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Long live all maidens

easy and beautiful !

Long live mature women also,

Tender and loveable and full of good labor. 

Gaudeamus Igitur

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Friday
Oct302009

Montreal 

Bonjour, 

Sorry, I keep leaving the e off Hildegarde (but spell check shows it as a spelling error). Thanks for bringing all the writing info. last week, although we needed more time to go through everything. Let’s hope the next course we choose is as much fun and as inspiring as Francine’s was. Maybe, we’d better sit apart this time, so we don’t get into any more trouble. No wonder I have challenging students! 

 I meant to tell you that I loved so ‘the turkey was lasagna.’ That was a few emails ago.  

We haven’t even had time to talk about The Montreal Visit, which, of course, is full of good writing material. Dan and I stayed at my aunt’s place. (She’s now in the hospital.) She’s lived in that studio apartment for the past 35 years!! It is the size of a hotel room and everything in it is small; dollhouse size Dan says. He spent the weekend tripping over stuff and bumping into furniture. Aunt L. weighs less about 40 kilos, so for her, the surroundings are perfect. I’d say they serve as a metaphor for a shrunken life. 

Both my mother’s sisters are now in hospital: one in a wheelchair and one uses a walker. These are women who at one time led busy, interesting lives. L travelled the world and finally settled in California while M was married to a banking executive. Both were married very young and were totally dependent on their husbands and they never fully recovered from the shock of the divorce. Some women manage to rebuild their lives, but they never did. Aunt M told me that even 40 years later, not a day goes by that she doesn’t curse her ex and his present wife. She says she has never stopped loving him. He was also a great favourite in the family: handsome, an athlete, generous. He’s in his 80’s now and still around. So is his younger, second wife.

 While cleaning the kitchen cupboards, I found my aunt’s cache of pills. I’m sure there were 20 different kinds. One has to wonder if that’s why she fell and broke her hip again. What do all those pills do to the brain and the body? I hope I am not genetically doomed to such behaviour. I tell myself daily that I am different; I am active, alert, involved.   

On Saturday, Dan and I walked to what is affectionately known in Montreal as The Main. It was originally The Historic Jewish Quarter and the setting for so many Mordecai Richler novels (I always expect to see Duddy Kravitz swaggering down the street). At one time, it was also the haunt of Leonard Cohen, Irving Layton and Doris Giller of Giller Prize fame. Not sure the original group of writers would appreciate the fact that writing has become a competitive sport. 

Every Saturday morning, after I was married, I would take a streetcar to meet my sister-in-law, who is Austrian, and whose parents came from the ‘old country’ to shop at Warshaw. The supermarket was a fixture in that area for half a century (a smaller version of St. Lawrence Market.)  Although messy and crowded with a crazy mix of ethnic groups and staffed by poker-faced butchers and cashiers, we loved it!  Sad to say that an antiseptic Pharmaprix has replaced Warshaw. Dan and I also went to Schwartz's Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen – Home of surly waiters who drop plates and cutlery on tables from standing positions and boisterous multilingual patrons who sit shoulder to shoulder amid the waft of spicy herbs (no longer mixed with ubiquitous cigarette smoke found before Purification and Sanitation).  It’s still the best smoked meat joint in the world.

 That evening we walked to Rue de la Montagne where we used to dine in Parisian type bistros, went clubbing all night, and ate breakfast at Dunn’s at 4 in the morning. Years later, when we were more respectable, we brought Jesse to this area for violin lessons.   

Time for one more side story. The hospital where my aunts are at the moment, Notre Dame de la Paix, (don’t you love these oh so Catholic names leftover from the time when the clergy ran Quebec), is situated on the Back River, with million dollar views on one side and a maximum-security prison on the other, which is next to the special courthouse built specifically for the Hell’s Angels Trial a few years ago. My aunts love the excitement when there is police action at the prison. It breaks up the monotony they say.  

There are so many stories just like your Dutch relatives’ stories that you were telling me about the other night. I look forward to hearing more.  I guess we should meet to discuss our final choice for the writing course and maybe go to a play. Think about it. 

A Bientot, Sarah

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