Saturday, April 21, 2012


my A to Z - every day of the challenge I will find a word by flinging my finger into my American Heritage Dictionary and then riff on it. The posts may be essays or poems or stories or memories. Who knows what will happen when we give Serendipity her wanton way?

Shawl - n. A square or oblong piece of cloth worn as a covering for the head, neck, and shoulders.  [Pers. shal.]

Gibby wants a five dollar shawl
Gibby wants a five dollar shawl
She wants a five dollar shawl
Lord I need a mackinaw
Gibby wants a five dollar shawl

And again and again. Those lyrics go through my mind over and over again. I don't know any of the rest of the song, I don't know the name of the song - I can't find the song or anything close to it. I know I heard it in the days when we threw crocheted shawls over our Indian-cotton tops and listened to Goose Creek Symphony and thought the dobro was the coolest instrument ever. We made granola in huge quantitites and had alfafa sprouting on the windowsill. I had a tie-dyed banner hanging in my kitchen - the one thing I've kept from back then - it says 'How Good, How Delightful, For All Men to Live as Brothers' and has tie-dyed figures looking like a paper doll chain in burnt orange and deep yellow.
We live in a house with leaded glass windows and a fireplace. The floors are covered in red carpeting - the house is owned by a Lebanese family that also own several restaurants and that is the style in which it is decorated. Stucco-paint even inside the closets. We like this house, those of us who live here. Several of us work at the day-care which is on the street in front of this one. What could be easier? My kids are little - 3 and 5 and my sister, Jude, lives here too. We both work at the daycare and come home to cook a nice dinner. If I want I can go downtown and see my friends and Jude will watch the kids or maybe they are at their grandparents. I go to L'Hibou and listen to David Wiffen or Sneezy Waters and drink a coffee. After I might go to The Nozzle and have a drink and listen to the music there. I go on the bus and I wear a dancer's leotard with jeans and a crushed velvet shirt in burgandy. Sometimes I tie a scarf around my head and wear big dangling earings. If it's winter I wear a mouton jacket I got at the Sally Ann and if it is summer - a thin cotton skirt that twirls down to my ankles. My hair is long and red and my nails are short and bitten. Much later a pile of us will get in someone's old car and go careening over the bridge to Hull, Quebec. We'll end up at The Rendevouz in the back room near the piano. Maybe Bill will be playing the old upright. We'll drink quarts of beer and tease each other about what might happen next. Sometimes I have a boyfriend but most times I don't. It isn't easy to find someone when I have two kids. This is a town of women in the 1970's.
My favourite times are when my gang comes over and the guys bring their instruments. We all sit in the living room and the songs go on and on. Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Brown-eyed Girl, All Along the Watchtower, Silver Threads and Golden Needles. One song leads to another and those of us who aren't musicians can ask for what we want 'Willin' by Little Feet or the latest we heard Bruce Cockburn play at Hibou but it doesn't matter - everything is good.
When someone special comes I take the kids to Hibou. I want them to hear Phil Oaks or Joni or ...
If it is Thanksgiving we all go and have a big pot-luck. I wear the shawl my mother-in-law made me. It is red falls over my shoulders easily. Or I wear one of the South-American poncho shawls - browns and greys in soft soft alpaca.
here is a shawl I knit this last year...


Tracy said...

Jan, what a lovely shawl...I think of an elderly woman feeble and alone--just the image I conjured up in my head!

Jan Morrison said...

Hi Tracy - no, unless it is me...this isn't a fiction - just a memory that the word evoked. I guess I'm kind of elderly! I am sixty which is quite hard for me to grasp but the memories of being a young hippie are very vivid to me!

Margot Kinberg said...

Jan - What a lovely, lovely set of memories! Wow! and the shawl is gorgeous, too. Thanks for sharing that part of your life with us. You have such interesting stories to tell!

Maggie said...

Such a vivid time capsule! I can hear the music, see the house and feel the shawls. Beautiful. Thank you always for your inspiration.