All posts for the month November, 2011

We really do like Zellers!

Published November 24, 2011 by megdedwards

I opened a Facebook page called ‘Save our Amherst, N.S. Zellers’! and I meant it.

You would think living in a small rural area would save us from the constantly changing landscape of retail take overs but, in fact, it makes us all the more vulnerable to it.

There are two small towns near where we live and unless we want to drive for almost an hour to the shopping mecca, also known as Moncton, we need to be able to find presents and knick knacks at affordable prices nearby.

I remember when Sackville had an old Steadman’s, oh boy, those were the days!  A small Five and Dime with a selection of stuff from soap to toys. All you need, not too big. Locally owned. It is gone now and I  have been forced to go to Amherst, an odd town in neighboring Nova Scotia with lovely large houses reminiscent of a time when there must have been railway money, but now the town’s only draw is its malls on the outskirts of town and, two, count them, two Tim Horton’s. But at least I could still shop at our Canadian Zellers.

A confession, if I have to feed two kids and myself ,who is probably crashing during this shopping expedition, Tin Horton’s feeds three people with a shared muffin, bagel and cream cheese, tea and drinks for 10 bucks and you can’t beat that. No bad fries on offer.

Back to Amherst, It also used to have a Burger King, now no longer. My son called it “Booger Queen’ , much to my delight.  We loved the Booger Queen. It had a play area, I had small children. It had veggie burgers and KD that  the kids liked and made me feel  that I was not offering my kids some meat from sad  cows taking up land in South America. There were some nice folk that worked there who probably don’t have any jobs at all now.

So off I go to Amherst these days, sans Booger Queen, for a modest Christmas and food shop. Amherst has a little mall with about ten stores in it,which is just my style. Practically right out of the seventies. This tiny mall does not give me a headache and I don’t have to pile in and out of the car too many times.

It has a  Zellers, a dollar store, an electronic shop, a strange store that sells clothing to old  ladies, another store that sells overpriced furniture,(I think these two shops are telling me something about the section of the demographic that has extra money)  a Sobey’s and a Tim Horton’s. Done.

It used to have a Blockbusters but that’s another story. Or, in fact, the same story. It is sad that small Canadian towns are so dependent on American mega businesses. I don’t like it. And we know that big corporations make big decisions about what is working and what makes ‘enough’ money, and that those decisions  have nothing to do with us.

For example, all the stores that are closing or have closed in Amherst were actually making money. They made enough money. People had jobs, and they liked those jobs. For every person I have talked to about corporate franchises closing down their local stores, I have been told that their store did make money. Burger King was popular, and so was Block Busters.

In our little economy, if they had been owned by local independent business owners, it might have been enough. After all, we are not trying to get rich out here on the east coast, just pay modest mortgages and have enough money to celebrate Christmas with a bit of bling.

But for the corporate accountants who see the ‘big’ picture, these far off franchises are not making enough money to justify keeping them going.

What is the solution? To take control of our businesses practices from within our country.

We should be encouraging our own Canadian businesses, and backing them with our taxes, so that we are not vulnerable to every turn in the Amercian economy ( good luck with that, I realize).

And now they are taking away my Canadian Zeller’s! All the workers have been given their notice and the place will be finished soon.  A large company bought it and it will not be replaced by Target or anything like it, most likely. It will just be gone like all the other stores.

And this is the thing, most people will say, just go to Walmart. But I do hate Walmart.  It has a limited McDonald’s for snacks, reeking of saturated fats.  And let me say again, I do hate Walmart.

It is in the less charming mall area, where there is only a Superstore and a Kents.

There’s lots of cheap stuff at Walmarts, and some stuff that is too expensive but I start to think everything is cheap and, somewhat brainwashed by the awful music,  I start to make wierd shopping choices.

There is no indoor mall with people sitting around on benches, and no visiting Santa Claus. No nice old cafeteria in the middle of the store, mostly patronized by families or elderly couples out for the Tuesday dinner special.

So I just have to say, I like the Zellers. It was Canadian! Doesn’t that mean anything anymore?  

And I will miss it. And Walmart will not replace it.

The restaurant in the Zellers reminds of the days when my Grandmother would take me to Eaton’s for a special shop. Of course, those days are long gone too.

Let’s Go to the Cinema!

Published November 21, 2011 by megdedwards

It was a Sunday afternoon and I could edit my essay on XML in the Library System or take my kids to a matinee at our local film theater, the Vogue Cinema.

