Tag Archives: memories

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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Note: Please share this on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest and add your thoughts by selecting Leave A Message here. I’m all eyes and heart. 
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NEVER SAY NEVER, HOWEVER

by Marguerite Quantaine

I’ve never wanted to be rich or famous, and can honestly say I’ve truly satisfied my wildest dreams in that department. It’s not that I’ve lacked success, rather, I’ve lacked the desire to turn my success into a brand, or franchise whenever opportunity knocked.

That attitude stands at odds with the never-say-never person I perceive myself to be, in knowing there exists a slew of things I’ve never done.

To wit: I’ve never ridden on a roller coaster that wasn’t wooden — however, I only rode a wooden one once (Coney Island Cyclone circa 1971), and still shudder from the memory.

I’ve never smoked a cigarette, or joint — however, I did spend my youth in New York City during the flower power years where I inhaled lots (and lots) of second hand smoke.

I’ve never had a one night stand — however, I know I can always do that, but can never undo it.

I’ve never driven a car over 65 mph — however, I have been hit by one speeding at least that fast.

I’ve never won, nor lost an award for anything I’ve authored — however, I know if I’m ever willing to pay the application fee required to get nominated I might, at least, lose.

I’ve never grown a tomato plant that bore fruit costing me less than $5 per worm infested tomato — however, I’d gladly pay $5 for a tomato that tasted like the beefsteaks we ate hot off vine back in the day.

I’ve never run a marathon — however I did once win the fifty yard dash in 7th grade, marking the last time I ran anywhere, for anything ever again.

I’ve never chewed tobacco — however, I have crammed enough packs of Bazooka into my jaw at one time to make it look like a wad of skoal.

I’ve never cheated on an exam — however, I can’t play cribbage without crib notes.

I’ve never tried Spam — however, I was warned I’d flunk Spanish if I didn’t stop speaking it with a French accent.

I’ve never dissected a frog, nor mounted a butterfly — however, I did accept a ‘D’ in science rather than comply, back before it was against school board law to cop out.

I’ve never donned a little black dress — however, I do own a little black dress I’ll never wear.

I’ve never worked at a job I didn’t love — however, I have quit every job I’ve ever loved in due time.

I’ve never had my heart broken — however, I do wonder if I’ve ever broken one.

I’ve never eaten oysters — however, I have been (oy!) slimed.

I’ve never acted like a call girl — however, I did chat with Gwen Verdon, backstage on the opening night of Sweet Charity, after acting like I knew her.

I’ve never stayed for the length of a Major League baseball game — however, I did get hit in the head by a Tiger’s fly ball in the third inning of the only game I ever attended.

I’ve never learned how to swim — however, I did (at age 65) learn how to float upon being given ear plugs.

I’ve never eaten organic candy that could compare to a Clark bar — however, I’ve tried, and found it trying.

I’ve never spent much time with anyone from Canada — however, I did once spend way too much time with Canadian Club.

I’ve never tasted a praline I didn’t devour — however, I’m always up for the challenge.

I’ve never been to Paris — however, I did once duck for cover when the Concorde came in for a landing over our heads while we were stuck in traffic on the Long Island Expressway.

I’ve never left food on my plate at a dinner party — however, I have pilfered a few cloth dinner napkins filled with food that wasn’t particularly appetizing.

I’ve never encountered a stray dog, or cat I didn’t rescue if it would let me — however, I have broken every promise I ever made not to rescue another stray ever again if please, pretty please can we keep this one.

I’ve never ridden a horse up a mountain — however, I was thrown by one down a hill.

I’ve never been an extra in a movie — however, I have starred in a nationally syndicated television commercial.

I’ve never seen a shuttle launch — however, I did risk being arrested to slip under the rope and sit in the John Glenn Friendship 7 Mercury space capsule at the Kennedy Space Center.

I’ve never simply said ‘yes’ upon being asked by a waitress if I’d like a cup of coffee at the end of a meal — however, I do always say, “Only if you’ve just now made a fresh pot, otherwise, no.”

