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Ode to a spider

Old man chalk face with a walking cane
Your fangs caused you to die in vain
Stealing my blood was not wise
I saw right through your disguise
Your demise helped me through the pain.
© 2016 Zora Zebic

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Emerald rain

The clouds were swelling. She asked, “Tell me, did you ever see something like that?”

“See what? What are you looking at?” He asked. She turned to him and answered, “I’ve never seen green clouds!” “Naw, me neither.” He replied.

“Well maybe the sky will pick up a bunch of emeralds, and they’ll fall. We’ll gather them up and sell them to the jeweller.” Finishing her thought, she breathed in deeply then added, “I love the smell of rain.”

He looked away from examining a little critter he had pulled from the leaves of a cabbage plant. The suffering creature looked like a snail missing the shell.

“How would the sky pick up emeralds?” he asked. She smiled widely saying, “I saw it on television. The sky has dumped fish, real live fish, stones and other strange stuff.”

“You know you are nuts, but I like you. I like you a lot. But remember planes drop other colourful stuff.” He bellowed with laughter at his words raising his jacket over both of their heads just as the raindrops began to spatter. No emeralds fell from the sky, no fish, no stones, no nothin’ but rain.

He put his arm around her, protectively all the while thinking how she was so very like a snail without a protective exoskeleton. Pulling her close he started to sing a love song, one he had recalled while his heart had begun to feel as though it were physically swelling in his chest, and he asked, “Is this love?”

He questioned himself, dreading his words. A small wave of panic coursed through him. “Did I screw up? What if she thinks I only like her as a friend?”

Another thought pushed past his frantic thoughts, “What the hell am I thinking. I was her father’s hitman; why would she want to be more than a lover to me?”

“Why are you holding me so tight? Are you afraid of the rain?” She looked up at him, and he slowly eased his grip. He stopped ducking the inevitable and met her eyes.

Her expression of concern for him made that swelling feeling in his chest return. Instead of resting her head on his shoulder, she sat straight. Her eyes continued to scan the skies for the emerald rain she had envisioned.

The sky quickly darkened, and he saw the sky light up with a bolt of lightning. He started to count the seconds until he would hear thunder. His mother had taught him each second between the lightning and thunder meant how many miles away, the worst of the storm was.

An explosion of noise made the earth below him shake. “How weird,” he said to her, “On one spot of my thigh, I feel hot rain.” He looked at his thigh, and his chest tightened in horror. The warm liquid on his leg was blood that flowed from a gaping hole that obliterated most of her face.

He looked over at the hedges and saw her father standing there, the shotgun aimed at him. “Prick…” His final word, muted by the blast of the AR 15.

© 2016 Zora Zebic

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My favourite dessert

I was at the Windsor International Writer’s Conference 2016. After the banquet, the deadline was called for one of the contests. The prize: free entry to Conference 2017. The competition: in 500 words or less I had to describe my favourite dessert and/or wine.
I was sure the panic was showing in my eyes. “How am I going to win this contest?” I asked my husband. “What contest?” He asked as he tapped his toes to the musical genius of Yale Strom and his klezmer band, Hot Pastrami. “The contest has already begun. It’s almost 9 pm, and I have to submit my entry by 10 pm.” “Entry to what?” Barry asked.
Suddenly the desserts were entering the room, and I watched the crowd flock to the table. “Oh no! They are going to eat all the desserts before I have a chance to try them.” “You don’t eat sweets.” Barry reminded me.
I swept up my cell phone from the table and opened the camera application. Nudging my way between and over the shoulders of the crowd around the table I snapped photos of the sweets. “I may not be able to sample them, but I can describe what I see!” I said to Nobody. Typically, Nobody responded to my comment.
I headed over to the wine table with yet another concern. I don’t drink wine! I had my trusty cell phone camera app, and the server very graciously interrupted his serving of the wine connoisseurs. I snapped photos of the two reds and two white wines as I listened to the throng inquire where the wines came from. He answered, “All from around here.”
If I drank wine, I’d choose the Pelee Island Winery Pinot Grigio 2014. I love the trips we’ve taken on the Jiimaan ferry. If you didn’t know Jiimaan is Native for “big canoe.” Pelee Island has a fascinating history, and for being such a small island, there are a lot of things to do there.
I’m diabetic so I can’t eat the desserts, but I do confess the strawberry that was being hugged by the half-eaten looking cookie was the most attractive dessert of all. I took a photo of the sliced strawberry so I would always have the memories of gazing lovingly at the dessert while listening to the music calling me to strut my stuff on the dance floor.
Update: I didn’t win, but I learned and earned a lot at the Windsor International Writer’s Conference!
© 2016 Zora Zebic

