MOVIE REVIEW – “PARENTAL GUIDANCE”

Something a little different for the holiday season, which sometimes means going to movies with special people. Friday afternoon, my daughter, who is visiting from Calgary, and I went to see the movie “Parental Guidance.” I was impressed. How so?

Well, first of all, it was a movie that was rated for a general audience, and that is exactuly how it should have been rated. I would not hesitate to take young children to it. There was no violence to speak of, and no unseemly words were spoken. This is a real family movie.

I laughed through much of it – at the irony of the new methods of raising children in today’s world, and I laughed especially hard because friends and I had just been talking about how different some disciplinary methods are today, as opposed to when we grew up.  Toward the end, I also teared up – just a bit.

I don’t want to give away the movie story because I would love for you to go, as a family, and see it. This is a heart-warming movie in which Billy Crystal and Bette Midler did an awesome job as the “weird grandparents,” who, in the end, turned out to be pretty normal! Enough said … for me, this was a Four Star movie – it delivered the goods!

Happy movie going, my friends – blessings to you and your family – Mary M. Cushnie-Mansour, Author

 

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WALK IN OUR SHOES, A Christmas Carol for the 21st Century

WALK IN OUR SHOES

A Christmas Carol for the 21st Century

© Mary M. Cushnie-Mansour

 

Jack was ticked off with the hypocrisy of the world!  He was angry and frustrated with all the different religions claiming they were the one and the only way to some higher order or afterlife. In his opinion, most people couldn’t manage the life they had now! 

            It was Christmas Eve and Jack sat at home, alone. He had refused the traditional invitation to Rebecca and Ian’s home for holiday festivities. Who did they think they were––Rebecca was Jewish; Ian was a Christian. And they had invited Anwar, a Moslem, and his wife Angela who was a Greek Orthodox––mixed up bunch in his opinion.

            Jack’s thoughts turned to Carol’s last phone call. Their friends had no idea they’d separated…

            “Hi, Jack.”

            “Hello, Carol,” Jack answered coolly, not caring for her feelings.

            “Rebecca called and asked if we were joining them tonight. They have something special planned.”

            “Oh, Carol darling, are you asking me for a date? I thought you couldn’t stomach the sight of me!” Jack retorted sarcastically. “In fact, I believe the words you used as you slammed out the door last week, were that I could rot somewhere warm, and as far as you were concerned, if you ever saw me again, it would be too soon!”

            “Jack, its Christmas.”

            “Bah humbug on Christmas! Is that supposed to mean something to me?”

            “It used to. I’d really like to go Jack––with you … I do miss you … maybe we can still work this out…”

            “You’re the one who left, Carol.”

            “I know,” she paused. “Will you reconsider and come?”

            “Nope.”

            “What shall I tell them when they ask where you are?”

            “Whatever you want. I don’t care about any of them; they’re just a bunch of phonies. How can a group of people who can’t even marry their own kind presume to understand and celebrate the true meaning of Christmas?”

            “Do you know, Jack?”

            “I really don’t care!” The conversation had ended there.  

Jack poured another rye and flopped down on the couch. He began flipping through the T.V. channels. Nothing but Christmas shows––songs of glad tidings, families pretending to love one another, Christmas cheers. Oh, now here was someone he could relate to––Ebenezer Scrooge––a man, like himself, who knew Christmas was just a bunch of hogwash.

            Jack stretched out on the couch: “Well Ebenezer, how say we have a drink together and get to know each other better. We’re a lot alike, you and I…”

***

            What the … where was he? Jack saw Ian coming toward him, but he walked right past him as though he weren’t there.

            “Anwar, so glad you could make it!” Ian slapped Anwar on the back and handed him a glass of punch. “Rebecca’s concoction. She won’t tell me what’s in it, but it does go down nicely.” The two friends laughed.

            Jack reached for a glass: “Don’t mind if I do,” he said, but his hand went right through the stem.

            “No-one one can see you Jack.”

            Jack turned and could not believe his eyes. “Who, or should I say, what the heck are you?”

            “I am the Caliph of Consciousness. I am here to show you the error of your ways. Not all on earth is lost.”

            “Huh! You must not watch the news!”

            The Caliph pointed across the room.  “Look there … your wife.”

            Carol was sitting on the couch, between Rebecca and Angela. She was crying.

            “It’s okay Carol, Jack will come around,” Rebecca said.

            “He’s just going through a rough time,” Angela added.

            “But he has been so bitter lately, he hates everyone!” Carol said. “I didn’t want to leave, but I just can’t live with this Jack; I want the old one back.”

