What is your picture?

Today is a post in response to Marie from ‘Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer’, who found the idea from Jen of ‘Keep the Calm’. The challenge is to post a photograph of yourself (or something that represents you) which captures the ‘you’ of the past little while.

So this is my photograph. It’s so peaceful looking and calm, but in reality we were travelling across Hungary in the backseat of a car, and I was trying not to vomit from the motion sickness. Zsolt thought I looked pretty. :) And I think so too, in my no-longer-nauseous reflection on the photograph.

But that’s not why I chose this photograph. The past six months . . . okay, the past NINE months (gag!) have been both wonderful and difficult. We are searching for ‘the big break’ in terms of careers & living on our own (cause yes, we’re still with my parents), feeling as though we haven’t settled, desperate, once again, to find a sense of home. And yet I am home with my family – something I’ve lacked for many years. We can get together for dinner, go for tea, share a beautiful day . . .

Both wonderful and difficult. All the while, I’m there in the back of that car waiting for resolution. With little bursts of success like my freelancing (at the detriment to my creative writing) and Zsolt’s consulting, we move forward. We are moving forward. I am saturated in the family I’ve been missing so much. Things are good. Things are a little hard.

But what you don’t know is at the end of this car ride we pulled up to a home where there were dogs in the yard, pigs in the pen, chicken running round, and a family with open hearts and tables filled with food. The good stuff exists (and much of it is already here), so I can tolerate this ‘ in-between’ness, because I’m certain it won’t last forever.

(Though displacement does appear to arrive in waves. That is the life of a person who travels, home is where the heart is . . . except we leave bits of our hearts wherever we go.)

Would you like to join the challenge? Post a photograph of yourself, or something that represents you, and let us know the story (or don’t since a picture is already speaking at least a thousand words). You can post the link here, or on Marie or Jen’s pages. I’m sure we’d all love to see.

Take care,

Catherine

Where do the memories go?

Last Friday involved a lot of heavy lifting. (Not for me, of course. There’s to be no heavy lifting with my right lymph node-less arm, but for Zsolt and my father.) We were collecting the last of the furniture from my grandmother’s old apartment in Montreal.

It is so strange to see the place empty. This is where we used to sit in a giant circle with the family and catch up. This is where she used to put chocolate bunnies filled with marshmallow on the table for the kids. This is where she made her sugar cream, baked her cookies, and did her work for the Alzheimer’s Society.

As you may know, Zsolt and I are growing in optimism that we’ll soon move out of my parents house. And as you know, we upped and left our previous place (and previous furniture – except the mattress, which was impossible to offload) back in England. So the collection of free and gently used furniture is a very welcome thing.

But it’s a little strange to have this nest of Lulu’s old stuff, waiting to be turned into ‘our stuff’ as we move into a new home. It’s strange because I look at the sofa that was hers, and I can remember sitting on it when we visited, and it’s been in her home for so long . . . and it makes me wonder, “Is Lulu in this sofa? Is this sofa part of her?”

Same goes for the kitchen table where we’d eat the take-away St Hubert chicken and gravy – a Forget Family Favourite. Or the dishes on which she’d serve meals back when she was better, less worried, and still cooking for guests.

So we have a household worth of furniture, and her apartment is now essentially bare. Empty. Sold.

“Is she in that apartment? Is she in the bits and pieces we take away?”

Where is she now?

Well I’m not qualified to answer that last question. But as for the others, I reckon she’s not in that empty apartment, and she’s not in the cushions of her old sofa. Mostly, I figure, she’s right deep in our memories and our hearts – the good and the bad, the woman as a whole. She’s in the memories. And as for her soul? Well, Lulu believed in heaven, so that’s where she’s bound to have gone.

Looking at the empty rooms, the bare floors, the naked shelves . . . I can feel that she’s not here anymore. Lulu is somewhere else. We get to keep her memory in the knickknacks and the photos . . . but she is not here anymore. She’s moved on.

And so shall we.