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Fiction? page 1

A gorgeous Harley stood unattended at the nightclub door, and a man walked over to it. His hand reached out to touch the bike, and I cautioned him, “You had better not let whoever owns that bike catch you touching it!” “She’s got that right.” an angry voice behind me said as I reached into my vintage crystal clutch for my lighter.
I turned to see a face wearing an expression that matched the voice perfectly.  The biker initially looked dangerous, yet something told me, the man would not be a danger to me. He turned his gaze away from the other fellow and looked at me.
An enchanting smile lit up his face, and I found myself gazing into a pair of incredibly beautiful and captivating blue eyes. It never happened to me before, and as I felt my knees grow weak, I feared I was going to fall off my bronze coloured shoes. I was in my early 30’s and yet I’d never felt overwhelmed like that. It was as though he knew I was experiencing faint as he reached his hand out to steady me, catching my arm.
“Want to go for a ride?” he asked me. “I’m not exactly dressed for riding, and I’ve certainly never ridden a Harley wearing high heels!” I answered him as I tossed away my cigarette. “You’ve been with a biker?” he asked. “When I was younger, I dated a man who worked in a factory, and he owned a Harley full-dresser. I loved riding with him, but we didn’t end up in love.” I answered him. “You can pull your skirt up and sit behind me nobody’s going to see anything!” he said laughing.
I hadn’t been on a bike since 1977, and 13 years later the desire to feel the wind on my face again was too strong for me to refuse his offer. I hiked my skirt up past my knees and boarded the bike behind him.
“You can’t just go off on your own like that!” a voice called out behind us, but my biker ignored him and slid gracefully out of the driveway and into the road. We wheeled about for a good hour, and as he seemed to deliberately slow to catch each red light, he would look back at me. I saw a gentleness grow ever deeper on his face and thought, “I think I could fall very deeply in love with this man.”
At one red light, I grew confident enough to ask, “Who was that man that tried to stop us?” He laughed and said, “Don’t worry about him, he’s just one of my security team.” “Well,” I said, “you don’t look like a man that needs bodyguards!” He smiled at that but didn’t explain further.
Back at the nightclub, he rejoined his entourage, and I rejoined my waiting friends. The girls were giddier than usual and surrounded me demanding to know who my new friend was. I told them I hadn’t gotten his name, but I’d let them know if he was interested enough to ask for my phone number.
“Come on” one girl pleaded, “tell us, did you go somewhere and get it on?” I laughed and told her she had a filthy mind for a dental hygienist. She chuckled and said, “You were gone for hours!” I corrected her saying, “We were gone for one hour, and we rode around town. I can tell you he is a gentleman and I admit I do hope to get to know him better.”
Later that evening, he gave me his phone number and a ride home in a black limousine that had replaced his bike. “Are you going to invite me in for a nightcap?” he asked. “I don’t keep alcohol in the house, I have a child.” I’d answered him. He pulled me toward him and kissed me deeply. My kiss was equally intense. “I like you.” He said as I’d finally pulled away from his embrace.
© 2016 Zora Zebic

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Root-to-leaves cooking

I am blessed to live with my husband on our three-quarters of an acre lot in Amherstburg, Ontario. We have lots of space to garden directly in the earth however we’ve grown to appreciate our new-to-us container gardening. At age 59 to be 60 this summer, I don’t fancy the kneepad-to-earth anymore!
My only complaint is Amherstburg Town Council won’t allow us to raise chickens or ducks and that sucks. Personal opinion but, the government needs to back off. They need to stop making it impossible for ordinary folks to feed themselves and their children. (If you start or have a petition going, please let me know so I can sign it and share it!)
My husband has taken to planting more trees to augment our space which he affectionately calls his “personal park.”

Root-to-stalk

I read the article above earlier this week and memories of a happy and fulfilling day – literally – appeared before me like a movie scene. The day was in May of 1975, and I was 18.
I was fortunate to finally have a roof over my head, paid in full for an entire month! I had been granted welfare and rented a second-floor apartment on Elliot Street West. After spending the rent, I’d rushed to a uniform store on Wyandotte Street East to purchase the treasured white kitchen dishwasher outfit I needed to secure a job.
The job was at The Green Man Restaurant on the corner of Elliot Street East and Ouellette Avenue. The ‘appeal’ of this restaurant was the bragging of an ancient old tree. While I worked there, I heard many customer complaints, e.g. this ever-repeated comment, “The ads made it seem like the tree was inside the restaurant. I wouldn’t have bothered to come here if I had known they just named it after a tree in front of the place. Boriiiing.”
I got fired after only two weeks on the job for eating leftover food coming into the kitchen. The manager called me a “pig.” The reality was the Ontario Student Wage provided only enough to keep my rent paid. Becoming employed had taken the away the right to another welfare cheque.
The Green Man Restaurant story will be another I’ll tell soon, and, you won’t’ want to miss the part of the cook tossing steaks on the floor so she could “tenderize the meat” by jumping up and down on them. You guessed it, I didn’t consume any of the leftover steaks!

