Proust Q 5.0 May 2010: Mother reduxMay 11, 2010
A year ago, I profiled Mother in 11th ave’s internationally acclaimed modernization of the Proust Questionnaire. This being the month of Mother’s Day, I thought I’d rerun it. And no, Hallmark was not involved in this decision.
May 11, 2009: Think you know your mumsy? I did. But I found some unexpected bits and bites when Mother agreed to submit to the Proust Questionnaire 5.0 (Details? Scroll to the bottom for the 411.). Me? I come out even. She flatters me once and then slags me for my chronic tardiness. Seems fair. Happy Mother’s Day to you Mother, and to you all. Now here’s the PQ 5.0 with Mother, who, you should know, is an artist in textile and other media; twice divorced; has traveled the world but never to her favorite place, Israel; is a WWII-phile; shamelessly loves Boney M’s Christmas album and makes the most stupendous Betty’s Macaroni and Tomatoes and Cheese. Here goes:
Mother, since we are conducting this interview by phone, the world is ours for the inventing. If, as I some day hope, money is no object, in what city and establishment would you like this interview to be taking place? Paris at a sidewalk cafe and I would like to have coffee with Dalai Lama and also Coco Chanel. (Me: So it’s not enough to be interviewed by me? You had to invite the Dalai Lama and Coco to crash?) Oh I thought you wanted to know who I’d like to have coffee with. (Me: No that’s fine. If I’m going to get rebuffed, at least it’s a holy man.)
Who and what would you be wearing? Ralph Lauren, because he’s so classic. aA pair of very comfortable slacks, sweater with blazer, silk scarf and pair of tasteful diamond earrings. Very understated. You know I’m elegant.
And, most importantly, what would we be drinking? Cafe au lait.
What are the qualities you most admire in others? Kindness.
What do you like most about yourself? That’s a hard one. Let me think. My strength, my adaptability.
Least? Stubbornness. (Me: What? You stubborn?) You don’t think I’m stubborn? I can be.
What is your greatest achievement? My ability to draw. It makes me wonder where it comes from. First time I did a portrait, I was amazed. It was like I’d given birth.
What is your present state of mind? Tired. I’m worried about my health.
Where and when are/were you happiest (other than giving birth to your first born)? When I was in love, the last time. That’s all I will say.
What is your first memory? My very first memory was of living in (the Winnipeg west neighbourhood of) St. James when Grampa was in the sanitorium, when he had TB — probably about 1944 (making her age 4) — and Granny giving (her elder brother) Uncle Fred and I both a Valentine in the morning. It was cold.
- Mother handquilting
What, currently, do you most love doing? Creating. I can elaborate a little by saying: the process of thinking up new ideas. Something worthwhile. I used to put so much time into handquilting (as opposed to machine quilting). I feel I’ve done my time to keep that tradition alive. I’ve done my bit. I’ve tried to pass along my knowledge and how important it is not to forget the arts and crafts. It’s important to maintain and pass along. But now I can see the value of putting more time into another aspect of the quilt other than the quilting, such as applique, or colour theory.
What was your worst job? Oh that’s a tossup between an agency that supplied the garment industry with notions and a health support agency that was very poorly organized. My best job was working in human resources, screening new applicants. (I liked) meeting new people and being amazed at what people told me. … Once, there was a scandal about people who cleaned out parking meters, pocketed some of the take, and one applicant admitted he’d been involved. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.
- Mother at Shelburne Museum, Burlington, Vt. 2004.
What is your favourite journey? Becoming myself.
Your favourite colour? It would have to be rose, because it’s pretty.
What is your idea of perfect happiness? To be held by somebody you love.
Of misery? Nobody caring.
If not yourself, who or what would you be? An archeologist, probably in the 1930s in Egypt.
Where would you like to live? Greece. It’s so ancient. And there’s such history. Or England, small village, but not so isolated that you didn’t have access to London. Too crazy to live in London and too expensive.
What is your favourite or most memorable meal and when is the last time you indulged? Food is not all that important to me really. Last night’s supper was pretty good. Macaroni and tomatoes and cheese with fresh asparagus and other fresh vegetables.
- Mother and me, Lake Winnipeg
Name the person who influenced you most and how. I’d say you, Daughter. You showed me there are other ways to do things. I was brought up on the old ideas. And I think my father. He impressed me. He was a self-made man, self-educated. He had a very good vocabulary and I always say I got my vocabulary from him.
Name the film/song/book/art that influenced you most and why? Song? Amazing Grace. No Danny Boy, the sad lamentations of Danny Boy. Movie? The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. I love fantasy love stories. Book? Not a book but a poem: Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950) poem Renascence (1917). I don’t know why. All the suffering of the world goes through her and she comes out the other side reborn. I highly recommend reading this. It’s five or six pages long and she was only in her 20s when she wrote it. I used to have a copy and it’s somewhere around here but …
In this or any time, which real-life figure(s) do you most admire? Tina Turner, because she pulled herself up from nothing, from being an abused battered wife saddled with (Ike Turner’s) debts and she pulled herself up and made a success of herself. In history, I’d have to say the suffragettes in general.
Who is your favourite fictional hero? The captain in the film The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Rex Harrison plays him. Calls a spade a spade and yet he’s very tender with her. Plus I find him very attractive. Very romantic movie.
What fault can you most easily forgive? Tardiness (which is a jab at her eldest child). I can forgive it but it takes a bit of work. Nothing personal.
What fault can you not forgive? Betrayal.
What is your motto? Hold on I’m running water for tea. No! That’s not my personal motto. … Life isn’t always easy and you’re dealt a lot of blows but you just deal with it. Have a bit of faith. You’re not given more than you can handle.
How would you hope to die? 30 years from now (which would make her 99). I’m not asking for 100. That would be greedy.
Any last words? When my father used to say, ‘Enjoy this, these are the berst years of your life, but you don’t realize it,’ it was true. One should really appreciate every day. And to that I’d like to add I appreciate the kindness of people who help selflessly and don’t even realize they’re helping. I’ve had kindnesses done for me that have meant so much.
Anything else? You never asked me what one of the most fun things is: performing skits. I’ve done a few. I just love them.
And… What about the Barbara Walters question about the tree?
Okay. If you could be a tree, what kind of tree would you be? A fir tree because kids can play beneath your branches and people can make love underneath.
Oh Mother! But not at the same time. Obviously.
Admit it. You read those celebrity Q&As and you know you’re easily as worthy of being profiled. I know I do, but my friends are way more interesting than me. So, with nods to the “confession albums” of the late 1800s made famous by the fabulous Marcel Proust’s answers, to French TV host Bernard Pivot who adapted the questionnaire, to Inside the Actors StudioJames Lipton who gave it another spin and to Vanity Fair, which uses its own elegantly spun version to anchor the magazine’s back pages, I submit for your entertainment and enlightenment, my own version of the Proust Questionnaire, re-retooled for a blog age, and Elizabeth (aka Mother) who has consented to be this month’s victim. host