Monday, 18 January 2021

18. Changes

We grow up, grow older,

become Moms,

and then we watch our own kids

figure out their own dreams.


It took one generation

only one generation

for the opportunities to change

for the rules to change.


Every sport was open to my daughters

They took it for granted

but I didn’t. No, I didn’t.


It felt good to see the opportunities.  

It felt good to see the change.

It felt good to know

the tomboys would be okay. 


The tomboys would be okay.

Sunday, 17 January 2021

17. Boy Skates

The group was called White Lightning.

We played hard and we played fast

on a small-town rink

on late Friday nights.


At the end of the night

we’d gather in the dressing room,

half-dressed, sweating like pigs.

We’d drink ice-cold beer

like pros.


One year we ordered jackets,

team jackets.

I ordered my jacket.

It’s black and white,

and has stitching on it.

White Lightning,

Number 18.


I finally got my number.

I finally got my boy skates.

It took over forty years

but dreams don’t die,

until they get fulfilled.


Saturday, 16 January 2021

16. Dreams

 Dreams don’t die.

They never do,

until they get fulfilled.


I was fifty-something

when I found the ringette group.

It wasn’t hockey

but it was close enough.


I emailed the group, “I can’t skate.”

“Can I join anyways?”

They said yes, and welcomed me

with open arms.


I felt a need to prepare

and so secretly signed up for

“Women’s Learn to Play Hockey.”

I was the only over-fifty participant.

The rest were teenage girls.

We’d skate hard, drop to our knees,

slide on our bellies, get up

and do it all over again.

They might have wondered about me.

I have to say I wondered myself.  


Friday, 15 January 2021

15. New Sports

Over the years

I moved on

 to other sports

to solitary sports

that suited me; that fit me

that asked for

a different kind of confidence.

I discovered cycling

and kayaking

and cross-country skiing

and hiking

I still do these things.

I still love these things.

-- creaky knees and all.


On special days,

on long, hard physical days

I still am  -

a mess of pure adrenalin

a mess of pure exhaustion

a mess of pure joy.


Thursday, 14 January 2021

14. The Opportunity

On a brave day

in my first year of high school

I tried out for a team,

a real team,

the junior girls’ softball team.

I never told a soul.


All those years

of backyard catch

had paid off.

The coach took me aside.

I’d made the team!


Before I signed

before I got the uniform

before I got the number

I dropped out.

There was no way.

I didn’t have the confidence.

I never told a soul.

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

13. Grey Cup

My parents didn’t watch sports

or play sports

or have an interest in sports.

They preferred

to watch the news,

sip instant coffee

and smoke du Maurier cigarettes.


Curiously, they rented a colour TV

one Grey Cup day.

And so, we sat and so we watched

with popcorn and chips

as if we had always watched.


When the Roughriders won

after fifty-three years,

we weren't that moved by the win

we were way more impressed

by the colour tv.


Tuesday, 12 January 2021

12. The Shirt

 It was a hot summer day,

blistering hot.

The boys whipped off their shirts.

I wanted to, too.

I wanted that taste of freedom.

I wanted that airy feeling.

And so I whipped mine off too.


It didn’t last,

and it didn’t taste like freedom.

My sister took me aside.

“You should put your shirt back on.”

I already knew.

Of course, I knew

but it wasn't fair.

I was as flat-chested as any boy with us.

So why?

Why did I

have to put my shirt back on?

Monday, 11 January 2021

11. Baseball

As a tomboy

it only made sense

that I would find baseball.


As a girl

it only made sense

that I wouldn't find a team.


And so I found the only thing left.

I "played catch"

- to the point

I could catch anything.

- to the point

the sleeve on my throwing arm

became tighter than the sleeve on my left arm.

There was no better badge,

there was no better honour

than my tight sleeve.


Sunday, 10 January 2021

10. Girl Skates

There was a skate swap at the school.

Used skates were spread out on tables

‘Girl skates’ were on one side,

‘boy skates’ on the other.


I wanted to try on the boy skates

they made more sense

they didn’t have picks

they didn’t flop over.

