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

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Letters to Aunt Grace, Part 89: Jet-pilots and Superman

The final paragraph of Bishop’s letter of 12 August 1961 began with one more complaint about the postal service (something that resonates quite strongly here right now with the dispute between Canada Post and CUPW, its union). She noted to her aunt that “the mails are AWFUL — getting worse all the time.” She reported that “50,000 letter[s] were found hidden in an abandoned house in Rio —  & more on a garbage dump.” Well, things aren’t that bad in Canada!! But the backlog of packages from the surge of online shopping ahead of Christmas is causing great headaches and frustrations on all sides.

Remember that Bishop had made a carbon copy of the letter she was writing, and was intending to send them both. She wrote: “I’ll put the check in this one,” and if Grace got “the copy only, I’ll send another check.” Even the insurance was not much of a guarantee.

Bishop then passed on Lota’s “love and sympathy” and reported that “she is off to Petrópolis … to pay the bills.” Then another update on Elizabeth Naudin, whom Bishop had not seen “for ten days or so,” but she would see her “next week.” Bishop then asked: “Do you know when Mary is coming?” and urged Grace not to “go to Montreal [where Mary lived] unless you really feel up to it.” Grace had mentioned something about Miriam, prompting Bishop to ask for clarification (“What’s the matter…?”). And then she quickly concluded with, “I must get back to the grind” of the Brazil book, sending “lots of love” and noting “I think of you all the time — dreamed about you last night.”

The next day, Sunday, 13 August, Bishop added a postscript. She reported that “a jet-pilot” she had recently met and who was going to New York, had offered to take her letter and mail it in the US “on Monday or Tuesday” — a kind and fast courier (early Fedex!). It was “much safer” stateside, so she had decided not “to send the carbon.” This saviour came in for a nice description: “The pilot is amazing — looks just like Superman!” (By the way, Superman was the co-creation of an American andCanadian.)

After this clarification, Bishop turned to the idea of seeing Grace when she went to the US later in the year to work on the Brazil book. She wondered: “Maybe you’d rather meet me for a day or two in Boston.” But then she wondered if that might be “too far.” If Grace was going to Montreal, that was a possibility. All of this was wishful thinking and speculation, so Bishop returned to “well, let’s wait and see.” It would depend on many things, not the least of which were “how you feel, where you are, and when I get there,” that timing was not yet set.

Bishop reiterated, “I do want to see you this trip.” Elizabeth Naudin had mentioned the possibility of Grace “coming here,” which worried Bishop: “Much as I’d love to show you around, etc — I can’t honestly recommend it unless you are feeling absolutely well and tough — and unless I’m here, too!” She cautioned that “the city will be very hot by then.” As it was, she was concerned that “Mary & family” might catch “something — or other, as it is.” She reiterated that “unless one feels up to travelling around I don’t think it is worth the trip.” And noted that “travelling around is so complicated here.” She told her aunt that she was “supposed to go to some places for this book.” Her plane fare would be paid for such research trips, but as much as Bishop wanted to go to these places, she confessed: “I am scared of planes, particularly Brazilian planes.” Besides, she didn’t “see how I’m going to have time,” because “I write so slowly.”

Nothing about these plans were firm on either end, so Bishop concluded this postscript by urging Grace to “please let me know how you’re feeling.” She wondered if her aunt would be “staying with Phyllis for a while?” Something I’m sure she thought would be a good thing. She also had somehow learned that Aunt Mabel had “apparently … never got that letter I wrote her so long ago now.” She told her aunt that “sometime I’ll write another” and asked: “has she cheered up?”

The next letter was just two weeks later, 26 August 1961. The next post will begin to tackle this quite long epistle.

No comments:

Post a Comment