Food For Thought
By Jess_in_Time (as told to Ruth Stewart)
A modern teenage girl goes into the Wardrobe, meets Aslan, and learns an important lesson.
I could be pulling drinks at a *bucks and going to the Blues Fest. Instead, I'm stuck in Fordwich, Kent, UK for the whole summer cleaning out my Gran's closet. IKR?
The following was written for Venilia for the 2011 Narnia Fic Exchange. In the story, Jess-in-Time (Jessica) blogs about her adventures in the summer of 2011. This site does not permit the posting of the pictures and so for the full story, you'll need to check out Jess' Live Journal entries and the best way to find it is to either google it or follow the link from my Live Journal or profile.
I've also noticed that this site keeps stripping out punctuation for no apparent reason. It looks fine in doc manager and then strips it out as soon as I post. My apologies but this seems to defy correction.
Note: The use of modern slang, idiom, and texting and Internet terms is intentional.
Entry 1, June 20, 2011
Well, here I am, sitting at O'Hare airport, in the international terminal where they do not have free wireless, waiting for our (delayed) British Airways flight. Why, you ask, is Jessica sitting in the O'Hare International Airport (I'm using my dad's work's wireless stick) waiting for a delayed BA flight to Heathrow? Why am I here instead of sunning on the Oak Street Beach? Or hanging out at Woodfield? Or catching the Cubs at Wrigley?
Because instead of having a normal, wonderful, Chicago summer where I was going to learn to drive (finally) and pull drinks at the *bucks in Evanston, go for runs along the lakefront, watch the American women kick butt in the FIFA World Cup, go to Taste of Chicago and do all the other awesome things there are to do in this town, I am going to &!% Kent in &!%! England. To clean house.
I'd posted a few months ago that my great-grandmother had died. I didn't know her very well. I only met her once. She lived in England and she always seemed from the stories like a cool, but strange, lady. Really strange. The lawyers have finally settled the "estate (it's a three bedroom "cottage" not Camelot) and I'm going with my dad to clean out the house.
You will notice a name missing from my Friends' List. Naomi and I had a huge blow up last night. I'm not ready to talk about it, but we've done the 2011 equivalent of burning the bridge and the river underneath it. De-f'd from FB and LJ and blocked the Tweet and Tumblr feeds and yeah, it was bad. I won't call her names though who knows what she's calling me. We just disagreed. Big time. It was honest, if you know what I mean? Which makes it hurt even more, 'cuz I really don't see how we can get passed it or fix it.
Anyway now I'm really depressed besides being mad and sad, so signing off for now and we're boarding. Do you think they have deep dish pizza and bagels in England? Yeah, I don't think so, either. They must have string cheese and bananas? I hope it's not all deep fried organ meats that will give me mad cow disease. Hopefully, there'll be wi fi on the plane.
I really don't want to go especially having left things with Naomi with us yelling at one another and if there's no wireless at the picturesque, quaint English garden cottage, you're going to hear my screams from all the way across the Atlantic.
And the TSA lady totally felt me up. Gross.
Wi fi! YES! On the plane!
So here's more of the scoop on Gran. No wonder she was more than a few cards from a full deck. When she was about 21, her whole family died: mother, father, two brothers and her sister, plus her cousin, and a couple of friends in a big massive train wreck. From then (and this is before the days of Prozac Nation), she went on to do all sorts of things. Traveled, was a secretary in some government job, did lots of sports : ), became a minister (like a priest or rabbi, but not), did animal rescue, was a vegetarian, was a huge opponent of apartheid in South Africa, lived in the US for a while where she got arrested marching with Martin Luther King, married again after her first husband was shot in East Germany (you know, like before the Berlin Wall came down? you do know what the Berlin Wall was, don't you?), and was in politics in England and a member of Parliament for her local town, I guess. Parish? Borough? IDEK. So, not really what I was expecting. Oh, and did I say before? This is on my mom's side. But, mom's got a big case going up to the State Supreme Court (typical) and dad's off for the summer, so that's why I'm with him but cleaning up after her family. Also typical.
This connection is crap and the guy in front of me just reclined the seat into my lap, so I'm signing off for now.
Peace and love to my friends.
Entry 2, June 22, 2011
Fordwich, Population 350
OMG. We have arrived and there are not words. Population 350. It was 351 but then Great Grandma Susan died. Fordwich, City of Canterbury, Kent, UK, Ends of the Earth. I feel like that character in Wilder's Our Town. Good news, we rented a car and dad's OK with the stick shift and driving on the wrong side of the road. Bad news, there is no way I'm going to be able to learn to drive. You always want to go right and everything goes left.
And the house, excuse me, cottage. So small and covered with plants, and it's like the size of my closet at home. Tiny refrigerator, tiny stove, tiny oven, no dishwasher and I can't figure out where we do laundry. And no Diet Coke. No Target. No mall. No grocery story and I can't drive there anyway. So I'm seriously dependent on Dad, which is going to get really old.
