Friday, June 23, 2017

OBITUARY: Emma Sally Ann

It is with profound regret and a measure of deep sadness that I mourn the demise of Emma Sally Ann. Some, I suspect will be inclined to celebrate rather than grieve her passing.

ESA had been in robust health, thriving in fact, up until the last couple years. Her decline had been gradual; a natural process of aging.

Emma Sally Ann was born in the countryside in the early 60's, the daughter of Necessity and Imagination. She was nurtured in the pre-craft store era, long before the advent of garage sales and on-line anything. Her ancestry undoubtedly involved crows and gypsies as she was especially drawn to vibrant colour and shiny bits. She was a pioneer – a Re-cycler before it was invented and a Hoarder before it was a disorder.

ESA spent her lifetime gathering and collecting anything and everything that tickled her fancy. Indeed, her fancy was very ticklish so it took precious little to delight and amuse her.

Jello and Red Rose Tea bear responsibility for her her lifelong propensity for collecting. Their inclusion of car coins, airplane coins and figurines in their boxes at a vulnerable age, set the stage for what was to become ESA's entertainment and passion. Her tastes ebbed, flowed and evolved over the years, beginning with owls in the mid-seventies and moving on to bears, rocking horses, quilts, hooked rugs, old windows, books, fibre, fabric, chairs and anything donkey.

The true essence of Emma Sally Ann resided in the fact that she was born knowing that 'Everything can be Something'. She saw potential in the smallest tidbit and felt it her personal obligation and duty to amass it all and file it under 'One Day' and 'Some Day'. It was all her fodder, her life blood. There was nothing immune or off limits to the possibility of possibility.

Emma Sally Ann leaves behind her longtime and closest friend, Jada. They had shared a life partnership that was supportive and encouraging, although may have been identified by some as 'enabling'. Inseparable for decades, Jada has never felt that it would be possible to exist without ESA. With encouragement and support from family and the Board, she will continue to thrive autonomously. Also celebrating her passing, perhaps more than mourning it, are the remaining members of the 'Board of Directors for Voices in My Head', a division of the 'Sybil Syndrome'.

A 'Celebration of Life' may be held at some point in the future, after it has been confirmed that she is truly gone for good.

Her estate sale will commence immediately as in the past, she has been known to be resurrected. An online album with offerings will be available soon. A shed sale will be held on Saturday, July 9th, after which everything that is left will have to vacate the premises in some fashion.  

The story of Emma Sally is at: SYBIL SYNDROME 


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

I Am Going to Do This

I suspect it's never easy ... letting go; well, at least for someone like me who has that hoarder gene woven in my very being. I come by it honestly. My mother died with the towels she got for a wedding present never used. She was saving them for 'good'. 'Good' never came and they went in the rag bag because after all, they were 38 year old towels whether they were used or not.

I'm not like that, because of her really. I have used it all. I have valued and treasured and cherished it all. I have fed my imagination and creativity with it all. I don't own anything that doesn't have a story attached or is fodder for something that I plan on making some day. Therein lies the problem.

The some days are closing in. It's not that I am in denial about that. It's not that I don't have an abundance of exciting possibilities that still excite and motivate me. It's just that I don't need as much 'stuff' to accomplish those visions.

I've known that for a couple years now but I've been dragging my feet about moving forward. Letting go needs to be a process for me. Collecting and accumulating has been a major part of my life for a half of century. It has fed my soul and fed my family. It's what I did and I was. It's actually still who I am, but I can be that without quite so much.

It was two years ago when I was going on to one of my daughter's that I needed to get 'rid of stuff'. She said “People like Estate Sales – you should have one of those.” I said: “I don't particularly want to die to get rid of my stuff.” She said: “Well, your hoarder is dead.” “Yes she is.” I confirmed and the seed was planted to begin to let go.

The truth is, at that point she maybe wasn't fully dead, but she was on life support. It was hard to pull the plug though even though I knew it was time and I was getting closer to the point that I would be okay with it. Actually, at moments I was excited about having an estate sale.

