Bits and Pieces

Chewing the Fat

When They Were Young




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happy, relieved

I woke up early this morning.  It’s still dark outside.  And I’m happy.  So happy.  My launch went well.  Thank God.  I got so scared before hand.  I was fine, kept myself busy with the set up, but then, it was ten minutes to seven and the door was unlocked and as the people who were waiting outside started coming in.  The noise of their chatting voices filled the Lycuem all the way up to the ceiling and the next thing I know, I was standing in a darkened storage/broom closet.  I told myself it was just that I needed to focus on my reading, the book.  I needed to organize what I wanted to say before hand, how to introduce Porcupine and Jack to the audience, but the truth is, I retreated to the broom closet because I was scared. 

At quarter after 7 my dear friend Christiane (a.k.a owner of Christianne’s Lyceum of Literature and Art) ferreted me out, and it was time to begin.  And oh thank goodness, because then it was started and there was no room to be scared anymore.  I don’t know why I got so scared?  Everybody was so lovely and kind and supportive.  Christianne’s mum had put out cheese and these gorgeous fruit platters and had made these delicious brownies!  There were candies (they know of my candy obsessions) and wine,  juice for the kids.  By the time the evening was ended I was flying high, so happy and thankful and relieved that it went well.  I went home with my heart full to bursting with all the kind words people said to me while they were getting their books signed, gifts of chocolate, flowers, these sweet beeswax candles, a lovely card with something really beautiful and moving written inside, and last but not least, some special string material that the hiking stores make that apparently works really well extending and holding pants up!  Thanks Mark!  (Obviously a Blog reader)  He showed me the special way to tie it and how to attach it to the button hole, then loop it through itself to secure it and then take the loop and Voila!  You slip it over the button.  It was a well thought out solution and very much appreciated.  I’m still smiling about that one.

The moon was bright in the sky on the way home, lighting up the streaks of clouds in the sky.  I sat in the back seat with some melting chocolate cupped in my hand, my son Will beside me, Don and his mother in the front.  Everyone talking, laughing, a car full of love.  When we got home and out of the car, Will leaned back so his shoulders. neck and head were lying out on the roof of the car (yes he’s that tall) “Ahh..” he said, looking up at the night sky.  And there was something about that “Ah…” that seemed to me to be so full of peace and contentment that I thought my heart was going to explode with happiness.  I tipped my head back and it was lovely.  We could actually see stars last night.  We stayed like that for a moment or two, looking at the stars, and then we went into our cozy house to talk a bit more and then snuggled down into our nice warm beds.

Book Launch

My husband’s mother is here for a visit and since it is a nice sunny day, they went out for a walk and I am/was using the opportunity to practice a little for my book launch tonight.  I thought I knew which pieces I was going to read, but today when I went through them, I got worried that I hadn’t chosen well and should find some other part to read.  The problem is the sections I really want to read are the sort of magical adventure things of my childhood that I wove into this book and they should come as a surprise to the reader.  On the other hand, if I read those portions, I am sure the Q & A section of the evening will make for a very fun and rousing discussion!  It’s such a conundrum.  I wish I could do one reading for the people who have yet to read the book and another reading for those who have already indulged.  Anyway, trying to get ready makes the book launch tonight a reality and my stomach is full of butterflies.  And I never, ever should have read that book Mortification. I should have stayed ignorantly blissful.  Let this be a warning to all you authors out there!  Part of the book is very funny and Don and I had quite a few belly laughs at the disastrous calamities that other authors so generously shared with us…But now, whenever I have some sort of public appearance…All those anicdotes flash before my eyes and I think “oh dear God, please don’t let that happen to me tonight.  So that is state I’m in right now.

Meg’s Tasty Beef Stroganoff

If you want a proper beef stroganoff recipe I suggest you get it out of a recipe book.  This is my slap-dash version and once you get the hang of it, you can have the whole thing ready in 30 to 40 minutes.  However, with every new recipe, it is best to familiarise yourself with it first, so you feel comfortable.  Not only that, you don’t want to deal with that new recipe nervousness while trying to be host/hostess with the mostest to a house load of guests.  Use your family as guinea pigs and try it out on them first.

