This Saturday, I drove my 14-year-old son and 4 of his friends down to Storm Crow Manor for a DM&Dine session as a belated birthday party.
Picking the boys up from various corners of our neighbourhood, I knew a lot of the streets because I have mapped out or driven routes to pick kids up for the After School Program at work.
One of the boys was in Noah’s baby-mom playgroup that I joined when Noah was about 6 months old, so we’ve been stopping by his house for that long. Another one of the boys is the sort-of stepbrother of Noah’s best friend (also along for the ride, but goes to Noah’s arts high school in dance. And the fourth member is a straight up new friend from high school.
Noah’s choice of music was an 80s classic rock station, which played Queen, Steppenwolf, and The Police (“hey…that’s Sting, why does the display say The Police” – 14-year-old) as we drove past the cemetery where Emily is buried. We drove by Carl’s and my first house, neighbourhoods where we have visited friends, where my sister lived, where we’ve worked. Down Church Street to park across from Wellesley station.
Storm Crow Manor is nerd paradise in the middle of Toronto’s gay village/rainbow district/whatever I should call it, please comment.
The DM for Noah’s party, Nicole, is a friend of mine that I met on PernMUSH in I think 1992 or 3. When I was on maternity leave for Emily’s birth (March 2004), she took my job, which created awkwardness when Emily died, but we worked out a job share arrangement that I hope worked as well for her as it did for me. I ended up first at home alone after those part-time hours, and then working remotely a lot of the time from Ottawa, because Carl accepted a contract that meant he essentially moved there.
What I think I have perhaps never told her is that her friendship was one of the strong strands in the web that held me up during that time.* My daily life was like watching TV with the volume off; things only kind of rolled by. I left the house early each day and walked in the cemetery and talked to Emily. Then I worked until mid-afternoon. I would take the GO Train home, and stop at the LCBO in Union Station on Mondays and buy a bottle of whiskey. Each day I would add a chocolate bar. I would come home and do physical labour — yardwork, painting the basement, clearing out the barn, anything that tired me out. And then I would crawl into bed, watch VHS tapes of Sex and The City, drink a finger/two fingers/three fingers of whiskey and eat my chocolate bar, and go to sleep. But every now and then, Nicole and I would hang out and discuss everything not to do with work, homes, or babies.
In June of 2004, Nicole invited me out for Pride. She was (and is) married, so was I, and so we hit the party with nothing on our minds but dancing. And we did dance, like crazy, drunk and hot and sweaty and dehydrated.
I had been moving into the role of mother, avoiding sushi and soft cheese, reconfiguring our home, planning Life With Baby, and then the house of cards came down and I hit a new barrenness. Dancing with Nicole, and in the energy of that celebration of identity and self, I felt a shaft of joy again. It went through first just as happiness, and then a shock of recognition of it, and then a wave of guilt that I could feel it with my baby in the ground. But most of all, that feeling was possible, in the after.
This all hit me after I dropped the boys off to enjoy their campaign in the hands of one of the best storytellers I know. The way enjoying “nerd stuff” is mainstream now. The way my son and his peers accept fluid gender and sexual identities. The presence of my living children in my life. The amount of joy every week that we all share. The way my Toronto and Scarborough roots have spread underneath me and pop up everywhere in the ground itself. And the way Noah is just at the start of that, making some memories with his friends.
It’s a pretty rich life going on.
*In typical fashion, I am posting this on the Internet before I tell her, if I even do.