Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Regrets? I've had a few but then again. . .

One of the apartments I lived in as a young woman in Montreal had a French Provincial dining room suite — a table to seat six, a buffet and hutch. I remember them looking something like this:

I may be remembering them a little more elegantly than they were but these look close in my memory anyway.

There was nice living room furniture too — also some French Provincial pieces although the cat had really done some unfortunate damage to a pretty little love-seat. This kind of damage:

It was very unlike the chrome sets and plastic upholstery of most furnished apartments.

I enjoyed it a lot until a friend speculated that an elderly couple had probably been evicted for non-payment of rent and the evil landlord had seized the furniture and sent the dear old pensioners packing. That was a terrible story. I preferred the version that had the old couple passing away peacefully and their grateful family donating the furniture to the building in memory of their happy life there.

I lived alone in that apartment for awhile, an interesting experience for me. I had never lived alone. I wasn't working right then — by choice — and I enjoyed the leisure time I had, pursuing some of the interests I'd never been able to fit in. I spent time in museums and galleries, I browsed in the bookstores, I went to two movies — alone!— I had lunch with friends.

One day, when I was browsing in the record store, I ran into a fellow I knew through some mutual friends. I liked him. He was a lovely guy, smart, funny, a little shy. We had a nice conversation about the music we were both looking at and he was very enthusiastic about his purchases. He said he'd love to play them for me and I said I'd love to hear them. We agreed to get together at my place, order a pizza and listen to music. It was very casual.

He came over a couple of days later and it was fun. We talked a lot. We sat on the floor near the record player and took turns choosing music. We ate some pizza and drank some wine.

It was late when the conversation wound down and we started to dance. The music was soothing; the movement was easy and relaxed. What a lovely dancer he was.

Barbra Streisand was singing He Touched Me when we kissed, a soft sweet kiss that came so close to sweeping me away that I suddenly realized I had gone too far.

I was in a committed relationship and this was not something I would do.

I moved away from him, so sadly, and I told him this was wrong for me. It hadn't been my intention. He was sad too. He said it hadn't been his intention either and I believed him.

The buses had stopped running and he lived quite a distance away. I assured him it was okay if he stayed although those French Provincial couches weren't made for napping on. We both went in and lay on the bed, each on one side, on top of the bedding. When it began to get light out, he left quietly.

I continued to see him over the next few years — always in the company of others. There was plenty of laughter and music. I even have a few photos of him and me, fooling around, obviously having fun. The subject of the evening we spent together never came up.

Would this be a better story if it had ended differently? There's no answer to that. Stories don't end so easily. If I had chosen differently that evening, my story might have had a much different plot.

It's said that when we look back, we'll regret the things we didn't do more than anything we did. Maybe.

Maybe not.

Listen to Edith Piaf here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

All about me: One of those Facebook things I never do

These exercises show up on Facebook in various forms, covering different topics. I saw this one today and I thought it would be interesting (to me) because it's all about me! It's not a polite conversation of give-and-take, back-and-forth. It's like being interviewed.

And it's easy. I'm working on some pieces that are a little more difficult and require some research so I liked this one.

1. Who are you named after?

I think I remember asking my mother if I'd been named after anyone she knew and the answer was no. Neither my sister nor I were named after anyone. They were just names my mother liked. (I'm pretty sure my father would have been happy with Mum's choices.)

2. Last time you cried?

I saw a film called Lion a few days ago. It's the story of a tiny boy of five — played by Sunny Pawar, maybe the cutest little guy ever — who gets lost in the teeming streets of Calcutta. I won't tell you the story although Sunny grows up to be played by Dev Patel and along the way, there are some touching and some quite wrenching moments. Anyone might shed a few tears.

Sunny and Dev at the Golden Globes

3. Do you like your handwriting?

Sure. What's not to like? I do remember that I was a terrible writer in early elementary school but by about grade five, I became aware that I was surrounded by fellow students who had such pretty writing that I made it a project to improve mine. I don't think I ever made it "pretty" and I didn't dot my "i's" with little hearts or anything like that. But I think my writing is pretty nice.

4. What is your favourite lunch meat?

Such an odd question and so out of place. I remember as a little kid really liking sandwiches made with one of Mum's freshly baked rolls, a slice of Kam and French's yellow mustard. I told Mum it was what I was going to serve at my wedding. (I didn't.) There were also Spam and Klik and Prem. Probably others too but it was always Kam for me. I don't eat Kam any more. I do like a good ham. We had an excellent one over Christmas.

5. Do you have kids?

I do.

Here he is. His name is William and he's a university student studying political science. He's just started an NDP students' association. (Photo by Keisha Toner.)

6. Do you use sarcasm?

Who, me? Why I'd never even consider it.

7. Do you still have your tonsils?

I do not. I had my tonsils removed when I was 21. It's considered major surgery when you're an adult and it was quite an ordeal. I was in my final year as a nursing student at the Montreal General Hospital and I was admitted to the 20th floor — a private floor and the height of hospital luxury. Even still, I wouldn't recommend it as a casual experience.

