Tag Archives: Love

A LOVE NOTE IN PASSING

Souvenir of True Friendship

Souvenir of True Friendship

From the moment she was born, everything was wrong and everything was right about Buzzbee Buzzcut.

Her mother, Yoko Oh-NO-O-O, was a Corgi chained to a stump in a neighbors backyard, left out in all kinds of weather, inclement and otherwise. On the sly, we freed Yoko of incarceration weekdays (while the owners were at work from 7 until 7) so she could accompany us in walks around the neighborhood and romps with our Schnauzer mix, Oliver, a one-time forager for Yoko that the neighbors chased out of their garbage can. Oliver led us to Yoko after we rescued him.

But on the night of January 11, 2000, the lights were bright in the neighbor’s house and the family was home, ignoring the howls of Yoko, trembling in the dark, bitter cold — pleading for mercy.

Naturally, we stole her.

We made her a bed in our garage out of a threadbare, king size, goose down comforter, arranged on an egg crate mattress near a 1500 watt, forced heat, Franklin stove heater sporting fake logs burning behind a glass window. Before retiring, we promised her we’d keep her at any cost. We left her food, water, dog biscuits, access to the outside dog run attached to the house, and a feral cat to keep her company.

The next morning she rewarded us with eight puppies.

Three of the pups hadn’t survived, but of the five that did, we found a home for Ethel after nine weeks — then cried our eyes dry and swollen for two days before deciding to keep the remaining four: Alice, Chin-Chin, Buzzbee, and Sparky.

Of the four, only Buzz was ridden with benign tumors the size of golf balls bulging out of her coat, tags hanging from every leg, perpetually leaking-crusty eyes that soon went blind, and allergies to all forms of commercial canine food, leaving her bald from the middle of her back to the tip of her tail. Her heart and ears were too big, her lungs and paws were too small, and the vet wrote her off as most likely to die before her first birthday.

But Buzz displayed a natural ability to adapt, an abundance of love, infinite devotion, and spunk. While the other puppies thrived, she endured all that plagued her with grace. She was happy, attentive, loyal and ever grateful. She never whined, cried, or barked (except at strangers walking by the house). She never growled. She never disobeyed. She never made a mistake in the house.

Counting Oliver, Yoko Oh-No-o-o, Tinkerbell (our Pekingese) and Blue 2 (our Golden Retriever), we’d grown to an eight dog household over night.

But by 2011, all except Sparky and Buzzbee had passed.

On May 1st we lost Buzz. She left us peacefully, in her sleep, at 15 years, 3 months, 19 days.

Each tear now shed is laced with immeasurable gratitude. She was a fine, fine friend that lived an exemplary life of gentle courage, providing us with purpose and genuine joy.

We bless her spirit and her soul
and ask only that we strive to always be
the best of both.

# # #

by Marguerite Quantaine © 2015

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Marguerite Quantaine is an essayist and author.

ALL ROYALTIES FROM THE SALE OF
IMOGENE’S ELOISE
GO TO THE CARE & FEEDING
OF FERALS & RESCUES

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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 decided to let someone else create a warm memory by giving the ring away. No strings attached. No expectations of return. Quietly and without adieu, certain my mom would approve.

 

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 pinky since she passed, and it will remain there until I do, as a testament to the woman whose namesake I am, and the cherished memories of her I wouldn’t sacrifice — not even for a diamond ring, a fur coat, and a trip around the world.

#    #    #

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.

#    #    #

Marguerite Quantaine © 2015

SIGNING OFF

Me, Minus 33 Years

Me, Minus 33 Years

My face popped up in the right hand corner of the screen as guest anchor, Peter Jennings, introduced the closing story on ABC World News Tonight one Friday in 1981. I’d authored an oversized, limited edition reference book under the Americanized spelling of my last name and it somehow engendered enough interest to garner a mention on national television.

I look back at it as pure luck now because, as any author (past or present) will confirm, writing a book can be exhilarating — but marketing it is exhausting.

Back then, individualized press releases were expected to be composed and printed to accompany personally written letters, each snail-mailed at considerable expense to those listed in Editor & Publisher Yearbook nationwide. Even for a book as minor as mine, the effort required to sell it seemed mammoth compared to the time it took to write. That made getting featured during prime time on ABC with Peter Jennings equal to an eagle feather in a yarmulke.

