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high summer

The other day, I was at the Regent Park
playground with Eli when I looked around and thought, here it is, the best of
Toronto. On one side was a transgender parent with his kids, a man, indubitably
once female, with hairy legs and a beard and a woman’s demeanour and voice.
On the periphery nearby was a woman – I assume a woman – completely covered,
head to foot, including her eyes, with black cloth, like a black ghost. There
were others walking past in niqab, covered but with eyes showing, or just
in hijab, with heads covered; there were Somali mothers wearing long robes but
with faces revealed, and Caribbean mothers wearing almost nothing. There were
Oriental children, black children and brown children, indigenous children, and
even a few white children, like my grandson. Who went right up to a multicoloured
group of boys playing on a roundabout and joined them. And we were off.
Thus began the latest sleepover with Eli.
We had Sunday dinner on the deck with Eli’s extended family – Wayson and Carol,
my tenant and friend. In the morning, he woke me at 7.15, got into my bed and
slept for another hour, giving me time for peace and coffee before the fun began again –
Snakes and Ladders, books, watering everything in sight, playing hide and seek,
always hiding and waiting, with screams of pleasure, to be found. And stories,
tall tales of things he has seen and done (not). A trip to the farm, ice cream.
When we finally left to go back across town by streetcar, he sat on his own in
the single seats on one side, while I sat on a double seat across the aisle. He
sat alone the whole way, looking out the window and studying the Pokemon cards a friend had given him. He’s growing up too fast!

Then off to another treat for me – to TIFF,
to see “The Trip to Spain” with Sam. We’ve seen the first two in the franchise,
Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, British comedians and actors on the road, staying
in heavenly hotels, eating fabulous food and doing ridiculous impersonations at
each other – Michael Caine is their favourite, though this time, they both did
a perfect Mick Jagger. It’s silly and gets tiresome and yet is compelling,
scenery, cuisine, and skilful comedy combined, the perfect film for Sam.
We walked to Terroni, one of the best
restaurants in Toronto where Max, a good friend of his, works, and sat at the
elegant bar in this beautiful restaurant eating pizza and ravioli, drinking
rosé and talking with each other and with Max. It was like being in the movie.

It has been the strangest summer – some
days hot, some chilly, almost every day with a bit of rain, then perfection like
right now, then rain again – even a tornado out of town and a sun shower
sometimes. No complaints, as the garden is flourishing – my cucumbers are
enormous and plentiful – but my friend Rosemary is frantic, trying to plan a wedding
luncheon in her garden next weekend.
However. Into each life. After dinner on
Sunday, Wayson read some pages of the memoir, the new stuff I thought
finally might be working, and had some harsh words for me. Not going deep
enough. Too flat, cool, distant. Reporting not recreating, summarizing not
showing. Etc. etc. etc. It was brutal, and it hurt, especially when he said
that with this memoir I might be flogging a dead horse. A dead horse – just what
I wanted to hear about three years of work. I need to stand back, take some
distance, work on something else for a bit. In any case, luckily, I had already
arranged to send a few of the new pages to Colin Thomas, my editor in
Vancouver. I hope he’ll be able to give me some perspective.

So, up and down, but mostly up, very up. I
am proud to announce I’ve become a major killer with the saucers I put down in
the garden, not of milk for kittens, but of beer to murder slugs. When I come
outside and see the saucers full of little dead slugs, happy in their beery
death, I feel triumphant – basil, tomatoes, saved from their munching jaws. It
doesn’t take much to make me happy.

This does too:



3 Responses to “high summer”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thanks to you, Colin Thomas is my new editor and he's brilliant. From him I received structure, encouragement, compliments and, most importantly – what's working and what's not working. I now have lots of re-writing to do; work that I'll take to Holland with me on Saturday.

    As for the niqab-wearing women in Regent's Park … you call that the best of Toronto? A religion which is highly politicized, instrumentalizes and makes a fetish of female submission is something that we in the West should not have to tolerate. Thank goodness I live in France, not a niqab in sight.

    Juliet in Paris

  2. theresa says:

    Loved this, Beth. And remember that opinions about your work are useful but you own it. Go with your best sense of it.

  3. beth says:

    Thanks, Theresa. I need to take a bit of time anyway, a breather, and then I'll see where I am. This morning I was at Mt. Sinai Hospital for a routine eye exam – glaucoma runs in the family – and thought of the people I know who've recently escaped the finger of fate, primarily you. Brava!
    Juliet, so glad Colin is working out for you. Because I had a niqabi in my U of T class, a strong, articulate, very bright and well-educated woman, and now know others from my immigrant women's conversation group, I have a much more tolerant view of this practice. I do not understand it, I do not like it, but I do not condemn the women who wear it. So yes, a society that tolerates women who want to swathe themselves in black from head to foot – that is the kind of society I want to live in.

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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.


Juliet in Paris, Spain and Beyond
Juliet is a Canadian who’s lived for decades in Paris and writes about her travels and the many things that interest her.