The first time I was published in The Globe and Mail, my uncle Peter sent a note telling me how proud Theo would be. She was a subscriber all her adult life. What a good feeling that gave me.
Peter and I have spent quality time discussing family and lake boats this year. I've got practical questions he can answer. We can talk, and the conversations are high value — they mean an awful lot to me. There's a craft in putting a family story together. A few days ago, we were musing about the lost time in the narrative. There's a decade for Theo and Harry where little is known. We're left to speculate. I'm convinced a deep archival search — harbour master and shipping company records — might produce documents.
This week, Peter's wife, Brenda, sent me a card and note with good photos. The last thing she wrote before, Lots of Love, is, We are very proud of you!!
I've worked hard on the writing. It's been another apprenticeship. I hold what I do with esteem. But having someone who loves you say it, lands right in the heart.
This might be my favourite photo of Theo. She's probably ordering someone to make her a Manhattan or bring a Peter Jackson. I can still see the black patent cigarette pack sitting on the table by her chair. The living room on Lyons Ave was cozy. My family in there, first drinks in hand — jostling to tell a good story — everything golden.
She's at the kitchen sink. An electric knife mounted on the wall behind her and underneath a magnetic bar with half a dozen paring knives stuck to it. Enough for everyone to help with something. Theo had run kitchens. She had lots of kids. If she stuck her arms out, she'd come close to touching opposite walls in that room. A woman of stature comfortable working in tight spaces.
My family is matriarchal — Theo was the dominant force. There are pluses and minuses with the structure. At this point, it's fresher than the patriarchy. She produced strong women. I'm full of gratitude for her. For making me, and some of the women I love the most, who we are.
You reach out with beautiful stuff. I appreciate your candour and words. This note came early this week about a post I made on Instagram,
"I love this very much. Thank you for being so generous with us, sharing these glimpses of your life. I appreciate it and I appreciate you."
I talked with a friend by DM today. He's just had a close relative pass, shared family photos, and told me a bit about them. It was nice. His last sentence,
"You're a beautiful voice in a room full of noise."
I hurt my wrist on Tuesday and am in a splint. That's a fast way to clear a calendar. I can't chop, so it will be a very Polish holiday here. I went to Janchenko's in Bloor West village and hit the hot table — potato pancakes, cabbage rolls, sauerkraut, and borscht. And a big tub of M-C Dairy sour cream (they're Polish, too).
I don't recommend an injury, but you should try clearing your schedule like you had one. Thankfully I can still type slowly (but scrolling is hard).
Cancellations, travel snafus and power outages have a lot of us changing plans. It's going to be a different day than many of us had imagined. I hope for you it's full of love and good things to eat.
I went to see the Ryuichi Sakamoto documentary, Coda, in 2017. This song starts about five- or six minutes in. I was running late and had barely settled into my seat at TIFF. At the sound of the first notes, I burst into tears. Does art make you do that?
Sakomoto and Bowie were in the lead roles in the movie Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence. I saw it when it was released in 1983. It's not a light film for gathering the family around.
He may be gone soon. But here he was performing less than two weeks ago — his expressive hands. Like Bowie, creating to the end. Leaving us with riches.
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