The follow-up was a headline and shout-out in the Sunday New York Times — not by a book reviewer, but by the much respected and often feared antiques and arts columnist, Rita Reif. I’d caught a wave, did some appearances, signings, a few more interviews, and a stint on PM New York, all culminating in a monthly column syndicated in a dozen trade publications for a couple years. It was a flattering, generally enjoyable, often tiresome experience that I was grateful ended after it contributed to resurrecting a fad that others were tooth-and-claw dedicated to treating as a full time endeavor.

Because, regardless of how glamorous it may sound or look, that’s what even miniscule fame and fleeting fortune boils down to; an eagerness and need to become the product by foregoing (and oft times, forgetting) the person.

I was never willing to put anything before my personal life.

I’m still not.

Fast forward to the present when everyone can be an author, cyberspace has taken over the vast amount of book promotion, cable and YouTube have obliterated the allure of network news, and most the magazines and newspapers in which my name, or byline once appeared are history.

In a time when Amazon gives every author a one-time-only opportunity to write a description of one’s novel for access by book reviewers nationwide — and even after being reminded that the 25,000 word maximum description must entice those reviewers to choose my novel over all the other hundreds of cyberspace book releases bombarding them every week — I chose to submit just 35 words about Imogene’s Eloise in free verse form:

“This is a history you haven’t read elsewhere,
about people you don’t realize you know,
containing phenomena you’re unaware of,
within a love story you’ve never heard,
that has an ending you can’t possibly predict.”

Thank you, Peter Jennings.

And, rest in peace.

# # #

This essay is copyright by Marguerite Quantaine © 2014.

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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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SECRETS & TIES

New Jane & Me

Marion Deyo didn’t start out as my friend, or exactly finish up that way. And yet, twenty years after our final exchange, the ending to our story still astounds me.

It will you, too.

We met in 1966, when I was a student at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, desperately searching for a different dream. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy acting. I did. In fact, my audition instructor, the late great Jessica Tandy, said I had the natural talent to guarantee a bright future in the theater.

But I knew I didn’t have the personality for it — especially the New York City six-floor walkup, noisy neighbors, nasty bugs part. And, the menial labor between parts part. Or, the suck up and shut up part. The waiting for hours to audition with those who actually wanted to wait for hours to audition part. The desire for fame and fortune part. The tediousness of twiddling thumbs while slow learners remembered their lines part. The talk among actors about nothing but acting part. The throw momma under the bus to get the part part.

It’s why I applaud, but never become a fan of celebrities. I know how hard they worked to get to where they got. I know the bad choices they made. I know of their struggle to get by in the public eye. I know how self-destructive they become when disdaining fellow actors.

But I digress.

One Stouffer’s morning with hot buttered pecan roll and golden coffee in hand, an advertisment in The New York Times classifieds for a media clerk at a Fifth Avenue agency caught my eye. I didn’t know what the job entailed, but figured clerks keep records. Enough said.

Upon entering the office of the department head assigned to interview me, I zeroed in on her desktop nameplate: Marion Deyo.

The older woman (by 21 years) didn’t look up. She didn’t ask me to be seated. She didn’t make any attempt to put me at ease. She even forced me to introduce myself to the top of her bent down head, busily engaged in reading my job application.

“I’ve never heard of anyone with your last name,” she muttered.

“Oh yeah?” I snapped back. “Well I’ve never heard of anyone with your last name, either!” It was a pompous, knee-jerk reaction that I don’t know why I had since — then as now — I’ve yet to encounter a single person outside my immediate family who has my last name.

Suffice to say, the interview ended abruptly and I went on my Mary-quite-contrary way until a week later when I got an early bird phone call saying I was hired.

“How?” I asked. “And, why?”

“No one else applied for job,” replied the person who’d spend five minutes training me later that day.

Technically, Marion was my boss, but she never spoke to me, and made a point of ignoring me whenever we were in the same room, or passed each other in the hall.

Cue Ruth Ruffino (a fictitious name in this, otherwise, true story).

Ruth was a four-foot-eight gentile yenta with coal black hair to match her widow’s wear daily outfits. She had half-dollar size eyes, skin the color of Pattypan squash, and a passive-aggressive control freak personality that she conveyed through a chronically clogged nose. Ruth was just so transparent, so disingenuous, so cloying, so suffocating, so much the type of women I truly didn’t like a lot.

Nevertheless, Ruth was a popular little Miss nicey-nicey, chirpy-chirpy, brown-nosey to everyone, earning her favor by supplying our communal office of eight women with free donuts most mornings and coffee every afternoon.

