Friday, October 11, 2013

Alice lives here!!

I was thrilled to hear that Canadian author, Alice Munro, has won the Nobel prize for literature. I am also embarrassed to say that I obviously didn't appreciate the one book I read of hers, The Lives of Girls and Women. I'll read some more.

In reading the accolades in the paper, I am told that Ms Munro is the mistress of understatement. She writes about life in small town Ontario, an existence that many struggle to escape. However, her plot lines and characters are never boring. They are very real (which in itself probably should make them boring) however, she manages to elevate these lives to the level of the classics.

Here is an excerpt from the draft of my nanowrimo novel. It's a little slice of Southern Ontario. I wonder what Alice would say about this.

"It was in this house, I remember very vividly now, that my parents adopted a little girl.  She would be my second sister. But I think that I have to put this story into chronological order, so I will go back many years or maybe it’s that I will go forward some years to the day when my mother told me that she, herself, was adopted.  

My mother always knew that she was adopted. She told me that my grandmother had lost her only child, a son, Herman, to Scarlet Fever, when he was seven. As a testament to this great tragedy,  Herman’s picture hung in my grandmother’s house and then in my mother’s house for many years. It was an oversized picture, in a very ornate frame, and it dominated my childhood. Herman is smiling sweetly over us in his short dark pants, with matching jacket, white knee socks and a very elegantly ruffled white shirt. He is a beautiful child. I would often think, "How could someone so precious have died?"

After Herman's death, my grandmother was given a chance to adopt a baby girl, whom she named Margareta Elfrida Lavinia. Margareta would be raised in a German-speaking home. Ironically, my mother's birth mother, Eva, was English. Language differences aside, both my grandmother and my mother kept in touch with Eva, over the years. She and her sister Beth sometimes rented the two upstairs, front rooms, of my grandmother's house. They, like Herman, were always on the periphery of my childhood, shadows of some past event, which never quite ends.  Eva, unfortunately, would never marry and have more children. However, she worked almost all of her life, as a receptionist, for the Children’s Aid Society.

At one point, though, we eventually lost touch with Eva.  Beth had developed early dementia and went back to stay with relatives in Mitchell. Eva went back too, after she retired.

When I say that we had lost contact with Eva, I should have said that we just didn’t keep in touch.  We knew where she lived and a niece of hers would write from time to time to give us an update.  In her last letter, Marsha had mentioned that Eva’s cancer had returned and that she had gone into hospital. Things were not looking good. 

By then, my parents had increased the size of our family to five children. Four years, after they had adopted my second sister, Maureen, my mother gave birth to a boy and then, twelve years later, they adopted another girl.  I say this just to put the events in perspective.

It was Maureen, who insisted that my mother go down to Mitchell and say goodbye to Eva. My mother had difficulty dealing with things like caring for the sick and burying the dead. I remember her resenting being an only child and having all the responsibility of caring for my aging grandmother.  Now, she was going to have to say goodbye to another mother and this too would be difficult.

Finally, my mother agreed to go with Maureen to Mitchell. I think that Eva was really happy to see them. I wonder what the nursing staff might have thought. Here was a spinster, on her deadbed, visiting with her biological daughter and an adopted granddaughter."

It's just one of the many stories that make up my draft novel, tentatively entitled "Woven." Mitchell is a small town in Southern Ontario, not too far from Clinton, where Alice Munro lives. Please send some positive vibes, Alice.

The picture? My adopted daughter.

Have a wonderful day!!

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