Archive for May, 2008

It’s History – a letter to Lizbet

May 24, 2008

Lizbet,

It was after midnight. The house was silent. I heard an odd rhythmic buzzing sound that I couldn’t identify. After a few minutes of intense listening, I got up to try and find out what was about to explode in the house. I crept down the stairs quietly so I could get nearer and nearer the sound.

I must have inadvertently put the phone on vibrate. It was my cell phone dancing across the kitchen counter with a deep throated rumba rumble. Whoever the caller was, he had an unidentified number so I couldn’t call back. So I checked my e-mail and they hadn’t left a message. Now I was up and decided to wrap myself in a warm sweater. I had to look around my computer desk to find the instructions to pick up the message. There was nothing for it. I was totally awake again, so I decided to do a bit of computer work before I went back to bed.
I found this picture that Heather and I came across. It belongs to her but she let me scan it. It’s of Grandpa Jan’s father and mother (our great grandparents), Dad’s grandparents. When I looked at it, I wondered what they thought of this new country that their sons brought them to- so vast, so very hot, so very cold, so wide open, so wild, so isolated . After the nearness of things and the cultivation in Holland, it must have been a huge cultural shock – even more so than it is today.

Was this the grandfather that was a school teacher? There was one in every generation, Father said.

Sleep tight,

Kay

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Curious accounting

May 17, 2008

I must say that I can remember equating expenditures to how many sheets of watercolour paper I could purchase. It gave rise to this kind of outcry:

“A pair of shoes at a hundred dollars? Do you think I’m crazy? I could buy ten sheets of 300 pound Arches watercolour paper with that! I’ll go barefoot first!”

I will also admit that the idea of counting in values other than currency really hadn’t occurred to me as a phenomenon until Dara commented on an e-mail from nephew Hugh.

Hugh has an opportunity in front of him. Proud aunt that I am, I am sometimes marveled by his ability to find and seize opportunities and then to make them happen. He’s done very well with his studies and has been asked by the Director of School at the University to carry on to his Doctoral degree. In the course of his research which he does during the school year as a part time job and now during the summer as well, he found a course that was being offered in California that was exactly what he was studying. The course would bring together a number of the most important scholars studying the non-proliferation of nuclear arms. Hugh, needless to say, was elated at the idea of joining the course.

Sometimes dilemmas arise when we are presented with such opportunities. He would have to find some way of missing three weeks of his research job. He would have to find money to go there. He’s a student, not starving, but not earning big bucks either, and the travel costs alone would be daunting, but the cost of the course was three thousand dollars plus. Hugh was drooling over the computer keyboard in anticipation as he read about the course. He just had to attend it!

In his excitement he sent out an e-mail to a few friends telling them about his absolute joy in knowing that such a pithy course was available somewhere in the North American continent. All the longing and desire was wrapped up in this comment that he finished his e-mail with:

“I’d love to go, but the course is worth at least two brand new, top of the line Mac laptops.”

I could just see him weighing the course in one hand and holding up two Mac laptops in the other. Neither was tipping the balance. If only he could have his course and his laptop too! But in fact, he could probably have neither unless…..

He’s a smart fellow. I knew I’d be hearing more from him. His e-mail must have been sent to me and his friend Dara and maybe others because she “replied all” with a light hearted comment about him being the only guy in the world that she ever had met who measured the worth of something in units of new laptop-ness.

He’s a computer nerdy type of guy and he knows his equipment. As an annual activity, he covets the newest computer hardware offerings. Like clockwork. If there is something new and better, he wants it. Of course, he’s the kind of person who will do it justice.

And so there he was stuck on the horns of a dilemma. And there I was, toying with a new concept of worth, value, an equal trade off, and quid pro quo.

The idea was settling in my brain and having a comfy go-around when the phone rang. It was nephew Ron, Hugh’s brother, who was calling.