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Photo by Ernest Barry Furlonger © 2013

I don’t have any photos of my sister Debbie at age 20. I have a few pictures I took at our family reunion in 2013. In this photo taken by my husband Barry, I stand behind two lovely ladies. My mom Edith right, now 92 years of age, and my big sister Debbie left, now deceased who would be age 62.
Back in 1975 Debbie, then 20, asked if I had anything to eat. I told her I did have a few potatoes and onion. It wasn’t much, but I was happy to share it with her. Debbie giggled and questioned me, “What are you going to make with potatoes and an onion?”
“I don’t know” I responded, “But I’ll think of something!”
I’d asked Debbie what, if anything, she might have, and she replied she did have a couple of Kraft cheese slices and two slices of cooked bacon.
Debbie told me the bacon was left over from a breakfast bought for her by a sympathetic friend the day before. Debbie sighed and lamented, “I wish I’d saved the toast. Soggy or not, I’d at least have a bacon and cheese sandwich to eat today.”
An image had flashed in front of my eyes, and I excitedly told Debbie to get her cheese and bacon and head back as a recipe had invented itself to me!
It is sad to remember how often my sister and I had gone without meals. We had never heard of foodbanks although they did exist. It wasn’t until after my son was born in 1976 that Debbie and I learned of a Salvation Army food bank on Wyandotte Street East near the Windsor Housing projects. I don’t have fond memories of the horrible woman who worked there, and, that too is another story for another day.
Debbie arrived back at my apartment to the lovely aroma of baking potatoes.
“Oh God” she’d said, “I didn’t know potatoes could smell so good!”
I’d opened the oven door to reveal the toasted potato skins with onion bits and said, “I’m going to crumble up the cheese and bacon and then melt them into the skins. I’ve got the insides of the potatoes in a pot staying warm on the stove with a bit of the onion cooked in. It ain’t high class, but I can guarantee it is going to be good!”
Debbie had looked at me with some doubt and asked, “Is it safe to eat the skin of the potato?”
I told her I didn’t honestly know, but I was hungry enough to take the risk. My sister decided she was hungry enough also and we ultimately had a fantastic, fulfilling meal.
Maybe I was the first to bake potato skins and perhaps not. It didn’t matter then, and it doesn’t matter now. The important thing is two young starving girls enjoyed a feast that day!
The experience was my introduction to frugal cooking which I practice to this day.
At my homeless shelter, Street Help Homeless Centre of Windsor, I try to instill this gift to every volunteer helping with the daily meals. I admit I am often met with looks of doubt and outright rejection to even sample the final dish! It is challenging for some folks to accept the unfamiliar.
I don’t ever peel my carrots, potatoes, beets, squash, zucchini, eggplant, etc. The leaves of the carrots, celery, beets, turnips, etcetera are also edible and fantastic tasting.
This past week I have shown volunteers how to prepare cauliflower. I slice away only the very least attractive part of the leaves (and save them in the fridge for my foster brother Emile to pick up for his wife Maryanne. They feed the fresh veggie scraps to their rabbits!) Waste not, want not!
My cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli stems are also cooked. It annoys me that people core these veggies and toss out the fantastic tasting core and leaves! Nooo!!!

IMG_1175

All of the veggies in this photo are from our garden. There is no way I am going to toss out any portion of these plants Barry and I have lovingly grown!
Try them. Dice those cores and leaves to smaller chunks than the rest of the veggie. Cook them all together, or, if that really is too much for you, toss them in a pot of soup!
You will be surprised at how far that head of cabbage can go.
Another way to use the veggie scraps, especially when you are preparing a meal for company, is to use a juicer. The juice is fantastic and the pulp, skins, leaves, seeds, etcetera can be added to soup or stew for extra fibre.
I’ve done the same with my blender to make a soup base.
The starvation I lived with during my teen years taught me the actual nutritional value of food scraps. I truly enjoy passing on these tips to my homeless clients and volunteers. Waste not want not thinking is indeed logical.
While I am not a ‘root-to-stalk chef’ most certainly I identify as an authentic root-to-stalk-and-every-other-edible-veggie-part-cook!
PS: You would have to eat a pound and a half to get sick from tomato leaves. Here’s the link:

http://www.thekitchn.com/are-tomato-leaves-actually-poisonous-222259

If you are in doubt of the edibility of any part of a veggie, please research (that is what I do!) Indeed, there is a wealth of information online!
© 2016 Zora Zebic

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Smiles through the tears

A photo, above, of Carlos’ first mocassins. I couldn’t afford to have them bronzed, as most parents did in those days, but I have managed to save them anyway!
The following is the story of the birth of my son Carlos. It is also the story of how smiles can transcend generations and even generations of friends!

