The Queen turns 90 on April 21, 2016.
She’s been through a lot in those ninety years. There was Wallis Simpson & the abdication, World War II, the death of her father at an early age, the Diana years, the loss of both her sister and her mother. A lifetime worth of trails and tribulations.
She is old enough to forgive and forget. Myself, I still hold grudges. I still want people to admit they done me wrong and some of these people are dead.
The Queen was born at 2.40am on 21 April 1926 at 17 Bruton Street in Mayfair, London. That makes her a Taurus like my eldest sister. Like most Tauruses, she’s reliable, practical, ambitious, and independent.
On her official birthday during the weekend of June 10 – 13th, there will be many celebrations. There will also be celebrations from May 12 – 15th.
We’re not celebrating Her Majesty’s birthday here in Canada as far as I know. The RCMP Musical Ride will go to London to join the Royal Celebrations there and we are publishing a charming children’s book to mark the occasion.
Our government here in Canada is pretty boring especially compared to the British Monarchy (though there was that Prime Minister who had seances to contact his mum).
We may not have castles but our Prime Minister resides in a very lovely mansion as he governs the country. Honestly, we’ve not had anyone interesting living there since Pierre Elliot Trudeau was Prime Minister! Politics have been boring, boring, boring ever since he left but maybe his son (our current Prime Minister) can liven up our world-wide reputation.
What has the Queen been fantasizing about lately? Maybe these quick, amusing reads have the answer.
The Uncommon Reader deals with the Queen as a bibliophile.
What she was finding was how one book led to another, doors kept opening wherever she turned and the days weren’t long enough for the reading she wanted to do. (p. 21)
As Queen…pleasure had always taken second place to duty. (p. 31)
To read is to withdraw. To make oneself unavailable. (45)
Once she been a single-minded woman knowing where her duty lay and [her] intent [was] on doing it…(104)
The moral, of this book, is that the love and act of reading can lead to the act of writing which leads to abdication.
A moral, I’m sure, our current Queen would be against considering how long it took her and her mother to forgive Edward and Wallis.
The Uncommon Reader is written by Alan Bennett. Faber & Faber published it in 2007.
In this fairy tale-ish book, the Queen takes a melancholy jaunt alone to Scotland to visit the decommissioned Royal Yacht.
People had been writing about her from the very first day she was born in April 1926. (p. 5)
It was Prince Edward [who had] shown her (he knew his mama’s bad habits) a website where she could place a small bet on the races. (p. 8)
She had already called the IT woman three times. She couldn’t call her again. The Queen knew she needed help, but she hated to appear helpless. (p. 4)
The Queen set store by doing everything as Queen Victoria had once done it. (p. 135)
This story is set in December 2002. It is a charming, small, book with lovely black & white illustrations throughout. Here the Queen’s world is populated by many charming and eccentric characters.
There is Lady Anne Bevil, one of her Ladies in Waiting who at seventy has little money left to support herself and is estranged from her son.
Shirley is the queen’s senior dresser. She is sixty and her grandmother and mother worked for the Queen before her. She has no family left.
William is the senior butler. He is gay and has made this job his whole life.
Luke, an equerry and Iraq vet considers his job to be temporary.
Rebecca is a stable girl who takes care of the Queen’s horses. Queen Elizabeth’s latest horse, who was born on the Queen’s birthday, likes cheese. This is a very important plot point!
Rajiv works as a shop clerk at a cheese store and has a sideline profession of taking & selling candid Queen shots to the press. He likes Rebecca (every story needs a romance).
The tale becomes a cozy mystery involving the queen’s household vs MI5. It is very Doctor Whoish. The servants are at friendly odds with each other. They are not sure who to like or who to trust and must find the Queen before it is noticed that she is missing.
Mrs Queen Takes the Train was written by William Kuhn. HarperCollins published it in 2012.
After 40 years on the throne, The Queen and her family are rehoused to a council estate because the People’s Republican Party has gotten rid of the monarchy. Everything the Royal Family once had belongs to the state; the new Prime Minister sells off some of royal treasures to Japan and Windsor Castle is turned into a hotel. The former Royal family have no servants, make no public appearances, and they must check in/out with a guard every time they leave the house.
