My new book “Midlife Solo” is now available.

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looking back, looking way back

Gifts. An envelope arrived that made my heart skip; it contained a contact sheet of resumé shots of my beloved friend Patsy, who had ALS and died by MAID a few years ago. The photographer whom I’ve never met had read my memorial to her after her death, so when he found this in his files, he sent it to me to send on to her family. How beautiful she was. She hosted my twentieth birthday party at the cabin we shared in Dead Man’s Cove outside of Halifax. How I miss you, my fierce and lovely friend.

And I received a note from Peter, my sometime piano teacher — why he puts up with someone who rarely practices, who says she has no time to practice, I don’t know, but he does. He wrote, “The other day I came across my records of piano teaching inquiries commencing in 1986. I had been profiled in the Toronto Star, and suddenly my phone was ringing off the hook with potential students. You were caller #4, sounding me out on lessons for Anna, who was turning 5 in a few months.

According to my notes: ‘Beth = very well-spoken woman, warm and refined. She says Anna is very bright, a talker. I like this mother: she only wants what is best for her daughter, didn’t want her to start too early and needs advice. Anna took eurhythmics in Ottawa with a very good teacher.’

I suggested Anna was a bit young, that we might speak again in some months, which we did, in September of 1986. My notes of that call: ‘Beth is still quite interested in piano lessons, but as much for herself now as for Anna. However, she is finishing an MA in creative writing from UBC, and can’t see her way clear for herself or Anna for maybe another year.’
Wow, that was the two of us talking about music learning *28* years before I finally did meet you in 2014.”
That’s when I started my very slow lessons with him, neither of us remembering our prior contact. Anna took lessons from someone else for a few years, but quit, as I, to my immense regret, had too, decades before.

At the moment, the grandchildren are not keen on music lessons. My parents were both hugely musical; my mother’s father was a village choirmaster and church organist. It makes me sad. Ah well.

I’ve been preparing for my trip to England in April by opening boxes of photos of my English relatives, and finding files online. Oh my, there’s a rich trove of material; the family tree is coming clear, and you’ll hear all about it when I’m there. School House, the thatched cottage where Mum was born, was built in the late 1600’s; she grew up with an outdoor toilet, no electricity, no hot water. Her sister Do gave me this beautiful needlepoint sampler embroidered in 1846 but wasn’t clear who Eliza Branson was. I now know: Elizabeth – Eliza – Branson was my great-great-grandmother, probably then a teenager. How thrilling is that?

I found a photo of my great-grandmother Alice’s best friend Hattie Cumberpatch, the lady in the beach chair on the left, whose little Victorian ring I wear always on my finger. Bonds with the past, with the villages of England.

Percy and Marion outside School House with Margaret, Dorothy, and on her knee my chubby mother, who weighed 10 pounds at birth and grew to be six feet tall.

All of this is so rich, so interesting. And yet I know most people have no interest at all. My children, very little. My grandsons – ha! Here are my grandsons on Saturday, on our big toboggan hill, after our biggest snowfall of the winter.

So far, not much nostalgia and contemplation there. Another world. My grandmother would have called them hellions.

I leave in a week. There are lists.

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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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