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Collection Recap: "The Lives Behind the Lines" (Part 2)


 

Connie Poirier

  • met Elly in the line up for books and schedules on their first day of university, shared a room in residence and a few classes in their first year (Elly was taking English Literature and Connie was aiming for Medicine)
  • after Elly left school at the end of her second year, Connie began to specialize in radiology and graduated from college (not university) as a registered radiology technician, spending a year at “Sick Kids” Hospital in Toronto before heading to South America with a medical team for six months, starting in Guaranda, Ecuador
  • met Pablo DaSilva, a Brazilian doctor who had studied in the US, and began cohabiting, to the disapproval of some of the other members of the team
  • the medical team moved six times in all, and three weeks before the mission ended, Connie discovered that she was preggers. Pablo promised to move to Canada and marry her: “Papers were drawn up, arrangements were made, and Pablo kissed Connie goodbye at the airport, telling her that in just a few weeks he would join her in Toronto.” He wrote for a while and then the letters stopped coming. He continued moving around to various far-flung areas of South America and she lost track of him. After a year she gave up waiting and realized that she would be raising the baby alone.
  • Her mother, who disapproved of Connie’s choices, bought her a house on Sharon Park Drive as an early inheritance, and was relieved that Connie had decided not to return to Quebec.
  • Connie sent rent to her mother every month to prove that she didn’t need anyone’s charity.
  • A year after moving into her new house, Connie married Pete Landry, seven years her senior, divorced, and who worked at the same hospital she did. He was a traditionalist who wanted his wife to stay at home and was extremely possessive of her. He didn’t bond at all with Lawrence. The divorce was quick and unfriendly. When the house across the street became available, she told Elly about it.
  • Elly knew about Pablo, but asked Connie few questions, knowing that the subject of Pablo – and also of Pete – was taboo.
  • Connie kept her maiden name as one thing which gave her strength and confidence, Lawrence being the other.
  • Moved to Thunder Bay when Lawrence was in grade 5, where she met and married Greg Thomas, a bank manager and divorced father of teenaged daughters Molly and Gayle. Greg was promoted to managing a bank back in Connie’s old neighbourhood and they moved back to Sharon Park Drive just as Mrs Baird moved to the seniors’ home – “Connie felt that the coincidence was too perfect. It was as if someone else had choreographed everything: her move, her marriage, and now her return home. Things like this do happen. They happen to me and to you we look up and say, ‘Who did that?’ Or ‘This was supposed to happen!’”
  • Connie hated the name “stepmother” and tried to love Greg’s girls (rather like Anthony tried to love Thérèse?), but within a year Gayle moved back to Thunder Bay to live with her mother (that’s the same mother, who, in the strip hadn’t been heard from in years). Eventually Molly married and moved to the US and Gayle became a student midwife with hopes of having a baby of her own.
  • Connie was secretly pleased to discover that Ted’s marriage to Irene (who had been the “other woman” when she was seeing Ted) didn’t last and surprised to find that she felt a sudden ache when she heard – that she still cared after all that had happened.
  • Greg loves Connie and treats her with courtesy and respect. He was hard-working and reliable and “tried” (there’s that word again) to be a good father to Lawrence.

Annie Nichols and family

  • Anne and Steve have a small son, Richard [sic], with Christopher [sic] coming later
  • The Nichols boys were closer in age to Elizabeth
  • Annie was delighted to babysit Elizabeth when Elly worked at the dental clinic, and continued to be Elizabeth’s second parent whenever Elly needed some time off, freeing up Elly to do freelance writing
  • Steve was a procrastinator and collector of junk which he always intended to do something with – a cause of friction between him and Annie. He was a fabric salesman who travelled out of town often and Annie was never quite satisfied with his excuses about catching later planes or needing extra weekends away to close deals (oh, those wild and crazy fabric conferences...).
  • The Nichols boys went to the Catholic school and saw less of Elizabeth; also, Elizabeth had begun to avoid them as they had started to sense the stress between their parents and fought a lot
  • Leah was born after both boys were in school and Annie blamed herself for Leah’s extra fingers, a condition easily corrected
  • It was after Leah’s return from the hospital that Annie found out about Steve’s affair. She confided in Elly and the storyline was dropped because Lynn didn’t want to explore something she had experienced personally. The two families drifted apart even though they still live next door. Annie found a job as catering manager at the Empire Hotel, the boys were, at the time of this book’s publication, “preparing for the last year of high school and college entrance”, which makes it sound as if one has skipped some grades or the other been held back, and Leah, aged fourteen, was interested in the theatre.

