Christmas means different things to different people. To Richard Todd Canton, it means his revisiting life as a boy in a house that his father built for his family on Russell Street in Amherst, Nova Scotia. Christmas also brings with it fond memories of his mother, who filled their home with life, laughter, and love. All Things Family and Christmas offers both a sentimental journey and a reminder to all busy people that it's important to take a moment to slow down and enjoy the holidays.
All Things Family and Christmas is the second collection of stories based upon Canton's life growing up on Russell Street. It offers a poignant, heartfelt window into the life and memories of a grateful son and husband. From the wonderful memories of Christmases long past to the memorable characters that he encountered while working at Kmart, Canton paints a picture of interesting people and wondrous memories that are the foundation of his history.
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All Things Family and ChristmasThis Way Is My Way
By Richard Todd Canton
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Richard Todd Canton
All right reserved.
Chapter OneListen to Your Mother
No one, and I mean no one knows you like your mother does. She not only carried you for nine months, she carried you around for the next nine months. She nursed your colds and fevers, suffered through incoming and outgoing teeth. She battled the flu and other viruses with an unmatched instinct and a protective sense of pride. She did her best to shield you from bullies on the playground and from bullies in general. A mother is like Santa in many ways. She knows when you are sleeping, and knows when you're awake. A mother can holler upstairs, "What's going on up there?" and she already knows.
Mothers insist on you brushing your teeth, washing your hands( both tops and bottoms), and they clean your ears. They tell you've had enough junk food for one day even when you think you haven't had nearly enough. And they cry.
Mothers insist that you use your manners, use proper etiquette at the breakfast table, how not to chew with your mouth open, to tie your shoes, to be respectful to others, and that's all before you leave the house. And they kiss you.
Mother says that an education is a very important thing. She says to listen to the teacher and to do as your told. She tells you to be careful when you head out the door for school and to wait for the crossing guard before you head into traffic. She tells you not to throw rocks or snowballs at other kids or cars, because they can blind someone. Mothers tell you to wait for your little brother because he can't walk as fast as you do. She tells you to 'mind your manners' which really means "don't break any laws".
Mothers like to feed kids. Sometimes they cook big meals that are good for you and sometimes they let you use the microwave to cook foods that aren't so good for you. Sometimes they don't do anything but sit in the chair and relax because they have a headache. Mothers like to talk on the phone a lot. That can give a kid a headache.
Mothers think that they are fat. They think that if they could lose ten pounds then all their troubles would be over.
Mother can only count to five. If they have to count any higher, that means business. You don't want business. Just ask your father. Mothers are the bosses. When you really want to go somewhere and do something, you ask him. He says "What did your mother say?" If she said No, then No! On that rare occasion that he might take your part, she has to count to five, and that means business. You don't want business.
A mother thinks that teenagers are payback for all the stunts they pulled on their parents. They call it their come-uppance. That's when they talk on the phone to their mothers and they say things like "Oh, I wasn't like that!". Or "I was never that bad!" Mothers think they should sit you down and talk about safe sex and drinking and drugs. It makes them nervous to give these talks but tell us that it's for our own good. And they worry.
Mothers don't sleep at night. They stay awake and think awful thoughts of what might be happening to their kids. They often remind their children of stuff that has happened in other families and how she doesn't want anything like that to happen in her family because we are all she lives for.
Mothers listen to old people's music and talk about bands and singers no one has ever heard of. They call them the classics.
Mothers like to watch television programs like OPRAH and DR Phil. They think they will find the solutions to their problems from them. But, instead it turns out that most mothers know more than DR. Phil and OPRAH combined, that's why we all go to our mothers when all is not well.
Mothers love you in a way that no one else ever will. They want you to take care of yourself and to be careful, even when you're twenty-five years old. Even if you've gone to college and got yourself a job. They hope someday you will meet someone nice and fall in love, get married and have a baby. They want to become grandmothers. When they do, they give that child everything they never gave you and when you tell them they are spoiling the kid, they tell you that it's their job to spoil the kids. That's when you sit in a chair and have a headache.
Then one day when you are looking into the face of your own children you think to yourself, so that's what my mother meant. And you worry!
Listen to your mother!
A Million More
Just because I am getting older doesn't mean I am slowing down any. I always look forward to the day and see what it will bring. I believe it is because I like my life. I appreciate living in a free country, drinking clean water and enjoying a healthy lifestyle. I like to keep busy and to work. I enjoy my job at school because of the interesting people I interact with on a daily basis. I also enjoy being a waiter. This can be very interesting as well. Just when one thinks they've heard it all, someone surprises you. It's a good lesson to learn.
