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

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Letters to Aunt Grace, Part 78: 1960 winds down

Bishop’s last letter of 1960 to her aunt was soon done and ready to mail. The final matters were a mélange of quick updates and observations, indicative of her haste and a desire to get her words and a gift to Grace before the holidays.

Bishop reported that she had seen Elizabeth Naudin “a week before” they had gone to Cabo Frio (but since that was just after her 30 October letter, it was old news — though not to Grace). Bishop had gone to Rio for a couple of days and had made contact in person because “she has no phone now” and “Ray was away for three weeks.” She supposed he was “back about now.” She was planning to “call him at Otis,”* but was stymied because “our telephone was struck by lightning — again — Saturday!” After it was repaired, she would try to reach him. She noted that “we have been having terrible and spectacular storms.”**
Once again she brought up the maple syrup, which she called “marvellous,” and confirmed she “used currents twice.” She was concerned about the syrup, “afraid of its spoiling” because “it is damp here.” She asked Grace how to store it: “bottling all I could very tightly, and perhaps keeping it in the refrigerator?” She told her aunt that at one point “it did pop a bit when I opened it, and I was afraid it had fermented, but it hadn’t.” She had decided to keep “the cover off — in my driest cupboard.” Not at all sure her strategy was right and not wanting to lose any of the treasure, she pleaded, “please tell me what you do.”

Since “‘Leontina’ our ugly maid, poor thing, has come to call me to lunch,” Bishop hastily concluded “with much love” and hoped she would “find a letter from you at the P.O.”

This brief epistle didn’t get in its envelope until after lunch because at the bottom of the page yet more nearly indecipherable scribble apologizing for a stain on the page: “I turned the page over to go down to lunch & I see I have put it in a puddle — of Coca Cola, I think!” Perhaps this “mess” happened because the maid had been “giggling over my shoulder watching me type —!” as she was summoned to lunch.

Thus ended 1960, with a stain on the page, a rather Bishopesque turn: an “untidy activity.”

The next post will commence 1961.

*Note: Ray Naudin worked for the Otis Elevator Company his whole career. Otis was founded by Elisha Graves Otis in the 1850s. It still operates.
(The founder in question.)
**Note: Bishop saw many spectacular lightning storms in Brazil. She even was indirectly hit by lightning once. Lightning images can be found in her poems and stories.

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