Ingredients needed: beef tenderloin, onion, butter, sour cream, heavy whipping cream, a beef bullion cube, white mushrooms, dry white wine, salt, pepper, nutmeg, egg noodles.

Meg’s Tasty Beef Stroganoff

Put a large pot of water on to boil.  Cup your hand and pour around a chocolate turtle sized amount of salt into your palm.  Toss it into the pot with a drizzle of olive oil.
-1/2 a beef tenderloin (about 3 pounds)
I use tenderloin because I’m lazy, but if beef tenderloin is out of your budget, no problem.  Buy a cheaper cut of beef and get yourself one of those kitchen implements that look like a square two headed hammer, I’m not sure of the name but it’s to tenderize the meat. 
-Cut the meat (against the grain) into thin slices (the size really can vary, but for those of you who want something specific, say around 2 inches long (against the grain) by 3/4 of an inch wide and around the thickness of a wood ruler) And if you are using economy beef, bang the hell out of the beef strips with the tenderizer hammer. 
-Dice 1/2 a large white or yellow onion, or 1 medium one.  A nifty way to dice a large mass of onions is to peel the outer skin, cut off the top pointy part, then cut it into sort of a multi-lined tic-tac-toe.  Be careful to cut straight down and NOT to cut the slices right off the onion.  You want the cut onion to still be held together by the rough roots area at the bottom.  Then, when you have finished your lattice work pattern, you turn the onion on it’s side and slice it.  Voila!  The diced onion just falls away from the onion into a nice little pile.  Then when you get down to the back end of the onion you chop and dice it up, just like you used to do.  The whole thing takes less that 20-30 seconds and the best part of all is…NO MORE TEARS!  Because believe me, I’ve tried all the other tricks, slicing onions gripping a slice of sandwich bread between your lips.  Doesn’t work, I couldn’t see over the bread to what my hands were doing, would still bawl my eyes out and to top it all off, I looked well and truly ridiculous!
-Heat a large frying pan to medium heat.
-Saute the onions in a slab of butter (around 1/4 of a cup)  until clear.
-Turn pan heat up to medium high. 
-Saute your strips of beef in the onion/butter mixture. In 2 or 3 batches until brown (around 4-5 minutes per batch)  Remove each batch into a bowl, and cover with…whatever, a dinner plate, a frying pan lid, a cookie sheet.
-When all the beef is browned, turn the pan off.  Sprinkle the meat with salt and pepper and around 5 or 6 dashes of nutmeg.  Toss meat.  Cover. 
-wash around 10-15 mushrooms depending on how much you like them.  (I know the fancy chefs would prefer you not to wash mushrooms because the mushrooms absorb water, but pulleaze who has time to gently dust each individual mushroom off with a dainty little brush?  Not me.  I have a hungry family to feed!)  Slice the mushrooms.  When you are around 1/2 way through slicing the mushrooms turn the frying pan back on medium high heat.  When the pan is warm, start frying the 1st half of mushrooms while you finish up slicing the rest.  When the edges of the mushroom are slightly brown, throw them into the bowl on top of the cooked beef.  Cook rest of mushrooms and throw them in the bowl too.
-Pour 1/2 a cup of dry white wine into the pan. 
-Add 1/2 a beef bullion cube, mash it up in the wine. 
-Throw in 3/4 of a cup of sour cream, stir that around until all the lumps have dissolved.
-Turn pan temperature to medium low

*If your water is boiling now, throw in around 3/4 of a bag of wide egg noodles. 

-Pour into the wine and sour cream mixture 1 1/2 cups of heavy whipping cream.  Blend.  Then add beef and mushrooms.  Blend.  Taste.  Add more salt and pepper if needed. 

*When egg noodles are soft, strain, add a dash of butter, salt and pepper to taste. 

-Spoon out onto dinner plates, ladle a generous heaping of beef stroganoff on top, and devour!