Now there’s a miracle. In two days, I’d heard from them both. I keep in touch with Hugh very often. Our academic leanings gave us a somewhat more common ground for bonding while Ron had had more difficulty in accepting his relationships with anyone, not just me, and was more distant. I only heard from Ron about every three months, and even then, it was often due to a prompt from me – like a message left on his cell phone which he never answers. He screens his calls.

Ron announced that he was working in the community next door to the one I’m living in. Ron works in construction as an apprenticing mason. He’s graduated to this state after a number of years of being a reliable and dedicated labourer. Ron never liked school; in fact he hated it, and nothing could persuade him that he would be better off with some post-Secondary education and that education in the trades could triple his salary if he could only make himself go back to school. Sometimes, one just has to let a person find his own way. Ron is one of these.

Ron has tremendous talent and intelligence. He’s mechanically inclined. He learns more aurally and kinetically than in other ways. He learns by trial and error. He figures things out. Don’t expect him to do any reading for pleasure unless it’s a mechanic’s manual to fix a car or an explanation of a diagram accompanying a piece of machinery.

Add to this that Ron is a hard worker with a great work ethic. He’s up at five in the morning to start work at six, hauling cement and mortar, rocks, bricks and other materials pertaining to the masonry trade. He’s muscular and active, a bundle of youthful energy.

So it was no surprise when he said to me in a very short phone call:
“I’ve got fifteen minutes for a coffee break. Can you meet me at Tim Horton’s?”

“Which Tim Horton’s?” I asked. There were at least two I was aware of.

“The one up by the highway into Maple Ridge, whatever it’s name is. You know. It’s the highway coming off the Pitt River Bridge. Tim Horton’s is up by the Silver Screen there,” he added.

Fifteen minutes to see Ron wasn’t much; but I haven’t seen much of him since we all moved away from Mom’s house last year. Ron was one of the first to go but he was always back and forth, in and out, coming to repair his car in the back or borrow the rug cleaner or catch a hasty snack on the run. Now I didn’t see him at all and I missed him and his exuberance.

“I’ll be there,” I said and rang off. I was in the car within five minutes and down to the cafe in another seven. Ron and a friend were already there. He came out, tall and atheletically gangly still, his shorter friend following close behind. In one hand Ron was carrying the tallest coffee you can buy at Horton’s and in the other, he held a glazed doughnut with a healthy bite out of it.

“Hey, Auntie Kay!” he greeted me in his husky voice. “We got here before you!” He had a huge grin on his face and he came over and hugged me. “This here is Manuel.” Manuel, it turned out, was a Mexican lad of about the same age who had come to work for the summer. There were so few labourers available in this hot job market that the Canadian Government was relaxing its rules to allow some foreign workers to come fill the vacancies.

“Are you working as a mason too?” I asked. But Manuel was just starting, at the bottom of the totem pole. He was lifting, carrying, and transporting bricks and mortar around each job site. When the summer was over, he would return home with enough cash to buy a small business and go to school. He wanted to be an Electro-mechanical engineer. I could tell he wasn’t the normal labourer. He knew two languages, for instance, and I never heard a swear word out of him, although I could imaging that Ron and his cohorts were probably completing the slang language part of his education for him with glee.

“We’re working just down there on Harris Road” Ron explained. It’s just down by the Subway.” He looked at me expectantly. “Y’know where I mean? I looked a little blank. I’d been in the community for nine months now but I had no idea where he meant.

“It’s down by the railroad track. It runs right through there. I thought it might be fun to take the train one day, but the train only goes one way in the morning, so it doesn’t work for me. The train station is right there on Harris Road. It’s right where MacDonald’s is, on the highway. ” He was now peering at me, wondering whatever had happened to my education. Didn’t his Aunt know where the fast food places were?

‘Yeah, yeah, I know where you mean” I said as it clicked in that he was talking about Subway the food place, not Subway the rapid transit train station though it really was the West Coast Express out here in the burbs.

“Well our construction site is the first one just after the railroad tracks.”

A light bulb turned on in my mind. Hugh might equate values with laptop computers. Ron equated location with fast food outlets.