As an Educational Assistant, we are not the teacher. Teachers are trained in academics, we are trained in dealing with behaviours, emotions, acknowledgement and support. As a result we interact with the children in a different way than the teacher does. Our rewards differ as well. Sometimes the smallest looking achievement is worth a million to us. The job we do is an important one. It is nice when our contribution is noticed.
When our Student Council President, Lincoln Watson gave his speech at the closing banquet, he chose to acknowledge me and my life lessons, as the person he learned the most from in his junior high experience. The applause was thunderous, the compliment, touching. It was afterward that I realized exactly what my life's purpose is and that I am fulfilling it on a daily basis. It is my duty to acknowledge and nurture all persons with whom I come in an arm's length of. That goes for the animal kingdom as well as the earth itself. My mother taught me to be kind to others and I believe that I am. I always wanted my mother to be proud of me, probably more than anything else.
Had I not been caught off-guard by Lincoln's kind gesture, I would like to have addressed the audience. I probably would have said something like this:
It is easy to be nice to nice people, it is a challenge to be nice to those who aren't. It is nice to appreciate the beauty of a flower but not to pick it. It is lovely to hear a baby sigh, the welcoming bark of my dog, the purr of a kitten simply because I entered the room, and the smile on my wife's face. I must never take any of these things for granted because they could all be gone in a minute.
All of this could not be possible with out a 'Thank you Mother' for not only giving me life but making it worth living, for teaching me to see the good in people and to appreciate the beauty around me. And thanks for allowing people like Lincoln Watson to enhance my life in the most positive ways......
Appreciation for all we have is the greatest gift we give ourselves. I appreciate the fact that I can put my own pants on in the morning, feed myself breakfast and take myself down the road to work.. Having said all of that I head into everyday glad that I am alive, that my house is a home because Sherry lives there, that I am somebody's Daddy to my dog, and that the life I live is a good one.
So with the sun shining through my kitchen window this morning as I shared a cup of tea with my wife, I ask God to give me a million more..........
A Picture in my Mind
When my wife and I got married there were a few people who said it would never last. When the two of us moved from the tight knit clutch of family it was also said that it would never last as well. Too different I was told. She's so quiet and he's so out there that eventually it will break them up. Moving from Amherst to Truro was something too that placed distance between us and family. As it turns out it was the right decision because the pair of us needed to get to know each other and to put each other's needs above all else.
I was privileged to be employed by Kmart Canada and went to work in an already suffering Cafeteria. I was told as manager that I had one year to turn things around. I did it. Or should I say, we did it. We, the food team at 5481, spent the next twelve years cooking, eating, laughing and crying. They became my family. As for the people who worked on the sales floor, they too hold a place in my memory and in heart. Such a creature was Hazel McCully. Hazel worked at the jewelry counter and she was an expert at her trade. She was born for that job. She and I became friends the first day. Hazel's personality and way with people made her successful in sales. Her neatly manicured hands held the jewels perfectly. Her overall appearance was neat and tidy, just like her. Never a hair out of place, Hazel was truly a class act. Looking like a school teacher, she approached every customer with a friendly gaze and welcoming hand. Never phony, Hazel proved herself to be invaluable in business.
At lunch we would all congregate in the upstairs lounge. Hazel and I often shared conversation over hot tea and a sensible lunch. That's when she told me she was a Dowe from Cumberland County and that she had been in Kmart in Amherst on several occasions and that's when she first noticed me. She had a real sense of family and her biggest concern was that she might never become a Grandma to a little girl. That all changed unexpectedly when a red haired baby named Brett entered the picture. Hazel had another name in mind for a girl, Dale Marie but still, this was the gift she had waited for. At Hazel and Lloyd's 50th wedding anniversary, there was the red haired girl that Hazel talked so much about.
Hazel's untimely passing took us all by surprise when it was Lloyd that was so sick. Still, her memory hasn't left me. I can still see that twinkle in her eye and that smile on her face. That is the picture I carry in my heart and on my mind.
A Piece of Paper
When my wife was passed over for a promotion because she required a degree, I thought to myself, Wow it's just a piece of paper compared to the years of experience that girl has in the computer business. She has proven herself on several occasions that she is well versed and knowledgeable in everything that she does. However, that piece of paper was the only thing that was standing between her and the promotion, so she got one.
It also got me thinking that paper plays a more of a major role in our lives without our really taking the time to really ponder it. A piece of paper from your mother excused you from class and one from your doctor got you excused from work. In fact, those pieces of paper held so much power that no one could dispute it.