This was subversive fiction written during the Thatcher’s 90s!
The sweetest scene is when the Queen Mum dies and is laid out by neighbours.
Even with all this upheaval, the Queen gets on with it.
The sequel featuring Camilla instead of Diana is not as strong.
The Queen & I was written by Sue Townsend. Methuen published it in 1992.
Further readings written by me:
Here is my article about Princess Anne’s wedding.
Here is my article commemorating Elizabeth’s longest reign in September.
It seems Ailsa & I both had books on our mind this week!
Happy Birthday Your Majesty.
I read and I read and I read. It is not uncommon for me to average five books a week. On top of that I also read magazines and newspapers and blogs.
This is who I am and have always been.
I am a reader.
I will read anything. Any topic. Any author. Any genre.
But I have been obsessed with female detectives since I got my hands on the Encyclopedia Brown series when I was in elementary school.
For those of you who don’t know, Encyclopedia Brown is an amateur boy detective and son of a police chief. His business partner is a girl called Sally Kimball. Together they kept the small town of Idaville crime free. I wanted to be them. I wanted to have read the complete set of encyclopedias cover to cover like Leroy (Encyclopedia) Brown and solve crimes with him like Sally did.
And thus an obsession was born.
I quickly graduated from Encyclopedia Brown to more advanced detective books.
I sped read through the library’s collection of Nancy Drew books.
I fell in love with Harriet the Spy and her classmates.
I inhaled all of Agatha Christie. It’s too bad I didn’t have internet capabilities then or I also would have become obsessed with learning about the real mystery that she caused! It seems that, around 9.30 p.m. on Friday, December 3 1926, Agatha Christie got up from her armchair, climbed into her Morris Cowley car and drove off into the night. She would not be seen again for eleven days.
I devoured P. D. James books starring the reluctant detective Cordelia Gray.
I could not get enough of these smart, sassy, singular women!
I still read books starring women detectives.
I love me a good mystery!
I, occasionally, picture myself another life. Me, detective or bounty hunter or spy, roaming the streets of the mean city and helping the downtrodden!
I am the lone heroine. with no family or other connections to drag me down.
I am the hard-boiled Private Investigator, a solitary, wandering soul, roving from mansions to dives in search of the truth.
I am the grisly bounty hunter successfully bringing in the bad guy.
I am the reluctant detective drawn in by circumstances that are slowly revealing who I am.
I am the lone heroine. with no family or other connections to drag me down.
I am obsessed with reading about strong women.
I am fascinated by crime (which thankfully does not touch me).
If you are also obsessed, know that there are a myriad of other exciting crime novelists who are women writing about women.
To explore this obsession further you can go spend hours on the Sisters in Crime website.
Enjoy your obsession!
“Every mystery solved brings us to the threshold of a greater one.”
Rachel Carson, 1954, in Linda Lear, ed., Lost Woods: The Discovered Writing of Rachel Carson (1998)
“… blackmail. The age-old path to the land of milk and honey. The one sure way of being paid for doing nothing.” ~Ursula Curtiss, Voice Out of Darkness (1948)
This is my back yard. I view it mostly through my kitchen window. It needs work. The grass is spotty and the weeds in my garden space are tall. The trellis needs to go as does the rhubarb. I don’t eat rhubarb – it is too sour. I ate it, as a child, raw dipped in sugar but now I know that there is not enough sugar in the world to sweeten rhubarb enough for my tastes.
As I may have mentioned before, I am not an outdoor person. I used to be. As a child, it seems when I wasn’t reading I was running around outdoors. Then I started working after school (when I was thirteen) and time to myself was devoted to reading because reading kept my sane. I would read outdoors then. There was a small forest right in the middle of town, beside the Catholic manse, with a gazebo perfect for reading. They tore the forest down to build fancy houses. I don’t know where the gazebo went. I stopped going outdoors.
My eldest sister has a back deck that she uses as a second kitchen as long as she can until the snows come. She revels in improving and enjoying her garden and yards. She takes after our mother and grandmothers. I do not.