(This last step is not mandatory for those of you who actually know how to present food.  I’m not going to give suggestions as how to garnish it because I suck in this department.  My food tastes good, but I always serve it county style.  Also know that with this recipe, nothing is set in stone.  You don’t like sour cream?  Don’t put it in.  You want some garlic in there too?  Be my guest, slice up a clove and bung it in.  Another shake of nutmeg?  Shake away.  Whatever you do, I’m sure it will taste wonderful!)



Pacific Northwest Booksellers Conference

I promised Peter, the captain of a tugboat, husband of Karla, that I would mention him in my blog so his crew would know that we really met and he wasn’t making it up.  While I’m at it, thank you Peter for escorting me from table to table, plying me with water, helping me sign and stuff my books.  Thanks actually to all the volunteers and organizers who were at the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Conference.  I started out petrified and by the end of the evening I had a fabulous bottle of wine from Porcupine Ridge winery (a gift from Patricia) tucked under one arm, a beautiful gift bag of books in the other and I didn’t want to go home.  I had a blast.  Everyone was so kind.  Thank you.

I just dodged a major bullet

Why do I always wait until the very last minute to pack my suitcase?  What do I think is going to happen?  A fantastic outfit is going to magically spring out of my anaemic closet, gorgeous and fully formed?  It hasn’t happened in 47 years so why would my closet start spewing out nice ensembles now?  And that’s another thing.  After each disaster narrowly averted, I always promise myself that the next time I have to stand up in front of a crowd of people and talk, I will figure out what I’m going to wear, have a back up in case there is a spill, and if I can’t find something decent then I’ll force myself to go…shudder…shopping and buy something.  But does this happen?  No. 

Like tonight for instance.  I know I have to hop in my car at 9 am to pick my friend Dawna up at the ferry terminal and then hightail it across the border to the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Conference.  The invitation arrived sometime this summer.  I was thrilled.  I was going to get to meet a ton of Booksellers and talk about my new novel, Porcupine.  How lucky was that!  Plenty of time to put together an nice outfit right?  Wrong.  I wait until 8:30 at night when all the stores have closed to start scrounging around my closet.  There is so no possibility of an emergency race to the shops bail out.  The longer I dig, the more worried I get.  How do other women do it?  Always looking like they stepped of the pages of a fashion magazine?  It was fine when I was an actress, because at the end of the movies I’d just buy the wardrobe I wore in the film.  It would fit me and the outfits were coordinated.  Then once I quit the movies my sister Jenny took over, dragging me into the shops with the bribe of a nice lunch when we were done and she would heap arm loads of clothes into my change room and wouldn’t let me come out until I found something.  But now she’s flying around the world kicking poker butt and starring in movies in her down time and I’m living in Canada.  And yes, I have those outfits from years back, but I have gained that middle age spread.  So unless I want to do that old pregnancy trick and sew a band of elastic on to the waistband with a slit for the button, which would be well and fine if I just had to stand around and talk, but at this thing I have to sit and eat and the jacket strategically covering the flap of elastic would gap open and everyone would be able to see that I’d gained weight and couldn’t get my pants done up.

Well, I was lucky tonight.  I found a pair of pants Jenny gave me when I was in LA for The Violence Intervention Program this spring, and a jacket from Jenny’s closet clean-out maybe five years ago.  I also found a lovely blouse in a subdued brown that said, “sheer understated elegance.”  The blouse was a tiny bit wrinkly so I trotted it over to the ironing board, but then I thought.  “Wait!  Maybe this blouse needs washing?  When did I wear it last?  Yes, I’d better wash it.  I’ll do it in the sink because the fabric probably couldn’t take the vigor of the washing machine.”  Well…it couldn’t take the vigor of a sink washing either.  When I finished washing it, rolling it in a bath towel and hopping on it to get the extra moisture out, the lovely elegant blouse had shrivelled up to about half it’s original size!  Fine if I was twenty with nice tight abs, not so fine for a forty-seven year old woman who has given birth to three children and not exercised since July.  Panic ensued.  I dug to the very bowels of my closet and the Gods were with me, because there at the very back was an old suitcase that I hadn’t gotten around to unpacking.  I opened it up and it was like a treasure trove of clothes!  Jenny and I had spent a week up at a spa around a year ago and she had brought two huge suitcases of clothes and left with one.  When I got home I had unpacked half of the suitcase and something must have called me away and then I’d thought I’d unpacked the whole thing, but I hadn’t!  Anyway, I found a lovely top that goes well under the jacket and so I shall have a sort of put together casual look, courtesy of my generous sister Jenny.

the fed (if financial stuff makes your eyes cross, do yourself a favor and don’t read this.)

