“I have good news.”

In Ang Lee’s film adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, Emma Thompson portrays Elinor (and Thompson also wrote the screenplay for which she received an Oscar), says this line to Edward (portrayed by Hugh Grant).  The scene drawn on reams of awkwardness as in the original novel. Colonel Brandon has generously offered Edward the living at his estate at Delaford, so that Edward can realistically have a living after being cast off by his family and marry Lucy.  And the Colonel asks Elinor to deliver the news, completely unaware of course, that Elinor herself is in love with Edward.

Austen’s original lines in her book are not as succinct as in the film version: “I have something of consequence to inform you of, which I was on the pointing of communicating by paper.  I am charged with a most agreeable office, (breathing rather faster than usual as she spoke).”  Here I find Austen’s insertion of Elinor’s description of fast breathing rather telling.  Austen is setting a scene of frayed nerves, with compressed emotions, and continues to convey a very precarious scene unfolding, “What Edward felt, as he could not say it himself, it cannot be expected that anyone else should say for him  He looked all the astonishment which such unexpected, such unthought-of information could not fail of exciting; but he said only these two words:

Colonel Brandon!”

“Yes,” continued Elinor, gathering more resolution as some of the worst was over, “Colonel Brandon means it as a testimony of his concern for what has lately passed–”

And I’m going to leave off on quoting the passage there.  Returning to the the film version, the scene was awkward with Elinor (Thompson) and Edward (Grant) sort of shifting around, avoid eye contact, until Elinor (Thompson) sort of opens her arms, and gestures for Edward (Grant) to sit, while saying, “I have good news.”

Often I think of the line and it’s origins.  The idea that is a composite or a riff off one of my favorite author’s pivotal scenes often recalls me to sort of say it was a good long pause. Rather like the delivery of actor Emma Thompson, when I have the rare occasion to say it, often at work.  “I have good news,” is not something I say with any regularity and I try to keep (unlike Austen’s Elinor), a good even breath and tone.

These days as we enter the month of October, and are in reminders of the color pink and breast cancer awareness — it’s all we can hope for really.  My maternal grandmother was diagnosed in 1975, but lived until 1999.  My mom was diagnosed in 2014 right before my dad passed away, her surgery was just a small one, but the timing was terrible, she had to have it during my dad’s last days in ICU — and so I was left to run between buildings in Mass. General Hospital in Boston.  The realization of an only child’s worst nightmare.

Before my mum was diagnosed I was not considered high risk but that all changed.  And in February of 2016 my mammogram lit up.  After ultrasounds and biopsies — it wasn’t cancer but my surgeon, who like most surgeons I’ve met is not a big talker — told me simply it was a polyp in my duct and they were going to take it.  To note, he also does genetic profiling which is why I think I was assigned to him chiefly due to family history and my age, etc.  And learned about the high rate of change of cells, and read about the high incidence of cancer often beginning in the duct afterwards.  My surgery was minor, so I was back to work after a few days. Had a follow up mammogram a few months later.  As recommended my mother went in for the genetic testing and it turns out she doesn’t have any of the genes that are a pre-cursor to breast cancer — so I don’t have them either.  That was good news.

The close watch also requires an MRI every 6 months as well, which are difficult because: 1) MRI’s are very expensive and they must be pre-approved by my insurance company as medically necessary at least one week before, 2) the MRI must be done during a certain physical time of the month and Mother Nature often does not cooperate with the scheduling. The MRI is to keep an eye on a group of cysts–they are not cancerous yet (I had an MRI biopsy in the summer of 2016 they came back clear no high change of cells or anything yet) and it seems some people have a lot of cysts, just like acne or moles, but still they are just part of the whole close watch.

The last MRI was in May 2017 — after several attempts and rescheduling  it was done not at MGH Boston but outside the city, I had to go to work, leave, catch a shuttle  bus that did not take me right there, but luckily a nice lady on the bus helped me find it a few blocks away it via the GPS on her phone.  The tech was nice enough but they were short handed and one point he thought he may have perforated my vein hooking up the IV, finally it was all sorted out I just wanted to get it over with and we did. Ending up climbing out of the MRI machine myself because they were so understaffed and took a regular bus back to the train and the city.