An untidy yard and garden depresses me but I hate the thought of spending precious reading and writing time fussing about outdoors.
My gardens and yards came with the house. I enjoy the flowers but have no desire to replant and replace what is there. If the condos around here would have allowed pets I would have bought one and then would have no outdoor space to worry and fuss over.
This is my garden space right now. It is a mess of weeds. I get depressed every time I look at it so I avoid looking at it. When I have the money it will be converted to grass. The flowers will be pulled up (or moved to the side space) and I will convert my outdoor space to maximum low maintenance.
No weeding. No watering. Just a small green space outside my dooryard.
With lilacs, of course. The lilacs will stay as will the roses. But it will be every flower for themselves. They will survive (or not) as Nature attended with no help from me.
As Ailsa wrote “if you don’t like mowing the lawn, let there be meadow.”
This is my front yard. I like my front yard. It is just grass and a bench that nobody ever sits on. There are no flower beds. There is no weeding needed to keep it pretty. It needs only rain and mowing. I do not waste water on my lawn. It survives (or not) as Nature intended.
Yesterday, it was all sun-dappled and pretty. I love how freshly mowed grass smells. The spotty green (it has been a somewhat dry summer) doesn’t bother me. The grass grows as nature intended (or not). I would be happy surrounded by meadow as long as there was a path to the house so that I could get in.
The perfect summer reading experience is indoors in a screened porch with comfy couches and a deep big chair and a pot of tea with summer breezes blowing in the scent of roses and lilacs and freshly mowed grass and the salty smell of the sea or the crisp mountain air.
Do I ask for too much?
On my walk to the hospital (long story) yesterday, I encountered a pig in the grass. It stood happily in the shade enjoying the summer’s day. It made me smile when I needed to smile.
It is too hot.
It is August.
These two condition seem inter-changeable. What is cause? What is causation?
I am not a fan of August. Summer is not my favourite season.
I have never been a summer’s child!
Family lore has it that I fainted from the heat, at age seven, returning from the beach.
I have always sought out the cool side of summer. I seek shade and forest glen and cave to hide within their coolness.
During those long summer days of my childhood, I would go next door to the library the minute it opened, take out the maximum six books that I was allowed and come home to read all afternoon inside.
I would hide in my mother’s closet at the very back behind all the clothes – I was a very tiny child until I hit puberty. Or I would grab my lamp and a couple of pillows and snuggle under the bed with the dog and cat. Or I would hide in the very cramped back corner of my eldest sister’s closet. There I would read and read and read until just before the library closed. Just before the library closed, I would return my six books (all read) and take out six more to hold me until the library reopened. They never did. Thankfully, I learned how to game the system. It seems, that you were allowed six books per day so I could take out six on Monday, return a few on Tuesday and take out six more. I think the maximum I had out then was around twenty at a time. The maximum we are allowed now is one hundred items checked out to your card – I’ve never done that. I have less time to read now.
I have always loved caves. I love their quiet. I love their coolness. I love their isolation. I love the alone-ness.
There are forest caves and mountain caves.
Forest caves surrounded by the scent of pine and the earth and flowers and animals. Beware of the bears.
Mountain caves reached after long hikes with younger sisters that reveal incandescent pools of azure and emerald. They need to be forever hidden from the rowdy tourists.
Does a Yeti live here?
Is this where Nessie hides from the tourists swarming her loch?
Would ET feel at home here?
Are you brave enough to explore the world’s deepest cave? I am not.
I read this story once about a young pregnant woman trapped alone in a cave.The cave had vegetation for food and a warm pool for bathing. It is a horror story. I thought, really, all she needs is a never ending supply of books or paper & pen to write her own stories down and she could be perfectly happy!
Another book I love about exploring caves is Cavedweller by Dorothy Allison.
These last few August days, my house has become a giant cave with shades drawn to keep out the heat as I hibernate and read. This is my perfect summer’s day!
