From the Pages of Mini-Di: The Scents of Autumn

It’s Day 17 – IN A ROW! Are you sick of me yet??

Anyway. When I was younger, I figured I could write poetry. Sometimes I wrote things that rhymed, but most of it was free verse. I considered it poetry if I used words that sounded poetic to me, on what I considered poetic themes (i.e. nature and feelings). As I got older, I worked on getting some imagery in there, and even some metaphors and other poetic devices. I occasionally wrote things I was pretty sure (at the time) were deep.

Now that I’m an adult, I hesitate to call anything I would write “poetry” – I hesitate even to try writing it. Because I don’t know what makes a poem a poem. Or rather, I don’t know what makes a poem GOOD. I just know how I think I should feel when I read one: moved, as if I will forever look differently at something because of the way the words were combined.

For example, I’ve never forgotten the sweet image in my mind when I first read this poem where it was posted on my sister’s wall in university:

Song (“I almost went to bed …”) from “The Spice-Box of Earth”, by Leonard Cohen

I almost went to bed
without remembering
the four white violets
I put in the button-hole
of your green sweater

and how i kissed you then
and you kissed me
shy as though I’d
never been your lover

Come on. So simple, so beautiful.

Now, without claiming this to be the same species whatsoever, here is The Scents of Autumn, by Mini(ish)-Di [age 11 or 12].

Autumn has some special smells,
That come again, every year,
That come reborn, crisp and clear,
Come rolling, ringing like silver bells,
Riding on the wind.

The scent of fire that warms my back –
The smoky smell of burning ember,
A fragrance that I’ll e’er remember.
I watch the bright flames spit and crack
And dance with graceful leaps.

The special smell of autumn trees,
Of fallen leaves soon turning brown,
That dressed the trees in crimson gown
Adds its spices to the breeze
That always comes with fall.

The scent of apples, bright and ripe –
The tang is cheery, fills the room.
It seems to exile any gloom
Like the music of a pipe,
It lifts away despond.

The smell of outside, a sharp, fresh blowing,
Makes its swift way from the North,
Like a banner carried forth.
It clears my mind, and leaves me knowing
Soon it will be winter.

Can you guess which famous Canadian author I was obsessively reading at the time? (Hint: it was someone in whose books words like crimson, despond, ember, swift, forth, and even e’er would actually sound appropriate.)

I remember being proud of this poem – did you notice how I made it rhyme, but all tricky-like? Plus: can you possibly think of a more majestic phrase than “Riding on the wind”??

I’ve been chuckling at my wholesomeness combined with my pretentiousness… but now I’m thinking… maybe I’m still like that. After all, I love my thesaurus to death, as you may have surmised. (Also, I use words like surmised.) And as it happens, I still do have a soft spot for the “special smells” of autumn, aside from the pig manure. Ha ha. Maybe I should just put a sock in it already.

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From the Pages of Mini-Di: First Work of Fiction, Part 2

If you liked Rainy Day Cindy, Part 1, I hope you’re ready! She’s about to take life to a whole new level.

RDC p.14
One day Cindy got a cold! “Achoo!” she sneezed!

In case you’re wondering, I was never bedridden due to a cold as a child. Also, I did not spell as well as this. There are many more spelling mistakes in the rough copy; my mom (also my homeschooling teacher) edited all my work.

RDC p.15
Her mother came in with a cup of hot juice. “Thank – achoo! – you,” she said.

Just so you know, that is the absolute spitting image of my mom. And I seem to remember she sometimes offered us hot juice when our throats hurt.

RDC p.16
Daddy came running in. “Achoo” She sneezed again! Daddy gave her a handkerchief just as she said “Achoo!” Then she coughed and sputtered!

Coughing and sputtering! This is serious stuff! No wonder Daddy didn’t want to go past the quarantine line.

RDC p.17
Then mother said “achoo!” too!

And her scar-faced doppelganger lurked in the corner. I can’t remember how this unfortunate, unerasable illustration came to be, but my frustration shows through in the shoddy colouring job on this page – and the fact that I couldn’t even be bothered to give the bed four legs, much less five or six (as on some pages).

RDC p.18
What a commotion!

Have you EVER SEEN such a commotion?!

