Archive for the ‘anniversaries’ Category

Legacy

January 16, 2013

A friend, someone for whom I have felt affection and whose bumping up against my life has left me with indelible marks, has chosen to end his life in early February, 2012. It has been so long since he left this vale to take up residence in one room of my memory house. He is there, along with other close friends who have died.

Some days, whenever my phone rings, I think of him calling on the spur of a moment to share an errant thought, happening or recent accomplishment. “Hey, G” he would announce, “get this!” But it never is he calling, nor will he ever again.

Often I amuse myself, recalling how, 16 years ago, when we were auditing a Contemporary Painting Course at a local University we would engage in a mad scramble to carry our piles of materials and equipment into the studio so we might be able to take possession of a choice piece of studio real estate. Because he had OCD tendencies, and really knew how to pack up stuff for easy and organized ferrying back and forth  I learned a lot to be less haphazard and more organized in my packing up for studio time. I cringe to think of he had disparaged, publicly to a studio full of young painters, my piggish painterly practices. Of course he did this in an amazingly witty fashion, so that rather than glower at him I would break out in fits of laughter.

I don’t think I will ever be able to sit through a Peter Greenaway movie without imagining him sitting nearby and saying, “Wait, lets replay this… and this…look… look!!!”

He left behind his wife and two grown boys.  They are devastated.

His older son went to Burning Man last summer where he created a shrine of his Father’s digital artwork, printed out and strung up like Buddhist prayer banners. These he burned.

Both sons have access to his files of visual work and writing. He did produce two books on Blurb.com, as well as hundreds of paintings and drawings.  He was a man of remarkable sensibility and aesthetic sense. I miss him.

Rest in Peace, Thomas Ziorjen, my friend.

Saint Nicholas Eve…

December 3, 2008

November 5, 1952. Anyu held the heavy carved church door open for us to precede her out into the dark of a lightly snowing evening. She retied her scarf snug under her chin and pulled on her knitted gloves. She fussed with our jackets collars, pulling them up to sit jaunty against our cheeks. Ildiko hopped from one boot-shod foot to another, trying to keep warm. I gazed in silence at the Cathedral square, its cobllestoned dark perimeter lit up by lamps which gave the illusion of dandelion seed-heads against the gloom. Snow coasted in fine specks as we negotiated the cathedral steps to the square. The snow squeaked under our boots. It was as if both we and the night held our breath this eve of Saint Nicholas.

It had been our family custom to attend Mass on the eve of Saint Nicholas. The priest had made a lovely sermon of the story of the three little boys the Bishop had brought back to life and of the story of the dowry he had provided for the three daughters of a poor man. He told about Bishop Nicholas being an intermediary with God for the safety of sailors on the sea, and on behalf of the poor. It was a story long familiar with yearly repetition, and as usual we had sat solemn and silent hearing yet another retelling.

The half-hour walk on the way home to our apartment took us through the ancient part of our town.
In some of the small side streets we stopped to look at candle-lit windows where children’s shoes were lined up, well shined, in anticipation of a visitation by Saint Nicholas sometime during the night.
Ildiko and I skipped from one house to another, thinking of the children inside who were, the same as us, eagerly waiting to creep to their window at first light to see what had been deposited innside the shoes – whether chocolate coins for children who had been good during the previous year, or a lump of coal and a switch of broom for the bad ones.

The closer we were to our home destination the more subdued I became. I was not at all certain that I had been a consistently good child the previous year. I had taken any and all occasions to torture Ildiko, spoke back to Anyu, argued with everyone, actively resisted practising the violin and had sneaked around spying on any adults who visited our home.

Meanwhile, as my doubts were starting to weigh heavily on me, Ildiko positively glowed with goodness and virtue, her face alight with a confident expression reserved for the truly wholesome and self-satisfied child. As soon as we arrived home, no sooner had she unlaced her boots, but she went to fetch the shoe-shining kit Apu kept in the bottom of the hall armoire.

“Hurry up and take your boots off, Gabi,” she ordered. “Dry them off well. Then I’ll show you how to use the shoe paste and brushes.”

I fooled around struggling out of my coat and mitts, and ran off in my wet boots into the kitchen to snag a cookie or two. Busy stuffing my face with a Speculaa and munching away, I began unlacing my boots and drying them off with a cloth.

Ildiko sat on the settee, poked her finger inside a flannel bit and started to smear her boots with an ox-blood coloured paste which smelled really pungent. She showed me how to wrap my forefinger into the flannel and how to scoop the right amount of paste for my one boot. By this time, she was busy swiping her own boot with the shoe brush, sending up that nice aroma of wax and tar. I was smearing my boots carefully with the stuff.

“Make sure you work the paste into the lines of sewing in the leather,” Ildiko instructed in her best school teacherish tones. “If you don’t do a good job, Saint Nicholas will leave you coal and broom inside them. Which he should, anyway, because you are usually so awful to everyone.”

What did I know, anyway? I was a six year old brat. Ildiko, the golden child, was only eight herself. But she seemed so sure of herself. She buffed her boots with the brush in confident strokes, and then segued to bring up a high shine on the dark red leather. She passed the implements down to me so I could bring my boots to a semblance of decency, but was critical of how streaky my buffing job had been.

We took our boots into the salon. In the window seat, Anyu had set up two taper candles in candlesticks. We placed our boots, shined and laces looped, beside the candles.

“After you dress in your pajamas,” Anyu said, ” you can come and light the candles before you say your goodnight prayers.”

We scurried off to wash our teeth and change into night wear. When we returned to the salon, Anyu had dimmed any overhead lights. She lit the tapes and Ildiko and I knelt in front of the window, hands clasped. We said our prayers, quietly, privately.

I prayed and hoped Saint nicholas might not find me altogether horrible and maybe a little bit deserving of a scrap of chocolate. I fervently wished my lot would not be to find an iridescent dusty lump of coal, and a desiccated scrap of broom inside my shoe the following morning. If that would be my lot, I’d never hear the end of how bad I was from Ildiko, for the rest of my life, even.

Not another sweater…

November 26, 2008

Anyu always held close to the belief that appropriate Christmas presents for men in the family were either a sweater, an LP of music beloved by the recipient or a book of some esoteric character that was to edify the recipient.. She really looked askance when I gifted Renaissance man on his 18th Christmas with a stuffed ‘Bill the Cat’. Rumpole has long disabused me of the gifted sweater. So for these two men in my life, Christmas gifting has proved to be an adventure, of sorts.

A couple of years ago I gave Renaissance Man a fold out huge cultural history of the world. It opened up the length of his living room, and he seemed to enjoy reading esoteric bits of information from among the ages. The gift that both he and Rumpole took particular delight in was when they received guitar lessons for 4 months. This was 18 years ago, and I must say, it has been a gift that has kept giving. They joined a band, and have played together for 12 years now, and entertain us at home with musicales regularly.

