NEVER EVER AGAIN

By Marguerite Quantaine 5.16.17

When I was five, we lived in a drafty, 1860’s, two story, white clapboard farmhouse, insulated with wads of newsprint dating from the Civil War, and a coal furnace to heat the water in our cast iron radiators and for our baths. It had a narrow, worn pine, painted brown staircase just inside the front door vestibule with nine stark steps heading straight up before winding left for three more and leveling off to a thirteenth step at the top.

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Facing directly ahead was a bedroom shared by my two sisters and me. To the left, at the end of a hall papered in remnant rolls of Depression era patterns, was a bedroom shared by my three brothers. And at the right, flushed with the wall, was a door to a closet containing a second, much smaller door leading to an exposed beams, no floorboards attic.

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“Never, ever, under any circumstance open the door inside the closet at the top of the stairs,” my mom instructed us, “because, if you do, you’ll fall through the ceiling.”  To be clear, she never added the words “and die” to the edict. So, I opened the door.

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It wasn’t that I was a bad little girl, or even an overtly rebellious one. I simply had a ferocious curiosity which challenged every easy, accepted, purported, and fabricated reason given to blindly follow orders. And, anyhow, it was all Alice’s fault — she being Alice In Wonderland from the animated Disney film that Mom had taken us to see when it came to our town in 1951. Our subsequent incessant playing of the film’s score from a set of eight, six inch, 78 RPM Little Golden Records ensured I knew every word and melody, making it Alice who implanted the lyrics to Very Good Advice in my mind as a mantra, and Alice who told me to open the door and search for a lavender and white striped Cheshire cat in a garden of talking flowers.

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But unlike Alice, I needed no key to unlock the door, nor mushroom to shrink myself for passing through, since even though the inner closet portal was half the size of a standard door, it wasn’t nearly as small as me.

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I might have opened it to a virtual sea of history if only I could read the papers packed in layers there. But since I couldn’t, my focus was on the solitary object sitting in the slanted roof room — a flat top, oak slatted, seasoned pine steamer trunk wrapped in one inch black lacquered tin ribbons, Moiré Metalique corner plates, and latches on each side of the lollipop-looking lock hanging open.

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My feet were smaller than my age and fearless. I scurried along the beams like a ballerina on a tightrope, reaching the trunk with ease. Opening it proved somewhat of a struggle, but the anticipation of releasing a fat lavender cat far outweighed the weight of the lid. I pushed it up and it plopped backwards as I fell forwards, landing on a black jacket with brass buttons the color of dirty mustard. Standing and stepping back out, I took care to balance on the beams as I reached in and pulled the jacket after me, dragging it across the crumpled insulation, out the Alice door, through the hallway door, and into my bedroom.

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The jacket was found fortune from a treasure chest. I marveled at the buttons, their background bumpy to the touch, with a spread winged bird standing atop a broken cross in it’s claws. I had heard the word ‘war’ without knowing what war was, could not conceive of what war did, and wouldn’t comprehend what the swastika signified for many years to come, so these beautiful buttons appeared as gold to me. I’d found gold!

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Certain my mom would feel as thrilled as I about my find, I put the jacket on and, with the sleeves dangling down long over my hands and the bottom of the jacket threatening to trip me as I shuffled along, I scooted down the stairs on my butt, one step at a time, shambling through the dining room and into the kitchen where my mother was standing at the long, white porcelain, wall hung cast iron sink washing breakfast dishes.

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She stopped, turned towards me, and stared as if stunned before asking, “Where did you get that?”

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“Through Alice’s door,” I beamed. “Inna trunk!”

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“Upstairs? In the attic?”

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I nodded, vigorously.

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After a moment she reached for my grandma’s black handled sewing scissors and approached me. Kneeling, she gently removed the jacket from my shoulders before sitting back on her bent legs and slippered feet, systematically cutting off each bird button. Upon finishing, she checked the pockets and found a folded scarlet band with the broken black cross imprinted inside a white ball. She scissors-shredded that, too, before doing something she’d also told us never, ever, under any circumstances to do.