            The Caliph pointed over to where Ian and Anwar stood talking. Their faces had taken on a serious look.

            “I can’t understand what has happened to Jack,” Ian was saying. “He used to be such an up-beat guy.”

            Anwar nodded. “Yeah, but lately he is so angry about all the wars and what he believes are hypocrisies in the world. A couple months ago I heard he blew up at work because someone’s point of view on religion differed from his.”

            “I didn’t think Jack was that religious,” Ian said.

            “He’s not,” Anwar informed. “He just likes to argue about it. He has no real clue about what we believe.”

            “If truth be told,” Ian began, “he was pretty upset when you and Angela got married. He confided to me that he liked you okay, but you should have wed one of your own.”

            Anwar laughed. “He mentioned something similar to me when you married Rebecca!”

            “No kidding!” Ian joined the laughter. “Well, perhaps Carol would better off without him. She’s clearly not his kind … never has a bad word to say about anyone, no matter their race, or place of worship.” Ian checked his watch. “Guess we better get going if we are going to make the show on time.”

            Jack watched as his friends, and his wife put their coats on, and then head out the door. “Where are they going?” he asked.

            “Do you care?”

            “I didn’t realize I was that bad; Ian and Anwar are my best friends.”

            “Ah, therein lies the problem … they were your best friends and you used to be theirs, but for a long time now you have not respected them for whom they are, or for whom they married. You set yourself up as judge and jury of their lives, and then decided while you were at it, you should tell the rest of the world what was wrong with it as well!” the Caliph admonished. “It is time to re-examine your thinking before you loose everything.”

            “Loose everything?”

            “You’ve already almost lost Carol, but it appears she still loves you, at least whom you used to be … you heard her.” The Caliph began to fade.

            “Where are you going?” Jack shouted. “How can I turn all this around?”

            “I am only your conscience; another will show you more…” the Caliph was gone.

            Jack looked around and realized he was floating around the ceiling of the Sanderson Centre. He felt something brush against his arm.

            “Hello Jack.”

            “Who are you?” Jack asked, not returning a salutation.

            “I am the Rabbi of Rights.”

            “Why are we on the ceiling?”

            “The view and sound are very good up here,” the Rabbi chuckled. “Oh look, there are your friends and Carol.”

            Jack looked down. He noticed the empty seat beside Carol. She looked sad. Then he noticed one of his former teachers from Brantford Collegiate walking up to the microphone…

            “Welcome everyone,” Mr. Blanc began, “The senior drama class of BCI decided to do something different this year. They have produced a play in which the main religions of the world are depicted living in harmony. The play was written and directed by three of our own students, each one of them representing one of the religions. Without further ado, I present to you, ‘WALK IN OUR SHOES’. 

            “Like the name of the play, Jack?” the Rabbi asked.

            “Huh?”

            “Never mind …  just watch.”

            Jack observed in fascination as the students presented faith from different religious perspectives. He noticed how attentive the audience was, and that many of the people were dabbing the corners of their eyes.

            “I had no idea about the similarities in these three religions.” Jack turned to the Rabbi. “I guess everyone has the right to believe in their own way without being persecuted.”

            “Good observation Jack; now what are you going to do? You have burned a lot of bridges with your prejudice and anger toward your friends, and your wife?”

            Jack was feeling downright remorseful now. “What can I do, Rabbi? How do I even face my friends, especially now I know how they feel about me? As for Carol, she deserves better than me!”

            “Why don’t you give Carol and your friends the right to decide if they want you back in their lives?” the Rabbi was fainting away.

            “Where are you going? What am I to do now?” Jack called out.

            “There is another to show you that…”

            Jack was lying in a graveyard. He brushed the snow off the flat stone. The only words on it were ‘Jack Henry – May 1978 to December 2020’. No beloved husband of, son of, friend of … no one had even cared enough to mark the day of his birth or death!

            “Hello Jack.”

            Jack looked up. “Who are you?”

            “My name is Peter. I am the disciple who denied my Lord when he most needed me––remember.”

            Jack did. He’d attended church a long time ago, at Christmas and Easter. He also remembered Jesus forgave Peter and had instructed him to build the Christian church.

            “All is not lost Jack,” Peter pointed to the grave. “This does not have to be. You have the power to change it. Follow me.” Peter held out his hand. Jack found himself back at Ian and Rebecca’s house, just as his friends and Carol were about to sit down to a meal.

            Jack saw everyone join hands, and noticed each one moving their lips.

 “They are all giving thanks for the food God has provided,” Peter mentioned. “Each in their own way, yet all as one.”

