All posts by Dorothy

Corrie Street Feb. 2/14

Strawberry Jam Forever

When the vanload of strawberries for Hayley arrived, all I could think of was olives – cases and cases arriving at the Bistro. A continuing joke, with olives popping up hayley-first-strawberrieseverywhere there was a Platt. Please, oh please, this can’t happen with the strawberries. The out-of-season berries are the only food Hayley has been able to eat. But they are unavailable. Possibly Hayley’s appetite for them has gone as well. But finding strawberries becomes a mission, a way of doing something for Hayley. For her friends and Roy, it’s a way to take action and thereby maybe stave off her death.

But I feared her seeing those piled-up crates of strawberries, filling up the café. What would that do to her? Knowing the effort, time and money they had spent to show her they care. How can she reciprocate other than by eating her way through them? She saw them: I expected to strawberriessee her throw up.

How is this going to end? Are we going to have flats of strawberries appearing at Hayley’s funeral? Will a moldy, rotting pint of berries appear on a café windowsill weeks from now? Please make them go away! But don’t let them be wasted. That alone would kill Hayley, watching good food go to waste. Take them to the soup kitchen! Where’s helpful-Hannah Sophie when you need her?

make-a-suggestionAnd there’s Emily Bishop. She sees lights on in the kitchen and comes to the door. It’s a strawberry party.  Smoothies, daiquiris – anything and everything in which strawberries can be used. She suggests jam. Of course, and what a wonderful idea. So Mrs. Bishop oversees Fiz, Jenna, Kirk, Roy, Carla and whoever else is there in a production line of boiling and bottling. Mary comes in with jars, her mother’s prize-winning preserves recipe and a whole lot of attitude. Emily makes room fstrawberry jam jars fillingor her at the stove. She also tries to keep Carla occupied so her culinary ineptitude doesn’t endanger the actual cooking.

They had a great time. Hayley came down to see what the noise was about. Her doing so covered the bases, addressed my concerns. She saw her friends having fun and doing something useful – all due to their love for her. Mary turned it into a competition, of course, and asked Hayley to judge the winner between jam and preserves. I recall her doing this before, taste-testasking Hayley to choose in a cook-off that Mary spontaneously created. This time, as in the past, Hayley declared it a tie. Still, it’s a refreshing indicator of Mary’s acceptance of the vagaries of life (and maybe her self-absorption) to not let the spectre of death stop her from putting someone on the spot. Hayley probably appreciated being treated normally.

cute-little-jarsThe strawberry jam is a testament of love for Hayley and it will remain, an edible memorial to her.

War and Peaceniks

“Where have all the flowers gone, and the young men gone for soldiers every one.” Pete Pete Seeger Newport Folk Festival 2009-wikicommons-wm-wallace-photoSeeger’s song. The death of that great warrior for peace made me think also about those for whom he became a teacher, the generation born during and soon after World War II.

Called “entitled” now, they are believed (often even by themselves) to have sold out. They were revolutionary proclaimers of a new age of peace and love. Now their children and pundits say they have “dropped the ball,” upgrading their Beemers instead of the world. But not one, I dare say, is unmoved today, thinking about Pete Seeger. Born in 1919, Mr. Seeger was a parent to the “flower children,” and throughout his long life he passed his mission for peace and justice on to their children and grandchildren.

Vietnam War

bumper-sticker if you don't stand behind our troopsListening to him sing, I thought of the Vietnam War. Today, we care about veterans, old and young. PTSD is a recognized issue for soldiers and effective methods of treatment are sought and tried. We nod thanks to soldiers and display bumper stickers of support. We honour World War II veterans. Even Korean War vets have been brought in from the cold, so to speak, acknowledged and thanked for their contribution.

