February 27, 2010

Marjorie and the Solid Gold Toilet

Marjorie and my mom have been friends since they were two, precocious kids. They went to school together and we have at least one black and white photo of the two of them posing on the dock when they were lipsticked lifeguards together in the fifties. They have kept in contact and visited back and forth since my mom moved to Vancouver with her family when she was eighteen (my Grandpa was transferred with the railways), and when Marjorie became a teacher and moved to Calgary.

When I was a kid, an announcement of a visit from Marjorie was good news. We saw her often as my mom and dad moved back to mom's hometown in 1964 and Marjorie's parents were still alive and living there. Marjorie had vivacity in spades, and boy, could she make an entrance. She would arrive at our funky, mismatched house to visit my laid back and slightly hippified mother, dressed head to toe in red or purple or some bright colour, besparkled, made-up and coiffed to within an inch of her life. She had a fur coat, a mink, I think, and a loud voice that could conquer Grand Central Station at rush hour.

But it was her stories that I enjoyed the most, and I would often forget other plans to sit on a stool with knees tucked up under my chin and listen to her. Marjorie had two grown daughters, but was single and independent enough to travel a great deal. Our family travelled very little, so I lived vicariously through her tales. In addition to describing her experiences, she would always fill us in on the cleanliness, or lack thereof, of her most recently visited city, and we would laugh after she was gone at her many complaints about the 'loud obnoxious Americans' in her tour group, wondering what they thought of her.

I will always remember one story in particular (Mom, correct me if there are errors in my story - I was twelve or so when I heard it). Marjorie was visiting a famous Sheik's palace in some middle eastern country. As usual she was part of a tour group. The tour guide was leading them through the grandest, most opulent rooms of the palace, including an incredibly luxurious bathroom, where she pointed out a functional solid gold toilet. As the group moved on, Marjorie became fixated on the idea of having a pee on that toilet. She decided she could not miss the opportunity of sitting on a golden throne. Somehow, astoundingly, she found a way to sneak away from the group and go back to the bathroom, climb over the rope without setting off any alarms, and...well, you can imagine the rest. Needless to say, she succeeded in her quest, and lived to tell about it.

My mom is going to visit Marjorie this weekend; Marjorie hasn't been well for a year or so and the doctor says she doesn't have much time left before her condition deteriorates to the point of leaving her in a condition unable to communicate. I'm sure between these two great ladies there will be tears but perhaps there will also be some giggles as they share all there is to remember between them. It is hard to imagine all that vivacious, glamorous personality and colour fading away, but we will never, ever forget Marjorie. How could we? She made it impossible, bless her.


  1. Oh I loved this story! A golden "throne", imagine, here I was captivated by a Barbie colored pink toilet!!! Solid Gold, Well who could resist, especially someone with as free a spirit as your beloved Marjorie.

    At the same time I was smiling, this post brought tears to my eyes. Imagine the untold stories that will fade with her. Sharing what you know of her here will keep many of those wonderful experiences alive long after she has passed.

    Thanks so much for sharing :)

  2. Marjorie has been a joy to many. She's quite a personality. I enjoyed seeing her in my imagination. :)

  3. It sounds like Marjorie lived a full life. How sad for your mother. I hope they have a great visit.

    My grandma, one of the Dorothy's I have written about, was a fabulous piano player. Once when she was quite elderly she was on a tour of the California Governor's mansion. When it came time to visit the second floor, she was too tired to climb the stairs. About five minutes later, the rest of the tour could hear "Great Big Beautiful Doll" being played on the roped-off grand piano in the first floor parlor.

    Oh to live with that kind of abandon.

  4. Aunt Dorothy sounds like so much fun! I can imagine how you looked forward to her visits. When we are around someone who knows how to be free, it frees us to be ourselves.

  5. Thanks Menopausal New Mom for your story about the pink toilet that triggered this memory!

    Anita: Marjorie was a major personality and I am hearing stories from family about how kind she was to them, and how much she loved books (like my own mom).

    Tracey: That is a fantastic story about your grandma. Thank you!

    LadyCat: Very true :)

  6. It's fascinating to know your parents' friends, isn't it? You not only get to know interesting people like Marjorie (though I don't think my parents have friends like her!) but also you get to know your parents from a totally different angle -- who they are without you, before you. This was a great post, a lovely way to honor Marjorie, her friendship with your mom and family, and the effect she clearly had on you.

  7. your friend sounds a good one.

  8. AND speaking of Gold. Way ta go Canada !!!!!!!.

  9. Hi Barbara: Apparently my mom took my story to read to Marjorie, so I am quite touched about that.

    Vince: She is! Very warm and generous, too.
    And thanks for the congrats on the gold. I think our country is amazed at our success in general but we did truly back our athletes and support them wholeheartedly so I know that helped. I was sure the hockey game would go to a shoot-out and was surprised it ended so quickly. My girls and I went for a walk after the game and people were out in their yards celebrating and those driving were honking their horns. Apparently there was also a celebratory tractor parade, but I missed that!


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