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Pom-pom Ponderings

Rhonda Beckman

Published – December 20, 2017

Last week I did an afternoon painting party with the telemedicine team at Keewatinook Okimakanak. After we were finished painting and all cleaned up, Margaret presented me with a wonderful thank you gift; an awesome coffee cup and a toque. I always try my best to do a draw at the painting parties I have, so she had done me the favour of putting the names of all the participants on paper and placed it in the toque that I would later receive as that gift. I squealed in delight and exclaimed that I loved pom-poms, and the pom-pom on this toque is exceptionally large.

I got home and showed Brad my new, super cool toque and he stopped me dead in my tracks with his question; “What is the purpose of the pom-pom anyway?” In all of my 45 years of enduring winter after winter, some of them being with pom-poms and some of them without, I have never questioned a pom-pom’s purpose. I have just had a wonderful affection for those fluffy colourful wool balls of yay. But now, here I was thinking, “Yeah! What the heck IS the purpose of a pom-pom?” My first thought was that they were just made to deal with the extra strings that would be attached to the tip of a hat….kind of an if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em thing .If there are going to be several strands of wool sticking out of the top of this newly made hat, we might as well add about 7000 more pieces of string and walk around with a big furball on our heads, right? Brad and I immediately whipped out our researching tool from our back pocket and madly typed in “the history of the pom-pom” into the search bar. Out of all the information we found out about pom-poms (and there is a lot) the one that we both seemed to like the best was that sailors liked to have pom-poms on their toques so they had a bit of a buffer when their heads were getting knocked around on swinging posts and such on the ship on windy days at sea. That one made sense to me because I told Alexander for years that I was once a pirate. Actually, it was a story akin to telling children about Santa Clause, and I held on to the story for years. (As the story went, I was only a pirate for one summer, decided I hated the job, jumped ship and went to university instead.)  No wonder I loved pom-poms so much. Pirates are basically bad ass sailors. I get a beautiful visual of a snaggle-toothed pirate with a dirt-caked face and breath so rancid it would make grown men fall on their knees weeping for mercy, anything, absolutely ANYTHING to not endure the breath of a pirate. And on top of the gnarly beast of a pirate’s greasily knotted hair is a multicoloured toque with a rainbow pom-pom the size of a volleyball and the absurdity makes me smile at it all.

Ah, pom-poms! Such a funny word and a silly thing. They were used for embellishment and to note status. I am not going to bother regurgitating the history of pom-poms because if you really care about that, you know I’m just going to tell you to Google it.

As a northerner, I think it’s more appropriate to talk about the number one reason why I like pom-poms. When my son was a little boy, booting down a super steep hill on a crazy carpet or super saucer, I knew he was ok only by seeing that big red pom-pom bobbing in the flurry of snow as he barreled down the hill. As my five year old son was released to the unforgiving slope of the Kinsmen Beach hill I stood at the top, knowing I had to let him go. It was important for his sense of independence to let him go, but my eyes were on that pom-pom. It was the only thing that kept me connected to my boy who was now a hot bullet shooting down a hill, only occasionally touching down enough on the snow to create a large plume of snow dust. Not seeing the pom-pom at all, or seeing the pom-pom oddly placed in the bushes equated to not knowing what the circumstance was going to be when I frantically ran down the hill cursing myself and my sense of motherhood. Seeing that big red pom-pom was a beacon of hope. As long as it was in my eyesight, everything was smooth sailing for my little guy and I.

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