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Birthday report, Mrs. Harris goes to Paris, and Abigail Thomas

The birthday was wonderful. Anna brought several cold salads, Sam brought and cooked rainbow trout, steak, and potatoes, and the boys brought badminton racquets and birdies, only one of which got lost as they played in the garden. We went to the playground to play monster, which means me chasing them while growling, but I whacked myself with one of the metal poles and got a near black eye, which put an end to that. Still, I was proud to get a near black eye chasing my grandsons around the playground at 73.

The cake from Daniel et Daniel was too rich and chocolatety, which is I’m sure the first time I’ve ever said that. Still, the boys devoured it and I’m managing a slice a day. Just gave a big chunk to Jean-Marc. Many friends sent messages through FB and email and even a few cards in the mail, including, as always, a superb poem from Nick Rice, who is taking his one man show west. The poem quoted some Beatles’ lines and ended, “Some silly quotes/I doubt I’ll ever/catch you on/And now/my friend/ I’m headed to/Saskatchewan.”

Brilliant, Nick!

I bought a funny stuffed cat for the boys at Doubletake, and we took turns with it on our heads. Why? Because, that’s why. I wish I didn’t look like I’m grimacing in pain when photographed laughing. But I do.

Here, in Sam’s fuzzy selfie, I look exactly like my mother. Her best friend in Edmonton said so too. Hi Mum! Thank you all for your good wishes on my big day. Onward.

Yesterday I reconnected by Zoom with a student from many years ago, whose story has stuck with me. There are certain stories, out of the many hundreds I’ve heard, I will never forget. It was wonderful to see her face. She’s picking up the threads of her writing and starting again.

And Janet from Gatineau is staying here for the week; she’s energetic, full of thoughts and ideas and her own huge cache of stories, so every night, when she comes home from her adventures in the big city, we have a long talk. Fun.

But I’m sad today, too. The stress is back. I can’t talk about it, but it hit again this morning. I just hope I can get through. It’s not health, it’s work related, but it sure can sink me fast. I will do my best not to allow myself to be torpedoed. Wish me luck.

Last night, I watched Mrs. Harris goes to Paris on Crave. Yes, it’s ridiculous, the myriad coincidences, the fact that nearly everyone in Paris is friendly and welcoming; doors open, all works out. It celebrates preposterously expensive haute couture. But it’s delightful, and I loved it, despite its absurdities. Of course there are luscious fifties dresses by Dior, which helps, but mostly, it’s sweet, with a feisty cleaning lady heroine, played by the sublime Lesley Manville, who’s kind, honest, decent. We love her. Everyone loves her. The film felt like an antidote to so much of what’s going on — that loathsome man indicted again, eyes prying into the Trudeaus, the planet burning up. A kind heroine who ends up happy — thanks, I needed that.

And today I finished Abigail Thomas’s new memoir, Still Life at Eighty: the next interesting thing, a series of short essays or vignettes, reflections on her life now and back then. She’s honest and funny; it feels like we’re sitting at her kitchen table and chatting with someone wise and thoughtful. I needed that, too.

I didn’t need this, but I love it: a typewriter bought at a garage sale, repaired and reconstituted by Dominion Business Machines, formerly Dominion Typewriter. It’s a family business run by the Sanderson brothers who used to repair the typewriters I actually used, back in the day – waaay back in the day. They had to cannibalize other machines and solder some of the typearms. It works wonderfully. The most satisfying click clack ever. Thank you, Doug, Jim, and gang, for fixing and honouring the past as you do.

Come on over, Hemingway, I’m ready for you!

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6 Responses to “Birthday report, Mrs. Harris goes to Paris, and Abigail Thomas”

  1. Theresa says:

    Oh I do. Wish you luck. And I also wish for a slice of that cake. (Know the source from several stays in a BnB on Homewood…)

  2. Beth Kaplan says:

    Wish I could give you a piece, Theresa! And thanks for the encouragement. I’ll get through. Somehow.

  3. Happy belated birthday Beth. That typewriter looks exactly like one my dad had and used to use, typing with only both index fingers. I remember the clack clack.

  4. Beth Kaplan says:

    Thanks for your good wishes, Pearl! Much love to you.

  5. Yesterday afternoon I drove a couple of hours from CT to a little bookstore in Chatham NY. The interstate landscape, thick with that darkening August-green, was a calming balm. Then I had the pleasure of sitting with Morgan Baker (Emptying the Nest) and Abigail Thomas (Still Life at Eighty.) And yes Beth, it was ” . . . like we’re sitting at her kitchen table and chatting with someone wise and thoughtful.” And ditto, “I needed that, too.” Honest and funny, such a healing combination. I need to be more of that.

  6. Beth Kaplan says:

    Charlotte, I would have loved to be there. Yes, honest and funny – we all need more of that!

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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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