Wednesday, February 24, 2021
|Rosemary's underwear - Hotel Geneve - Mexico City - 12 December 2012|
The three women of my life, my grandmother, my mother and my
Rosemary shared a keen sense of smell.
I do not recall what perfume my grandmother used but before
she had her toast heaped with jam for breakfast she would smell it and smile.
My mother used Chanel No-5, Joy and a perfume called Calèche by Hèrmes. She
always put a tad of perfume behind her ear. She taught me to smell her behind
the ear as she did that with mine and told me I smelled like an Englishman.
She would also blow into my ear as she would whisper, “Un secretito para un nenito (a little
secret for a little boy).”
My mother said that when she deplaned in Mexico she could
smell tortillas while in Buenos Aires it was steak in the air. When I asked her
about the US she said, “It smells of
Of my father my strongest memory is of his smell that was a
complex combination of Old Smuggler Scotch, gin, Player’s Navy Cut Cigarettes
and an after shave I have no idea of what it was but that it did smell of lavender. Smelling him involved getting
a bit of his not too closely shaved face so that I would have called it a
When we arrived in Canada in 1975 I used Mexican Yardley Vètiver aftershave. I ran out or stopped buying it by 1980. I never used aftershave after that. Our daughter Hilary gives me Yardley lavender soap and talcum for Christmas every couple of years. I love it.
As soon as I met Rosemary I taught her about smelling behind
the ear. She rarely used perfume so my recollection to this day is that
Rosemary smells like Rosemary. I could
smell it on her pillow case, until I washed all the sheets and pillow cases in
Both of us enjoyed putting our nose to our old roses.
Rosemary grew herbs and of course we prominently had a large rosemary which we
rarely used for cooking. We had many kinds of mint.
I did lots of snuggling with my parents as a little boy in
the middle of the night and I remember that my drunken father and I would sing My bonnie lies over the ocean and Onward
Christian soldiers when he returned from work in the evening.
By all accounts we spend one third of our life in bed.
I calculate that I spent 17 years in bed with Rosemary. I
recall all the beds (and one hard floor) we slept in. There was one in my
mother’s house in Veracruz, one in our first apartment in Estrasburgo in Mexico
City. This bed was very narrow. There was a slightly better bed in our
apartment in Herodoto and when activity was going to happen Rosemary would tell
me to put Ale and her crib in the bathroom tub. It was in Arboledads, Estado de
México where we had a more or less good bed. It was on that bed that one
evening, Rosemary came back from visiting her mother in Ottawa that she
ravished me as never before and that is when I believe our Hilary was on her
way to become our second daughter 9 months later.
There was another bed in our first Vancouver home in
Burnaby. I have little recollection of it. Our first good bed was the one we
purchased when we moved to Athlone in Kerrisdale. Rosemary complained it did
not have a headboard. It was for our Kits house that we bought a Stickley with
a nice headboard. Between Kerrisdale and Kits we had breakfast in bed for about
What all that above means is that Rosemary and I considered
our bed as the favourite place to be.
I was particularly affected by a poem that Mexican poet
Homero Aridjis wrote a about bedding an American girl at the then posh Hotel
Geneve in the yet-to-be known Zona Rosa. I went to Mexico to see a dying
friend. I asked Rosemary to lend me some of her black underwear. I stayed at the Geneve so that I could
photograph her underwear on the bed to illustrate Aridjis’s poem for my own
pleasure. That blog is this one.
From the very beginning Rosemary was a morning girl and I
learned to wait. It was only when Rosemary was beginning
to feel sick two months before she died that shenanigans in bed ceased.
But I would still stroke her feet with my own and she would
complain that I needed to cut my toenails. Days before she finally died, I retain
fond and tender memories of stroking her back with my hand and sometimes using
my nails to scratch her itchy back. And I would smell her behind the ears and
sometimes I would blow lightly into one of them. She was very sensitive to this
but I think she liked it. Those last days were the worst as I could not stop thinking of what it would be with her not on that side of the bed. I know now.
I wonder what disappears more quickly from one’s memory. Is
it sound or smell? I cannot quite conjure Rosemary’s smell while I can that of
a myrrh scented rose. When I am in the tub Niño accompanies me on the tall wicker
clothes basket. If I call him, “Niño,”
he ignores me. If I say, “Rosemary,”
he turns to stare at me. What does he remember? Niña on
the bed (I can see her from the tub) stares at me, too.
As days and weeks go by I ponder on her presence, a dent in space,
I imagine her walking down the stairs. I talk to the cats in Spanish. She talked to them in Spanish. I walk
Niño around the block and take Rosemary’s route.
If anything I must believe in the existence of ghosts. If
only I could smell, one in particular, behind her ear.
And I must admit that every once in a while I go to her side
of our closet and I take out one of her dresses. I sniff.
