My new book “Midlife Solo” is now available.

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fun and fear

From Sunday – a story of seasonal celebration, and the same old violence.

Sunday evening, Chris and I went to an Xmas party at the home of my old friends Jessica Bradley and Geoffrey James. Jessica and I have known each other since 1967; she went on to become a professor of art in Montreal, then the Curator of Modern Art at the AGO, and now owns her own gallery; Geoffrey is a superb photographer of landscapes, Italian gardens, slag heaps, cities, trees. Their two sons have been friends with my son for many years; all three performed as Wise Men in the annual Christmas pageant I helped run at Riverdale Farm, three teenaged boys with dishcloths on their heads, giant Nike’s sticking out from under their cloaks, standing on a picnic table holding gifts for the Christ child.

The family holds an annual Xmas party, where someone from the worlds of writing and theatre, like me, can meet visual artists, people who make their living mostly wordlessly, with colour and shape. And sure enough, there by the fireplace was Michael Snow, who at 81 has a smashing new show at the Power Plant, and many others. So we drank and talked and got ready to eat Geoffrey’s spectacular ham. I was able to congratulate Ron Graham, an old friend of theirs, for his superb Walrus article on Michael Ignatieff, mentioned a few days ago in this blog. Mostly the feedback has been good, he said.
Then the door opened and a very tall young man entered – my son Sam. A new experience, to be at a grown-up party with my offspring, there to celebrate with his own friends. He did meet Michael Snow, and I was able to whisper that this was the man who’d created the Canada geese instalment at the Eaton’s Centre, among many other famous works; Sam was suitably impressed. At 11 or so, Chris and I, full of dinner and drink and interesting talk, bade everyone goodbye, including a roomful of laughing young men, and left.
My phone rang at 3.45 a.m. It was Sam. After midnight, he had gone to a pub with Jessica’s sons and at 3 was walking the few blocks to his own place, when suddenly, he was struck hard from behind. He fell and was surrounded by 3 guys, kicking and punching. They stole his hoodie and his money and ran away, leaving him on the ground with a black eye and many cuts, bruises and lumps. And much rage and humiliation. When he got home, he told me, he looked in the mirror, and there was a boot print on his face. I told him this was his “annus horribilis” but he didn’t know what that meant.
Sam recovered, I think, more quickly than I did. In the morning, after talking to his doctor and calling work – he has just started a new job as a waiter/bartender, but couldn’t go in because of his battle scars – he came across town to the home where he once lived. There’s my baby at the door, limping, with a battered face. I was very glad to be here, glad his godfather, Chris, was here too. At times like this, being a single mother is especially hard; oh, for someone around to pat me and say, “Don’t worry, he’ll be fine.” I can say it to myself but am sick at heart. “Get a cab late at night!” I nag him. “Don’t wear headphones on the street, you need to hear what’s happening.” But he is 25 and invincible.
What kind of stinking jerk wants to fight 3 to 1, to hit someone from behind and hurt them for $27 and an old black hoodie? What kind of city do I live in where these things happen on a regular basis? This has happened to Sam before, the first time much worse. Is he a target because he’s so visible at six foot nine? Chris and Sam talked and concluded that I worry too much. Gosh, guys, thanks for that. I’ll just stop worrying right now. No problem.
Chris flew back to Vancouver late that afternoon, and Sam went home. Gradually, my own shock level decreased. At least, the young man had a place to go to find empathy and, even more importantly, a big, hot lunch. But how do we keep them safe, our young ones? How do we still the fear in our own hearts? Nothing to be done. That night, I turned on the television, to see YoYo Ma and James Taylor playing “Here comes the sun.” So beautiful and serene, guitar, cello, Taylor’s familiar voice strong and clear. I counted my blessings – friendship, family, health. A few glitches here and there, yes. But we’re all still here.

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces

Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it’s all right



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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

Some Blogs I Follow

Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.

Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.

I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.

Carrie Snyder
Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.


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