To be fair, it's cute, in that old lady, flower sort of way. And it's PACKED with crap but the crap is all really organized (Gran Susan loved file labels) and a lot of it is interesting, so it's not like I've walked into a reality episode of the Hoarders.
But, so small. Running is going to be interesting since it's all country roads and lanes and cows and sheep and stone walls that have been here since the Romans. So if I get flattened by a Royal Mail truck, make sure Naomi knows I died, OK? Jk
Gran Su was quite the gardener. Loved trees and things so it's pretty and thank Gawd I don't have to weed it. We had to practically hack through trailing vines to get through the front door. There's some toothless Hungarian who comes twice a week to dig and stuff.
Oh and yeah, there is a lifeline in the form of a decent DSL or fiber optic or something, because there was a nice little set up here, Toshi laptop, printer/scanner, and secure wireless (ikr?) except Gran Su had the password in an old fashioned file card box thing under Password, Wireless. Not real secure but organized, which I'm getting the feeling is how Gran Su did things. I mean, population 351, right?
Wireless password pluMMerpolly1949. 1949 was when everyone died, Dad says. I don't know what a pluMMerpolly is.
OK, going to bed. I took some pics of the house and garden and you can see them on the Live Journal. It's all mossy trees, blue and purple flowers and green stuff poking through walls and rocks. As I said, pretty, very small house and sort of ... wild?
Entry 3, June 30, 2011
Your mission, should you chose to accept it.
OMG, you would not believe it.
There is this huge closet, on legs. Dad calls it a wardrobe, and it's like the size of a walk in closet in a big McMansion. It is filled with files. Hundreds and hundreds of file folders. I took a picture and you can see it on my LJ. And that's my summer vacation, to go through the whole thing, every single last file and make the call on save it, donate it, or toss it. (They call them rubbish bins and dust bins).
Gran Su wasn't a hoarder. It seems much worse than that. She was a secret (closet ! JK) librarian/archivist/historian and so everything is cataloged and organized and you'd feel like an absolute heel throwing anything away without looking at it. There are all these military medals, for instance, from World War 1 and World War 2, that must have belonged to her father, brother, or this other guy named Kirke.
Remember all those people who died in 1949? She got everything from all those people: her brothers, sister, parents, and others. And by everything, I do mean everything. Dad's taking care of the storage unit and he's enlisted some folks from a local historical society.
Me? I get the wardrobe. It's huge. It's cool in a huge, old fashioned way. There are animals on it and you'd swear they follow you around. Really. But it's not creepy. It's sort of nice, really, warm, like they care about you, which sounds completely crazy but isn't at all. Which is good since my tiny little bed is in the same room with the wardrobe.
And I figured out who pluMMerpolly1949 is, was! Whatever. Miss Polly Plummer was one of the people who died in 1949 along with Gran Su's family. Gran Su and her sister, Lucy, were very good friends with Polly. Polly was maybe 50 when she died in 1949? or 60? I haven't found an obituary or anything yet. I'm sure it's here. This means we have the lives of two old women to sort through, Gran Su and Polly, since Su got all her stuff!
So the files on the top shelf of the wardrobe are all Polly's and there are photos and documents and journals and notes and things. I opened up one of the photo files and some awesome pictures fell out of women all wearing big hats, and long skirts, and they have sashes on and they're carrying banners, just like in a BBC special or something. Except it's not Jane Austen.
It must be like right around World War I but before flappers and the Great Gatsby (I hate that book, I really do). The women are marching for the right to vote! And Miss Polly Plummer is marching with them, as a suffragist! IKR? Forget about driving. Women couldn't even vote!
Polly lived when women couldn't vote and so she was out there with the other women marching and carrying signs and maybe getting arrested.
Updated"Kirke" is Professor Digory Kirke and was Polly and Gran Su's friend. Dad says that Gran Su and sibs were evacuated to Digory's home when bombs were falling on London during WW2. It looks like Gran Su got a lot of his stuff too, according to Dad, but it's all in the storage unit so he gets to deal with it.
Entry 4, July 5, 2011
The Land Girls
Yours truly has struck solid chocolate, or gold, or iTunes forever refilling gift card, and streaming mega video with no buffering delays. Srsly.
In 1942 Susan and Lucy and their two brothers are evacuated from London because bombs are raining down on them. This is the real deal Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq thing. London is rubble and burning and I can't even imagine. Their father is in North Africa (probably around Libya maybe? Ironic much?) and their mother is working wiki says that 80-90% of women were working outside the home by the end of the War. So, the kids are sent to the country to be safe and stay in the house of Digory Kirke.
Now, at first I got a really skeevy vibe off it, yk? A bunch of kids going to the creepy old house of creepy old guy?
