Since my dad's injury I haven't had a chance to work on my memoir, Raised in Ruins, about growing up with only my family in the ruins of a salmon cannery that burned druing WWII. But now it's time to get back to work, and to get myself in the mood here is an excerpt from a recent chapter:
As preteens, my sister Megan and I dove headfirst into the world of Barbara Cartland and became enamored of the Regency period. We developed as a character a snobby, aristocratic matriarch named Madame Moonlea. We'd swish majestically around our Alaskan floathouse home that was perched above the tide surrounded by evergreens, and we'd peer down at our younger brothers through pretend lornettes, saying all manner of stuffy superior things to them in our best upper crust British accents. We let them know that odds were not great that they'd be invited to Almack's for the supper dance.
We tooled around outside on driftwood logs, pretending we were in phaetons and curricles, snapping riding whips (thin, red cedar limbs divested of needles) over the horse's backs and chatting about the latest balls, and plays at Covent Garden. Or we sat side saddle (in our ragged jeans that magically transformed into gorgeous riding habits of the finest satins and silks) on logs with weathered, broken branches, hooking our legs around ones that took the place of a saddle horn, and trotted around Hyde Park exchanging witty remarks and the latest "on dits"
"Lady Dalgliesh has behaved insupportably," I shared, my voice a languid, congested drawl. I moved my body on the log as if I was aboard a walking horse. "She was quite in her cups during the Michaelmas Ball, I gather."
"Oh, not Lady D. again." Megan yawned delicately, patting her lips with her pinky raised. "If I hear another word about her I daresay I shall be bored to distinction!"
I cleared my throat in my most genteel manner. "Pray forgive me, m'lady, but I believe you mean bored to distraction, or possibly extinction?"
Megan caught my eye and we burst into laughter.
We also had a few duels. We stood back to back holding our driftwood guns sternly in front of us, while our little brothers Robin and Chris stood by as our seconds (the individuals responsible for the duel being conducted honorably). As one of the boys counted off we marched with measured strides away from each other, the gravel beach and clam shells crunching underfoot, the musk of seaweed in our nostrils. Off to the side, the tar-blackened pilings of the old cannery haul-out marched down the beach in soldierly formation arranged by size from tallest to shortest.
On the count of ten we turned and shot. Somehow we survived to do it all again, though we weren't so bourgeois as our brothers who ran around shooting each other with their fingers yelling "new guy" every two minutes.
During school, Megan and I appropriated the clay sent out by SISD (Southeast Islands School District) to mold an entire London Season's worth of "ton" people.
We had men in tails and top hats tapping crops agains their high Hessian boots. Ladies who perched side saddle on prancing steeds (splay-footed so they'd stay upright) wore flowing riding habits and hats with veils. Little boys in sailor suits chased after barking dogs, and people of all descriptions in their Regency attire (and occasionally Victorian dresses complete with exaggerated bustles) strolled about or rode in two-wheeled, open vehicles pulled by one or more horses.
We filled the Plexiglass windows that overlooked the raw beach and bay with these preening clay people from Barbara Cartland's world.
I sometimes wondered what the refined Barbara Cartland would think, as she drifted about her ornately decorated British mansion, if she could see two ragamuffin wilderness girls lifting lines from her books to put in the mouths of our clay people.
While my sister was up here last fall we played around with some clay I'd bought to try our hands at re-creating our Regency clay world. She held the clay up to her nose and smiled. "Wow, my whole childhood comes rushing back!"
Tara Neilson (ADOW)