But Vietnam vets? It’s a different story for them. It’s still relatively recent history – lived writerfox.hubpages.com_hub_WarPoems-CivilWarby many still among us. But, I think, the extent of its devastation remains overlooked. It caused the greatest rupture within America since the Civil War. It divided society and families. And we everywhere could watch it unfold, and judge. Combatants in the war about Vietnam were killed overseas and at home. But now, after 40 years, it is remembered in popular culture as a war of drugs and rock and roll and reluctant soldiers.

Conscripted Soldiers last observation is the nub of the issue, perhaps. Vietnam was the last war fought with conscripted soldiers. Thousands of young men fled their country to avoid it, thousands went to jail, thousands found Jesus or any excuse that would get them conscientious objector status. Many completed university degrees that otherwise they might not have sought: it was a way to defer the draft. Until the loophole was closed, the Peace Corps probably got many more recruits good-morning-vietnam-cdsfor its overseas development work than it would have in normal times.

And the poor schmucks who couldn’t escape or chose not to? Only they know what they endured during their tours of duty. But all of us old enough to be sentient at the time know what they endured when they returned. They were reviled. Few parades or ‘thank you for going through hell’ for them. They were spat upon and called ‘baby-killers’.

Those who went to Vietnam, and those who didn’t, all suffered. Veterans suffered because of what they endured there, and the reception they received upon return. Draft dodgers suffered because a) of guilt for escaping while others, including their friends, did not, and b) they left their homes for years, maybe forever, evading FBI and military police. Those who took what they hoped would be a tolerable option, such as medic, were still traumatized by what they had to patch up.

PTSD for all

No one won in that war. No matter which ‘side’ you were on, it was traumatic then and caused lingering pain, guilt and/or regret afterward. For many, the drugs that got them through Vietnam or the anti-war movement at home stayed with them afterward. They helped living with the memories or became a burdensome souvenir. The casualties of the Vietnam War still have not stopped. And yet the horror of it, and the opposition to it, is not talked about all that much. It’s become part and parcel of psychedelic imagery of bell-bottoms, flowers, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida and, yes, Pete Seeger singing We Shall Overcome.

PTSD had long been known of course: shell shock, ‘he’s never been the same since’. But it was something you were supposed to get yourself over: put it behind you and get on with your life. The parents of the Vietnam era lived through World War II. They knew what it was to fight, and what it was like to get news of your war dead. Like their parents who had gone through the “Great War”, you went if your country called, like it or not. The WWII fathers knew they had stopped a monster and an invasion. Yet here were their sons saying “hell no, we won’t go.”

Duck and Cover

But perhaps those parents didn’t realize that their children had grown up convinced they duck-and-cover-SourceUnk-www.anthonysworld.com_airraidwouldn’t see adulthood. It was hard to think of ‘battleground valour’ after years of “Duck and Cover” school drills in case of atomic bomb attack. Maybe their awareness that war is hell and no one comes out unscathed led to greater concern with the psychological well-being of veterans now.

And that, children of the Baby Boomers, is what your daddy did in the war. If he doesn’t talk much about it, preferring to blast his eardrums with the Rolling Stones, you might think about why that is. He lived through a time of war never before or since replicated in North American history, whether or not he has a service medal. By the way, Pete Seeger also was a veteran of the US Army in the Pacific in WWII.

Poems and song lyrics are from War Poetry – some wonderful writing.

Corrie Street Jan. 26/14

The List

Gail’s parenting style, of helicoptering and martyrdom, gives me nightmares. So too do gail-reads-listthe products of her mothering. David has long been the most overtly, and dangerously, screwed up of the three offspring. But during his recent crisis, Nick’s injury and then Kylie falling apart, I thought he had gained some maturity, insight into himself and others and, dare I say it, empathy. I liked how he was with Kylie, encouraging and loving. He also seemed changed toward his mother – appreciative of the difficulty of her position, caught between two warring sons, and thankful for her efforts in caring for his wife and children. I was happy when he and Kylie reconciled, both of them seemingly a little wiser, a little more humble.

