see ya clarice

26 November 2009

I’ve been cooped up much too much lately.  Much of last week and Monday this week I stayed home from work because of a bug that had me in regular and extended coughing fits.  And before I go any further – no – it’s not *that* bug.  I kept myself at home though mostly because of all the hype surrounding *that* bug and even though the doctor confirmed I don’t have it, the paranoia has internalized enough that I fear being accused of spreading *that* bug around.  So I stayed home lots and puttered around cleaning out drawers, closets and as shown below – the shameful bookshelves. 

The wretched cough – for fun, let’s call the bitch Clarice – loved especially to show up and latch on to me at times of stillness.  Which became the reason for the multiple housy projects, and me not resting like everyone thought I should.  Every time I laid down for a nap, Clarice would cosy up next to me.  My attention span is normally short, and it’s always been a challenge for me to finish projects.  But housebound, I had lots of extra time and extra motivation for sorting and cleaning and organizing.  However, if I settled on the floor to wipe off a pile of books, Clarice would show up before long, wanting to join in and I’d get up and attempt to walk her off and try to ignore her by focusing on something else.  Then, standing over the entire contents of my desk spread out on the kitchen table doing the old “sort and pitch,” there she’d be again, wrapping her cold clammy arms around my poor tired lungs. 

The project of the books was thus a pokey affair, and I must admit there is still the odd little pile waiting for its respective home.  But aside from the blasted Clarice, it was pleasant.  In many ways – you clean and organize your bookshelves – you re-live a life. 

My last post talked about the diversion leading to the box holding the first diary.  That box, still in the middle of my living room, harbours memory triggers from childhood through high school.  Photographs and schoolgirl notes and mementos and pictures cut from magazines and cards and beer bottle labels, (does anyone really know why we peeled those off anyway?), autographs and letters and even a cigarette stub.  I think it was my first.  I should have saved my last too – I could have framed them.  I even found a greenish blackish end from some ancient doobie.  (My guess is that I was marking some great party.  I don’t remember what party for the life of me, but let’s just say I’ve got proof that there was some party back then there in the seventies that was good enough to be honoured by way of this little wad of paper and ash saved for posterity.)

The bookshelves bring to life scores of internal snapshots.  Open a book from my shelves and you may find a drawing and letter from Kelsey to the Tooth Fairy requesting that she keep the lost tooth, her first.  Or a bookmark made for me for Christmas by Carly, which I used for a year when I was studying English Literature and would think of her whenever I used it, wondering what she might study someday.  These little captured moments – a note to mom, a little story – illuminate, unexpectedly, layers of those marvellous little girls that our stash of oft-looked photos can sometimes forget. 

Open another book and find a card sent by a supportive and loving sister during a trying time.  A time that can now, thankfully, be looked upon as one of the building blocks that created this current version of me.   

A wax-pressed leaf – held back from a bunch I sent across the ocean to a friend on a whim.  A poem about the joy of flight that Aunt Martha printed out for my girls just before they were to fly for the first time.  A cantankerous letter cut from the Windsor Star, written by me, questioning some political ridiculousness of the day. 

The books of the Ondaatje period.  The books of the Doyle period.  The books of the Creative Recovery period.  Books of letters.  Anthologies of memoir.  Books brought home from trips.  Books given to me as gifts.  Books that were my mother’s.  Books that once sat on the shelf of Kathleen Dinsmore, before she sold her cottage and all the things in it to my father at the end of her life.  Books stuffed with post-it notes and notes written in the margins conveying some new wonder and passion discovered therein.

The married years.  The little girls in the house years.  The university years.  The possibility years…

The Secret Garden.  The Norton Anthology of Friendship.  Technopoly.  How Green Was My Valley.  Green Eggs and Ham.  The Grapes of Wrath.  The Bat Poet.  The Prophet.

As far as being cooped up goes, it’s been a good cooped up.  But I’ve had enough.  This weekend I’m seizing the opportunity to piggyback on my sister’s work weekend in Montreal and staying with her there.  This cooped up gal is counting the hours til she can roam the streets of one of her favourite cities.  I expect she may come home with a new book for her clean and tidy shelves.

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10 Responses to “see ya clarice”

  1. Pati Says:

    I wish I was in Montreal too!

    That bitch Clarice was nasty, she lived with me for 3 weeks. I’m glad you had lots of projects to keep you busy. I always love taking the time to sort through that box of mementos that reminds you of where you came from.

  2. Carly Says:

    I’m a quarter of the way through The Grapes of Wrath, loving it! I bought my own copy so I can return your hardcover which I’m sure you left a place for right?!

    When I was at Chapters at Bloor and Runnymeade last Sunday, sitting in the Steinbeck section wondering which edition to get, there were 3 older guys with guitars playing folk songs. Thought it very fitting 🙂

    • Jennifer Says:

      Oh, it’s a fantastic story. I heart Steinbeck. This week I threw away book dust covers – as all they really do is collect dust and get ratty. But I did cut out one picture of Steinbeck from one of them. That is way cool about the folk singers! A Celestine moment? Last night I stumbled across a documentary about Woody. And a couple days ago I put Woody next to the Steinbeck collection on the shelf. Thought it was appropriate!

  3. Cathy Says:

    Mine is a box and a drawer. Little bit afraid to go in either… shouldn’t be, I know, but bit of trepidation there. Maybe will wait till Clarice comes a calling.. hopefully not in Montreal!!!

    • Jennifer Says:

      Well, there’s probably a reason. Maybe it’s just not time to go deep into the past right now. When things like Clarice are show up, it’s easy to be self absorbed – a perfect time to revisit a life! I hope not in Montreal too!

  4. Tricia Says:

    Beautiful, peaceful post despite Clarice
    Have fun with your sister

  5. green eyes Says:

    Lovely, lovely post.

  6. Jennifer Says:

    Thank you Green Eyes!


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