So, the fed cut its overnight interest rates by a whopping half a percentage point to 4.75% and the US stock market soared.  The Dow up 335.97 points.  Now I know people were gunning for a cut, hoping for a .25 %. Praying that Ben Bernanke would not leave the rates as they were.  My question is would he have moved so strongly if there hadn’t been the run on the Northern Rock bank in England?  All those people lined up to withdraw their life savings.  The bank whose stability was being challenged because of some of its mortgage investments.  Yesterday, over 2 billion dollars withdrawn.  Was it that extra jolt that goosed his behind into making this large a cut?  Did he do the right thing?  The stock market thinks so.  Just look at the surge.  However, why didn’t gold drop in the face of such celebrating in the stock market?  Isn’t cutting the overnight interest rates saying that inflation is not a worry?  Then why is Oct. gold up $8.07?  And why did the US dollar dive to 1.01380 CAN?  Could it be that foreign investors have decided that with the sinking US dollar and now a cut in the interest rates, that it is costing them too much to hold US treasury bills?  And if that is indeed what is happening, this interest rate may not be something to rejoice about.  Short term, possibly.  Long term, a much grimmer story.

body double

Okay, I heard that there was rumor floating around that my sister was my body double in Body Snatchers.  Come on people, grab a brain!  Why in the world would my sister, a well known Oscar nominated actress, who has way more movie and tv credits that I ever could have dreamed of having, fly all the way to Mississippi to be my body double in some second rate movie?  The very idea is ludicrous in the extreme.  The woman who was my body double in the movie was a stripper at a local club.  I remember being upset when the director cast her as my body double because although she had a beautiful body, her breasts were enormous, nothing like mine and I felt he let his crotch get in the way of his artistic judgement.  I don’t remember what her name was, but I do know that she’d just had a baby and didn’t want her daughter to see the film when she grew up and know that it was her mother naked up on the screen.  Who knows what her real name is?  But apparently what they put in the credits was “Jennifer”.  A common enough name, and most emphatically not my sister.

cultivating my melting muffin stomach

There are many things I could be doing now…should be doing now.  Reworking a few more pages of my maybe-it-will-be-something-readable-maybe-not possible novel.  I could be taking my buttocks off this chair and trot myself out the door for a brisk walk.  BUT no.  I am sitting here sipping cold green tea. (Not because I chilled the tea in the refrigerator.  The tea is cold because it’s left over from this afternoon’s attempt at working on this latest draft of The B__ M, and no flies or other unwanted visitors had fallen into it, so I figured…“why not”)  Here I sit sipping my tea, nibbling my licorice _____?  What are these things called?  They are multi colored skinny licorice coated in a crisp candy enamel coating.  They’re from the Jellybelly factory and are delicious. You can find them on-line.  Sorry I don’t remember the name.  Don’t be fooled by other types candy coated licorice, as they are not nearly as good.  I can’t order them direct here in Canada, but luckily I was able to convince the owner of a new candy shop in town that these candies would make an excellent addition to her store, and off she sent her Dad to scamper across the border to pick up a large batch.  Which I promptly bought.  Yes, here I sit, the sky getting darker out of my window, blogging to whoever is out there reading this instead of doing something useful as well.

Exercise.  I liked how I threw that in, like I am a regular exercising junkie.  I used to be pretty good about exercising pretty regularly, but something happened this summer and somehow…I just stopped.  Oh I take a walk every now and then, but I haven’t set foot inside a regular exercise class since the second week in July!  Hmmm…maybe that’s it?  I went on this boat and there was this amazing Amazon woman teaching the yoga classes and I’m not a yoga person.  That doesn’t mean I don’t like yoga people, I do.  It’s just that well, personally, I find yoga incredibly difficult and painful and embarrassing because I’m always crashing onto the floor, losing my balance and everyone else is so good at it. 