I got my priorities settled fairly quickly and grabbed the kids. A half hour on country roads and we are in quiet little Sackville, a town that is very lucky to have its own independently owned film theater.

This month the kids and I have been to a bunch of children’s films, Puss in Boots (very funny) and Johnny English (OK) and yesterday, Happy Feet Two ( cute but the vision of environmental changes in the north can’t help but be a bit depressing).

We are looking forward to the new Tin Tin movie, the Muppet movie and whatever ‘girl flick’ I get to go to with my 19 year old daughter. We don’t go to any other movie theater, preferring to support our locally run cinema.

I also go to the movies with my husband when we get a chance!  Thursday nights have been a traditional night out since we discovered the Sackville Film Society. We have a beer at the local pub, Duckie’s,  and then head to the theater where a line gathers in the road as the crowd makes its way into the theater.

Thursday nights with the Film Society are a great date, the films are always good, picked carefully by a group of volunteers and lead by our very own internationally acclaimed photographer and Mount Allison professor Thaddeus Holownia.

The films are either something I missed and wanted to see, or something I have read about, and wanted to see.

We have seen lots of interesting films there, but I will never forget being introduced to the most wonderful filmmaker ever on the night we watched “Goodbye Solo” by Ramin Baharani. I was a puddle of tears at the end, and I won’t try to explain the film here, but I was crying from a mixture of sadness and joy.

The Vogue is pretty packed on a Thursday night, and sort of like going to a party. Sometimes Holownia introduces the film, or begs the audience to have patience with a film that is still being transported across the marsh during a storm.

The occasional technical problems are all part of the fun; the audience knows it is participating in a lost art and is in a receptive and grateful state of mind.

Sometimes Holownia makes a passionate plea to the college kids, a big part of the winter audience, to encourage their friends to put down their laptops and come out to the ‘happening’ at the Vogue.

We love our local independent theater and prefer to go to it than see a film in any other venue. It is smallish, with old chairs and it is a bit hot in the summer and a bit cool in the winter, depending on the size of the crowd. College kids work in the canteen and the staff and owner are very nice.

The Vogue Cinema is a gem and we are always grateful for its existence, hoping fervently that our own loyalty and the loyalty of other audience members will keep it going.

The owner, Jeff Coates, has also invested in the local Neptune Drive-In, which was about to close, and now runs both.

Coates seems to like what he is doing and has enough support from the community to continue.

The existence of our own independently owned film theater puts Sackville, N.B. on the map; a lot of bigger cities don’t have one!

Cheers to the Vogue Cinema!

Snow, Snow, Snow!

Published November 18, 2011 by megdedwards

If the room is filled with a cool white light and the air smells crisp like apples and fresh laundry, then you can tell that it has snowed before you even open your eyes.

I remember the joy of smelling snow as a child, and jumping out of bed to see if it was true.

Yes, Snow! I still feel the joy, but I don’t jump out of bed. I say to my nearest tousled headed child, ‘Look out the window, it has snowed’, and they believe I have magical powers.

I make magic happen. I think that is what mothers do, and some of it is quite a bit of work. I have occasionally cursed myself for creating magical characters like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny for the children.

The magic gets harder to pull off as they grow older and eventually you may have to admit it was all a happy myth.

I have friends who don’t indulge in these particular myths, but I find it funny that they are perfectly comfortable with the biggest lie of all, that there is a God and he is looking after us.

But we don’t talk about that, because despite our religious differences, we are very fond of each other and share similar styles of living.

I have quite a lot of friends who believe in God. But they are not Church going types; they believe deeply and privately and in a sort of passionate way that I respect.

I don’t believe Jesus is my Saviour, but I do believe that he may have existed at one point and influenced a lot of people.

I believe that Life is eternal and unknowable, and I believe that our life on earth is a mystery. I feel the joy of people gathering and singing: choirs or Rasta songs, it is communal joy.  We have to share to survive.

I don’t know what I believe, only that the spiritual world is unknowable.

And so I understand the concept of Faith. I can see that at a certain point we have to turn off our churning brains and feel the passion of Life.

Oh, who am I? Whine whine.. same as I ever was…

Published November 16, 2011 by megdedwards

I have a running commentary in my head that constantly criticizes me, as most people do, I guess.

I should fix my hair, not just let it fall wherever it may. I should do stuff to make myself look good. I should iron or wear makeup.  Care more about what I look like.