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She descended the basement stairs, opened the heavy iron fire door on the coal furnace, and tossed in the buttons, the jacket, and the remnants of the band.

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The knob of her nose was red and her eyes were wet when she returned to the kitchen. “Go play now, honey,” she urged.

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I often wonder if a daughter remembers the first time she made her mother cry.

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Mine is of then and of there.

 

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Marguerite Quantaine is an essayist and author.

Never Ever Again © 9.29.17

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IMOGENE’S ELOISE : Inspired by a true story by Marguerite Quantaine

is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.

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MY LITTLE BLACK DRESS IS PINK by Marguerite Quantaine

is due for release in October 2017 on Amazon in paperback and Kindle

 

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An Inconvenient Pink

IF I KEPT A BOOK OF REGRETS, my first entry would be that I failed to appreciate the wedding dress my mom made for herself.

She took such pride in it.

She loved it, so.

My Mom ~ September 20, 1913 ~ August 18, 2006

My mom looked and acted younger than 92 when her eyes took a sudden drift towards blindness and a fall the year earlier demanded she could no longer live alone in the town of her birth and lifelong residency. It broke her heart to leave her home, her two elder cats, and all of her possessions behind during her acquiescence to my sister Sue’s Texas ranch those last months of her life.

Among the few possessions she wrapped and packed with care was the dress she bought in 1969 to be buried in, and her wedding dress of 1938. Both of them, pink.

I couldn’t say if Mom intended for Sue, me, or our kid sister, Kate, to someday wear her gown, but I do know Kate and I had already declared by age eight that neither of us intended to marry. And, it must have been embarrassing (if not disheartening) for Mom when all three of her daughters so disdained Home Economics in school that none of us finished hemming even one dish towel to the satisfaction of Miss Merriman, the same teacher who’d first taught Mom to sew in 1926.

Nevertheless, I felt honored (and a tad smug) to be both Mom’s namesake, and heir to her love for the color pink, a pigment that looked best on her, and always brings out the best in me. I seldom wear any other color. I feel less poised when I do.

Mom wasn’t as obsessed with the color as am I, she being more of a fashionista whenever she left the house. But her outfits always included a splash of pink ,at very least, as an ornament in her hair, a bangle on her wrist, beads around her neck, a porcelain broach, or a cloth flower pinned near her heart.

Years ago, as I sat with sister Kate discussing Mom’s passing of a decade earlier, she brought out the wedding gown and conferred it to me for safer keeping.

“It is exquisite,” I marveled, after tenderly unwrapping the tissue.

Unlike modern gowns that average fifteen hundred dollars in apparel stores and run as high as ten thousand in bridal boutiques, Mom’s dress was an innocent, ultra sheer Heberlein organdy acclaimed for a crispness, yet light like gossamer.

The pastel pink fabric, embroidered with rows of one inch white flowers separated by rows of half inch white petals and stems, was perfectly cut as a single piece floor length gown, it’s mirrored left fold creased and sewn in matching pink thread up the right side with tiny hidden snaps under the arm, a flounce encircling the knee above the A-flared skirt, and puffy sleeves framing a single notch neckline.

“I’m ashamed to say I spent six years as a production control manager in New York City’s garment industry purchasing piece goods, and dealing with jobbers, cutters, designers, and sewers daily — yet never once, Kate, did I think to appreciate this dress by Mom.”

“Yeah. Well. That’s true. But it is a wedding gown after all. Why would we?”

“I know. Still. The pure, perfect intricacy of it blows me away. And that she chose pink! How audacious.”

“I don’t follow.”

“You know, it being 1938 and all. Her going against the catwalk code of wearing white.”

“That would be you, not her.”

“I get it from her.”

“But it’s not why she wore pink.”

I gazed up from the gown, puzzled. “No? Why then?”

“She’d been married before.”

Her answer stunned me. “Mom was married before Dad?”

“Uh-huh. We all knew.”

“All being…?”

“The rest of the family.”

“Have you known for long?”

“No.” She stopped to think. “Only about forty years. Maybe fifty.”