And then, something strange begins happening. What, Jessica asks? DANGER DANGER! Gran Su gets vague and writes about Lucy acting peculiar and telling lies and then Edmund, their younger brother (who sounds like an absolute jerk at first) gets involved. I got really worried that it was something creeptastic with Digory. BUT, phew, Gran Su writes:
As the Professor presented it to Peter and me, Lucy is mad, or lying, or telling the truth.
Lucy is not mad.
Lucy never lies.
Therefore, Lucy must be telling the truth!
So nothing skeevy. He's helping them and telling Gran Su and Peter so what if Lucy is strange? She's not crazy, she's not lying, so it has to be true, right? Don't you love that logic? It's their problem that they can't understand and believe her, and not that something is wrong with Lucy.
But what is going on? Following the same logic, I figured that if Digory was behind whatever it is that Lucy might be (but isn't) lying about, they wouldn't go to him, would they? Still, Gran Su doesn't say what it is and it must be pretty strange because the alternatives are that Lucy is crazy or lying.
And then Something happens. Something BIG.
I thought, again, maybe something really creeptastic with Digory, but that made me sad and from the journal, that's not it at all. Gran Su writes:
Since our return, the Professor has been wonderful. He understands as we never believed possible. Still, we all long for what once was, and feel a terrible cruelty as if we are being punished. The Professor assures us this is not true and I so wish to believe him. He has invited a friend to come and see us and she, too, understands as he does.
So they went somewhere and came back and that made them sad? IDK
The friend who comes to visit is Miss Polly Plummer. Actually, she's totally a Ms. so I'm just going to write her as Ms. Polly Plummer. She's the one who was the suffragist? I can see really easily where Gran Su got that awesome streak of being a pain in the ass to anyone determined to hand out badness and woe.
In one of the files with Polly's name on it, I found this green and yellow recruiting poster for THE WOMEN'S LAND ARMY. It's a woman, holding on to a horse and talking to an old guy with a pipe.
Now, think about it. During WW2, most of the men over age 18 were in the military in way or another. England is an island and they've got Nazis to the European coast and anything else imported is coming across the Atlantic and getting sunk. No Fiji apples from New Zealand or red grapes from Chile or bananas from Costa Rica or American wheat or corn. No chocolate! The English have to grow their own food or starve and all the men and farm workers are fighting in Africa and Asia. They recruit women 100,000 "Land Girls to work on farms and those women feed all of England.
The Land Girls get paid less than male farmhands, of course. Polly was in charge of 40 or so Land Girls at a hostel and worked herself. She organized the women into work parties and drove them around in a "lorry[that's Brit-speak for a truck] to local farms where they would plow fields, pick potatoes and beets, bring in the hay, milk cows, castrate pigs, shoe horses, and kill rats. (Yes, kill rats. The Land Girl would ride around on a bicycle with a can of arsenic!)
So, whatever it is that had Gran Su and Lucy so down, Polly picks them up in her car and they go off to hang with her and the Land Girls. There's a cute picture of a car in the file and it made me so jealous. It's 1942 and according to Wiki, women in the UK only got the vote in 1928. Ms. Plummer is motoring around the countryside in a car of her own and I can't do that yet!
Gran Su wrote:
Lucy and I were as exhausted as any day in N. Our fatigue was most welcome, the result of doing good work, with wonderful women, in service to our country, to feed our people, that we might prevail against tyranny. It was then not so very different from what we did every day in N. We lived in a place where even Kings and Queens counted potatoes to keep a nation fed, we were dirty and bloody to the elbows, and Lucy's feet were never clean.
Polly was so very right, and I am so grateful to her. This is work which we oversaw and at which we toiled in N., and it is no less important here. The two are so related, for the hardship of the War here trained us for the work to be done there and the work to be done there honed the skills we need here. Needs and the work to meet them exist everywhere and we are called to perform it.
We stayed with Polly and joined the Land Girls as they brought the hay in. I had forgotten how scratchy and dusty forage is for horses and cows! The girls were wonderful and we ate sandwiches with them and drank cold tea from canteens and the cheese and jam tasted as hearty as anything we had ever had in N. It was not as fine, to be sure, but the company was gay and we sang in the truck on the way home from the fields.
Sounds like the bus trip to a tournament, doesn't it?
Oh, and that bit about how they are as exhausted as any day in "N." I don't know what "N" is. It pops a lot during this time in Gran Su's notes and diary and it sounds as if they were sad about it and Ms. Polly Plummer and the Professor are trying to be positive and helpful. I suppose it might get irritating I know I get pissed when mom always says, when life gives you lemons, bake a pie. But, that's what I'm trying to do, since I am stuck here, and that's the sort of person it sounds like the Professor and Ms. Polly Plummer were.