There was a time when we had all the time in the world. There was a time when Sunday afternoons were long and endless. A time when a hour stretched out and out and out. Endless. The rest of the week, especially Monday to Friday, rolled along at a steady pace. School, Supper, Sleep. Saturday was always busy, busy, busy as we rushed from activity (skating, tap dance lessons, music lessons, library run, shopping) to activity barely stopping to breathe. Sundays the only obligation was Church and then the rest of the day was ours alone, free and open to endless possibilities. Oh, what a relief Sundays were. Sundays we had all the time in the world.
When I was young, Sunday afternoons were for visiting. Either someone would come to our place or we would go to theirs. Sunday afternoons were for tea and cookies with the Grandmas. Sunday afternoons were for quick trips out to the farm to visit cousins and climb on the gigantic rock pile and avoid the vicious geese. Sunday afternoons were for being driven one town over (only six miles) to visit mom’s best girlfriend and spend the afternoons playing paper dolls with Tammy. Sunday afternoons were for going out to visit mom’s friend on the farm, spending the afternoons reading my sister’s friend’s old copies of Seventeen and trying to make friends with their yappy little chihuahua. Yes, a chihuahua as a farm dog – he was definitely the best alarm system going. Eunice always had the corner stove on and usually there were fresh buns to slather, warm out of the stove, with butter and jam. I would hide in her daughter’s bedroom reading Seventeen dreaming of being a teenager and feeling warm, secure and safe. Is that not how one should always feel on a Sunday?
Summer Sunday afternoons were trips to the lake and cook out meals. The taste of roasted marshmallows. The feel of damp skin slowing drying . The smell of a wood campfire. The incessant buzzing of mosquitoes. Staying up late and watching the stars. Where was Orion? Endless moments of time.
We traveled so far on Sunday when we didn’t own a car.
Sunday drives – where have they gone?
Here in Saskatchewan where I grew up it seems that every small town main street is home to a Chinese cafe. Our small town was no exception. Our Chinese cafe was down the alley from the Hahn house and my best friend lived there with her mother (a widow), her grandmother (her father’s mother who only spoke Chinese) and her two younger brothers (the oldest was born in the same hospital as my younger brother just three days apart: this is how our mothers became friends. They met in the small (10 room) hospital when mothers and babies stayed in for more than a day or two). I grew up helping out at the cafe – unloading pop or running the occasional transaction through the till. My older sisters both were waitresses on and off for special events as was my best friend. I did the job once – I am a terrible waitress.
What has all this rambling to do with Sundays? Sunday afternoons my mother would go over to the cafe, it was closed on Sundays, and help with the weekly cleaning. Me and my younger brother would go along to play with our friends and visit. We would rush upstairs, the living quarters were over the cafe, and spend the afternoon playing board games usually Monopoly – which my baby brother still cheats at. As we got older, my best friend and I would congregate in the cafe and spend the afternoon playing gin rummy counting up points (a penny a point) but never collecting the winnings. My best friend moved to the city the year I moved across town, the year we both turned thirteen.
It was here I learned to love traditional Cantonese cooking. It was here I felt included as I was not rushed through the games. I am a slow thinker. I like to contemplate my moves and many people get annoyed with this. It was here I felt like I felt at home – warm, secure and safe.
The first time I left home I was twenty.
I’ve spent many Sunday afternoons since then visiting. When I lived with my older sister and her new husband I learnt to play Cribbage. During my brief Hollywood marriage my ex and I would play Scrabble on Sundays (I always lost). Montreal Sundays were spent writing with my Womyn’s group or cuddling on the couch with my boyfriend both of us engrossed in books. When I lived with my father and stepmother, they would have guests on Sundays and we would all play Scrabble – I got better at it but I still lost (I’m not competitive). I’ve traveled with my youngest half-sister to my eldest half-sister’s house and dozed dreaming half-asleep on the couch as they discussed knitting. Even now, visits home include Sunday afternoons on someone else’s couch listening to the chatter of a busy household while I’m reading.
All my life, I’ve curled up in a corner reading as life and chatter swirled around me. This is where I feel most at home. This is when I feel most warm, secure and safe.
I miss those Sunday afternoons. I miss the games. I miss the talk. I miss the company. I miss the warmth.