This Christmas seemed particularly problematic. What does one gift a grown man who has alost everything his heart could desire? I stewed and fretted about this for months now. I want him to enjoy life, to keep learning while he can and to model that learning and enjoyment for his young daughter.

Last weekend, he and Glasgow Girl brought Mousey over for a visit. Here was the perfect occasion to put the query to him. I had cleverly and casually placed the new second-hand recorder I had bought at the thrift store, as an inducement to pique Mousey’s curiosity. True to form, as soon as she spied it, she picked it up and asked, “What is this?”

“Blow in the end,” suggested Rumpole, “It’s a recorder.”

She picked it up and tooted away with it in great delight. “Here, Mouse, ” said RM, “I’ll show you how to put your fingers.” He played the scale for her, but she couldn’t when she tried; her hands were much too small.

She marched about the kitchen and tooted away, experimenting with blowing through breaths.

“Mom, you’re such a trouble maker,” said RM. “Every time you introduce her to new things, she keeps bugging us to keep playing with them.”

Heh, heeh, that’s the plan – I thought to myself. it’s never too early.

“You know, R.M., you have a really good singing voice,” said Rumpole.

“Yeah,” I agreed, ” you have perfect pitch. Every time you sing with the band I have to pinch myself. You nail the songs so perfectly. But you lack confidence.”

“How would you like to receive singing lessons as a Christmas present, this year?” asked Rumpole.

Renaissance Man looked at each of us in turn. “You know,” he said, “it might be kind of fun. Only I don’t want to go to someone’s house for lessons.”

“Okay,” I said, ” I have the perfect place to order up lessons for you, the local music school. See if you like what they have on offer.”

So, that was that. Renaissance Man is intrigued by the possibility of voice lessons. My job was to do the research on this possibility.

So this week’s job for me was to find the singing teacher, which I did, and to order up lessons, which Rumpole and I did, this evening after having dinner with Lookingforbeauty. We drove to the music school in the dark of evening, and made arrangements with the pleasant director of the school. In January, Renaissance Man is to start his weekly lessons on Tuesday nights. I think he will be well pleased.

While at the music studio, I asked about replacement strings for my cheapo violin. They had them, and Rumpole bought a set for me. We drove home in the dark, well delighted with the possibility of making more music, en famille. I can hardly wait for Christmas – a book of songs for Renaissance Man to go with his singing lessons, and perhaps my newly strung violin along for Christmas dinner to play some reels. Of course, I shall have to practice during the coming weeks. I know for sure that Jessica, our Scottish Terrier will accompany me on the violin. She hates my music, or my singing, and joins in a chorale accompanyment appropriate to my level of playing.

It promises to be a musical New Year for us all. I can hardly wait to hear Renaissance Man let loose with his wonderful voice.

A confluence of notable dates…

October 18, 2008

The past week has seen Canadian Thanksgiving, the Canadian national Election and my birthday, concurring within two days. It has been a busy week, and I have spent much time in the kitchen preparing foods and accompanying that, tidying up. We have kept company with friends and family in a swirl of visiting and discussion. We thanked Providence for everyone’s health and for now, ongoing economic stability. It has been largely unspoken, but during times of difficulty we all know we are going to be present to lend aid, support and encouragement to those about us in need. That is much for which to give thanks.
On Sunday the 12th, a large group of friends and family convened at Lookingforbeauty’s for the Thanksgiving feast. She and Whistler had spent time the week before, polishing the silver, and laying out the festive china. They made a big shopping trip for the turkey, ham, potatoes and vegetables and delivered the groceries for which I was to be the cook. LFB was doing the turkey, stuffing, gravy and potatoes,while I was to prepare the ham, brussel sprouts, mashed turnips and baked apples. It was an equitable split as well as a practical one since neither of us have an oven large enough to house both turkey and ham at once. After all, we were preparing food for ten people.

Came Sunday morning, seven a.m., there I was in my pajamas, trimming brussel sprouts ends and precooking them – all the while carefully following instructions from a recipe Barb had e-mailed me.
My family loves brussel sprouts, even just steamed, however, for this feast we had to have sprouts in a mustard and cheese cream sauce that could be swiftly reheated in the microwave. i was in the middle of cooking the cream sauce for this when Rumpole emerged from the bedroom and announced,
“By God, but you are noisy. Can’t you leave the cooking for later?”
“No, I couldn’t,” retorted I, “This dish has to sit in the fridge for at least five hours.”
“Well, it had better be good tasting,” he muttered, ” you know how much store Glasgow Girl sets by delicious and NOT overcooked brussel sprouts.”
He poured himself a coffee and retired to the living room couch, leaving me to thicken the cream sauce.
I grumbled under my breath. ” Hisself could at least have offered to peel and chop the two monstrous turnips. There they are sitting, large as life, hell – larger – at his breakfast place. His eyesight must be going! – Oh well…”
The cream sauce thickened after what seemed like a long time. It occurred to me why I don’t make cream sauces at all – one has to keep the milk from scorching and ruining the taste, thus it takes forever to slowly raise the heat to cause thickening. Of course, the fun part is incorporating the flavouring ingredients. For me, recipes are not absolutes and written in stone – just mere suggestions which one can alter at a whim, after tasting to concoct a newish flavour. Instead of cheddar, I used mozzarella and added more Dijon mustard than callled for. The pinch of nutmeg seemd a trifle paltry so I beefed up the amount by adding one sprinkling clockwise, then another counterclockwise to amuse myself. That’s a sort of witchy thing to do – and slaving over a steaming pot makes me feel and look like a witch, so why not indulge myself – “eye of newt, hair of dog, chicken toenail shavings and Abracadabra – we have a killer cream sauce for brussel sprouts.”

The turnips loomed in their earthy splendour on the kitchen table, next to two huge white onions.
After saucing the sprouts and putting them to cool in the fridge, I tackled the turnips. It was a Herculean task, this peeling, during which time my trusty old peeler gave up the ghost and broke into two pieces. I fished out the back-up peeler from the tool drawer and continued peeling. Rumpole came out to top up his coffee. He set down his coffee-cup next to the mountain of turnip peel while he grabbed the carafe. As he poured the coffee, I flipped a peel neatly into his cup.
“I hope you washed that turnip before you started to peel it,” he commented as he fished out the peel.
“Naturellement, mon cheri,” I cooed, whilst chipping away at the turnip.
“I don’t think there will be enought turnip for ten people,” he opined. “maybe you’d better prepare the third one too.”
“You know how few people favour turnips, my dear, they equate it with poverty food. I want to leave them begging for more.”
While dicing the turnips and the onions for over half an hour, I mulled about people we have known who cannot force themselves to choke back turnips in any form. A good friend ate turnips for over two years, almost daily, during the latter years of the Second World War in Holland. never does he let turnips pass his lips – he equates its flavour and texture with hardship. In some way, this makes sense, in his case, but turnips are a wonderful root vegie, and plentiful during our winter season in these latitudes. They keep well in storage and ar high in nutrients. What’s not to love and eat during a celebration of harvest season and of thankfulness for the earth’s bounty.

