Angie Abdou Returns Home With Home Ice
Although she might be a seasoned veteran of the CanLit grind right now, Angie Abdou was once just a little girl living in Moose Jaw. A girl with a dream in her eyes and the smell of chlorine in her hair and sunscreen on her skin. She swam for the Flying Fins and had a summer job as a lifeguard at the Natatorium as a teenager.
"I loved swimming" she said. "When I'm home in the summers for the Saskatchewan Festival of Words, I can barely walk by the Moose Jaw Natatorium without collapsing in a wave of nostalgia."
"That to me will always be Moose Jaw" she added.
Angie was at the most recent incantation of the Festival of Words, presenting her controversial novel In Case I Go. She won the trivia contest at Bobby’s Place and began an unlikely friendship with Karl Subban.
Read about it all here: Angie Abdou Reflects on the 2018 Festival of Words
She used to swim upwards of three hours a day, back and forth, back and forth.
"I have the arthritic shoulders to prove it" she said.
But that's not all she did in her Moose Jaw youth. She also spent a lot of time at hockey rinks, watching her brother, and then later, her mullet-headed high school friends play. Some of them even went on to play for the Warriors.
"As I say in my book, you could often find me at the arena with my gravity-defying hair and my acid wash jeans."
It's only fitting that a young girl, raised at the rink, would go on to have children who played hockey as well. The difference between Angie Abdou and the millions of other hockey moms out there is that Angie Abdou is an incredibly gifted author and storyteller who managed to churn hockey momdom into a book that anyone who ever played hockey or had their kids in it could relate to.
Hence, Home Ice: Reflections of a Reluctant Hockey Mom, her latest book, her sixth, and her first piece of non-fiction. The book she will be talking about and reading from, at Mitsu Sweet Cafe, when she comes back to Moose Jaw on October 22nd.
Home Ice is the vessel through which Angie explores parenting and life and she questions the nature by which parents over-extend themselves and put too much emphasis on excellence in youth sport.
"North American culture focuses on notions of "elite" sport far too young. I take a hard, honest look at the motivation and the cost" she said.
Angie now lives in Fernie where her son plays hockey. Her daughter took after her and swims, instead.
"My mom once heard a swimming coach ask my daughter if she plays hockey like her brother" Angie said. "She answered 'No. My mom says one hockey player in the family is enough.' I insisted I hadn't said that - but of course I had."
For the record, swimming is a subject Angie's very comfortable with. Her 2007 novel, The Bone Cage, is about a swimmer trying one last time to make the Olympics before its too late. It was nominated for Canada Reads and will deservedly be remembered as an all-time Canadiana classic. Swimming and hockey; but I digress.
Angie married a South African man she met on the Varsity swim team at the University of Western. They both enjoy hockey and that their son enjoys it but they don't always see eye-to-eye on parental decisions.
Angie grew up during Graham James' reign of terror in Moose Jaw. She says that his story subconsciously impacted her and it took a story about her husband, son and a hockey coach to realize it.
Her son had had an altercation with his coach at practice. "Afterwards," she said, "my husband sat our son down to give him a lesson on the athletic code of conduct. He said "when the coach tells you to do something, you just do it. You say yes sir and you do it. Yes sir is the only thing you say." My blood went cold. That's when the whole sordid hockey history came back to me. I freaked out a little: "You do NOT say yes sir! And you do not do whatever your coach tells you! You do not do anything you're not comfortable doing, ever." Sometimes we don't realize what events have been formative until well after the fact."
Angie admits that writing Home Ice has helped her and her husband remain vigilant in not pushing their kids too hard.
"We're keeping our own competitive natures in check, that we're not living vicariously through our kids, and that we're letting the children themselves decide how they want to engage with any sport" she added.
Angie claims that her thinking on this has been influenced by John O'Sullivan's Changing the Game Project, an organization whose goal is to "put the play back in play ball".
"I particularly like two bits of his advice" she said. "One, parents do not create athletes; and two, the only thing parents should say to their child after a practice or game is "I love watching you play."
"In writing this book, I pushed pause long enough to do the research and to have an honest look at my own family" Angie admits. "As readers immerse themselves in our story, I hope they can benefit from my research and use the space to think honestly about their own lives and maybe re-evaluate some of their own day-to-day decisions, if needed."
Writing Home Ice caused Angie to re-evaluate and make a conscious effort to prioritize her family and her personal relationships. She came to the conclusion that writing these books has taken quite a toll on the things that mean most to her.
"That's not to say I won't write again: of course, I will. But I'm trying to write without the urgency and trying to learn how to immerse myself in a project without it taking me so fully over that I'm not present for those who matter most to me."
Angie has begun work on her next novel "but not as intensely as I have in the past" she said.
She will be selling copies of the book at Mitsu on the 22nd. But they can also be found at Post Horizon's in Moose Jaw.