at the very least, my church isn’t. It’s not about being judged or knowing all the answers or memorizing the bible. A church congregation is supposed to be like a family; you’re supposed to make friends and build relationships and share your faith and ask questions and struggle together and triumph together.

Anytime it comes up, I love to tell people about my church. It’s a small place with maybe 300 members, which is cool because everyone knows each other. The service is an hour long, but we are usually there for two or three every Sunday because before and after we talk with everyone about their lives and our lives and whatever else comes up. Everyone genuinely cares about each other, no matter their age or background or income or culture or even language. There’s this one Japanese woman who speaks barely any English, but she’s been in the choir for years now and apparently she’s really enjoying it and everyone in the choir loves her.

I have all kinds of different friends at church. There’s a lovely lady in her fifties who is a bit of a shopoholic and is always giving me her hand-me-downs because we have the same shoe size. There’s a 13-year-old girl who I go out for lunch with sometimes and assure her that life gets better after junior high. Then there’s a hilarious couple in their twenties who sit in the pew in front of me, and a whole parade of old ladies who loved my mother and want to hear all about my life, and the assistant pastor who is always down for deep philosophical chats. On of my favourite people in the world is my friend’s grandmother, who always mutters sarcastic comments and plays with my hair in the pew behind me.

I know I don’t mention it a lot, but my relationship with God is really important to me and I know that He has a plan for me. He’s always been there for me, especially through the tough stuff like my mom’s death. I see Him working through the people in my church all the time. When my mom was sick, they were constantly bringing casseroles and checking in on us and offering to drive me places or cut our grass or serve us dinner. For most of grade ten my dad was too busy taking my mom to treatments to drive me into the city for school, so a different member of my church would drive me every day. Even now, so many people remember the anniversary of her death and check in on my dad and I to see how we’re doing all the time.

So maybe you feel like God is there, and maybe you just can’t see him in your life. No matter where you’re at, I hope you’ll give church a chance. It’s not just about showing up and reading a bible. Church is a safe place to land, it’s a support system when times are tough, and it can become family if you find the right place. For me, God is love, and I see that love every week in the faces that smile at me on Sunday morning.