Two years have passed, and even though I wrote her obituary, I have found all kinds of reasons not to move ahead with it. 'It's going to take too much time and I'm busy.' is at the top of the list. I will always be busy.

I spoke the other day of 'Emma Sally Ann' being dead. Another daughter said carefully: “IS she, Mom? IS she really dead? I don't think she is.” “OH YES ... she is definitely dead.” I confirmed and offered two occasions that were proof. I had gone to the Antique Warehouse and found all kinds of things that would have given me heart palpitations and caused me to load my car with so many things that I loved and collected. I walked out of there with nothing. Nothing. And with my recent trip to New York City, I came home with only two things – a journal and 2 yards of fibre ... yards not even a whole ball. That was in spite of being in many cool shops and fabric stores in the Garment District. There's proof of her passing – fabric was a major addiction for Emma Sally Ann.

Brian meanwhile has been trying to encourage the process with all kinds of tactics ... bribery, guilt. “If we don't do something with this stuff, our kids will hate us.” he says 'The 'we' part is a tactic. It would take him about 2 hours to disperse with his entire accumulation; he has always been good at releasing. “How much do you want for it, I'll buy it all.” he responds to my statement that I plan to have a sale. “It is not about the money.”, I tell him, “It is about the process, about honouring that part of my life as having value – not just taking it all to the dump.” Which is exactly what he would do with everything ... with ease and relief. “You've been at this for ten years.”, he accuses me. “TWO. Only TWO.” I argue.

Okay. Okay. I am going to do this.”, I tell him. And he laughs.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Wading Through the Memories

Dad's portrait hangs above the chair where I write.
I have been sitting with my dad a lot lately. It's not always an easy thing to do. One minute I find myself smiling and chuckling, then the emotion of loss and remembrance wells up. It starts as a knot down in the gut and travels up, squeezes my chest, tightens my throat and seeps through my eyes. I breathe deeply, it passes and a smile returns.

Memories sometimes behave that way.

I am writing Dad's story for the current book that I'm publishing ... 'Our Fathers'. It will be an anthology of 20 stories, like the first two volumes of 'My Mother's Keeper'. I am pulling in right at my own deadline because the wading through of it all isn't the simplest thing to do.

It's a challenge to try to pare down someone's life into a chapter; especially someone who had a profound and lasting impact on your own life, and someone you still miss so very much.

I usually do a pretty good job of keeping the emotions squelched; after all, it has been over a quarter of a century since he left us. When you stir them up so thoroughly like I have been, it's a lot more challenging. The toughest thing has been to listen to a CD of his voice – an interview that was done in the late 1970s for the archives of Standardbred Canada. I had it for over twenty years before I could bring myself to listen it. For some reason, I think it would be easier if it had been a video. There is something deeply moving about hearing a voice you love and miss come out of the air. You make a thousand pictures from it.

I listened to it a few years ago and that was rough. This time, because I was gathering information, I was paying close attention to the details he was sharing. His voice brought me right back to our kitchen. I could see him sitting at the table, not overly impressed or enthusiastic with being interviewed. My mother is adding a few bits in the background and more than once, the interviewer is instructed to turn the tape off while something is shared that he doesn't want on record. The phone rings in the midst of it. It was me. I remember calling that day and Mom saying that a fella was there interviewing Dad. I didn't think too much of it at the time as he was often being interviewed for newspapers and magazines. I had no way of knowing that decades later, I would be listening to him talking. It is particularly surreal to hear that familiar, loud telephone ring that was part of my life for so long. All those sounds silenced.

Besides his voice, the most touching memento for me is a letter that my sister, Frances wrote five months to the day that she passed away from leukemia. She sent it to him at Buffalo Raceway. Holding that paper, knowing that both of them held it in their hands – picturing him reading it, feeling his heart breaking in knowing that he would soon lose her, touches me deeply. I laugh about what she says about Pauline but when she says about me “she is just plain lonesome for you” ... it sends a knife through my heart because I still am.