So we were walking by the glass enclosed yoga studio and there were all of these people contorted into these really uncomfortable looking poses and I don’t know what I was thinking…but I said to my husband, “Hey, why don’t we take the Yoga class?”  Mistake number one.  Mistake number two was letting my feet walk me around the corner and signing up for the next class.  Mistake number three was taking the class.  Mistake number four was listening to what instructor had to say.  Almost impossible not to actually.  If you are in her class you have no choice.  She stride around the room, adjusting peoples bodies and roaring out her opinions in a voice that would terrify the undead. She was actually quite funny and furious and kind.  All of these things mashed up into an amazing mixture seems to promise fun and sex and violence and and an amazing fit body if only you learn how.  All the injustices of the world just simmering below her skin, erupting now and then in a tirade against… Well, many things.  And yet with all this power and energy seeping out of every single one of her pores, there is the feeling of a fragile sort of vulnerablity, hurts and betrayals, a small girl who was badly wounded and it made me want to wrap her in my arms and give her a hug.  I didn’t of course because the sane part of me was too terrified.  But I stayed in that impossibly challenging class because there was something I really liked about her.  Even though, as I said before, yoga is not for me. 

I’m not saying this is why I haven’t exercised.  It’s not.  The classes actually were quite amazing.  For the first four days it was quite painful to walk, reach for food, laugh, remove or put on my clothes.  No, after her classes, I looked awesome.  Not as amazingly awesome as she did, but quite awesome for me.  I haven’t exercised because I have fallen off of the exercising wagon, and I am finding it impossible to get back on.  I tried (sort of) last night.  I challenged who ever I could coerce in to a ping-pong match.  This is no easy feat because when you play ping-pong with me you’d better wear a cup and a helmet because when I whack that ping-pong ball it rarely hits the table.  (I could go on and on about my lack of proffessional ping-pong skills, how I unintentional disarm my opponents, causing them to sink to the floor, clutching their bellies with laughter at my enthusiastic but ultimately unsuccessful attempts.  However I shan’t bore you with the details.  Just let it be said that in order for ping-pong to even approach a proper cardiovascular work out, one must be able to volley the ping-pong ball more than three times in a row.)

Jim’s reply

Ha…ha…ha…!  I am triumphant.  I knew this blog was gonna be good for something!  If my tastebuds are correct he used a soft squishy rotted banana and an old withered apple in mine.  Delicious!

“Okay, Meg. Here’s the scoop. This recipe is a closely guarded secret of
Toronto Downtown Bed and Breakfast. Many guests have, over the last decade,
asked, yea, begged us for the recipe, and we always managed to (ever so
politely) put them off. It was going to our graves.

The last person who cajoled us for this secret actually went home to Ohio,
found his great grandmother’s secret (and ever so delicious) recipe for
cranberry coffee cake and sent it to us with the statement: “There! You’ve
seen it, you own it, and now you owe us big time. Fork it over!” We couldn’t
continue to be impolite, so we rummaged through our cookbook collection till
I found an English cookery (as they call it) book with a recipe for
blueberry muffins. It was all in pounds and shillings, or grams and googols
or some foreign measurement system, calling for obscure ingredients like
demerara sugar and aubergines or the like, and then to be baked at Heat
Setting 2 or some such indecipherable temperature. I knew that if we sent
him that recipe he would never be able to create a muffin from it, and I
would get him off our scent. Which we did. He thanked us politely and gave

But now, only because you are a Very Special Friend, and because Toronto
Downtown Bed and Breakfast is no longer in the business of impressing new
guests with our culinary excellence (we are only accepting repeat guests now
- and they already know of those excesses) - we will reveal it. But only to
you and the three million readers of your blog (because, if they like you,
they must be special people too):

Preheat oven to 425F. Grease four muffin cups in a six-muffin-cup pan. Set
aside. Rummage through bottom drawer of fridge until you touch something
soft. Take it out carefully and remove all the fuzzy parts, and the pit if
any.  If you found more than one, use them both. They needn’t be the same
species. Place in a six-cup mixing bowl. Add one 220g package of Sherriff’s
Added Touch Oatmeal Muffin Mix, an egg, and a third cup of cold water. Stir
gently with a fork until moistened and divide among the muffin cups (the
package says “makes six muffins.” Don’t believe it.). Bake 18 minutes.
Serve. Call it by whatever name the fruit had when it was recognizable.