DayOfBirth

This photo was taken approximately 7 hours after Carlos’ birth. The lady who took the picture came to me to offer to do a retake as it was hospital policy to wait 24 hours. Seeing the image, I refused! My baby was wide awake and aware of his surroundings; it was a perfect photo!
On April 12, 1976, at 2:37 A.M. I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. 8 pounds 3 ounces and the picture of perfect health! To this day I love to call my son at 2:37 on the morning of his birthday to remind him, “Do you know I was in labour for 56 and ½ hours for you!”
I love to recount the part about the late Pearl Stanley. She owned, along with her husband Alex, Windsor’s first fully inclusive bar called Stanley’s Tavern.
PEARL AND ALEX STANLEY
The Stanley’s believed that all people were created equal and they were pioneers who demanded inclusiveness regardless of race, colour, gender identity, sex, sexual orientation, disability, creed, age and other grounds. The Ontario’s Human Rights Code first written June 15, 1962, and it was their mantra!
I had lain in bed for some hours with the intermittent pains telling me my baby, in no uncertain terms, wanted out! I’d tried sitting on the sofa and found it too uncomfortable.
Neither position was offering me any comfort, so I chose instead to get up, get dressed and head to Stanley’s. I knew my sister Debbie would most likely be there with her boyfriend Kirk, and even if she weren’t there, I would find the company of others I knew.
Pearl, learning I was in labour, came over to my table and pleaded with me to leave. She was horrified I would have the baby there, and she didn’t want that to happen. I assured her I would most certainly go if the pains came closer together. Eventually, it was time for me to call a taxi; however, Pearl insisted the fare was her expense.
During my labour, a Roman Catholic Children’s Aid worker had shown up at my bedside demanding I sign the baby over to them. After all, she said, I was a single mother. I’d asked her what made her think I couldn’t raise my child and her answering question was dumbfounding, yet so typical CAS worker mentality, “We raised you didn’t we?”
Fortunately my family doctor, Alphonse Leblanc booted the CAS worker out of the hospital. I was very fortunate to have his support. I had worked hard throughout my pregnancy to ensure my baby would be healthy. I think my doctor had even been more than a little stressed as I was at his office so often! He and his staff were always kind though. Knowing I did not have guidance and support of parents and family, he and his team were exceptionally kind.
One full hour after Carlos’ birth a nurse finally came to place my baby in my arms. It had taken that long for them to tend to me and suture the rips to my uterus and vagina. The nurse told me they wanted to be sure I was physically able for them to leave the baby with me.
My family doctor would later tell me that although I had the external body of a girl age 19 internally, my reproductive organs were that of a girl 12 or 13.
That same nurse who brought my baby to me was offended and demanded to know why when I asked her to help me take off all the baby buntings and blankets. I showed her my hands and welcomed her to look at my misshapen left foot. His dad had been sure my disabilities and imperfections would be passed down to the child.
Carlos was perfect! His hands and feet were adorable! The nurse seemed to finally comprehend and smiling she helped me to wrap him back in the bunting. As she tucked in one of his tiny arms, I saw a baby bracelet on his arm. It was made of beaded letters and read, “Zebic”.
The nurse told me volunteers created the bracelet for each newborn and I treasured that lovely gift until 1990 when a fool stole it from me! That is another of my stories of a man who convinced himself I had borne him a child. Nonsense, I was gifted with my one and only child Carlos!

IMG_7367

Inside one of the moccasins, I was elated to find my hospital armband!
This morning I was blessed with the following conversation on Facebook. The post brought tears to my eyes, and a slide show of memories flowed through my spirit. I saw myself smiling as I held my baby for the first time, as I saw my baby smile back at me (the nurses tried to convince me the baby was “passing gas” but I didn’t believe them – glittering blue eyes always accompanied the smile!)
I saw my son learning to crawl, walk, spell his first words, graduate from primary school, display his first pay cheque, show me his ticket bound for his new life in Toronto, his business cards from places of employment and his graduation for his Master’s Degree in a new field of psychology – Drama Therapy.
The slideshow was a thing of pure beauty. A gift of smiles through the tears and wondrous time of reliving so many treasured moments!
Today, two days before Carlos’ actual birthday this Facebook Messenger conversation took place:

Alyssa&Lyla

Alyssa & Lyla

Alyssa to me – “Hi, Christine! It’s Alyssa; I’m an old friend of your darling son. (Although Carlos, I’m a YOUNGER old friend– you have me beat by 2.5 months ).
Christine, many years ago Carlos lovingly told me how, when he was a boy, every time his mom would look over at him and catch his eye, she’d always smile. Always.
I promised myself if I ever became a mom,
I’d be like Carlos’s Mom. Like you. That every time my child looked at me, I’d smile.
In January, I became a mom. I feel so blessed; she’s my little miracle. And now I finally have my chance to be like Carlos’s Mom. So every time my little darling looks at me, I smile. Now I realize, it’s hard not to!! Especially with such cute offspring as yours and mine.  I just wanted you to know, on your son’s milestone birthday, you inspired me, and now my daughter has you to thank as well for leaving such an imprint on me. And most importantly, your son!
Happy 40th (how did that happen to us?!) Carlos! Love you!
And HBD2U2, Ms. Wilson. Thank you for making him.
Love,Alyssa (and Lyla!) XOXOXOXO”

Carlos

Carlos’ 4oth birthday party

Carlos to Alyssa – “This was the single most beautiful, tear-jerking message that I’ve ever received!!! I’m a bit intoxicated right now, so I pray that my response does justice to how I feel reading this. Alyssa, the fact that you honoured the story of my beautiful, wonderful mom smiling at me with the story of how you relate to your own beautiful, wonderful child, makes me feel that everything is ok in this world and that love and kindness will prevail. We must celebrate how we pass on love and kindness and never be afraid to smile with all our hearts. I love you ladies XOXO.”
Alyssa to Carlos – “Love you, Carlos! You didn’t need to do it any justice. But thank you, that’s so lovely.
See, your mom did good! Hopefully, you can meet the little one soon. Xoxo
Here’s my attempt to do a photo shoot with Lyla on her 3rd month birthday which was on Thurs:”

Pink

Pretty in Pink – literally!

Alyssa to Carlos – “Next time I should leave it to the professionals… That was a cupcake as a bday prop, then Lyla managed to stick both her heels in it (I still ate it after. Ha!)”
Me to Alyssa – “Layla is beautiful just like her mama! Wow, talk about making me feel like I’m walking on a cloud and good thing it’s on a cloud and not on the road because tears are filling my eyes so I won’t have to worry about dodging traffic!
Can I include this conversation on my blog today? If both of you are okay with that? Please let me know. Thanks!”
Alyssa to me – “Aw! That’s so sweet, Christine. That’s fine with me.”
© 2016 Zora Zebic

 

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“God did all this. He saved us.”

An unborn child saved the Zebic family.
A tribute to my little sister Mary (Harley) Zebic who rose to heaven at age 54 on December 22, 2015, to join our older sister Debbie age 61 on August 18, 2015, and our Dad age 65 on February 22, 1991.

1_The_Cincinnati_Enquirer_Thu__Oct_27__1960_2_ (1)3_Lubbock_Avalanche_Journal_Wed__Oct_26__1960_4_5_Detroit_Free_Press_Wed__Oct_26__1960_-2