Also, Gran Su wrote that a lot of people in the towns didn't trust the Land Girls. They were living on their own, they had gorgeous tans (no SPF 50 sunblock!), they were earning money, and in the winter they wore too many clothes and in the summer, too little. I love that last bit. The girls had these heavy brown pants and green sweaters (they call them britches and jumpers) and in the summer, the Land Girls turned them into shorts and halter tops. Hilarious. Scandalous. I love them all.
Though, it makes me sad, too. Why do women get so down on other women for being strong and working hard and running their own lives? Why isn't that a good thing? Why can't we support one another? Maybe the older women didn't like these fit, hard working women running around in halter tops with tans, but all the men are at war, so why does even that matter? And even that shouldn't matter, right? If Naomi were reading, she'd comment about the feminist thing here, but I think I'll go for a run instead and imagine that I'm waving at Land Girls out in the fields.
Gran Su finishes:
It is impossible to be bitter when I see the example of Polly and the Professor. Returning from N. was not the end, but rather is the beginning of a great calling.
So, Gran Su ended up adopting the life, lemons, and pies philosophy, too.
I found some pictures of the Land Girls in the file. You can see them on my LJ
The women are out driving horses and trucks, pitching hay and killing rats. These ladies were so cool.
Entry 5, July 7, 2011
Runs with cats
Running has been really hard. I swear these country lanes will kill me. You can't see anything coming at you from the walls and hedgerows. I got in about 90 minutes a day, the last few days, and I'm getting to know all the local wildlife, which is mostly cows.
There are a lot of orange cats in Fordwich though. Kinda weird, but whatever. I've seen big orange cats on my running path a couple times now or sitting on wall or in trees as I go by.
Entry 6, July 15, 2011
Camping and rationing (or life with no double skim lattes)
Sorry for the long delay in updates. I've been busy combing through things. I've realized that the Wardrobe is mostly stuff from before the 1949 crash. It's like Gran Su took everything from that time of her life, put it in folders with file labels, and shut the door on it. I guess that makes sense if that many people in your life all died at once.
I don't think Gran Su was bitter; no one ever says that about her and she went on and did so many things, mostly being, as I'd mentioned, the pain in the ass to those who were determined to inflict badness and woe on others. I mean, a bitter person doesn't spend years trying to get the women's modern pentathlon in the Olympic Games? Or becomes a deaconess in her church, but keeps complaining about the fact that she can't be a priest Gran was what they call COE, Church of England or Anglican which is Episcopalian in the States. We're a few miles from Canterbury Cathedral where Thomas Becket was martyred (Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine and that oh god so boring play by T.S. Eliot we read in World Lit? We saw the movie, too). Gran Su was part of a delegation of international election observers in Eastern Europe in the early 90s and Dad showed me one of her reports from villages in Romania where she's complaining that all these men are voting for their wives.
Besides being in the US with Gramps in the 1960s causing trouble and getting arrested in the civil rights movements, Gran Su was in the States during the War, too. The War part all sounds really "dodgy" as they say here. Dad says that the timing is pretty strange and there must have been a reason why Gran Su's father wasn't fighting so he was probably doing diplomatic work.
I found this really nice file about Gran Su and Lucy going camping with Polly, and with another girl, Jill. Jill died in 1949, too, in the train crash. (SO SAD, OMG!) In the camping file, there are lots of notes about campsites, ordnance surveys, and packing lists. They went a lot, especially in the summers in 1943 1948. It's like the Land Girls, but just them.
I don't like camping. There are no double skim lattes, the bathrooms are gross if you even have them, it's too hot or it rains, there are no double skim lattes, the people in the next campsite are always bitching that you are too loud at night and they can never keep their kids quiet at Oh God Too Early in the morning. Plus, no double skim lattes.
Camping is hard enough when all you are planning on doing is eating smores, and maybe boiling water for pasta with a squeeze tube of tomato sauce. You go to the Whole Foods grocery store on your way out of town and toss it all in the cooler. Or, think about all those bottles of water, bags of orange slices, cheese sticks (string cheese FTW!), and whole wheat crackers after soccer (they call it football here) games? Mom packs it all in Ziploc bags, you put it in the big Blue IGLOO and you roll it on to the sidelines. Done.
But in the 1940s, Polly, Lu and Su, are going camping without string cheese, polar fleece and dark chocolate M&Ms they picked up at a Walmart (or Tesco, which is here in England). During the War, food is rationed in the UK. You have to stand in line (they call it queuing) for everything, and you have to go to different stores for what you want the grocer, the butcher, the fishmonger and the rationing lasted for years after the War, into the 1950s! I can't even imagine. I hate standing in line even at *bucks for my double skim latte.
I found a rationing list and you hardly got anything! Like, one egg a week and only 2 ounces of cheese IKR? 2 ounces of cheese! I eat more than that a day.
