Wednesday, 30 May 2012

One Week, Six Days: Parts of Calista

Yet another day goes by without making any appreciable progress on getting Calista's memorial scholarship fund going.  Four calls to the director with not one returned, the bank tells me that I cannot set up an account for this express purpose: I guess that is a pretty common scam for confidence men, my accountant does not like me using (or miss-using?) the Family Trust set up for Calista and I have not a clue what else to do.  My final effort was to call the chairman of the board in charge of the college funding programs; if you cannot get satisfaction from the bureaucrat in charge of things, go to the volunteer in charge of oversight.  It makes enemies, but it gets things done.

Into the light we walk; more parts of Calista.

I guess Calista's love of things material was honestly earned as the daughter of Roni. As long as I can remember Calista was all about fashion; first under the direction of the master fashionista, her mother, but by the time she was four Calista had a good idea how she should be dressed for any occasion.  Of course, there were a few times that she was....well.....inappropriate for the occasion.

Our first veterinary clinic in Whitehorse, Yukon Territories, had a back door that exited out of my office and into our back yard.  In the short summers, on the odd warm day we would have, I had a habit of  opening the back door  to let some of the clean, fresh Yukon air into the medicinal atmosphere of the clinic.  One July day a young mother came into the clinic with her child that was about Calista's age; maybe two and a bit. I really was not paying attention.  About half-way through the appointment the young mother panics because her child has taken it on the lamb, scrammed, escaped altogether. I had a good idea what was up and tracked down the hall to my back door and there was my dear Calista stripping to her birthday suit with her new "friend", aiming to run through the sprinklers.  I retrieved the client's child no worse for wear ( I am not sure she was all that appreciative or even slightly calmer)  and then had to scoot Calista home since I was not sure having a buck-naked youngster tracking around the clinic all afternoon would be all that good for business.

By the time we had moved to Regina Calista had a very distinct sense of fashion. Everything she had ran to pinks and purples and damned if they did not have to match at all times.  Except when they were supposed to clash; then they REALLY clashed  (That trend was a life long love; right now her bedroom has four hot-pink walls and one lime green wall. It sounds gross but it surprisingly works really well. It is staying that way because, you know, it is Ground hog Day every day).  About the time she was four she was dressing herself.

At some point Roni had bought Calista a big blue laundry hamper in the shape of a cartoon whale. Calista took to that whale immediately; it was filled with dirty clothes all the time.  Sometimes three times a day when Calista was in full blown "princess" mode. I guess somewhere along the way Calista had got the idea that if  pants, shirts, skirts or dresses even touched your body they were dirty and should go into the mouth of the whale.  That came to a screaming halt once Roni told her that she would have to do her own laundry if she filled the whale one more time.  After that Calista stopped filling the whale with clothes and, to the day she died, she never did her own laundry.  Roni was actually doing her laundry today (because it is the last time she will ever do Calista laundry and you need to finish well if it the last time you will get to be a parent, right?).  Calista also never really returned to using any laundry hamper; we just learnt to assume that if clothes were thrown on the ground, they were probably (but not always) dirty.  Even now, we kind of had to sift through her clothes carefully to see if any of the clothes were somewhat dirty since after her whale episode Calista had a habit of returning "slightly worn" clothes to the drawer rather than generate laundry for her mother.

By the time Calista reached her teen years, she had a very distinct fashion sense that really worked. Unfortunately at about twelve or thirteen she ran into an unexpected problem. Puberty.  Her breasts developed over one summer and all of a sudden my little girl was a young woman. Now it might seem a bit unseemly that a man notices his daughters chest, but her first day of school her grade eight year was a bit of a war zone.  At about 7:45 am my little girl trots downstairs wearing a V-neck T-shirt that might have fit when she was ten, but did not even come close to fitting at twelve.  I felt so old that morning as I looked at her, shook my head, bit my tongue and told myself that I had been a young man once. Then I remembered what I was like at 13 and turned to her mother and shook my head.  The war started at once, with Roni on the full attack.  I am pretty sure Roni was reduced to finding one of her white dress shirts when we realised how much Calista had sprouted over the summer.  Calista was driven to school by her mother just in time for class (I usually did those honours) and I am pretty sure a safety pin was in place to keep the top buttons buttoned for the day. I am also pretty sure that safety pin was gone about one minute after Roni had rounded the corner next to the school. My girl was always her own woman; leader of few but follower of none.

As she aged my girl continued to have an ongoing war with her chest. To this day I am pretty sure the reason her competitive swimming career ended so abruptly at 16 was the fact you cannot swim fast well when you are built like Mae West.  On the other hand, it did come to define one of my daughter's most notable idiosyncrasies: she had the largest brassier collection known to woman kind.  I thought it was kind of bizarre on laundry day when I was confronted by probably a dozen bras hanging from a clothes line in the basement. I never actually thought about it much beyond it being a cute fetish until one of her close friends explained it to me. It seems that when a woman is large enough to be "hard to fit" she buys three brassieres every time she finds one that fits right. I can go with that; but someone should explain to me why Calista had a passion for Betty Page memorabilia?