RDC p.19
Mother went to bed. “The more sleep the better” she muttered.

My use of the word “muttered” is indicative of the beginning of my love affair with expressive words. It wasn’t long after this that I started using my special red writing notebook, in which I had a whole long list of “good words”, ones I just liked the sound of, ones around which I would engineer sentences so I could use them.

RDC p.20
Next day there was a circus! But Cindy was too sick to go! Poor Cindy!

You may remember that I really liked exclamation points as a child.

RDC p.21
The next was brite and sunny. Cindy knew it was her birthday and she wrote a letter. I would like you to come to my party! Cindy. J. Miller – Next day was Cindy’s birthday! But Cindy was still sick!

Cindy J. Miller. That sounded like the coolest name ever, to me.

RDC p.22
But Daddy had an idia! He’d do a circus. He would be a clown.

His pants do look a bit idiatic. Not to mention his freakish arms. [Please don’t take it personally, Mini-Di. I do love your drawings.]

RDC p.23
Daddy invited some people to the house. That day they practesed doing things that circus people do.

Are you wondering what are the “things that circus people do”? Me too. [Side note: I totally wanted one of those mirrors with lights all around it.]

RDC p.24
July fith was the birthday.

The days are abbreviated as Mon., Tuse., Wend., Thers., Fri., Sater., and Sun.

RDC p.25
Cindy looked out the window on her birthday. It was raining again! “I don’t like this!” she said.

Ah, back to five legs on the bed. Whew. (Still half-assed colouring, though. I remember how much bigger a project this turned out to be than I’d anticipated – it was hard work and I was getting tired by this point.)

RDC p.26
At last it was time for the circus! Henry was a jugiler.

Don’t worry – all these kids have phenomenal immune systems. Their parents are fine with them going to the birthday party of an germ-infested invalid.

RDC p.27
Lee was a clown like Daddy.

Scary clown. Don’t get on Lee’s bad side.

RDC p.28
Will was a trapeze artist.

And the trapeze was… strapped to the light fixture in Cindy’s bedroom.

RDC p.29
Ann was a doll that did tricks!

Like that crazy thing with her knee! And her shoulder… I think she was actually a triple-jointed break-dancer.

RDC p. 30
When Cindy saw the circus parading in, oh! How she did burst with excitement!

Unfortunately, it appears her face did actually burst.

RDC p.31
Afterwards they all sang happy birthday! Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Cindy, happy birthday to you! Cindy blushed

I remember well how much trouble it was writing “birthday” that many times. That’s a long word. But I was steadfast and I persisted.

RDC p.32
“Now let’s have the presents!” Mommy called. “Yes” said Cindy  First Cindy opened the one with the pink wrapping paper. It was from Ann. They cheered when they saw it! It was a stuffed dog with a collar that said DO NOT FEED IT! IT’S ALREDY STUFFED!

I’m afraid I cannot take credit for that joke – the funniest joke ever, to my six-year-old self. I’m pretty sure I saw a dog like this at someone else’s birthday party, and logged it away for future use.

RDC p.33
Then she opened the one with the blue and white stripes. It was a book called: SAM HAS AN ADVENTURE.

As we found out in Part 1, Cindy knows all about adventures.

RDC p.34
Then she opened the shiny glossy black one. It was from Lee, and it was a new pillow! Lee said “I heard you were needing one!” “Yes” said Cindy

“Glossy” also falls into the “good words” category. I know a pillow seems like a nerdy gift (as in, “Who invited that kid?”) but I remember thinking that a brand-new, super-fluffy pillow would be a most fantastic item possible.

RDC p.35
Mother gave Will’s present to her. It had red paper. Inside there were chocolates! “Thank you all! Achoo!” Everybody laughed, even Cindy laughed!

Sneezing is SO FUNNY!

RDC p.36
Then Mommy said “Now let’s have the cake!” When they had finished the cake it was time to say Good-by. Good-by all!

[That’s her tongue on her face, by the way.]

What a relief that was, to be finished! You can tell I rushed the ending, since I didn’t even say what kind of cake it was, even after describing the wrapping paper on every present. I’m pretty sure I was getting close to my seventh birthday by the time I completed this – so it seemed to me to have taken years, especially if you take into account that the rough copy included a storyboard of the whole book.

