All posts filed under: Nonfiction

Laurie Carr Cover illustration

Earning Back My Stripes

For a long time, I rejected my culture and everything that connected me to it. This might have been my way of repressing painful memories of what it was like to grow up in a hurting country or just what society had taught me, that assimilation and survival of the fittest are analogous. Now, a “hurting country” can mean many things. The Honduran people impeached our president when I was very young. That’s when I learned the word provision could be used to mean ‘all the food on the shelves that was jam-packed with preservatives, because “you never know when the grocery stores will be back in use again”’. Corruption made Honduras a hurting country. The idea that fair Latinos were worthy of promotion and hire, while  “coloured” Latinos were not,  also made Honduras a hurting country. So, I chose to pride myself in the fact that because of my mother’s Colombian nationality, I wasn’t fully Honduran. I wasn’t property of the hurting. I had a way out. Now when I look down at my …

River Riding

In the mid-1980s, after my second year of law school, I was working as a Summer Associate in a law firm, hoping to be offered permanent employment after graduation. As a perk, they took us by luxury bus from San Francisco to the American River for an afternoon of inner tubing, bonding and beer. Instructions were limited: “When you get to the rapids, make sure you go down feet first.” No life vests were provided.

The Blood You Aren't Born With

The Blood You Aren’t Born With

1. I remember the hymns of these words like a late-night infomercial; people telling me to move on. People telling me to get over the fact that I don’t know my dad. It sounded the same each time, coming from different lips. Therapists and lovers. If you have a dysfunctional family, there are other options out there for you. You can gather family in new people. Someone you just met on the street, a man which you, by tender accident, brushed against at a train station. Someone you’ve been sleeping with to fill the void of what feels like a swollen water ballooned chest of loneliness. You can gather new family in a co-worker, asking her how her weekend was like an inflamed mother would. Or a teacher, imagining him as your father, teaching you what to do and what not to do. Letting your heart liquefy when he tells you you’re doing an exquisite job. There are other options if you aren’t close with your relatives. If you’ve never met your father. If you …

Dead People I have Known

Dead People I have Known

Ean Hay—December 23, 1925 – May 26, 1977 They appeared quite suddenly in our midst. On my island, where everyone knew everyone else, these newcomers stood out like papayas in a basket of apples. Each one of them: Ean and Mary, and the kids Lauren, Toby and Colin, wore one of Mary’s handspun hand knitted and hand dyed sweaters, each one with a row or two of diamonds across the front. They were Mary’s signature, those diamonds. She had marked her family with roads of diamonds, as if she might lose them without a map. When I came to know Ean better, so much better, I spent many hours gazing at the diamonds on his sweaters, when I was too embarrassed by his attention or too shy to look into his sharp blue intelligent eyes that seemed to read me so thoroughly. The pungent scent of the wool was always strongest after we had walked together, usually up to my house from the hall, through the west coast winter drizzle. Ean was a music man …

Small Talk

The Horrors of Small Talk

When I was 13, my parents, siblings and I walked into a crowded McDonald’s restaurant and stood at the back of the lineup. It was a busy Saturday, and Mom was too tired to resist when Dad offered up the option of not cooking. My parents warned me that I’d better have figured out what I wanted to order beforehand, but I was still debating my decision. When my parents were satisfied that I’d made up my mind, our little posse shuffled to the bored lady waiting to take our order. As Dad began ordering for himself, I quickly nudged Mom.

The Bear and the Smoke so Fair

A large black bear had been hanging around our backyard area. It was a bit of a shared green space, although if you asked my crotchety old neighbours on the one side, they certainly wouldn’t have considered it shared. Shade was provided by about ten large cedars and bear food was available via an old cherry tree, some berry bushes, and garbage cans.

Polished

I always start my pedicures with a thorough examination of the feet, before I instruct the client to place them in the soapy water to soak. It’s rare that I will run across a contraindication worrisome enough to stop me from proceeding, but it does happen. Athlete’s foot, planter’s warts, varicose veins and toenail fungus are all a possibility, among worse things. Nothing was out of the ordinary today─ just tanned, clean shaven legs and neatly trimmed toenails painted a shade of vibrant pink. These feet didn’t look like they needed a pedicure; the heels were soft and smooth as peaches, and the base of the polish was exactly 1/8th of an inch from the evenly pushed-back cuticles. The polish hadn’t even chipped or lost its shine yet.

Of Dead Animals

Another oil spill in Vancouver’s harbour. The media features bedraggled bitumen-laden gulls, terns and other birds dead or dying on sandy beaches to the consternation of the animal rescue crews who are desperately cleaning those still living. A sense of deja vu, then a fully formed image pops into my mental vision of an event more than fifty years ago. The black gobs of coalesced tar-like mounds littering Kitsilano beach from one end to the other, the suffering, suffocating dying sea birds of all descriptions expiring in large numbers as far as the eye could see, all the same. But therein lies a more twisted tale…