Vintage Books and Glasses

When I visited my sister recently, I had forgotten that she has been the guardian of some of the old family treasures from long ago. It was a pleasant surprise to see the items being kept safe behind the glass doors of a china cabinet.

The small blue liqueur glasses and decanter were perhaps bought in our first few years in Canada, more than half a century ago. The small wine or martini glass with the yellow swirls and the spiral stem is from a set that came to Canada with my parents back in 1953. This one is probably all that is left of the set.

When I saw it, I thought of my tongue. Odd, you might think, but memories that involve the senses can be very strong and long lasting.

My parents used to bring out these special yellow swirly glasses at Christmastime and pour a little egg liqueur from a bottle of Bols advocaat. We children were too young to be allowed alcohol, but once in a while, and because it was a festive season, we were allowed to lick out the last bit of advocaat from the yellow swirly glasses. Kind of gross, in hindsight, but as kids, we were thrilled.

So you can see that the yellow swirly glass holds special memories for me — not only the taste of the advocaat, but the smell of Christmas baking, the beautiful Christmas music, the coziness of the house and the love given to us by our parents.

Some might say these glasses are just inanimate objects, but they hold the key to a gold mine of memories.

Under the shelf with the glasses, two books leaned against the back of the cabinet. The old copy of Forever Amber, which I read when I was 16 (and that wasn’t yesterday), and another of my favourite stories, Little Black Sambo. The bigwigs now say that this book is racist, and have banned it, but I loved reading it and never once felt anything negative towards people of another race from that experience. My family and I simply loved that story.

Thanks to Luanne Castle https://writersite.org/2017/11/02/magical-bowls/

for the nudge to trot out old memories.

The Happy Couple

Today’s post is probably going to be the last of the “doll series,” mainly because I don’t have any more dolls. This last pair is the oldest and came to our household about 1975 as a wedding gift brought back from Mexico by one of my sisters.

They both look a little bit in shock. The impact of the meaning of the word “lifetime” has just hit them.

After 42 years, her hands are swollen from all the hard work and her feet look sore. He has obviously been tearing his hair out, putting up with her, and his hands and feet are pretty clumpy too.

But they’re still together. They must have something good going on to make them stay.

When I Am Old

Several years ago, when I retired from teaching at my elementary school, the staff got together and did a little “tea party” for me as they usually did for retiring colleagues. They gave me a doll that had a special meaning, one which I had never heard of until they explained it to me. I’ve kept that doll with my Mexican marionettes and I think of my friends at work fondly when I look at it. This poem by Jenny Joseph explains what I didn’t know about retirement at that time.

When I Am Old

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat that doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me,
And I shall spend my pension
on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals,
and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I am tired,
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells,
And run my stick along the public railings,
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people’s gardens,
And learn to spit.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat,
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go,
Or only bread and pickle for a week,
And hoard pens and pencils and beer mats
and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry,
And pay our rent and not swear in the street,
And set a good example for the children.
We will have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
So people who know me
are not too shocked and surprised,
When suddenly I am old
and start to wear purple!

Jenny Joseph

I guess I now belong to the Red Hat Society. One thing I’ve learned is that retirement is the best-kept secret ever! It has been a blast.

The Mascot

When the Captain and I were on one of our trips to Baja California, we stopped to do some shopping in Ensenada. I found a puppet-style doll that I couldn’t live without. She was the Mexican version of Annie Oakley. What made me even happier, was buying the doll that had to be her partner.  He is pictured in the photo below Annie.

The store proprietor told me that this doll represents the hen-pecked husband, the Honeydew man (Honey, do this and Honey, do that), but in Spanish they called this fellow a “mandelon,”  because he is ordered about. What woman would not want a mandelon to do things for her? I had to have this doll!

In my novel Orion’s Gift,  Sylvia is all alone in the world and has more than her share of problems. She really needs someone, so I gave her a mascot to lend her strength. Below is a short excerpt from Orion’s Gift, telling about how Sylvia came to adopt Annie.

Excerpt:

In one shop, handmade puppets on strings hung from the ceiling. Each doll had a unique character and, like orphans hoping to be adopted, seemed to call, “Take me with you.” I fell in love with a Mexican Annie Oakley. She held a mini six-gun in each hand and radiated confidence and self-reliance. I paid for her and happily carried her home to my van. I rigged up a spot on the curtain rod behind the seat for Annie to watch over me at night. She’d be my mascot, a reminder that I was strong and could take care of myself.