The above are articles clipped from a few of many newspapers.
http://www.windsorstar.com/Gallery+Metropolitan+store+explosion/3719790/story.html
The above is a link to some photos taken at the scene of the Metropolitan blast.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disasters_of_the_Century
In Disasters of the Century, a documentary television series that airs on History Television. They featured the Metropolitan blast in Episode 18.
My Mom once had a scrapbook Dad had saved of all the newspaper articles people mailed to him along with money tucked into the envelopes. People knew we were all safe yet they felt compelled to give aid to our poor family. People can be so incredible, and these folks will never know they became role models for me when I was just age 4! I remember Dad showing me all the stamps he had saved from the envelopes. He would tell his children stories about the origins of each of them. Dad was a brilliant and well-educated man.
I like to think that as my sisters are now closer, in earth ages, to Dad, they will have much more understanding of each other, and the benefits that go with such healing!
So how did an unborn child save our family? On October 25, 1960, my parents had taken three of us children shopping. They separated as my Dad went to purchase meat for dinner. The plan had been for my Mom to go into Metropolitan Store to buy socks for my older sister Debbie age 7 and my older brother Chico age six while they were in classes at St. Alphonsus school. Had Mom shopped as planned she, three of her children and her unborn child would have perished.
After the explosion, my Dad, believing his wife and children had gone into the Metropolitan Store as planned raced to the scene. His devastation and despair, thinking his family remained beneath the rubble with the many other bodies, did capture the attention of reporters.
Instead of following the plan, my Mom had decided to go to another nearby store to try on a maternity dress she knew she couldn’t afford. That is how my sister Mary saved our lives! My Mom gave credit to her unborn child, and she would tell me much later that she had also credited Mary the Mother of Jesus and that was the reason for Mary’s name.
A teacher had noticed things, like little toes sticking out of socks when boots season arrived. The school note insisted my parents restock my brother and sister’s sock drawers. We had laughed at that as with five children living in the tiny house we had to share dresser drawers and closet space. Socks were socks and if you found some that fit you put them on. We lived with hand-me-down clothes, and it never entered my mind then that I could have clothing that belonged to just me.
I think that is why, like comfort foods, I still enjoy shopping at the second-hand stores. My house is an eclectic mix of furniture, kitchenware and artwork found in resale shops or while “yard-saleing!”
Chico’s real name is Daniel, and we’ve pretty much always called him Danny. My Dad nicknamed him Chico for reasons unknown, and when we were small children, it hadn’t mattered. Debbie’s real name was Dobrilla, but nobody ever called her that. My name was Zora, and the nickname my Dad had given me was “Little Monkey”.
My eldest half-sister Pearl would later tell me that she had lived with us for a short time. She said while I was still an infant whenever my Dad got home he would pick me up and every time I would throw my tiny arms around his neck and cling tightly! She said I was amazingly strong and my Dad enjoyed showing people how he could let go of me as he walked around the house and my grip would not weaken. I guess I just loved that man!
I was recently talking to Mary’s youngest girl, and she asked, “Do you think my Mom ever knew she had saved you, Aunt Polly, Uncle Tommy, Grandma and herself?” I couldn’t give her an answer to that. I hope Dad, when reunited with his youngest child took her into his arms and told her every beautiful word of the story. For all the problems she encountered in the earthly realm she deserves to know she was responsible for saving four lives and even her unborn self.
I was only age 4 when the explosion happened, but I do have memories of that day. As my Mom had turned to leave the scene to gather Debbie and Chico from St. Alphonsus school, I had stopped. I must have seen the mangled bodies of the victims strewn about Ouellette Avenue, but I don’t recall so I think I must have buried those memories. I do remember the baby doll.
A singed and soot-covered doll lay in the rubble, and I raced over to pick it up. Clutching my prize in my arms, I ran back to my Mom. She yanked the doll from me, and as she was about to toss the toy back on the ground, a firefighter stopped her and said, “It is okay. Let her keep the doll.” I remember getting very angry when my Mom lied to the firefighter, “She has enough dolls, she doesn’t need it.” Crying, I’d protested she was telling a lie, and I had never had a dolly. My Mom had marched away, and the firefighter had looked sadly at me. I can still see him leaning down to pick up the doll.
At home, my Mom tossed me a shopping magazine and had said, “There are lots of dolls in here. You can look at them all you want.” A couple of months later, at Christmas, a charity showed up with toys for all of us. A beautifully wrapped package had my name on it. I tore the paper to find a beautiful baby doll. It looked a lot like the doll that’d lain on Ouellette Avenue after the explosion. That doll, along with all my other few possessions was taken from me and put in “storage.” The Roman Catholic Children’s Aid Society seized me, and I never saw it again.

my1stdollfrommom

When I was in my 40’s my Mom gave me this doll. She told me she had found it in a St. Vincent De Paul store and she had drawn the features on the faceless toy. It took more than four decades, but my Mom finally gave me a doll.
© 2016 Zora Zebic

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Growing up

On Turning 60

mirrormirror

On August 11th I’m going to turn 60. “Wow!” I say to my mother’s face staring back at me from the bathroom mirror. I look more closely at mom’s eyes. I see the slightly slanty, puffy lids I’d always thought were charming though eccentric, especially when she smiles. “So self,” I ask my mother’s face looking back at me, “will others look at the eyes on my side of the mirror and see them as charming-though-eccentric?”
It is one of the Mi’kmaq features my mom inherited that caused her many a chuckle over the years. She’s told me stories of going into Chinese restaurants or supermarkets to have the waitresses or clerks speak to her in languages she cannot understand. She would smile and tell them, “You’re looking at the face of a Canadian Indian.” She’d say to me that always she would receive big smiles and nods of understanding.
I tilt my head and say, “Overall, not bad for 60.” The crinkles at the outer edges of my eyes look ‘earned,’ and I think briefly of the things that caused some tears to flow. I grow certain the salty tears dried out the tender skin that surrounds the eyes. I am not able to dwell on the sadness because a memory slips in and reminds me that I have cried many, many times with other types of tears!

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The tears of joy while rejoicing for the gift of my son Carlos Dwayne.