A winning lottery ticket is a piece of paper. It is one that could change your whole life in either a good or a bad way. A divorce paper could as well.
A pay-cheque is a much anticipated piece of paper, so is a driver's licence, a vehicle permit, and finally a death certificate. OK that one is not as anticipated as the rest.
A pink slip is another piece paper no one wants, but a fifty dollar bill in this country is a pink piece of paper that everybody wants.
Paper grows on trees and trees give us oxygen. That makes us all breathe a little easier, so to speak.
All of us want to be paper thin, at least at some time in our lives and then there's the way we paper our walls, get our news from the newspaper. We need paper to blow our noses on when we have a cold, we line the bird cage with paper and then there's the always useful, toilet paper.
Ransom notes are on paper, so are love letters, gifts are wrapped in tissue paper, fresh meat in brown paper, and then the best communication tool in school, the paper air plane.
That brings us to the union of marriage and all it offers. A piece of paper changes you from a single man to a husband, or from a husband to a involuntary single man.
So I guess I gave you something to think about. So the next time someone favours living together over the commitment of marriage by stating that it's the same thing and that the marriage certificate is "just a piece of paper", what they might really mean is something that my Aunt Francess said on several occasions, "why buy the cow when you are getting the milk for free." lol
and always remember, my stories might not be worth the paper they are written on......or are they?
by for now,
A Mother's Soul
When a disease such as ALS strikes an undeserving person, it is difficult for all involved. ALS didn't just kill our mother, it took a very big chunk of our own lives. We, the seven natural children of Vivian Canton have suffered our grief in many ways over the years since her death. Let's face it, sooner or later everyone loses their mother. Our mother was 71 years old and to some, had lived a long life, but to us, well, we weren't quite done yet. We all thought she would be around for years to come.
Since I was the one that lived the farthest away, I was able to see significant changes in her when I did visit. I was uncomfortable seeing my big, strong mother in such a delicate way and I believe that she was just as uncomfortable being seen. We covered it all up with humor like we did everything in our lives, but still, facing a loved one's demise can be very trying.
I loved my mother for all the reasons a child loves their mother, because she was my teacher, my companion, my disciplinarian and my friend. Not unusual, right? I believe that it was a little deeper than that. I believe that it was because she was accepting of me and my thoughts, no matter how bizarre, that truly made me appreciate myself and continue to venture down the less traveled path. In fact, she encouraged it.
My mother never said, "you can't do that". She might say "don't do that or this might happen," or "do you really want to do that?" but these were more for safety reasons than dream crushing. She encouraged me in anything that I attempted and if I failed, discouraged any kind of self-pity and enforced the issue of "try it again". She spoke to each and everyone from a Mother's Soul. For all these things I am grateful. As I sit and write at this computer on a rainy Sunday, I didn't think I had anything to say. For some reason, when I am down the most, I turn to my mother and ask what she might say in this situation, and when this mood passes like every other one, I go back to being me, and doing what I do best.......reach out to people. I take the gift that God gave me and by telling my stories.
Thank you Mother, for more things than I could ever list on this page and for picking up and dusting off a clumsy boy who has love in his heart for a woman who never gave up on him.
For the Love of Me
It takes a good man to accept another man's child as his own. This is usually accomplished by a deepening affection for the mother. As a result the child grows on you. I knew if my wife and I never had children then it would be highly unlikely that I would ever hold another man's baby and call it my own. In the unlikely event that it did happen, it would probably have to be Chinese and the natural parents would have to be way around the world. I couldn't have them living next door.
Well, recently such a thing happened to me. An oriental family had a baby that needed a decent home and parents. We had to be checked out and we had to pay a fortune, but finally the void that exists inside me has found a purpose.
When I first looked into the little girl's face, I knew I had to be accepting that she wasn't like me and my wife. I had to accept that she wasn't like the other kids in my neighborhood but what overcame me was a true sense of love. This little girl was a gift from God. Through circumstances beyond my control, she found her way into our lives and into my heart.
Our lives were turned upside down at her arrival, and since she had to secure a place in our family to last a lifetime, she turned those eyes to me. I want you to remember something, I am only human and I had every intention of facing my responsibilities, like any good man. What I didn't know was just how deep my feelings ran. I am realizing all that now.
This little rose that found her way to me has realized that she owns my embrace, she controls my affection, she's made me grow and she contributes to my well being by loving me in return, just as much as I love her.
Excerpted from All Things Family and Christmas by Richard Todd Canton Copyright © 2011 by Richard Todd Canton. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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