Wednesday, May 18, 2011


I'm not much of a consumer, and that's probably an understatement.  I love fine quality things, especially clothing and accessories, and I buy well, but very sparingly.  A friend who helped me pack in preparation for my move to this house was taken aback by the emptiness of my closet. I just don't lust after material goods.  It's quite rare that an item of apparel sets my heart aflutter. Before Ivaan became part of my daily existence, it was even rarer.  In late 1991, I had a fleeting passionate relationship with a pair of highly improbable shoes in a high-end shoe shop.  First of all, they were very expensive.  Even on sale (which they were), they were about a week's salary.  Second, they were size 7 - at least half a size too small.  Third, I'd have looked idiotic riding my motorcycle wearing them.   Fourth, they conjured up dyed blond curly hair with about an inch of dark roots showing, a cigarette in a cigarette holder, a stiff drink and a negligee.  Frankly, the only thing I sleep in is my bed, which is probably more than you needed to know.  But the shoes were red patent leather, with scalloped edges, lined in gold leather, and they were, admittedly, beautifully made.  They were a minor work of art, actually, and leaving them in the store felt like abandoning them to an uncertain fate.

By December of 1991, Ivaan and I were living together, but things could easily have gone either way.  One thing that puzzled him about me was my lack of interest in the trappings of domesticity.  The women in his family delighted in a well-equipped kitchen, the more dishes and appliances the better.  Me?  I had a kettle.  One evening, he asked, "What would you like me to get you for Christmas?"  I reminded him that Christmas wasn't a huge part of my social calendar, and I couldn't really think of anything I wanted or needed. I suggested if he wanted to buy me something, he might make it a practical item.  He suggested a coffee pot, since my habit of making coffee by putting a filter cone on top of a mason jar always seemed a bit like camping to him.  I readily agreed that a coffee pot would be a practical gift, and I was glad to have the problem solved so expediently.

On Christmas Day, I wasn't surprised to find myself tearing the wrapping paper off a cardboard box bearing a photo of a nice-looking coffee pot. Reaching inside the box, however, I was surprised to find that his gift was not in fact a coffee pot, but.......

...a beautiful pair of very expensive red patent leather shoes with scalloped edges and gold leather lining, in a size 7.  I had never told a soul about those shoes, and definitely not Ivaan.  Nowadays, they are a full size too small and I have never yet worn them. But I love having them, because they remind me that sometimes the one you love knows you better than you know yourself.

Friday, May 13, 2011


If I ever had to flee from my house due to a fire, the list of things I'd take with me would be mercifully brief and easy to locate.  This piece of blue gingham cloth would be close to the top of the list.  It looks like a well-washed and often-mended cotton cushion cover, measuring about  19  by 22 inches. When Ivaan was a baby, and his family was interned in a Nazi slave labour camp near Cologne, Germany this was his only protection from the cold.  I have a tiny photo of Ivaan with this piece of cloth on his bed.

The harsh conditions under which Ivaan was born and lived in his early years meant that he was never physically robust, either in childhood or as an adult. Even if you'd known Ivaan for decades, you would never have known the incursions frail health made on his life.  He never talked about it.  People who saw him deliberately avoiding physical strain assumed he was either lazy or that he considered physical toil beneath him.  Ivaan never corrected either assumption.

On January 6, 1993, Ivaan helped me carry a small kitchen stove up two flights of stairs one morning before he went to church.  Half way through the church service, he had his first heart attack.  He got up and walked out of church, ignoring the disapproving glances of fellow parishioners, crossed the street and walked into the hospital.  The Cardiology team later told us that if he'd arrived five minutes later, he would have been horizontal...on a slab.

Ivaan's family kept this piece of blue gingham cloth as a sort of talisman that would keep him from harm.  I keep it in his top left dresser drawer.  If you're ever at my house and fire breaks out, please save Ivaan's "blanket", because I treasure it.