A last name like that is pure joy for a kid. Yakety yak, don't talk back would run through my head every time she stopped by to chat or walked past our house. And Mrs. Yak loved to talk. She was living up to her moniker and I found that hilarious. Her subject matter was not so funny. She was frequently concerned with "other people's beeswax." [See expressions, childhood, Little Rascals, none of your beeswax] She was a gossip. My mother had a serious mental illness. Et voilà, a marriage of two minds.
Once, she kindly took me to an Anglican service at Church of the Atonement. We went downstairs and I learned how to make tulips out of cut up egg cartons and pipe cleaners. Early spring in 1970s Etobicoke: slush on every curb, the sun growing stronger at mid sky and I'm agog with these fake homely flowers. I begged my mom to save the next egg carton for me and nearly put the scissors through my hand trying to cut up the dimples. A simple comment from my mom killed my future career as Fabergé quality fleur-artiste: "È brutto."
Ouch, but I couldn't disagree. Compared to the plastic mauve flowers kept in a flamboyant green and gold-trimmed vase on our quasi-baroque coffee table, my creation was a paltry attempt at craft.
At times it seemed like Mrs. Y was cruising by simply to get a front row seat to our ongoing crisis. My dad confirms my suspicions.
Mental hop, skip and a jump to several years ago when I hung out in a now-closed Tibetan store and drank butter tea with the owner, Lobsang. She offered this fabulous idiom of advice: “Don’t notice the fly on someone’s shoulder and avoid the yak on your face.”
I'm feeling pleased as punch that those dots connect like polka meets Lawrence Welk.
I'm all for the gossip that saves lives by spreading vital information like the grapevine that names predators in the education system. (Let's be serious, what scuttlebutt? This is shameful news and the definition of disgrace.) I'm also in favour of one of the basic tenets of the Disney-Thumper's-Dad philosophy that if you can't say anything nice, you shouldn't say anything at all. The Italian translation is "Shaduppa your face."
In every writing workshop, someone will say "Rip it to shreds. I want useful criticism." As if the truest method of delivering feedback is akin to a pack of starving wolves feasting over a deer carcass. That system has worked so well for the world, who am I to argue for different process? Just another tough snowflake, that's who.
I'm obsessed with thoughts of practical kindness and sturdy compassion. Many times I ruminate over the moments I was recklessly inconsiderate or stingy due to exhaustion. I'm constantly seeking (and finding) examples of cultural misogyny in order to detect the origin of the maternal line's cruel streak.
The mission continues after this brief boogie break.