The Significance of a Garden
Tuesday, February 23, 2021
|5909 Athlone - Kerrisdale|
Gardens have been a part of my life since I can remember. First
it was my mother’s garden in Buenos Aires, then her garden in Mexico City.
The first was the scene for a few of my birthday parties,
the second where I experimented with explosives and uprooted one of her roses.
The third was in our little house in Arboledas, Estado de
México. This was the first I shared with my Rosemary. It was there where I
watched her and my mother garden without much interest on my part.
Once in Vancouver our little house in Burnaby had an even
smaller garden and Rosemary decided by 1986 that we would buy a corner lot
house with a big garden.
In our first year as we learned to garden we had a spooky
respect for its former owner, Mrs.Young who had been on her back for a day in the kitchen
after a heart attack and was found alive. We saw her as a ghost in the garden
and we did little to move any of her plants.We thought it important to respect her plant choices and design.
One day we decided the garden was ours. But we divided the
garden into Rosemary’s sections and my section. There were her plants and my
plants. We had arguments about the weedy behaviour of some of her perennials or
that my hostas were crowding out her plants.
Eventually we saw the light and the garden became firmly
ours. From that point on Rosemary became a Master Gardener, we signed up at garden
clubs and gardening was a big part of our life. For a few years I even wrote a monthly
garden column for the local Western Living Magazine. There were bus tours from the US that came to see our garden which made it one month into Better Homes and Gardens.
The garden was a happy refuge for us where we enjoyed watching
our two granddaughters, Rebecca and Lauren grow up.
But five years ago our garden expenses and upkeep had made
the plumbing in the interior of our beautiful home deteriorate. I urged
Rosemary that we had to sell. We sold and bought our little duplex in
Kitsilano. Rosemary was unhappy for at least the first two years even though we
managed to have over 40 old roses and many of her perennials in it. Most of our
hardy Gallica Roses and other plants like big hostas we transported in a ŕnted truck to our
eldest daughter’s one acre property in Lillooet. In the last couple of years
and particularly in the months before Rosemary became sick and died Ale’s
(Alexandra) garden became a source of joy for my wife who had the land she so
much wanted and had lost in our little duplex.
|Rosemary and Ale in Lillooet - 2020|
In our duplex we had our differences of opinions. I harangued
her for how her fennel was taking over the laneway rose garden. She said my hostas
were too big and had to be divided so she could plant more perennials. Those
moments of disagreement were not bad but now I regret anything unkind that I might
have said to her.
But worse of all, and here is the real focus of this long
blog, is that as the weather improves and I find myself cleaning up the deck
and beginning to prune some of the roses, her absent presence is more than I
can bear. Every plant, every part of the garden is one where I see her and her
gentle hand scooping dirt and asking me to help her take out a plant with the
In our Kerrisdale garden, it was our garden. It was our
garden in the winter and in lovely sunlit summers. This Kitsilano garden, now not quite waking up to a forthcoming spring is bleak in my eyes. I try to avoid
looking at it. Perhaps this will change with the buds appearing on our roses.
I am now confused. Is this her garden still? Is it our
garden still? Will she be a ghost like Mrs. Young was in our first year in
Kerrisdale? Will I be able to overcome this all and make my garden a lovely
garden in the memory of my Rosemary?
Time will tell.
My Melancholy Over a Dunoon Cat Mug
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Since my Rosemary died on December 8 I have been overcome by
a melancholic inertia that in conjunction with two sticky cats (Niño and Niña)
have combined to make me reluctant to do anything except lie on my bed and
stare at the ceiling while the two are comfortably ensconced on my lap.
I have told myself, “Tomorrow, bright and early after
breakfast I will go to my oficina and write some blogs".
It has not happened. Today I forced myself.
It was a about five days ago that I dropped my Dunoon, English
mug and broke it. I became saddened by
the thought that the loss of any cherished (non-human, non-feline possession) entails
that it is a small death, but a death nonetheless.
I remember being around 6 in Buenos Aires. I was in the tub
and I was playing with a red little toy (it was a muñequito). I was not careful
and when my mother pulled the plug the little doll went down the drain. I cried
and cried. This must have been my first loss of a treasured possession.
Since 1975 when my Rosemary and two daughters arrived in
Vancouver I have had five mugs to drink my tea. All five ended on the floor in
pieces. The sixth one was a fave because it featured the likeness of the previous
cat, Casi-Casi, who died two years ago in our current Kits home.
I tried to get a replacement and the closest is the one seen
here. The other mug is one of Rosemary’s favourite Villeroy & Boch mugs. She
would pour her 1% milk and then fill it with Nestle Quick which she would spoon
(noisily) while we had our daily breakfast in bed.
I could do a search
for my original mug. I found one in a gift shop on Prince Edward Island. When
my daughter Ale, who was here for the weekend, saw the new Dunoon mug, she told
me it was very nice. I have decided to keep it and be careful. If I am it may
be the last one I ever own.