Although I wrote several more stories, I never illustrated another one. (Too much work!) This one is my chef-d’oeuvre. I hope you liked it!

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From the Pages of Mini-Di: First Work of Fiction

 

And here she is, folks. My first protagonist, created and lovingly illustrated when I was six – twenty-seven years ago. (The rough draft is dated Nov. ’84.)  Big thanks to my dad, for saving these pages for all this time, and then scanning them for me with such care.

I give you…

Rainy Day Cindy.

This is the front and back cover.

Rainy Day Cindy front and back cover
Rainy Day Cindy – “Daddy, my doll broke!” Cindy is always on the go! Cindy also has lots of friends, but no one can keep up with her! First she gets stuck in the rain, then she breaks her doll, then she gets a cold, then she has a special circus birthday party! She always has an open heart! What will Cindy think of next?

I was very disappointed when my mom told me it was the publisher who is supposed to write the blurb on the back of the book. I thought this dynamic hook was the best part! Who could possibly resist reading this now?? And hey – I’ve redeemed my six-year-old self: I AM the publisher.

RDC endpapers

Rainy Day endpapers.

RDC Title page

And Title Page. It seems I was a very thorough little kid.

RDC Dedication
TO ARTHER AND LACY MY TWO CATS

And… dedication. I owed those cats my success. (But his name was actually spelled “Arthur”.)

RDC p.1
One day Cindy was walking down the street when she heard thunder.

Thunder says “BOOM BOOM”. Or maybe that’s Cindy’s giant mouth saying that.

RDC p.2
It began to rain. Cindy got soaking wet.

Remember how hard it is to draw hands when you’re a kid? TOO MANY FINGERS!

RDC p.3
She ran home, got her umbrella, and then ran back.

You’ll notice her hair shrank in the rain.

RDC p.4
She splashed in the puddles. She loved that.

If one of my six-year-old students drew this picture, I’d tell her to go back and fill in those white spaces in the colouring. Tsk tsk.

RDC p.5
When she got tired she went home. When she got home she hugged her mother and kissed her father and went to the window.

Yikes… I can’t tell if she’s wearing pants or not!!

RDC p.6
The rain made funny patterns. Cindy watched the rain for a long long time. By that time mother had gone to the store.

She’s always on the go! See? She’s swinging her feet while she watches rain patterns. Try and keep up with the action.

RDC p.7
Then she got up and watched TV.

This plot is off the hook!!

RDC p. 8
Afterwards, she said “Daddy when is lunch?” “Right now” he said.

I love how she’s so huge, like a linebacker. And Daddy only has one tiny arm, in an inappropriate place, and some swirly Elvis-hair.

RDC p.9
“Yum yum!” said Cindy.

That’s Cup-A-Soup, by the way.

RDC p.10
Time flew and before she knew it she had eaten her dinner! Cindy went to the window just before bedtime. The rain had stoped. Then she got into bed and went to sleep. “Good night, Cindy”

I’m pretty sure I gave up on using a ruler for those text boxes after the first three pages. But the bunny slippers make up for it.

RDC p.11
In the morning Cindy got out of bed went to the window. It was raining again. Cindy said it was sort of boring and it is if you are a girl like Cindy. Later she was playing with a doll of hers when it’s head broke! She yelled “Daddy my doll broke!”

I’m not sure what I meant by “a girl like Cindy”… I think I wanted her to be adventurous. Boy, did she play with that doll! Like crazy!

[Oddly enough, in the rough copy, I did not put the apostrophe in “its head”.]

RDC p.12
Daddy came running. “I came to help” he said. “Good!” said Cindy.

I never broke a doll’s head as a child… but my Gramma Sue did have a doll with a breakable head at her house in Texas. We didn’t play with that doll, but we got to hold her reverently. I guess that proves that Cindy IS pretty intrepid, playing with her breakable doll. Good thing Daddy is magical.

RDC p.13
He fixed it in no time at all! “This was a big day” they both said together! Then they went to bed. “Good night Cindy

That WAS a big day! Almost as big as that other one (with the rain and the window and the TV)!

And there you have PART 1. I hate to leave you at a cliffhanger like this… but I’m afraid you will have to stay tuned for Part 2: the exciting conclusion!