The thing with women working shoulder-to-shoulder in one room is that their eyes are always peeled and ears cocked, providing the perfect stage and an instant audience for anyone enjoying fanfare, which Ruth invariably made whenever leaving me a box of candy, or personal note, or annoying tchotchke — then yelling from her desk, “Did you get the gift I left?”

Oh-h, I got it all right.

I just didn’t give it. I didn’t eat the donuts, or drink the coffee, or accept the gifts, or read the notes, or engage in conversation — even when she was hovering over me, talking at the top of her elastic sacs.

One day upon returning home from work I found flowers had been delivered, not by a florist, but by Ruth, personally, giving the bouquet and card to my landlord with her delivery instructions.

The next day, she crowed, “I was late to work yesterday morning because I rode all the way up town in order to deliver you flowers. Did you get them?”

“Yes,” I cawed back, “and assured the landlord the flowers were for him and I gave him your telephone number as you requested.”

Soon after, Marion summoned me into her office to tell me she was letting me go for causing too much trouble in her department.

To my chagrin and our surprise, I burst into tears, blubbering my side of the story from the minute Ruth laid eyes on me until my moment of breakdown before her.

Marion listened, stone-faced until I finished. Then she offered me a tissue and said she’d handle it — which she did. But she never said how, we never spoke of it again, and I wasn’t fired.

Hours later Ruth announced her engagement to a dweeby, much taller, older account executive who wore his suspendered pants up around his atrophied pecs; a bloke who’d been transferred to our Chicago office that very same day, taking Ruth to the windy city with him. The other communal room women shunned me afterwards.

Over the next six weeks I was assigned to a task no other employee (past or present) had been able to complete. I tackled it by initiating an unorthodox protocol, earning me a promotion and my own office.

Upon becoming Marion’s executive colleague, the walls came down. We sat together at department head meetings and lunched together regularly. She learned I was single and living in Manhattan. I learned she was single and living with her cousin on Long Island. The weekend she invited me out for a visit began a quintessential friendship lasting for years — right up until the day I discovered the two women weren’t cousins, but a couple.

I had an inkling, but I never completely understood why everything suddenly changed after that. Our daily routine ended abruptly. I ceased being invited to their home. Marion took another job at a different agency. Eventually, so would I.

Over time we continued to touch base, but seldom, until not at all.

I fell in love and my life took many dramatic turns. We ended up living in the same Long Island town as Marion and her partner. The company we launched and grew was in stark contrast to the enterprise they undertook. For fifteen years we rarely crossed paths. In 1990, we semiretired to Florida. They remained on Long Island.

Then in October of 1994 I had a premonition. It prompted me to write Marion a long letter saying how much I loved the two of them and always would. Essentially, I thanked Marion for being my friend and confidante during a still-single period of my life when I needed guidance and protection the most.

I mailed the letter. I don’t know for certain if she ever received it.

But a week or so afterwards, I began getting phone calls at odd hours of the day, at least once a week, from someone who just listened to my voice and stayed on the line for as long as a minute before hanging up.

I sensed it was Marion. It might have been her partner, but it felt like Marion.

Nearly five months later, in late February of 1995, the weekly phone calls mysteriously ceased. It wasn’t until May that her partner called to say Marion had passed away on February 28th.

I immediately got online and searched for her obituary. There wasn’t one — so I dug deeper.

This is all I ever found:

During the late 1600s, the first woman fleeing France to America with Marion’s last name married the first man fleeing France to America with my last name.

We shared their DNA.

Marion Deyo was my cousin.

# # #

Marguerite Quantaine Copyright © 2014

If you’re at all enchanted by this story, I promise you’ll be charmed by
Imogene’s Eloise: Inspired by a true-love story.

I welcome your feedback, so go ahead and let me have it by commenting here, or Liking and Sharing this on Facebook.

My heartfelt thanks to you and yours, now and always.

http://www.amazon.com/Imogenes-Eloise-Inspired-true-love-story/dp/0940548011/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1418760488&sr=1-1&keywords=marguerite+quantaine

C O L D – C A S E

Entire worlds exist of just two people in love.

Entire worlds exist of just two people in love.

In 1959, I knew a girl who (like me) aspired to be a writer.

Her name was Ann.

She was an oddity of sorts among the girls I occasionally accompanied to Brown’s Pharmacy where we sat at the counter on hot summer afternoons and ate Cheese Doodles while sipping Cokes through waxed paper straws in glasses topped off with half inch ice cubes.