I sat, locked in a blank stare, feeling flabbergasted. “How come no one ever told me?”

Kate shrugged. “You’ve always seen Mom through rose-colored glasses. I wasn’t about to cloud them. Besides, it’s not as if we ever talked about it once we knew.”

Within weeks I’d found his name, his date of birth and death, his military record, a copy of their marriage license, the divorce decree with the listed grounds, his burial place, and a picture of his tombstone.

I’m still searching for his face, convinced that every writer’s DNA includes a need-to- know-the-ending of a story.

But wasn’t she brave? To marry and divorce and demand the court restore the legitimacy of her maiden name during a period of time when valiant women were demonized and divorcées were treated as pariahs?

My mom.

I took such pride in her.

I loved her, so.

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by Marguerite Quantaine © 9.20.2017
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IMOGENE’S ELOISE: Inspired by a true story, by Marguerite Quantaine is on Amazon in paperback and kindle.

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MY LITTLE BLACK DRESS IS PINK, by Marguerite Quantaine is due for release on Amazon, October, 2017.

CHARITY BEGINS ALONE

Charity

Some women choose other women for support, but many of our mother’s generation behaved like perpetual damsels in distress needing a man around to help them with the simplest things, catering to every male entering a room, putting their needs first and foremost, soliciting their opinions before making a decision, giving them the larger portions, the better chairs, the greater control, and endlessly feeding their egos.

Above all, they needed to be married to a man while encouraging every female within their inner circle to adopt their medieval mindset.

Elizabeth’s mom was like that, marrying three times after Liz’s dad suddenly died (although Liz ignores the nuptial that was annulled).

My mom was just as assiduous in promoting second-class citizenry, except for getting hitched again. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop her from relentlessly urging her daughters to marry, and dragging men into every conversation and situation.

Once, while leaving a Broadway show at the Palace theater in Manhattan, she grabbed the elbow of a man trying to maneuver the crowd outside the entrance and asked him what bus we should take to get uptown.

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“How the hell would I know?” he steamed at her. “Do I look like a bus driver for God’s sake?”

“Well!” she huffed.

“That was Don Knotts, Mom.”

“Where?”

“The man you just asked for directions.”

“Andy Griffith’s Don Knotts?”

“Yes.”

“He certainly wasn’t very polite.”

Okay, nevermind that I’d been living in the city for more than a year and had, single-handedly, succeeded in getting us to the theater from my upper west side apartment two hours earlier after reminding her I knew the way because I’d been to the Palace once before.

It was shortly after I’d won the Midwest Division of the National ABC Television Talent Hunt in 1965 and was chosen to attend The American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

I arrived in New York City on January 29, 1966 as a highly impressionable fledgling from a small Michigan town.

At the time, my older brother, Kit, was working as a stagehand with the musical, Hurray It’s A Glorious Day…and all that scheduled to open at the Theater Four on West 55th Street in March. The confidence he exuded pleased Mom, so they conspired to persuade me to don my Sunday best and meet him outside the Palace Theatre at 9:30 that night.

Let me say, I don’t know why I was still trusting Mom’s judgment of Kit. As kids he’d leave me holding the bag under the worst of circumstances, and lure me into the scariest settings. We referred to these dupes as ‘Kit tricks’ — like when he locked me in the basement coal bin minutes before a delivery was to be made. Kit has always been my bad habit dying hard.

Regardless, since my ‘best’ was a blue silk bridesmaid dress worn to a July wedding five years earlier, I felt peculiar standing there, fighting the dry cold wind with him, waiting under the marquee for the curtain to come down and the audience to emerge. Once it did, Kit ordered me to “just act natural” as we slipped under a purple velvet rope guiding a small procession of people invited backstage to greet the cast.

Once inside the stage door, Kit abandoned me to look for Polly, a woman he claimed was a friend he’d made while working summer stock the year before.

The backstage of the Palace Theatre is cavernous, with grips scurrying about in headsets, scenery on brails against brick back-walls, overhead catwalks several stories high and huge fresnel lanterns suspended from the ceiling.

