it's such a long way home, it's how the story goes

Drove to Montreal to see my niece Stella this weekend. This is something that has to be done quarterly, at least, if only to remind Stella that I'm still here and that I want to be part of her life. That I care about what happens to her.

Stella is seven. She's absent-mindedly addicted to something called Pet Shops. She also has a hamster named Oreo who is nocturnal and bites when forced to be un-nocturnal. Stella says teeth brushing is something that should only be done in the afternoon. But then sometimes you get busy and forget.

Our own relationship might take some work.

I've been sick off and on for about a month now (thankyou, Oona and various daycare minions) and who knows if it will ever end (honestly, I've almost given up) so I finally just had to say to hell with it and get in the car and go.

Christmas, after all, is looming.

* * * * *

Saturday was mild and the highway was fine for driving -- until I hit Quebec. Then the highway turned to shit. Then the usual random mayhem of abandoned roadworks took over. Of course they changed the point where you veer off to 20 Ouest. Of course I missed it. 

So now I'm on Autoroute 40 E heading into the city. Fine, I've done this before: I just need to find that particular bit of insanity called the Autoroute Décarie and burn my way through Centre Ville and down to Pointe-Saint-Charles. But I miss that turn, too. 

Getting lost in the north (read: ass) end of Montreal is a bit like that scene in the Ten Commandments when Anne Baxter taunts a sickened Yul Brynner (as Ramses) after he's lost almost everything -- if only he was being swarmed by rabid monkeys armed with rubber hammers at the same time. The only good thing about getting lost in Montreal is that you can drive around like you have a nagging brain injury and no one seems to notice. 

I do wish I was better in situations like that. I'm fine when I'm with someone else: calm, good-natured, quick with the map. But by myself I'm like Greg Norman at the 1996 Masters.

Anyway: it's 45 minutes of pure psychic collapse that I'll never get back.

* * * * *

The actual visit went pretty well. Rachel (Stella's mom) and Stella put up and decorated their tree. Then their cat Ray Ray knocked it down. Twice. We ran some errands for Rachel, I got to go to the Drawn & Quarterly store, Stella got to go out for Chinese food. There was a weird couple one table over and the male half (who looked a bit like Gollum) kept trying to talk to us, which really bugged Rachel but I hardly minded: my underlying assumption, always, is that Montreal is populated by out-patients and special-needs recipients.

After we got home, C called. In a hoarse whisper (she'd lost her voice), she said that her own cold had suddenly shot up into her eyes, right after I left, and now they were red and swollen, and that while she thought that she'd gotten both her contacts out, she couldn't be sure. This, of course, did not make me very happy -- the idea of a contact being stuck (read: fused) in her eye. And she'd rinsed and mucked around so much in the meantime that she didn't know what was what.

But can't you tell if the vision is any better in that eye?, I asked.

No, she said. The prescription's so weak that I can't tell the difference.

I love being phoned with unsolvable problems. They make me go to bed early.

* * * * *

Stella let me sleep in her bed; apparently, it's a 'treat' for her to sleep on a couch that feels like rocks covered with corduroy. I woke up (I'm sure I slept at least ten minutes, if you added it all up) with both my eyes practically glued shut with sleep. And ooze. At least I wasn't wearing any contacts.

Rachel had to leave early to go to work. She wanted me to walk Stella over to her dad's before I left town.

I don't really remember where he lives, I said.

That's okay, Stella knows, Rachel said.

Um ... can you give me an address anyway? I asked.

I don't really have an address, Rachel said. It's the green door with the flower on it.

Okay, what about a phone number?

Dude! He just got his power turned back on like two weeks ago -- he doesn't have any phone.

Luckily, Stella did remember the way to her dad's. Of course, a snow storm had started, and on the walk back to my car I got turned around a bit, but this time I was able to laugh it off. Ha ha ha!

* * * * *

This is one of Ritchie's drawings. Ritchie is dedicated to the idea of being an artist, and we wish him every success, but we also wish he'd make the necessary compromises with the rest of life.

* * * * *

So yes: a snow storm. And an ice-pellet storm. And a rain storm. Of course, Environment Canada had only mentioned a 40% chance of flurries for the afternoon. Which means 100% chance of crazy storms first thing in the morning, I guess.

Saw a few accidents. People always have that not-thinking look.

* * * * *

But I made it home okay. Ah, I thought. A bath and then relax.

I opened the door to find C looking like Rocky at the end of the first movie. The sink was full of dishes. The house was a tip. Oona was still in her pajamas.

Strangely, C had found the time to put the ornamental pepper shaker back in the glass cabinet.

So I cleaned the house and washed the dishes and set up a play area for Oona and then went out and got groceries and talked to the pharmacist and got some drops for C's eyes. And then I made supper and gave Oona a bath.

* * * * *

And I was letting Oona run around in her room (read: pull everything off every shelf and out of every basket) because I didn't have the energy to stop her and I had the vaporizer going on the floor and of course I wasn't looking when she tried to take the top off and got a mild but still thumb-sized steam burn on her thigh. Ugh.

* * * * *

One of the items on the grocery list had been more soothers (pacifiers); Oona still needs one to fall asleep, and they're always going missing. C likes to boil them before putting them into circulation.

So last night she put two new ones I'd bought on to boil and then went upstairs. And forgot about them.

I was in the bathroom having a shave. I emerged to find the air thick with a misting kind of smoke and that particular stink of burning plastic.

Later, after the smoke alarm and the frantic running around and throwing doors open and me taking a smoking pot out the backyard, C said she was sorry.

I had that pot for twenty years, she said.


  1. thank you! exactly what I needed this morning except the coffee through the nose again! :))

  2. LOL ...makes my life with teenagers look unexciting ;)

  3. Your life is both terrifyingly similar to mine at times (fusing eyeball gunk stuff and crazy weather in this case) and then you go all exotic - WHAT is a vaporizer? do you normally use it on burglars who wander into the house, can you rub people out with them?

    Can I have one?

  4. hello it's me the kid.

    get well soon ok!

    love pain blood,
    -you know who

  5. Aren't children adorable especially on their out look on life?

    My friends kid who is 8, thinks dolphins are scary because of their baby teeth :)

  6. I love the story-teller in you - you must be part Irish!!
    I would suggest you ask Santa for a GPS - but then you may lose material for your stories :)
    BTW - The constant colds brought home from daycare will get better by year 3, definitely by yr 4!

  7. wow..I was remembering with nostalgia the time with little ones. I had forgotten about the lost days as we called them. I guess I am glad they are grown and doing well...surprising turn of weird events!! Hang in there.

  8. Anonymous7:28 am

    Il semble que vous soyez un expert dans ce domaine, vos remarques sont tres interessantes, merci.

    - Daniel


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