And, I’ve never made myself a bucket list — however, this could probably pass as one.

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SEEING RED

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My mom hated to have her hair touched. It prompted her to enroll in beauty school for the sole purpose of learning the best way to style and care for her own thick, black, naturally curly locks. I still have the leather bound 1930s textbook from her beauty school days that she abandoned upon deciding to coil her hair and pin it atop her head like a crown of glory. It was very attractive, even enviable, and she never fashioned her hair differently from then on until the day she died, decades later, three weeks shy of age ninety-three

     I suppose that’s why it came as no surprise in the summer of 1958 — when I was still eleven with shades of natural auburn and blonde streaking throughout my wispy thin, straight as straw, mostly mousey brown hair — that mom suggested I choose one of the three colors and dye it.

     I chose auburn; Clairol’s Sparkling Sherry to be exact. It perfectly matched my auburn undertones and duplicated the color my older sister, Sue, chose to dye her hair a year earlier. It cost 85¢ for a glass bottle of the dye and another 25¢ for a bottle of peroxide. You mixed them before applying, waited 45 minutes, and then washed the residue out with Halo shampoo before rinsing with diluted Heinz red cider vinegar.

     “The dye coats each strand. It doubles the thickness of your hair,” Mom promised.

     “Do I still use vinegar?” I questioned, even though I already knew it untangled wet hair and kept it glossy.

     “It prevents the color from looking unnatural.”

     That fall I began the seventh grade as a redhead, just as Sue had the year before me. Whenever anyone asked us why our brother, Michael, had black hair we’d confess, “He dyes his.”

     The new school was larger with thousands of students. None of the kids I knew in elementary were in my classes, nor friends of mine in junior high. Consequently, everyone  I met from then and since has known me only as a redhead.

     That includes me.

     Because, even though Clariol has changed the names of their colors, I’ve remained true to those streaks of natural auburn chosen as a child and have never sought to discover the adult dominant color of my hair. Through junior and senior high and college, a stint as a kosher camp drama counselor, New York City careers, a Florida business,  and wherever I traveled or settled on living — once every month I’ve found a place to be alone for an hour for the solitary purpose of denial in dyeing.

     I’m 70 now. I have never let my hair grow out, but if I did, it would be an all-over silver — the same as it is at my temples — which I leave untouched so the age of my face won’t drastically contrast my crown, sporting a hairstyle I haven’t changed in decades.

     I am my mother’s daughter.

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Marguerite Quantaine © 2016
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Copyright by Marguerite Quantaine © 2016
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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 Kindle.
Please choose LOOK INSIDE for a FREE
read of several chapters.

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A RARE AND VALUABLE COMMODITY

