As I create this post, I’ve been in Calgary for 5 days. I wrote this post on the plane on the way here.
I’m on a plane. There is an ink mark on the back of the seat in front of me. It makes me think of Margaret, my mother in law. The pen line, along with what I hope isn’t a spot of blood, goes sideways for about an inch and then up and to the right for about 4 inches. It looks deliberate. It’s too long and darkness of the colour of the ink reveals that pressure was applied for at least a portion of it. The line ends lighter, with a playful swish, indicating a flick of the wrist as the line was drawn to a close. But why? Why did this once upon a time passenger who sat in this seat in the very back of this small plane beside the washroom take a pen to make their mark on the back of the seat ahead of them?
(And when I say right beside the washroom, I mean RIGHT beside the washroom. Like, instead of another row across the aisle from me, is the door to the only washroom on the plane. Only an hour into this almost two hour flight and I’ve had more butts in my face than a terrier at a dog park.)
Perhaps there is no why. Perhaps it was just an urge that couldn’t be ignored, like playing with bubble wrap. They were stirred to use the pen in a, some would say, unconventional manner, and it just happened.
But I digress.
So, you may be wondering, why does this pen mark remind me of Margaret? It’s because she did the same thing, or rather had the same kind of urge with similar results.
I discovered Margaret’s interesting habit about twelve years ago. My husband Sean had gotten a job at an animation studio in Miramichi in May 2006 and 3 months later, after 2 week visit in Ottawa, Margaret and my father in law, Harvey, drove my daughter Sorcha and I to our new home on the east coast.
Sorcha and I sat in the back with our snacks, books, and pillows while Margaret sat upfront, riding shot gun and acting as navigator while Harvey drove. She had a print out directions care of Google Maps or Map Quest and as we passed through each point on the list, she would tick off the location with her pen.
At an intersection not too far from Plaster Rock, New Brunswick, she ticked off the location on the directions and then I heard Harvey ask, “Did you just tick the door with your pen?” I then watched Margaret raise her hands to her face like a child caught doing something naughty, and then she started to laugh. Harvey, in a bemused tone asked, “Why did you do that?” After she recovered from her giggle she said, “I always do that. When I’m holding a pen, whether I’m in the car, or an elevator, I have to tick the wall or the door with my pen. I can’t help it.”
Harvey was not terribly impressed, but I thought it was hilarious and very in keeping with mischievous childhood stories I’d heard from Margaret about her past. When she was very young, Margaret used to sneak behind a chair in the living room and colour on the wall behind it. She did it often and in order to not get caught, she only coloured in the space exactly behind the chair so that when she put the chair back against the wall, no one could see her art work.
However, as was inevitable, one day her father discovered her masterpiece. I can’t remember Harry’s reason for pulling the chair away from the wall, I think I was in preparation to paint the room, but when he did, much to his surprise, was a block of colour, almost the same shape as the back of the chair, made up of layers and layers of crayon. Margaret told me that they had to scrape the crayon off the wall before they could paint over it.
It’s one of my favourites of her stories and being witness to the moment that Harvey discovered that she liked to occasionally commit minor graffiti crimes is one of my favourite memories of my time with her. The image of her glee filled naughtiness is one that still makes me laugh all these years later.
Margaret has been gone almost four years and we all miss her very much, but whenever I see a pen mark in a place it really shouldn’t be, I think of her and smile. It’s just one of the many ways she made her mark on the world.