By the time I got back to work there was only enough time left in the day to check email and mail and sort things out, and then my cell phone rang. It was the nurse practitioner (NP) covering for the NP from my surgeon/doctor’s office.  And I sort of freaked out but she said, “I have good news.”  The MRI results were back, and the cysts everything was the same, etc. She told me they would schedule me again, and the date awaits on the calendar. I’m hoping that Mother Nature and everything will comply, and again I just hope for that line, “I have good news.”

 

 

 

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Digression: Places I’ve been to Tea & tea parties I’ve held.

Some of the places I’ve been to tea — although generally I am a fan of caffeine in all forms: coffee, tea, chai, and hot chocolate. My mum and I though share a love of taking tea, because after I graduated high school and before I went to university we went on a tour of London and the countryside together.

Harrod’s in London.  My travel journal from 1988 notes, we took the bus to get to Harrod’s and people nearby heard us talking, and they were nice and helpful directing us to the correct stop.  We had tea in the formal restaurant on a upper floor — dimly remember long, draped tables and it was very quiet.

Wren Coffee House.  Per my journal I noted Piccadilly at St. James’s Church.  Remember it was attached to a pretty church. We had been walking around and saw they had an outdoor craft market so we popped in and bought a very cute little Mrs. Hedgehog pincushion made out of dried brambles.  Then we went into the cafe, my accounts noted I paid f1.50 for tea both my mum and I. Remember we were just ahead of the rush, and we were sitting a table, but then folks all came in and queued up.  Per online searching not sure if I made an error on the address or if the location has changed — church adjacent still remains. Although via JSTOR(dot) org, I found a reference to the cafe and the Friday and Saturday outdoor market in a book published about the history of the Episcopalian Church back in 1993.

The Hawthorne Hotel, Salem, Massachusetts.  Moving forward, over the years, I’ve attended several “Pink Teas” at the Hawthorne Hotel.  This historic hotel was built in 1925, by George Poor, the original founder of the Sylvania Lighting Company, and is located near Salem Common.  We attended the pink teas and often brought other friends, via an acquaintance  who organized the tea to raise money for a local hospice and outreach services — held in the pleasant, sunny, large function room on the main floor. For many years, this woman always volunteered for the tea, dressed in a lovely gown, would come and play the harp, so beautifully almost made you want to cry. Sadly, she passed away, and sometimes there was other entertainment such as Irish step dancing or a demonstration on scarfing tying.  The dress code isn’t mandatory but mostly pink, everyone breaks out their fancy hats, gloves and even a few cheeky boas.  Few times over the years, I’ve walked around selling raffle ticket for the donated gift baskets — my mum and I also contributed a few themed baskets as well.  Sometimes at the Hawthorne, the staff have put the pastry and mini sandwiches on the table on one of those pretty tier dishes, other years because of the size of the crowd and a good year for fundraising, it was more of a buffet — switching between the savory and dessert courses.

Tea and Sympathy, Greenwich Village, New York.  This tea shop was founded in 1991.  Had tea here with two college friends, somewhere in the mid to late 1990’s.  Think we went for one of their birthdays. Remember the tables were small and they did give us a one of those tiered serving dishes of little sandwiches and pastries and I remember thinking we were sort of relieved of how they served, because we weren’t sure how everything was going to fit on the tiny table!  They also have a small shop and online store where they sell jam, curds and other imported goods. The same owners have a fish and chips shop a few doors down on Greenwich Ave., and an authentic black British cab they rent out (actually didn’t know about the cab just learned that from their website).

The former Ritz Carlton Hotel on Arlington and Newbury Streets, Boston MA. The former Ritz is now a Taj — to note, for several years now the Ritz Carlton has a new location on Tremont Street in Boston.  On one of my mum’s special birthdays I took my mum and one of my mum’s dearest friends (one of my “auntie’s”), out for the day.  We rode on the Swan Boats and then went to the Ritz for tea.  The room was very old world elegant with pretty chintz couches and formal service, there was also a harpist playing. Was very relaxing and pleasant and we enjoyed it.  Haven’t been the to the Taj for tea yet, but only for lunch. Had invited several of my “aunties” to attend a Women’s Equality Day event sponsored by the Women’s Suffrage Celebration Commission at the Swan Boats (a long time woman owned business), and we went afterwards to the Taj, and I treated them for lunch, which was lovely.

