Tuesday, November 9, 2010


1999 – Montreal

Daytime talk shows are not the best company to keep but I am the night shift manager at a Second Cup and I have little to occupy me in the period between waking and working.  So, one winter afternoon finds me stretched out on my roommate’s couch flicking between our five or so channels.

Rosie O’Donnell is interviewing an English writer I’ve never heard of. The writer seems a bit star struck, not used to the attention of Hollywood. Rosie is raving about the book. A kids book, something to do with magic. The writer tells us that she wrote it on napkins in a café while her infant daughter napped. They flash the cover. Rosie makes the writer swear to cast her in the movie.

“And mark my words audience – there will be a movie!”

The segment ends with Rosie giving this woman a computer. So she can write the sequel on something more substantial than a napkin.


Within a week I make my way over to the Chapters on Saint Catherine. The kids’ books are on the bottom level, but it isn’t the bright cornucopia it will become. I brush aside cobwebs and scan the shelves.

A guy in a red vest goes by with a cart.

“Can I help you find something?”

I give him the title. I’ve forgotten the author, but it doesn’t matter. He’s never heard of it.

“Thanks anyway.”

I turn back and with some diligence turn up a trade paperback with a red locomotive, billowing purple steam and a boy with a jagged scar on the cover.

1999 – Montreal (a few months later)

Things have gotten tricky. I am not a happy person.

Home. I need to go home.


I am at the airport. Someone that I love has brought me here, and knows I’m going but doesn’t understand why. He is the kindest person I have ever met. My heart breaks to leave him, but every instinct tells me that to save myself I’ve got to go home.

A painful goodbye, a take-off.  Above the clouds I pull out the book I brought to read. To take my mind off things a bit. There’s a flying car on the cover. It’s silly and sweet and it lulls me all the way across the granite Shield, the endless prairies, over the jagged edge of the Rockies, to where my province dips her toes in the Pacific.

1999 – Mission, BC

The air is so clean, so wet and green. My lungs drink it in. I am dizzy from the sudden influx of oxygen.

I go to the grocery store with mom, trailing behind her. I am a child again, it seems. I pick up gourmet jelly beans and a book. Some kind of bird-creature on the cover, wings outstretched. It’s a little thrilling to discover that the third one in the series is already out. It’s a comforting place to put my aching brain.

2000 – Vancouver

Things have improved in leaps and bounds. The hardest part is that once your mind has dipped into those dark places, once it knows the way, it threatens to return with ease at some slight provocation. You get a bit wary of the possibility of relapse.


The fourth book is coming out, and I'm looking forward to it.

I wander over to the Chapters on Robson Street to pick up a copy on release day. It's only midday and I am surprised to discover that they’ve already sold out.

2003 – Hamilton, On.

I am in this town learning to be a midwife. For a brief span it is my calling, my life’s work. I am happy, working hard and in good company.


Lesson learned: I pre-order my copy of book five at a little local bookshop. I am not the only one.

2005 – St. Catharines, On. and then Montreal (again)

I have left the midwifery program. I don’t know it yet but it will be for good. As in, for ever, and also for my own good. For good. It is good that I left. But it also fills me with grief for the loss of this image I’ve forged of myself. Now I can never be her. Now I have to create a new her

I find my way back to Montreal, and to him. Even with this new crisis I am in better spirits, better health than last time. I find that despite the time and everything that has passed there is still love. He is still the kindest person I have ever met.


Summer. Once again I find myself at the Chapters on St Catherine. This time, instead of rooting through a basement trough I am shuttled upstairs to a special table that’s been set up on the third floor. A long, snaking line is forming for book six. Looking at the crates piled everywhere, I think they’ve ordered enough copies.

2006 (Christmas) – Montreal

Best gift ever. Better than the Barbie camper van I got when I was seven. Better than the combo tv/vcr as a graduation gift. Better than a diamond ring.

I get an ipod. 

No big deal, everyone has them. Except it is a big deal, it is magic. Portable music. Of course I’ve been doing that since I slid “Fields of Fire” into my neon yellow walkman in 1986. But did you know that you can get books on these things? Audiobooks? People who read to you, leaving your hands free to chop carrots or paint or enter data while the story washes over you?
It’s a revelation. 

2007 – Still Montreal

The heat of summer hasn’t really hit. It still feels nice to be outside, at night.
I do something unspeakably nerdy. I attend a release party that culminates at midnight, when the bookshop sellers are contractually allowed to hand over our copies of book seven. The last one there will ever be.

The party is painfully tiny. It’s painful in a lot of ways. It’s like the smallest Star Trek convention ever held. Still, it is fun and I float home on a city bus crowded with adults sporting striped scarves and stuffed snowy owls. I think they went to bigger parties.


I wonder if, for the other attendees, this is tantamount to filling a prescription for antidepressants. That sounds crazy. Am I crazy? I have no interest in dressing up as characters. I am only mildly interested in the film versions. I've never read any of the slash fiction, I swear. I don’t have a great deal of difficulty in predicting the outcome of this epic. I count other books, other authors as my precious favourites. But there is something about this series that coos to my hind-brain and makes me glad.


I finish the last sentence later that weekend, on a breezy terrace. A short bus ride away from where I began the first sentence, nine years ago, but a world away none the less. 

At first I hate the ending. With subsequent re-readings I will come to like it. At that moment, setting the book down, I feel bereft. But also, grateful.  

Present – Montreal

The books gather dust, but I’m sure I will pull them out again one day, when I have someone small to read them to. The audio versions get played about once a year. Or when I can’t sleep. Or when I’m agitated. It is an auditory soother, hot cocoa for my ears. It’s silly and sweet and lulls my mind away from those dark traps. It’s a tiny point of light when I need it to be.


  1. My god you are talented! This is beautiful and touching (and makes me miss you oh so much). On a funny note, I had to look up the definition of lumos. :)

  2. Thank you : )
    I miss you too, so much oxox
    I wondered if people would know the lumos reference - I kind of hoped it wasn't super obvious.

  3. Love "hot cocoa for my ears"
    Your writing is at once easily readable, yet descriptive and full.
    A veritable crazy quilt of imagery and emotions.
    Keep writing!

  4. I wonder what books you're writing about :)

  5. Hello Anonymous, I love the crazy quilt analogy - thank you!

    Mme DeFarge - I know, it's so mysterious! ; )