#14: Summer Penpals
In which yours truly asked, and now answers, questions from two friends!
Last week, Mark (How About This) suggested that Alison (Subject Headings) and I each create five questions to ask the others. I would answer Mark and Alison’s questions on my blog, and so on. It sounded like fun, and I was curious what questions would be asked.
Read Mark’s answers here:
Read Alison’s answers here:
And while you’re reading their responses, check out more of their blogs and subscribe. Well-written, thoughtful stuff. For your consideration, this post by Mark on focus, and this one by Alison on family ties through food.
Thanks Mark for the fun suggestion!
Ten Questions with Alison and Mark
What is the first book you remember reading? (AB)
At first, I was trying to think of chapter books. I’m fairly certain that would have been in grade 2, with the book Ramona Forever. This response is also a time capsule in miniature, because reading either Beverly Cleary or Judy Blume distinctly marks me as a kid growing up in the 1980s.
This answer didn’t feel 100% correct, though, and it was then I remembered the shelf of kid-friendly encyclopedias my parents got us. In particular, I loved the Snoopy ‘Cyclopedias series published by Funk and Wagnells in 1980, and I read the one on the human body a number of times. Science fascinated me even then. And although I wouldn’t have known all the words at that age, I loved pouring over the illustrations and facts.
Do you find writing easy or difficult? Why? (MD)
I find it challenging but enjoyable. I love the puzzle of figuring out how to present the information, in a particular order with the right tone and words. And I’ve learned over time that the work seems to come easiest for me in the early mornings or later in the evening, so I try to work my schedule to do any writing during those times.
Do you have an unfinished writing project? Or an unstarted one? What is it, and what do you think your barriers are to working on it? (AB)
I’ve always considered the idea of writing a book, and would dabble with poetry or fiction ideas at times. So there are the beginnings of something lying about. Lately, I’ve thought about a book that compares and contrasts my two grandfathers. Even if I never publish it, it would be a good document to have.
Both of my grandfathers died when I was 10. The one who died in March 1991, my maternal grandfather, was in my life a fair amount; he was Poppin’s first husband. We spent summer weeks and March breaks with them, they would visit for suppers, and would babysit us when they lived in town. He was an Anglican minister, and it seemed to me that there was a certain reverence about him because of that.
The grandfather who died in September 1991 - my dad’s dad - is not someone I remember well, although I have a clear early memory of visiting him at his home in Central Greenwich on a sunny Sunday afternoon, when I was about 4. He came to our house maybe 1-2 times since then; he taught me to play cribbage. He seemed nice, albeit rough around the edges, and quiet. He drank a lot, and sadly it was always that aspect of his behaviour shared the most in family lore over the years (and not in a kind way).
With all that said, it was during the summer/fall 2020 when I skipped the sourdough bread making rituals of the pandemic and went into genealogy research instead. In particular, my dad knew little of his family’s origins, as his dad spoke little of it, so I thought it would be a good project.
What I’ve since learned has opened my eyes immensely.
My dad’s dad - Doug Sr. - dealt with some serious trauma that undoubtedly led to his alcoholism. And when my sister did the Ancestry DNA, it appears to support the hypothesis that there’s a relative on his side that was brought to Nova Scotia in the slave trade.
But we suspected both of these facts, so it wasn’t this part that was surprising. It was the work my other grandfather, Bob, did. Because while I knew he worked with First Nations, I - like most white people in Canada - had my head up my posterior regarding what that actually meant for an Anglican minister in the 1950s.
Suddenly, all these random photographs, well-worn Cree grammar books, a copy of the Indian Act, started to make more sense. He did a few “missions”, then appears to abruptly stop and return to southern Ontario, where he met my grandmother.
In terms of barriers, it’s primarily two. One, making time for the research. Being largely computer-based, especially in the summer months, I’m loathe to spend significant time in front of a screen. Two, church/state: I’ve bugged the Anglican Church for records, but there’s only so much weight a granddaughter can throw around. And getting service records from Veterans Affairs is impossible (two years waiting and counting).
I will keep on it, though. It’s been a fascinating puzzle to unravel.
Pen and paper or digital? (MD)
My immediate response was analog - pen and paper. I like reading paper versus online, and there’s something about a pad of paper and ink; you can feel the possibility in your hands, and directly in front of you. When I get rolling, though, there can be a point when I can’t write as fast as the ideas are flowing, or as fast as I can type, so I’ll switch to digital.
You’re in a magical coffee shop with all of the possible drinks you could order available to you. What do you order, and why? (AB)
This is the hardest question of the ten questions posed.
It is very dependent on mood, season, amount of sleep I had the night before. Preference for flavouring and temperature changes with all these (although I am not a big fan of the pumpkin spice everything) with the big brewers; if it’s a local roaster, I’ll usually try whatever dark roast they have on tap.
With all that said, in this impossible scenario, I’ll go with a coffee with caramel flavouring, almond milk, and some foam and caramel on top, with enough coffee in it that it tastes like coffee, not sugar.
What does the saying “touch grass” mean to you? (AB)
Reconnect with a plane of reality, please and thank you, and understand that there are bigger issues than those swirling around only in your head.
Related to this, we can forget the value of literally touching grass…or hugging a tree…or sitting by a body of water. It’s so easy to get swept into biases and false narratives by viewing and interpreting slivers of reality presented and co-created online, and it’s important to regain perspective and balance.
What’s the 1 thing you would do to “fix” Twitter? (MD)
I would find a long stretch of pavement, then drive the deLorean I hotwired to travel back in time to whenever they stopped showing chronological timelines. I want to see content in the order it happens, and I feel that I miss a lot because the algorithm prefers to show more content from those accounts you engage with more frequently.
Pretend you wake up one morning and the Internet has been destroyed. What’s the first thing that you do? (MD)
Assuming we’ve all survived whatever apocalyptic events took down endless cat videos and hot takes, I’d probably go outside and touch grass.
What new thing has you most interested or excited lately? (MD)
I’ve dabbled with painting on and off, and for my last birthday, I got a tote of art supplies that included some paint supplies. When my grandmother died in May, I needed to do something to zone out and process the feels. With the weather at the time, there wasn’t much gardening one could do. So I grabbed the old acrylic paints I had and these supplies, and I’ve been keeping it up since. Even went to the art store in Fredericton, Endeavours, and got paper and an acrylic extender (additive for paints, so the paint stays wet for longer periods).
What are you looking forward to this summer? (AB)
Stretches of sand and forest.
Seeing people after a long absence.
Staring into endless blue skies, and watching the tiny circular leaves at the tops of trees flutter in the summer breeze.
Smells of sunscreen and charcoal.