There was a time when we had all the time in the world. There was a time when Sunday afternoons were long and endless. A time when a hour stretched out and out and out. Endless.
There is too much silence in my life.
seeks the center
of every tree and rock,
that thing we hold closest-
the end of songs”
– Michael McClintock, Letters in Time
“Home is where one starts from.” (T. S. Eliot)
I was born overseas; my dad was stationed in Germany with the Canadian Air Force. I do not remember this first home. I was not even one year old when we came back. My mother says it was an apartment and the landlady lived next door. There were a lot of steps – she mentions how hard it was too herd three small girls (all under five) outside every day. The Pram (how very European) was kept by the front door. I vaguely remember seeing a pram somewhere in my childhood travels between my parent’s houses. It sounds very different from anywhere else I’ve ever lived except perhaps Montreal – which is also, in some parts, very European.
“When you finally go back to your old hometown, you find it wasn’t the old home you missed but the childhood.” (Sam Ewing)
I spent the next thirteen years running wild throughout my small town. My friends and I had the run of main street, went to the playground unsupervised, and occasionally, hitched-hiked the ten miles or so to the lake. The lake my grandparents lived on was closer to their house (it was only about a city block out of town) so I spent more of my childhood there unsupervised. Well, not really unsupervised just not directly supervised. It was a village – everybody kept on eye on each others’ children and everybody was always free to scold us, repair a boo-boo or send us home. It was a wonderful, free childhood and I mourn its passing not just for me but because I know that my great nieces/nephews will probably never know that kind of freedom. Yes, I’m all for a free-range childhood!
“If I were asked to name the chief benefit of the house, I should say: the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.” (Gaston Bachelard)
I spent a lot of my childhood day-dreaming. I was a reader. I lived next door to the library. I got to take out six books at a time. I felt rich. My first books were fairy tales populated by princesses, dragons, unicorns, ogres and witches. We weren’t allowed to sit inside in front of the television (why bother – there were only two channels and very little children’s programming). We had a front porch and along the back shelves were the high heels that my mother no longer wore. We wore them out pretending to be ladies and all grown-up. Inside the house (small as it was), I had two favourite places (under my mom’s bed and at the back of my sister’s closet) to hide, read and day-dream in. I felt sheltered, protected, and peaceful there at home.
“I live in my own little world. But its ok, they know me here.” (Lauren Myracle)
I was different from my sisters and my cousins. My family tolerated my bookish ways. I was not athletic. I never could never do the shoot the duck move in figure skating. I was not musical. I had one lesson – the teacher said it was hopeless and a waste of money for me to continue on with piano lessons. I can kinda swim. It took me until I was eleven to pass beginner swimming (that’s a story in itself). I was different. I created my own world. They knew (and tolerated) me and my eccentricities.
“Home is not where you live, but where they understand you.” (Christian Morgenstern)
I was understood. I was home. I was blessed. (Which was very good – because the outside world could be cold and dark and scary). They didn’t always like me but they always understood!
“Home was not the place where you were born but the place you created yourself, where you did not need to explain, where you finally became what you were.” (Dermot Bolger – The Journey Home )
There was freedom there. The freedom to explore and read and dream. It was there I became resilient. It was there I learned who I was. It was there that I saw myself as myself and saw myself as they saw me. I was a reader. I was a dreamer. I was a quiet child. I was perfect just the way I was.
“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.” (Edith Sitwell)
I am a cold weather child. I do not tolerate heat well. There are tales of me fainting from the heat at age seven. Give me a book, a blankie, a warm beverage and a sturdy chair then I am comfortable. I am home. Summer never feels like home. Spring is the dreaded precursor to Summer. Fall is the best – cool nights, brilliant sunsets, heavenly full moons and the occasional welcome blast of heat.
“Everybody has a home team: It’s the people you call when you get a flat tire or when something terrible happens. It’s the people who, near or far, know everything that’s wrong with you and love you anyways. These are the ones who tell you their secrets, who get themselves a glass of water without asking when they’re at your house. These are the people who cry when you cry. These are your people, your middle-of-the-night, no-matter-what people.” (Shauna Niequist – Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way)
I have many homes. I have my sisters’ homes. I have my stepmother’s home. I can fall asleep there as my two younger half-sisters knit and I dream. I can read in the house while my eldest sister gardens. I know where my step-mother keeps the everyday glasses. Their pets know me. My family is my home team and I hope that I am theirs.