I’ve got a date on Tuesday with Ron. He’ll come up and see the house, but not for long, he made it clear. He’s on the fly.

I’ve got an update on Hugh. He took his dream to the Director of his School who agreed that the course was just too juicy for Hugh to pass up. Of course Hugh could go! He could make up the time he missed some other way and they would figure that out together.

Hugh has also inquired about the hint of a scholarship in the course prospectus that seemingly was proposed for tuition, room and board. It was probable that he was exactly the kind of candidate they were looking for. If that were so, then the only thing he needed was airfare and he thought he could manage that himself.

They’ve both grown up to be independent and useful citizens. I’m proud of them both and I’m a happy Aunt to have had a hand in getting them to this point; and a happy Aunt, to have heard from them both in just this one week.

Summer, finally

May 16, 2008

After 40 days and nights of rain, it seems, we had a brilliant spring day. Spring, I say, because tulips are just showing when they should have been gone almost a month ago. Scilla is just up and blooming in all its blueness; daffodils are getting brown and paper-like and falling over. They’ve had it. But this is all late. Only a few days ago, the temperature went down to 5 Celsius at night. It ought to be way warmer.

Mid afternoon today, I deserted my cyberspace companion, my loyal computer, and braved the bright light in my garden. The temperature had risen to 20 degrees. I mowed the back lawn with the rotary mower, cursing despite really enjoying the physical effort; swearing that I would get my own lawn mower when my ship comes in. Then I spent a good hour pulling out well-rooted dandelions on the front boulevard which is thankfully narrow; then gave that stretch of lawn a haircut as well.

At six, I gathered tools and my substantial collection of dandelion roots and leaves to put them away until tomorrow, which, according to the Weather Channel, will be as glorious as today. I congratulated myself on the now tidy stretch of lawn. I took a few minutes to take stock of the damage caused by the steady downpour of the past two days before I went in.

First was that the sweet, pale orbs of dandelion seed saw fit to make a stand on my front lawn. Where had they come from? I’d just pulled out a whole clear garbage bag of them three days before. So I took time to gently, ever so gently, cup each of these and get them into the now sodden and compacted collection bag before they could scatter and seed.

Then, some of the earliest showing tulips had lost their petals leaving only a narrow yellow green gizmo at the top of their long bare stem. The flowering cherry tree that was spectacularly beautiful two days ago has gone brown and saggy. The camellia has scattered brilliant pink blooms on the asphalt driveway. There’s not much left on the tree. A few of the early bloomers were going off. Spring was on its way out. Summer was edging its way in.

Lastly, the lawn has grown another two inches. That’s the Wet Coast for you. Heat and water. Jungle growth. Everything that I had mowed the day before will need re mowing by tomorrow!.

Mrs. Stepford and I were going to the Philosopher’s Cafe up near the Municipal Centre at quarter to seven and I was driving. I only had twenty minutes to get supper, get clean shoes on and get ready, so I rushed through a cup of coffee and an “eat-up” dinner of two weiners wrapped in bread, two oranges and a luxury dessert – a maple cookie. When we got to the cafe just in time for the philosophical fray, I ordered an Americano and plunked myself down very gratefully on a cafe chair, glad to be off my feet and simply relaxing.

The warmth of the afternoon had not abated. The accordion doors of the cafe had been folded to each side of the front wall, opening the cafe right out onto the sidewalk patio. Four men were having an animated discussion on the building of the new bridges over the Pitt and Fraser Rivers. Late shoppers were coming to and fro from the grocery store. Cars were shunting in and out of the parking lot. A woman with a small hairy dog walked by the open window frame tugging her recalcitrant pet behind her.

Nigel, our moderator, started to play his harmonica then got a few of us clapping in tempo. It caught our attention and we began our philosophizing.

It was a good topic – Is history really the lie most communally agree upon? It was attributed to Voltaire but when I went to look it up, I could find nothing to quite match it. The closest I found was

History is nothing but a pack of tricks that we play upon the dead.