Alone and afraid of being caught, I stood in the center of the chamber looking like a lost soul seeking flight when the alley door burst open and down the long steel staircase came Kit’s so-called friend, Polly, making her entrance while screaming, “Gwen, I’m here, Gwen, I’m here, I’m sorry I’m late, oh Gwen, I’m here, Gwen, I’m here!”

Upon reaching the backstage floor, she began barreling my direction. That’s when the redhead standing two feet away with her back to me pivoted on her black patent leather stilettos and asked, “Would you be a dear and hold my flowers so I can get a shot with Polly?”

As I accepted her large bouquet of scarlet roses, it finally dawned on me.

I was backstage, opening night of Sweet Charity, instantly cast as the unnamed flower girl in a publicity shot of Gwen Verdon and Polly Bergen.

Naturally, Kit was nowhere to be found — but something he’d said to me earlier proved my saving grace.

“No one will ask you who you are because they’ll think you must be related to someone important — and not knowing someone important would be too embarrassing for them.”

He was right. Nobody asked.

I waited until a bevy of friends gathered around the celebrated stars before quietly leaving the roses and fading away.

When I got home I called Mom and listened to her relate Kit’s version of the evening; of how Polly was a no-show so, after “I ditched him” he joined a group of the theatre grips and went downtown to the Red Lion to hang out.

I let it pass.

Now, in reminiscence, I often revisit my introduction to New York and say, “Hooray!”

It was, indeed, a glorious day.

And all that.

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by Marguerite Quantaine, Copyright © 8.31.17
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Marguerite Quantaine is an essayist and author.
Her novel, Imogene’s Eloise : Inspired by a true-love story
is available AMAZON, in paperback , and on Kindle.
Her book of essays, My Little Black Dress Is Pink,
has a planned release date of October 3, 2017.

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Please select LEAVE A REPLY at the top of the page

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I’m all eyes and heart.

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MY DAY OF DALLYING

me.young.2.

I’m sitting in my office at Fuller & Smith & Ross on the 36th floor of a forty story Fifth Avenue Manhattan skyscraper known as the Top of the Sixes. It’s the summer of 1967, shortly before our advertising agency’s media acumen is chosen to put Richard Nixon in the White House. I’ve been working here since 1965 when I was hired as a lowly media clerk for several months before skyrocketing up the ladder to become the Manager of Purchasing, Interiors,  & In-House Printing.

I’m listed as a corporate executive because this is FSR’s corporate headquarters, with branch offices in Cleveland, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles. That sounds like I should be sophisticated, but I’m not, not by any stretch of my imagination no matter how well I dress. Instead, I am 21 going on 33 professionally, but privately naive.

I’ve met every person on the two floors occupied by FSR because they’ve all been in need of office necessities in the course of doing their jobs and I’ve made a protocol of personal delivery. That is, except for Mr. Mahoney, the Senior Vice-President Creative Director whom I’ve only seen in passing (once) as he exited an elevator, leaving a waft of Christian Dior’s Eau Sauvage in his wake. We’ve not yet met because he’s never requested anything.

Until  this morning. He has summoned me to bring him a Dixon Ticonderoga #2 pencil.

I suspect it’s a ploy to get me behind closed doors.

My wonder is, why?

Mr. Mahoney is as dapper as Cary Grant, almost as tall, but not nearly as handsome. He has thick, perfectly styled and parted silver, Vitalis laden hair and meticulously manicured hands. He’s old money schooled and bred; a gentleman who, although married with children, is rumored to be light in the loafers. He’s a nasal sounding enunciator and an elitist. The remarks made behind his back aren’t crude, rude, or meant to be mean, though unnecessary in pointing out the obvious.

His office is locked behind perpetually closed doors on the south side of the building with windows that would have overlooked East 52nd Avenue and Schraft’s Restaurant if he hadn’t had them paneled over to create a chamber of solitude and quietude.

“Come in,” he answers to my almost inaudible tap, “and close the door behind you.”

I do and am abruptly taken aback.