“It was good to walk into a library again; it smelled like home.” (Elizabeth Kostova – The Historian)
I can walk into any library in the world and instantly feel at home. Decades ago, on our honeymoon trip, my ex and I explored libraries together. There is something about a library that says to me, “come in, you are welcome here. You are home!” I regret that when I was in Scotland I ignored the chance to pop into their National Library (I was physically thisclose to it but I was lost and sun-sick and tired and longing for a cool bath and a quiet room. I forgot where home was!). Home is an immense bibliotheque.
“How often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.” (William Faulkner)
Not often enough. I am a home-body. Travel scares me. The unknown scares me. I like to meander into a place and stay until it feels like home. Rain feels like home. I love a good thunderstorm. No, I love being inside, safe and warm, during a thunderstorm. It feels likes home.
“ And then I laugh, because it’s so ridiculous and so gorgeous and it’s all I an do to not melt into a fit of giggles. So what if I’m ninety-three? So what if I’m ancient and cranky and my body’s a wreck? If they’re willing to accept me and my guilty conscience, why the hell shouldn’t I run away with the circus? It’s like Charlie told the cop. For this old man, this IS home.” (Sara Gruen – Water For Elephants)
I am learning how to be home in my body. I’ve spent decades in my mind and only paying attention to my body when it yells at me. The older I get the more I realize that it is important to love your body and to treat it like the blessed home it is. I hope to be spry enough to run away with the circus or to a mountain cave when I am ninety-five.
“I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved and where all your yesteryears are buried deep, leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can. Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better hour because it is dead. Passed years seem safe ones, vanquished ones, while the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance.”
(Beryl Markham – West with the Night)
Leaving home is like peeling of a band-aid – it is best to do it quick and clean. I leave quickly but I plan my leave-taking for months, years, decades. I knew at thirteen that I wasn’t staying in that small town forever. I knew at twenty-five that it was time to stop living in basement apartments. I knew at thirty that I had to try a big city at least once and so I planned and I left and somehow (ironically) I also keep coming back. I go from yearning for large to yearning for small.
“No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather live there than in any other country, be it ever so beautiful. There is no place like home.” (L. Frank Baum – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz)
As Dorothy so famously said – there’s no place like home. The hardest part is defining where home is and getting there!
“Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” (Robert Frost)
I walked to get groceries yesterday. I was feeling a little sorry for myself, the cast is annoying me, and I feel all alone with my troubles. I had walked through the park and past a fence when something caught my eye – a slogan graffiti-ed onto a white fence.
And I remembered…
When did I first see this symbol and hear this slogan?
For me, it goes back to the Vietnam War, when I was a teenager.
When I thought the solutions were simple.
I never marched. I listened to the peace anthems, I avoided the television news and I thought war was like an episode of M*A*S*H – easily solved.
I was naive. How many wars have we had since then? Why didn’t I march?
Why did seeing this yesterday on a white fence (someone still believes) make me smile?
These are my stories. Will anyone ever ask for them? Will anyone ever care what my life was like?
I have no children to embarrass with my tales, my memories, and my life. I tell my stories here into the endless void.
Do you tell your children stories?
Do they know what your traditions are? If you light candles at the window, do they know why? I walk. Why do I walk? The stories are numerous.
Do they know your family history? Who was Uncle Fred? Why did he live with Grandma Smith? Who is Grandma Smith to me?
My father died this week. I know fewer of his family stories because I did not grow up in his house. I know more of my mother’s stories.
Grandma Smith was related to my father; I think she was his mother’s mother or step-mother. I do not know. I knew my father’s parents but not well even to be gifted with their stories.
I was a quiet child. I read more than I talked. I never asked the right questions.
There are gaps in my family history and now I will never know what he could have told me.
The first stories I read were fairy tales – we had a copy of the Red Fairy book by Andrew Lang – a Christmas gift from I know not who. I’d like to know.