Our group of ten stumbled through the first hour getting hung up on the definition of “History”, then of “communally” and then of “lie”. In fact, we skirted each definition and in the end were no further ahead, but we had talked. We all seemed to be in agreement with the basic statement that history was not an immutable fact but was open to interpretation depending on which side of the coin your were on. History was often written by the victor. Though there never was a vote, we seemed to communally agree that official history was self-serving and often packed with lies. The best kind of history was the kind on might find in a novel or a personal journal of someone who had lived through the time – someone who could tell what they felt like, how he or she was influenced or affected by the events that had occurred.

As a result of us all seeming to be on the same side of the debate, Janet proposed that we talk about our community’s fund raising quest for seven million dollars for a new local museum. That got us arguing!

There were those who felt that seven million was an outrageous amount of money to spend to house archives of the region. Some felt that the community’s history was only about a half dozen families and that the museum wouldn’t be broad enough in subject matter to engage the public to raise such a large amount of funding. So many people were from elsewhere. What benefit would they get from a museum of history they hadn’t even participated in? It looked like selling the idea would be a tough one.

Soon we wrapped up. It’s our last cafe before the summer and when we come back our Artist in Residence will be on to different things. We will need to find a new moderator for our group and we will need to find a whole new set of ideas to discuss.

Mrs. Stepford and I left the cafe at half of nine after some lengthy parting discussions with new members that we had found interesting – a woman pharmacist, another woman and her daughter. All three recent were immigrants who had joined the group for the first time.

When we got back home, I had a cup of tea with Mrs. S then came back home, just next door.

It was then as I made my way out to the sidewalk that I looked up and saw a three quarters moon in the clear night sky. The temperature had not gone down. The night was warm, dark and silky. Stars were out in profusion. The night sky with its patterns of light hung over the earth like a chenille draped blanket flecked with gold.

I stood, bathed in contentment. Summer had come.

The lions of Dande

May 11, 2008

They are constantly at it. Even if you cut their heads off, they refuse to die. Their brilliant yellow manes wither and wilt but transform into a zillion seeds waiting for an unsuspecting heel to crush them into the dirt. Or they wait for a breeze to lift their silvering mane into disrupting the dessicated remains, airborne, to land in scattered bundles of reproductive generations.

I uprooted about fifty of these entrenched, persistent roots yesterday; loosened the earth, gathered its green skirt and headdress, wriggled the embedded legs of it from the softened soil and gently but firmly pulled. About ten of them came out more or less whole and were relegated to their yard waste grave, a clear plastic bag with yellow tie. The remaining forty managed to snap somewhere an inch below the surface. It is so hardy that this determined fragment of root, this tiny keeper of DNA and the juice of its life, will regenerate, continue to grow and reproduce once more, triumphant against the hand of man or woman.

In this day and age of “Save the….” mentality, chemical warfare is no longer permitted; eco-diversity frowns on changing the biodiversity of any earth location. Natural methods are all that are allowed. Acetic acid drops might kill a worm or a nematode and upset the balance. And so I dig, and wrench. I cut off their heads to defer their uprooting to another day, buying time while preventing these aggressively successful plants, these insidious invaders of my garden from spreading even more seeds.

Last week, I did only that. I plucked every yellow head, every budding head, every seeding head, every leaf I could easily yank so that the darned things, even if I hadn’t eradicated the weed, had at least set it back in its reproductive cycle so that I could regroup, re arm and re attack on a more level playing lawn. I gathered an entire garden waste bag! It’s twice the size of a normal garbage bag! I suspect the lions of Dande will divert my dreams of gardening into a nightmare of unplanting.

Two days later, the cheeky muggers are brandishing their gold pennants with lions rampant in the field, laughing in the springtime wind. Ha ha! Ha ha! We’re winning!

Robin

May 4, 2008

Goliath rolled up to the traffic light, a huge red-cabbed Mack truck towing a huge bin of gravel behind it’s regular construction bin and stopped short by twenty feet.

