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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

« Of Buddha and Gardam | Main | Of Ancestors and Charmers »

Tell Us Your Stories! 

Yes, Gong Xi Fat Cai to you too Sarah! (Mandarin greeting in Marjorie's exuberant email to us this a.m). Your descriptions of Hong Kong, the pulsating predominant RED … magnifique! For years the Tangs have spoiled me with their red and gold envelopes, embossed with fierce dragons and ecstatic Buddhas. Their generous monetary gift would bring them luck in return. 

The lines from Gardam, so absolutely beautiful!  I too have decided to read every Gardam book I can get my hands on so we'll share along the way. I'm in love with her writing. Addicted. Busy with Showing the Flag. Great story there of a Chinese family, "Swan", a must read.I apologize for sending this so late but here's Monday's assignment as you had asked: describe your family to a future family member, an unborn or recently born child. Tell her about the legacy she inherits. What qualities do members of your family usually possess - industry, creativity, good teeth? What qualities bear close awareness - fiery tempers, moodiness, large appetites? She'll let you hand it in late, I'm sure. 

If you don't mind, I'm attaching some of my writing (Ode to the Ancestors: inspired by Clinical Ultrasound) Give me just a little input prior to F.'s critiquing if you happen to have a moment later tonight. Right off, I don't think I'm clear enough at the beginning, where I'm studying the ultrasound print-out of my first born, Moira: 

" I’m still piecing together the lines and smudges of your printout. Earlier, when I looked at the screen, I saw you desperately lashing out into the murky fluids surrounding you. I wanted to protect you forever. "

I still have to get rid of real names and switch to fictitious ones. Another job: or maybe it doesn't matter. It is Memoir! But, no. I’d better do some of that right now.

So we're moving along, progressing through life, growing older, or aging, as you put it ...  again (one of my quirks) a song association: Darling I am growing old, Silver threads among the gold (same vintage as Beautiful Dreamer but this one by Hart Pease Danks, lyrics by Eben E. Rexford). I just never thought about those words way back when, considered them sappy ... and always associated them with Afro Americans and their struggles in the Stephen Foster era. Sarah, you and I are doing a pretty good job. Everyone will get to this point if they're lucky. OK, so things change, we try to work against this changing ... and they change even more. I tell myself the liberation comes with the acceptance, or do I truly believe that? When you try to 'keep up appearances' (physically) is that denial or is that desperation? Or ... are you improving the quality of your life? Simply, I just love life. Whatever I do, it’s all worth it.

Thanks for taking the time to read through my stuff. A little daunting but let’s experiment with it and see how things go!

Till tomorrow  




Ode to the Ancestors: inspired by clinical ultrasound 

I’m still piecing together the lines and smudges of your printout. Earlier, when I looked at the screen, I saw you desperately lashing out into the murky fluids surrounding you. I wanted to protect you forever. 

But we’re not a wimpy lot, this family you’re about to join. Your Oma fearlessly marched my sister home in a baby carriage, flanked by two kindly German soldiers for protection. It was blackout time and your Oma had missed the curfew. We shed tears easily only because we wear our hearts where everyone can see them. 

I cried the day your Oma and Opa parted ways. Your Oma had a head for figures. She was orderly and good at keeping daily journals and loved chocolates. For months she’d savour them, eating them one by one. Her husband, on the other hand, was more of a free spirit, like a gypsy. He could wiggle his ears and jiggle his dentures, entertaining people at outdoor cafes. To his wife’s horror, he placed newsprint in my crib when I was a baby, letting me tear the paper to pieces in order to keep me quiet. Together, they once shared the love of acting. Don Quixote and Pontius Pilate were my father’s favourite roles.

Your gene pool produced a stage director, a renowned soccer player and umpteen passionate singers. I guess we’re a disciplined bunch. There was a ballet dancer and a clarinet player - your great uncle practised his instrument at work during his lunch at the telegraph company. Your great grandfather was obsessed with immaculate nails because he was a classical guitarist. Each evening, before setting out to maintain the city’s streetcars, he taught a dozen eager students in the front parlour. In the mornings, when I feel your kicking, I’m usually playing Prokofiev on the piano while your Dad’s planting dahlias or admiring hummingbirds in his garden. 

We believe in balance though. There’s a handful of counsellors, a lawyer, a few accountants, a couple of nuns, a priest and assorted teachers. My aunt, Allegonda, told me stories of others – tinkers, travelling through the countryside and yellow-fingered cigar rollers who worked in factories. None were introverts according to her colourful accounts. 

Your dad’s grandmother, Gina Grizzolia, made the best ravioli, tarales with icing and red sauce that simmered for hours. She learned to crochet in the convent. Then she screamed loudly and got out in time to marry your great-grandfather, Franco and went on to produce five children, including your grandmother, Philomena who, madly in love at eighteen, married your grandfather Carlo McKeraghan. She was one of many strong women in our family and lived to be almost one hundred years old.

Two months from now you’ll be breathing on your own. We’ll all be watching your face the moment you hit that metal baby scale.

“Does she have the big nose of the Van Gelders?” they’ll ask. 

“It looks as if she’s been spared. I can see the McKeraghan features.” I’ll breathe a sigh of relief and admire your perfectly chiselled features.

Not everything is rosy with us my little sweetheart.  Some of us have paid a price for our intelligence and artistic streaks. Such gifts are not freely doled out and often come hand in hand with strange compulsions, obsessions and paranoia. Some of us talk or drink. A lot. There are those who seldom leave their houses. Some suffer a profound sadness that comes and goes according to the light of the seasons. Others imagine things. 

I am proud to tell you that we are descended from a most venerable ancestor, Arnoldus Van Gelderen, often referred to as the father of anthropology. He lived in France, where our family tree has been traced to have its roots in Napoleonic times. Arnoldus was known for recognizing the importance of ritual in the stages of a person’s life and coined the term, “rites of passage”. It could possibly explain why I sing Renaissance music, why one of your aunts can read the scriptures in Greek, why the baby auntie is a former Hippie and psychic, and why your eldest aunt counsels inmates in maximum security. But we also love Miami, oyster bars and beer. Don’t worry. We’re cool. So no matter who you’ll take after, my little pumpkin, we the Van Gelders, De Veaux, McKeraghans, Colbys, Grizzolias, Brosiers, and Van Kamerens are ready to welcome yet another feisty member into our midst.                                                                                                                


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