Tag Archives: memories

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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“God damn it!” were my father’s final words.
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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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Marguerite Quantaine is an essayist and author.
Her novel,
IMOGENE’S ELOISE: Inspired by a true story
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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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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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I’m all eyes and heart.

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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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Please SHARE THIS on Facebook and Twitter,

and tell me how you feel by selecting REPLY. 

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.
SheMagRev
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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.