Then he knocked it all in the head. He no more than had his feet back under the family table than he suggested kicking his mother out. It wasn’t said in an angry tone, just as a matter-of-fact solution to a slight inconvenience to him and Kylie. He said does-have-her-good-pointsit in the same tone one might use about a chair that no longer fit the décor or had a spring come loose. Kylie lamented the lack of privacy that they had as a couple, what with kids around and Gail. “Do you think I should ask her to move out?” And Kylie considers. But then she has a second thought: no built-in babysitter if Gail left.

And thus began the list making. The pros and cons of Gail’s presence. They had fun, dissecting Gail’s personality and actions. So it defused the heightened emotion of their reconciliation and all the reasons for their original separation: they were kids enjoying themselves by looking at how another person fit, or didn’t fit, into their lives.

listWe don’t know if they made a decision based on their scorecard. But they were too thoughtless to destroy it or at least hide it well. Left half under a magazine on the coffee table, Gail saw the list as soon as she walked in.  Of course she read it. It’s not clear if she knew why, but she certainly knew she was being rated.

She shared it with her mother, which became a funny scene. Audrey certainly has her own difficulties with Gail and she couldn’t repress her amusement at some of the that-is-completely-untrueobservations made. Also, Audrey’s light hearted teasing took some of the sting out of it for Gail and made her see the funny side. But still!  Audrey might want to reflect on what this says about her grandson and the dynamics of the family of which she is matriarch. She might want to think about herself, and what might be his assessment of her should she be at his mercy. What would her future be if David had control of it?

What David wants, when he wants it, is his right, in his opinion. Yes, Gail made him what he is, as he is wont to remind her she-does-have-a-sense-of-humourwhen things are not going well for him. But he quickly forgets the good she has done him. Like this recent crisis he caused and Kylie contributed to: if not for Gail, there wouldn’t be a well-looked-after little family for him to return to.

Hayley Patterson Cropper

Hayley became a cornerstone of Coronation Street in her 16-year tenure.  She was brought on as a side story, maybe a funny story:, resident odd duck, finds a ladylove, and turns out the lady is a man.  A quirky tale for a quirky character.  But Hayley caught viewers’ attention and affection and the powers that be had the good sense to run with it.

We saw Hayley taunted and rebuffed.  We saw even Roy have trouble accepting that the woman he loved was born a man.  We saw his acceptance of that, and of her.  We watched tvweek-roy-hayley-covertheir first wedding become a ‘celebration’ instead of a legally binding marriage, then years later we watched their legal marriage.  We witnessed Roy’s words:  “We have remained still and the world has turned to meet us.”

What we never learned much of was Hayley’s backstory, her life before she came to the Street.  She has talked a bit about her parents and her life as Harold, but we never met anyone from that time.  Christian, the son she had fathered when still Harold and had not known about, is the only person from her past who has been part of her story.  He brought up issues about a child not knowing his parentage and then finding out that ‘dad’ is a now a woman.

But I think Hayley, when going through the process of deciding on a sex change, must have known people in the same position as she.  No one could go through such a profound psychological and physical process, even trauma, without becoming aware of, and a part of, a community.  Hayley is a loner, and likely would never have been part of any club scene, either as Harold or Hayley.  But political or socio-psychological activism of the that used to be called ‘consciousness-raising’?  That fits Hayley’s nature.  The only people who truly know what it is to be trans-gendered, in your mind and your daily life, are trans-gendered people and others also stigmatized for their sexual orientation.  That is why the current definitional term, LGBT, includes all.