            Jack watched as, after the meal, they gathered around the fireplace in the den and exchanged gifts. He noticed the brave face Carol was putting on.

            “There are tears on her heart,” Peter said. “Only you can wipe them away.”

            “I don’t think she will ever want to see me again after how I treated her,” Jack cried. “As for my friends…” Jack buried his head in his hands. “Oh, what a fool I have been … oh what a fool…”

***

            “God bless us, everyone, Mr. Scrooge,” a child’s voice penetrated Jack’s consciousness. He opened his eyes and saw Ebenezer skipping joyously down a snowy street, a crippled boy on his shoulder. 

Jack glanced at his watch. How could this be; it was still 6:00. There was time if he hurried––if they would open the door to him. Jack dressed and headed out for Rebecca and Ian’s house. He hesitated at the door. 

“Go ahead; ring the bell,” Jack heard a voice say. He turned and saw Carol. He opened his mouth to apologize, but she placed her finger to his lips.  “Later, my love, it is enough that you are here,” she smiled. 

            “Jack … Carol … so glad you could make it,” Rebecca opened the door. “Anwar and Angela just arrived, as well.”

Ian was checking his watch. “We must get going to the Sanderson; we don’t want to miss this show. I hear it is the best one the BCI senior drama class has ever performed!”

“What was the name of it again?” Angela asked.

“WALK IN OUR SHOES,” Jack answered.

 

 

IN FROM THE COLD – A STORY TO WARM YOUR HEART

IN FROM THE COLD

© Mary M. Cushnie-Mansour

 

Frederick had lived on the streets for years. This past winter had been particularly difficult, for two reasons. One, there had been an over-abundance of snow, which had made it difficult for him to get around, the other––Tracey.

            He’d come upon Tracey one cold December night. She’d been curled up in his spot, sound asleep. At first he’d been angry and had been prepared to give her the boot out, but then, as he stood watching her…

            She was wrapped in one of his old tattered blankets. Her face was mottled with bruises, her eyes were swollen, and red lines of agony rippled down her cheeks. Her fingers were blue, nails bitten to the quick. He saw the soles of her feet through the over-worn runners. 

Even he had boots, salvaged from the Goodwill Will bin. It was getting hard to salvage now-a-days because the bins were emptied more often. Frederick did have a friend on the inside who watched out for some of his needs, though.

“Maybe I’ll drop by today and get the girl some things,” Frederick mumbled. He leaned against the wall, reached inside his coat pocket and pulled out a bottle. It was just pop tonight––that was all he’d been able to find in the garbage can. He reached into his other pocket for his cigarette. It was three-quarters smoked––by someone else. He couldn’t figure out why someone would have thrown it away, but hey, who was he to question. He let it hang from his mouth, breathing in the taste; he had run out of matches. 

Frederick awoke just before noon. The girl was gone. He cursed because his bones were brittle from the position he’d slept in. However, being a street veteran, he knew she would return to this spot at some point. He headed off to the nearest Goodwill Will bin.

“Good morning, Frederick,” a cheery voice greeted him as he walked past the store door.  “Look’s like we’re in for another big storm.”

Frederick gazed at the sky. He shivered at the thought of another storm so soon.

“Want a coffee?”

“Sure, Meg … got any matches?”

Meg disappeared into the store and returned a couple minutes later with a coffee and a pack of matches. “Thanks … any new stuff in the bin?” he asked as he lit his cigarette.

“Not sure … I just started my shift. Take a look before Mike gets out there and empties it,” Meg smiled.

Frederick rummaged through the bin. He found a pair of winter boots, a coat, a hat, and some gloves; and then, his eye caught something pink in a black garage bag. He pulled the bag apart and it revealed a beautiful quilt. “Well, I’ll be,” he smiled. “Just what she needs.” He wrapped the treasures in the blanket and headed home.

Along the way, he stopped by the french-fry wagon; Mildred always gave him a sampling. Sometimes the potatoes were a bit hard, and they hurt his gums, but they were free and filled that emptiness in the hollow of his stomach.

When Frederick arrived to his spot, there was no sign of the girl. He set the things down and wandered. At his age, it was important to keep moving, stopped the body from seizing up. In the evening, when he returned, he found her sitting in his spot, wrapped in the pink blanket and wearing the clothes. “Thank-you,” the girl whispered when she saw him.

“No problem, girlie … what’s yer name?”

“Tracey.”

“Don’t yu have a home?”

