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  • My mother, Belle Perly, gave me a friable soil. Love so fertile you could do anything with it.

    Friable: workable, easy on the hand, not clumped, not flooded, balanced by the elements, not a desert soil, not rocks.

    We say: what did I ever do to deserve such love.

    Plain-out: nothing.

    The no-strings-attached (except the umbilical, eternal and then there and gone) love...where does it come from?

    Like starlight, like moonlight, a sky, who knows? Science describes it, but the poets know it best.

    Belle, born Bella. Bella, beautiful one.

    She worked every day of her life from the day she left high school. She went to a commercial high school. She became a secretary, a steno. She helped run a film distribution office here in Toronto in the 1930's. She married my Dad Al and together they started a map business. They worked tandem as a team all their life. They raised three children while running a business. She raised me in the tradition of: who knew women didn't work.

    Bella. To me, she was a combination of Rosalind Russell, Jane Russell, and Myrna Loy. Dark hair worn in later life in an updo, yes the cat-style glasses, yes the brunette hair, oh my yes, the punning.

    Pun City. Punning was talking to her and my Dad. Words were weaponry in our household, dry and wet wit was valued, thrust and parry, words were plastic art, heart's ease, joking with words an easement to the travails of running a small business.

    Bella: when my friends met her for the first time, they said the same things. "Your mother has the softest skin I have ever felt." (After a hello greeting.) "Your mother can't be as old as you say. She looks 10 to 15 years younger." (Pond's, thank you.) "Your Mom dresses beautifully." (Even with scant money, Belle was a belle in beautiful dresses, in vibrant colours.)

    When she entered Mt. Sinai hospital in January of 1991 from which hospital she would never leave to come back home, after being diagnosed with colon cancer at age 80, she had all the hospital staff in love with her, her offering advice, counsel, and her patented warmth of spirit, to them. Just to be near her and feel her cheek was like a magic healing potion.

    So, anyways.

    There she is on the gurney going down the hospital hallway to her surgery. Her surgeon who was young and the head of surgery and handsome walking along beside the gurney.

    At age 80, she looks up at the young handsome surgeon, she bats her long eyelashes, and she says, "Doctor, I understand that today you will be turning me from a colon, into a semi-colon."

    That was my Ma.

    Quite a gal, that Mrs. P.

    (Sketch by Susan)
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