Category Archives: stories

She has her eyes on you


Over a year ago, a friend was fired from one of those jobs with low pay, where intelligent but young people work for bosses whose potential and ability faded with their enthusiasm. As we spoke that night, going over the details, mutually incredulous and increasingly angered, I reminded her that sometimes these things happen and that opportunities will open up. Going forward, I suggested, she now had time to explore her options, spend time taking care of herself and that help was always just a phone call away. We both laughed when I reminded her that her mother would no doubt be ready with all manner of comfort, now and whenever the pocket book could not offer her the certainty of home cooked meal.

It was her mother who put the whole situation into a succinct frame. That any employer would cast out a brilliantly educated, ginger-haired wit, such as her daughter, was a clear sign the company was beyond hope: corporate collapse was imminent. If only we could believe in ourselves so completely.

Our conversation reminded me of the first time I was fired. I was a retail clerk, part-time, at a small Carlton Cards shop. The store was located in a vacant suburban mall, populated by the few chains that either could afford to keep the shop open despite poor business, or those businesses that had not yet seen the downturn in demographics. After receiving the news that I was no longer needed and there would be no more shifts for me, I returned home, head down, certain that this episode was the most dismal to date.

When I told my mother, she probed for answers to the unanswerable: “How could they do this? Don’t they have to tell you a few days before? What kind of people are they?” When I shrugged my shoulders and answered with a sullen, “I don’t know”, she cut a slice of pie and served it to me warm. It wasn’t until years later that I learned what she had done after our conversation and to this day I do not have the full details.

One afternoon, she drove to the empty mall. She walked past the insurance agency, with its empty chairs and lone woman, in her tired business shirt with a name tag; past the Orange Julius kiosk, staffed by the university student trying to eek out part-time hours at minimum wage to supplement meagre student loans. She walked into that small store, with its single aisle of birthday condolences, get well soon balloons, and knick-knack curios that appeal to lonely women and those unable to find the words for what it is they meant to say.

I imagine her there: 5’4″, farm-girl seamstress whose hands and steely look tell a story, her thick Finnish accent. What did she say?

To this day whenever we find ourselves in that suburban mall, only recently turning a corner on the backs of some renovations and the new Safeway, she makes a point of looking into that little store. The episode has long since left my memory, replaced by other bosses and now staff; however, I see in her eyes the memory of wrongdoing. A look of warning; a mother’s warning to all that cross the paths of brilliant, educated children: she has her eyes on you.

A month for love, the Finnish kind

So I have been on hiatus – losing the 10 lbs I gained eating pulla, laatikko and all the other goodies over December. No special Finnish recipe for weight loss  except maybe don’t eat pulla, laatikko or other goodies.

I have been thinking about this blog for the past week or so, wondering if I would pick up again and if so, what would I want to focus on for one month. It came to me last night, after spending the day trying write for a class I am in. I spent quite a bit of time trying to put together a short piece, in the style of Finnish poet Eeva Kilpi. She is a beautiful poet, whose short, quick-witted poems capture so much of the ordinary mystery of love and loneliness. After coming up short yet again on my own attempts, it occurred to me that I needed to study love, the Finnish kind, in order to get what it is that Eeva is clearly and concisely capturing.

So it is February, and I will be studying love. Not the love that involves cards, candy, and jewelry that seems to dominate this month (although I like all three just fine). I want to explore ordinary love, a wake-up-in-the-morning-to-the-same-pillow-marked- cheeks-and-bleary-eyed-face with joy kind of love, the kind that has saggy boobs, and knarled toes. Or what about the love that is silent, determined and unmoved, even a bit foolish. Sad, lonely love. Love without the frills. Practical love.

What is this Finnish love I am speaking about?

I don’t know, but I like what I read and see in film so I want to explore it.

To start me off, here is a little Eeva Kilpi for a Tuesday in February:

Tell Me Immediately if I am Disturbing You

Tell me immediately if I’m disturbing you,
He said, coming in the door,
And I will leave right away.

You not only disturb,
I answered,
You shake my whole being.
Welcome.
– Eeva Kilpi –