The Four Seasons Hotel, Boston.  For another one of my mum’s special birthdays a few years back, with two of her dearest friends or my “aunties.”  Was a little different we sat at a table, a little bit more modern type of tea and service. The room was very elegant and there was a nice view of the Garden across the way.

George H. Wightman House, Wheelock College, Brookline, MA, and catered by Vintage Tea and Cake Company, Belmont, MA.  Have attended a couple of teas hosted by JASNA Massachusetts.  The Wightman House was built was a private residence from 1902-1930, when it was sold to Gordon College, Hebrew College and finally to Wheelock College in 1999.  JASNA MA chapter was meeting there regularly in a comfortable, lecture room since I joined, but the teas were held in a special formal room, with a fireplace which I suspect was their original parlor or drawing room.  The teas were catered by Vintage Tea and Cake Company with lovely tables set up for us to select our own vintage tea cup and saucer. Different teas also clearly marked in vintage teapots and a nice selection of scones, pastries and treats. Sadly, Wheelock is merging with Boston University, but they have generously offered JASNA MA a new meeting place on their Boston Campus. To note, the Wightman House is in Brookline, and is on the national register of historic places, which has me quite relieved it won’t be torn down to make more awful luxury condo towers.

As for the Vintage Tea and Cake Co., I really wish this catering company existed back when I threw a tea party for a very special birthday at my auntie’s for my mum. The local caterer I used back in 1998, skimped on the sandwiches so my auntie and I whipped up tuna salad sandwiches to fill in.  The mini-tarts I got though from a local french bakery (Peaches and Cream, in East Boston–now located 2017 in Chelsea, MA), were a big hit.  They were beautiful mini-works of art like stained glass, and I had ordered larger fruit tart for my mum to blow out her candles — which my grandmother thought was just awful.  She did not understand why I did not have a cake but everyone had fun dressing up, and I took along extra hats for those who did not have them or forgot — which we hung on the vanity in my aunt’s front hall entry.  The Vintage Tea and Cake Company also has a small store front shop too, in Belmont, MA.

Gore Mansion (Gore Place), Waltham, MA.  This was a special event I attended with a friend and fellow Janeite via JASNA MA.  We had our lecturer/special speaker in the carriage house and then attended a lovely tea in the mansion.  Christopher Gore was a Harvard educated revolutionary who served as a MA governor and senator, and he married Rebecca Amory Payne in 1785, and they were quite a large part of society.  JASNA members were treated to a tour of the mansion after the tea.  Gore Place is a museum open to the public as well as a working farm.

The Cozy Tea Cart, Brookline, NH.  My latest tea outing, was also a recent JASNA MA event, held a little further north in Brookline, NH.  This was a small tearoom with long tables with an extensive menu including a lot of gluten free items.  There was a full tea available, and also a lovely shop were they sell their own tea blends, as well as honey and other locally made items, and other tea-related merchandise.

And I’ve also thrown exactly two (2) parties at work in both our old and new conference rooms.  The first was for a friend when she left to work out the Mass. Supreme Court — causing me to have to tape together multiple tablecloths from underneath — tricky business although I hid the seam with a “faux runner” made out of colored paper. And this past summer was my second attempt which was a bit more casual, for a volunteer attorney leaving us for a new job — with mango chutney from my aunt in Hawaii and pepper water crackers as our savory and my Alice in Wonderland teapot — which was part of my gift from the Division when I briefly transferred out to another part of the office.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digression: One Indie Bookstore’s four (4) most stolen authors.

Yesterday, I visited Porter Square Books in Cambridge.  It is a wonderful independent, local, bookstore and whenever I’m in the area I try to pay a visit.  Was a beautiful day so the bookstore was as quiet as I’ve ever seen it, even post-Boston marathon bombing in 2013.*

Started to browse in the front of the store, in the fiction section. My cousin’s 16th birthday is coming up so was thinking about a book for him.  And I see this sign: “If you are looking for F. Scott Fitzgerald ask at the counter.”  Which I thought was weird, like did I miss something?  Did Fitzgerald get banned in Boston and just totally missed it?

