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  Ellen Davignon: Lives of Quiet Desperation

Held Hostage for a Recipe

October 15, 1992

We aren't a big football family.  All I really know about the game, I learned about forty years ago from Andy Griffith when he said, more or less, and I quote:  "Football is a game what is played in a big cow pasture.  And you have these here guys all havin' a fight over this little bitty ball and then someone gets to carry it from one end of the pasture to the other without gettin' caught.  Or steppin' in somethin'." 

Lately, perforce, we have had to watch a lot more football than is usual what with the World Series down the drain and the remainder of the hockey season swirling in the bowl.  And I must confess, we watch with some bemusement, not understanding exactly what is going on. 

Oh, we know that getting the ball over the line means a score and that getting "sacked" is something that irritates the hell out of a quar- terback and his coaches.  But the nuances of the game go right over our heads as we sit there, watching intently, trying to learn from each other.  "What did that mean?" we ask.  And "Why do they have to go there?"  And "How come that wasn't called a fumble when he dropped the ball?"

None of us is able to explain.

At the end, the only thing that was clear was that either God or Lou Pasaglia (credit was being lavished in equal amounts) had kicked a propitious field-goal.  And the B.C. Lions got to be the ones having the love-in out there in the pasture, all that huggin' and kissin' and pattin' each other on the fanny.  Kind of peculiar, and incomprehen- sible, behaviour for a bunch of guys all six foot three and weighing several hundred pounds apiece, if you ask me.

Which, of course, you didn't.  But if you had, I would have said just that:  Pretty darn amazing! 

Being the liberal soul that I am, however, I also would have said (if you had asked - which you didn't): "Laisser faire, " or, more likely, "To each his own," the French expression "To make to do," losing something in the translation, as it does.

Besides, I've been having a kind of love-in of my own since I've been living in town.

Early on after moving here, Carol Swan invited me to come to the Selkirk Street school to talk to her grade l and 2 class about growing up in the Yukon and what it was like back in the dark ages, when I was a child.  Many of the kids knew me from visits to Johnson's Crossing; most related to my grey hair, cushiony protuberances, and all those other good, grandmotherly characteristics.  And all were keen to hear stories about the good old days and how we managed to fill our days without TV or videos.

It was an enjoyable experience.  I loved being with the kids, who were just about as smart and funny as my own grandbabies but a whole lot more respectful.  And they, in turn, loved the attention and the being able to share their thoughts and ask all the questions they wanted.

My morning with Carol's group was the start of a series of visits to other classes in other schools, the lastest being a terrific afternoon at Whitehorse Elementary, with a couple of Grade 6 classes.

"They are putting together a newspaper and wanted to plumb the depth of your expertise," said their teacher, Terry Markley.


"Could you please give us the recipe for your cinnamon buns?"  The request burst forth before my hearty "Hi guys..." had ceased rever- berating.

"Cinnamon buns...?"  "Yes, and for your meatpies, too.  They were really yummy."  There was an enthusiastic chorus of agreement.

"But... my column... your newspaper...?"

Well, as it turned out, they DID want to hear about my trials and tribulations in the field of journalism.  They were also keen to know about life in the Yukon when I was young; about my graduation from their school (known then as Whitehorse High); and about the discovery and development of the Cinnamon Mine at Johnson's Crossing.  But only after I had been persuaded to part with the formula for the sweet rolls. 

A few weeks later I received a parcel of letters from that young gang of hoodlums who had demanded such a high price for their attention.

"Dear Ellen, Thank you very much for coming to our school.  My mum  really wanted your recipe and she got it.  Well, we were very happy to have you here!  Yours truly, Amanda." 

I should have known it was a put up job!

One young man reminded me that he had drawn my protrait as I spoke.  He added, "I'm still working on it and I think you're getting better." Thank you, Saul.  I appreciate any help I can get....

Some letters proved that these kids can plumb a few depths of their own: "...I think I might make some buns today and surprise my mom.  Maybe I'll mine the cinnamon myself.  I wonder if dirt is on my mom's diet.  Sincerely, Scott."

There were several dozen letters, all of them sweet and funny, and I appreciated them.  Jesse Whittle summed them up when he wrote: "Dear Ellen Davignon, I really appreciate you coming to talk to our class about growing up in the Yukon and how you went to school in our school.  You were 20 times more than I expected.  Now I will try to read all of your columns.  Your writing comes to life in my mind and I had to ask my friend if the Cinnamon Mine was real."

And you wonder why I call it a "love-in"?

But that's not so amazing... my whole life has been just one darn thing after another that I was not prepared for.

Husbands, for instance.  Well, one anyway, although at times it has seemed like more.  And babies, five of the little blighters, and me never having even held one until Dr. Tanner received that first scroungy morsel and laid him, wet and  steaming, on my stomach.  I certainly  wasn't expecting what I got that day and I want you to know, I was not exactly impressed.      

I was not prepared to hear Phil tell me that we were going to buy my parents' lodge nor was I ready for the enormous responsibility of having to ensure that every morning a whole Lodgeful of tourists were roused, fed, and sent on their way rejoicing, while I remained behind to clean up after them and prepare for the next enslaught, day after day, year after year, with no end in sight. 

I was not prepared that my fear and apprehension would turn into com- petence, into enthusiasm, into a whole-hearted love for the business and for the people who graced our lives.

I was not prepared for decision to leave Johnson's Crossing.  And I was certainly not prepared for the excitement and busy-ness of my life since our move into town.  

I had expected retirement.  I had expected to sleep late, lounge in my jammies til noon, entertain a few old friends at afternoon coffee. 

I had expected, in a manner of speaking, to take a long leisurely stroll into the sunset with my life's companion.

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