There! Satisfied? When are you coming back? I think we’ll let you make YOUR
recipe next time, right?


Jim, this is for you

I got an email from my friend Rog.  They loved browsing my fantabulousah (that’s my word, not theirs) website…except for the blueberry muffins.  Apparently his husband Jim is muttering about his muffins.  Which, granted, I did say were “the best muffins I’d ever tasted,” and they were.  The thing is Jim, that was two years ago and you’ve never made them for me since!  Two long years I have slyly flattered, pleaded, practically begged on my hands and knees for the recipe which you so stingily clutch to your greedy little chest.  Trying to put me off the scent with a revolting name for those delectable treats (“rotted fruit muffins,” he called them, with a wicked laugh,) Well…after that last email from Rog, I figure all is fair in love and war and muffins, so I’m publicly outing you Jim.  Hand over that muffin recipe so I can post it on my Blog.  Dig deep into your miserly little heart and put us unfortunate souls who have tasted your muffins out of our misery!  Love, Meg

coffee cake, apple and otherwise

The wonderful thing about cooking is that nothing is set in stone.  Other than the set things like baking soda, baking powder, amounts of flour, and so on, you are really free to play and have fun.  Ask yourself the “What does my mouth feel like?” kind of questions.  I think many people when faced with a cookbook, get gripped with fear.  Like there is a wrong way and a right way and if you don’t do everything exactly so, you’re screwed.  Not true. 
Take my “Blueberry muffin” recipe.  That’s the batter from a coffee cake I like to make.  If you feel like delicious coffee cake instead of blueberry muffins this is what you do.

Meg’s Apple Coffee Cake
Heat oven to 375* Grease (with butter of course) an 8 x8 cake pan, or a bunt cake pan, or a bread loaf pan (you see what I mean, you can really do whatever you like)
Use the batter recipe for the Blueberry Muffins, EXCEPT omit the blueberries and add to the flour mixture
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
3-4 dashes of nutmeg
Then cut up:
1 apple peeled and diced into little chunks around the size of your baby fingernail (smaller than your baby fingernail for those of you who have fabulous long ones)
Add the liquid mixture to the flour mixture with the diced apple, (do not over mix, just stir blended and all the flour mixture is mixed)  Then scrape into your baking pan.
In a separate bowl cut together:
One handful of flour
two handfuls of brown sugar
one handful of white sugar
around ten shakes of cinnamon
3-5 tablespoons of butter (depending on how big your hands are)
Sprinkle this mixture on top of the cake batter, pop the whole thing in the oven and wait.  The cooking time will vary depending on what kind of pan you used, as well as the accuracy of your oven.  The coffee cake will be done when a fork, straw, or kebab skewer is poked into the middle of the cake and comes out clean.

To make this in to a regular Pecan Coffee Cake which is sort of the like the original recipe I started making many years ago.
Leave out the cinnamon, nutmeg and apple in the recipe for the batter and mince a cup of pecans and add them to the topping mixture.  Serve with pipping hot.  Make sure you have butter on the table, because I always like to tuck a little pat of it inside my piece of cake to make it truly decadent!

