Tag Archives: Baby boomers

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

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wfyaInterviews: Marguerite Quantaine

Author of  Imogene's Eloise

Author of
Imogene’s Eloise

Q: Have you had a lot of rejection?
A: I have not. But then I haven’t submitted much of what I write to very many places. However, when I have submitted essays, I have had my writing rejected.

Q: For example?
A: A friend once told me that humor written by women is almost always tossed when submitted to The New Yorker for their Shouts and Murmurs column.

Q: You don’t aim low, do you?
A: Big dreamers never do. Anyhow, after hearing this I got on my high-horse one Saturday night and submitted a Shouts piece, thinking it would be at the top of the editors mailbox for consideration on Monday morning.

Q: And?
A: I got an instant — and when I say instant I mean within seconds — an instant rejection, followed by an email from the desk of Bob Mankoff offering me a subscription to The New Yorker at a discounted rate, the magazine’s shop to browse and books to buy.

Q: Ouch.
A: Actually, I burst out laughing and immediately thought about contacting Guinness to see if it set a world rejection record.

Q: Have you?
A: No. But the thought is still percolating. More important is, it put the magazine into perspective for me. It finally makes sense as to why The New Yorker is dying a slow death.

Q: Because?
A: Because writers are readers first and foremost, and when you alienate a writer — even a bad writer — you lose a reader.

Q: You stopped reading The New Yorker?
A: Except when someone gives me a copy, yes. But to be fair, I never understood most the articles or all the cartoons. Many a night, when suffering from insomnia, a story in The New Yorker has put me right to sleep.

Q: How about Imogene’s Eloise? Was that accepted right off?
A: No, it was rejected right off.

Q: Seriously?
A: Yes — and let me stress — thankfully.

Q: Can you elaborate?
A: I thought I knew one of the owners of a publishing house whom I regarded as a friend. I wasn’t really looking for a contract so much as a nod.

Q: Approval.
A: More like, I hoped to be told ‘it appears promising, but at 150,000 words it’s too long, resubmit it when you’ve edited it down by half’ — something of that nature.

Q: And you got, what?
A: After following the submission guidelines, I got a sloppily composed and executed email thanking me for my short story and saying they had no interest in it.

Q: You’re kidding.
A: I am not, but like the email from Bob Mankoff, I have greatly benefited by the rejection.

Q: Are you and the publisher still friends?
A: No, but not because of that.

Q: Because of…?
A: It’s not really relevant.

Q: It’s an interviewers prerogative.
A: Yes. Yes it is and I do so love the word, prerogative. Okay. A third party had told me she’d decided not to submit to my friend’s publishing house because she wanted to be represented by a suit.

Q: A suit?
A: Someone who always looked spit-shined and ironed and successful and worthy of her writing rather than disheveled and wrinkled and as crumpled as this publishing person had appeared in public. So, when the topic arose between us, I said I was privy to something that I thought would be beneficial for her to know, but made her promise not to tell, or ever identify me, should she choose to bring the issue up for discussion. When she agreed I related the impression her partner’s sloppiness made, and that I thought it valid for a writer to expect her publisher to always look professional.

Q: And she told?
A: Yes, but it wasn’t that she told. It was that, after she betrayed my confidence she lied to me about betraying me, repeatedly, until she finally admitted she lied, but in doing so, justified the betrayal and the lying, then compounded the lie by being deceitful about another author whom she decided had crossed her. I cut ties with her for that and it cost me the loss of at least 9 of her colleagues.

Q: Surely, that bothered you.
A: No it did not. I’m far better off because of it, and I believe it’s what people who allow themselves to be bullied don’t understand. Whatever you think you might lose in the short run, you gain in the long term, and the people you end up with are so much more valuable than those who turned away.

Q: Food for thought? Or, preachy?
A: My sisters would say preachy, and I’m certainly no stranger to bandwagons, but I’d prefer to think of myself as someone who sets an example by my actions speaking even louder than my words.

Q: That’s a perfect segway back to role models. What do you think of the way women are portrayed?
A: In?

Q: LesFic books and movies.
A: If you mean lump sum, all genres, that’s really too sweeping a question. Even then I’d be limited to the books I’ve read and the movies I’ve seen.

Q: Most movies are based on books, so let’s start with the movies.
A: I have trouble finding myself in them, of my experiences as a woman, as a friend, as a lover, as an employee, as a person.

Q: As opposed to, what? Finding yourself in straight movies?
A: Not really. I mean, I could see myself in the character of, say Norma Rae, when I was younger and involved in fighting for change, and in Kissing Jessica Stein, to the extent of her wanting something different than what she was being offered. Except for the opening, I enjoyed that film immensely by the way.