Obviously, from her dress style and make-up, Hayley was not attracted to the silks and satins of being a woman.  She cannot, by any stretch, be called flamboyant.  You know that under her sensible skirts and cardies, she is wearing serviceable white cotton from Marks and Sparks, not the lacy products of Underworld.  However, she knows how it feels to present your inner self in the wrong body and wrong garb.  A chance to show that side of Hayley’s life journey would have been in the story of Marc/Marcia, Audrey’s transvestite beau.  He was happy as a man but liked wearing the fripperies of female fashion.  We saw his friends and support group, in scenes where he took Audrey to clubs where he and his friends hung out.  Audrey did try to understand, marcia-audrey-virginmedia.com_tvradio_did listen to the wives of his cross-dressing friends.  But why did she not talk to Hayley?  It may not be part of the trans experience that Hayley was part of, but she would have insights, and she knows Audrey.  I looked forward to Hayley explain how it feels to not match societal gender definitions.  But, alas, Marc took his blonde wig and disappeared off our screens.

When Hayley’s story first came out, I was disappointed that a real transgendered woman had not been cast in the part.  It struck me as appropriation of voice, no matter how much consultation was done.  It still is darkening up a white actor to play the Indian in a Western.  But over time, I pretty much forgot that – not that Hayley was transgendered, Sylvia looks askance at Hayley as she explainsjust that the actress wasn’t.  I don’t know if that’s a good thing.  I think Hayley did a lot for dispelling preconceptions and misconceptions about transgender issues.  I doubt if anyone applauded occasional wisecracks about ‘Harold’.  Hayley had become part of our collective family.  So what if she had once been a man?  That’s good for sure, that she had become central to our hearts and a pillar of all that is honourable for both audience and the Street community.

But we should not be allowed to totally forget her struggle, the struggle faced by transgendered people still every day.  It is good that she brought it up, when thinking about her impending death.  Her fear that, under the influence of morphine, her mind 16_10_CORO_ROY_HAYLEY_NIGHTwould revert to being Harold was very real and very sobering.  It seemed even Roy couldn’t really understand her terror.  It never was fully aired between them.  Maybe it will linger in our minds, something to ponder when we remember Hayley and all she has taught us.

Corrie Street Jan. 19/14

Something Beautiful

you-will-have-me-to-answer-to something beautifulWhat was rather beautiful this week was Liz telling Peter what’s what in her pub.  She followed him to the men’s room to have a few words with him.  Those words were at first demure; it’s my responsibility as landlady to look after my employees etc.  Then she got more specific, and grabbed him around the throat and told him to stop messing about with Tina.  Oh, thank you Liz!

liz(A note about Liz – I think she is becoming a landlady in the mold of Bet Lynch with a bit of Annie Walker mixed in.  Her hair has memories of Bet’s piled locks but her dress of late is a bit more refined.  In all, it’s a good look; authoritative with a bit of glamour and excess, reminiscent of Corrie past.)

Whether Peter will listen to her is another matter.  It’s not likely Tina will listen either, to herself or Liz.  Both Peter and Tina seem set on a crash course for disaster.  It’s in keeping with his character, and normally wouldn’t be for Tina.  But she has had a horrible year so it is not too far a stretch to see her coming totally off the rails.  We have watched appalled as she zeroes in on Peter, knowing, as does she, that her “attraction” to him is an obsession destructive to her, him and Carla.  Ain’t no good going to come out of it.  But it hasn’t stopped her.

tina-and-peter“Something rather beautiful” was Peter’s answer to Tina’s question “what have we done?” as they lay together in bed.  What they had done was a quickie in Peter’s marital bed while Carla (his bride of what, a month?) was out.  The preceding scene – the one that showed us why Carla was out – magnified the ick factor of this.

Carla was visiting Hayley.  Sick, frightened and depressed, Hayley was in bed with the Carla-Hayley-talkcovers pulled over her head, absorbing her doctor’s prognosis of weeks to live.  She didn’t want to see anyone.  Carla barged in over Roy’s protests.  She got in bed with Hayley and, lying covered up side by side, they talked.  Hayley cried and Carla cried and consoled her.  It was the best thing she could have done.  She and Hayley comforting each other in their sadness was truly something beautiful.

peter-cleaning Carla came home emotionally drained and distraught about the apparently imminent loss of someone who has become a very important friend to her.  She found Peter busily cleaning the apartment.  What a wonderful man!  He’d even put a load of laundry in – the bed linen.