On their camping packing lists, the girls listed bread, SPAM, cheese, and beetroot to make sandwiches. (Polly got really tired of beetroot I think she ate it a lot with the Land Girls). I don't even know what beetroot is. SPAM. Can you imagine? SPAM. Does anyone even know what is in SPAM? We've all heard of it isn't there a Monty Python song about it? But, have you ever seen it? I think it's something you go right by in the supermarket on the way to canned white tuna packed in spring water. If SPAM was on the camping menu and I had to stand in line to get it, I just wouldn't have bothered.
Everyone had gardens during the War and carrots were used in everything to replace rationed sugar and because there wasn't any fruit. It's like all those "Make it Healthy" recipes you see now, where you substitute applesauce for the butter and sugar. And, if you did have any kitchen scraps, they went in a bucket for pigs!
And, speaking of carrots. I don't know if it was Polly's, or Gran Su's, or Gran Su's mother, but I found a War recipe for "Mock" Apricot Tarts. It is "mock" not because you're mocking it but because it's fake there aren't any apricots, there's no fruit at all and hardly any sugar or butter. So they make a tart with 1 pound of young carrots and a few teaspoons of plum jam. 1 pound of carrots? In a pie? And not even carrot cake with nuts and raisins and cream cheese frosting? I mean I like carrots fine but who are we kidding, carrots are not going to be the same as blueberries in a pie.
NOM NOM NOM. The instructions on the recipe are wild it says to use 2 more teaspoons of jam "if it can be spared." 2 teaspoons of jam isn't enough for my pumpernickel bagel with lite cream cheese (bagels I MISS YOU).
So, back to camping. I've scanned some of the pictures in from the file and they are on my Live Journal. I don't know who is who, or even if any of them are Gran Su, Jill, Polly, or Lucy. These are pictures of girls and women out hiking and camping with their beetroot and SPAM sandwiches and tent and without TEVA sandals, moisture wicking fabrics, and ergonomic packs. They join up with the Girl Guides sometimes, which is like the English Girl Scouts.
These girls and women look like they are having so much fun, it's almost enough to make me reconsider camping. Naomi likes camping a lot and maybe… whoa, stop right there girlfriend.
They couldn't travel anywhere during the War. You see lots of war posters about how you aren't supposed to drive or take the trains or much of anything a real new meaning to a "stay-cation," but this went on for years. Camping would be about the only fun thing you could do (we're back to life giving you lemons, so you make pie. Or lemon bars. Or Italian ice).
These girls did like being outside, which has surprised me. I thought girls in 1944 would only be interested in sewing and cooking and having babies, and not out bringing in hay with Land Girls and adventuring in the countryside with a canvas tent.
Gran Su writes that they told lots of stories around their campfires at night. Jill told one that she had not heard before and so she wrote it down.
There once was a beautiful woman, a daughter of a Star. She had spent her whole life, for years uncounted, living with her father on a deserted island and tending a table for travelers. One day, a journeying King sails to the island from a distant land. The King sees the Star's Daughter, falls in love with her beauty and wants her to leave her father, her island, and the travelers' table, and come back with him to his Kingdom to be his Queen.
Now, I got to this point and I almost stopped reading, too. Strike one, a girl lives with her father her whole life. Strike two, she's the one stuck waiting on tables, (and you can bet those travelers are all men). Strike three, a King falls in love with her just because she's beautiful. Ugh. Just no.
But, the story doesn't stop there!
She tells the King that she does not love him, yet, and he cannot love her yet, either, not truly. He sees only her beauty and he must come to know her before he should marry her. Yet, how can he know who she is when she knows not herself? She admits she might come to love him, but she must first live in the world. She must ride the waves, see the mountains, meet all the people of the Known Lands, travel to the gardens of the gods, and find the place where the fire berries grow.
The King see her wisdom and invites her to come, anyway. Even if they never marry, he understands what it is to have a wandering spirit and why she would wish to see the world as he has and so come to know herself.
The Star's Daughter tells her father she loves him, but she is leaving to see the world beyond the island and the travelers' table. She chooses a name for herself, Dawn, after the name of the King's ship and because it is the beginning of her new life, and she and the King sail away. When they arrive in his lands, Dawn leaves the King with his blessing.
Dawn travels the wide world, for many years, even to the garden of the gods where the fire berries grow. When she returns, she knows who she is, but now the King must learn if he loves the woman she has become. The King is a great adventurer, too, a seafarer, and so, when Dawn asks, he goes with her and they travel together. They see deserts and waterfalls and mountains so high, the snow never melts. In this shared love of adventure, distant lands, and the people who dwell there, the King and Dawn come to love each other. When they return to the King's own land, they marry, for they have learned of their hearts and of the world and they wish to share both with each other.
Dawn becomes a leader to their people. She was a Star's Daughter and now a great and wise traveler and so she is a healer, a gardener, a teacher and a builder. She journeys from one end of the Kingdom to the other, serving their people, treating them, teaching them to read, write, build, and feed themselves. Fifteen years pass, and then she and the King finally have a child, a son.