And so here I am... sitting with my Dad – his voice, letters, articles from the newspapers and magazines, photos ... bits and pieces of the past that keep his memory alive, especially to myself and my sister – the two deepest connections to him that are left on earth. It is just the two of us who can recognize that telephone ring, can laugh about Mom banging the dishes around and know that Dad, with his dry wit, was choosing his words very carefully. It is us that have to pass his spirit on to the next generations. That is what the writing of his story is all about.

The original 'tweets'.  Dad messaged Mom on February 7th that his mom was ill and he was taking the train home to see her, On the way back, he stopped in to spend some time with Mom and their two little ones before he returned to the base to be court marshalled for being AWOL.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Ugly Stick Workshop - Salt Harbour Joys

I happened to just find this today ... February 25th, 2017 ... it has only been sitting in my 'DRAFTS' file, completely finished since August 2013. It's somewhat handy I found it now as I am planning on having an 'Ugly Stick' Workshop here on the farm in May.

For the sheer fun of it, this summer I held an ‘UGLY STICK’ making workshop
 at our place on Salt Harbour Island in Newfoundland

The Ugly Stick, for those who might think we were making fishing poles,
 is a homemade musical instrument that might be found
 at a traditional Newfoundlandish concert or kitchen party.

Here is the recipe.

1 stick … broomish-mopish style and height.

1 boot  … you only need one so you can share the brother or make another.

70-80 beer caps ... about 5 per nail ...
 this is where having a Bartender Daughter comes in handy.

Other noise stuff ... felt tins, washers, bells - the more the merrier.

2.5-3 inch nails ... a dozen or so.

1 - 18" or so piece of wood for the 'bow'

Tape ... black - red - any colour of smooth electrical type tape

Topper ... anything goes ... here's where the fun and creativity comes in.

Anything goes. 

Now the 'proper ting' to ensure the best noise
 (surely there is a more appropriately musical way to say that)
 is to remove the plastic seal from all the beer caps.

At home, Brian did that for me with his acetylene torch.
 Having neither Brian nor the torch, I had to be independent and creative.
How I did it is NOT recommended.
 I used my usual 'Trial & Error' method - emphasis on the Error.

I carefully arranged caps, seal side up, in a pie tin which I stuck 
very, VERY close under the broiler. 
 Plastic burns - that was the effect that I wanted.
 I didn't plan for or want the flames and black smoke.
  So don't do that.

If you don't have a torch or Brian and can't figure out
 a more intelligent way of getting those pesky seals out,
 just leave them in.
 I expect it's safe to assume that your audience won't have
a finely tuned ugly stick ear quite yet.

The TOP:
 This is where your personal style shines.

Some people are content with an old apple juice tin with the mop coming through the top, 
a marker mouth and glued on googly eyes.
 While perfectly acceptable, that certainly wouldn't cut it with our creative group.

Kim had this toque in Newfoundland and had no
idea that it was invented by two young fellas
in my backyard here - St. Marys.

A number of gals turned the mop itself into unique and cool dudes and dudettes.
 Some created things from scratch and some re-birthed garage sale finds.
 I turned a singing Christmas angel into a mermaid who is saying 
"Oooooh My!  I seem to have a pole up my butt."

Instructions:  Punch holes in your caps.

Thread them & your felt tins or other noise things on a nail or screw.

Drill a hole & insert the loaded nail.

Rasp or saw some teeth in your 'bow' so it is bumpy.  Add 5 nail/cap sets to it.

Screw your boot on the pole - through the bottom & at the top sides.

Stick your Ever-So-Cool Whatever on the top.

Put on some catchy, fun Newfoundland music. 
 We were blessed to have LIVE musician friends.

We were also blessed to have a Professional Ugly Stick Musician
 in our midst who gave us lessons.

And yet another added bonus was the arrival of a Mummer ..
another entertaining Newfoundland custom.

We were apparently SO impressive that we were invited to perform 
at the 'Split Peas' concert that week.
Well, maybe not all that impressive ... but we WERE invited!
 I would hesitate to say that it was the 'music' that we created
 that caused the enthusiastic response and abundance of camera flashes.
 It may have been more the fact that there were so MANY of us 
willing to look a little bit foolish in front of a crowd.

We were having great fun and that, my friends, 
is the entire point 
of the exercise and the anticipated result.