FranCat

FranCat


While watching a rerun of The Antiques Roadshow broadcasting from Tulsa, I got a message from my friend, Frances Walker Phipps. It was sent to me from infinity and beyond, but arrived just fine. No dropped call.
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     Frances was a reporter for several Connecticut newspapers, the antiques columnist for The New York Times Connecticut Weekly, the author of several definitive reference books on American antiques and colonial kitchens, and the founder of The Connecticut Antiques Show (1973), touted as one of the five most prestigious such events in the nation. Renown as a barracuda among a tribe of elite dealers who vied for the chance to earn a space in her much envied function, Frances determined what could, or could not be displayed on the show floor; what was, or was not an authentic antique. Her strict vetting of merchandise on preview night was surreptitiously referred to as the Phipps ‘reign of terror’.
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     The Tulsa Roadshow featured a woman who presented a folk art doll for discovery. I don’t own a folk art doll, but I do have a folk art cat that Frances gave me from her private collection of antiques dating from the 17th and 18th century, like most of the chairs, tables, cupboards, beds, books and decorations in her Haddam, Connecticut home. Hand stitched from swatches of forget-me-not floral broadcloth and twisted black yarn to form it’s Queen Anne stylized eyes, nose, mouth, whiskers, and outline of front legs with four toes, the coveted cat is in remarkable condition, even with the two small tears near it’s right eye, and drops of dried blood near it’s heart. I suspect the cat is older and rarer than the Roadshow doll appraised at fifteen hundred dollars.
     The assessment made me smile — not for the price it garnered, but for what Frances said in my head: 
     “Bull.”
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     Frances was once an attractive woman with thick, wavy hair, a bright smile, a great mind, and a fervor for the preservation of Colonial Americana. 
     But by the time we first met she’d matured into an unpretentious, stout woman with a big bust, a fierce wit, an untamed tongue, rumpled clothes, a bad wig pulled down like a wool cap onto her head, and a folded over Kleenex stuffed behind the right lens of her black horn-rimmed classes to hide a socket ravaged by a malignant tumor.
     We were introduced by her ex, Midgie Donaldson, on opening night of the Connecticut Antiques Show in 1975 when I was the editor of a fledgling magazine, The Antiquarian, and she was the highly respected authority wielding power and influence over dealers selling to the rich and famous. 
     “So, you came here thinking I’d teach you all about antiques. Is that it?” she proposed.
     “No-o,” I counterpointed. “But I heard you have an eye for it.” 
     We bonded instantaneously.
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     Back then, those of us in love with another woman conducted our lives without a need for labels, or social acceptance. One simply knew by the level of trust demonstrated and access allowed who was, or wasn’t ‘in the life’ — and knowing was enough to make you relax your behavior to match the trust and respect given, or strengthen your guard wherever zealots loomed. The antiques trade has always had its share of both, but nothing interferes with doing business.
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     One summer morning a year later my Elizabeth accepted a lunch invitation to Frances’ beach house in Westport, about 90 minutes from our Huntington, NY home. After we’d driven the 29 miles of the Long Island Expressway, crossed over the Throgs Neck Bridge, exited onto I-95 and traveled another 30 miles towards Stamford, I glanced at the telephone number to call in case we got lost in Westport.
     “This isn’t a Connecticut number,” I noted while pulling an Esso map out of the glove box to search the index.
     “Whadaya mean?”
     “This area code is for Westport, Massachusetts.”
     “So?”
     “So? So? It’s another 150 miles down the road.”
     “Oh, like I was supposed to know that?”
     “You could have asked.”
     “I didn’t want to appear stupid.”
     “Oh, sure. I get it. As if accepting a lunch date in the morning from someone 250 miles from Huntington registered as smart. Uh-huh.”
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     It was after four when we finally dragged ourselves through the door of the beach house, but before I could offer an explanation, or apology, Frances hurled a cotton stuffed calico cat at me and smirked, “That’s for making the crack about my ‘eye’ for antiques!” 
     “Oh yeah?” I sputtered. “Well, then I’m keeping this ratty old rag cat!”
     “As intended, my dear. As intended.”
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     In April of 1986, on the morning of the Connecticut Spring Antiques Show evening opening, we didn’t find Frances in her Manager Only curtained cubbyhole at the back of the Hartford Armory auditorium.
     “She might still be at the hospital,” offered Midgie. “She’s not due here until noon.” 
     But a feeling inside me forewarned otherwise, so we drove down to the New Britain hospital and requested her room number. 
     “You can’t see her right now,” a nurse told us, visibly shaken. “She was accidentally given a double dose of chemo and the doctors are with her now.”
     “Will you tell her we’re here?”
     “Who shall I say . . .”
     “Marge and Liz. Tell her we’re right here waiting for her.”
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     Hours later, after the 3 p.m. shift change, a different nurse asked, “You’re here to see someone?” 
     “Frances Phipps.”
     “Are you family?”
     “No. Friends.”
     “I’m sorry, but only family members are allowed to see, or inquire about Miss Phipps. Hospital rules.”
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     By the time we left Hartford that night there was still no word from Frances. The gala went off without a hitch. It was well past midnight when we finally got home, and nearly noon before we heard the news that Frances had passed away. The obituary said she died of a heart attack at 62.
     Bull.
francatback
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     Here’s the thing: Our existence evolves through exchanges, most of it involving how we choose to spend our time in pursuit of whom, or on what we place the greatest value. 
     Just as the woman at The Antiques Roadshow planned to sell her ancestor’s rag doll in order to ensure her present, so did Frances Phipps plan on preserving her 200 year old calico cat in order to ensure her memory.
     Ultimately, life is calculated, not by what we let go of from our wallets, but by what we hang onto in our hearts.