Dr Ted McCaulay

  • general medical practitioner with a clinic on the same floor as John’s dental practice
  • has been having lunch with John ever since they moved into the building
  • bachelor, lives with his mother, talks about all the things he could have done or should have done
  • once in love with Connie, who he met while he was dog-sitting Farley, but wasn’t prepared for a commitment
  • Eloped with his secretary, Irene, once it was clear that he’d lost Connie. Irene had worked for him for two years and was guardedly open to his suggestive jokes. Lynn explains, “She was not unattractive; in fact, it’s hard to describe her because, aside from her managerial skills and efficiency as a secretary / receptionist, she was surprisingly personality free. She did, however, have the strawberry blond hair, mellow voice, and slim athletic build that had so attracted Ted to Connie Poirier.” (This strawberry blond hair and slim athletic build were depicted visually by a somewhat dumpy brunette. I can’t comment on her speaking voice.)
  • Marriage to Irene lasted six months because Ted’s mother was not going to take second billing in Ted’s life and constantly criticized and rejected Irene, but the deciding factor was Ted’s blatant indiscretion with another woman. Lynn writes that, “Irene left their apartment, taking her clothes, her few pieces of furniture, and a stack of frozen TV dinners. She didn’t leave a note. She didn’t need to. Ted was heartbroken. It’s always so hard to find a good receptionist.” (Inconsistency alert: in the strips, Irene cleaned the whole house and left a note which said, “Ted. Enough is enough. You’ll be hearing from my attorney. Irene.” Either John or Elly commented that it showed that Irene had class.)

The Enjos

  • Carol, a nurse, and Keith, an air traffic controller, one-of-each kids Brian and Dawn
  • Carol is more interested than Keith in Japanese traditions and folklore and maintains her grandmother’s collection of Japanese dolls which form an entire emperor’s court
  • Both were encouraged by their parents to assimilate so neither speak Japanese
  • Keith is a keen gardener and tries annually to grow a Great Pumpkin…er…the world’s largest pumpkin, which Mike and his friends once thought to steal but couldn’t budge because it weighed over 200 lbs (LJ notes that this is a story she never drew but might do so one day)
  • Elizabeth’s friendship with Dawn would border on obsessive
  • Brian excelled in mathematics and intended to study engineering or computer sciences, but in Grade 12 began researching his family’s history, becoming closer to his grandparents and learning about his great-grandfather’s days as a cook for the British Columbia railroad, and the family’s time in an internment camp up north, with all their possessions confiscated. He began to learn Japanese and in Grade 13 made the decision to study in Japan. With the help of family and friends in Japan, he moved to Kawagoe City, Saitama, about an hour from the university he attended in Tokyo.
  • Elizabeth needed a bra before Dawn did and, when Elly bought her two, Dawn took the other and they both stuffed them with silk handkerchiefs and went for a walk, to much teasing from their brothers.
  • Dawn began to gravitate more towards Candace than Elizabeth in junior high.
  • Unlike Brian, Dawn focussed on her family’s future in Canada, and has a strong talent for design and décor, intending to go to art college

Gordon Mayes

  • had been a year ahead of Mike in elementary school, but failed a grade and wound up in the same class. He was a hard worker at school but his grades remained average (note that this is inconsistent with the strip where Mike et al are discussing their futures and say that Gord has the grades to get into law school but Gord surprises them by saying he’s going to keep working at the garage)
  • has one sister, nine years his senior, named Ardith – “Ardie” (not to be confused with Ardith Narayan, Mike and Dee’s one-time babysitter and one of Dee’s two known friends, Maxine being the other)
  • Ardith reacted to her parents’ problems by taking off when the arguments started but Gord remained to look after his mother, feeling that it was better if his father hit him than hit his mother
  • his dad was a construction worker and carpenter but drank too much and too often, but when he was sober he was a thoughtful husband and a good storyteller, a talent which endeared him to his co-workers
  • his dad owned a red ’55 Ford truck
  • his mother, Corina, worked for a dry cleaner and was an excellent seamstress and Gord once saw her trying on someone’s fur-collared coat with a cigarette burn near the right pocket and thought that one day he would buy her a nice coat like that so she wouldn’t have to mend clothing for other people
  • Corina began to believe that her husband’s binges were her fault, and her husband let her believe this. In his eyes, Ardith had been born too soon, Corina didn’t think he was good enough or made enough money, and he thought Corina was old-looking and cried all the time. Corina began to drink as well.
  • Found love with Tracey Wells and would double-date with Mike and Rhetta