Once the turnips and onions simmered in the large Dutch oven, I puttered around washing the apples and preparing the sugar and spices with which to flavour them for baking. prepared the glaze for the ham and sat down to figure out the order and timing of putting the different dishes into the oven. Rumpole came out and ordered me to take a nap, and I complied. He volunteered to begin the baking at the appropriate time.

By the time I emerged from my nap, he had already begun baking the ham and had basted it at least twice. It was then time to place the casserole of brussel sprouts into the oven, and begin to prepare the baked apples. He washed and dried the apples once again, cored them and trimmed peel from their tops. He poured lemon water over them to keep their colour and following the recipe I wrote out for him placed butter bits into each cavity and then the spiced sugar mixture. He finished by sprinkling more sugar over all the apples and closed the baking casserole. He seemed well-pleased with his effort of preparing this part of the meal.
“Make sure you tell everyone I made the baked apples,” he requested.

At the appointed time Renaissance Man appeared and Whistler arrived – together they ferried our contributions next door. Rumpole and I made our way over a little later, after changing into better duds.

The evening was full of lively talk, with ample distraction provided by Mousey who is a socialite in the bud. While everyone ate turkey, ham and all the fixings, she ate of the two main food groups – cranberry sauce and ice cream, with a tryout of artichoke hearts, right after a mouthful of cranberry sauce. She was unimpressed.

Wine flowed, and along with it humorous discussion of the American campaigning. We agreed that the US elections distracted from our own, which seemed downright colourless and humdrum in comparison. We don’t have a Sarah Palin, who seems to be a Republican “weapon of mass distraction” to provide us with unforgettable one liners and nonsensical interviews with the news media. There didn’t seem the be a definite platform from the various parties vying for our votes – just generalizations, red herrings such as talk of our health care crises which really are provincial matters. Naturally, the economy got its share of table-talk – every one of us is affected by what is going on in the economic turmoil about us all. Naturally, we hastened to reassure ourselves that our banking system operates under more rules than does that of America’s, yet unspoken and unadmitted was the fact as the fortunes of our neighbour go, so does ours follow.

Thanksgiving was a pleasant respite from pervasive anxiety surrounding us. And then there was election day, on Tuesday.

Election day coincided with my birthday. Lucky and Barb decided to bring dinnner and wine for the four of us in the evening, after which Aime and Lookingforbeauty were to join us for cake and to watch election results on the TV. Dinner was wonderful curried chicken, pakoras and samosas made of chick pea flour and vegies all prepared by Lucky’s Mom, and a fresh salad made by Barb. We studiously stayed away from discussion of politics during dinner, as each of the four of us voted differently. Aime and Lookingforbeauty arrived at 8 with a wonderful cream cake. After filling our plates with cake and our cups with tea, we gathered around the television set and anxiously watched the voting results scroll by at the bottom of the screen, while various pundits opined about the potential outcomes, the strength of the various parties’ strategies, etc.

A phone call came in, and i took it in the kitchen. It was Mousey, singing “Happy Birthday to you grandma…. you know I am on the potty – heeee!!!! giggle”.
Rumpole yelled out from the living room.
“G, your candidate came in second. The pinko bites it! Ha!” He sounded extremely cheery.

If Mousey had not made me giggle, I think I would have burst into tears. As the nation wide results rolled in, I understood we were in for more of the same secretive style of governance that has characterized this minority government. It saddened me that voter turnout was at a record low; people may feel hopeless in effecting change, yet by not turning out to cast a vote have engineered a maintenance of the status quo with which they may feel dissatisfaction. I am angered at the millions of dollars wasted on an un-needed election. And I worry that the scrambling to stabilize faltering economic systems diverts attention and action from the complex of problems facing all societies – ecological devastation, food supply failure, water supply paucity and inevitable social upheaval.

As the Chinese curse goes – “may you live in interesting times”, yes it has come true. We do live in “interesting times”. My birthday wish is for more uneventful times, but I’m afraid, that is not to be realized. On the other hand, there is still much for which to be thankful.

Maybe a resolution…

April 12, 2008

Upon the advice of numerous friends, several of whom are health-care professional, I have fired Dr. Blindside after an unsuccessful effort to have him explain to me in detail about further eye operations he was planning for me last November. The new retinal surgeon I have been seeing since December has been candid and to the point as to how much he might be able to do for me to restore some vision to my left eye and what needed to be done. His manner with me is good. He has not treated me like some fluffy little old lady who could be satisfied with blandishments and false-reassurances. He answers question I have had, not with the off-hand, ‘don’t you worry, nice little woman, we’ll fix you right up’ or surprised reaction to very specificqueries about treatment and prognosis by Dr. Blindside, but with straight-forward, detailed and patient answers which have given me much more confidence to undergo the knife, yet again.

So, the operation is to happen on April 25 – soon, now. There have been numerous tests up to now, and good follow-up with information about those tests. The date for the operation was set for a specific time, not on an on-call basis depending on cancellations, as was the custom with Dr. Blindside. We can actually plan our lives and doings based on a firm operation date. Rumpole has booked off the day to see me through the operation.

It has been exactly a year since the first of the eye operations. Now, finally, there may be some sort of resolution to the question of how much vision may be improved for me. Even the slightest improvement will be a gift. Right now, my sight is so poor that even watching television, movies or a video is a drag. I have to sit about 3 feet from the screen. I have become house-bound as I feel vulnerable in the outside world where unpredictability reigns. The Spring sights, which previously never failed to thrill me, lack in specificity of detail which increases visual pleasure. I miss drawing and painting, wandering around and looking about. And am cautiously anticipating a small promise of even slight return of my previous freedoms, occupations and pleasures.

An anniversary of sorts…

March 1, 2008

Today is the 20th anniversary of my diagnosis of leukemia. As on that day, this morning dawned sunny with clouds. And as on that day, I woke from sleep today with a woolen head and dragging feet, reluctant to face the day. The reason for this morning’s lack of enthusiasm is not because I feel ill, but on account of a late going to bed last night after a stimulating evening of tea and discussion with friends late into the night. As I dragged my half-awake self to the first cup of coffee, prepared this morning by Rumpole, it occurred to me that this date had some importance in my life. It was while pouring that first black cup that this significance popped into my brain.

I took a sip, observed Rumpole, looking disheveled and poring earnestly over a section of the weekend paper and interrupted his concentration.