     Rag doll: $1,500.00
     Rag Cat: Priceless.

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Copyright Marguerite Quantaine © 2016
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I’m all eyes and heart.

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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 Kindle. Please choose LOOK INSIDE
For a free read of several chapters before buying.
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SEE YA LATER ALLIGATOR

Author of  Imogene's Eloise

Author of
Imogene’s Eloise


The first time I spotted the alligator in the murky waters of a man-made lake framing luxurious condos on one side and a city park on the other, I worried aloud for the safety of the mallards, Muscovy, and white, waddling ducks, the snapping turtles, giant goldfish, flock of pristine egrets, and wading blue heron, making their homes in the marshes there.

“And, the kids who play in this park,” my sweetheart added.

I didn’t respond. Not that I would ever want a person of any age to be harmed by an alligator, but there was no imminent danger in that. Only the nature-preying-nature lurked.

The lake is more for show and tell by realtors looking to justify pricey units with a view. There’s no swimming allowed, and since it’s illegal to feed wildlife in Florida outside of a reserve, observing nature in this park is mostly done from a deck built 15 feet above, and stretching 20 feet out over the water, where picnic tables are placed for brown baggers wondering what so many thieving sea gulls are doing there, some sixty miles inland. 

At first, all I saw were the mammoth marble shaped alligator eyes, trolling the lake’s surface, leaving innocent ripples of water in his wake.

“Or,” she said when I pointed out the marauding eyeballs, “it’s a submarine.”

“No, hon, I’m pretty certain it’s an alligator.”

“But, I’m thinking —  if it is a submarine…”

“It’s a gator, okay?”

“I’m just saying what it could be,” she persists, as the tire tracks of its back emerges. “Or, maybe one in camouflage to look like an alligator, so no one would suspect.”

Really, who am I to say otherwise? I thought.

We only visit this particular park once a year, in September or October, depending on what date the High Holy Days fall.

I won’t expound on the significance of these 10 days for those of you who aren’t Jewish, but I will share the custom of casting bread upon the water (tashlikh) as a symbol of one’s transgressions being disposed of. Unlike other religions, Jews don’t believe in original sin. Instead, we’re born pure, acquiring our indiscretions with age, intent, or ignorance along the way.

But, if we’re sincere in saying “I’m sorry” to those we’ve wronged, and have done good without expectation in return, and made an earnest effort to mend fences, the sin slate gets wiped clean on Yom Kippur, giving each of us another chance to get life right, and do it better.

The disclaimer appears in the setting of the sun, symbolizing the closing of the Book of Life, when even nonbelievers (secretly) want their names, and those of their loved ones inscribed therein — although no one learns who makes the cut until the High Holy Days roll around again the following year. (Because only those remaining in the here and now know if they were inscribed back in the then and there.)

For the record, I’m very disorganized about organized religion, to the point of anti-it.

But I do like everything about Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the culmination of 10 days of introspection, taking stock of one’s life, offering amends, being grateful for whatever cards have been dealt, making promises and looking forward while witnessing the sun sink behind the trees, or beneath the ocean, or into the hills.

Of course, I’m pulling for more than family and friends. I want my pets to be included in that Book of Life, too, and mercy shown for all the animals on earth. I want children to be protected, and hurts healed. I want every woman to fall in love with the person who has fallen in love with her. My list is long. I ask a lot. It takes me the full 10 days to catalog all the hope in my heart.

