Saturday, June 02, 2007

Coffee Spoons

“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons:”

Elliot describes the hopeless, lethargic, paralysis of loneliness, where motion slows to a liquid stillness, as chopped and pasted together as a stop action film….Tom Stoppard would understand. Language.

A coffee spoon is tiny, miniscule, less than one half the size of a tea spoon, so to take the measure of one’s life with such an implement would surely make time stand still….Language.

Once, in France I explained to a French friend that after the disintegration of my marriage I was so shattered, in so many pieces, that my self seemed to no longer exist…She smiled knowingly and said “You mean you had to collect yourself with a coffee spoon”... une cuillère à café… God, I laughed when I heard that! That was a new way of putting it for me …..and ultimately an optimistic one for, even though a body broken into bits will take a long time to pick up with such a tiny spoon…it can be done. I love the French…..optimistic cynics that they are ….or cynical optimists…you choose. Language.

And then thinking of my Grandmother’s endless lessons of etiquette… ”The teaspoon with the tea cup….always use a good cup and saucer, never a tastes better.... The coffee spoon with the demitasse … The teapot is short and stout like the rhyme …the coffee pot tall and lean like Aunt Lucille….And don’t ever let Aunt Lucille see you put a carton of milk on the table!… We’d never hear the end of it. Mon Dieu! "


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Priest, The Sister and Me

I'll tell you a funny story.

When I was a little girl, perhaps 7 or 8, I went to a tiny parochial school on the outskirts of Ottawa. Now I'm talking about the 'burbs ...the real "boonies", so far out of our Nations Capital that there was nothing but trees and ponds and birds and fields as far as the eye could see......idyllic.

St. Monica's was the proverbial 2 room school house set in the middle of acres of farmland, bordered at a discrete distance by new post war suburban architectural nightmares. This little red brick legend was run by a black skirted dynamo named Sister Gladys, small of stature, big of heart.....I loved Sister Gladys and would have done anything to gain her approval.

Well, almost anything.

One day Sister arrived at the door of our class room, clearly in a state. "Father" was coming to visit.....we were to prepare....he would, perhaps, quiz us on questions of catechism and dogma....well, possibly not dogma, but he would more than likely pose other questions on religious or spiritual theory, such as, how many angels could dance on the head of a pin (answer-as many as can manage to stand upright at the given moment) and it was up to us to prove our moral rectitude to this great man.

As the morning of the great questioning dawned, we, the little green clad Monicans, struggled over snowy fields and frozen ponds, with admirable stoicism, to meet our fate. Frostbite and snow blindness would not stand in the way of our defence of Sister's pedagogical wizardry.

The dark towering silouette of "Father" solemnly entered the room. Show Time! Hands waved like sea grass begging for attention...hoping to be chosen, wanting to respond to any question he dared ask. And man, did we perform. We sizzled and sparkled and shone! We were like little stars in the theological firmament.

Then, as Father turned to leave, he glanced back, "Little girls...little girls...little Flowers of Christ," he chuckled. "Tell me how many of you hope to be Brides of Christ? How many of my darling little girls wish to be nuns like your dear Sister Gladys?"

Every childish arm shot straight into the air, like dewy green shoots in a spring garden. All, that is, save mine.

To this day I am told that I think too much and I guess I'd already started, but truth matters and integrity costs. I loved Sister G but I had seen how, after a long day of teaching, the nuns often could be found on their hands and knees washing the floor. This puzzled me. I had also noticed that priests didn't wash floors, ever.

Oh, I knew that I couldn't be a priest...but there was an alternative. Sister had been telling us stories about the childhoods of various female saints. I adored these tales. And we were always being told to aim high...."Aim low, you hit the dirt", they said.

I did what I had to do. I decided to become a saint.