“Dear. Do you remember what we were doing at this time exactly twenty years ago?”

He looked up with a question in his faded forget-me-not blue eyes. “No. But I do know we were up north at the time. Why is the date significant?”

“On that day, I woke up from a sweaty sleep on the couch in the living room to the sound of the telephone ringing, you answering and asking many questions at your end, then finally saying ‘yes, I understand, I will bring her in right away.’ ”

“Quit being mysterious.” he grumbled. “How can you remember what that particular phone call was about? Please get to the point.”

I took a long swig of my coffee and added some milk to it. “That was the day you took me to the hospital for that awful diagnosis and only allowed me a few minutes to get my stuff together. I had my client reports to still finish, so I took those. There was the unfinished crocheted ugly pillow-cover I was making for Jacquie. That went into the overnight bag with the beautiful turqoise housecoat you had given me the previous Christmas.”

“I wonder why I can’t remember you getting ready to go.” Rumpole scratched his ear, and folded his newspaper closed.

“You were occupied by consulting the thick medical diagnostic tome in the kitchen. You had it hidden behind the toaster so I wouldn’t know what you were up to. Renaissance Man was hopping about bringing me toothbrush, hairbrush, journals, files and pens.” I beaded him with a direct look. “Neither of you are good at hiding your anxiety. When you led me to the truck as if I was made of spun glass, ready to break apart at any moment, I knew something not so good was up.”

I remember Rumpole guiding me into the bucket seat of the LandCruiser, strapping me in most gently and covering me with a lap robe. We drove down the snowy country roads, admiring the light and texture of the landscape. I insisted that he stop at the edge of town at the shopping centre and buy me a nightgown appropriate for a hospital stay. He was so impatient while I pored through the racks of nightgowns like a somnambulist and mumbled dutiful disinterested husband comments about my selections.

As we drove down the big hill into town I moaned to him. ” What a perfectly beautiful day to be having to go to the hospital. I’d rather stay home and go for a walk with you guys.”

“The woman from the hospital said you had to come in for further blood-work and for a procedure for a bone marrow biopsy,” he told me, then went on to reassure me. “You know we will be with you throughout the day. I’ll bring Renaissance Man in this afternoon to see you. And I’ll call Marlene, Jane and Linda and Al to come and keep you amused.”

“Please call, Maureen and let her know she has to reschedule my next week’s clients. Tell her I will send this week’s reports in with you on Monday.”

How do you remember what happened on that day?” he asked.

“Heck, how can one forget such a day, or what happened on such a day? It’s not every day one is told one has a life-threatening disease. It kind of ranks up there with some other life milestones – like when you first proposed to me, or when you brought you pajamas and alarm clock to our first sleep-over ever”, I said through smirking lips. “Hell, I even remember how nervous George was as he was giving me the diagnosis in the nurses’ lounge. He bummed a cigarette from me and we smoked together as he apologized and said it was far too beautiful a day for him to give me such unfortunate news. Imagine, George apologizing, when it was all too clear to me he had to give up a day with his daughter tending their trap-line.”

“I was too much a basket case that day. Can’t say I remember a third of the stuff that happened. But I remember crying in my office as I phoned all our friends to come to you in the hospital. I remember crying with Renaissance Man as we drove to the hospital to see you.”

We fell into silence, drank our coffee, and read the papers. I mused about how strange memory is, what details are remembered. I remember Rumpole’s devastated expression, and Renaissance Man’s bereft face as they sat by my bed side while I struggled with the crocheting, to finish the pillow-cover for Jacquie, one of my clients. She had patiently instructed me in my inept first attempt at crocheting and I wanted to do her proud.

Ash Wednesday…

February 5, 2008

 A “lapsed Catholic”. yearly I make note of Ash Wednesday, and think back on an annual ritual from my childhood, being anointed with ash on that day. I may no longer kneel to have my forehead marked with ash, but I do remember well how it felt to kneel in church, where the priest, passing along a row of genuflecting believers, murmured Latin words, dipped his finger in a little silver bowl and gently pressed the grey ash to foreheads. As I solemnly filed back to my pew I witnessed how parishioners bore expressions of a meditative calm on their faces.

From the time I was five years old and she six, Ildiko and I went to church on our own, without our parents. Anyu was embarrassed by our energetic tactics in church which included: dancing in the aisle during high mass; taking a forint from the offertory plate for every filler we were handed to put in; lying on the floor under the pews throwing and rolling our ill-gotten coin loot about on the marble floor; and singing in high-pitched Latin along with the priest during the Mass. Whenever our behavior degenerated to any of these low levels, Anyu projected a glare at Apu. This was the signal for him to remove us from the church and entertain us in the outer precincts. He didn’t seem to mind getting out from the Mass, either. He was Greek Orthodox and made disparaging comments about the “mysterioso lingua” used during the Roman Catholic services at that time. He was positivey jolly as he lit a cigarette outside the heavy wooden doors and watched us skipping up and down the basalt steps as we burned off excess energy.

It was when I was seven years old and Ildiko, eight, that I conceived an idea of where the priest obtained the ashes for Ash Wednesday. The previous summer we had gone for an outing with the family maid and had explored the precincts of the hill where the church, rectory and other ecclesiastical buildings were situated. Through one open doorway we observed nuns making the communion wafers on little pocked griddles over a fire. We lingered and watched, and as we did so, I began to have serious doubts that the Eucharist was really Christ’s body. I never managed to get past this doubt about communion and taking wafers made by nuns which were supposed to be somehow sanctified.

Then, a short while later, as we walked about on Bishop’s Hill we came upon a sight of several priests taking their leisure out-doors, lounging on chairs, drinking wine and smoking cigarettes. The maid hurried us from this scene with a promise to show us the well many townfolk had been thrown into by the triumphant Turks as a form of punishment. However, as she pulled me by hand from the sight of the drinking, smoking priests, I craned my head back for one more good, indelible, look.

The following year, on Ash Wednesday, Ildiko and I attended church service and were marked by ash. As I was receiving my spot of cinder, I lowered my eyes, craned my neck and through my eyelashes, took a good look at the ash in the silver bowl carried by the priest. It looked remarkably like a fancy version of Apu’s ashtray, minus the cigarette butts. My memory flashed to the sight of priests smoking and drinking in the rectory yard, and I was suddenly convinced that the priest obtained the ashes by collecting them from a year’s worth of ashtray contents. Suddenly, I felt cheated. It was not holy ash, sanctified residue, that marked me as a believer; it was only cigarette ash. Were all these churchgoers fooled into thinking this was a sacred ritual, special, laden with meaning, when it was ash-tray contents that were used to single us out as penitents? I thought I was onto something that needed discussion with Apu and Anyu, once we were home from church.

