I was contemplating and googling the Red River and muskrats, Marcel Proust’s tea-dunked madeleines, and the pungently evocative smell of bobcat pee, when there suddenly appeared a very well-photographed present-day Winnipeg woman named Georgina. Here she is, with thanks to photographer Mike Pratt.
I forgot all about natural history, and remembered “my” Georgina, Grade Six classmate and mighta-been smoking tutor/corruptor fifty years ago today, give or take a week. They could conceivably be one and the same person, and the longer Georgina Senior stares straight down my eyeballs the more I’m inclined to think they are. But it doesn’t matter, and it’s probably better that I don’t know.
Georgina was a year older than the rest of us in Grade Six, and with her outrageous bouffant and makeup, impossibly tight clothes, and the best “fuck you” look I’ve seen on anyone without a prison record, she was a genuine sensation, even in that crowded season of JFK, Oswald & Ruby, Beatlemania, and the conversion of Cassius Clay. I can’t remember (or even imagine!) the context within which Mrs Houston came out with, “Well, I’m a 36, Georgina, and you’re at least as big as me…”. This turned out to be the second most memorable thing I ever heard uttered by a schoolteacher, only surpassed four years later when Principal Daley discreetly intimated to me, “That man is out for your blood, Bill”. And indeed he was. But I digress.
I was schlepping through the April slush one day when Georgina and her equally sophisticated pal Myrna sashayed along, cool as you please with their Matinee Filtertips, and mistook my wonderment and admiration for fear and disapproval. Georgina gave me “the look”, and sneered, “Have a big old eyeful, little Billy.” If only I’d had the presence of mind to come back with,”Don’t mind if I do. Gotta spare cigarette, Toots?” But of course I just burned up and blushed, schlepped on home and had to wait until I was almost thirteen before Bobby Taylor would teach me smoking, and until sixty-one (and a half!) for another one of those looks from Georgina. She’s lost the bouffant along the way, but maybe not too much else, whatever the photograph may suggest at first look. Let’s hope this is true, and I’ll get back to you about the river and the muskrats and all that.