If you would like to read about Sylvia, you can purchase the e-book for less than the price of a hamburger. Just click on the link to amazon.com.

Click here:  amazon.com

Please help spread the word about Annie the mascot and the book she lives in by re-tweeting this post.

Being Thankful

Susie Lindau has invited fellow bloggers to a hashtag party called the #Blessed Project.

Click on this link to join Susie at her party! https://susielindau.com/2016/11/22/join-the-blessed-project-and-link-up-your-blog/.

My contribution to this blog party is probably much like many other people’s, but it never hurts to say it out loud how thankful we are for our blessings.

I am thankful for:

  1. my husband and our relatively good health. Without it, all the money in the world is worthless.

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2. my wonderful family – both on my side and the Captain’s.

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3. my dogs, Emma and Ruby, who are as much a part of the family as the people are.

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4. readers of my novels. I love writing and it’s great to be able to share my stories.

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5. having enough food to eat and clean water to drink.

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6. The list could go on for miles. Besides the usual family, health, and food and shelter blessings, I am lucky to live near the ocean and yet travel to inland places I love.

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7. I am lucky to be able to see wildlife close to home, especially birds, raccoons, and squirrels. Bears, not so much, although it’s a thrill to see them occasionally.

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8. I feel blessed to have good personal friends and blogging friends.

9. I love living in Canada and visiting the United States.

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10. I should round it off at ten things, but there is too much competition for which blessing should be the last one I’ll mention.

Thank you, Susie, for this great idea. It makes us think of positive things at a time when most of us are getting stressed over the pressures of the upcoming holiday season. It should be a holiday, but someone has to make those cookies, cook those meals, buy those gifts, decorate the house, etc. So when the crush of “have to’s” is getting us down, let’s remember how truly blessed we are.

Playing Annie Oakley

When my sister was small enough to fit into a suitcase, we were all playing with guns. Not real guns, of course, but guns just the same. My hero at the time, because we lived in what we thought of as the Wild West, was Annie Oakley.

My brother and two sisters and I spent hours playing “Cowboys and Indians” out in our backyard and in the backyard of our neighbours who were real Indians. They were Cree and were our best friends in our elementary school days.

We rode our pretend horses around the trails that surrounded our houses. We were on the outskirts of town, a new subdivision going in, developing very, very slowly in our northern town. The hills of excavated soil to be backfilled the next spring provided lookout points and we slapped our thighs  and made clicking noises to spur on our horses, galloping up the hills of dirt, down the gullies of the back alley, and around the sheds and our houses. We stopped behind shrubs to spy on each other, ambushing a careless rider, and killing them with our sixguns.

The irony of our Cowboys and Indians game was that we white folks always wanted to be the Indians and they wanted to be us. Sometimes we took turns. No one ever got hurt, as we were the best of friends, but the goal was to see which team would have “the last man standing” and for the rest of us, who could die the most dramatically. In those days I thought that when you died, no matter what you were doing when you got shot, you had to lie down on your back and spread your arms out (like Jesus on the cross), and close your eyes.

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After all that play with guns, none of us ever had the idea of really shooting someone. We knew it was just a game and that you didn’t play with real guns. We had a healthy respect for guns and never confused pretending to shoot our “Cowboy and Indian” friends in the backyard with shooting anyone with a real gun.

In this picture, my sister was probably about 3 or 4 years old. She was very well adjusted even then, and so she is to this day.

So what has changed in this world that people don’t understand the difference between play and reality anymore?

Gourmet Dining

This is a post from several years ago. It’s a bit long, but I hope you can find the time to read about this fiasco. I changed the names, but everything else is absolutely true.

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“This was a good idea of yours, George,” Carmen said. “After two weeks of camp food, I think we’re all ready for a gourmet meal.” The six friends who congregated in the entrance of the small town’s only hotel restaurant, nodded in agreement.

George craned his neck to look into the dining room. “No hostess. I guess we just go ahead.” He rushed in to claim the only available table.

