Sunday, December 15, 2013

Friend of My Youth

The last few days have been lazy, curl up with a book, kind of days. I’m still reading Alice Munro’s “My Favourite Stories”. As I read each story I can't help but exclaim how much I love her writing, and read bits to Carm. As I read the last words of a story, I am compelled to re-read the ending over and over again, pausing to think of her meaning and what it means to me personally. What comparisons can I draw between her characters and myself? What have I learned from her? There are always paragraphs and pages that have to be re-read and savoured, not just for the message, but also for the skilful way in which it has been imparted.

Yesterday I read "Friend of My Youth", a story told by a daughter about her mother's youth.

"What made Flora evil in my story was just what made her admirable in my mother's - her turning away from sex. I fought against everything my mother wanted to tell me on this subject; I despised even the drop in her voice, the gloomy caution, with which she approached it. My mother had grown up in a time and place where sex was a dark undertaking for women. She knew that you could die of it. So she honoured the decency, the prudery, the frigidity, that might protect you. And I grew up in horror of that very protection, the dainty tyranny that seemed to me to extend to all areas of life, to enforce tea parties and white gloves and all other sorts of tinkling inanities." ~Alice Munro, "Friend of my Youth"

Reading this I suddenly understood what the pill and better hospital care has meant for women – freedom from the overshadow of death. Of course I knew this, but I didn’t know it. I'm sure this is all obvious to you, but I had always taken these things for granted and never really thought about it, or understood. I thought the women from those times silly and foolish. Does this change anything for me? No, not really, but strangely, I do feel changed, even if just a tiny little bit.

The forecast of a snowstorm kept us home yesterday (missing out on decorating gingerbread houses with the niece and nephew). My day was brightened though with a showing of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE these old programs – it isn’t Christmas until they have been watched. This one was from 1970 and had Fred Astaire narrating. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” is on the pvr for some other night :-)

santa-coming-to-town

Winter, then in its early and clear stages, was a purifying engine that ran unhindered over city and country, alerting the stars to sparkle violently and shower their silver light into the arms of bare upreaching trees. It was a mad and beautiful thing that scoured raw the souls of animals and man, driving them before it until they loved to run. And what it did to Northern forests can hardly be described, considering that it iced the branches of the sycamores on Chrystie Street and swept them back and forth until they rang like ranks of bells. ~Mark Helprin, Winter's Tale, 1983