A week for writers and lit lovers

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Jackie D'Acre's Memoir Chapter Four

Copyright 2018 Jacqueline D’Acre

 The fourth chapter of this stunning memoir opens with the birth of a sister for little Jackie. Once again we follow the child through the happy times and the terrible. For all the D'Acre fans who I know have been waiting for the next chapter, here it is. If you want to read from the beginning, use the search box at the top left and search by chapter by chapter. The blog saves one chapter at a time. Further help with this is noted in the side bar on the right side of the page. Just scroll down for the instructions. Joan

Jacqueline D’Acre’s Memoir

Chapter Four

It must have been three a.m. the day after my eighth birthday, 1951, when Father cracked open the bedroom door and whispered:
            “Jackie. Are you awake?”
            “Yes,” I whispered back. “Did she have it?”
            I held my breath, praying my wish would come true. “What is it?”
            “A girl.”
            Hurrah! That’s wish number one. “What colour hair does she have?”
            “She’s a redhead.”
            “Hurrah!” I yelled.
            “Shush,” whispered Father. “You’ll wake the whole house up.”
            “Sorry. Thank you, Father. Good night.” Now LEAVE the bedroom. He did and I turned over and pulled the covers up to my chin. Mother had done very well. Now if only I could get her to name my little sister, born the day after me, “Willow.”
            In a week Mother came home with the baby. She let me hold her. I admired her red hair, her blue eyes with long blonde eyelashes and her rosebud lips. She had the prettiest lips of any child in the family. Willow yawned and waved her tiny fists.
            “Can we name her Willow?”
            Mother frowned down at me. “I don’t know, Jackie. You know, something I realized in the hospital while I was being pampered like the Queen of England”—she always raved about the luxuriousness of her hospital stays, one entire week of breakfast in bed—“all the children have names that begin with ‘J’. Maybe we should keep that up. I am thinking ‘Jennifer.’ ‘Jennifer June,’ after me. What do you think?”
            I pretended to ponder. I waited a decent length of time then said as thoughtfully as I could muster, “Hummm. Jennifer…June.” I met Mother’s teal blue eyes, made prettier by black mascara, and held the gaze. “Why not ‘Jennifer June Willow’?” I saw that Jennifer June Willow had Mother’s fair opalescent complexion. Beautiful.
            There was a long, long pause.
            “Okay. Jennifer June Willow.”
            I grinned.

My afternoon caregiver, Vickie, has just arrived and I have hardly written a thing. I hate to stop, but if I don’t I’ll miss talking with her and she is wonderful to talk to. She has been my caregiver for over six years and knows me intimately. She helped me get through many deaths.
            I may only have twelve days to live. That’s when I see my doctor and find out if I can convince her to renew my prescriptions for morphine and percocet. Without them, life is hell. I am in constant severe pain from my back. I have tried every other mode of pain release and nothing but the morphine and percocet work. Although, I have heard good things about medical marijuana. But my doctor, so far, hasn’t suggested it. I wonder why? I know she prescribes it for other patients. I am curious to see if she brings it up on this upcoming appointment.
 My back problem started forty years ago so I have had plenty of time to experiment with pain management. I want to finish writing this book—it took me ten years to work up the courage to write it and now that I’ve started I don’t want to leave it unfinished. I consider what it would be like to go through withdrawal along with the chronic back pain and it terrifies me. I rehearse what I’ll say to Dr. Naqi during my appointment to convince her that my need is valid and means nothing less than a decent quality of life for me. It means everything: I finish the book, I watch Netflix, I laugh and talk with Vickie and Christi and my other caregivers and nurses. I enjoy my Meals on Wheels, I pet my cat, James Bond. In other words, everything. I pray to the Universe I will be successful. I am too shaky to continue writing for today.

It is two days later since I wrote that last paragraph. I now will no longer insist that opiates are the only way to go. Instead, I will ask for any pain relief medication she suggests that will work as effectively as the opiates. See if she brings up medical marijuana. She once acted as if I didn’t deserve pain killers because I wasn’t losing weight. If she doesn’t suggest it I will suspect she is punishing me for my weight.