The room is pitch black except for Mr. Mahoney sitting in a George Mulhauser Mr. Series molded chair behind a twelve foot long, custom made, Giuseppe Scapinelli Jacaranda wood desk I recognize from admiring examples of them in catalogs and at trade shows.

But it is the painting illuminated on the wall, inches above him and behind him that renders me mute and motionless. It measures exactly as long as the desk, by maybe four feet high — a cropped variant of St. John of the Cross that ends just below St. John’s bowed head, and just above his spiked hands, framed by the very edge of the wood cross blending into the painting’s narrow slat frame.

Except it isn’t St. John of the Cross I see, but the spiked, bleeding crown of (I presume) Jesus Christ, with the head of Christ in the painting centered perfectly above that of Mr. Mahoney’s.

“What do you think?” a voice from the darkness asks.

“I’m not sure,” I stammer. “It’s like my eyes  are glued to it. I can’t seem to move.”

I realize I gasped and finally exhale.

“You were right,” comes the voice.

“You can go now,” says Mr. Mahoney.

In pivoting to leave I see the faint outline of a man in a cauliflower white vested suit and Havana hat sitting with his legs crossed on a couch against the back wall. He’s otherwise invisible, until I open the door to light streaming in from the hallway. I glance over to notice how pale his face is, and how pretentious his long, skinny, black waxed and twisted upwards mustache appears. He is eerily exotic.

I will never see the painting, either in a photograph, or coffee table book, or art catalog, or hanging anywhere ever again.

But I do see the man in the cauliflower suit later that day. He’s standing alone in Paley Park, admiring the water fall. I am planning to buy a cup of coffee from the small concession there, but instead I spend my time leaning against a honey locust tree, watching the man watching the water.

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Marguerite Quantaine is an essayist and novelist.
Copyright © August 21, 2017
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LAST RIGHTS

The last three words my sweetheart and I speak to each other before hanging up the phone are “I love you.” We say the same in public places whenever going our separate ways, when exiting the house either alone or together, and before falling asleep each night. Sometimes I even say them when leaving her to tidy up the kitchen as I head upstairs to write. The words are always heartfelt. Never flung. Never forgotten.
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I learned to say “I love you” from my mom who thought we should say it to our siblings whenever one of us walked out the door. We didn’t, although the words were a given between me and her, and similarly exchanged between my kid sister, Kate, and I.
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Otherwise, I’m reluctant to express them.
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I don’t recall my father ever saying “I love you” to me or my sisters except in a tickle poem he mostly used to torture Kate. He was a misogynist when it came to his daughters and a misogamist due to our unwanted births. For certain, I neither felt, nor uttered the sentiment to him.
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It’s no secret that my father wanted six sons, having cast himself as too virile to spawn females, so I can’t speak for my brother’s relationships with him. Besides, the three boys were all older, during a period when practicing sexism thrived. They’ve remained distant for most my life. Not as antagonists, mind you. There’s no ill will. Indeed, our communications are always engaging. But we’re more like friends with certain secrets kept than family with skeletal closets closed.
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In fact, I doubt they know, immediately after returning home from a forced 48 hour stay in the mental ward of Foote Memorial Hospital (tethered to a bed by brown leather straps with gray metal buckles), I tried to kill my father with a salad fork. Where I found a salad fork is baffling, since salads were never part of any meal plan when we were young, save for the Waldorf variety when Michigan Macintoshes were plentiful. Admittedly, patricide by salad fork seems tame by today’s road rage comparison, but in 1962 small town, midwest America, even the hint of such news would knock the kid washing his duck in the kitchen sink off the front page (or at least lower it below the fold).
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I was sixteen, five-foot-one, and weighing in at 75 pounds to his five-foot-eight at twice the weight. He quickly overcame me with a grip from behind, but I chomped down on his left hand until I reached the bone of his index finger. Tossed off and aside, I spit blood when warning him to never touch me or Kate again. He never did. We steered clear of each other after that.
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I’ve never cried for my father, nor regretted my actions, remaining reticent about the motive behind my foiled intent of fifty-five years ago. I cannot talk about the details even now.
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And, really, what would be the point? My brothers, who saw no need, nor made an effort to protect their sisters from him in the past might doubt me now, as then. They have their own cemented memories of my father. My older sister grapples with hers, still.
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But no one talks, unless you count my father whose callous and cunning correspondence to my brothers bemoaned his life, made excuses for his failures, alluded to addictions, transferred infidelities, and emulated martyrdom while praising his sons before claiming his redemption. Letters that were copied and given to my Kate as — what? Proof of his greater goodness and professed regret?
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She left me the copies with a not-so-cryptic note attached, written in her own hand, confident I’d understand how it felt to be lost in a world where forgiveness is sometimes the fad, and forgetting is always the fallacy.
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No, no. It hasn’t made me bitter.
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Just weary.
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My mom said my father was watching the Detroit Lions trounce the Cleveland Browns on television when his eyeglasses fell off. While reaching down to retrieve them he suffered a massive heart attack. Before the thud, she heard him curse.
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My father’s final words were, “God damn it!”
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My mom’s final words were, “I know you do.”
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Kate’s final words were, “I love you.”