8. Would you bungee jump?


9. What is your favorite kind of cereal?

I'm not a big eater of cereal although I grew up eating porridge and shredded wheat — remember those big dry clumps that you'd crumble into your bowl and soak in milk?

I like corn flakes and rice krispies. I don't like any cereal that's "frosted" or is so obviously sugared-up.

10. Married?

I am. I've written about meeting my husband right here and about our wedding over here. They're both awfully good stories and I recommend them.

11. Do you think you are strong?

Tough question. Do you think I'm strong? I haven't really been tested the way so many people have; in general, I've led quite a fortunate and privileged life. I did, however, go through a robbery where I was held at knife-point and left bound and gagged in my bathroom and there were people who thought I handled that with some fortitude. I wrote about that too and you can read it here.

12. What is your favourite ice cream?

Oh, it changes. Right now, I like a small bowl, every so often, of Breyer's Gelato, vanilla and caramel. It's decadently lovely and you must not eat too much of it because you don't want it to become commonplace or familiar. You want it to remain an aloof luxurious enigma.

13. What is the first thing you notice about somebody?

Hmmm. It depends, of course. Are they walking toward me? Am I being introduced to them? Are they alone? Is there something terribly unusual or eccentric about them? Are they behind me? I find this question almost impossible to answer. When I get an answer to all my questions, I'll try again.

14. Football or baseball?


15. What is one thing you like about yourself?

Golly. What can I say? I guess I like the fact that I'm quite self-disciplined and quite organized. I think I'm considerate of others and I try to make the world a better place. I like my hair.

16. What colour pants are you wearing?


17. Last thing you ate?

Beef stew with dumplings.

18. What are you listening to right now?

SiriusXM Streaming. Margaret Whiting singing The Way You Look Tonight.

19. If you were a crayon, what colour would you be?

Probably forest green.

20. Favourite smell?

As so many others do, I love the smell of bread right out of the oven.

And on a more romantic note, I love the fragrance Summer Hill by Crabtree & Evelyn.

Don't worry, I mostly wear it at home or to my hair salon where I assume it will fit right in and won't cause any allergic reactions. I'm respectful of allergies and there are plenty of perfumes and colognes that I really hate. But Summer Hill is light and floral and irresistible — in its place.

21. Who was the last person you spoke to on the phone?

My sister, Marilyn. She had a birthday last week and I called a day or two post-birthday for an extended chat.

That's Marilyn in front with her beloved granddaughter Aleesha. Standing behind her are her husband Tom, her daughter Lisa, son-in-law Mike, and son Matthew (Aleesha's dad.) The picture was taken at their cottage on the upper Miramichi.

22. Favorite sport to watch on TV?

Baseball. Or basketball. It depends on what's on. I know and love the game of baseball and I always wonder how anyone could find it dull. There's so much to watch for in a baseball game: a perfect double play, or a bunt laid down the third-base line and a dramatic slide into second, or the tension as the pitcher shakes off the catcher's signals, looking for the perfect pitch and rattling the batter a little while he's at it. So exciting and suspenseful and dramatic. Basketball is, of course, not very subtle. It's just exciting because it is.

23. Hair colour?

I often say it's platinum but it is, admittedly, snowy white.

24. Eye colour?


25. Favourite food to eat?

Whatever is placed in front of me when I'm really hungry. One of my most-read posts on this blog is called The best thing I ever ate. . .

26. Scary movies or happy?

There are more than two categories of movies. I don't particularly like scary movies but I like lots of movies that wouldn't be described as "happy." One of my favourite movies, going back quite far, is Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean Jimmy Dean. It's a Robert Altman movie and it stars Cher, Sandy Dennis, Karen Black, Kathy Bates. One of the reviewers called it "soft and sad" — which it was, so neither scary nor happy.

27. Last movie you watched on TV?

The Railway Man: "A former British Army officer, who was tormented as a prisoner of war at a Japanese labor camp during World War II, discovers that the man responsible for much of his treatment is still alive and sets out to confront him." It was good although I usually don't watch movies if I sense there's going to be torture. There was torture but I averted my eyes.

28. Last movie you watched at a theatre?

Lion, as noted above. Far far above. However, the second-last movie I saw was La La Land. I won't go into any detail because I don't want to provide spoilers so if you want to know what I thought of it, send me a stamped, self-addressed envelope and I'll definitely be in touch.

29. What colour shirt are you wearing?

White with a red and black geometric pattern. (?)

There's the shirt on a London sight-seeing bus. If I'd been thinking ahead, I could have used this photo to illustrate number 5 and number 23.

30. Favourite holiday?

Christmas, I suppose, although that seems very conventional and predictable. I really like Easter too. Both are religious and traditional and steeped in family lore but Easter seems a little more flexible. It's a beautiful time of year also, alive with hope and lengthening days. The feast is fresh and bright and there's lemon in every course.