Carmen looked around for a waitress. Still no one in sight to say, “Hang on a minute and we’ll clean the table for you first,” so the campers settled into their places and stared at the mess left behind by the previous diners. Bits of mashed potato and blobs of ketchup, the pepper shaker lying on its side, and leftover cutlery littered the table.

“How’re y’all doin’?” The waitress—Jackie, according to her name tag—was a friendly young woman wearing a uniform one size too small. She shoved the remaining cutlery to the center of the table and attacked the food dribbles with a stained, sour-smelling cloth. She wiped the table, leaving behind little beads of gray dishrag juice. Before it was dry she slid a water glass in front of each of them, rim side down.

Carmen glanced at her husband, Bill, and muttered, “No water for me today.”

Jackie reset the table using the cutlery from the heap in the center. No place mats. Carmen surreptitiously pushed the used pieces aside while the waitress finished the settings across from her. She noticed that Bill, George, and Millie did the same. “Could we please have new forks and knives?”

“Hnnf! Sure! No sweat.” She shrugged and turned to get more cutlery from a side counter.

“Anybody feel like a glass of wine?” George asked.

Five voices eagerly agreed. “Good idea.”

Jackie brought a tray of wineglasses already filled. Again, the six friends exchanged looks. Whatever happened to pouring the wine at the table?  Carmen sighed and wiped the rim of her glass with a napkin. The others followed her lead.

The glasses were filled to within a half inch of the top. No way you could swirl the wine or toast with your neighbour without spilling.

“I filled yer glasses right up.” The waitress beamed. Apparently wine etiquette was all about quantity. Quality was not a consideration.

Jackie took out her writing pad. All but Carmen ordered steaks and were asked if they wanted gravy with their mashed potato.

“Yes,” they all said.

“White or brown?”

“White or brown what?

“Gravy! Y’all want white or brown gravy?”

Five sets of eyes rolled as they answered “brown.” Carmen imagined the cook reaching for food colouring according to the order.

After Carmen ordered her chicken parmigiana with pasta, Jackie smiled and said, “Y’all help yerself to the salad bar.”

Carmen looked around. “Bill? Do you see any plates?”

“Must be those bowls at the end of the counter.”

“I thought those were cereal bowls,” she said, “…for children.” Dish in hand, she looked over the choices in the salad bar. The huge bowl holding the main ingredient, pale iceberg lettuce, was nearly empty. Dribs and drabs of sliced mushrooms, beans, pickled beet, and other additions meant to liven up the plate, were almost gone, but the six friends managed to scrape together a tired-looking salad.

“Meager pickings, eh?” George said.

Hunger took over and the campers cleaned their plates.

“You guys were sure hungry, eh?” Jackie said. “Don’t worry. I’ll have yer orders up in a jiff.” She layered the empty salad bowls up the length of her arm, apparently oblivious to the blob of mayo that smeared yet another stain on her bespattered white blouse.

Carmen looked forlornly at her dinner. She touched the edge of her well-worn, glass plate. Ice cold. Maybe she should have had the steak too? The spaghetti was cold. She put her finger into the middle where the white chicken breast lay on the white pasta. Lukewarm. She eyed the splash of colour on the side of her plate with dismay—the contents of a can of tomato paste—and one spoonful confirmed that it, too, was only heated to lukewarm. She had opened enough cans of the stuff in making spaghetti sauce to know how it looked and tasted. But pure tomato paste as a sauce? Nothing added, nothing taken away.

“Gross!” she muttered. Bill gave her a sympathetic glance.

A piece of white Wonder bread toasted on one side and slathered in margarine—she knew that smell—teetered on the edge of the plate. “Now I know why they call it Wonder bread. You wonder how anyone can eat it.”

The group made half-hearted stabs at conversation that coincided with half-hearted stabs at their food.

“I should have had steak like you fellows did,” Carmen said to the group.

“You didn’t miss a thing,” George said. “My jaw is tired from trying to chew that flavourless piece of rawhide.”

Jackie had disappeared. Under the circumstances, Carmen thought she would have done the same.

No offers of tea or coffee. No question of dessert. Only the bill already tallied, slapped onto the table. “Y’all have a nice evenin’ now.”

Leaving the hotel, Carmen said, “Ice cream and brandy at our place?”

“Yahoo!”

“Now you’re talking.”

“I feel better already.”