At barely five feet and under 90 pounds, I was a wisp. She was taller by five inches and heavier, with a pronounced pear shaped body. Although her family was prominent, living in a big house in a better neighborhood, Ann dressed in drab colors, had wing shaped eyeglasses that she was constantly shoving back up to the top of her flat nostril nose, wore braces to correct an overbite and fixed her mousey brown hair in an unflattering bob. 

But Ann was smart and witty and we made each other laugh.

We’d both turned 13 in ‘59 (on a maturity scale of 8 by todays standards) and were as innocent as the hits of Brenda Lee, Del Shannon, Connie Francis and Dion sounded on the radio, or Leave It To Beaver, Donna Reed, and Bonanza appeared on the tube. Girls wore skirts or dresses to school with knee highs or bobby socks. Family dinners were served at 6. Nobody smoked, nobody swore, and if anyone knew about sex, nobody said.

When the 20th anniversary showing of Gone With The Wind came to town that year, Ann and I went to a matinee together, sitting in the front row of the balcony in a downtown theater.

Enthralled by the majesty of the production and enchanted by the correspondence exchanged between Scarlett O’Hara and Ashley Wilkes who was off to war, we decided the best way to hone our writing skills would be to challenge each other by pretending to be Scarlett, writing letters to Ashley.

We did this by purchasing a small brown notebook of lined paper in which Ann, as Scarlett, would pen a love letter to Ashley, and give it to me as a challenge. I’d try to out write her by following course. We would hand this booklet back and forth from day to day, each one allowed the evening after school to compose a new letter.

The notebook and whatever words we might have written are now long gone and forgotten, but nothing we wrote was vulgar or suggestive; neither of us understood the intimacies of love, the innuendo of scenes seen on the screen, nor even the emotional definition of words at the time. It was just a game of pretend.

This exchange went on until a week before our first day of  9th grade. That’s when Ann informed me her mother said she could no longer associate with me in any manner, anywhere, at any time.

“Can I have the notebook back?” I asked.

“My mom burned it.”

I assumed our friendship ended because her parents were wealthier than mine and members of the country club set, or because Ann always buttoned her blouses at the top and I didn’t, or because I was color coordinated, or they didn’t want her being a writer.

It never occurred to me that her mother interpreted the innocence of our words as perverse.

I would tell you that I was hurt by both it and the many years of meanness from other former classmates and several teachers that followed — but I wasn’t.

Because I didn’t know that Ann had been told I was queer, and I didn’t know Ann told all our mutual friends her mother said I was queer, and I didn’t know her mother told the parents of our mutual friends I was queer, and I didn’t know certain teachers were warned of the same.

In fact, I didn’t even know the word ‘queer’ meant anything other than unconventional and curious.

(I’ve always been both of those.)

Nevertheless, over time and looking back I came to wonder why one girl had written “queer” in two places in my 9th grade yearbook, and the word was scrawled as graffiti in large block letters taking up the full five feet of my hall locker in 11th grade.

It must have been disappointing that I never seemed fazed by the queer tag given me by that childhood clique of classmates and group of teachers. But how could they know, the primary reason I never accepted party invitations, or attended sports events, or showed up at school dances was because, by 14, I’d forged my folks names to a work permit so I could take a job from 4 to 9, five nights a week, and 9 to 9 on Saturdays.

All that hatred shot to hell on the target being oblivious.

Five years later, after never having had a crush, fling, or intimate relationship of any kind with anyone (male or female), I looked across a crowded room and fell in love with the woman looking back at me.

Fast forward to this morning.

Upon checking my emails, I found one from someone who’d attended my 50th high school reunion over the weekend, 1300 miles away. The celebration had come and gone (as did all other reunions before this one) without me.

The email was part apology and part confession for having heard of the brown book, and being complicit in the mocking, backstabbing and shunning, and remaining silent, even to the snide remarks made at the reunion of “have you heard” and “I told you so” from those who never knew squat.

Well, well, well.

Isn’t that something?

After all these years.

A cold (hearted) case, solved.

But here’s an epilogue, nonetheless:

Entire worlds exist of just two people in love.

I’ve now been wildly so for the same person who’s been wildly so for me these 44.4 years. Together we’ve had the most wonderful, exciting, diverse, productive, resourceful, creative, meaningful, successful, charmed and utterly joyful life. Even the adversities were more of a breeze than a burden and all are remembered as blessings in the scheme of things.

I would like to believe I got the life I deserved.

Maybe, they did, too.

#     #     #     #

This essay is copyright by Marguerite Quantaine © 2014.

P L E A S E   S H A R E

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