<![CDATA[          Kate Allison - Artist, Writer - Woodhaven Happenings]]>Wed, 02 Mar 2016 21:31:39 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[#92 - The Stepfordization of Maggie (part 2)]]>Mon, 07 Jul 2014 02:51:49 GMThttp://www.kate-allison.com/woodhaven-happenings/92-the-stepfordization-of-maggie-part-2

Libby © Tiff20 | Dreamstime.com
The new Maggie twists slightly on her unforgiving sofa, and asks in a too-bright tone if I would like some tea. The old Maggie would have simply put the kettle on with nothing being said. Her Miss Manners style of etiquette is infectious, though, and I find myself answering:

"That would be perfectly lovely, thank you."

She rejects my offer of help in the kitchen — something else the Maggie of old would not have done — so I stay seated and watch her walk into the kitchen. Even her dress code has changed: no more dirndl skirts or hippy kaftans, no more peasant blouses or wooden beads. I remember, when we first met, my impression of her was "Biba meets Miss Havisham of Great Expectations.”  Today, a first impression might be “Botox meets Liz Claiborne of Stepford Wives."

What, I ask myself, can make a strong woman like Maggie turn into a drone?

It’s a rhetorical question. When you take into account the variables of Maggie’s life, only one has changed: her companion. Her ex-ex who, even when absent from the room as he is at present, keeps Maggie in a zombie-like trance by remote control.

Maggie’s personality started to alter quite a while ago, of course. My own diary pinpointed the moment as early as last September:

I have no idea what witchcraft Maggie’s ex has spun on my friend, but in the four weeks she was in the Keys, Maggie changed. She’s never been one to show or act her age — “Age is but a number” she is fond of saying — but since she came back, she’s been nearer in mental age and outlook to Jack than to me.

I did wonder if she was becoming prematurely senile, until I saw Maggie and Derek together one afternoon. Then I realised what had happened.

They’ve teleported themselves back forty years. She is behaving as she did when she was nineteen, and he thinks he’s the dashing young state trooper who stopped a redheaded English woman for speeding in a borrowed Corvette.

And it won’t work. You can’t be teenagers when you’re drawing a pension — at least, you can’t be the same teenagers that you used to be. By all means, have a second youth; but the key word there is “second”.

Reliving their first one will end in a pool of tears, I’m sure of it.

Ignoring Miss Manners’ probable advice to stay put on the sofa as my hostess had indicated I should, I follow Maggie into the kitchen.

She looks up as I approach, and I could swear that her expression is one of alarm.

“Let’s have a nice chat while the tea’s brewing,” I say, leaning cosily against the counter. “I haven’t seen you for ages. Not even in the shops, although I’ve seen Derek there a few times. How are you doing?"

Maggie’s alarmed expression returns to one more bland. She smiles and nods once to acknowledge her satisfactory wellbeing, and counts out spoonfuls of looseleaf tea into an angular, stainless-steel teapot that resembles not a tabby cat but part of a car engine.

I stare at the stainless steel monstrosity -- no doubt an example of engineering perfection that it wouldn't dream of dribbling over teatime cake and biscuits -- and rage quietly to myself. How dare it decide that Maggie's old china teapots weren't good enough?

The answer to that is: it didn't. Something else did.

Someone else did. 

“And how is Derek?” I ask. “You haven’t kicked him out yet?” 

Maggie’s eyes widen. She looks around furtively before replying.

“Of course not. Why would I do that?” she says. “We’re just getting to know each other again.”

She pours boiling water on the tea leaves, lets it brew for exactly two minutes, then pours me a cup. It’s not her usual brand of bright orange PG Tips. This stuff is pale grey with a slice of lemon floating in it, and it smells of lavender potpourri.

“The house looks beautiful,” I lie, after I’ve taken a sip. Not only does the tea smell like potpourri, but it tastes like it too. “Very tidy. Very clean. Very…” I can’t think how to describe the new, angular, clinical style that is so out of place in Maggie’s cosy home.

“Very not me, I think you’re trying to say.” Her voice is barely audible. 

It’s the first sighting I’ve had of the real Maggie for several months, and in my surprise, I almost drop my cup.

"So why did you do it?" I ask.