The black luxury car saw the green light and would have barrelled through but for the fact that Goliath, the Mack, was stopped and not moving. The black car stopped. Kay instantly noticed the why-for that had halted the giant.

There on the asphalt, directly in the middle of the lane, was David, a tiny robin still dressed in it’s infant clothing, speckled and shivering. Stunned. Goliath had seen and stopped and David was saved.

Kay put on her hazard blinker, opened the door and leapt out. The tiny bird did not move, so stunned it was. Kay came carefully out then, up behind the bird and cupped it in her hands. It fluttered with strength, found a finger to clamp the small talons to, and trembled. Kay held it high for the next motorist to see and understand.

Kay stepped then to the sidewalk, found a potted fir behind a wrought iron grill and posited the creature beneath the lowest branch. It fluttered its wings again and rested, saved.

As Kay drove away, she thought The truck could have driven right over top of it and not touched it. and then, If the bird had shifted or moved, it would have been just one more road kill.; and then she was thankful that there generally were no cats wandering in the downtown area. The bird had had strength. It had been stunned but it would recover.

As Kay drove away, the truck tooted a thanks and proceeded. The driver in the car behind waved. It had taken less than a minute and it had changed her day entirely.

What a twist to the tale of David and Goliath!

Haiku exercise

May 1, 2008

Our local writing group meets once a month. We get a ten minute exercise during the group and a homework exercise each time. This week it’s Haiku constructed on a 5 syllable, 7 then again 5 syllable form for a total of 17 syllables.

It’s not as easy as it seems, to capture a thought in such spare form. They turn out quite cryptic and elliptical. It’s almost as if one needs a 100 word explanation to accompany them.

Here are two I’m working on:

driving on the ‘One,

red lights lead, white ones assail

Trans Canada trail

And the second one:

tender morning sun

marks leafy vein and shadow

with verdant kiss

What happened to Kay?

May 1, 2008

“You can’t just leave us hanging,” my friend said. “I want to know what happened to Kay.”

“Kay?” I said, feeling a bit oblivious.

I was sitting at lunch with two friends. It wasn’t something I had been able to do for quite sometime without guilt that there was something else I was supposed to be doing besides enjoying myself and gossiping about my nephews and hearing what they had to say about grandchildren and other relatives. We’ve all got slightly dysfunctional families and it makes for good stories. Every once in a while, our relatives will reach peaks of excellence and that has to be told, too, like Hugh being invited to continue on for his PhD or my friend’s granddaughter being asked to continue on in a special teacher’s class because she has top marks and is a leader (at the tender age of ten!).

And so I had somewhat forgotten that she had been keeping up with family doings on this blog. She was wondering what had happened to dithery Kay and her invitations for coffee on Friday night that bloomed from two to twenty.

Well…

Kay was in the kitchen when last we saw her, arranging flowers and tidying up the art room table so that people could come through and think she was a normal housekeeper.

At midnight, she crawled creakily and tiredly to bed. It wasn’t long before she was dead out and it was a good thing, too. She had a big day waiting for her.

Friday came but she had no energy. She couldn’t settle to the tasks that were before her. First of all, she had left the vacuuming until the end and that had to be done early. It was unthinkable that someone might arrive with the vacuum cleaner still out and standing, its long, snaky cord still strewn about the floor; it was more unthinkable that the they would see the rugs in the state they were, with fluff, crumbs and uneven foot marks.
Kay, however, couldn’t function until she had had her first cup of coffee and her daily check of the computer. Who had sent e-mail during the night? What were her blog stats? Had the Austrians checked in? Or that wonderful photographer in London? What about the New York crew? There were a few that looked in regularly from there; and one from Austin, Texas. And then she had to get her fingers nimble on her Freecellian addiction. Nothing would get done if these had not been done.

Kay brewed a large pot of decaf. Her coffee pot would be working overtime for visitors. It would be better to have some reheat on hand to soothe her during the day. When she had dosed her first cup, she headed for the computer.