Corrie Street Jan. 12/14

Snow for Christmas

It was Christmas Eve, babe, in the drunk tank
An old man said to me, won’t see another one
And then he sang a song, the Rare Auld Mountain Dew
I turned my face away, and dreamed about you…

the-pogues-festively-singChristmas in the Rovers, Mary sang this but her voice trailed off after the second line.  The look on Hayley’s face brought her back to the reality that Hayley indeed would not see another one.  Mary thought of the Pogues’ song when she asked Liz about Tina’s whereabouts.  Was she in the drunk tank?

cop-holds-kylieA fight had started in the Rovers and moved out to the Christmas card beautiful street. Everyone watched it, including the coppers who were there to see Sally about her snatched purse.  They arrived just in time to pull Kylie and Tina apart.  Kylie was hauled off to the drunk tank, her sparring partner Tina was not.  Tracey was there too, and quite willing to punch someone’s lights out – anyone’s – but didn’t get the chance.

hayley-roy-bus-stopLater by the bus stop, Hayley threw a handful of snow at Roy as he looked at the schedule, confirming the times of the Wayfarer.  He was distracting her with small talk, in an OCD kind of way.  While coming home from the Rovers, she had needed to stop due to an attack of pain.

Neighbours returning from or going wherever saw her lobbing snowballs at Roy and joined in and a full-scale snowball fight developed.  A laughing Hayley watched from her seat on the bench. roy-hayley-look-back-at-streetWhen she was recovered, Roy extricated himself from the snowball pelting (feeling relieved for himself and Hayley) and they walked home.  Hayley said it was the best Christmas ever.  The others went on playing.

There was enough snow to build snowmen.  Sinead ran to the pub and asked for clothes, and Rita snowman-from-windowdonated Norris’ old coat.  Ches said he could find the other coat they needed.

Tucked up on the couch at home, Hayley watched her new dvd about Amsterdam.  Roy made tea and prowled the flat.  He looked out the window, and grinned.  He beckoned Hayley over to look.

Across the road beside the bus stop, were two snow people.  One snow cropperswore a red jacket and wooly scarf.  The other wore a beige jacket and had a carrying case slung over its shoulder.  Hayley and Roy Cropper immortalized in snow.

Corrie Street Jan. 5/14

and The Dreamers

I think there are a lot of men like Dennis in the north of England, like Ritchie too. Those dennis-shows-new-look dreamerswho remember the Mersey Beat, the British Invasion of 1960s music because they were in it, or at least on its coattails. I met some of them, years ago, in Liverpool.

Guys who would haul out a guitar at the drop of a hat. Play a bit of House of the Rising Sun or Long Tall Sally. Talk about when they turned down the chance to play with The Animals before they were The Animals. Or when their band, named something like The Power maybe, almost opened for Manfred Mann. Their friend who jammed a few times with Gerry and the Pacemakers but decided to start his own band instead. The kid they knew who lived a few streets away from George Harrison, before he was “the quiet Beatle”. The nerdy kid they vaguely remember from school who went on to a big career as a promoter or sound engineer or record producer.

dennis-watches-ritchieThe bands these guys had played with, the names of which are remembered by no one aside from themselves, maybe were “this close” to making it big. Clubs in Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle they remember being at, as musicians, hangers-on or just audience members. The look in their eyes when they’d talk about back-in-the-day. The memories of stages, music, touring, birds – the life.

Chances lost due to backing the wrong musical horse, thinking their group would be the next fab group to hit the airwaves. Promoters who just couldn’t get them the big dennis-calls-contactbreak, or ripped them off. Hand injuries from sports or fights that meant they couldn’t play a guitar long enough, well enough to sustain a musical life in the big league. Going back to school when gigs seemed to dry up. Staying in school so they’d have ‘something to fall back on’ on as their parents advised them. All meaning that, somehow, they’d been bypassed in the musical revolution that happened in England 50 years ago.