I want to write that they live happily ever after. They don't and there is badness and woe. She is attacked and killed by a creature of the Underworld and their son is taken hostage. Their son is rescued by a boy, a girl, and a frog (frog, I know, so random she actually calls it a "Wiggle" but it's obviously a big, talking frog). The son returns in time to say good-bye to his father, who then dies.
The King dies, but before he rejoins Dawn in the land beyond the wall of water and lilies, he is granted one final journey. He glimpses a far, far away city, so far, you cannot travel there by ship, or train, or airplane. With this glimpse, his wandering spirit is sated at last and he goes with glad and joyous heart to his wife.
It's a nice image, isn't it? Lucy, Susan, Jill, and Polly sitting around a campfire, sharing a mock apricot tart, telling a story of a Star who chooses her name, and finds her purpose, her life, and finally her love?
After posting this I went for a run. There a lot of cats in this town the color of marmalade (that's English orange jam), carrots, and apricots, or there is one cat and she runs faster than I do.
Entry 7, July 15, 2011
I'm a Title IX girl
Mom says I'm a Title IX girl. I played with Barbies, and I liked some of the Princesses for a while, sure, though I always liked stuffed animals more. Then I started co-rec soccer and basketball and softball, so, yeah, basic girl jock. I like my white and gold vanity at home that's filled with shiny lip gloss and pretty polish (HOME, CHICAGO I LOVE YOU; EXCEPT YOU CUBS! I'M LOOKING AT YOU PATHETIC EXCUSES FOR A BASEBALL TEAM!). I like having pink toenails and I do have big flowers and pink, purple, and yellow on lots of stuff. But my vanity (and chair and bed and floor) are usually buried under a pile of sports bras, head bands, and sweaty socks.
As I posted before, I'd figured that girls in the 40s were all about babies and sewing. WRONG. See that, Naomi, I can admit I'm wrong? Oh wait, N/M.
Besides the camping and the Land Girls, Polly, Lu, Su, and Jill did sports. Really! Gran Su was serious about the modern women's pentathlon –shooting, fencing, 200 m freestyle swim, horseback riding, and a 3k run. She'd been good at archery, riding, and swimming, and then picked up shooting from Polly and fencing from her brothers.
There are some pics I uploaded to my LJ so you can see all these women out doing stuff like archery and golf, OMG, GOLF, and the shooting? The swimming? There's a huge file of this stuff, with ribbons, awards, and certificates and how, FOR MONTHS AND MONTHS, Polly, Lu and Su took Jill out to teach her how to shoot arrows.
The very best are these really old pictures of girls playing basketball. It's some team Polly played on. I warn you, Do Not Mock Girls' Basketball! Do Not Mock Girls' Basketball! Well you can mock the Ref, because she's dressed like Mary Poppins, she's the ref, calls too many fouls on Polly, and she's the ref.
Really, can you imagine doing sports in dresses? DRESSES? IKR? Before you had spandex and lycra and sports bras and ponytail holders. Can you imagine using a head scarf to keep your hair back on the court? I've never been so glad for compression running shorts in my life.
The pics are all in my LJ so go take a look and don't you dare mock the girls' basketball team.
I was so inspired, I went for a long run and I thought it might be because in my last post I was going on about jam and apricots, and so was thinking about orange cats. But nope. That cat is everywhere. I think I might be dreaming about it, too, which is probably because I'm sleeping in the room with the wardrobe and it's got a big lion on the door.
Entry 8, July 20, 2011
The Olympic Games
Polly, Lu, Su and Jill went to the 1948 Olympic Games! In London! I have so much love for them.
The Olympics were in 1948, right after the War. There's still rationing in England and stuff. So these were called the Austerity Olympics. The teams brought their own food and towels! China brought bamboo shoots and green tea, Hungary sent paprika and 20,000 lemons. The Mexicans brought liver and tripe (I bet the English loved that, oh God the organ meats are disgusting). The Americans brought 15,000 chocolate bars and 5,000 steaks.
An Indian restaurant cooked for India who had just gotten its independence from England and ended up winning men's field hockey for the first gold for India as a country!
The men's British gymnastic team practiced outdoors, in Hyde Park, in London. Isn't it hilarious? No state of the art training facilities here. But, totally cool, too.
The girls' hero was Fanny Bankers-Koen, the Flying Housewife, from Holland. She was 30 years old, had two kids, and won 4 gold medals in track and field. Lu and Su got her autograph and everything and it's here with all the maps and programs and information about how to take the London Underground to get to venues. I posted pictures and vid in my Live Journal. I just can't believe I hadn't heard of Bankers-Koen before. What she accomplished really meant a lot to Gran Su, Lu, Polly, and Jill. It means a lot to me. I mean, you hear such crap about why anyone bothers with the Women's World Cup (they weren't even on the cover SI for their win against Brazil! I'm so pissed) and you see athletes like Bankers-Koen and we've come so far but also haven't gone far at all.