That done, she steeled herself for her most unfavorite housekeeping task. She extracted the vacuum from it’s hiding place and started on the carpets, unravelling the long black cord to the nearest operative plug outlet. She swore under her breath, although no one was around to hear her, that the horrible machine was spewing bits and pieces out behind and making things worse. When she got to the study, the vacuum refused to pick up the scattered worms of office paper that littered the floor where the shredder was kept. Kay checked the connections, checked the end of the corrugated tube for suction. There wasn’t much. What if the filter was full or the translucent dirt collector tubes? She dismantled the tubes and emptied them then unlocked the filter box and withdrew the dusty square of sponge that prevented fine dust from going somewhere. To the motor? Back into the room?. She cleaned this, then replaced it; replaced the dirt collector tubes and tried out the suction one more time. It had barely improved . When she tried picking up the paper bits, they seemed to multiply. And so she put away the Dirt Devil that seemed to have earned its name by perversely undermining her good housekeeping and went to find the hand vac she had gotten for “free” when she bought the upright.

Once the vacuuming was done, Kay ticked off the things she still felt she had to do – put food out in bowls; make tuna wraps in the tortillas she had bought, clear off the teak table, make ice cubes, sweep the kitchen floor and wash it if need be. A terrible lethargy assailed her suddenly. She didn’t want to do any more. Just nothing at all.

She sat with the remote control in her hand, watching the channel offerings roll by. She switched to the Weather channel and checked out what to expect for the weekend then flipped back to the circulating schedule. She looked at the couch and the two nice pillows beckoning to her.

“Kay!” they whispered. “Kay! Over here, Kay. It’s nice and soft. You could have a snooze. It would be so comfortable. Why don’t you get out the blanket you just put away. No one is coming until seven. You still have six hours. You deserve a rest.”

It was as if the Devil from the Vacuum cleaner had somehow escaped (maybe that was he, spewing out behind, along with the other bits) and now was wedged somewhere in the comfortable couch tempting her to rest.

Our Kay is a girl with the determination of the Tortoise, putting one foot before the other and winning the race, but as a Gemini, she has the weakness of the Hare. Temptation called and she wavered, went for the blanket and crawled under it, justifying to herself that there couldn’t be that much more to do, could there? She would sleep for only an hour and she would be refreshed. She would work faster. She would be better company when company came. So with the television crooning her to sleep and the green knit afghan keeping her warm and cozy, Kay succumbed to the leisure of the couch and fell asleep.

She awoke at two without an ounce of guilt. Her last and only challenge was that large teak table she was using for her drawing station. Truth be told, she had never been able to clear it up enough to actually work on drawings there. It had been littered with all the things she couldn’t figure out what to do with as she was unpacking hers and her mother’s things. She had actually seen the teak surface once or twice in the past eight months, but it was rare. Lately, she had put a great push into putting the things away, taking some down into the basement for storage and others that were tucked into bookshelves or drawers, but the space had immediately been filled up with things that were pending the weekend exhibition.

The only place on the main floor that was to be excluded from visitors was the study and that, she decided, was where all the table top items would go. By the time she was finished, the thick green blanket was cradling an 19th century turkey platter filled with small hardware of hooks, plant hanging rings, possibly still useful light bulbs, masking tape, orphaned thermos lids, saved ribbon, the warranty for the fridge at her mother’s sold house and similar oddities that she hadn’t yet dared throw out.

There was a pile of papers on the printer that would have prevented any churned out letter from escaping the wheels and mechanisms of its inner workings. There was a pile of important papers involved with upcoming taxes at the foot of her computer chair; there was a week’s pile of unopened mail sitting on the chair itself, threatening to slide to the floor at the slightest movement of said chair; and the extra books, magazines and newspapers that had accumulated on several surfaces around the house had been perched perilously wherever there seemed still to be a spot to sit. It reminded Kay of auks nesting on barren rocks hanging on for dear life, with their necessity to walk cautiously lest a precious egg fall to its demise on its fall to the sea. She sighed with dismay as she envisioned her task next week trying to bring order again to her once upon a time sorted papers that had once again become mixed together in an unholy communion.

