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catching up

I got back from Ottawa late Monday night, happy to have spent time with my family and especially to have helped Mum into a kind of organization, but sad because Mum and Do are old and I live too far to be much help, day to day. It’s a cliché but still, the reality hit hard: I will only ever have one mother, and she is infinitely precious to me.

Tuesday morning, I discovered that my lilac had burst into bloom over the weekend, and the rest of the garden too. But my front yard was a horror; I’m having my narrow old lead water pipes replaced and, of course, there are complications. Over the weekend, as he dug a huge hole, the plumber buried the lush bed of lilies of the valley, the pride of my spring, under five feet of dirt. My yard is now a giant hole and a giant pile of mud.
Then I discovered that my internet was down. After half an hour on the phone with Roger’s, we ascertained that the router wasn’t functioning, and I called a computer technician, who arrived an hour later with a new router and spent two hours installing it – incorrectly, as it turns out, as he needs to come back today. But while I was running up and downstairs with the computer guy, the plumber arrived to explain complicated things about the city pipes, my handyman called to check on the plumber, and the census people called several times to nag me about sending in the form that day. Usually punctilious about these things, I got stuck on various bits and had just abandoned ship.
Got rid of plumber and computer guy and rushed off to teach at U of T. That night I was speaking to a book club which had bought 12 copies of my blog book and asked me to speak to them about it; the event was in the west end, around the corner from my daughter’s, so after the class, I had a few hours to kill before going to her place for supper before my talk. I wandered along Queen Street, marvelling at its uber-trendiness and, I confess, buying a pair of running pants at Lululemon, before hopping on the streetcar. My daughter has a warm, homey apartment always smelling of good food and, sometimes, of a strange and spicy smoke; she has turned into her father and his mother with her “OCD neatness,” as she describes it.
How wonderful it is to be cooked for, cared for, by a daughter, in her own kitchen.
She walked me to the book club, which was a treat of an evening, a group of avid, thoughtful readers wanting to discuss various aspects of the blog book, including the hows and whys of writing a blog and, more importantly, about Paris. One of them said parts of the book, particularly the scene where my bra strap began to dangle down my arm during a lecture, made her laugh till she cried, and someone else told me that at one point, she actually cried. I hope it wasn’t just the prose that made her cry.
The hostess Liz, a former student, told me she thought I should have two more blogs: “Beth Kaplan’s Paris,” and “What I bought second-hand today.” I loved the idea, but, I said, the problem is that if I’m writing three blogs, I’m not writing anything else.
The book club members were wonderfully encouraging. It’s a rare privilege for a writer to meet a group of her readers face to face.
Home late in the dark and wet, to discover that I was out of cat food – ran down to the corner store, which was already closed – that I still had the census to fill out, and that I still had to get my garbage cans and yard waste out for the morning pick up. After all that, at 11.15 p.m. when I was finishing the census on-line, my doorbell rang. It was the city water inspector, who had me on his list and saw my lights as he was passing by. So at 11.30 that night, I was lying on the floor, turning on my backyard water as he marched about with his flashlight, inspecting. And telling me that I had to take my water for a lead test; if the city found enough lead, they’d put me on a list and replace their pipes into my house WITHIN THE NEXT TWO MONTHS. Two months of a pile of mud – no thanks.
Exhausted, to bed.
Wednesday, still digging out after my trip and internet still dicey; Carol’s class at the Y, and then something I’ve almost never done before: I watched Oprah, her last show. What an extraordinary woman. “This show and you, the audience, are the loves of my life,” she said, her big brown beautifully made up eyes moist, love pouring out from the screen – no wonder millions watch her. She said she’d interviewed 37,000 people over her 25 years on the show, and that every one of them wanted most of all to be heard and validated. “I hear you, I see you, what you say is important to me,” she said. “Say it often to your children, your loved ones, your colleagues.” So I called my daughter, assuming she’d be watching too, but she was at work in her friend’s daycare.
“I see you, I hear you and what you say is important to me,” I told her.
“Thanks, Mum,” she said.
Teaching a class at Ryerson, and then rushing off afterwards, in the blinding rain, to the Creative Non-Fiction Cabaret. What excitement! It’s the Writer’s Union of Canada AGM this weekend, and in conjunction, because lots of writers are here from out of town, the creative non-fiction people organized their own gathering. There I was in a pub room full of that very special breed: non-fiction writers. I’d missed the first readings of the evening, but heard my U of T colleague Ken McGoogan reading about the Scots in Canada, Rosemary Sullivan reading about artists escaping from Vichy France, and a young writer called Andrew Westoll reading about his time at a sanctuary for lab chimps. True stories, riveting. My people.
It’s Thursday, and I’m waiting for both the computer guy and the plumber, who’s I hope going to fill the hole and free my poor squashed lilies. I have a long list of Things to Do. Yesterday, Oprah told us that our lives are speaking to us; that the voice inside begins as a whisper and ends, if we don’t pay attention, as a shout.
“What is the voice whispering to you today?” she asked.
And my voice answered, immediately, “WRITE YOUR FUCKING BOOK.”
So somehow – here’s the plumber now – I will.



2 Responses to “catching up”

  1. Yes I like this posting. Life is more important only happy is most favourite one. Thanks for updating this one keep updating I share this blog to my friend. Bye..

  2. lizzielang says:

    Afterward I felt badly, worried that I must've seemed so bossy telling you to write this and that – I'm so happy you took the suggestion in the spirit which it was given, and that would be: you make second hand shopping and Paris wonderful and not at all intimidating! I'm looking forward to more of your frugalista posts. Also to hearing more about your writers' workshop in France.
    ooh lala! 🙂
    Also, as for the tears, it was your post on July 22, 2008 when you wrote about the Paul McCartney concert in Quebec. You wrote that you started crying and I just got so carried away in your description of the event that I started crying too! It sounded like such a nice moment to be human and to be making a joyful noise together. Thank you!

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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