Tracey looked away. Frederick sat down beside her, and they talked deep into the night.  The wind picked up; snow pellets began to fall. He listened … she was 16, pregnant, and had been kicked out of her home because of drug use––her parents didn’t know she was pregnant.  When she had told her 21 year old boyfriend, he’d gotten angry. They fought, verbally, and then he started beating on her.

She had nowhere to go, no one to turn to. She’d burned a lot of bridges. Frederick mentioned a place where she might go––better than the streets––a place where they took in young girls who were in trouble. She smiled and thanked him, then pulled a couple of chocolate bars from her pocket. When Frederick awoke the next morning, Tracey was gone.

***

            Winter became spring, and then summer. Frederick was rummaging in the trash when he noticed the newspaper and the birth announcement: Frederick McCrew, born June 21, 2008 to Tracey.  Many thanks to the nurses at the BGH, and to a friend, Frederick, who was there for me when I needed a shoulder to lean on.

            Frederick grinned as he ripped out the notice. He folded it neatly and placed it in his pocket. As he headed home, there was a lightness to his step that had not been there for years!

The Derby

THE DERBY

© Mary M. Cushnie-Mansour

 

Alex had spent hours working on his go-cart for the big race that was coming up on the weekend. He had gathered up some miscellaneous pieces of wood from the barn and had used some old nails he had found to piece the wood together. There had been a tin of old green paint sitting on the shelf in the drive-shed, and he had mixed it with some turpentine to get just the right consistency to cover the go-cart. Another tin had just enough red paint in it to write BLAZER on each side. Alex had found an old tractor steering wheel and some old piping that he fashioned into wheel axles. He had stood back and admired his handiwork and was dreaming about crossing the finish line first. Everything was perfect––everything except that Alex had not been able to locate a set of wheels.

            He had searched the farm high and low for a set of wheels. He had even asked some of his friends, but they were all working on their own go-carts and didn’t have any to spare. Harold offered him one wheel, and then he smirked and walked away. Alex couldn’t wait to cross the finish line and have Harold eat his dust!

            As of Saturday morning, Alex still hadn’t found a set of wheels. He rose early and went down to the barn and just sat there staring at his beautiful go-cart. The sun was peeking through the cracks in the haymow and dust was dancing in the beams.

            “I wish this was magic fairy dust,” Alex mumbled. “And that I could be granted a set of wheels.”

            “Alex!” His mother called from the porch. “Alex, I need you to take Kenneth for a buggy ride.”

            Alex stood up and walked back to the house. “Oh well,” he thought, “Next year.”

            His mom had his baby brother wrapped in a blanket in the big buggy. “Kenneth won’t settle down and I need to get my baking done, or we won’t have any bread. Take him down along the lake road until he falls asleep and when you bring him back set the buggy under the oak tree behind the house. Then you can get about your other chores. I’ll hear him if he wakes up.”

            Alex was sullen as he pushed the buggy down the lane. What he should do is just send it over the edge, into the lake. He hadn’t asked for another brother, especially one he had to tend to on the day of the big race. And his mom didn’t even realize that––she didn’t care about what his plans were for the day!

            The sound of the wheels calmed Kenneth. He stopped crying and was looking up at his elder brother. Soon his eyes began to droop, and then closed entirely. Alex wheeled the buggy back home and placed it under the oak tree. As he pushed his foot on the wheel-brake, he smiled! If Kenneth was sleeping in the buggy, there was no real need for it to have wheels!

            Just then, Jimmy came around the corner of the house. “Jimmy, come here,” Alex called out. Alex explained to his younger brother what he was about to do and what role he was to play. Jimmy was shaking his head, but then Alex drove home the words that closed the deal for him. “You owe me, Jimmy. Remember the time I covered for you when you skipped school––actually, if truth be told here, more than one time! This is extremely important to me!” Alex got busy with what he had to do. It was a good thing that Kenneth, once he fell asleep, was a sound sleeper.

***

            It was a thrilling race. Alex was beside Harold in the starting line. They had glared at each other. Alex could see that Harold was not happy, especially when he saw the size of the wheels on Alex’s go-cart. It had been a tight race. Harold was bigger and stronger than Alex, but in the end, it was the large buggy wheels that had given Alex the edge and pushed the nose of his go-cart over the finish line, just ahead of the rest of the pack. Harold had grudgingly shook Alex’s hand on the podium.

***

            The first thing Alex saw as he was pedaling the go-cart up his laneway was his mom standing on the front steps with her hands on her hips. And the look on her face told him that all was not well!

            “Alex! You have some explaining to do, young man!”

            Alex looked up at the second story window of the house, to where the bedroom he shared with Jimmy was. Jimmy was standing in the window––distress was written all over his face.