On the walk home I internally debated telling Ildiko about my conclusion. I decided not to reveal my idea to her, for certain she’s lecture me all the way home about having evil thoughts, ones unworthy of a good Catholic girl,  and which thoughts surely well-paved my way to Hell where I would be justifiably and amply punished. I picked up a bit of the ash from my forehead with a saliva-wetted finger and surreptitiously tasted it to see if it tasted like cigarette ash. Ildiko sent me disgusted side-long glances and chastised me for wiping off my ash spot.

As we entered the vestibule of our apartment building, Mr. Weiss, our neighbour, was just going out for his constitutional. He smiled at us and noted that only Ildiko was marked. “Did you not get an ash mark, Gabi?” he asked.

I smiled at him and shrugged. Ildiko announced to him, “Like you, Mr. Weiss, Gabi is an unbeliever. She will pay for that later.” She ran ahead upstairs to tattle on me to Anyu. Mr. Weiss patted me on the shoulder and went out the door.

Upstairs, at home, I could hear Ildiko telling Anyu what a bad Catholic I was being in smearing and licking off my ash mark. I didn’t linger to hear Anyu’s reply to her; instead I sought out Apu in the salon . He was lounging by the radio, listening to Radio Free Europe and taking long drags from a lit cigarette. He waved me over and ruffled my hair when I came near. I leaned against the arm of the green chair where he sat, looked about for his ashtray. I put my fore-finger into the ashes, leaned over and put a spot of ash on Apu’s forehead.

“See, Apu, you really didn’t need to come to church today. I put the ash mark on you. It’s just as good as the ones Ildiko and I got this morning, because the priest probably got his ashes from his ashtray in the rectory.” I said with complete seriousness. ” Like you, he smokes cigarettes.”

Apu opened his eyes wide and looked at me; shook his head in disbelief and took a drag off his cigarette. He rose from the chair, went to the salon door, opened it and yelled to Anyu. “Rozsa, come here quick and listen to what Gabi has to say about Ash Wednesday!”

New Year’s Eve…

January 2, 2008

It was to be a quiet, uneventful New Year’s Eve. Rumpole and Renaissance Man were to play at a New Year’s gig with their band. Glasgow Girl went along to help serve food and tend bar for the celebrants. I was most grateful to serve as companion for Mousey, as I have not now, or ever, been a party-girl, and am bored to tears by the noise and bustle of large, raucous gatherings of the festive kind that New Year’s parties tend to be.

Martha agreed to spend the evening with Mousey and me, as she was entertaining no other option for this evening. I feel unease at having sole responsibility for this little grand-daughter now, with my bad eyesight and the lack of confidence and clumsiness that has come along with it. Martha and I planned to bring along a take and bake prepared pizza,  a movie, Yahtzee and Dominoes. We spent some time on the 30th selecting a movie, buying the pizza and debating what games we could play after Mousey’s bedtime. We were ready and looking forward to the entertainmet of Mousey’s company.

We convened at RM and GG’s house at the appointed time, loaded down with our stuff. Mousey met us at the door with Glasgow Girl hovering nearby, putting on her shoes and coat. Mousey immediately forgot about her mother and glommed onto Martha, who seldom sees her and thus presented as great novelty for her. We got her to wave bye-bye to her mom and proceeded to be entertained by a steady stream of Mousey’s favourite toys,  and her attempts at conversation which takes the form of completely unintelligible sentences, complete with emphases of tone and an occasional word which referred to objects. Of course when Martha or I asked her a question, she would nod and say a long convoluted reply which neither of us really understood. miming and pointing. Our three-way conversations had the surreal aspect of spending time with a foreign speaker where only small portions of meaning could be gleaned by us two older visitors, whereas the native, small person fully understood what we meant when we spoke. Really weird and quite funny.

Martha put the pizza in the oven to cook while Mousey and I dragged her high-chair to the dining room table and readied some snack for her to eat more appropriate for her tender system. Mousey ran into the kitchen and observed as Martha pulled the pizza out of the oven, slowly waved her little hands and uttered “Hot!” and commanded me to pick her up so she could see Martha slice it. She licked her lips; her eyes brightened and lingered on the pocked pattern of the wedges. She was eager to be strapped into her high-chair and drummed her hands on the tray part, quite excited until I placed her biscuits on it. Martha brought the pizza and placed it in front of us; we helped ourselves to a couple of slices. Mousey picked up a biscuit, sampled it, and tossed it over the edge of her high chair. She beaded me with her dark eyes and held out her hand, beckoning me to share with her. I plucked an olive slice and handed it over to her. She sampled it, made a moue of disgust, took it out of her mouth and tossed it overboard, like garbage; she waved her hand at my pizza slice and made a long, garbled sentence with a loud demanding tone that brooked no misunderstanding. I picked a piece of crumbled sausage and dutifully handed it to her. She liked it, and made impatient gestures to keep more coming, and be quick about it.

“Not a good idea, G,” cautioned Martha. “She’ll get diarrhea. You’ll be sorry later.”

I handed Mousey another, unsullied biscuit. She was having none of it and threw it away. More waving of her hands at my pizza slice. This little one has inherited her father’s cast-iron digestive system as well as his adventurous appetite. I figured a few bites of sausage, cheese topping and crust might not harm her.

After eating, I wrapped her up in a blanket and took her outside into the yard to look at the neighbourhood in the dark. She oohed and aahed at the Christmas lights on neighbourhood houses. We stayed out for a few minutes and she identified lights, houses, cars driving by. “It’s dark,” I said to her. “Is it time for you to have your bath now?” She nodded. “Dark…bath,” she said. “Dark night…can you say good night to the lights, houses, cars and the dark,” I asked her. She made her farewells to the outdoors and we went in to ready her bath.

Mousey did not linger in her bath for long. She was eager to get dressed in her sleeper and rejoin Martha in the living room. She curled up beside Martha and had an extended conversation with her, threw herself on her lap, inspected her curly grey hair, and wriggled and giggled. She dragged her blanket over, pulled it over the two of them and leaned on Martha and gazed up at her face while sucking on her middle fingers. This she did only when she was sleepy, so I scooped her up and suggested she give Martha a good night hug. Then we put all her toys to bed, in their appointed places, went back to wave good night to Martha.  Mousey turned off her bedroom light and went to her bed cheerfully. She blew me a kiss as I covered her with her blanket. She grabbed her Pooh bear and fingered its ear. “Help Pooh go to sleep. He is tired and sleepy,” I suggested and waved her good night.