Entry 9, July 30, 2011
Yes we have no bananas
On December 30, 1945, a boat of bananas landed in England on the SS Tilapa in Bristol. Polly took Jill to meet the boat and Jill wrote to Polly about it later.
Thank you so much for the journey to Bristol to see the Tilapa dock. I fear I was not very good company but I wanted you to know how very, very grateful I am. I have not seen a banana since leaving Jamaica. I barely remembered them, though my mum assures me they were one of my favorite foods when I was very young. In finally taking that one bite, it was as if all the happy memories of that time when I was little girl in the Islands returned in a gay, joyful rush. I am sorry I burst into tears, but I really could not help it. It was all too wonderfully overwhelming.
Thank you for understanding how much this meant to me and being so kind to let me rejoice and grieve both.
Yours very truly,
The letter got all blotched because I think Jill cried on it. Rationing didn't end in England until 1954 and lots of food stopped coming in about 1940. Kids grew up without ever even seeing a banana. I can't go more than a few days without a banana and my string cheese NOM NOM NOM. They went years.
Jill cried over a banana. I used to cry about the seeds in the jam and the bread and when I thought my 'nana was too mushy. It's just not the same at all, YK?
There are pictures of people "queuing(lining up) for bananas. It's like the crush to get $79 DVRs at Walmart the day after Thanksgiving. Except totally not the same thing AT ALL. Like the seeds in my PB&J. There's a picture of this cute little girl holding a banana and it's the first one she's ever had. I wonder how long she had to wait before she got another one?
I put the pictures in my Live Journal.
Entry 10, August 8, 2011
Dad warned me it was coming. I've really gotten to care about these people in all the pictures and files. All of them: Gran Su, Lu, Polly, Jill, and Gran Su's brothers, Peter and Edmund, her cousin, Eustace, and Gran Su's mother and father, and Digory Kirke. I got to the unlabeled file folder on the bottom shelf at the very end, and I knew that one was the one. Everything else had labels, YK? How can you put a label on the day the nine people you loved the most died?
Dad even told me that if I wanted, he would go through it instead. I went for a run, thought about it and, since I missed Lonnie Brooks Day in Chicago on June 12, I got me some Bayou Lightning. I slept on it and I swear the big orange cat was in the room. I decided it's a he, not a she, because he's so big. I thought he was sleeping next to me on the bed and I felt that big, warm lump at the back of my legs and was pretty sure I petted him, and there was lots of purring, but in the morning, no cat, obviously.
I went for another run, chased the cat up and down one of the paths I use, came back, showered, and was ready. Or, as ready as I'd ever be.
Most of it was fine. It was all technical, detail stuff, like receipts and payments to the churches, and instructions on music at the funerals. There were drafts of the death notices, since Gran Su had to write most of them. I opened up one envelope and closed it right up again. It had the actual obituaries, news clippings of the crash, and the funeral programs. I emailed Mom and she asked that I just bring the whole thing home. She wants to go through it first and I'll do it with her, which would be nice. I've really started to miss her.
I thought, OK, Jess, you're almost done. This is cool. I can do this. I'm fine.
Then, it all blew up and it's really not fine. The last thing in the file is a page from Gran Su's journal. I've seen these all summer. She didn't save the whole journal, or maybe she did, but not here. She cut out the pages of her journal and put them in the file where she thought they belonged, so that's why the story of Dawn, the Star's Daughter, and the Seafaring King is in the camping file. K?
I don't think Mom and Dad know this. Gran Su had a huge fight with her brother, Peter, and the rest of them all got involved. It was really, really ugly and then they all died, and so she was never able to make up.
There is a train ticket in the file. It's for one of the trains that crashed. Gran Su was going to go with them, and changed her mind. She decided that whatever was putting them all on those trains at the same time was wrong and she wasn't going to do it, and she tried keep them from doing whatever it was they were going to do. I wish I knew what it was, but she doesn't say. Whatever it is, it sounds like it led to a really bad fight. Really, really bad.
I don't know what to think. Who was right? Why did they fight? Here's what she wrote:
Peter did not understand and, ultimately, Edmund and Lucy supported him. Where Peter would lead, the others must, by necessity, follow.
I do not want to think that He punished them for their lack of faith. That Lucy reluctantly agreed with Peter's decision makes that impossible. He would not call Lucy home and not have her by His side.
I do feel though that they will be called to account Peter, for his decision, and that the others followed him. They challenged Him and tempted fate, trying to take into their own hands and on to their own fingers what they knew was barred to them. It was wrong and I still do not understand how they could have so doubted His power. He had acted before where there was need, He would act again, and only faith and patience were required. Peter had faith; it was patience that he lacked. Peter always felt tremendous guilt for failing to prevent the collapse, fall, and chaos the first time; he could not sit by and let it happen again. His admirable and regrettable sense of responsibility extended even to what was beyond his power to affect.