Maggie purses her lips: Shush. Then she jerks her head slightly towards the door in the kitchen that leads to the den. 

"Can you talk?" I whisper.

She shakes her head. 

In a louder voice that will carry to the den where her ex-ex presumably is, she says, "Derek and I have plans to go out very soon, so I'm afraid you won't be able to stay long. But before you leave, remind me to give you the CD you lent me last summer. I do apologise for keeping it so long."

Again, a pursing of lips to silence any bemused reaction on my part. I've never lent Maggie any CDs. Ever.

I swig back the remnants of my lavender-flavoured tea and Maggie hustles me towards the front door. As I step out onto the porch, she thrusts a CD case at me. I shove it in my handbag without looking at it, get in the car, and head off home to see the children who have been tormenting a local high schooler who was foolish enough to volunteer to babysit.

Later, after dinner, I tell a slightly bored Oliver about the mysterious changes in our old neighbour. "And then, just before I left, she gave me a CD she says I lent her...but I've never lent her any CDs."

"What was it?" Oliver asks. 

I rummage in my handbag, which is a large sack-like affair in which everything falls to the bottom in a jumble of loose change, gas receipts, and Happy Meal toys, and pull out the CD case that Maggie had given me.

"A Beatles album," I tell him, and hold the case up for him to see. 

He squints. "I can't see without my glasses. Which one?"

John, Paul, George, and Ringo; dressed in blue uniforms, holding their arms in various semaphore positions.

"'Help'," I say.

<![CDATA[From the pages of Woodhaven Observer (#2)]]>Thu, 29 May 2014 15:25:37 GMThttp://www.kate-allison.com/woodhaven-happenings/from-the-pages-of-woodhaven-observer-2
March 21, 2014

Kindergarten teacher returns to school; kids and parents "overjoyed."
PTA president claims it's a bad example to kids to allow unfit teachers in classroom.

Image: iosphere FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Kindergarteners at Woodhaven Elementary finally got to meet their teacher this week when long-time educator Cybelle Healy returned to class after a six-month absence. 

Mrs. Healy, 62, suffered a heart attack two days before the start of this school year and has been recuperating ever since.

"It's been a long road to recovery but I finally made it. I'm glad to be back," said Healy, an educator with 40 years' experience, and for decades a firm favorite with kids, parents, and co-workers alike.

Her loss was felt deeply by the incoming class of kindergarteners, and it is believed that several parents removed their kids from the care of substitute teacher Patsy Traynor, choosing instead this year either to homeschool or to boost the funds of the Montessori School in Banbury.

"We are ecstatic to have Mrs. Healy back," said one mother whose child currently attends Montessori. "The private school fees have crippled us. But you make sacrifices for your kids, don't you?  I'm happy she came back in time for summer, though. It means we will be able to join the pool club AND the country club. Also I can go back to getting weekly mani-pedis and shopping at Whole Foods."

Not everyone shares this mother's enthusiasm, however. Jodee Addison, President of Woodhaven Elementary's PTA, and organizer (and sole entrant) of Woodhaven's 50k Fun Run last year, was particularly vocal when we asked for her reaction to the news.

"I think it's a really bad example to the kids," Addison said. "She was totally unfit. Someone in her position should look after her health and not eat saturated fat. I've seen her eating cupcakes in front of the kids at Valentine's parties, for God's sake. You can't behave irresponsibly like that and not be prepared to accept the consequences. It's very upsetting for the children, having this incredibly important year of their school career disrupted by something that was self-inflicted by a person who obviously doesn't care about her students."

Principal Dr. Felix Roth said he was "delighted to welcome Mrs. Healy back to Woodhaven Elementary's family fold." 

He declined to comment on Ms. Addison's remarks, other than asking the Observer to remind parents that voting would soon begin for the election of next year's PTA board.

<![CDATA[#91 -- The Stepfordization of Maggie (Part 1)]]>Mon, 26 May 2014 16:48:57 GMThttp://www.kate-allison.com/woodhaven-happenings/91-the-stepfordization-of-maggie-part-1Picture © Tiff20 | Dreamstime.com
Maggie’s house used to feel like my second home. Every part of it was an extension of her, my “other” mother: the black wood-stove, the teapot-cats she didn’t have the heart to throw away, the colourful patchwork quilts draped over rocking chairs and love-seats.