The teak table was finally bare.

She found the time to fill bowls with tortilla chips and crackers, guacamole dip and cheese slices. She had Anna’s ginger snaps on a plate. There were serviettes and little knives for serving. There were glasses out for wine, just in case; and coffee pots and tea pots ready for preparing a guest’s libation.

She had spread her photos for sale and her hand made cards on the teak table. She had made a price sign for all to see that they were not just there for appreciating, they were there for purchase.

Kay was dressed and ready. Not to be caught, last moment, in some work-a-day outfit, Kay had put on her hostess clothes when she rose in the morning. It was seven. Now all she had to do was wait for the guests.

The phone rang. It was Mrs. Stepford.

“I just phoned to say I won’t be coming.” said Mrs. S. “Everything went OK with the operation but I’m just not feeling up to it. I can’t see anything and I’ve got this great bloody patch over my eye. I don’t want anybody to see me in this state. Mr. S has to go to a meeting. He won’t be coming either.”

Kay had blanched at the thought of a bloody patch, but when she clarified, it was just an expletive that Mrs. S had used.

“Don’t scare me like that!” she exclaimed. But Mrs. S. reassured her that everything had gone well and she was on the mend. Marsha was coming to feed them dinner, and she promised to send her over to Kay’s house in her stead. But Marsha, in the end ,did not come.

Kay began to worry, as she always did, that one after another, those who had been asked to come would phone and cancel. It was a long time fear of hers and the minute that the witching hour presented itself, Kay perspired with the notion that no one would come.

At seven-thirty when her worst fears were closing in on her, Kay saw a woman pass through the garden gate and into the back yard. She looked harmless enough, but just what was she doing there? Kay peered out the window and knocked on the glass. The woman looked up and with her hands pointed in both directions as if to say, “Front or back?”

Kay pointed to the front, went to the front door and opened it.

“I’m Renée,” she said. “I’m showing with Lily – sharing her studio – for this art tour. She said I could come.”

Kay welcomed her in. At the top of the stairs, Renée turned and pointed across the street. “See that other heritage house? That’s where I live. My house is 1906. What year is yours?”

And that was the beginning. Lily and Mark came.

Kay, convinced that the twenty or so invitees would dissolve into these three guests (God bless their souls), suggested a glass of wine. Kay had come to imagine a room full of people mingling – a party- walking about the main floor and admiring the works of art upon the wall like some New York gallery opening; but her guests took their glasses and a nibble from the counter where all the food had been spread, and went and sat as if five o’clock tea had been called. Nevertheless, the conversation flowed.

Renée was a weaver and a jeweller. She had just arrived back from France four days previously. Kay, who had spent the entire month in preparation, marvelled at Renée’s calm. Kay gave a silent prayer of thanks that was short-lived as she was interrupted by the jangle of the telephone.

It was Lara and Glen. They couldn’t come. They had received unexpected visitors and now it was impossible. Kay begged off the phone quickly as the door bell rang. It was Kathy and her daughter, the former occupants of the house. Introductions were made all round. Kay escaped to the kitchen, hoping that the guests could carry on for themselves. When she thought about it, she didn’t really like entertaining alone. It was just so difficult trying to be the caterer and the entertainer at the same time.

And that, my friends is where this story ends. For Kay finally let herself go. She poured herself a good gulp of wine that she downed in the kitchen for fortitude and politely carried a small glass of wine into the company of friends. A few more guests came and they chattered for an hour; then one after another, they made their farewells. Tomorrow was another day, a big day for Kay, and they all knew it.

When she waved the last one away and closed the door she smiled a great grinning smile. She had done it! It was her first soirée and she was so content that she knew her exhibition on the morrow would go well. She had done it on her own.