“Watch out,” we were warned by a couple dawdling nearby. “The flora and fauna police are on duty.”

I glance over at the retiree in khaki shirt and shorts, feeling powerful on his unpaid patrol.

“I’m prepared,” I assured them. “I filled my pocket with stale bread, pre-pulverized in my Cuisinart to melt any evidence upon impact. Would you like a some?”

They showed me their cut up crusts of kosher rye. “No thanks. We’re good.”

As the sun began its steady decline, I confidently hurled a handful of crumbs to flutter like tiny confetti into the water below — forgetting that the brass ring  containing the keys to the car, our home, my sister’s home, the metal license tags of our dogs, and a silver kitty charm carried for good luck was also in that pocket.

It went with.

“I’ll be,” she said, looking down at the unintended snack. “It is an alligator!”

~

To paraphrase a verse in a song from the original, Broadway cast album of The Unsinkable Molly Brown: Your prayer was answered, the answer was ‘no’ — She heard you all right.

Most of you who follow this blog, or my Facebook page know that I lost my kid sister in May, 10 weeks after she was first diagnosed with everywhere-cancer.

What I haven’t shared as much is, in that brief period (and since) I also lost both of my dogs, Buzzbee and Sparky, and a Russian Blue, tamed-to-my-touch, feral cat, Sneaky, twin brother to Pete. And, my car bit the dust.

When the last loss happened, I recalled the words attributed to Virginia Woolf upon being asked by her niece why the bird she’d found had to die. Woolf answered, “To make us appreciate life more.”

I’m not sure I concur. I don’t think I could appreciate life any more than I do.  My gratitude is fierce and deep and never falters — even when the answer is, indeed, ‘no’.

Because I see, and hear, and recognize the loss most others endure, daily, is so much greater than my own; the worldwide despair and hunger of millions in the dark of every night, the destruction of homes by flood and fire, the assault on nature by ignorance and greed, the ongoing slaughter of innocent and innocence, the intentional harm inflicted on the undeserving.

It doesn’t lessen the depth of loss I feel, but it does lessen the length of time I spend, struggling.

The High Holy Days come earlier this year and I’m on tenterhooks about it, to the point of being mindful of the fact that the ritual of tashlikh is to happen on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, not on Yom Kippur as I’ve always chosen to observe it.

We’ll be returning to the man-made lake, regardless — this time with an entire loaf of challah for the alligator.

We hope it was written into the Book of Life.

We hope we all were.

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by Marguerite Quantaine Copyright © 2015

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Marguerite Quantaine is an essayist and author.
Her book, Imogene’s Eloise : Inspired by a true-love story
is available on AMAZON, in paperback , and on Kindle.
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“… crisp…clever…unique…saucy humor…delicious writing…fabulous…funny…historically accurate…genius debut… This will be a classic; buy it now. 

SHE Magazine Reviews IMOGENE’S ELOISE: Inspired by a true-love story.

THIS DIAMOND RING — GIVEAWAY

"It's a dainty little ring."

“It’s a dainty little ring.”


I don’t know if it was so for my three brothers, but whenever we three girls asked my mom what she wanted for Mother’s Day, her birthday, or Christmas she’d invariably say, “A diamond ring, a fur coat, and a trip around the world.”

Nowadays, such requests may not seem that unreasonable, what with seven year olds pocketing iPhones, college students making pilgrimages, and fur coats being faked well enough to warrant splattering by PETA paint.

But back in the 50s, 60s and 70s, these were all big ticket items for the vast majority of American women.

Since my mom wasn’t elitist, extravagant, or pretentious, I didn’t take her wish list seriously. She had a mink-ish stole she dearly loved and wore from time-to-time. She managed to travel to every country and place she ever dreamt of going before she passed away nine years ago at ninety-three. And, she appeared satisfied with wearing her wedding ring during 31 years of marriage and 37 years of widowhood — a wafer thin band of gold, originally mounted with 7 miniscule diamond chips, two of them missing from forever ago.

