self help

‘Splain This To Me, Lucy

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I love to read old etiquette books, and have quite a collection of them. It’s fun to see how manners have changed over the years, and it’s good to have a reminder of how grandma would have expected for me to behave, given I’m just shy of a caveman in comparison.

I was listing a 1940s etiquette book in the shop today, after quizzing my husband on the customs of 1940 last night. He actually did surprisingly well, though I shouldn’t be surprised. As irreverent as he is most days (he’s a Marine, after all, so he says it how he sees it), he was trained in the 1950s by his brother, who was in a fraternity at Miami University. His brother was very proper, and drilled it into my husband. Hubby also got some training on protocol in the Marines, especially since he was an officer, and there were expectations. I have a vintage book about how to be a good officer’s wife, but I’d fail from the get-go since I don’t cook.

So when I came across this piece in a 1929 Vogue etiquette book, I was confused. You tell me what this means:

“The sight of bones being picked and the appearance of fingers and faces afterward to not linger agreeably in the memory….The only way to meet the ordeal of removing fish and terrapin bones from the mouth is to meet it frankly and firmly. If the bone can be brought to the edge of the lips, it can be pulled out quietly between the finger and thumb. If it dludes the pursuit of the tongue, there’s nothing to be done but choke or hunt for it. The elegant who object to choking are sometimes driven to the cover of the held-up napkin while they hunt. This is one degree worse than hunting in the open, and it is therefor suggested that any beast bristling with bones be chewed cautiously and in the front of the mouth.”

Vogue’s Book of Etiquette, 1929, p. 197.

Are they suggesting that you choke on a fish bone rather than removing it? Have they never heard of how Christian Dior died (true, he died 25 years after this book, but still…). Am I reading this wrong? I have so many questions.

Tell me what you think.

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family stories, Non-Hogkin's Lymphoma, self help, self love, sewing patterns, vintage fashion

All the Love

Butterick 3120 , 1944.

There’s a commercial on TV right now that I believe is for a cancer facility. It says that a person never forgets the moment they were told that they had cancer. Let me tell you about that moment for me.

I had had surgery for a large mass in my back that had been causing an incredible amount of pain. Doctors varied on what they thought it was – infectious disease thought an infection, orthopedics thought perhaps it was a hemorrhage (I’d been the chiropractor in search of pain relief), and oncology thought it was a tumor. So I spent the night in the hospital the night before to manage the pain, and they rolled me off to surgery not knowing what was in store.

It was cancer. I woke up from anesthesia surround by my boys and my husband (I can’t remember why my daughter wasn’t there but I think the baby was sick). My husband took my hand and looked very serious, which in itself is a big deal, because he’s a sarcastic nutjob like me. Everyone stared at me very intently as he told me what they’d found. A huge tumor, wrapped around the spinal cord, that they couldn’t remove without a tremendously complicated surgery. They didn’t know what kind of tumor, but they biopsies and closed me up. If they had to, they’d go back in, but we needed more information.

I will tell you that I have never felt more love in my entire life. The looks of concern in those three men’s eyes was something I will never forget. And you know what? I didn’t get upset. I didn’t get worried. I knew we had this, because with love like that, how can anything go wrong?

They didn’t know till later that day exactly what kind of cancer. It turned out to be lymphoma, and there were other tumors. We came up with a plan, starting with radiation to, as my orthopedist said, “melt” the spinal tumor. Three radiation sessions and it was completely gone. Immunotherapy, to kill the rest. A year later, there is no sign of the other tumors, though I have another year and a half of maintenance treatment to keep it gone. I have gone from Stage IIIB to “no evidence of disease.” Yes, it may come back, because with my type of cancer there is no cure, just remissions of varying length. But till then, I live my life and have a lot of fun.

So yes, you really do remember the moment you were told you have cancer. But that’s just the beginning, not an end. And in the middle, have a lot of fun.

Hospital gown pattern from World War II era, likely made for new moms who were in the hospital. Why can’t bed jackets make a comeback? They’re so pretty.

Have a great weekend.