Shoes! Oh my God; shoes were beyond a passion, they were practically a religion for my girl.  Whenever we travelled she would always have at least five or six pairs of shoes with her, just to make sure she had all her bases for every occasion.  Always two or three pairs of sneakers (comfortable favourites, dressy for going to the mall and something mildly athletic just in case she found a boxing club in the neighbourhood), flip-flops for casual trips to the neighbourhood and then a pair of dress shoes (or two or three for that matter) just in case a dressy occasion appeared on the horizon.  At home things were even more dramatic. Dress boots, practical boots, dress shoes, multiple pairs of sneakers and I have no idea how many pairs of dress shoes.  She even had "costume shoes" for those many occasions that one just needs to attend an affair dressed as Marie Antoinette or Betty Boop.  And it was shocking how often something like that was necessary.

My Calista took "dressing up" to a whole new level. Every Halloween required at least two costumes; one for daytime wear and one for evening wear.   That was kind of my fault: one year when she was maybe ten I decided I could manufacture a pair of angel's wings for Halloween out of wire, paper-mache and feathers. By the time I was done I had a pair of angels wings that were as all as he and looked like real wings. Unfortunately they also weighed close to twenty pounds and were five feet tip to tip.  We needed a back-up costume just in case the wings failed to fly. After that we always had an alternative costume for weather and foolish father contingencies. Calista merely continued the tradition as she matured into an adult.  Daytime would get a businesswoman Betty Page look, including the fishnet stockings and the retro hair-do, while evening would get a distinctly ribald Marie Antoinette look.  I am not sure that the Queen of France ever wore a dress quite that short, but it worked for my girl.  I'm not sure she could safely pick up anything she dropped, but she probably had four boys around at any one time to get that accomplished. I should mention in passing that she did like to wear her plastic princess tiara on her birthday. I would just bet that her university and college instructors just loved that; I loved her for it.  She never cared what people thought of her because she just celebrated life every day of her life.

I had a note from one of her instructors today that was just so typical of my girl that it made me smile as the tears of longing welled up in my eyes.  She did her professional photography practicum with Sean, who I guess does "product photography", her speciality.  He used her at one photography shoot as an hand model on short notice. On the next trip out, this time to take product pictures at a cup-cake bakery, she anticipated a encore performance. She took the time the night before the shoot to carefully paint her nails to match the cup-cake theme.  I have to ask just where the hell did she come up with this stuff?  I saw the pictures and sure-enough she not only has cup-cake fingernails, she has cup-cake themed jewelry on. Who the heck has cup-cake jewelry except my crazy, artistic kid?

Still on the subject of Calista and her love of dressing for every occasion, Jesse, her good friend from College had us doubled in laughter explaining how Calista seemed to have a never ending store house of props for photography. One of Jesse's photographic projects was "Magic: Old and New" and two of the references she used were Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" and the newer "Harry Potter" series.  Jesse was at a loss over how to get props for the photos she wanted to take.  Calista started off the conversation with "Lord of the Rings? Well, I have "THE RING" (as in "The One Ring") and sure enough, she coughed up a collector's edition of the ruling ring, engraved and all.  Then the conversation turns to Harry Potter and Calista manages to find a Gryffindor House scarf in red and gold. It made Jesse's project easier to complete, but it confirmed to Jesse that Calista was just a little odd after all.  That leaves me wondering where my girl picked up the miniature Greek column and the stuffed crow that still decorate the stairs of her tiny two level apartment.

Then there is the jewelry.  Calista had quite a collection, all of it relatively cheap costume jewelry, but my lord did she wear it with taste and flair.  That girl never looked cheap (unless that was the look she was going for, and then she did "cheap with flair").  She did have some quite unique pieces though. Every birthday and every Christmas I liked to get her one good but unique piece. Some of my gifts were real winners and some of them were just love tokens that she loved but could not wear.  I would hunt all year for that perfect  piece and usually finally settle with less than a day to go on the best of what I found on my searches.  Two years in a row I found one of a kind pieces from an artists in Ghana who liked to work in tumbled beach glass and antique brass. The beach glass was a winner, the antique brass not so much. I guess in retrospect I should have known better since the brass necklace kind of looked like something a village shaman might wear at an exorcism.  My last gift to her was a cute silver necklace that took the form of a snake that wrapped around the neck and clasped with a magnet at the throat.  I heard that it was a great hit; she and her friends thought I was going with a Harry Potter theme (the snake being the symbol of Slytherin House).  I never got to see my girl wear that necklace, not even a picture of her in it.

I guess now my wife and I are going to have to figure out what to do with all of this.  The clothes will be impossible for my wife to let go for probably decades. Heck, we still have some of her baby clothes (first we kept them because we thought there might be a little brother or sister to hand-me-down to, then we just kept them because we realised our reproductive days were behind us, now we will just keep them). The shoes will be an effort; there are just so many pairs here, including some hot pink stilettos that only Calista could pull off wearing and a pair of high heeled two-tone wing-tips that she looked great in but I guess were a torture to wear. While I was searching her room for the still missing iPod and suspected missing flash drives (yet more photographs) I found shoes stashed in the most unlikely places: empty antique hat-boxes, hidden shelves under the head-board of her bed,  back corners of closet where they have sat unused since she arrived from Regina.

My lord I miss that girl.  I keep on forgetting she is dead, even more frequently lately as the immediate searing pain of her loss fades.  Just today I caught myself smiling as I thought about gently teasing her about something her instructor had said about her. Then I came back to reality that he had wrote it on her memorial page. I realise now that I am likely to miss her every single day for the rest of my life. With my luck it probably is going to be a really long life. Punishment for unknown sins I guess.

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