“This diamond ring doesn’t shine for me anymore,” she’d chime along with Gary Lewis and the Playboys back in ‘65.

“Are you planning on taking it off and selling it?” I once asked.

“No,” she admitted. “Remember, dear, the first ring represents your beginning and shouldn’t cost more than what you can safely afford. The last ring shows how far you’ve gotten. It may weigh more and the stone will  be bigger — but that ring is less about who you are, and more about who you just think you are.”  

Mom's wedding ring.

Mom’s wedding ring.

Costume jewelry was more my mother’s style, mostly sets of necklaces and bracelets with complementing clip-on earrings, cloth flowers with pin backs, hair combs studded with rhinestones, and watches with exchangeable bands. It was while rummaging through these, kept in an old cedar box stamped Souvenir of Gaylord, that I detected the faint fragrance of her Yardley Lavender still lingering there as I matched each pretty piece of paste to memories of the outfit she wore and the special occasion that warranted the wearing. That is, except for one out-of-place, unfamiliar, etched gold band with a solitaire diamond setting that seemed a perfect starter ring for a young (or young-at-heart) someone who hoped to commit, or celebrate a first anniversary, or wear on the pinky until presenting it as a simple act of friendship to another.

It’s a dainty little ring, perfectly capable of stirring up tender emotions — but one I’d never wear since it wasn’t given to me by my lifelong love.

So, I’ve decided to let someone else create a warm memory by giving this diamond ring away (original retail price estimated at $150.00).

If you’d like to be included in the random drawing to own this diamond ring, simply quote your favorite line from Imogene’s Eloise, citing the book and the chapter on your Facebook timeline, tagging me in it.

If you aren’t my Facebud — friend me.

If you know of someone who’d make good use of this diamond ring, SHARE this.

The random drawing will be held on June 3rd at 11:58 a.m., with the recipient announced both here and on Facebook.

But wait!

There’s more!

NO PURCHASE IS NECESSARY, since anyone can read the first 7 chapters on Amazon for FREE, but in addition to giving this diamond ring away (and in case you want to read the entire book), I’m slashing the Kindle edition of Imogene’s Eloise to $1.99 for 7 days from April 10th through April 16th, because I think my mom would approve of me using this ring to encourage a little romance.

Besides, it’s not as if I’m giving her wedding ring away.

Never.

That tarnished band of holes and chips has resided on my right pinky since she passed, and will remain there until I do, as testament to the woman whose namesake I am, her role in my own beginning, and the cherished memories of her I couldn’t-wouldn’t sacrifice — not even for a diamond ring, a fur coat, and a trip around the world.

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Copyright by Marguerite Quantaine 2015

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HAPPY TRAILS TO YOU . . .

Kate b:w

“You’re always a happy camper,” my kid sister, Kate, says to me, frequently. “Even from back when. I’ve seldom seen a photograph where you weren’t. Whereas, the rest of us…”  She sighs as her claim tapers off; the ‘rest of us’ being our four older siblings.

     I’m in her Florida home, fifty-eight miles southeast of mine, enjoying faded photographs of her and me during childhood, a monochrome to Kodachrome procession of us aging over the years, corralled in silver and brass frames crowding the desktop in her den.
     “You’re smiling in them, too,” I insist. 

     “But even when you aren’t you’re happy.”

She’s right. In every print I stand guilty as charged, picture-proof that regardless of the rocks life hurled at me, I caught them as stones and skimmed them as pebbles across a body of blue. Setbacks, solutions, and silver linings have ruled my world in that way.

     Kate triumphs, too; but does it differently. Unlike me, be it a word, a look, or an action, she wounds easily and holds onto the hurt as lifeblood. She can recite the time, place and reason for every slight she’s perceived from others, intentional, or not. She suffers the “slings and arrows” of both fortune and misfortune. Her self-esteem rarely rides on an even keel.