I loved the stove’s smoky smell that wound through the house, even in summer, and clung to my clothes after every visit. So similar to cigar smoke, which I cannot bear, but so comforting in a way that tobacco residue never is.

I loved the china cats, gathering dust on the shelf above the kitchen window. They were as ugly as they were useless; cats of any material were never designed to hold hot liquids, and during afternoon tea, as Maggie tipped them over to pour, they would dribble incontinently over her plates of digestive biscuits and slices of Victoria sandwich.

And the quilts? I loved, simply adored, the stories that each quilt told.

“Now this white taffeta here, that’s from my wedding dress. Well, I say ‘dress’, but there wasn’t much of it. You couldn’t get more than a couple of patches out of it. It was the Sixties, and the skirt was noticeable more by its absence than presence. The blue seersucker, though, is from a party dress that Sara wore when she was five. It had a Peter Pan collar and puffed sleeves, and she looked like Miss Pears in it. And see this lime green? That’s part of the shirt I was wearing when I decided, just like that, that I’d had enough of Derek. I packed a bag for me and Sara and we left at midnight, like a pair of Cinderellas, while he was on night shift.”

The last story, about a patch of lime-green cotton commemorating her independence, is the one that keeps coming back to me as I sit with Maggie now in her living room.

Correction. This is not Maggie’s living room. Not anymore. It belongs to someone else who lives here now.

It's as if the lime-green shirt lost its life in vain.

Gone is the wood-stove, replaced by a wall fire resembling a plasma TV.  

Gone are the ceramic cats in the kitchen. The shelf where they used to sit has also gone, and in its place is a calico Roman blind. The countertops, which used to be barely visible for all the bric-a-brac — half-opened letters, a basket of middle-aged Golden Delicious, assorted supermarket receipts and special offer coupons — are clear of paraphernalia and smell faintly of lemon and ammonia. Only a coffeemaker and a toaster grace the surfaces.

And gone are the worn wooden rocking chairs and threadbare love seats, usurped by two cream, leather sofas, the type with angular seats that dig into the backs of your knees, and backrests that are too low to lean your head on. 

Naturally, the life-history patchwork quilts are nowhere to be seen.

It’s like an “after” picture on a home makeover program. 

Very sleek, very chic, very neutral. Devoid of personality. 

Devoid of Maggie. 

Well — devoid of the old Maggie, the Maggie who lived here a few months ago, the one whose personality was too big for this little cottage.

Since her ex has been living with her, though, her personality has been on a starvation diet.

<![CDATA[From the pages of Woodhaven Observer (1)]]>Sun, 25 May 2014 21:57:07 GMThttp://www.kate-allison.com/woodhaven-happenings/a-clipping-from-the-woodhaven-observer
February 12, 2014

Woodhaven realtor questioned by police in connection with recent house fire.  

The community was rocked this week when local realtor, Melissa Harvey Connor, was questioned in connection with the recent destruction of several brand new houses in Banbury, near Woodhaven.
Ms Connor, a lifelong resident of Woodhaven, denies any knowledge of the cause of the fire that destroyed nine single-family homes which had remained empty since their construction nearly a year ago.  
Connor is known to be a good friend (and, some say, with "benefits") of the owner of Brentnor's Bricks and Stones, builder of the Banbury subdivision.
A source for the Observer, speaking on condition of anonymity, claims that for the last year Connor has been deliberately withholding buyers' offers from the house sellers whom she represents. 

"That's horse- [expletive] and you know it," was Connor's response to our journalist's questions on the matter.
"This kind of, like, disrespect would totally never have

Stuart Miles - FreeDigitalPhotos.net
happened when Patsy Traynor's uncle was in charge of this newspaper.  These days, it's nothing more than, like, a thyroid [sic] at a grocery store checkout," she said, before driving away, holding her cell phone to her ear, to her home on Juniper Street, Woodhaven.

Editor-in-Chief Traynor (to whom Connor referred) worked for forty years at the Woodhaven Observer before his retirement to the Caribbean last year. Since his departure, it has become apparent that that his female intern and many thousands of dollars from Observer funds also retired to the same location. His wife is still a resident of Woodhaven.