"I am 3/4ths Canadian, and one 4th New Englander - I had ancestors on both sides in the Revolutionary war." - Elizabeth Bishop

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Letters to Aunt Grace, Part 36: Grandchildren and Greyhounds

The 9 April 1958 letter was written shortly after Easter, which fell on 29 March that year. As always, Bishop updated Grace on “the ‘grandchildren’,” who were were “still staying down the road.” Having them nearby gave Bishop the incentive to host “their first party and the first time they’d ever hunted for anything” — that is, an Easter egg hunt. Bishop “hid a hundred little eggs around the yard and terrance” and let them go to it. Even the two-year old, “filled his little basket and shrieked with excitement.”
The youngest of this little tribe was Lotinha, who turned “four ½ months” and to Bishop was “one of the prettiest babys [sic] I’ve ever seen, without exaggeration.” So adorable was this infant (“pink … tanned with red cheeks … and dark eyes and lots of fine dark hair”) that “on Sunday everyone took turns carrying her around, even our men guests.”

Once again, Bishop tells Grace that Lota was “very proud of all her ‘offspring’,” and happy to be a “doting grandma.” Bishop wasn’t sure how well they’d do in life, but she reported as proudly as Lota might have that these little people were “good and polite and healthy.”

The other subject on Bishop’s mind was the gift of her translation, The Diary of ‘Helena Morley’. Grace had finally written to Bishop about this book, though clearly not to the extent that Bishop hoped: “I was hoping you’d go into detail.” She wanted to know if Grace thought it was “funny”: “didn’t a lot of it remind you of G V?” and she listed a few things she thought would resonate for her aunt: “the false pregnancy,” “the town’s a regular asylum,” “because her dress was with ‘they may even thinks I have two,” “and so on.”

Bishop had also heard from Aunt Mary, to whom she’d also sent a copy. “she, too, just said it was ‘interesting’.” By that, I suppose, one can assume that Grace herself offered such a succinct review!

Bishop had spent a great deal of time on this translation. She was so excited about it, believed it offered and respresented something deeply authentic, that she confessed to her aunt, “I yearn for flattery, I guess.” She noted that it was getting “wonderful reviews everywhere,” and was disappointed that her aunts didn’t share her enthusiasm.

Letting go of translation and grandchildren, Bishop returned to the weather that Grace had experienced during her Florida sojourn, “such a cold winter.” Grace must have given her more particulars about this trip because Bishop noted, “I went to the dog races once, too,” and wondered if Grace “got to Hialeah — race track?” Bishop had been there once and declared it “one of the prettiest race tracks in the world.” Bishop remembered the “flamingos” and “a lagoon.” Bishop didn’t think very highly of Miami, “a pretty horrible city,” except for “some of the old parts, like Coconut grove,” which she thought were still “very nice.”

Greyhound dog racing has actually entered into my consciousness. There are a number of people in Middleton, where I live, who have adopted greyhounds retired from racing. One of the most recent arrivals of these Florida canines is Monty, who has become the office dog for the company where my sister works. Monty arrived during a severe cold snap, so he got some cosy pajamas.
 (Monty in his warm Canadian pjs and his new "mom")
Bishop concluded her letter with the most immediate of her updates: “It’s time for lunch.” She told Grace that lunch consisted of “garbanzos” and “left-over Easter ham.” She wondered if Grace had eaten garbanzos in Florida, noting “the Cubans eat them a lot,” and again wistfully writing, “Wish you were here!” She sent her love to “Phyllis and Ernie” and gave one final plea for her aunt to write more about her trip and to tell her niece “how you are.”

Next offering will show how space-time is a real force in transcontinental communication.

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