     Most of that is reflected in Kate’s self-deprecating sense of humor where she casts herself as the ugly duckling and also-ran. 

     Until she turned 12, she shadowed me like a stray puppy inviting approval — but as a tall teen, she began rolling her shoulders forward and slumping down to avoid attention. She took a back seat in all her outings with friends. She never challenged authority. She catered to the wishes of others. She refused to go to her junior prom with a boy she had a crush on unless I agreed to find a date and go with her. (I did.) She always worked harder to strive higher because she felt, in doing so, maybe, just maybe, someone would love her.

I don’t think she’s ever accepted that everyone does love her — not because she played a great game of league softball for nine years, or bested those at any table where board games ruled, or succeeded at every task she undertook, or graduated from college summa cum laude, or even when she became an executive at Columbia Pictures in Hollywood, rubbing elbows with celebrities, daily — but because she is without guile. She’s soft spoken and generous. She’s never late for anything, ever. She’s decisive and dependable. She is the first to answer the call, to offer her time, and provide for others whether asked of, or needed, or not.  Her meek demeanor matches her downy curls and wise eyes the color of a Russian Blue.

She’s also a coincidental copycat. Although Kate lived 3,000 miles away for a decade, she’d somehow manage to buy the same label slacks, sweaters, and shoes that I wore, paint her rooms the same colors as mine, be partial to the same movies and songs, plant the same flowers, and even managed to select the identical holiday cards for my mom, with both hers and mine delivered in the same mail, on the same days for seven years running. 

     When she moved to Florida eleven years ago, she arrived in the make and model of car I drove. Eventually, she gave me that car, and added my name to the title of her next one so I could have it someday, without any fuss.

     It’s what I’ll be driving, soon — and what I’m driving at.

     Kate visits regularly, making the trip from Deland to spend the day with her gal pal, my Elizabeth. They leave within moments after she arrives to scan pawn shops and scour garage sales, saying when they’ll be back bearing gifts, and what they want to eat upon return. I’m chief cook, baker, bottle washer and decider of the games we’ll play into the night. 

     Sometimes she stays over, but more often, twelve hours of each others company is one hour shy of perfection. Before she leaves we belt out a chorus of,  “Happy trails to you, until we meet again” as we did while in our matching cowgirl outfits, sitting on the floor in front of the Sylvania set during the 1950s, joining Roy Rogers and Dale Evans in their signature song.  Then I wait by the phone until she gets home and calls to say she’s safe and sound.

     My dear, sweet sister, Kate.

     So, imagine my surprise when, after a splendid celebration for her 67th birthday on January 22nd, followed by wishes exchanged for Valentine’s Day, and plans made for Elizabeth’s birthday on February 24th, she called to say, “I’ll be there. I’m looking forward to it. But…”
K&M& Andy Car

     She’d felt nauseous with a sharp pain in her side so, assuming it was her gallbladder, she visited the clinic, which ordered the ultrasound, that revealed the liver cancer. The following week an MRI found pancreatic and bile duct cancer. A PET scan upped the ante to bone and spinal column cancer, after blood tests confirmed it was everywhere.

     No, this is not the kind of diagnosis that responds to clinical trials, chemotherapy, or radiation. Hers is the type that robs you of 25 pounds in 25 days and makes you hope for enough time to get your affairs in order.

     Nothing seems real now. We act on automatic, listening to orders we don’t want to hear and filling out forms we’re forced into finishing, as if any of it matters more than these last precious days spent together.

     When she asks me to translate the results of her latest tests I relay a bowdlerized truth, and she listens with an editors ear, both of us trying to alter the inevitable.

     If it were me, there would be levity. 

Instead, it’s Kate, who counts on me to be there for a final cowgirl singalong.

     Yes, I smiled when she asked it of me.

     But I am not a happy camper.

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Marguerite Quantaine © 2015