Saturday, November 27, 2010

Question of the Week

Winter. Here in the Northwest we're having a bitterly cold snap and it made me think of the contrast between winter in Winter of Change and An Ordinary Girl. In the first it feels grey and lowering and dark and frigid. In the second, it feels like a pleasure to be snowed in and eat porridge by a fire and dig a path to the hen house.

It's much easier to feel happy about winter when it is new and there is Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year's to prepare for but once those are out of the way and you've got all of January, February and March ahead of you it feels rather daunting.

So, I have no question really but just noticed how differently Betty handled the subject of the same season in two different (so different) stories. Discuss.


  1. I would much rather be holed up in a house with snow on the ground outside than have to tramp out into the bitter cold we have had lately with no snow to send the kids out to play in.

  2. Betty Mary's thoughts:
    How the winter season is handled in these books reflects the happy or unhappiness of childhood holidays and family relationships in general. I love winter. Even though my dad died when I was 4, my mom and sisters made the holidays lovely times. My little sister, who was born premature, 6 months before Dad died has different feelings. She still feels unloved at 50, she went on a cruise instead of joining us for T-day. I've worn myself out trying to convince her we love her. She's a lovely lady, but she's starting to avoid winter and the holidays with us.
    My SIL's sister (who was really her mom but she didn't know this til years after sis died), passed away on Christmas Eve when SIL was 16. She hates the cold months and she lives in Texas, so they aren't at all severe.
    This is a bit of a generalization but if you've got warm thoughts buried in your heart, you may handle the cold better.
    Philly from AOG grew up in the vicarage with a seemingly loving family who made the holidays bright. Mary Jane, in WOC, had no one, except a grouchy grandfather who didn't seem to do much in her life. Not sure if her growing up was pleasant, but being an orphan, even at 23, can make for a dreary life.
    Well, that's one Michigander's opinion.
    Hope everyone had a Fun Thanksgiving. We did!

  3. Betty Barbara here--
    Betty Mary, I think you nailed it regarding these two books.
    BTW--my sister has lived in Austin for 40 years and still thinks winter there is too cold!
    FYI, she and I grew up in Hawaii. I loved the no snow part. Even after 30+ years of living in Maryland, I don't really like the cold and the snow. (Last year we had more snow in the Baltimore area that they did in Minneapolis!) And shoveling snow--getting way too old for that!

    But emotionally--the holiday season does not depress me. I love the hustle and bustle of Christmas and the getting together with family. January always seems so flat and I will admit that by February I am seriously considering bank robbery as a way to finance a trip to the tropics!! But February is usually the end of winter around here. Yeah, it can still snow in March, but the days are already longer and the snow doesn't stay around as long and the crocuses are out.
    I do have to watch out on the dreary days and make sure I keep a lot of lights on. I also have to make sure I don't try to cheer myself up by baking cookies! Do you know how long you would have to shovel snow to work off all those chocolate chips??!?!

  4. Interesting theory.

    One thing I do believe is that people need to take responsibility for their own lives in adulthood. I had a Bad Childhood, and Christmas was a particularly Bad Time. But I've learned to avoid the Grinches and hang out instead with Betty Ross and Betty Henry (who spends the major holidays with us). (In fact, the two of them are outside now, hauling in firewood. At least I assume it's safe to send my husband and my ex-husband out with chainsaws.)

    I suspect Betty's childhood was a mixture. We know that her father was a civil servant, a well-respected job in the UK. The pay wasn't very high, but the pension was excellent. My theory is that her father died when Betty was in her teens or early 20s. Either the pension died with him, or her mother remarried. In any case, Betty's life had to have changed dramatically, hence nursing school and a full career as a nurse. It's clear she didn't have family to fall back on when times were tough for her after WWII.