I have wondered whether it is just that I don’t love myself that much, or have a deep hang up about vanity. I have pondered the question.

In school, arbitrary girls would sometimes tighten my scarf or offer tips on what I should wear. I didn’t mind because it was not done maliciously.

I was shy as a kid, and felt that I was very plain. That was part of it, sure, but I also had a natural feminist perspective. I just wanted to be who I was.  I remember noting, at a very young age, possibly Grade 4, that boys could come to school with dirty hair and still be popular.

In high school they could fart in class and still be popular. I didn’t want to be a boy, or fart in class, but I just wanted to be taken as I was. I was jealous that boys were free of a lot of the social expectations that are always controlling girls.

I have not changed much since childhood. And I do appreciate that my parents were not nags and just let me be. I had a cluttered room as a child, but clean. I had clean straight hair and brown glasses. It took me a while to move from stretchy pants to jeans, I think a girl advised me to get some jeans in grade school. Later, in high school, a running mate told me it was time to shave my legs. I took the advice, it had not occurred to me to do it.

I used to think that my modest and uncelebrated self was symbolic of not being loved enough, or neglected in some way. I wondered, anyway. But in my heart I was glad that my parents had never bothered me about who I was, and just let me be. That is great parenting, in its own way.

I have a very feminine personality, I loved having babies. I am a gentle, fairly passive person, nurturing, introverted, cautious, loving, and sacrificing. But in my heart I feel like a man.  And why is that, because I am strong minded, sure and confrontational if I need to be? Because I love to throw on a pair of jeans and a shirt in order to get dressed, and I resent uncomfortable bras?   Because I don’t care that much about makeup or what my house looks like?

Even at my advanced age I can see that men seem to be less hindered by a need for approval. So, as always, I take my cue from men. I won’t be trapped in the superficial and restrictive social expectations lumped on women.

But even now, when I look around my house, I feel the criticism, loud and clear, from my in laws and from some friends. How can I live with such a cluttered house, is it not detrimental to my health? Don’t I want my house to be clean and uncluttered like a hotel room or their houses?

Well, I am here to try to convince you and myself; I like it just the way it is, just the way I like myself just the way I am. And I am, and have been, consistently exactly like this for my whole life.

I don’t throw a lot of things away because I am sentimental.

I don’t clean all the time because I like to write. I cleaned today though:  the bathroom, the cat box (washed the whole mother), the kitchen floor and some vacuuming, that disturbed the cats. Now my hands are all dry and I don’t feel like doing it anymore.

But here I am arguing with invisible critics, who live in my head. See, I clean, I am a good person! We all want approval in the end.

I do make compromises. If I was unmarried you can bet I would cut off my hair and let it be short and gray. The lesbian look would be mine. But that is too much to ask of my devoted husband, so I have taken to going to a lovely hair stylist, Susan Polley in Sackville at her shop, Touch of Class.

Bit by bit she convinced me to cut my long brown and dramatically greying hair. She does an amazing job, dyeing and shaping it, and it looks surprisingly good, considering how little attention I pay to it.

Susan laughed when I told her that I was pleased to see that my hair looked good, if I occasionally looked at myself in the mirror. I told her that my daughter Rose had said that getting my hair done was the least I could do, as I didn’t indulge much personal vanity.

And Susan, my beloved hair dresser, who is a wonderful person said, ‘Oh, you  have your own style, Meg’. And I just felt like hugging her.  

Digital Archives: ‘The Evangeline Collection’

Published November 14, 2011 by megdedwards

My recent course work in Library Studies has lead me to a beautiful digital collection on the Nova Scotia Legislative Library website called “The Evangeline Collection – Commemorating 400 Years of Acadian Settlement”.

Found on Facebook – Murmuration

Published November 6, 2011 by megdedwards

A beautiful video made by Sophie Windsor Clive and a friend as they paddle into a murmuration of  starlings, masses of diving and flying birds take over the sky. The video, on Vimeo, makes your heart soar; at times the tiny specks seem to make up whorls of fingerprints or swirling storms.

Please watch it endless times!

Wedding Parties, Love and Hypocrisy

Published November 3, 2011 by megdedwards

We were lounging in my daughter’s shared house in Halifax watching that reality show about women choosing their wedding dresses when one of the young college girls turned to me and asked me directly, “Did you cry when you chose your wedding dress”?