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by Marguerite Quantaine Copyright @ 2017
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to add your comments here.
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Marguerite Quantaine is an essayist and author.
Her novel,
IMOGENE’S ELOISE: Inspired by a true story
is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.
Choose LOOK INSIDE for a free read prior to considering purchase.
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Marguerite Quantaine’s book of essays,
MY LITTLE BLACK DRESS IS PINK
is due for publication in paperback and Kindle on Amazon
October 3, 2017.

ONLY THE NAMES HAVE BEEN CHANGED

The U.S.S Sequoia is currently in dry dock pending the outcome of a lawsuit over legal ownership.

Some stories never get old, such as the one told to me about my Aunt Betty being a Michigan gun moll during the rum running 1920’s when the vast majority of illegal liquor was smuggled into the United States on boats crossing the Detroit River from Canada. As a child, I didn’t know what a gun moll was, and since my ostensible relative was long gone before my birth, she remains somewhat of  a  mystery, similar to Cassandra’s friendship that Elizabeth and I made much later on.
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The thing is, we didn’t know Cassie was married to a goodfella until after we’d accepted her invitation to be part of the Statue of Liberty Centennial Celebration of vessels gathering in New York Harbor on July 4th, 1986.
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Granted, we should have suspected it when the wives arrived decked out in their patriotic best for the occasion of a lifetime, while their husbands donned those homogeneous black Robert Hall suits, black Wembley skinny ties, black Hanover oxfords, and black Dobb’s Fedoras contrasted by crisp white shirts and matching white socks for partying under a midsummer sky.
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But it wasn’t until the custom-made 44’ Cabin Super Cruiser (with it’s master stateroom, two guest bedrooms, three heads, dual galleys, a dining room, and helm reception area) had cast off  from it’s Long Island berth and began racing down the Sound to group-greet the largest assembly of international Tall Ships and an American Armada did his capo status become evident.
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That’s when Cassie’s husband, Carmine, appeared on a flybridge far above the main deck where we happily clasped our umbrella drinks while lounging in the open console on cushioned deck chairs. We looked up to see a long line of his soldiers on the steps to his tower, waiting for an individual audience, each honoring him by kissing the ring on his extended hand.
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“Doesn’t that look just like a scene from The Godfather,” Liz whispered.
“It does indeed,” I agreed.
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Wiser women might have jumped ship, but we had no wish to swim with the fishes. And besides, I couldn’t swim. So instead, I chose to acquiesce by placing my brand new Canon SureShot on a table with all the other cameras voluntarily surrendered, and drank up.
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The boat ride into Manhattan was otherwise unremarkable, but our arrival was exhilarating as we joined 30,000 spectator crafts gathered to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Lady Liberty. What’s more, setting anchor alongside the U.S.S. Sequoia Presidential Yacht seemed momentous.
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I’d only ever seen the Sequoia in photographs before then. Built in 1925 as a rich man’s cruiser, it was purchased by our government in 1931 as a decoy to patrol the harbor during Prohibition when black market booze was supplied to boaters trolling the bay. Any bootlegger rowing over to sell liquor to the Sequoia was immediately arrested.
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But during his final two years as president, Herbert Hoover began borrowing the Sequoia from the Commerce Department to utilize it as the Presidential Yacht for fishing trips. It quickly became a floating White House. Over subsequent years, every other POTUS found both political and pleasurable uses for it until Jimmy Carter sold the Sequoia as part of a cost-cutting campaign promise. Nonetheless, just knowing the history (coupled with our being up close and personal to it) felt daunting.
