Four days, including travel, but we fit a lot into those days together — not only our primary purpose, but also a couple of meals out, a book, two movies, and a side trip to take a picture I thought Esther would appreciate!
The Primary Purpose
As I mentioned in my previous post, we went to Ontario to scatter my mother-in-law’s ashes and visit with the family. Cottage country is around 2 hours north of Toronto. My mother-in-law loved being in nature and away from the city.
A group of 11 of us gathered, and her two sons scattered the ashes into the rapids. Colourful flowers were strewn in her wake.
It was quite lovely… although a little bit incongruous when the kayakers came along afterwards!
We also drove a short way to visit the cottage the family used to own and realized that the current owner is actually someone my husband used to work with back in high school! He and his wife were nice enough to let us go down to the lake and take in the atmosphere. We have lots of memories from that cottage. My mother-in-law often used to swim across the lake and back. As the lake is down-river from the rapids, I have an idea that she will be doing that now in perpetuity.
Some Little Side Trips
My husband and I took an extra hour before driving back to my father-in-law’s house, and we spent some time together taking in some sites. First we went to Panorama Park, overlooking the town.
Next on the route was the historic Kirkfield Lift Lock, which my husband had somehow never visited, even though it is on the way back from the cottage. Built between 1900 and 1907, it is still in operation today and used now by pleasure boats. It is the second-highest hydraulic lift lock in the world, and we were lucky enough to see it in action, with one boat going up while another came down.
Our last stop before heading back was the house where Anne of Green Gables author, Lucy Maud Montgomery, lived for 15 years, from 1911 to 1926, and wrote half of her 22 books, including Anne of the Island and Anne’s House of Dreams. Even though we had missed the tours for the day, I told my husband that we had to go and get a picture of the house for Esther, who is quite a fan of Anne with an E! (On reading more about Montgomery later, I realized that I should have taken a picture of the church across the street where Montgomery’s husband was the minister. Instead, I am including the church photo from the Lucy Maud Montgomery Society of Ontario website.)
On arriving back at my husband’s family home, we joined the whole group in having dinner together and reminiscing. The following afternoon, my husband and I spent some time organizing some of my mother-in-law’s accumulated books and papers from a lifetime of enthusiastic ventures aimed at helping others. I think we were able to make a good start and give his father a pathway to continue, however gradually, with the task.
Two Movies and a Book
On the flight to Toronto, I watched Eternal Beauty (2019), starring Sally Hawkins and featuring Billie Piper and Penelope Wilton. It’s an odd movie, but I enjoyed it. Hawkins plays a person with schizophrenia, at times heavily medicated and at others off her meds and sure that there are people within the walls. Piper is her sister, who has issues of her own. I am used to seeing Penelope Wilton as a posh, proper character, but she is not that here. These are ordinary people experiencing a variety of challenges and living their lives. Eternal Beauty is one of several movies I’ve seen lately that doesn’t try to sugar coat mental illness or offer an unrealistically easy outcome. It has its funny moments and the acting is good, although I’m not sure that Hawkins’ portrayal is necessarily a realistic depiction of mental illness, so much as her unique take on what it might be like to live it.
The book I read during the trip was The Nanny by Gilly Macmillan. I’ve never read one of her books before, but I picked this one up as a bargain and ended up being really wrapped up in it. After a tragedy leaves her financially destroyed, Jo moves herself and her daughter, Ruby, from California back to her stately English childhood home, where she must rely on (or tolerate) Virginia, the mother she never bonded with. Her beloved nanny, Hannah, had disappeared suddenly when Jo was seven — something she never got over. When a skull turns up in the estate’s lake, followed by a living female who may or may not be someone from their past, the plot thickens. What is true and what is not? Were her cherished memories of her father true-to-life? What really happened that night in 1988? The book effectively switches between the voices of the three women, as well as that of a police detective. It kept me guessing, finishing up in a surprising and yet satisfying way.
On the flight home, after finishing my book, I thought I had just enough time for another movie. Unfortunately, I was wrong and I missed out on seeing the final six minutes! Argh! (I checked after I got home to see if it is on Netflix, but it isn’t there yet.) Let Them All Talk (2020) stars Meryl Streep, Candace Bergen, Dianne Wiest, Gemma Chan, and Lucas Hedges. Streep plays Alice, an author who is working against a deadline to finish what may or may not be a sequel to her most fan-loved book, “You Always/You Never”. She is invited to Europe for a prestigious prize and, knowing she is unable to fly, her agent, Karen, arranges a crossing on the Queen Mary 2 for the author and her two oldest friends, along with Alice’s nephew. Unbeknownst to Alice, Karen also takes the trip, hoping to find out what the forthcoming book is about, and befriends Tyler, Alice’s nephew and assistant. The movie is essentially a series of talking scenes between all the various characters and eases along through the story with humour, to an unexpected conclusion — at least as far as I could tell without those final six minutes! I understand that some audiences were underenthused with this movie, perhaps because it is not exciting and fast-paced. But I think it does explore a variety of motivations, character flaws, and relationships, and is interesting along the way. And I do like stories about relationships between women of a certain age, especially when they are allowed to present themselves with real faces and bodies.
All in all, it was a good trip, but I am glad to be back home.