Thelma Baird and dogs

  • see my comment (forworse) on Howard Bunt's Blog
  • the real Farley was bought with Lynn’s first husband, taken to puppy school, fed a proper puppy diet, and thrived despite their efforts; he never quite understood the concept of obedience training and used to howl when Lynn played her accordion. When Aaron was in his Jolly Jumper, Farley started running full speed at the baby, sending him into a spinning frenzy, so eventually Lynn put an ad in the Spectator and a young couple adopted him (Farley) and took him to live in the country
  • the original strips never covered when Lily (Farley’s mother) died, but it was at this time Thelma decided to move into the nearby senior citizens’ residence, which is where she met Ed, who was her boyfriend up until the time she died
  • after Farley died, someone sent Lynn a granite tombstone which read “Farley, Our Hero, 1981-1995” with his likeness carved next to the words, which is now in her garden next to the burial place of Willy, Lynn’s little black spaniel

Lawrence Poirier

  • was in junior high when he returned to as-yet-unnamed-Milborough from Thunder Bay and reconnected with all his old friends, but felt out of step with Mike, Gordon and Brian at times
  • an above-average student (but not, apparently, at math), sociable and good-looking
  • when Gord managed to get a copy of Hustler from a friend and the boys met in Brian’s garage to ogle the pictures, Lawrence took part with enthusiasm, but at the same time wondering about the women behind the pictures. In time, he found himself perhaps overdoing his forced laughter and commentary in the locker room after gym class.
  • close to two girls at school, one named Kelly, enjoying their company and conversation, but surprised that he didn’t feel anything further to them
  • Kenneth Binder, his math teacher, occupied more of his thoughts than the math class itself and offered Lawrence extra help when he noticed that Lawrence struggled with the subject
  • Mr Binder was “a dark, slightly built man in his late twenties, with thick hair, an even white smile and eyes the color of gray-green jade”, attractive and expressive, and when his shirtsleeve brushed Lawrence’s hand as they spoke and Lawrence smelled his pleasant aftershave and then looked into his eyes, he felt an ache
  • He dated Kelly for a while but his thoughts were full of Mr Binder, who never once in the two years Lawrence knew him, gave any indication that he was aware of Lawrence’s feelings
  • Lawrence knew he was gay but grieved for the children he would never have, ached for his mother, dreaded the loss of his friends, and feared his stepfather. He withdrew from his friends’ company and began to spend a lot of time learning about gardening, and resolved to stay single and celibate
  • He met Ben Goodman (no, not Benny Goodman) when he was seventeen and in Grade 12 – they met while in a chalet where Lawrence was drinking hot cocoa after skiing and Ben, blond and about 20 years old, with a runny nose, joined Lawrence at his table and Lawrence complimented Ben on his skiing
  • Ben was a pianist and composer who had been studying music since he was 9.
  • Ben asked Lawrence out. Ben previously had had a relationship with another man.
  • They went to the Surrey Street Theatre together one evening and saw a movie about the Holocaust. Lawrence was very moved and upset by the film and Ben embraced him in the car afterwards and Lawrence realized that being gay didn’t mean all the terrible things he had imagined, but that he could love and be loved and that it could be true, good and right. He laughed, cried and laughed some more. Michael was the first person Lawrence came out to.
  • Lawrence excelled in landscape design at Lakeside [sic] Landscaping and stayed faithful to Ben, who went to study composition in Paris.

Josef Myron Weeder

  • moved out of residence – “the nut house” – at an unnamed college in London, Ontario with Mike to live in a two-bedroom apartment
  • skilled at taking “unposed and deeply compelling portraits”
  • Weed remained at college while Mike switched to University
  • Funny and intense
  • Son of a prominent businessman, Josef Senior, an importer of fine textiles, and who has other business interests, “some which he records diligently, some he does not”
  • One sister (naturally), Charlotte (a nurse, single, in the US)
  • Mother is Eva (perhaps Weed is Deanna's half-brother and they share Mike), a socialite whose entire life has been devoted to creating the perfect home and acquiring the perfect friendships
  • Parents live in a multichambered Tudor place in Rosedale
  • Travelled with his father to Russia, Turkey, Italy and Greece
  • Enrolled in private schools and spent summers working in the shipping rooms at his dad’s warehouse in Toronto to learn the family business
  • At 18, left home to start a degree in business at the University in Toronto, but didn’t show up for class, instead taking a job in a photography shop on Bay Street and learning everything he could about cameras, lighting, composition and design (inconsistency: in the strips, Weed had his dad’s camera with him at college and was toying around with taking pictures, but not with any real ambition to become a photographer)
  • Lied to his parents and told them that university was fine, knowing that they’d never check as they’d missed his soccer games, his first play and his high school graduation
  • The following spring he had a portfolio ready and applied to the college in London, Ontario to the department of Photography and Design and that summer told his parents what had been happening. They were disappointed, but decided that he needed time to complete this course and then he would get serious about going to university and joining the family business.