But it never died within them, even as they spent the next decades as lawyers, welders, teachers or unemployed drifters. And given half a chance, such as running into an old dennisfriend, they would be back on stage playing or behind the stage booking acts, wheeling and dealing. Living the glory days again, or for the first time. There are more dreamers than ever managed to play with Freddie and the Dreamers. It’s nice seeing that part of the dreams of the ’60s come to life in the eyes of Dennis Tanner.

Corrie Street Dec. 29/13

Rock, Hard Place

My husband and I bet on the decision Hayley would make about giving Christian the hayley-meets-grandchildren£5,000 he had asked for. He said that, knowing Christian was manipulating, threatening and bribing her for it, she wouldn’t give him the money.  I said that, knowing he was manipulating, threatening and bribing her, she would give it to him.

My husband thought that Hayley, in her moral surety of right and wrong, rock hard place not-going-towould be strong enough to simply say no; she would not be bribed by anything or anyone, including grandchildren. He believed she would not allow anyone, including Christian, to back her in a corner like this. To use her guilt, love and generosity of spirit in such a blatant rip-off.

I thought she’d give him the money so the insult would not have voice. She wouldn’t want it out there, requiring acknowledgement. I thought that, despite knowing that she was oh-yeahbeing bribed and bullied, she would choose to swallow that hurt in order to avoid another larger one to be said aloud.

If she said no, she’d still know the manipulation he had attempted. She would have to hear the words she feared he’d say; you owe me this, you were never there for me, you can’t be a father to me and you’re certainly not my mother. Those words plus the knowledge of his manipulation would live in her mind forever. Why run that risk? Justify the money as an inheritance to your child, whether but-you-didn'tdeserved or not, think about your own feelings of guilt toward him, and move on – lalalala I can’t hear you say nasty things about me.

But Christian turned nasty even before she had told him yes or no about the money. I wanted to change my betting position. When he started the ‘you owe me’ accusations, I thought she’d say, sorry, changed my mind due to having to listen to your vitriol. I would have. But she is a better person than I.

Despite the figurative slap in the face he gave her, she took out her hayley with chequebookchequebook and asked “are you sure that’s enough”. I think church-going young Sophie could learn some lessons in true Christian behaviour from non-religious Hayley. She understands what turn the other cheek means.

Corrie Street Dec. 22/13

Weddings and Debts

Peter and Carla’s wedding was fabulous – beautiful location, beautifully garbed guests, carlastunning bride, gorgeous groom. Tension everywhere, for viewers and characters alike. Would Peter succumb to the many glasses of champagne attractively arranged right beside him? Would he succumb to Tina, also always attractively arranged right beside him? Turns out, no to the former and yes, or at least way too close, to the latter.

Debts repayment

But the scene that I woke up in the make-a-fresh-startmiddle of the night worrying about was the closing minutes of the week. Christian coming to make amends with Hayley. He’d appeared a few times, always missing Hayley but always running into Fiz who would puff herself up into her biggest mamma Grizzly look. Protecting Hayley from the hurt that comes with Christian. Breaking Hayley’s confidence by telling him about her cancer. Warning Roy whenever Christian was about. Roy posted like a sentry hovering-royto block Christian’s access to Hayley. Oh let him be, I pleaded, don’t you know how important it is to Hayley that she reconcile with her son. Let her decide if that’s possible or not.

Finally she got the chance. Roy allowed Christian to see her. Sensibly, she sent Roy out of the room so he wasn’t standing over her shoulder like a guard dog snarling every time Christian twitched or opened his mouth. It photos-of-kidslooked so promising, their discussion. Christian’s apology for not understanding, for not being willing to discuss, maybe forgive. He had pictures of his wife and kids. Then the wonderful moment: ‘would you like to meet them?’ My heart melted, just like Hayley’s did.

five-thousand-pounds would cover debtsThen he gives the caveat, the kick in the teeth. Thing is, he got in debt while unemployed and a family costs a lot to provide for.  £5,000 should cover it, could she give him that. It’s for the kiddies after all. Where’s the guard dog and mama Grizzly when you need them? Christian, I guess, had hayley-listens-to-money-requestdecided Hayley might be the answer to his financial woes, and a quick parade of the kiddies would be enough to get her help. Even after learning she was dying, he still went ahead with his bait and hook plan. My heart froze, just as it looked like Hayley’s did. You are a bad’un, Christian.

