Is there ever a time you can’t muster a high? When you scoff at such a list; mind blank and steeped in bleak forecasts?
Are you screaming YES?
This was a year maybe a high might be hard to find.
A year to confront aging. A unknown father rushes in moments before a school holiday concert and mouthes “sorry” to his annoyed wife. As he brushed past me (proud aunt in the front row) to take his seat down the row, I found myself breathless-he was so very very young, this tardy father. Suddenly I was seized with panic. I was that wife, when? Yesterday, wasn’t it? We were the parents with little ones in concerts we never missed. Now I’m…what? Old?
NEVER. Have you seen me do my ab exercises? MOVE ON, NOW.
I was silly and stern and strong this year. Sad and deliriously happy. Woeful and wonderstruck both. Age is my friend after all, even if nobody gave me Time for Christmas. Hint for Santa: I only want TIME and you can bring it without wrapping as our blue bin is full.
A funny thing happened on this adventure in adulthood: there’s always a high. We go high when they go low, says Michelle Obama.
What makes me high? (My lawyer has advised me to refrain from the truth when crossing the border). Here is the secret: stories.
Here are some stories on page, stage and screen that shone for me in 2018 and maybe a few from my own story.
So many cultural highs for me in 2018 but what was the favourite? Was it Roma, the film I was fortunate to see on a large screen sans distractions, unlike family and friends who have seen it since on Netflix and yawned, meh. I love them anyway, these family and friends who think me equally nuts on many an occasion. To all of you I say this: GO SEE ROMA AT THE MOVIE THEATRE. GO SEE IT AT THE TIFF BELL LIGHTBOX where you will not be force-fed ads until you’re so fed up that you’ve lost interest in the film to come. While there, why not a double bill with Shoplifters, another spectacular high in cinema?
On the page:
The gorgeous Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini, inspired by the 2015 story of Alan Kurdi, the three-year old Syrian refugee who drowned in the Meditteranean trying to reach safety in Europe.
Your mother is here tonight, Marwan,
with us, on this cold and moonlit beach,
among the crying babies and
the women worrying
in tongues we don’t speak.
Afghans and Somalis and Iraqis and
Eritreans and Syrians.
All of us impatient for sunrise,
all of us in dread of it.
All of us in search of home.
I have heard it said we are the uninvited.
We are the unwelcome.
We should take our misfortunes elsewhere.
But I hear your mother’s voice,
over the tide,
and she whispers in my ear,
“Oh, but if they saw, my darling.
Even half of what you have.
If only they saw.
They would say kinder things, surely.”
Sapiens. I read “Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind” while in Greece earlier this year and suddenly this ancient land I lay upon fell away. Did I imagine it?
Happiness does not really depend on objective conditions of either wealth, health or even community. Rather, it depends on the correlation between objective conditions and subjective expectations.
-Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens
It interests me how we find ways to feel superior to another person, another group of people. It happens everywhere, and all the time. Whatever we call it, I think it’s the lowest part of who we are, this need to find someone else to put down.
-Elizabeth Strout, My Name is Lucy Barton
For what matters in life is not whether we receive a round of applause; what matters is whether we have the courage to venture forth despite the uncertainty of acclaim.
Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow
The decisions I made after that moment were not the ones she would have made. They were the choices of a changed person, a new self.
You could call this selfhood many things. Transformation. Metamorphosis. Falsity. Betrayal.
I call it an education.
Tara Westover, Educated.
Ignore the traffic, the endless construction, the screaming headlines of rising housing costs. Toronto is not the sum of said parts. Toronto, for this fangirl, is a very deep well of immense creativity. These performances dazzled me all. Small neighbourhood theatres; big productions on splashy stages; casts just pretending to be amateur or at least that’s what I came away with after watching spectacular craft; and let’s not forget the fun of midsummer Shakespeare in an outdoor amphitheatre. Theatre is so very alive and well in this city. Stoked for what’s to come in 2019 but here’s what I loved this past year.
The Nether-Coal Mine Theatre
Fun Home– Musical Stage Company
The Wolves-Crow’s Theatre
Romeo and Juliet in High Park-Canadian Stage
The Nightingale-Canadian Opera Company
Anne Bolena (with the spectacular Sondra Radvanovsky!)-Canadian Opera Company
The Hunchback of Notre Dame-Wavestage
On the big screen:
My true favourites from TIFF are the place to start for what resonated the most for me on screen this year. Some won’t be in theatres yet but all are excellent.
Read my list: Scrumptious Films TIFF 2018 and Second Best TIFF 2018
In addition, there are these films I saw (and loved) outside of the festival:
Isle of Dogs: Wes Anderson is a god.
Incredibles 2: Our family’s alter egos in gorgeous animation.
A Quiet Place: Among the directorial debuts, this one was very solid throughout.
Won’t You Be My Neighbour? and Three Identical Strangers: my two favourite docs of the year
Mission Impossible-Fallout: Tom Cruise is extra here. My kind of extra.
Black Panther: read my review here
Mary Poppins Returns: I want to live in that art director’s imagination.
A Star is Born: Bradley Cooper got to me. Hubba Hubba.
Whitney (the Kevin McDonald version, NOT the earlier film) My vintage, my soundtrack. Well-told.
Sorry to Bother You: Shocking in all the right ways.
And these TIFF 2017 films, all released in 2018, all bear repeating as worthy faves:
A Fantastic Woman
On the small screen:
Mozart in the Jungle- Prime
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel-Prime
The Great Canadian Baking Show-second season (the first was a bore)-CBC
World Cup: Fave moment? The celebrations from ecstatic Panama fans after the oldest member of that country’s soccer team scored the first ever World Cup goal.
Some favourite moments lived:
Lying on a mattress alongside my eldest kid (and hundreds of others) in a massive industrial space for the mindblowing The Long Now in Berlin.
Watching July 1st fireworks with my youngest on the Toronto beach along with thousands gasping and cheering. The entire city dumped out onto the sand for salsa and volleyball and everything in between as dusk settled and our little cooler and fold-up chairs were, at that moment, all we would ever need.
Cruising the Toronto skylines on the ancient Sky ride at Centreville with my guy, who tells me his childhood dream was to jump down off this ride and run into the woods in search of adventure. 27 years married and there are stories yet to learn. Just call me #charmed. A few months later, we wandered the McGill campus late one night on Homecoming weekend and met our younger selves there in the dark.
Wandering through the whimsical backdrops of Haritatos winery in Kefalonia, then sitting for a glorious afternoon of wine tasting where the four of us dreamed up parties we could have in this space on this fabled island in Greece. Greece is a land of moments too many to count but that one is a stand out. We will be back, Kefalonia. Wait for us.
My niece brought a poem into her grade 2 show-and-tell class on rituals. It was one of mine; I wrote it for her first Christmas and since then, her mother has had it framed and pulls it out every holiday season. This writer dips into poetry now and then as it was my very first genre of writing as a child. For those interested, I still have copies of my 2001 poetry collection, Holding Glass.
135 sessions of pumping iron in 2018 and I’m still a dumpling. But I might not float as easily come summer. One can hope. Scratch that. One can persist.
Happy New Year. Hold on tight to what and whom you love and keep your eyes open to all possibility. As entomologist David Wagner says of the decline of bugs due to climate change,
We notice the losses. It’s the diminishments that we don’t see.