It couldn’t be easy on my mother and her sisters to pack away their mother’s life. But maybe they’ve come to the same conclusion, that Lulu’s life does not rest in her things. The objects and furniture are memories, good emotions, happy moments . . . but they are not her.

It’s not easy to say goodbye to a person you loved. But once you realize they’ve already left, I suppose it becomes just that little bit easier. (I’m not saying it’s entirely easy, and I’m not saying I don’t miss her . . . but she’s not in that apartment, I know it for sure. So I have to imagine she’s somewhere else far better, with my grandfather and her siblings. And they’re having a laugh with those angle wings on and acting some ridiculous pantomime like back in the old days. Why not? Anything is possible.)

 

P.S. Today (Monday) Zsolt and I are steam-cleaning Lulu’s old furniture. It’s been a while since they’ve been cleaned, plus she used to smoke. So we’re out here in the backyard with this foaming, splashy, steamy machine trying to fix things up real nice. Her furniture is becoming our furniture, and so it takes on another life.

P.P.S. That’s a photograph of Lulu (Lucienne) and Benoit. Aren’t they a handsome couple?

Here comes the hair!

Okay :) I have a smile on my face because today’s post is about NOTHING important. You know how lovely it is, I assume, to think about unimportant things as opposed to those scary-oh-shit-this-isn’t-happening-it’s-all-a-dream sorta stuff. None of that today.

Instead this is about hair. Not the loss of hair, but the growth!

Christmas 2010 – sooo long ago, yet very vivid in my memory, I was cracking jokes about reverse balding as my monk-like hairdo slowly began to spread in wisps of light brown hair over my bare head.  It was almost worse than being bald, because bald can be sexy, cool, edgy, hip . . . but random wisps around my crown with a bald patch on the top is not sexy. I covered my head more in those days than when my scalp was completely bare.

Christmas 2011 – not soo long ago, but a bit of a memory by now. The hair had grown back across my head, and while it was about an inch, it was cute. Downside was that I had a massive V-shaped hairline, exactly like my brother’s, and it wasn’ exactly feminie. But the hair was coming. . . ohhh baby, it was coming!

Spring 2012 – I shake my head and bangs fall before my eyes, over my eyes, hanging all the way down BELOW my eyes. HAIR. HAIR. HAIR. Beautiful, glorious hair. No matter that it flipps out to the sides like some Archie Comic character. No matter! It’s hair!

And I predict that by Christmas of 2012, this stuff may just be styled into a proper bob. It may even have BLOND HIGHLIGHTS.

Okay, I’m abusing the use of capital letters. Okay, I’ll stop. BLOND HIGHLIGHTS!!!! Okay, I’m done.

[Zsolt just came upstairs and massaged my shoulders. . . oh my goodness. Every home should have a Zsolt.]

Anyhow, it’s still a little strange and crazy, but it’s coming in. No way do I look bald, and it took about two or three months after treatment for it to fully grow in and cover the head. Short hair looks gorgeous on women, by the way, and I truly believe each and every one of us can rock this look.

Sometimes I look at women who are 2 or 3 years out of treatment, and I literally ogle their hair.  It’s almost hard to focus on their conversation. (Is this how men feel about breasts? No wonder they get distracted.) For some reason, the importance of hair is so deeply ingrained into us. It’s associated with health, with femininity, with sexuality, with glossiness and – really, it’s deeply linked to identity.

And honestly, I’m almost kinda nervous to grow it out into a bob, to dye it blond again, to go back to that look I had before chemotherapy (though I love that look). . . I guess I’m a little afraid I’ll lose it all over again. But I can’t be afraid of things just because they were associated with cancer. Can’t abide with the fear.

My wedding anniversary is upcoming. I will be excited for it. I will not freak out that I’ve got an oncologist appointment right around the same time (this is where the important stuff starts creeping into the conversation, and I promised not to go there today – so it stops here.).

Blond is good. Hair is good. And sweetness of all sweetness, it’s finally coming back.