Celebrity detox

My husband had a bad dream.  Thrashed violently in his sleep.  Woke me up.  Was trying to hold on to my sleep wave but then I remember Rosie.  Her new book.  The dabs and bits of gossip coming up on Yahoo News.  I’ve been struggling with whether it’s okay to say anything or not.  The book isn’t out yet, but the way people are twisting things, trying to peel the skin back wide and pour vinegar on the exposed flesh is hurting my heart.  I was lucky enough to read an advanced copy.  It is a beautiful book.  True.  Honest.  Brave.  There is something so generous about Rosie’s wide open, here I am, warts and all.  This is what happened to me, what I felt and experienced.  There is no airbrushing and I find myself totally humbled in the beauty of that.  It has been written straight from the heart and Rosie lets us see right down into the humaneness that is her.  She shares with us, her struggles, her passion, her challenges and fears.  There have been tons of books written by celebrities.  This is is the first book I’ve read that deals truthfully with fame and what it’s really like being famous.

I Have A Blog

Hello.  Well, I just sat for around 3 minutes, fingers poised over the keyboard, a big smile on my face.  I can’t believe I’ve got a “blog”!  Hmm…what to say?  Hello.  Wow, that’s really articulate.  Maybe I should delete the “Chewing the Fat” portion of this website.  It wasn’t part of the big scheme.  It was me fooling around last week with Travis, a Hop Studios person and he was showing my husband and me all the whistles and bells of the web editing system and I was pretending I was adding a new category and I wrote “Chewing the Fat,” and then decided to leave it for the time being.  And now here I am writing on it.  (I’m still smiling!)  Well, maybe I’ll keep this, maybe not.  We’ll see.  It’s obviously not going to be for the intellectually minded. (Okay, I just had Don read over this to make sure I wasn’t making a total ass of myself, and it seems that I was.  Because “fooling around” is apparently a sexual term now.  Maybe it always was but I didn’t know it.  Anyway, I checked with my son Will and he concurred, so I suppose I’d better clear this up. I was not doing whatever “fooling around” is supposed to mean nowadays.  I was simply having a good time learning about the miracles of the web.)


Photo of Will
Photo of Will
Photo of WillPhoto of Will

Photo of Will

Photo of Will

Photo of Will

Photo of Will


By Meg Tilly

Zoanne had a new swimsuit. A shiny blue two piece with little red fish, happy smiles on their faces and a ruffle around her bottom.

It was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. She'd gotten it new, brand new at J.C. Penny's, and I wanted one. Could think of nothing else all through dinner, the clean up. And that night as I lay on my mattress up in the attic with my sisters, instead of Susan making up a story like she usually did at bedtime, I got to tell about my visit to Zoanne's house.

They wanted to know everything. What her Mama wore? Was she pretty? Did I get after an school snack? What was the house like? Did they have carpet? Was it clean? Messy? Did they have pets? Yummy food in the cupboard? Did I get to see in the fridge? We became navigators, explorers, researchers, anthropologists into the way other people, normal people spent their lives. Did her Mama wear nail polish? Did she beehive her hair? Did Zoanne have more than one pair of shoes? How many? Any of them shiny black ones you could see your face in?

And when I told them about the new swimsuit… Well that was something. That was really something. They made me describe it over and over. How it still had the store tags hanging from it. How it was a beautiful, fancy, sapphire blue. Not that any of us had ever seen a real sapphire, only read about them in books, seen pictures of them in the encyclopedias. And actually the sapphires in the encyclopedia were a darker blue. But it sounded so fancy to say "Sapphire blue." So elegant. That and "Brand new from J.C. Penny's!" We bandied these words about, worked ourselves into such a frenzy that finally we made Susan get out of bed and draw a picture of it based on my description. She had to do it three times before she got it just right. And I got to keep the final drawing, cause I was the one who saw the actual swimsuit in real life. I went to sleep with Susan's creation thumb tacked to the sloping ceiling right above my bed.

In the morning when I woke, I saw the picture and it filled my heart with such joy. I went downstairs believing in magic and miracles. And the hope too, that maybe my Mama would buy me a sapphire blue swimming suit with red smiling fish swimming around. Maybe, just maybe.

I waited until after breakfast. Mama was off by herself, out near the creek, doing a charcoal drawing of a pine tree.

I sat down on the ground by her fold up chair. The dirt, dry and thirsty with little prickle balls and sharp edged gravel crumbs poking me through my shorts.

