“Live out of your imagination, not your history.” -Stephen Covey

I normally think of my own creative titles because, well, I suspect that is my job on here but this quote was just was so perfect so here’s a shout out to Stephen–thanks for pinch-hitting tonight dude.

I’ve had a lot of memories surface this past weekend and have had a chance to revisit some things I didn’t plan on ever revisiting but that is life, non? Just when you think you have everything sewn up in a tight little organized plan, along comes the change angel to ensure you don’t get too cocky about all that control you’re swaggering around with.

I’ve been thinking about when I was in my mid-twenties and newly pregnant, living in San Diego, and how I must have, for a short time, been seriously misguided in of some of the choices I made. In the last few days I’ve had the opportunity to find compassion for my then younger self and not label her as ‘misguided’, but rather, just lost.

I am pretty thankful that I had a strong, older sister who loaded me into her little plane and charted a course back to Canada. The one caveat was that I not throw up on the way. I don’t remember why, whether it was the  weather up north or what, but we ended up flying for hours across the desert which, if you are newly pregnant, is akin to medieval torture. Slam! Slam! Slam! as you hit air pockets and the plane drops 10 feet abruptly. Over and over and over again. On things that pregnant women shouldn’t take there should be small italics that also include: flying over a hot desert in a small plane.

“Don’t you dare throw up”, Monica warned me (as if I needed a reminder, it was all I was focused on).  My brow was beaded in sweat, my hands sliding over the leather seats, my cheek periodically finding comfort in leaning ever so briefly against the cooler window surface.

My entire life was shoved into the back of her little Bonanza. It wasn’t much, given I was a theatre artist and used to moving from one job to another, but what I did take back with me was the real thing, and it was all pushing up against the back of my seat. I remember listening to some conversation between pilots and my sister’s calm ‘Charlie Bravo 4’ or something along those lines when suddenly I saw some dark clouds ahead and a flash of light.


That’s never good thing to hear your pilot utter out loud. I’d been in some bad storms in both my sister’s Cessna and her Bonanza but we–she–always managed to maneuver ourselves out towards the edge of the storm, with the plane being tossed around like chopsticks at a New Year’s party and everyone going kind of quiet but never anything I seriously worried about.

I was worried now.

Our panel went black. I just assumed Monica would make it turn on it again. Then she said, calmly, ‘Get the CB Radio out of the back’.

Oh god. CB Radio? Isn’t that something featured in black and white films about World War II in a trench when people are dying? 

Of course the radio was behind all my crap–why did I take this stuff with me? who the fuck cares about this crap?–was all I could think as I dove into the boxes and ripped at them frantically to get to the back of the plane and pull the CB Radio case out.

My sister made the Mayday call to the Reno tower. Twice. Nothing is as real as someone quietly saying ‘Mayday’ into a CB Radio. The Reno tower calmly called back, instructing us to do a diamond formation–I know I”m going to get all the technical stuff wrong here–which is a signal to the big boys that this tiny, tiny little plane cannot communicate with anyone and is doing an emergency landing. As in right now. So ripping fast giant jets full of future drunk gamblers please don’t plough into this tiny, tiny plane, I thought, staring out at the dark sky all around us.

I began to think that God could give me a more subtle signal that I wasn’t meant to be a mother. I mean, really? Do you have to be so dramatic about it?

There is something about my sister that prevents me from having complete meltdowns. There are a lot of people in my life I have exposed a loss of control to, with regretful sorry’s to follow, but my sister was so controlled and calm I just thought, man, I have to kind of act like I can deal.

Inside my 17 week old baby swam blissfully unperturbed from one side of my uterus to the other.

We landed perfectly (I personally trust small plane pilots over large ones and this is one example why) to a waiting caravan of emergency vehicles. The rest is kind of a blur because I guess I was in shock a little. I just remember how cool my sister was, how controlled, but when we got to our hotel in Reno she said, I’m going out for a bit ok? I was more than happy to go throw up in peace. I knew she was going to go give her nerves a strong scotch. Or two.

When we landed in Canada, there was some hassle about my passport and I sat in the Boundary Bay airport, boiling hot in the wee airplane I was not allowed to leave, while Customs officials figured out whether I was allowed into Canada or not. I had some difficult moments there in that little cockpit, talking to my baby, saying, look, we just about died, this is a cake-walk. We’re in Canada, they can’t turn us back now.

And they didn’t. As we finished the last leg of the trip to the Sunshine Coast, flying over the blue, blue mountains and ocean and sky I cried my eyes out as we neared my home and my family. I still get teary when I sing ‘O Canada’ because I made a huge life decision to come back to my country with my child and I’ve never regretted it for one moment.

It’s been 17 years and both my son and I are living out of our imaginations. And it is pretty beautiful to see.

1 Comment

Filed under Memoir

One response to ““Live out of your imagination, not your history.” -Stephen Covey

  1. Monica

    Oh sister Margaret – you make me weep, both with laughter at your story, and your courage in sharing this poignant, momentous memory. You, bringing your precious cargo into the world, and specifically into Canada, and me – carrying you both up yet coming back so….empty and alone. I worried and fretted more than you will ever know – not about my flight that day – but about ‘your’ flight and where, exactly, you might land. My worries were pointless because here you are today – gorgeous, talented, successful, articulate, funny, intellectual and oh so much more… your life has flourished and, if retrospect has held you still at any point, I have not seen it. No, you have not dwelt for long on dark matters – you have flipped them off before they infected your heart. I can only say you have been forced to live in the moment because of circumstance. You shouldered such enormous responsibilities solo but still trudged the road to happy destiny. And 17 years later I can say happy birthday to B, my handsome, strong, creative nephew who knows how to keep calm in any storm. I love you both.

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