Monthly Archives: March 2019

The Write Stuff.

It began, innocently enough, with two fountain pens.

A trusted colleague, whom I’ve come to love for his rare blend of quirky kindness and razor sharp wit, knocked on my office door one quiet morning.

He handed me a small bag. Inside were two Platinum Preppy fountain pens, one red, one blue.  I was touched by his thoughtfulness. Only a week before, I’d admired his pen on our bus ride home. He waited patiently as I spun the curved plastic between my fingers and made squiggly circles in his tiny notebook that he carried in the same pocket as his pen. We spent the ride talking about nibs, feathering. bleeding, and paper, me nodding in quiet approval all the while not having a first clue about most of it. I left knowing one thing with certainty:  fountain pens brought my friend joy.  Not the Marie Kondo thank-your-puffy-shirt-for-the-memories variety, but kind that leaves your heart wide, yet safe. The feeling of knowing that no one can take the sky from you.

He left my office and I slowly pulled the blue one out of the bag.  I placed the cartridge carefully into the feed, and screwed the barrel back in place.  I waited in silence for the ink to fill the nib and took my first tentative scribbles on a neon green post-it.  Smiling to myself, I placed the pen on my favourite orange note-book and went back to work.

That visit was almost three years ago. The two Platinum Preppies have expanded to a healthy collection of pens of various colours and price points, and I can now hold my own in conversations about the merits of medium and fine point nibs, and all things feeds and cartridges. One might even say I’ve been converted. And, although there is nothing quite like the feeling of a newly inked pen taking its rightful place at the top of a fresh new page, or the watching the swirl of smooth lines as they connect the dots in my bullet journal, I think my love of fountain pens is more about sentiment than instrument.  For this, I offer no apologies. With my work laptop often feeling like an extension of my fingers, rediscovering the simple joy of writing a thank you note has been an important balm to loneliness. What’s more: I rarely make a weekend grocery list without thinking of my friend, whose small act of kindness is still making a mark on my life, often in shades of deep magenta or crisp forest green.

We all need to find our own strategies for countering scarcity with joy, and for creating secure and beautiful lines of connection to ourselves and to those we care about. And sometimes, if we are really lucky, the answers are right at our fingertips.

Snow Pants.

It was mid-afternoon when the snow started falling.  

I’d listened to the forecast on and off throughout my work-from-home day, mentally calculating the precise time I would shut down the computer and pick up the Girl to avoid the worst of the storm. Shortly after two o’clock, part way through watching the dullest webinar in the History of the World, I was seized by a terrifying thought: THE BOY DOES NOT HAVE HIS SNOW PANTS.

To be clear, the Boy had not worn snow pants to school in over a year. Not wearing snow pants was part of the new global order since his transition to middle school last September. Yet, as I watched the snow begin to drift and heard the wind begin its purposeful howl, I quickly decided that the snow pant problem needed to be rectified. I closed my laptop and raced to the front closet.

I bundled up in as many layers as I could find, mentally calculating my odds of making it to the school before the dismissal bell. I stepped out into the bracing cold to begin the twenty-minutes-in-good-weather trek, snow pants in hand. By the time I reached the end of my street, the wind had picked up significantly, and my glasses had tiny ice chips forming on the inside of my lenses. I forged on, steadily crunching through the now accumulating snow.

Turning the final corner, the school finally in sight, I stopped to wipe down my glasses. I watched in silence as a handful of spindly boys made their way out of the front doors and jostled each other down the icy steps.  I felt a sudden twinge of unease upon observing that not one of the boys was wearing snow pants.

A few more kids spilled out from side door, coats open, boots unlaced. Not a single pair of snow pants in sight. I felt a slow dread start to assemble in my gut, and the full horror of what I was about to do began to take shape silently in my head. I was fifteen yards away from walking into my eleven year old’s school to BRING HIM HIS SNOW PANTS

I stood frozen, carefully weighing my options. After toying briefly with burying myself head-deep in the snow, I opted to take my chances, figuring I could beg forgiveness later. After a few excruciatingly cold minutes, I saw his blue and orange toque appear at the side door.  I had already braced myself for the awkward greeting, and was completely prepared to lie through my teeth about “being on my way home” and how I just happened to have his snow pants in my hand. (Wot?  I’m a mom. Stranger things have happened).  I stood stiffly as he made his way down the steps, and through the falling snow, I could see his expression shift gently as we made eye contact. 

He approached slowly, swinging his backpack gently behind him.

“S’up mom,” he said softly.

“Hi hon.  I.. um, well…I just thought you might want these,” I said.

The snow pants dangled pitifully at my side, looking like milk-drenched mini-wheats. I stared down at the snow, blinking back what I was sure would be half frozen tears. He stared for a moment, waving casually to two red haired boys as they scurried past us on the sidewalk. By now my dull dread was a full blown stomach ache, and I was desperate to find a way to salvage the remains of what I was sure was now officially the Worst Day of his Life.

I started to stammer out an apology, but he gently interrupted me. “Thanks, mum.  I think I’m good without them, but it’s pretty cool you came.”

We walked home together through the quiet, drifting snow.

Sometimes, it’s our kids who take the best care of us.