This sort of bothered me, while I continued taking a look around the store, found a few gifts in their lovely children’s section which has a nice selection of multi-cultural books and authors, before I checked my watch and I realized I’d lost track of time.  So I went to the counter to check out.  The clerk rang up my books and I said, “Can I ask you a quick question? Why is F. Scott Fitzgerald behind the counter?”  And he was very sweet and explained to me that F. Scott Fitzgerald is one of their top four (4) most stolen authors.

This sort of blew me away and I went to meet my Bookcrossing friends at a Panera Bread Cafe a few doors down. Everyone unpacked the books we swap and trade and got some lunch and started to catch up.  And told them my little adventure over a few doors down and before I could recite the rest of the authors — everyone wanted to guess.  So that was fun — everyone was contributing names and they got two of them, but the remaining slot was unknown so when they were done guessing I told them.

Here goes:

S. Scott Fitzgerald —

Bukowski,

Vonnegut.

And this was the stumper:

Hemingway.

While Bukowski and Vonnegut make sense to me, I don’t really understand Fitzgerald or Hemingway because I think of them as required, high school reading.  When our teachers used to just hand out the copies for required reading, but maybe they don’t do this any longer.

Figuring each indie bookstore has their own list–and I should ask and every time I visit one and see what they say.

*In April 2013, the U.S. was still participating in World Book Night.  My friend lives in North Cambridge, so she and I signed up to pick up our books at Porter Square Books, and there was to be a sort of party.  My friend and I arranged to meet earlier in the day, a sort of belated birthday celebration for me, we saw an independent movie based on a true story about Australian/Aboriginal girls that formed a Motown group and sang for the U.S. troops in Vietnam.  During the film, they showed them performing in Vietnam, when there was an attack and they had to run for cover as bombs exploded.  Hadn’t been to the movies in awhile and commented to my friend in a whisper — my god this sound system — feels like the building is shaking.  Which of course, it was from the bombs going off across the Charles River at the marathon. But we had no idea until we left and went to a nearby restaurant for an early dinner and found out what happened. We went back to her apartment to see the news and call the bookstore to see if we could still pick up the books. Which we did — the party was off but the clerk gave us some cookies they had set up earlier that day.  Think she was relieved to see us.  My friend actually drove me and the books back home which was very generous of her, because at that point no one knew really what was going on and/or if the attacks were over. Days later, my friend called Porter Square Books and ended up picking up several boxes of books never claimed.  She and I managed to give them out/away about a month after.

 

 

 

 

Digression: On making peace with the past. Or not.

These are turbulent days.  The world it seems is churning physically, emotionally, and reeling all over.  There is something about taking movement forward. Momentum in whatever direction whether positive or negative can be a powerful thing.  Momentum though, has its consequences sometimes unseen or unpredictable.  Here, I’m speaking in the widest sense.  My main point being, it’s difficult to erase history and often dangerous.

If you erase something — are you more likely to repeat what came before? Yes the old cliche about history repeating itself.  People often dismiss cliches especially in print, but I have to sort of give them some credence or they wouldn’t have remained relevant in some way for so long.

And not being naive I know there have been white supremacist groups and neo-nazi around in my greater Metropolitan area for at least 30 years.  Every once in awhile they’d make the news — leaflets dropped there, graffiti sprayed over there, or some gravestones toppled.

This past week a town south of my city had KKK newspapers delivered all along one street.  A town north of my city had a swastika carved into a fence of a local school.

Concentration camps were left as grim reminders rather than monuments.  In early-1990’s Prague, I visited the museum of the “model neighborhood.”  Was curious because when I was in high school, our drama department put on a powerful production of the play, I never saw another butterfly, based on the writings of the children held there.

At the museum I saw their drawings and at the end of the tour I learned their fate.  Most were transported to other camps and their lives terminated.  Perhaps one member of their family survived.  Despite the videotaping of Holocaust survivors giving their testimony, despite the concentration camps as reminders — still the the Holocaust denial movement exists.

When they put up the Holocaust memorial they put it in one of the oldest parts of the city. Blackstone block is the nickname. Home to one of the oldest of restaurants in the country and the small tavern where the patriots or minutemen planned their insurrection against the British crown.