In Grade Three I remember missing weeks and weeks of school. I kept getting bronchitis. I had a horrible cough, especially in the night. And I was afraid to cough for fear Mother would put me back in bed with Father. I tried so hard not to cough, but I just couldn’t help it. Mother came and rubbed Vicks Vaporub on my chest and tied an old black sock of Grampa’s around my throat —as if that would help. Dr. Brown was a frequent visitor, and we quickly learned I was allergic to sulpha drugs. Instead I took liquid penicillin. It was pink and Mother spooned it into me. The taste was disgusting. Also, I had cravings. Once it was for tomatoes. Fresh tomatoes. I remember crying out, begging for a tomato, but I suppose they were out of season. I never got any.
When I missed school in the third grade, I missed learning the multiplication tables. I never got caught up and for the rest of my life I was miserable at simple arithmetic because I just didn’t know how to multiply. Still don’t. As a consequence, I was terrible at algebra. It was not that I didn’t grasp the concepts—I did. I just made silly multiplication errors and got wrong answers. Thank God calculators were invented, but too late to do me any good in school.
Around this time I began to play with girls: Janice, Marlene and Beth. We made mud pies in Marlene’s backyard and put on plays in Beth’s garage. Once a new girl came onto Wiley street for a short time, visiting relatives, so we played with her. One day she invited us to play in her Aunt’s back shed. Innocently we followed her into the shed and she told us amazing, unbelievable things about male and female organs. That the man put his “thing” into the woman. This girl picked up a stick, lifted Marlene’s skirt and thrust the stick at her genitals. I was surprised at this information, because my father had never put his thing inside me. Marlene just stood there as we all did transfixed by this information and demonstration. I did not like it. I couldn’t wait to get out of that shed. Eventually we filed out, the girl left and we never talked about it, ever.
One day a new boy showed up. He introduced himself as Georgie Guay and said he was here for the summer to visit his grandmother, Mrs. Clinton, two doors down from ours. (Mrs. Clinton had a caragana hedge and it was home to many ladybugs. I spent long minutes catching a ladybug and letting it trundle over my bare arm, watching it flex its orange and black dotted wings.)
Georgie and I hit it off instantly. We got jars and went round collecting bugs. We had a bumblebee and a big beetle in a jar together and watched them, to see if they would fight. To our disappointment, they didn’t. Gramma saw this jar and said, “Jackie, let that poor bumblebee go.” Reluctantly, I did. Today, I’m appalled at what bloodthirsty little savages we were.
The worst thing we ever did concerned Jeffrey. She was forever following us around wanting to play with us and we didn’t want her. We chased her away even though Mother said, “Jackie, let your sister play with you.”
We were in the Clinton’s back shed, a small room off the kitchen, where we often played. There was a swing in it which we enjoyed. One time we wanted to go somewhere but Jeffrey was in the way. So we put her on the swing and told her we had captured her so she had to be tied up. She went along, innocently delighted that we seemed to be playing with her. We lashed her firmly into the swing. There was a picture of a tiger’s snarling head on a work bench. After telling her the tiger would get her, we propped it so she could see it. We gave the swing a few pushes then made a hasty escape, leaving her tied to the swing. As we walked away we could hear her screams, but that didn’t stop us.
Well, we got to playing outside and completely forgot about her. A couple of hours must have passed when suddenly Georgie’s aunt appeared. She was angry.
“Georgie! Did you tie Jeffrey in that swing?”
Georgie nodded.
“That was a terrible thing to do, Georgie! She was crying her eyes out. I only found her because I heard her crying. You are punished, Georgie. No more play for the rest of this day. And you, Jackie. Go home. Your mother is waiting for you.”

A Book about Artist Susan Ross.

Two Generations—Then an Artist: The Susan Ross Story
by James R. Stevens.

I’ve been a fan of Susan Ross since high school. My girl friends and I always took in the art shows at the library and we agreed that Ross was our favourite. Now, in conjunction with a Ross exhibit at the Thunder Bay Museum, comes a wonderful book by James Stevens. Two Generations—Then an Artist: The Susan Ross Story.

Last Sunday, local art lovers as well as long time fans and friends of Sue Ross listened as James Stevens read from his book and talked about his friendship with the artist. We sat in a room surrounded by the artist’s work and also work by her friends such as Norval Morrisseau.

Susan Ross, born in Port Arthur in 1915, was a great Canadian artist. “Northern to the core,” as James Stevens puts it. Sue Ross hunted, fished and camped in the bush. Her artistic talent was encouraged by her family and many Port Arthur teachers. With the help of her uncle, the famous film maker Robert Flaherty, she attended the Ontario College of Art in Toronto and returned to Thunder Bay to embark on an adventurous life, travelling the north and the arctic, meeting the indigenous people, making life-long friends.  In 2001, she was awarded the Order of Canada for her contribution to Canadian art. She died in 2006 at ninety-one years of age.

James Stevens tells her story well. He describes her as an artist whose heart was aligned with First Nations people who she pictured with respect and a common humanity. The book contains numerous examples of Ross’ paintings, drawings and etchings. It’s a beautiful book, available at the Thunder Bay Museum. Then go upstairs and look and wonder. Two treasures: a beautiful book and a beautiful exhibit.
James Stevens with his book 

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Big Lit Fest Kick-Off

Join Angie Abdou for a reading from her latest novel In Case I Go followed by a discussion and a question period. 

Sandi Boucher, a member of Seine First Nation and a strong advocate for cross cultural relations will facilitate. 

Meet Sandi and Angie at the Baggage Building, Prince Arthur's Landing, Marina on Friday May 4 at 7 pm. See you there. Should be an very engaging and interesting evening.

.    Tickets are now available for the 2018 Write NOWW LitFest Annual Awards Banquet and celebration. Join the NW Ontario writing community on Saturday May 5 for a dinner, dance, keynote address by Angie Abdou, the announcement of writing contest winning entries, presentation of the Kouhi and Phillips awards, and a 10x10 performance. Purchase on the website:

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Write Word
Sometimes the difference between good writing and great writing rests with the selection of a single perfect word.
Join bestselling author, Jean E. Pendziwol for a hands-on session exploring the process of revision and how to look for and find the "write" word.
If you would like, bring a short piece that you would be comfortable sharing with a small group
 April 26, 1918
Time:  7 pm
Location: Mary J.L. Black Library
Registration: Not Required   Cost: Free and open to the public

10 X 10 - 10 plays, 10 minutes each. A blast!

You have three opportunities to see this year's dazzling showcase, now presented on the Magnus Theatre stage!
    GALA SHOWCASE Friday April 13, 7:30 pm $25
    MATINEE Saturday April 14, 2:00 pm $15

    SHOWCASE Saturday April 14, 7:30 pm $25 
Written by Northwestern Ontario playwrights, performed by over 30 local actors, playwrights, featuring many NOWW members as playwrights, directors, and actors. Tickets available from the Magnus Box Office (807) 345- 5552 or 
For more information, visit

10x10 thanks NOWW and the Ontario Arts Council for their generous support.