"Hi Mama." I said suddenly shy. And she smiled at me, kind of absent minded. Her charcoal making scratching noises on her white pad of art paper. "That looks pretty Mama."

"Oh no," Mama said, real modestly, face flushed. " I'm only a beginner." But I could tell the compliment pleased her cause her strokes got more artistic, more free flowing and abstract. "Shhht…shht… shht…" with the charcoal, and then rubbing, contouring, smudging with her thumb.

And she seemed so intent, so happy that I thought, this is not the right time. So I got up to go. Didn't think she'd notice me leaving, but she did.

"What did you want sweetheart?" Mama said, head tilted in my direction, eyes still on her tree.

And even though I decided not to, it all came out. Zoanne and her new blue swimming suit from J.C. Penny's. How I need one for swimming in the fishpond. And as I was talking, looking at my dusty bare feet, I felt the hope swelling in my breast, but when I'd finished and looked in Mama's face, I knew my answer, even before she sighed and said, "Oh honey, I wish I could, but we just can't afford it."

"What about the Sally Anne?" I said, words tumbling over hers. "Maybe we can find one the Sally Anne?" Trying to keep calm, but my voice was cracking slightly, giving me away.

"Honey," Mama said, looking tired, the frown line deepening between her eyes, "not even at the Sally Anne. Why don't you swim naked like you always do."

"Mama, I can't swim naked!" My eyes full of frustration cause she just didn't understand. "I'm big now! I'm almost seven! I'm too big to swim naked anymore."

"Oh Anna..." And Mama reached her arms out for me, but I ducked past them. Ran away. Hid in the barn. Didn't answer. Even though I heard her calling.

I stayed there for a long time. Vowing never to come out. But then the heat in my chest subsided, I was left with what I had done. My mother's face, as I avoided her arms, wouldn't leave me. The fact that I asked her for something I knew we could never afford.

Finally, by mid-afternoon, hunger had me creeping out like a mongrel dog. Straw in my hair, face dusty and tear streaked.

I shuffled towards the house slowly, dragging my feet, like I had a limp. Head, eyes, down. But as I got closer, I could hear laughter and a noisy commotion. And then, when I came around an old blackberry bush, I could see my sisters running around in beautiful new swimsuits. I couldn't believe my eyes. My legs started moving faster, didn't want to look like I was running, but it was hard. So excited. My eyes, my brain, trying to sort out what I was seeing. Joy was standing tall, swimsuit, half on. Mama, straddling a chair somebody had brought out from the kitchen, face up close to Joy's belly. Her glasses were off. She was hunched over and squinting. Then Mama turned Joy's body, doing something, couldn't see what, her body was blocking my view.

And then, when I came around, got close, realized, it was too late to backtrack. I was already well into the yard. And there's nothing I could do but keep my face the same. My sisters didn't have new swimsuits. Mama was drawing them on their bodies. Colored markers in her fists, on the chair, tucked up between her thighs, a few, fallen down, scattered in the grass. My sisters, they were just playing make-believe, pretending they had new swimsuits, acting all excited. Running around, giddy-drunk with joy. But they weren't real swimsuits. Just fancy designs drawn on their bodies. They were still naked, running around naked as the day they were born.

And when my Mama straightened up to stretch out her shoulders, she saw me and her face lit up. "New swimsuits!" she called gaily, waving a marker at me. "You're next!"

"Oh goody," I said, in a happy, happy voice. Throat clenched, eyes hot. "Can I have a blue one? Red and blue?" And she nodded, rolled her shoulders once, twice, then pushed back the hair from her sweaty face, returned to finishing up the curlicue black and red design that even continued on over Joy's privates, cause that's what real swimsuits do.

And after Joy, it was my turn, and I didn't run away. Wasn't gonna hurt Mama again. I took off my clothes, underwear too and Mama drew on my swimsuit while the whole family watched. Stood there in the middle of the yard. Tall dried out grass scratching my legs, a smile on my face. Stark naked, my brother, stepbrother, step-daddy laughing their guts out, slapping black flies off their faces up there on the porch. I stood there while Mama drew on my swimsuit and I pretended I liked it.

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