Mousey settled in easily and talked in a light soft voice to Pooh. Martha got the Yahtzee game organized on the dining room table. She went over the rules of engagement and scoring in the game. I had not played Yahtzee for many years. Mouse quited down, so we waited for a little while to let her fall into a deep sleep before beginning the rattling of the dice. I went off to grab myself a drink, and to go to the bathroom. A few minutes later, as I was sitting on the toilet, came a loud thump followed by sudden screaming from Mousey’s room. “Oh, my God!” yelled Martha. “G, get in here!” I quickly pulled myself together and ran into Mousey’s room. She was up in Martha’s arms, tears streaming down her little face. “I think she is all right,”whispered Martha. I took Mousey in my arms and placed her on her changing table. Took off all her clothes and checked her thoroughly; moved and felt her limbs, chest and back. She looked a bit shocked, but was, fortunately, had survived the fall unscathed. I dressed her up again and bundled her in her blanket. Martha and I inspected her crib. It was intact, so we figured she had climbed out by using her Pooh bear as a ramp to give her height to scale the side of the crib. Out came the Pooh, relegated now to spend the rest of the night on the couch with the other stuffed toys. I brought Mousey into the living room and cuddled her. She had not cried for long, and she nodded when Martha asked her if she was scared. She lay in my arms and snuggled down. Twirled her hair around her finger and sucked on her fingers.  After some time had passed, as she could hardly keep her eyes open, I took her back into her room and laid her in the crib. She turned on her side and I rubbed her back until she fell asleep.

Back in the living room, I said to Martha, “Why did she have to climb out of her crib for the first time on my watch? I’d better report this to Glasgow Girl on the phone right now.”

So, I called GG’s cell. Told her what had happened. “How did Mousey fall out of her crib? Is she all right?” she asked.

“She scaled the wall, climbed up, and gave herself a good shock.” I told her and asked. “Has she ever done this before tonight?”

“Ooh, the little bugger,” replied GG with her Glaswegian brogue. “This is entirely new behaviour for her. I guess we’ll have to put her in a regular kid bed now.”

“This new change will give you and RM many nights of broken sleep. This next phase can be daunting. Until you change her crib she will now try to find ways to keep climbing out.”

“Of, dear God!”exclaimed GG. “I guess we’ll just have to suck it up.  Got to go now and tend bar. Don’t wait up for us.”

Surely she had to be kidding. There was no way I’d be able to nod off later, given that I’d worry about a repeat of Mousey’s earlier performance. I hung up the phone and Martha and I began to play Yahtzee. we had forgotten to bring pennies so couldn’t gamble on the games, but I beat her two games out of three. She was disgusted with the fact that she had helped me make my winning strategies. We decided to next watch the movie, “Dream Girls”.

This musical had some wonderful musical bits, a couple of  brief Diana Ross cameos, terrific acting by Eddie Murphy and was the right movie to watch on a New Year’s Eve. It finished just before midnight and Martha went off to her house to make sure her Jack Russel, Murtaugh, was not excessively traumatized by the setting off of fireworks in her neighbourhood. Of course, he was probably oblivious to any fire-cracker noises, as earlier Martha had dosed him with some dog equivalent of Ativan. But she frets about him and was eager to get home and make sure he was not having a nervous breakdown.

I settled out on the back patio to have a cigarette. A sudden wind arose, the sky was clear. People were banging pots and pans in the neighbourhood. Lights from the house next door winked through the gaps in the hedge. I sat there thinking that with my poor vision now this view appeared to be a scintillating, shifting dark scrim where pinpoints of light formed and reformed new and novel constellations.

Once back inside, I dug around for books to read. Before I got a chance to settle with a book about Scotland, Mousey woke and started yelling and complaining. I went and got her, changd her diaper. She was wide awake and resisted going back to bed. I wrapped her in her blanket and took her into the living room. We turned off the lights and sat by the low glow of lights from the Christmas tree. “Look…dark,”said Mousey pointing to the window. Then she wanted her bottle, but when given it licked it and then tossed it aside. She tore the glasses from my face, put it over her eyes and grinned at me. She peered through them and looked toward the window. “Dark” she said. Then she pointed to the Christmas tree lights and said, “light”. So I talked to her about how we sleep in the dark, and get up and play in the light, that now grandma was tired and sleepy, Pooh was also sleeping. She was not convinced and wriggled to get down and go about playing. I kept her wrapped in her blanket, on my lap. She whined at first, but soon acquiesced to sitting calmly with me. I closed my eyes and yawned at her. She mugged back at me, grinning. She fiddled with my hair, eyes, glasses; peered closely at me and tried to get me to giggle. I finally bored her back to a sleepy state and as soon as she was flagging I suggested she say good night to the dark and the lights, took her back to her dark room where we waved to all the stuffed animals, wished them a good sleep. She lay down in her crib, quite content and waved me good night.

I returned to my perch on the couch and opened the book on Scotland. Had trouble staying awake, so went off to tidy in the kitchen, polished the dining room table and finally turned on the TV, with low volume. Flipped through the channels. There was nothing even vaguely interesting, so I kept flipping channels. Soon, the sounds from the garage door announced the arrival of Renaissance Man and Glasgow Girl. “Mother, why are you still awake?” he asked. It was, after all 3 am.

“I want to go home to my bed now. I didn’t dare to fall asleep, in case Mousey might repeat her vaulting from her crib.” I explained how she had gotten up shortly after midnight and showed little inclination to go back to bed, but in the end was quite amenable to the idea of going back to sleep once she had been sufficiently entertained. “She should sleep through the rest of the night, quite well.”

Rumpole arrived, shortly thereafter to take me home. On the drive I told him of Mousey’s discovery of being able to get out of her crib, and how that could hurt her “You know, I’m surprised that parents get through this phase, sometimes relatively sane and unscarred. But I sure don’t have the stamina for the kind of vigilance required for keeping a toddler safe.”

Except for Mousey falling out from her crib, it was fun to spend the new year’s eve with her. She is an absolute delight to be with. But today I was exhausted. Well, that doesn’t matter. I’m just happy to have her in my life and look forward to all the changes in her we all will have the pleasure to witness during the next year.

Anniversary on the land-locked cruise ship…

November 28, 2007

Rumpole has ever been a man reluctant to separate himself from the Law. Thus on the day we were to drive to Harrison Hot Springs he was poring over some tomes in the downtown Law Library. He breezed in at 4pm and proceeded to argue his reasons for why he should not bring a formal jacket, on this, our 30th Anniversary. He cleverly won by reminding me that way back when we tied the knot, he had not worn anything but sweaters and jeans, and the ever so necessary rain-slicker. So why would we not do the romantic thing and dress down in remembrance of our youth? Naturally, he neglected the fact that after thirty years we could both do with considerable spackle and polish, to fill our numerous cracks and bring our tarnished lustre to a dullish glow.

