20191002 001045 10 minutes
Turning Points, Memories, Marmaduke,

They’ve vanished. I can’t find them anywhere. I know I had them this morning. I put them in a safe place, where I would be sure to find them.

Fatal mistake.

Anything I put in a safe place inevitably turns out to be in a black hole and is never seen or heard from again. Or at least until Haley’s Comet returns, 75 years later. Actually, what happens to it is that Marmaduke hides it. He is the gremlin who precedes me wherever I go. He’s been with me since my teens, at least, that is when I was first conscious of him. He probably was around before that, but hadn’t made himself obvious.

He does all sorts of mischievous things, some worse than others, to make my life more frustrating. Our first encounter was long years ago when I was making up the fire. My mother wanted the whole house to be welcoming and immaculate before the rector’s wife arrived. The fire was crackling beautifully in the fireplace, and the hearth was swept clean, without a twig or any ashes out of place. The rector’s wife was coming up the path to the front door and I gave one last look around the room. Just then all the logs in the fire rearranged themselves and settled, and it seemed as if half of them ended up back on the hearth. The front door bell was ringing and I couldn’t do anything about it. Now my mother’s reputation would be forever tarnished as the housewife who kept an untidy hearth. The ultimate black mark. And it was my fault. Mummy would never forgive me.

Marmaduke struck again when my mother had important guests, who she wanted to impress. We had tea and darkness began to close in. She asked me to draw the curtains (full length lined draw-drapes, to keep the cold out). I did so, with no particular thought of anything special. So I drew the curtains . . . big, fat hairy deal, but… Marmaduke thought this would be a fun time to tweak my tail. Do you think they would lie straight? Obviously not! For some reason they simply would not fall in their folds. And my mother, who was not paying attention to the trouble I was having with them, when I eventually gave up and returned to the group, looked at them and said: “Don’t you even know how to draw curtains? They look terrible. Go back and do it again, and do it properly this time!” Please, earth, open and swallow me up. In my early 20s and couldn’t even draw a pair of curtains. Thanks a lot Marmaduke.

Twice he has lost important things for me – ones that have had significant results.

The first one was before I came to the States. My job was in London, working for the editor of one of the national newspapers. We knew the paper was going to be sold, and that we would have “compensation for loss of office.” It would also probably be my only opportunity to escape from my amazing boss. Otherwise my fate would be to be his willing slave for the rest of my life. Also, it would be my only opportunity to pay for a trans-Atlantic ticket. So in February I contacted Mrs. Hoster’s International Business College where I was trained and asked if they knew of any jobs in America which they thought would be appropriate for me. I had a very good resumé. They said that, yes, they did get jobs in America frequently and they would keep my resume on file.

My visa application went through with no problems, and eventually we were given the date for the last day of publication in June. My job was to be continued for a couple more months to facilitate the closing of the office. I had been offered another job, in the owner’s office, but my answer was no, I didn’t want to work for someone who would kill the paper and fire my boss. We were eventually given our final leaving date and I contacted Cunard to finalize my ticket information. I was to sail in August.

Well, a week later my mother got a call from the college. Someone from America was in London and wanted to meet me to discuss a wonderful job in Washington, DC, with one of the big legal firms. The firm had contacted the college in March and at that time had a job available as executive secretary to the senior partner. In the meantime, since they had not heard from the college, they had filled that job but now had a position available with one of the junior partners. The senior partner and his wife were in London and we had a delightful meeting. I was enchanted with them. They apparently were happy with me and invited me to Washington for my first weekend after landing in New York. The original job would have been wonderful, had that still been available…I had completed two years towards my LL.B. in London and had worked in a law office in London and it would have been a great fit. You know why the college had not told me about the original job, back in March? Because my resumé had fallen down behind a radiator, and it was not found until just before the senior partner had gone to the college when he was in London. Marmaduke strikes again!!. (Now, anything that has vanished without trace has “fallen behind a radiator.” One just has to find out how the “radiator” is disguised!) How different my life would have been if…

Marmaduke had his handwriting all over another episode. Some years later, when my husband was not able to get away, I was going home to England with our two daughters to introduce them to the family. Their father would stay at home and he would make his usual weekly visit to his mother, who would make sure he would have a good meal occasionally. I had a 3-month countdown before we left to make sure everything would be smooth for the journey. Traveling alone with 3- and 5-year-old girls daunted me. I did everything by the book, and got all the appropriate paperwork done weeks ahead. Clothes were laundered and packed well ahead of time. Hair was cut, shoes shined, the house was organized for my husband with food cooked and in the freezer.

Nothing was left to chance. I picked up the money, tickets and passports and put them in my pocket book myself. We even had a separate bag full of “busy books” and games to keep the girls occupied on the plane. Eventually it was time to leave. The girls had been to the bathroom, and I left the little one on the couch, and went for my final trip. It was pouring with rain, but my husband, an extraordinarily careful person, had left plenty of time for the trip to the airport. Going down the driveway he asked if I was sure I had the tickets. I assured him they had been in my bag for three weeks. Again, going down the road, he asked if I wasn’t going to verify that I had the tickets. I asked “Why? They have been in the bag for three weeks.” For the rest of the trip to the airport it was raining and uneventful.

When we got to the ticket counter the tickets, passports and money were not in my bag. My daughter had opened my bag while I was in the bathroom and couldn’t close it. She had taken out the one big thing in the bag, the envelope with the tickets, passports and money, and closed it before I came back. The envelope had slipped down between two cushions on the couch, and I was completely oblivious of the whole transaction. My husband normally drove at 55 mph, but now he drove at 80 mph, luckily there were no police in evidence when we drove home, an hour away, and back to the airport in record time. The plane, of course, had left. And it was a company charter trip. No chance to get another before Monday at the earliest, if the airline would honor the tickets at all. It was a monosyllabic weekend, added to which, most of the food in the house needed to be left for my husband.

Since then, I don’t have any faith in anything that I absolutely know for a fact. The only dependable fact is that nothing is certain. Everything has to be checked, forwards, backwards, right way up, upside down, over the top, underneath, and round the back. Even then, mistakes happen. Marmaduke is a very wiley operator. We survived that weekend, and all the subsequent tricks that Marmaduke has thrown at us. But now I take nothing for granted – I check everything and then pray hard and hope for the best.