Wedding dance

Back to the wedding, for a quibble about writing. We knew there had to be a Peter and tina-and-peterTina too-close encounter. It came after the bride had collapsed in a drunken but elegant heap on the dance floor. After she, still in her lovely gown, is tucked up in bed, Peter returns to the empty ballroom. The detritus of the party is all that’s left. We’ve seen Roy and Hayley arrive home. Party animals Sally and Tim have had time for another roll in the hay at home. But Tina is still lurking about the empty manor house? Ok, she and Peter have to steal a forbidden kiss. But Tina is not a stalker, and only a stalker would have remained after all the other guests had left.

The scene would have been more believable if we had seen extras dancing in the background, maybe through a order-of-servicedoorway in another room and heard the DJ playing “save the last dance for me” or something to indicate that, no matter how late it is, some people are still there partying. Fiz should have been spotted, since she had been insistent earlier on overseeing Tina’s movements. A wonderful and horrible scene with Peter and Tina, but one marred by unbelievability.

Mom, Christmas Postie

In the early ’60s, my mother worked at London’s postal sorting station during the Christmas rush.  It was for a few weeks when the Christmas Postie mom Xmas 1962volume of mail overwhelmed the sorting capacity of the regular staff.   It was the only time my mother worked at a job where she had to clock in for regular hours.  Very tiring, just standing all day.  The other women told her to bring egg cartons.  She’d flatten several cartons or get the 2 1/2 dozen flats and take them to stand on.

It was odd coming home from school and Mom not being there.  It was kind of fun but I don’t think I’d have liked it all the time.  I think that’s how she felt about the work too – fun to go somewhere and do something different and nice to have the bit of extra money but not something she wanted to do day in and day out.

I never thought at the time how she managed to pull Christmas together at the same time.  She made dinner for us, her parents and her sisters and their families.  Dad set up Xmas-1959tables in the basement, using sawhorses and half sheets of plywood.  Plastic Christmas tablecloths covered them.  All the food got carried down from the kitchen.  It was the only time of the year that our unfinished basement was used as a dining room.  It was fun.  In the evening, after everyone had left and Mom had cleaned up, we would drive to my other grandparents’ house and have presents and another huge meal there.

Postal Workers

I don’t know if Canada Post still hires casual Christmas workers.  There is not the deluge of Christmas cards mailed that there used to be.  We got so many that Mom would cover walls with them hung on loops of string.  She sent just as many too.

All this was before automated sorting and postal codes or the strikes that seemed to happen every few months in the 1970s.  It was before stamps centenary postal workerscourier services took over much of the mail delivery, because of the strikes.  It was before postal workers began making a very good wage, and before the head of Canada Post earned half a million dollars plus bonus each year.  And of course, it was before faxes and emails, Facebook and Twitter.

People mailed letters and thank you cards, party invitations and birthday cards, sympathy cards and thinking-of-you cards, postcards that got back before you did from your vacation, and airmail letters on onion-skin paper to save on weight.  It was all delivered to your house or, if you lived in a small town, you went to the post office and had a chat with the postmaster or –mistress while you collected your mail.  In the country, it came to a box at the end of the driveway, stampsdelivered by someone like my grandparents who had a mail route for many years.

There’s still some of that of course.  Superboxes haven’t replaced all human postal contact, yet.  And they’re fine, as long as they don’t freeze up in winter or jam in summer.  But you still need post offices for stamps and questions that the website can’t answer.