Suitcase in the trunk and digital camera on the front between the two of us, we drove off in beautiful sunshine of the late November afternoon. It was a scenic drive. We found a good rock station with golden oldies rock and sang along, admired the gorgeous views. We were delighted the weather was not a reprise of our honeymoon torrential rainstorm, and high-fived our good fortune. As the twilight settled we had arrived at Harrison Mills.

“Look,” Rumpole mentioned, “The mountain up ahead is on fire.”

I had my sunglasses on, as my eyes were again infected and sore. “Where’s the fire?” I just couldn’t see it.

“Oh, for God’s sake, take off your sunglasses,”said he with an exasperated tone. “See the lights up ahead, the smoke? There – straight ahead.”

Well it looked like fog to me, the kind of low-lying stuff that wreathes the bottoms of mountains this time of year. The lights were the usual foggy star shapes that might indicate an electric light on a pole. But then I don’t see at all well nowadays, and rather than incur a long winded argument between us, I concurred. “Ah yes. I see (fingers crossed, liar liar pants on fire)Do you think it might be campers?”

“Are you kidding? In November? Nope – probably a slash burn.” He didn’t see fit to report it and we drove on.

In dark of late afternoon, we arrived at the lakeshore and drove around looking for a parking spot, near the resort. No joy. Rumpole is an independent sort of fellow; doesn’t like maps, nor signage. So we drove around some more. He was becoming quite irritated. After I figured he was thoroughly fed up, I gently suggested we drive up to the port cochere and ask the attendant where we might park the car. As it turned out, parking was at some distance, and Rumpole didn’t want to drag our suitcase for that long a walk. He let me wait inside the lobby for him, with the bag.  This suited me just fine. I got to scope out the lobby.

Directly in front of the wheezing automatic doors, inside, a large painted chainsaw-sculpture of the cigar-store Indian variety greeted visitors. So far, so bad. Hasn’t it yet dawned on German and Japanese tourists that these artifacts went out of fashion when cowboy movies did? A couple of Japanese business-men in casual attire, both sporting neck-slung cameras took turns gaily posing with the Indian. Brother! Talk about cliche! Political incorrectness, eh?

Rumpole arrived, with reddened cheeks from exerting himself on the long trek from the parking spot, and took a double-take as he spotted the Japanese men checking their digital pics. The Indian was gazing, quite oblivious, into the distant lake vistas. The guys decided to do retakes, and Rumpole threw them an amused glance as he looked about for me. The Indian didn’t twitch a muscle, but I was snerkling under my breath, trying to smother down a loud laugh which was threatening to erupt.

Booking in was a breeze. We were given a detailed map of the premises, key-cards and sent on our way to find our room. As Rumpole grasped my elbow and led me around the Indian  to climb a few stairs, he noted a bunch of older men, wearing white bathrobes strolling toward us. “These guys must be on their way to the lake to practice for their January Polar Bear swim,” he conjectured. We stopped and looked at the map. Yep, either they were on their way out of the hotel and down to the beach, or they were visiting Miss Daisy’s Cafe located slightly to the east of the Indian. Shrugging with relief that dress code here was so informal, we proceeded up the stairs. More people of all ages and physical condition, lounging and strolling around in bathrobes. HMMM.

“Don’t look now – there’s a cop behind you.” Of course, Rumpole just had to look. Leaning against a pillar was a 10-foot tall stuffed toy Grizzly bear in formal Mountie dress uniform. It had its palms upturned as if seeking donations. Very natty,but oh so cliche! He was guarding the fireplace/piano/lounge room where a couple of men in bathrobes warmed themselves by a crackling gas fire, and a mother watched in irritation as two ten year old boys played video games on their laptops.

We looked around for the elevator. After consulting our maps we and 6 people in wet bathrobes got on the elevator which made herky-jerky progress to our floor. By the time we got off, my glasses had fogged over. Rumpole had to lead me by the hand to our room.

First things first, I just had to find our bathrobes. Yep, they were in the closet where the coats and clothes would hang. I unloaded our suitcase and stashed our stuff while Rumpole, ever mindful of rules and regulations perused the Resort Information Booklet. “Get this,” he announced. “They charge for each phone call made to the desk, for wake-up calls, for concierge help…. haven’t found where it says ‘for breathing’, yet.” Of, so it was going to be like that, eh? “Oh, no” he complained.”It says here I have to wear good casual wear to eat dinner at the Copper Room.” We had arranged the tour package -room for two nights, breakfast for two mornings and our anniversary dinner at the “Copper Room”.

“Maybe they have a “rent-a-jacket” place on premises,”I said. “Or you can go down there tonight in the sweater you plan to wear to dinner tomorrow and ask if that would do? Alternately, we can do a nice drive home tomorrow morning to get your jacket.” Rumpole chose to do a walk about the place, find the hot-spring pools, the gymn, the spa and then casually drift by the Copper Room and ask the Maitre D’ whether he would be acceptable in sweater and good pants. After finding out we didn’t have to drive home to get a jacket, we strolled around trying to figure out with the help of the site map how to get to the Lakeshore Room, where we decided to have supper.

The Lakeshore Room had a huge waiting room with a crowd waiting for seating. We signed in and held up a wall. People there were trying to stave off their hunger with the dough-nuts provided to ease the long wait. It was good people watching opportunity. There was a family with two little girls and a rickety pair of grandparents in tow. The little girls sat in the only two available armchairs with their feet up on the seats, ordering the mother and father to go get them juice and doughnuts, while the doddering grandparents swayed on their feet, almost about to topple over. There was something very wrong with this picture. I waved my hand in their direction and gave Rumpole a disgusted sneer of disapproval. He pursed his lips and looked at this crew over the top of his glasses, looking very professorial. I’m certain he had not failed to notice that no-one waiting here was in bathrobes. Thus we did not fear being overdressed.

Dinner at the Lakeside Room was buffet style. On this occasion it might have been called “buffett” style. As I was raising the tongs to transfer some spinach salad to my salad plate, a Japanese lady of middle years hip-checked me and grasped the tongs out of my hand, filled her plate, smiled nicely and proceeded to do a number on Rumpole. We were so stunned that all we could offer by complaint was a weak, Canadian expression – “Sorry” and watch in bewilderment as the lady continued to make her way backward on the line butting in front of everybody.  About this, I am proud of our Canadian tendency to say “sorry” whenever we have done nothing to be sorry about. Perhaps the English-Japanese guide book needs to make it clear that when we say “sorry” we are not really saying “go ahead, do whatever pleases you”. I noted that was going to be a point I made clear when filling out the visitors experience report after our stay.

“Don’t look now, but that Pushy Japanese woman is sitting right behind you,” whispered Rumpole. And of course, I looked.

“I should just dump my dinner plate on her after I go get my salmon and vegies, and say a cheery “Sorry”,” I hissed back.

“G, now don’t start something you can’t finish,” he admonished. “Just give her an elbow if she crosses you at the trough.”