I read somewhere once that you should tell your children both stories; that they need to know all of it. They need to know mother’s stories and father’s stories or they will go through life unbalanced and out of sorts.
I am the child of a broken home – I grew up in my mother’s house and don’t remember meeting my father until I was almost a teenager. My mother never spoke of my father and her parents hated him. His parents lived close by and stayed involved in our lives but kept secrets – like where he was. Plus, it was obvious that we were not the favoured grandchildren.
It doesn’t matter who my father was;
It matters who I remember he was.
I don’t know if my father attended the same elementary school that I did? Did he like to run up the fire escape? Did he climb up on the roof? I suspect he would have; he was that kid of boy – reckless and adventuress.
I don’t know!
I don’t know his stories. I hear rumours. I hear snippets – who died in the fire, how were they related to me – I know they were important to him!
I don’t know who he was as a child, a teenager, a new parent or why he felt he had to leave the way he did.
I don’t know and now I’ll never know.
My dad did not tell me his stories. My Dad did not read to me. But he understood why I read. He understood that stories were important to me.
I didn’t tell him out loud – instead I wrote him poems and sent them through the mail (accusations, recriminations, apologies – silent, deadly love letters). He never answered them but I have confirmation that he kept them and maybe treasured them. I wanted him to write back. I wanted him to tell me stories. He wasn’t ready when I was ready.
While we pay lip service to the virtues of reading,
the truth is that there is still in our culture
something that suspects those who read too much…
How Reading Changed My Life
My father fell and broke his leg days before I broke my wrist.
He had surgery and seemed to be doing fine.
My eldest sister and I just went to see him.
He told us stories.
He told us about throwing a sixty pound bag of potatoes at my mother’s mother. I could picture it happening – they were both stubborn people who needed to be right and neither would have given an inch to the other.
And he told a story that I already knew, a story that my mother had already told me, about me.
She tells my story, thusly:
I was born overseas on an army base. When mom and dad headed back to Canada they had trouble proving I was theirs – Mom had been pregnant when they left Canada and so had papers for my older sisters but not me. She says that they almost didn’t let me on the plane with them. She never elaborated further then this but obviously they let me on the plane because here I am.
He says the trouble didn’t happen until we were on Canadian soil. He said we were held up at Customs by the custom’s officer. There my dad stood holding me (a cranky, stinky, fussy one year old) as we were questioned about who I belonged to. My dad basically said to the custom’s agent “if you want her, you can have her” and the agent waved us through – because obviously no one wants a fussy, stinky baby to deal with.
What I note are the differences in their stories about the same incident – how she leaves the story unfinished and he makes himself the hero. The way they tell the story reinforces what I already know about my parents. How, at that point in her life, she was looking for someone as capable as her own father always was and how he (then and now) was always the hero of his own story – right and capable against all odds.
Perhaps there no such thing as a true story,
just the echoes between different versions,
and the desire to know, that keeps us speaking,
and listening, at all…
Honey and Ashes: A Story of Family
Janice Kulyk Keefer
So, tell your children your stories. Even when they groan and moan and roll their eyes, they are listening.
As a parent, as a grandparent, in my role as an aunt – it is our responsibility to make sure that they know both sides so that they do not go through life unbalanced and out of sorts.
In even the best of caskets, it never all fits
– all that we’d like to bury in them:
the hurt and forgiveness, the anger and pain,
the praise and thanksgiving, the emptiness and exaltations,
the untidy feelings when someone dies (p. 191)
The Undertaking: Life Studies From the Dismal Trade
Do you believe in synchronicity?
Everywhere I turn this week a certain topic kept reappearing.
Though Monday’s Dr. Phil was essentially about extreme parenting what I remember best is the book mentioned:
My Princess Boy, which is a picture book by Cheryl Kilodavis and is based on the true story of her five year old son.
Then, a friend asked me, via Facebook, for my comments about the recent controversy over gay characters in YA fiction.
Do you think gay characters are supported in publishing these days? This is YA-specific (which may be relevant, if you’ve seen the recent ad in the papers down east) but I’d love to hear your thoughts on the article anyway.