I looked to my daughter, is it OK to tell your house mates my story, I asked? Oh yeah, she answered, knowing the tale all too well. Joe and I were married at the old City Hall in Toronto when I was hugely pregnant with Rose, and we had already been together about 8 years. We invited his parents to be witnesses because Joe’s mom had cried when we told her I was pregnant. There was also a financial reward, a tax break of some kind that made the whole deal more attractive to my husband.

The wedding ceremony was quite funny because the man on duty at the time thought he should make an appropriate speech based on the information he saw before him. Joe’s passport states his birth city as Jerusalem so the Justice of the Peace or whatever he was, intoned on the beauty of Canada (not knowing that Joe had been a Canadian since he was 4 years old).

I was obviously pregnant, so he reminded us that marriages take time and we would know each other better in a few years (not knowing that we had already been together for so many years) and finally, when Joe put the ring on my finger (I bought it at a cheap store on Yonge St. just in case we needed one, it was three thin silver coils wrapped together), he said, “Will you Joseph take Mary”?

I guess the mention of Jerusalem and the sight of the pregnant bride made him confused and he suddenly had changed my name from Margaret to Mary, but at this point I guffawed out loud with Joe and it was all over.

We did not have a party, we broke no dishes, we did not cross hands and drink out of glasses or allow people to make stupid speeches. We did not introduce our cultures to each other, god forbid, and we did not make them share a hall and dinner and the outrageous costs of the event. You’d think they would have been relieved. Maybe they were, we don’t really talk about it.

I did not care about not having a wedding; I honestly did not care at all. Very few people believe me but I did not have wedding fantasies when I was a child, and by the time I was 13 all I heard from my mother and sisters was how marriage and weddings were hypocritical and a waste of time.  I never dreamed about wearing the white dress and walking down the aisle, and I think for Joe, who hated his bar mitzvah, the idea of a wedding party was a nightmare.

But most of all, Joe and I were in agreement that we did not want our two families forced together for a ritualistic event. We knew at the time, and now 27 years later I can tell you that we have not been proved wrong, that the prejudice in both of our families would have been evident.  I think we could both hear the snooty comments made behind each other’s backs, from our respective families, and could not see why we would want to host that particular event.

Joe’s family saw my family as the epitome of what was wrong with WASPs, and to be honest we pretty much lived up to the worst of it. In my family and for many generations back you can find insanity, alcohol and/or drug addiction, affairs/divorce, and bad housekeeping and mediocre cooking.   And we think very highly of ourselves, for no apparent reason. We are brought up to be snobs about working people, but don’t necessarily educate ourselves, and we believe in noblesse oblige even though we are generally cheap and broke and should not be looking down our noses at anyone at all.

Both families would have put on their best hats and behaved well if we had had a wedding party, but there was just no need for the charade. Looking back now, I wonder whether my Dad, who was more conventional than my Mom, was disappointed that he never walked one daughter down an aisle.

I enjoy other people’s weddings, though. It is generally a fun celebration with food and drink and dancing, and I partake with enthusiasm. I enjoyed my eldest brother Rhys’ wedding last weekend in which he married the lovely Carmen.

The sermon at the Catholic Church was quite nice, all about love. He even said, Love is forever, sometimes marriages don’t last, but love lasts forever. Some guffawed later at this, but it is true, and in fact he was marrying two older people who had been married before so he was not out of line.

And this philosophy of love as the guiding force of our lives makes sense to me. I am a very spiritual and unmaterialistic person, it is just that I don’t happen to follow any Church or love any one figure that stands in for love.

At the wedding the two families kept fairly separate and I am not sure if anyone made the effort to reach out to the other family. My brother had argued that the tables should be mixed up so people could get to know each other, but his wife had made the good argument that people who had traveled a long distance to see each other would want to sit at each other’s tables.  So we sat with our own people.

By the end of the night the two groups had merged on the dance floor. But when the dance music began to sound somehow more Asian, and the dancers had begun group dances, a lot of the WASPS dropped out.  Not me though, I love to dance, I am a dancing fool. I’m not sure but I think I may come across as Elaine in this area as well, but it does not stop me.

There were dances in which you had to know steps, and I found the older guy who seemed to know and followed him. And there was a dance where someone grandstands in the middle and everyone dances in a circle until the next person drops into the middle.

When I jumped into the middle, and then dragged my two nieces in with me, there was a big cheer. Ah ha! I had broken down the two cultures stand off!  I felt proud knowing that I had helped merge the two cultures for a few minutes. And I danced and danced, celebrating love.

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