Sure enough, I had just got my salmon, rice and vegies and decided to go with Rumpole to the Prime Rib area and augment my plate with a Yorkshire Pudding (never mind that’s not taditional accompaniment for salmon, who cares?) and voila, she reappeared again and much to the server’s controlled amusement bunted Rumpole aside and held out her plate for the piece of prime rib the server was about to place on his plate. “Sorry,” said Rumpole, automatically. He didn’t feed her an elbow. I admired his restraint and grinned at him with approval.

Back at our table, we ate and chuckled at the vagaries of travel to foreign places, at misunderstandings of manners. I jokingly told him that the resort should have a Buffet Etiquette book, translated in several languages in every room, and while they were at it might post a rule about people schlepping about all over the place in the near altogether in soggy white bathrobes. Seeing all those bloated bodies with bad hair, wet hair, hairy legs and poor posture might turn people off from eating altogether, never mind they had an obstacle course to follow at the buffet, with tourists nearly snatching morsels from proffered plates.

After dinner we went for an evening constitutional on the lakeshore, went back to our room and read in bed.

By morning my eye had swollen and took on the bright colouration of a sailboat’s port light. And it was sore. After breakfast buffet at the lakeshore Room, we had our eyes peeled for the Japanese lady, lest she come near us to snatch our croissants from our hungry grasp, or scrape butter pats from our plates. No such adventure to be had. She was most likely soaking in one of the hot pools, bless her.

I was concerned about my eye, as after we returned home from the weekend I was slated to go for surgery on Tuesday morning. Here it was a Sunday, so where could we find a doctor handy? Rumpole went off to bring the car from parking in the boonies, and I went off to the concierge desk to find out if there was a local medical clinic open. The concierge called around to Hope, nope, the clinic there was closed. The nearest clinic, in Aggasiz, was also closed. But, Bingo! The clinic in Chilliwack, a mere half-hour drive away, was open. She made us a good map, and by the time Rumpole arrived with the car at the porte cochere, we were good to go. Only it was raining really hard, which kind of ruined the scenic aspects of the drive.

The clinic in Chilliwack was not full with patients, so we got to see the doctor quickly. She took a look at my eye and said to Rumpole “You’ve got to stop punching this poor woman.” I took an instant liking to this doctor; however Rumpole didn’t seem to approve of this light-hearted, put-the-patient-at-ease banter. He sat looking quite crest-fallen as I hastened to encapsulate the medical history of my eye over the past 8 months and made it perfectly clear that it was not result of a wife beating. The doctor was adamant that I cancel the upcoming Tuesday operation, gave a scrip for antibiotic drops and sent us on our way. We filled the prescription at a nearby pharmacy and went back to the resort.

The rain was pouring down in earnest. Rumpole decide to parade around in the resort in his white bathrobe while I took a nap. Much later in the afternoon, with him refreshed from his soaking in hot mineral water and me in a warm bath in our room, we decided to explore thoroughly all the amenities of the hotel, and do a long indoor walk, interspersed with climbing many stairs. On the way back to our room to change into our finery, we stopped in at an expensive ladies wear shop in the lobby, where I admired the lacy, gauzy and beaded confections that were more suited to women under 40, than to a woman of my vintage. Rumpole found a lovely metallic grey silk shawl that brought out the highlights of my gun-metal grey hair, wrapped it around my shoulders and said to the clerk “This, my wife will wear to the Copper Room for our anniversary dinner,” and bought it for me. We nipped upstairs and changed into our fancy duds. We looked pretty good together, we thought.

Off we went to the Copper Room, holding hands on the long walk there, severely overdressed compared to the bathrobed figures flitting here and there. We were seated at a table with good view of the dance floor. The band was good, in a cheesy Las Vegas kind of way, the singer had the mellifluous voice of a younger Wayne Newton/Englebert Humperdink cross and the food was delicious. We drank no wine, just water, and watched the dancers and sang along to old standards. There seems to have been a recent resurgence of ballroom dancing, because many couples on the dance floor strutted their stuff. Rumpole does not dance. He feels about dancing as cats do about being immersed in water. But he made an exception for this occasion; he would dance to a song I requested in honour of our anniversary. I perked up – goody, I get to dance a wee bit. I asked the Maitre D’ to send my request to the band, Eric Clapton’s “You look wonderful tonight.” Soon, the band made the announcement. Rumpole took my hand, and I dragged him to the dance floor. The band began to play “Yooo loook boeetifoool too meee….. can’t yooo seeee….” Gag, Barf, Ick….. the song both Rumpole and I absolutely loathe. Rumpole was helpless with laughter, so much so that he couldn’t keep rhythm and lead. Not that he could anyway even when concentrating. So I led us around the dance floor, and we giggled as we stomped around, trying not to interfere with skilled dancers. Well, we were the oldest people on the dance floor, and the worst dancers, but we had an excuse – we came from a generation where ball-room dancing was the antithesis of cool.

So cool were we, that after watching the antics of some really fine comic ballroom-dancers, we started yawning and decided to repar to our room to read in companionable collapse. My eyes were sore, so I managed a page before dozing off. I was suddenly snatched from blessed oblivion to find Rumpole sneakily easing a couple of pillows from under my head. “Go back to sleep,” he groused. “You’re such a pillow hog. I need some extra pillows for reading.” Ah, loving, romantic words from my husband of thirty years.  He never said that thirty years ago!

The next morning, a horrible windstorm accompanied the torrential rains. We had to leave this land-locked cruise ship experience and return home to daily routines. But first, Rumpole had to brave the elements to go get the car and bring it to the front of the Resort. Of course, being British Columbians from the Lower Mainland, we need umbrellas as winter accessories. But being us, we left them in the trunk of the car, so poor fellow made his way in the downpour and arrived back with the car, soaked to the skin and with the windows badly fogged up. After loading up, we waited for half an hour until the car’s heater could deal with his evaporating clothes and our moist exhalations.

We drove home, singing and chatting and listening to the weather reports. Shades of our honeymoon trip thirty years ago!Trees were downed everywhere, power outages beset a large number of people, the ferries were not running on schedule and hundreds of people were stranded on either side of Georgia Straight on the last day of this Remembrance Day weekend. About fifteen miles from our town, we came upon a road block, were rerouted on unfamiliar back roads and arrived home two hours later than anticipated. Our luck held. No power outage at our house, and it was nice to be back in our comfy digs.

It occurred to us as we were drinking coffee in the kitchen after unloading the car, that we had not taken a single picture of our weekend, or had another tourist take our picture grinning and mugging in front of the cigar store Indian, or the Grizzly in Mountie uniform. But then this comes as no huge surprise, we have not one photo from our honeymoon either. But we do have memories to share. That’s what counts to me,