Q: The opening?
A: A leading female character having backroom sex with a man before she seduces a woman. It’s like a stamp of approval for all lesbian films — that, the film is only worthy of attention, or more worthy because a man staked his claim first and foremost.

Q: How about the L Word ?
A: I watched it for the first year but, again, couldn’t relate. Like 90% of Americans who feel there’s no one in Congress speaking for them, I think the vast majority of lesbians feel the same about movies. What’s on the screen bears little resemblance to their every day lives and much deeper emotions. It might be a gender gap trap to even say so, but I often think boomers represent the last great generation of romantic music and gestures, before nameless hookups and STDs became the norm.

Q: Do you miss that time?
A: I can’t miss what I’ve maintained for myself, but I miss it for younger women who never had a opportunity to experience it, or make an informed choice in favor of it over the fragility and transience of relationships now.

Q: Do you think younger women would be interested in the world of your youth?
A: I’d like to think they’d embrace the good of it and — like the remake of great songs by younger artists — choose to establish a romantic lifestyle for themselves.

Q: Your book, Imogene’s Eloise, is primarily a reminder of where we were isn’t it ?
A: No, it’s not just about where we’ve been. It’s about how we got to where we are in a patriarchal, primarily Christian identified, mostly divided society where women are now in the majority. It’s about discovering where our minds and hearts were then, in contrast with how our minds and hearts of today interpret back then. It’s about how our ‘in the life’ world within the overall world has changed dramatically.

Q: Through the journey of a single love affair?
A: Actually, there are many love affairs going on of varying intensities between numerous people. It’s about recognizing the differences between love and lust and understanding the degrees of friendship.

Q: Sex?
A: Romantic without being explicit. It also teaches history without the drudgery, and is entertaining without it having been written strictly for entertainment value.

Q: What do you think is most appealing about Imogene’s Eloise?
A: Readers decide that on an individual basis. But the intent is to expose the commonalities we share pertaining to those we love and how it’s what everyone, at some juncture in their lives wishes for — and is told they cannot have. I’m telling the reader — you can have it — and that on some level, to some extent you are in this book, and someone you know, and someone you want to know, and someone you long to meet is in this book. There are emotions you’ve felt, and thoughts you’ve had, and answers you seek to questions in the back of your mind. And, just like life, you’ll applaud some, and resist others, and ponder the rest.

Q: Any reactions?
A: It’s a marathon read at 391 pages, so the reviews have trickled in as people cross the finish line. But so far, mostly applause. Those who don’t like it admit they didn’t read it before leaving a review. It’s unfortunate, but such people are unavoidable.

Q: How about your beta readers?
A: I didn’t employ beta readers. I’m not certain I believe in writing as a team sport, but I did offer a peek to blog followers before I edited the book down for a final time.

Q: And?
A: Generally supportive. Except, ten months ago I had a person, I wish I could remember her name, she sampled the first ten chapters of my book and said — and I’m paraphrasing here — “The characters are weak. I only read books about strong women.” So, I thanked her for her opinion and moved on. But I wish, now, I’d reminded her that women weren’t born strong. It wasn’t a given for us. We didn’t have parents, or siblings, or magazines, or movies, or advertisements to encourage us, or fictionalized characters toting guns and giving men karate chops as our pacifiers.

We grew strong in spite of naysayers and obstacles.

And the women coming of age in the 50s and 60s — those women who grew up being denied loans and credit cards, denied the right to buy a house without a male co-sign, denied the right to sell inherited property without a man’s permission, denied jobs advertised as help wanted male, denied justice in our courts, denied protection from violence, denied entrance to colleges and clubs, denied the right to run for political office, denied the right to be heard, denied advancement in the workplace, denied equal pay, denied consideration or equality under the law by both government and religion — those women of a that second class American society who fought to guarantee your first class American citizenship — they’re the strong ones. Those are the characters that should serve as your role models. And until you understand that — honey — you haven’t a clue as to what the meaning of the word ‘strong’ truly is.

Q: You published on Kindle. Why?
A: Two reasons. First, 85% of all books sold are on Kindle or other electronic device. And Amazon now offers a free app that turns every computer, tablet and phone into a Kindle. So that’s a big incentive.

Q: To earn more money?
A: To reach a wider audience. Imogene’s Eloise is nearly twice as long at half the price by comparison to other books for Kindle readers.

Q: Will it be out in paperback?
A: It’s available in paperback.

Q: The genre is romance.
A: More because Amazon and Bowkers require it.

Q: Given more of a choice?
A: It’s a dramedyherstoryromance.

Q: Imogene’s Eloise is subtitled as inspired by a true-love story. Tell me, how much of it is true?
A: All the best parts.

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

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