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That is, until we became sitting ducks when our yacht’s anchor couldn’t be raised. While all other vessels cleared the lane, we sat alone, moored to the river bottom, in the direct path of the U.S.S. John F. Kennedy, an aircraft carrier three football fields long, 192 feet high, 300 feet wide, and weighing more than 82,000 tons that began five-blasting it’s horn in an effort to make us move-move-move-move-move out of harm’s way as it barreled down on us.
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Let me say, not one of the 5,000 seamen standing at attention in their service dress whites on the carrier deck flinched while Carmine struggled with the controls to avoid our being sliced and diced. The other thirty-one of us strapped on lifejackets and remained calm, fixated on the humongous ship targeted to hit us, awaiting our fate.
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In retrospect, we might have been in shock, since I can’t remember any details of how Carmine got the anchor up. But I do recall the yacht rocking quite a bit from the bow waves hitting our accelerating stern, and the quiet that blanketed us as we gradually recovered from the close encounter.
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One thing is for certain, nobody made light of the incident, and during the following 4 years of our mostly-holidays friendship with Cassie before we moved to Florida, the Centennial trip was never mentioned again.
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Upon our midnight return to port, I went to retrieve my SureShot and discovered someone had poured saltwater over it before removing the film.
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A week later I received a package in the mail containing photographs of me and mine relaxing in lounge chairs aboard Cassandra and Carmine’s yacht. There was no return address on the envelope, no note enclosed, and no mention of my camera.
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Today I sent my brothers and sister each an email, asking what more they could add to the story of our mysterious Aunt Betty being a Detroit gun moll.
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While none of them claimed knowledge of the gun moll variation, there was talk of my grandfather being a Chicago gambler who was widowed with three very young daughters — one of them named Betty. To rectify his situation, he placed a mail order bride advertisement in the Tribune wherein he claimed to be single and childless. Receiving a reply, he promptly abandoned the three little girls to a Catholic orphanage on the way to marrying my grandmother, without revealing the truth to her, or ever returning to retrieve his children.
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So, technically, Betty was only my half-aunt — whom my sister remembers as being a paramour of a Chicago mayor, but my brother says was the mistress of the mayor of Detroit. 
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It never gets old.
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Marguerite Quantaine is an essayist and author.
Her book, Imogene’s Eloise : Inspired by a true-love story
is available AMAZON, in paperback , and on Kindle.
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WHAT’S YOUR ANCESTOR STORY?
Please add your thoughts here by selecting REPLY.
I’m all eyes and heart.
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HUSH, HUSH SWEET CHARLATON

Essayist & Author
Marguerite Quantaine

My late sister, Kate, believed in truth. She thought she recognized it, practiced it, and that it would prevail. But I’m no longer sure truth ever was, or will be — nor am I certain of it’s prevalence in society today.

Because all truth stems from whatever is written as fact, and even the most inspired of wordsmiths are writers-at-soul choosing multiple elements of speech, edicts, merged thoughts, external influence, doubt in some entities rarely balanced by confidence in others, and a necessity for meticulous punctuation in order to advance beliefs, all the while knowing the end result will be subjected to individual interpretations using numerous mediums regardless of the author’s intent.

Enter our willingness to believe whatever we’re being told and — worse yet — our parroting of those narratives, as if each utterance was an original thought from which we’ll eventually justify any errors of our ways by citing a misdirected faith in the charisma of charlatans dressed in fleece.