Thankfully, I had already read about the controversy here and had time for my thoughts to gel a bit.
I am other. I have always been other. I am shy. I am socially awkward. Often, I don’t know what to say or how to act.
However, until I speak I can pass as normal.
I have always read. I normally read between 100 – 200 books a year and have done so since I was eleven or so.
I search for who I am through books. I try to find me. I don’t usually find me in the popular books.
I am not Anne of Green Gables or Nancy Drew.
I am closer to Harriet the Spy and Emily of New Moon.
I might be Jo March of Little Women fame.
I found it hard to find myself in Young Adult fiction growing up. Then, as now, most popular book characters were white, middle class, not too skinny and not too fat. These character types are what corporate publishers consider to be the norm and the majority of the reading public. The thinking appears to be that if you have a normal character as your main character to mirror your normal readers you will sell more books and make more money. That is the publisher’s goal, is it not, to make money for themselves and the writing community?
I am other and unique. We are all unique.
I am unique in that I will read any thing and everything. I read across genres and ages and cultures and worlds. I read over 100 books a year and thus, to keep up this pace, cannot be picky.
I have always read. I will always read. I live to read. I must read.
Like most readers, I started with picture books, moved on to series books and never stopped looking for representations of who I saw myself to be. I looked for representations not just of the physical me but also of the essence of me, the me I am inside myself.
I read books that helped me explore who I was and who I was becoming. I wanted books that explored all of me including my sexuality. These were not easy to find when I started reading in the 1960s. I loved Judy Blume’s frankness. She was not afraid to tackle the forbidden, the taboo. I was a teenager in the 1970s, in a very small town and everything seemed forbidden. I didn’t belong. I was other. I was wrong.
Books saved me. Reading saved me. I learnt through books that there were others like me out there and maybe even in here, within this small town and conservative province that I was currently residing in.
It was not just reading that saved me. It was also access. What I needed to read was there. Publishers published and stores and libraries provided. I was thirteen and reading Ms magazine and the Village Voice, which oddly enough made me want to go to San Francisco not New York City. Who was the genius that brought these print publications into my small town long before they would ever be available worldwide through the internet? I don’t know but oh, how brave they were and how cherished.
Through Ms magazine I discovered feminism and The Story of X, a picture book that dealt with gender issues. I also was exposed to William’s Doll by Charlotte Zolotow which I blogged about before.
Not only was I seeing who I was through reading but I was also discovering who I could be.
But I’m supposed to be answering a question here, aren’t I.
Do you think gay characters are supported in publishing these days?
Yes, I do. I don’t think it’s ever easy to get published. I do think that writing for the norm makes it a little easier. There are, and always have been, controversial books being published. As readers, we have to learn how to seek out the books we need. We have to be vocal and tell publishers and bookstores and libraries what books we want and put our money where our mouth is. If you want books that focus on gay characters, support the writers and publishers and filmmakers who are truly diverse when creating worlds and characters within these worlds.
I’m not an expert. All I am is a reader who looks for herself in what she reads and finds it everywhere.
I am Carrie (Stephen King).
I am Evie (Deliver Us From Evie/M.E. Kerr).
I am Ash (Malinda Lo).
I am your Little Brother (Cory Doctorow).
I am Joanie Caucus (Doonesbury).
The world I live in is portrayed in the universes I read about.
I know these people. These people are white, black, brown, olive, pink, yellow, red and blue. (Are you blue? Seek out an answer in this book: Am I Blue? Coming Out from the Silence, edited by Marion Dane Bauer.) They are gay and straight and other. They are Canadian, Aboriginal, American, European, Asian, African…etc, etc, etc.
I am Other. I thank the stars for books that allow me to find bits of me here and bits of me there.
In the words of Kelle Groom, from her book I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl…
[She] doesn’t like to talk; we talk for her. (p. 78)
Here is a list of websites for books that deal primarily with gay issues, which was mostly the main issue of today’s ramblings.
The last list deals with other controversial and diverse YA books as well:
This looks to be a very good source for many types of books – most explore further.