Unblissful Signs

Coat of arms of the town of Kingsville, Ontario.

Coat of arms of the town of Kingsville, Ontario. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A note of explanation: As many of you know, I am the municipal reporter for my small town paper, but I also write a column. This week’s column was the subject of yesterday’s post, but I also wrote a second half. This is the second half. The woman mentioned in the article, Mary-Ann was a legal secretary and she and I worked at different firms years ago (she was a real legal secretary, I was someone  floundering in  a sea of unemployment until my father-in-law hired me). Steve, the associate editor is my colleague. The signs that I am talking about are the portable signs that seem to be popping up all over our lovely town of Kingsville in southwestern Ontario (we brag about being the southern most town in Ontario)–and as you can see from the column, I am of two minds–I believe businesses should be able to advertise and prosper, but I also wish that they could find another more attractive way to do it. I tend to stay away from opinion pieces having to do with the municipality–because I want to maintain my subjectivity–but sometimes you just have to speak out:

 On a Different Note…..

            “Signs, signs, everywhere a sign

            Blocking out the scenery breaking my mind….”

           

            Many of us of a certain age remember the song, “Signs”, from the early 1970’s. It was performed by an unknown Canadian rock group, Five Man Electrical Band and composed by Les Emmerson. It was written during what Wikipedia calls “an era of social and political change.” I would argue that all times are eras of social and political change, but that is an argument for another time.

            A few weeks ago, Mary-Ann Costa wrote a letter to the editor about the proliferation of signs in our little town that tend to take away from our quaintness. Intrepid associate editor Steve I ‘Anson then took up the gauntlet and expressed his dismay at the way some signs do not add to the attractiveness of our town.

            I usually like to sit on the fence in matters having to with do the rights of others, which is not to say I do not have an opinion but I generally do not voice it. In this case it is the rights of the business people vs. the rights of aesthetics—and to say that one is more important than the other would be wrong. I do not have a solution, but if someone came up with an attractive way to display what businesses have to offer they would be instant heroes.

            I am not crazy about the proliferation of these signs. I cover municipal council and I know that they have come up with a by-law to deal with the signs—but the matter to my mind is complicated.

            Civic pride should not suffer at the hands of business, nor should businesses suffer at the hands of those with delicate sensibilities (my husband says I suffer from this), but there should be a solution. There must be a middle ground—a way to advertise that does not offend or to paraphrase the song “Signs”: block out the scenery breaking our minds. We need to put our thinking caps on.

            Our town is quaint and lovely and a wonderful tourist destination—but it is also a place of business. Can’t the two come together?

 What do you think? Do you have any suggestions that would make our lovely town more blissful?

My Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

Charlie Brown

Charlie Brown (Photo credit: Elizabeth/Table4Five)

Last year I was about to buy a new Christmas tree when I had a conversation with my son who is away at college. That conversation resulted in this offering (slightly edited for you) which I wrote for my weekly newspaper column.  As I get ready to put up the tree this year, I am not even thinking about getting a new tree–the die is cast–and until it falls apart, it will be part and parcel of our Christmas traditions.

The decision has been made. No new Christmas tree this year. I bandied the idea about and even went so far as to look at some of those fancy pre-lit trees. But I talked to my youngest son, Tyler, who is coming home in a couple of weeks from college, and he said no to a new tree. He wanted our traditional, though far past its prime, spindly Christmas tree. I call it our Charlie Brown Christmas tree, as I have to finagle with the branches to get them not to droop, and wedge it back into a corner, forcing all of its branches forward, thus producing a thicker, more (seemingly) luxurious tree.

Now you may be thinking to yourself that if I want a new tree, I should get a new tree, and not necessarily listen to the nostalgic whims of my son. But, I too, had doubts about getting a new tree. And some of the new ones I looked at were really no better than the one I have, once I put my magic spell on it.

I decorate our Christmas tree as if there is no tomorrow. The branches are layered with ornaments we have received over the years. Homemade and store-bought share space on a tree that groans under their weight.  But the stars of the show are all the decorations that both my sons have made over the years, carefully wrapped in tissue until they are brought out  to be placed lovingly on the tree.