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From the Pages of Mini-Di: My Birthday!

Written on this day, 25 years ago. (How about that. I’ve been journalling for a quarter-century!)

May 11 ’85

I loved my birthday! I got a “my little pony Bow tie”! I also got this diary! I got paper and art Kit! The favors were lovely! Necklaces were from Ben. And 35c! I also got a new pink dress from Mama and Papa! That evning we ate pie for desert! Then I got more presents! Some white gloves, three Debbie books, and some clothes for Jill!

Here we are in 2010, and I’m 32, which is older than I could possibly have imagined being in 1985. “My Little Ponies” are popular once again.

my-little-pony_bow-tie
This is totally her, Bow Tie. But mine had better hair.

That first diary (mostly white with a photo of a pretty girl at a window with flowers in her hair, gold writing on the front reading “one year diary”) is fragile and falling apart. Thirty-five cents might buy you a few gummi worms. I still remember that pink dress: dotted swiss with a wide white collar, the most beautiful dress in the universe. Also, the desire I had for those white gloves was potent: when I got them, it was a dream come true, and when I put them on, I felt like the most grown-up and sophisticated brand-new seven-year-old possible. And Jill (Gilbertina Jill, actually) was my Cabbage Patch Kid. Her birthday was October 1st.

This morning, I woke up to E gently (maybe he’s finally learning from when I say “Gentle!” all the time) touching my eyelid to get it to open. For my birthday, he gave me a zerbert. I haven’t changed a diaper at all today… we had brunch at With the Grain… we played Settlers… Sean’s boss, who is one of those extra-nice people, made a gorgeous butterfly-shaped cake for me… my hubby is at this moment cleaning the kitchen… it’s a day in the company of people I love… What more could I possibly ask for?

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From the Pages of Mini-Di, Earth Day Edition

I know this might be overload on the Mini-Di… but this one has to be today, since it’s Earth Day.

Here’s what Dilovely journaled in honour or Earth Day, 1990 (age 11, almost 12):

When I got home I told N [my best childhood friend – about the idea to go litter-picking]. She thought it was a good idea (especially when I mentioned we could go to Mac’s) and we got plastic bags and set off. (My bags were biodegradable.) Our first litter was at the entrance to the woods. I carried a bag for recyclables, and N carried a bag for trash. We picked our way up to the opening, and went along, filling our bags.

Then came the young idiot-nincompoops. A bunch of boys, about our age, passed us. They said, “It’s the garbage-pickers! Look at them!” One spit out his gum and said, “Here’s something else. You gotta pick it up, it’s Earth Day.” I’m surprised he even knew. Those guys belong in N’s bag – they’re not even good enough to be recycled. They were darn rude. Oh, well, some things you can’t expect guys not to do. At that age, counter effort is a big thing. [!! Future teacher, perhaps?]

Before we got to Mac’s, N had emptied her bag twice, and filled it again, and my bag was about to overflow. We dropped them off at Hendry Lane so we could pick them up later. At Mac’s, for 43c I got a Popsicle and a whip of licorice. N got gum and a Crunchie and Starburst (one of which she gave me) and I don’t know what. She was happy. Junk food does that for her.

That evening we watched an Earth Day special on TV. It was about Mother Earth, as a person, dying. Everyone was scared and trying to help, except some bad people. People gave speeches about energy and pollution and litter and planting trees and flowers, and saving water, etc. It was good. At one part, the proffesser [sic] from Back to the Future showed some people a film of ghastly clips of pollution and dumping and oil spills. The one I thought most horrible was the one with skyscrapers with their lights on that you could hardly see because of the ugly brown smog. And someone said, “So this is what the future will be like?” and he said, “No, my friend, this is the present!” Awful! [I still remember this image. It made a big impression on me.]

That night I was all gung-ho and rip-roaring to conserve. But all that enthusiasm – well, not all of it, but quite a bit – was gone today and yesterday. And what about all those people who don’t care or even know? What about people who try to be contrary, like those guys? What will they do to the rest of us?

Naturally, I’m wondering what my 11-year-old self would think of the way things are going. These days, there is a lot of talk about the environment, and there have been some amazing innovations and initiatives that I count as positive progress for “Mother Earth”. Maybe Mini-Di would be impressed by those… but I think she might be disappointed that even now, more individual people don’t take conservation and sustainability seriously.