Now, don’t get me wrong by taking me out of context.

I harbor no objection to people having  faith. It’s often a convenient, efficient, popular, time-honored tradition that’s easier to embrace than most are willing to admit, and necessary to the survival of even the unfittest.

What I question is our inclination to believe the worst in others, as if in doing so we’ll esteem ourselves in the presence of those whose alliance we crave.

What I find dubious is our rallying for the very rights we join school cliques, and group cliques, and office cliques, and organization cliques, and awards cliques to deny to those unwilling to join our cliques.

What I cannot fathom is the instant exclusion of those we’ve never met and never spoken to based solely on what we’ve heard from a friend, or associate about the stranger.

Think of how many times you’ve united against bullying in our schools over the past decade, assailing the abusiveness of name-callers as detriments to society.

And yet, nearly half of us voted for a name-caller to lead us and participated in the notion of locking up a person who has never been arrested, booked, tried, or convicted of a crime in her lifetime.

In a patriarchal society — which ours is — I can understand how misogyny can flourish among males.

But the implausibility of misogyny is such that I can’t understand how it thrives among females.

Except, maybe I do?

Perhaps it’s because every news anchor, commentator, journalist, politician, and figurehead over the past year failed to question (what I’m inclined to recognize as) the ecclesiastical elephant in the room.

I first felt the enormity of it’s presence forty years ago when I refused to attend the wedding of my brother.

At the time I’d been in love with my Elizabeth for seven years, a woman who’d not only been crucial to saving my life after a catastrophic car crash, but had eagerly, earnestly, and single-handedly tended to my long-term recovery for five of those seven years.

Nevertheless, the invitation to my brother’s nuptials didn’t list Elizabeth’s name, nor did it include her as a plus-one option.

As a result, I declined the invitation.

Now before you feel any politically correct indignation on my behalf, please don’t.

Remember, it was 1977. Homosexuality had only recently been declassified as a mental disease, while me and mine were still labelled by law as felons at risk of being arrested, indicted, tried, convicted and sentenced as such. We were social misfits. Deviants. A cause for embarrassment.

Even now there remains places in America where being homosexual is still regarded as a detainable offense, though not prosecutable; municipalities where dissident profiling can prevent police from responding to assaults, or delay ambulances from arriving in a timely manner; where medical treatment is subpar, and getting away with causing a death could go unnoticed, or be ignored altogether.

(It’s here you should take umbrage.)

But I digress.

My brother’s wedding was viewed as a big deal because, of six children (all of us in our 30s) only two were married, and the likelihood was that his union would mark the last chance for my mom to ever again be a mother-of the intended.

So, even though it was discreetly discussed and agreed that my Elizabeth should have been welcomed, I was demonized for my decision not to go.

That is, right up until the portion of the actual ceremony where the bride agreed to obey her husband. It caused my sisters and mother to storm through our front door several hours later echoing each other, “Thank God you weren’t at the wedding, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, oh my God, thank you for not coming! You would have caused an uproar. Even we nearly did!”

It’s true. They knew me well. I’ve never taken kindly to being submissive to, or even particularly respectful of male authority. At very least, the sacred pledge to obey would have made me gasp conspicuously, if not trigger a knee-jerk audible “No-o-o!”

Which returns us to those questions unwritten by journalists, unspoken by news anchors and commentators, unsought by pollsters, unaccounted for in election booths, unstatesmanlike in Congress, unaddressed by constituencies, unadulterated, unanticipated, unalterable, unapologetic, unassuaged, unappeasable, unsettlingly, unstudied, and (perhaps) unassailable, untouchable, untenable and even unrighteous in the final analysis. 

But not unaskable.

Does a woman’s pledge to obey her husband require being dutiful to his choice when casting her ballot?

And, if so, does that mean America has become a Silent Theocracy?

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Marguerite Quantaine is an essayist and author.
Her novel, IMOGENE’S ELOISE : Inspired by a true-love story
is available on AMAZON, in paperback , and on Kindle.
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