Sharon Edwards

  • accepted a ride on a motorcycle at sixteen but the driver, a young man she hardly knew, went out of control on loose gravel and the front wheel went up onto a wedge of concrete guardrail. Sharon’s trouser cuff caught on some unspecified piece of metal and she landed on her back on the concrete guardrail. (Inconsistency alert: in the strip, Sharon told Liz that her brother used to charge his friends a nickel to ride in her wheelchair and leave her stuck in a swing, which seems a bit implausible if she were already sixteen at the time of the accident.)
  • inspired by (get this) Thérèse Thériault, Lynn’s eighth grade drama teacher who gave her the courage to believe in herself

Shawna-Marie Verano

  • her parents were (sigh) immigrants from Argentina, who first lived in Montreal and then moved to Southern Ontario where her father found work in the steel mills.
  • “Shawna” was the name of a character in a novel her mother read
  • Described by Lynn as “of medium-brown complexion, she has dark expressive eyes and a cloud of soft, back [sic] curly hair that bounces when she walks. She has a tiny diamond stud on the left side of her nose and a smile that could light up a stadium. She’s athletic and good-natured and has decided to go into kinesthesiology”.

Candace Jesse Halloran

  • always trendy and seemingly on top of the latest news
  • her mother gave birth to her when she was sixteen
  • made up any excuse not to go home right after school – it was OK when it was just her and her mom, but not once her mother’s boyfriend moved in as he began coming on to Candace more and more aggressively once she turned fifteen and let her know that it was only a matter of time before he hurt her
  • shaved her head to discourage him (inconsistency alert: in the strip she did it because she was tired of being the girl with perfect hair and being treated like a sex object – she was wearing a low-cut little black dress and fishnet tights at the time she made these remarks – this strip is actually shown on the page before the story about her mother’s boyfriend.)
  • worked as a cashier in a corner store in the evenings and as a waitress during the summer to save up for university – her mother is helping her with her plans for further education and wants Candace to have a good future, but Candace doesn’t understand why her mother doesn’t see what is happening to her in the present
  • has her ears pierced several times and four small tattoos
  • Duane Overfield is one of her closest friends and has piercings, tattoos and wild hair – he, too, has suffered a painful childhood and both he and Candace turn to the pain of tattooing and piercing as a badge of honour to show that they have survived – both plan careers in psychology

Agnes Dingle

  • intended to be the landlady from Hell
  • lives in the basement of a small frame bungalow on Cleveland Street and rents the main and upper floors (rather unusual to have an upper floor in a bungalow, but moving right along) to Mike, Weed, Jody and Kit (the two females moved out because Lynn felt weighed down with too many characters)
  • Lynn loves to draw eye bags and hair rollers – “The problem with putting an ugly stereotype into a lifelike situation is that people aren’t all bad…you feel some empathy and even affection for these sometimes deservedly lonely people.”
  • Grew up in the south of England, poor and uneducated
  • Moved to Canada aged 18 and married a Saskatchewan farmer, Bobby Dingle, she had met through correspondence (so, not too uneducated then – at least she was literate)
  • Had two sons and a daughter, and once they were grown (inconsistency alert: in the strip she lost two to polio but in the liography they're both alive and well), the farm failed and she and Bobby filed for bankruptcy and almost everything they owned was sold at auction
  • Using some little money she had hidden away, Agnes left Bobby and moved to London, Ontario to be near her elder son and his family, selling her rings and her mother’s cedar chest to pay for two months’ rent on the house on Cleveland Street with the intention of renting the extra rooms to students
  • The following paragraph immediately contradicts Agnes’ leaving Bobby by saying that he was emotionally unable to move with her, so remained behind and, with his heavy drinking and poor health was soon admitted to a chronic care facility and died
  • Trusts few people, sees one of her sons only on holidays, but remembers all the good times and would do it all over again if she had the chance

 

Tags: biography, foob history
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  • 40 comments

  • Sunday, 17 October 2021

    The one where John is too stupid to remember that he has a kid and a dog so refuses to take steps to keep them from making putting groceries away a…

  • Saturday, 16 October 2021

    The one where Gordon finally does what he's supposed to and kisses the girl Lynn assigned him. Synopsis: On the drive home, Gordo finally works up…

  • It Better End Soon: Empty Headed Woman.

    Given Sunday's strip, it seems likely that we're going to be treated to Sarah's self-induced hardships as regards putting away groceries. Actually,…