But the unspoken rule

was present in that room

and so I moved along to the ‘right’ table.


As I hobbled around the bumpy ice

In my new, limp skates,

I watched the effortless ones,

gliding backwards and forwards.


I never did get the hang of skating.

My parents blamed weak ankles.

I liked to blame the girl skates.

Saturday, 9 January 2021

9. The Hockey Stick

It stood in an old, musty hardware store

it wasn't just any stick,

it was a curved stick

covered in a layer of dust

hiding its beauty, hiding its power.

I wanted it badly.

I spotted the grimy old sticker.

Two bucks. Two bucks?

I had two bucks!


When I got home, I cleaned it.

I taped it. I tucked it into bed.

I was so damned excited

I slept with it.


Fifty years later

I still get razzed about it.

But it was the best two bucks

I ever spent.

Friday, 8 January 2021

8. Home

 I could count on home

when summer turned to winter

and football turned to shinny.


I could count on home

where the goalposts were snowballs

where our skates were felt-lined boots

where our puck was a tennis ball.


For when we scored

on a dark-lit night

on an ice-packed road

there were no rules

there were no genders.

We were all in the NHL.

Thursday, 7 January 2021

7. Home Ec

 Once a week we were bussed

to a different school

where the boys were taught to use tools

and the girls were taught to sew and bake. 


I wanted to make the birdhouse

and not the gingham apron,

but once again, there was no choice.


I remember the cake best —

the pineapple upside-down cake.

It was just tasty enough

to make me think for one day, just one day 

that we were the ones

that got the better deal. 


Wednesday, 6 January 2021

6. The Gift

One fine day, out of the blue

I got a present from my mom.

She said they were a new thing.

She said they were popular with girls our age.

I opened the box and there she stood -

a skinny, busty doll with tiny feet

and the smallest waist I’d ever seen.


I'd only ever had a baby doll

that was cuddly and floppy

and smelled just right.

As I stared at the hard, plastic lady

that I held in one hand

I remember wondering,

What the hell do you do with it?


Tuesday, 5 January 2021

5. The Classroom

The longer I stayed in school

the less I understood.



did the girls like dresses

and itchy tights and pointy shoes?


didn't they want

the blue jeans and flannel shirts

and slouchy sneakers?


I began to see, a little sadly

there was something wrong with them


there was something wrong with me.


Monday, 4 January 2021

4. School Yard

The game hadn't changed

but the rules had.

On the playground I learned

that boys play football

that girls play jump ball

that boys throw spirals

that girls paint toenails.


As I tossed a red rubber ball


between my legs

the luster was gone

the leather was gone

and life no longer made perfect sense.

My education began

not in a classroom

but on a school playground.


Sunday, 3 January 2021

3. The Game

We played across two front yards.

A jumble of boys and my sister and I.

Sometimes I was the quarterback.

The kids would shout,

“One elephant, Two elephants!”

and the pressure would mount

to find an open kid,

to throw a perfect spiral.

Sometimes I was the fullback.

The kids would form their pell-mell wall

with spindly arms and dangly legs

and the pressure would mount

to find an open hole,

to slip through their armour.


I was small and skinny

but this was not a weakness,

for I could run and deke

untouched, unseen

into the endzone --

a mess of pure adrenalin

a mess of pure exhaustion

a mess of pure joy.

Saturday, 2 January 2021

2. The Move

Life made perfect sense that summer,

that summer of sixty-two,

when my two parents, my four brothers

my one sister and I

left a farming town behind

for a modern city suburb.

I don’t remember much about the move.

I remember even less about the town.

It seems my memory switched on

when I caught a football.


Friday, 1 January 2021

1. The Catch

The peewee football was just out of reach

taunting me to leap high,

higher still

up into the sky.

The soft grass was my springboard

propelling me to soar further

than any five-year-old could rightfully soar.

Airborne, my left hand clawed at the muggy air

until I felt fingertips graze the ball.

Instinctually, I grabbed enough of it

to tuck it down


into my chest.


It was a beautiful moment.

It defined me.

I didn’t know the word at the time.

I was a tomboy.