To be fair these men were not perfect people — we cannot erase their personal history or what was edited and left to us — but they did what they did and founded a new country.  They took some measures to protect against what they felt was the tyranny they were fighting against, and tried to set up what they felt were safeguards against it ever happening again.

Did they “the Founding Fathers,” leave out some very important things and certain people out of this framing — absolutely.  And if time travel is ever possible, personally want to speak to Benjamin Franklin about the second amendment because seems he definitely liked the ladies.

The Holocaust memorial is made of etched glass — columns of numbers to represent those who were exterminated in the concentration camps during WWII.  For years every time I walked by and saw the dirt and grime in the cut glass distracting from the greater message because I just wanted to Windex it.

This memorial in my city has been desecrated twice this summer.  The first person, seems to be mentally-ill, the second person mostly unknown — bold enough though, to do damage in broad daylight.  At least people chased him and held him down (an off duty firefighter and federal investigator) until the police came.  And so there are two (2) credible witnesses plus video to testify against him.  That history cannot be erased.

But guess we’ll have to see.

Digression: On jams–not the preserves.

A brawl or a melee of some sort — my dad used to call them — jams.  “Be ready,” he said. “To take cover or get out.  And make sure you always know where the exits are.”

This past week coming home from work on the subway train nearly got caught in a jam.

The blue line didn’t have any delays, and we had just stopped at Airport station (unlike the film not the stop before Wonderland).  A group of high school aged kids were talking and being kind of loud, they all had large soda drinks from Burger King with them.

No one paid them much attention. School is pretty much out, kids are blowing off steam and either starting summer jobs or perhaps summer school after the July 4th holiday.

Two (2) girls were slight, blondish and haughty, there were four (4) boys pretty homogenous and then there was him.  Mr. Ringleader, the head of the clique or this group of thuggish kids, about six (6) feet tall wearing shorts and a tee shirt with a baseball cap of some sort.  White Nike sneakers with black or dark gray socks.

Anyway just before the train door’s closed — Mr. Ringleader threw his soda cup now apparently except for ice — right through the doors and onto the edge of the platform.  Which means it will melt and become a slippery puddle, etc.

Was sitting a few seats down from where the girls were standing and hanging onto the overhead strap.  Sort of shook my head a little thinking how rude and awful when a woman about my age — because entered the “ma’am era” awhile back, was standing next to the door, and she took her earbuds out and said to him, “You didn’t just really do that did you?”

This lady though was no “ma’am” but a tough cookie.  Reminded me years ago of girls in groups Papa Gino’s pizza in Revere after the movies — all I had to do was walk in with assorted friends, before they appeared, multiplied and threatened to beat us up simply for stepping in the door.

Oh I thought, been here before, here it comes.

But to my surprise Mr. Ringleader did not curse at her, he frowned and said defiant: “Yeah right.”

She continued, “There are trash cans all over the place and now someone is going to have to pick up your crap.”

And got really quiet.  Felt like all the guys in the train car were just watching and waiting for the Ringleader’s next move.

“Yeah right,” he said again, but agreeing more and signaling his friends, “Uh huh — That’s right.”

Snickering ensued.

“You think that is funny?”  This woman asked in full Joe Pesci mode but he ignored her.  She put back her earbuds and said, “I fear for our future.”

For the rest of the way they talked and snickered — the girls sort of looked at me like: “Just try to say something to us.”  Gave them a solitary dismissive frown and then looked away ignoring them until my stop.

Of course they got off at my stop.  And was worried they hailed from my town. Was wondering if they were children of folks I went to school with growing up?

Hung back and they got off first.  They did not queue to wait for the bus to my town, and they walked up the hill out of the station and into the street — looking over their shoulders — not sure why.  Maybe they figured someone may have texted transit police — and actually I have to see if you can do that.

The girls crossed over the traffic bridge going one way with one of the boys the other three and Mr. Ringleader walked over the pedestrian bridge toward the intersection, where I’m presuming they crossed against the lights and played in oncoming traffic.

Entitled, bad behavior which is common, and we see it everyday.

Luckily there was no gun, or knife, and it didn’t get physical.

Still a jam is a jam.