  5. If only we knew! Pretty please, honored posterity of The Great Betty, speak up if you're reading!

  6. I agree with you BettyMag, and the taking responsibility position. All ten of us kids grew up without a dad. Some got bitter and some got better. It's attitude. But is that genetic? Could be. Do you the HH and the EX stay together? This is interesting! And would never occur in Betty's world. BettyHenry would be the nasty american, I'm afraid. LOL
    I agree with TH about the bitter cold. As I get older the snow is less enchanting when I'm driving in it. But If I'm going out walking I'd rather put on a coat and boots and tramp in the snow as to having it bitter or cold and rainy.

    I guess I've learned to take it as it comes. No one or no place can make you happy unless you choose it.
    Hey Betty Barb,I lived in Texas a few times and my favorite town to visit was San Marcos. We lived in Austin, Kyle and San Antonio. We go back to see the BIL and family in SA. And boy is it getting crowded! That's one reason to be grateful for the down-turn. Driving is not so dead locked here in MI.
    Keep warm - BettyMary

  7. Betty Mary -- Both Betty Ross and Betty Henry (aka Brit Hub 2.1 and Brit Hub 1.0, respectively) are English. (What can I say -- I have a type.) I joke that I can't understand why anyone thinks they're similar: One has a degree in Physics from Cambridge, the other has a degree in Chemistry from Oxford. Totally different!

    (My apologies if I've told that joke already.)

    When Henry and I divorced, we owned two houses: a Victorian townhouse in South Philly that used to be part of a convent, and the 200+ year old house in NE Pennsylvania. That made things much easier: Henry got the house in Philly and I got the weekend place. We still have keys to each other's houses (although we don't abuse the privilege, obviously). Henry doesn't visit very often, only because he's so busy with his job and hobbies.

  8. I have to agree with Betty Magdalen about accepting responsibility for our own lives when we're adults. I've always felt that I could be just about as happy as I decide to be. For the most part, that works quite well for me. It helps that as I've gotten older I've gotten better at avoiding those things that I know will make me unhappy. Number one on that list is stress. I try my best to avoid those things that stress me appointments top my 'stress' list. Unfortunately I have an appointment coming up in two or three weeks...argh.

  9. I'm the youngest of six daughters, with an eighteen year spread from eldest to youngest. Our parents did change somewhat from first kids to last - for one thing, they were older, more settled, were making more money, had raised several girls already and, by the time I can remember, their older daughters were marrying and having children. So in that sense, we had different childhoods. But, the first four girls were born within 5 years so they definitely were raised in the same environment, but you'd never have known it to chat with my 2nd oldest sister. Always, always she saw the bad side of things, tended to seek motives where there were none and took offense when none was meant. She went out of her way to annoy Dad, from birth, it seems! ;-) And he bit every time. She took his frustration as a sign that she wasn't really his daughter!! Truly - used to drive us all nuts.

    Lots of really bad, traumatic stuff happened during my growing-up years, but for one thing, I always felt loved by my parents, and by my sisters and their families, and when really bad stuff was happening (my grandfather's stroke and the 3 months of intense care my father gave him morning, noon and night til he died, or when my sister had a nervous breakdown and tried to kill herself several times, or when another sister died in tragic circumstances) my parents would see to it that I "got to" go stay with my uncle's family (a farm, which I loved) or my godfather (in Canada, which I loved) or with one of my sisters. I got a treat, from my perspective, when really, they were getting me out of the way! ;-) I remember those times as having bad parts to them, but mostly I consider my childhood to have been happy.

    All that is to say that attitude is often shaped by those around us. My sister Hazel could get her kids into a frenzy of excitement each afternoon when it was time for their dad to get home. She'd wash their faces and brush their hair and have them standing in a window watching for him, dancing with anticipation. Obviously, it'd be all too easy to do the reverse, or to fall into it oneself if there was no one to point out the joy in life.

    And to the matter at hand, I always consider those "mood maker" descriptions one of Mrs. Neels greatest attributes as a writer. Very evocative descriptive powers!