His charge to us was to live in this world, to learn of Him here, and to use well what He had taught us. I would not tolerate criticism for doing as He commanded, then, or now. To have had my family and friends ripped from my life now makes me wonder, in moments of loneliness, if I was wrong, and they were right. Was I somehow to be punished for doing what I heard Him tell me to do?
I do not believe it. I cannot believe it so, for He is love, not punishment, and His love is with me, even through this sore trial.
My great regret is not that I did not board the train with them all. I do not choose death now with hindsight. I regret deeply and forever that my last words to them were harsh and their words to me, equally harsh. I regret that Peter was unyielding, I stubborn, Jill and Eustace hurt, and Polly disappointed. We disagreed, profoundly, but it should not have been bitter. Reasonable adults may disagree without it spiraling to angry recrimination. A modicum of respect, on both sides, for each person's intelligence and conviction would have allowed us to part on good terms. We did not have to understand one another, only be understanding of one another and respectful of our fundamental disagreement to which there really could not have been a single right answer.
We all heard His same words, but came away with different meanings. There was room for alternative interpretations that still were true to His charge.
I will always keep the train ticket as a reminder. Never say farewell in anger, for it may be the last words you ever exchange on this side of His Country.
So, yeah. She buried 9 people, wrote this, put it in the folder, put it in the wardrobe, shut the door, and went on to do some pretty cool things. She's buried with Gramps at the church she was the deaconess of. Her first husband is buried somewhere in (formerly East) Berlin, Dad says. I'm going to run over to the graveyard tomorrow. We leave on Saturday and I want to say good bye before we head to Heathrow. The house has sold and Dad's taking care of the furniture and stuff. Turns out Gran Su left money for the wardrobe so that it stays in the family. It's going to cost and take 6 months but the thing is coming to the States. The family is still trying to decide who gets it/has to take it but most of us are all in the States so it's going there.
Next time you hear from me will probably be when I'm back in Chicago, so let's head out for some deep dish and hit one of the Grant Park concerts, yeah?
I ran to the graveyard today. I'm not surprised anymore. I looked for him and saw the cat and he led me right to Gran Su's gravestone. He let me pet him this time. I said good bye to Gran Su and told her I wouldn't get on an airplane mad at anyone ever again and that I bet everyone was really proud of all the awesome things she'd done and that I hope she told them all about it when she saw them again in His Country, wherever that is. Then, I ran home.
Entry 11, Private, for Naomi only, August 12, 2011
Never Say Good Bye When You're Mad
Dad and are flying back to Chicago tomorrow. I promised my Great Grandma Susan that I would never get on a plane mad at someone, so that's why I'm writing.
I'm sorry that we fought and I missed you a lot this summer. Lots and lots of times, as I went through my Gran's things, I saw stuff that made me think about you. I wanted to know what you would have thought of what I'd found. I missed my running partner. There were cats and cows but that's not the same, yk? I'd really like to show you things from Gran Su's life and what she did when she was our age with her sister and her friends.
The thing is, though, you really did hurt me. You got that serious look and sort of rolled your eyes and said, "I just don't understand how anyone could think that." And when you said it, it sounded like you thought I was stupid, ignorant, or sorta evil. I'm not any of those things, and we both know it.
We didn't have to agree. We won't agree on everything. But, can we at least respect the fact that we both are good people who think hard about stuff and sometimes we might think about stuff differently? It's not all going to be clear and black and white all the time. We don't like all the same things I just can't get into Hunger Games and you really don't like bananas. But, those little things aren't as big as the many things we do share, like sports, cats, the Cubs (I know, they Suck), music, and that we know what the other one is thinking without even saying it. Can we just, you know, agree to disagree and still respect each other? I think I'd like to try camping with you, even.
So, I hope we can work this out. I really want to.
PS My Gran Su has all this email with some people at the BBC about Doctor Who, and I know you were starting to get into that this year. There's also email about Sarah Jane? She really liked Sarah Jane is she an actress? Or is that the show? I figured you would know. Anyway, Gran Su had lots of opinions on what they got wrong and right, and about stuff that's bigger on the inside than the outside, and how much she liked TV that showed girls doing stuff when they were young and then going on to do other, important stuff when they got older. "No matter how remarkable a girl's adventures are, her life does not end at age 18, and I applaud you for building entertainment with so positive a message." IKR? I think we might both like it a lot. She also hated that show Merlin, just like you do, and her emails about it are hilarious. She loved Burton's Alice in Wonderland, girls with swords, and believing impossible things before breakfast and how many times did we see that movie? 4? 7? I think you'd like reading all this. I loaded the emails on to a thumb drive and I'd like to share them with you.
Jessica's full adventures, including pictures, are at http jess-in-time. livejournal 737. html
Thanks to Snacky for the beta!