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In Montreal now, with the cousins and their new kitty, Moon Pie. I love how little R reached out for the hubster’s hand in the family photo, her heart full of love (and mischief), her brother’s, too. They are good and smart and fun and funny, testament to the goodness of their Papa, too. We had our Montreal poutine (the best of this trip) together at Lester’s, an old school deli that smokes its own meat. We walked, ran, jumped, walked some more, spun, and ate and drank enough to fill hollow legs, yet never saw the kiddos tire nor lose their sense of curiosity and wonder. It was great to be together.

We stayed in the same place as our last trip to Montreal, and though the neighborhood has changed, with construction and new restaurants and shops to explore, we were delighted that we remembered our way around. We made a near daily pilgrimage to the Atwater Market and enjoyed a feast for our eyes and bellies, breakfast pastries and decadent treats from Premiere Moisson, every bite as good as our memory, before walking along the Canal Lachine and circling back home.

We were stunned to find a segment of the Berlin Wall (a gift in celebration of Montreal’s 350th birthday), all nonchalant in a shopping gallery.

Wanderings downtown and in the Old City. The Canadoan Coat of Arms – From Sea to Sea. The Giant dome and enormous cast iron pillars of Marche Bonsecours, full of shops featuring local goods. I doubt you’ll  be surprised to learn that I bought soap.

More good food! There is no shortage of it in Montreal. Tacos Victor is a postage stamp of a place, mostly standing room, but their tacos are well worth it. In a rather surprising Pittsburgh twist, they are topped with really good French fries. And finally, the Montreal Bagel! I’m not much of a bagel person. I’ll take a pumpernickel or a peppercorn potato, with a heavy schmear of cream cheese, maybe a sprinkle of salt and pepper, a couple times a year. Then I met the Montreal on our last trip and started to dream about them. Baked in a wood-fired oven, with a dense crumb, the bagel is chewy and made a tad sweet by the addition of honey, covered in either poppy seeds (black) or sesame seeds (white). I am a bigot bagel eater because I only like mine white.



Sometimes you climb out of bed in the morning and you think, I’m not going to make it, but you laugh inside — remembering all the times you’ve felt that way.

Charles Bukowski


Boy howdy, was it ever good to feel the sadness of December and January finally lift. So many tears, dear readers, so very many. We celebrated our surfeit of joy by making more, of course, with a stellar weekend of adventure and fun, starting at The Double Wide Friday night. They have TV Dinners! Compartmentalized food rocks! Grits! Portobello mushrooms! Brisket! Sweet potato fries! Shoestring fries! Cornbread! Coleslaw! Eeeek!

Surf Pittsburgh? Maybe I will.

This chest was made in 1760!

An afternoon at The Frick. A scrumptious lunch at the cafe, beautiful art, and positively heady conservatory air. Happiness!

Jason Walker

Elisabeth Higgins O’Connor

Finished the day in The Strip District, with stops at Wigle (pronounced like wiggle) for Sassafras Whiskey and aromatic bitters (organic and delicious), Italian provisions at Penn Mac, and marvelous art at Contemporary Craft. No chemicals were purchased in the making of this last photograph.

Sunset over the Heinz Lofts. Home we go…


Baby Tess, with my Great Aunt Mary in 1923

June 1946

She and my Grandpa will marry the following year.

They will have one miscarriage, one still birth, and raise four fine children.

That’s me!


50th Wedding Anniversary


Our final photo together

My Grandma Tess died the day after Christmas, a blessedly quick death, free of complications and suffering, save the ravages of old age. I have yet to conjure a world without her. Her voice, our final, “I love you,” still rings clear. My heart has yet to fully fathom the weight of the inability to pick up the phone for a leisurely conversation; to hear the litany of her ailments; the news of neighbors and relatives; the comings and goings of the skies; her booming at my Grandpa to pick up the phone, to hurry, to perform some task; to make her erupt with laughter; to hear her utter my name.

I am grateful to have had so much time; the parties, the towering stack of buffet plates, everything perfectly laid out: the ice cream loaf with holiday patterns, the relish plate and cheese bell. There I am, running, jumping, screaming around the yard and the house, having the time of my life. Sleepovers as a child, I cuddled on the sofa in the rosy pink nightgown she made, opened the linen closet to inhale the scent of starched linen and cotton, lounged on the back porch to hear the world pass by.  The sleepovers as an adult, visiting from Oregon; there we are at the kitchen table: playing games, chatting of everything and nothing at all, her youth, my youth, clothes, what to make for dinner, you paid how much?! There I am, digging through photographs, closets, and drawers, asking so many questions, where and when and how?

Forty-three years, it is all in the past now, nearly two whole days, and, should I have the privilege of living as long as she, it will be fifty years. Fifty years without my beloved grandmother. Oh life, you are strange.

 Post script, some of what I want to remember:

Her eye for detail: setting a table, decorating the house, folding the clothes.

Her love of ironing, in particular, my Grandpa’s handkerchiefs.

How she, when nearly a septuagenarian, became an avid Colorado Rockies and Denver Broncos fan, watching every televised game and listening to the others on the radio, reading the sports section to pore over stats, memorizing the names of every player and coach. Her reasoning, she told me, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!”

The way she would go out of her way to right a wrong. Barely twenty-four hours into our honeymoon, the straps on the backpacks the hubster and I bought tore. We were in London and thousands of miles from the Eddie Bauer where we purchased them. Without much choice, we ditched them and spent a precious lot of our savings on new packs. Grandma caught wind of it and decided something needed to be done. I can picture her long fingers, nails filed to a point, scanning the yellow pages for the phone number. I can hear her fiery voice discussing quality customer service and two disappointed kids thousands of miles away on their honeymoon until she got what she wanted – a full refund upon our return, some two months later, without so much as a receipt. A force to be reckoned with. I got that from her.

How she taught me to sew and gave me my first sewing machine. The hubster and I, fresh from our honeymoon and eager to decorate our bare apartment, had little money to spare. She helped me make tab topped curtains like the ones in the Pottery Barn catalog for the dining room. They looked terrific at a fraction of the price!

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