Macaroni sprayed gold and arranged in wreath shapes, reindeer made from those old large Christmas light bulbs with antlers shaped out of chenille pipe cleaners, sleighs cleverly fashioned from popsicle sticks, tissue paper stained glass bells and stars, and pinecones with glitter galore will adorn our tree again this year. Of course we have a million other ornaments, each imbued with memories, or just purchased because we liked them. But really, our tree, like yours, is just an excuse to walk down memory lane for a few weeks in the dark bleak midwinter.

In honour of our cat, we don’t put tinsel on our tree, as a choking cat is not a festive thing to see—and as the rest of the members of my family are quite taken with Kitty Bob, I make this exception without much regret. But if that cat does to the tree what he did to the tree last year, one of his lives is going to be threatened. Thankfully a teddy bear took the brunt of his indiscretion and could be thrown in the washing machine, but I was none too happy.

On a more festive note, once I wrestle the lights onto my “old” un-pre-lit tree, the rest is gravy.  At one time I made my husband do this job, as I found it frustrating. Now I just wind the lights around the tree in a “come what may” fashion, and they actually look better than if I do it carefully. I have learned over the years that by dressing the tree with about a thousand ornaments, those obnoxious wires will effectively be hidden from sight.

A Christmas tree, no matter how battered, is the repository of memories past, present, and future. Maybe next year I will get a fancy dancey pre-lit tree that has all its branches, but this year I will be happy with what I have.

(Note: 1. This is next year, and I will not be getting a fancy dancey pre-lit tree. 2. The cat did not do the unspeakable to the tree last year.)

What traditions do you have that cannot be broken?

English: Closeup of a string of decorative Chr...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then and Now

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As many of you know, I occasionally include my newspaper column on this blog. It is the 14th anniversary of my column “On The Homefront….and Beyond”, so I thought I would share it with you. It appears on p. 5 of the Kingsville Reporter:

I have been writing this column for fourteen years now. It started out as a joint venture with another writer friend of mine, Liz Moore, but after about ten months she moved to London and this space became mine. A lot has changed in 14 years. I was a young (young being relative here) mother then, with a 7 year old and 12 year old. The topics I wrote about then were a bit different than the topics I write about now.

Then, I wrote about sending my kids back to the first day of class in September, and performing a ritual “happy dance” until my oldest asked me not to do it anymore because it made him feel like I wanted to get rid of him. I understood, and I stopped doing the happy dance. And I quit humming “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of Year” to boot. After a summer of wracking my brain to find things to do to keep my kids from being perpetually bored, I was probably ready to have them back at school, but I did not want them to know that. And if I were honest, they were pretty good at keeping themselves busy and happy.

Today, my kids are in their twenties. One is away at college and is a computer genius (which you have to realize that to me, anyone who knows the ins and outs of a computer is a computer genius— still, I think he is brilliant—but I am his mother after all.) I call my eldest son a Rock God, which he is not really comfortable with, but he is getting used to me referring to him as such. And he does play a mean lead guitar. His band is called Rodents & Rebels. Not a name a mother would choose, but hey, they like it.

Then, I would write about our adventures in the soccer field, at the baseball diamond, and on the basketball court. Today, my kids talk about being “buff”, which I think means there is a six-pack in their future, whether it be the liquid kind, or the “arrangement of six bulges in the human abdomen” kind (this definition thanks to all-knowing, all-seeing Wikipedia).

Vacations back then took the form of camping trips, which was and is not a favourite past-time of mine. But in retrospect, with the nostalgia factor kicking in, camping really was a great family time—even if you had to sleep on the ground and walk half a block to a washroom where the showers were always cold. I remember waking up in the morning to coffee and eggs and bacon being cooked over an open fire in order to get me to “stay just one more day mom” and of course I would acquiesce.

English: Camping by Barriere Lake, Barriere, ,...

English: Camping by Barriere Lake, Barriere, , Canada. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today, organized vacations take the guise of attending out-of-town weddings or celebrations together, and are not necessarily vacations, but as a mom, I will take any time together with my grown-up kids.

Fourteen years ago things were different. Fourteen years are admittedly a long time in a family’s life—we have all grown a little older—some us have to dye our hair now, some of us do not have as much hair as we did then, and some of us are not home all the time. Sometimes I would give my eye teeth to have that time back, but I also like things as they are now. We still have a long way to go on our journey, and I will continue to let you in on our lives as they change over time.