Twenty years sounds like a very long time when you’re eleven – like an amount of time in which you could turn everything around and do miraculous things – and we haven’t done that. Why haven’t we? Why don’t we have our act together better? If we could be suddenly face-to-face with angry, high-minded pre-teens from twenty years ago, what would we have to say for ourselves? What would I have to say for myself and to myself?

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From the Pages of Mini-Di: Homeschooling Haiku

Okay, since I’m perusing, here is another taste of the writings of a smaller, less abashed, more exuberant Dilovely.

Apparently in the Homeschooling days of early spring of 1986 (I was 7), I was taught about Haiku, poems of three lines with syllables numbering 5, 7, and 5. In a tiny spiral-bound notebook (white cover with diagonal turquoise lines on it), I wrote some Haiku in painstaking cursive. My nerdiness knew no bounds… I just wanna tousle this kid’s hair and watch her be inspired by every little thing.

The first two were under the heading “Mystery Hicu”.

Sweet Flower!

Very sweet smelling,

It’s lavender in colour,

I love that flower!

Gently Swaying.

Gently swaying tree.

Oh! Softly waving branches.

My, what a nice thought!

This next one is actually dated: 20 Apr. ’86.

Smoke

Small dancing ringlets,

Sometimes gray and sometimes white

So interesting!

By the way, amongst these Haiku I find a list of “Pretend Phone Numbers” (folks on the list are Me, B.F., Jackie, Her B.F., Clarissa, Margret, Francess, Kerry, Miranda, Taffy S., Tiffany, and Taffy Z. – for the record, I had no friends by those names), as well as a list of “Boy-Girl Names” (Kim, Sam, Terri, Nicky, Jean, Billy, Joe, Laurie, Chris, Pat, Robin, Bobby, Francies, Tony). Like I said, compulsive list-maker.

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From the Pages of Mini-Di: “Minimal Attributes for Guys”

As I think I’ve mentioned, I used to be a prolific diary-writer. I had journals in all sizes, mostly supplied by my dad, and wrote oodles about everything, from the very shallow to the almost-philosophical. Sometimes I look through these volumes (29 and counting, plus supplementary quasi-journals) and am amazed/embarrassed/taken aback/reduced to tears of laughter by the things I wrote.

Here is a classic example, written in July of 1992 (making me 14 years old). It really shows off my dorkiness. I must add a disclaimer: this is not a list of requirements for a boyfriend, since by that time I had only had one pseudo-boyfriend and did not assume myself likely to have another any time soon. This was just a list of requirements for me to like a boy. I don’t even think I followed these guidelines – I’m certain I never consulted this list when considering my next crush – so we just have to chalk it up to Dilovely being a compulsive list-maker from a young age. I have not abridged it, in spite of strong urges to leave out the most cringe-worthy bits.

Here we go…

Minimal Attributes for Guys (I think I meant “minimum”)

  • can’t smoke, do drugs, etc.
  • can’t be prejudiced in any way [whoo! tall order]
  • can’t vote PC [good grief, kid, you’re 14!]
  • can’t be stupid
  • must be smart [ohhh! I get it now.]
  • must like cats
  • must care about environment
  • can’t be occupied [transl. = taken, ie. if you have a girlfriend, I don’t even like you!]
  • must have a sense of humor [sic]
  • can’t stink
  • must like hugs
  • can’t be a yuppie [this is my parents’ influence – didn’t suffer yuppies gladly – what did I mean? I think I meant can’t be overly materialistic]

Would be nice if he

  • has dark hair
  • is taller than me
  • gives kisses to trolls [remember trolls? They were cute. I think some guy I knew had kissed a troll in my presence and obviously it made an impression.]
  • has good taste in music
  • isn’t a slob
  • doesn’t wear a baseball cap
  • has Quaker beliefs
  • can dance
  • goes to Camp
  • cares about animals

I’m proud to say, my husband rates very high on both these lists! Way to go, honey! I totally scored. Except for that troll-kissing thing – and that can be remedied. 🙂

Pink-haired troll
I love their li'l bellybuttons.

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