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The tears of tender love when I #10-pencil-sketched my infant son as he lay sleeping on June 6, 1976.

fuzzy

The tears of joy for finding love and loving! The photo is of my husband when he was just 18 and feeling all grown up! With another hairdo, Barry looks like Beatle George Harrison! When my husband and I first dated I’d told him I had chosen a nickname for him. I’d said your name is “Fuzzy” and he told me then that was the nickname his friends had given him when he was just a boy. I’d shed tears of joy then. How is that for meant-to-be?!
I count the gray hairs and ponder how my mom’s hair stayed dark until she was well into her 70’s! I wonder, will I be that lucky?
I remember the time when my mom called me, and she was crying. A Transit Windsor bus driver kicked her off the bus, rejecting her bus pass because, as he told my mother, “You sure as hell ain’t no senior citizen and I could have you arrested for using some old lady’s bus pass.” I’d asked my mom, “Why did he think it was somebody else’s bus pass?” She’d answered me, “In my photo, I have my winter hat on. You can’t see my hair. I didn’t have enough grey hair to convince the bum that I am a senior citizen.” When my mom called him a bum I knew all was going to be okay with her because when she is truly sad, she can’t utter a single angry word.
I’d asked her if the bus driver had seized her bus pass and she said no. I told her that was too bad. Had he taken it we could have gone to the City of Windsor to complain and demand the return of her pass. My mom had asked then, “What good would that have done?” I’d told her we could have proven to his boss that he had put a senior citizen with a valid pass off the bus. At the least, the city would have been obligated to provide the man sensitivity training and an optometrist appointment. My mom had chuckled at that. She then said, in the strictest voice her 5 feet of stature would allow, “I was able to walk home, but another senior may have suffered a heart attack.”
Years ago I was told by an elderly Mi’kmaq man the women of his band are considered marriageable and of childbearing age until the woman’s hair turned mostly grey! I can assure you I am not at all entertaining the idea of having another baby. I get tired climbing a flight of stairs; there is no way I could chase after a child! My hair is no longer the ‘dirty blonde’ colour of my youth and has matured to brown with natural red highlights brought out by the summer sun.

mom

I look at this photo taken around that time. My mother’s hair was brown in this photo, but the sun gave her hair bright golden highlights. I think how someone could mistake this for a picture of me! She proportionately weighed as much as I do now and I see that we share the same body type as well.
I have no fear of getting older. I am in awe that I survived so many things to make it this far. I see the ageing which has crept onto my face, and I like it! You can think of me as not being very humble, but it is a joyful acceptance of how I look! I am almost 60 and looking at my image I say, “You are pretty.” It took a long, long while, but there, I said it.
© 2016 Zora Zebic

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The Priest and the unmarked graves​

The Priest and the Unmarked Graves

During 2007 and 2008 he would come into my Native Craft Shop on Park Street in Windsor, Ontario. He was tall, slender, white-haired and looked to be in his 70’s or 80’s. The stale smell of cigarettes on his clothing told me he lived alone.
His clothing seemed as aged as he, yet his garb was that of a man of with good taste. A tailor-made suit hangs a certain way on a man, and I could tell he’d probably always been on the thin side as the suit still fit him reasonably well. His black shoes spoke of vintage imported Italian leather, and though the shoes had worn with age in places, I could see he was the type of man who knew well the need to preserve leather. His treatments and polishing of those shoes had undoubtedly earned him many extra years of shodden feet.
It was apparent he was a man who knew how to dress in style yet he carried himself with an air of humility. He was gentlemanly and spoke softly, but there was a sense of sadness about him. He pointed at an old cromolithograph that hung high on my wall. A framed, water-damaged Lord’s Prayer and Ten Commandments.

chrom

 

GIES & Co, Buffalo N. Y. Published by A. E. Pratt & Co. 27 Park Place E, New York, copyright 1880.

Noticing the water damage, he’d said the print wouldn’t have much value if I were selling it. I told him he could have it free as a neighbour in my apartment building had given it to me for that price. Her story was it had been a treasured family heirloom which had hung on her grandmother’s wall, to then be gifted to her mom and finally to her. Sadly, the apartment above hers had sprung a leak, and the picture had suffered for it. Her children didn’t want it, so she’d given it to me as I’d admired it.
He thanked me for the offer but refused to say, “People don’t adorn their walls with those these days, it’s no longer a popular trend. I’ve seen many of them, and it is nice to see it again. It brings back memories.” He asked if I was Roman Catholic and I told him the Sisters of Saint Joseph raised me. He smiled at that and told me he was a retired priest.
Each time he came to my shop he would tell me stories. One story was of how he’d spent a lot of time living with the Indians, and that was what drew him to my shop. He was looking for a white ceramic pipe, the type, sold on the Reserves. I didn’t have one but said I would keep an eye out for one. He told me a story of a friend who had shared life with him. His dog, someone he’d loved and always would.
The last time I’d seen him was the day he brought a large, worn padded mailer envelope. Gingerly he placed it on my sales counter and withdrew five laminated photos. The contents had barely fit into the container. He took out one average size photo of what looked like a chalet, snowed in.

