Monday, August 18, 2014

Hot summers and humidity

The story of the skirt relates to the time I was working in a bank.  My female co-workers just nodded their head when I answered "Madame T" after having been asked my name.  I did not know that French Canadians, at that time, addressed each other by their given name, used 'tu' on the first meeting and expected to hear me say "Ellena".    Bad start, I was considered to be the arrogant newcomer from Europe.       
I gave the girls an occasion to get back at me when I told them that I want my circle skirt to stand out in a circle as wide as their skirts and asked what to do about it short of inserting whatever it was they inserted into the hem of the underskirt.  Their kind advice was  "wash, rinse in sugar water and dry in sun". Smart- me did so.                                                   
The little branch of big TD bank was not air-conditioned then.  Do I need to explain what happened on the day where heat and humidity climbed extremely high?  Sitting in place all afternoon was a very sweaty/sticky situation.

Soon after and shortly prior to leaving the bank, I realized that I had become a trusted and in their eyes experienced friend.  One of the girls was getting married and asked me specific questions concerning the night of the wedding, another girl came back from their honeymoon and shared with me that her husband asked her to do such and such and did I think it was OK.  A young man walked me home after work, talking about Elvis P. whom I had hardly heard about, to then casually pose questions concerning abortion.  I was not much help to any of them being very uncomfortable talking about personal matters but, I was pleased that I had made friends that trusted me.  

 Today is the first time that I notice the man sleeping on the bench but Pasha always makes me smile the way she moves proudly down the catwalk with purse on arm.
(Shaking my head in disbelief that I bought a purse for her). 


marja-leena said...

I enjoyed reading about these memories. I'm recalling an itchy crinoline under border printed cotton skirts.

Such a sweet picture of you and your little child, Ellena! I did not see the man on the bench until you mentioned it.

Rouchswalwe said...

Knowing how to handle a bit of teasing is vital in the workplace. Trust is built, as strange as it sounds. Oh, Pasha is delightful. I wonder what she had in her little purse. When I was that age, I usually had rocks and leaves in mine.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Elklena, I love your stories, memories, so clear-eyed, economical and self-aware.
I gather that Pasha is your daughter?

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Sorry for the new spelling of your name!

Ellena said...

Yes, Pasha, her dad the Magyar and I arrived in Canada on the last voyage of SS Neptunia in May 1956.

Anji Knutsen said...

Ellena: Your bank memories reminded me of the kind customers who bought us ice-cream on hot summer days when I worked in a bank.

So how did they really make their skirts stand out?

Roderick Robinson said...

You have crammed an enormous amount of yourself into 337 words. My first reaction was to accuse you of prodigality, but that would have been wrong. Hopelessly wrong. The words depend on each other and the ideas and events are elegantly balanced. All of which allows you to arrive at this beautifully simple summary of who you were - exactly - at that very moment:

I was not much help to any of them being very uncomfortable talking about personal matters but, I was pleased that I had made friends that trusted me.

I know I have teased you in the past when I believed you lacked confidence. I wanted to be the responsible person at your elbow. I now feel that no more teasing will be necessary. That you may take me at face value.

Ellena said...





To all of you - mea culpa.

Writing a post is a great effort for me and so are writing an answer to a comment or commenting on your blogs. I must have intended to do it later and I just now realized that I had not thanked you for coming by here.
How ungrateful of me.

-Yes, some things were itchy but times were sweet.
-Pasha still walks ahead as determined as then.
-I'm ashamed to say that the answer was as simple as starch but I also found out that a hoop could be inserted in the hem of the underskirt.
-I still lack confidence RR and am too old to change that but I am brave and give things a try. Keep near my elbow.