Katdog

The first photo was of an Alaskan Malamute. He told me, through all the years after his pet had died, he would take the picture out to relax by surrounding himself with memories of happier times. One day he’d noticed how the photo had started to fade and he was afraid that time would erase his dog forever so he’d had it laminated to ensure it would last until he was ready to for his own grave.

Saints

He then showed me a black and white photocopy of St Genevieve of Paris and St Apollonia of Alexandria, by Lucas Cranach. He said he’d taken photographs of his pictures and had them developed at a print shop so he could keep the memories. He told me the histories of these saints. I told him as a child I had attended a school named Saint Genevieve’s!

Jesuit

He showed me his colour photocopy of The Jesuit Martyrs of North America. His heroes, he said. Looking at me then with a stern expression he said, “In the interaction with the native people of North America what politicians and historians believe and profess and what the church believes are often two different things.”

Kateri

He said, “This is Kateri Tekakwitha.” He told me her story in vivid detail, and I have to admit it pained my heart. As I looked at the image of a very young and beautiful girl he’d added, “Kateri was an Indian, and I hope to live long enough to witness this canonization of an important Canadian Saint.” On October 21, 2012, POPE BENEDICT XVI canonized Kateri Tekakwitha. I don’t know if he lived long enough to see her finally so blessed by his faith.
I had to close my shop near the end of 2008. My charity received the sad news that our government funding was to end by mid-2009. Saving my charity consumed all my time and energy, and I never did see him again. Before I closed my shop, it had already been many months that I had not seen him and he did not return to reclaim the photos he had given me.

Mailer

Storing the inventory of my shop I carefully wrapped his padded mailer and the Lords Prayer and Ten Commandments chromolithograph. I thought many times of them, and his request to me.
Sadly, so many times over the years, I was sure I had accidentally left the envelope behind at another place where I had temporarily paid rent to house my charity. I had unpacked the chromolithograph, but somehow it had gotten separated from the priest’s mailer envelope. Just today, February 6, 2016, I had gone up to my attic to look for a photograph my son Carlos. The photo would fit in with another story I wanted to tell, and as I sifted through the many boxes, I chanced to find the ragged mailer envelope. It was still as intact as when the priest had given it to me.
I did also find the photo of the round chair Carlos had reminded me of, and I will post that photo in a future blog. Coming down from the attic I called to my husband Barry, “After all these years I found them!” The part of the story I haven’t told you until now is about the fifth laminated photo and what he had written.

church

When the old priest had shown me the last two items he’d preserved in the mailer envelope, he said, “A long time ago I buried three people. The details are on the back here. They need you to tell the story.” Saying that he showed me a note he had handwritten and taped to the back of the photo.

stonywold

CHAPEL AT STONYWOLD, A T.B. HOSPiTAL FOR 1920S

BESiDE LAKE CUSH A QUA iN THE ADiRONDiCK

STATE PARK N.Y. – 50 Mi. ? S S W of MTL. P.Q.

CLOCK AND CHiMES – THREE GRAVES iN BACK

ONE MiSSiONARY PRiEST AND MR. AND MRS.

MOONSNELLER – – R. i P.

He then said, “What I hope will happen is for someone to find the graves someday. It is important they have a proper burial.” He didn’t explain any further, and as he walked out the door of my shop, I felt his message was urgent. In what way? I didn’t know. He never returned to my shop, and I wondered why he’d left behind the picture of his precious memory of his beloved dog. He’d spoken of how the original photo had faded and his need to have the photo last until he, himself, was ready to leave.
I didn’t notice an oddity until I started to type the text of his handwritten note. Looking through a magnifying glass at the tiny words something unique jumped out at me. He printed his directions to the graves in capital letters, with the one exception – the word “of,” however on every occasion he has written one letter in lowercase, the letter i. He never told me his name, and he never said the name of the missionary priest. Perhaps the lower case letter i is a clue to his identity or the identity of the nameless and buried missionary priest?
A reader led me to the link below. I’ve learned the priest made spelling errors as corrected below. I’ve found the surname Sneller but not Moonsneller. Perhaps this was meant to be Mr. and Mrs. Moon Sneller. STONEYWOLD, LAKE CUSH A QUA AND ADiRONDiCK are Stoney Wold, Lake Kushaqua and Adirondack.

https://localwiki.org/hsl/Stony_Wold_Sanatorium

church?

Here then is the final photo the old priest gave to me. You’ve read this story, so now this is your personal Cold Case. Can you solve it?

© 2016 Zora Zebic