Recurring characters introduced:
- Rosemary Mayes (Gord & Tracey's daughter, born in the early spring of 1999)
- Messrs Lesser and Moore, editors of Portrait Magazine
- Miscellaneous female receptionist of Portrait Magazine
- April’s unnamed teacher
- The O’Connor family in Rivière-du-Loup, Québec along the banks of the St Lawrence River
- Jorge, a guy in Mike’s class who loaned Mike a tape of a lecture Mike didn’t understand
- Louie, the coffee guy at Lilliput’s coffee corner (he looks like he could be Anthony’s twin)
- Wendy, a friend of Elly’s who went to the Donut ‘n’ Deli on Cassells Street while Elly waited at the Donut ‘n’ Deli on Lakeshore Boulevard
- Mike and Deanna get “engaged to be engaged” in the autumn of 1998.
- Mike has a poster of Britney Spears on his wall next to a photo of Edgar
- Elly tells Gord and Tracey to call her Elly instead of Mrs P
- Liz is in senior choir and April is in skating and gymnastics
- Elly breaks a tooth
- Edgar hates soap operas
- April and Becky sing along to “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls
- April is Little Bo Peep for Hallowe’en, with Edgar as her sheep
- Liz tells Elly that her cleaning is clearly obsessive compulsive behaviour, so Elly stops cleaning for a bit and April wonders what’s wrong with her
- Elly wakes one day feeling thinner and the scales confirm that she has lost a bit of weight, so she celebrates by doing something she loves: baking sweet things
- The dishwasher breaks at Christmas. Assuming this is the same one John bought Elly to make up for his $2,000 stereo system, that’s a pretty impressive life span!
- Connie boasts to people that her son is a plant manager instead of telling them that he owns Lakeshore Landscaping
- Weed takes the Bung & Wattle’s record for eating a dozen pickled eggs
- Liz French-braids April’s hair and April tidies it with petroleum jelly, then, after Liz helps April wash her hair, April returns to the Vasoline and uses it to spike her hair
- After Elly unhinges her jaw to yell at them, Liz and April bond over their mutual preference for John, especially when he comes home first because “by the time he comes out of the bathroom he’s forgotten what he’s supposed to nag us about”
Weed greets Mike with news as soon as Mike gets off the bus in London: on the strength of the series they did on Toronto’s street people, they’ve been offered an exclusive contract with Portrait Magazine to do something completely unrelated about immigration to Canada in the 1800s. Deanna is thrilled with this important step in Mike’s career and tells him what a good team he and Josef make. “So do you and I,” Mike replies, and gives her Grandma Marian’s opal ring, which he found in Vancouver while sorting through her effects over the summer. Elly had let him have it to give to Deanna, which he does, acknowledging that he knows she isn’t ready for a commitment, but tells her that, “even if we separate, it’ll remind you that at this time and in this place, someone loved you very much”. Deanna agreed to promise that, when she is ready to get married, it will be to Mike. “Does this mean we’re engaged to be engaged?!!” he asks, excitedly. “It means…I don’t want us to be separated.” she answers.
The news reaches Milborough quickly as Mike e-mails Liz and she prints out the details for Elly to read. Elly complains, palms extended and bug-eyed, that he used e-mail rather than say anything in person, then slumps against the wall as Liz says that he was worried that Elly might over-react. Liz calls Elly’s bluff and reminds her that Elly knew Mike was going to give Deanna the ring. Elly says that she didn’t think that it would lead to something so serious and confesses to Liz that she really doesn’t want Mike to get married while he’s still in school, because that’s what she did. John thinks the news is kind of exciting and tells Elly that Mike and Deanna are both adults and will do what they feel is best for them, no matter what their parents might say, and tells Elly to relax and stop getting upset about something which hasn’t even happened yet. Elly responds by pounding a pot full of spuds into sub-atomic particles.
Mike and Weed dress as smartly as their wardrobes and personal styles allow – Mike wears a tie and Weed combs his hair – and they manage to look professional and calm during the interview with Portrait Magazine, where the editors explain that they have researched an interesting piece of history and would like Mike and Weed to photograph and document some of their subjects: Mr O’Connor is the 96-year old great-grandson of an Irish immigrant who came to Canada in the 1800s and Mike and Weed are to photograph the family, the stone house, the old violin and to help piece together some of the O’Connor family history. Mike and Weed drive to Montreal the first night, bunking down in a motel and charging a pizza to their expense account. In bed, Mike ponders aloud how cool it would be if they could do this full time, travelling, taking pictures, writing…perhaps forming their own company, travelling the world, maybe do something for National Geography; Weed reminds Mike about Deanna. Mike explains that Dee is a pharmacist and she could go anywhere: they could go together. Weed says he likes Mike: he’s a real dreamer.
The next morning, without calling in on Phil and Georgia while in Montreal, they drive along the banks of the St Lawrence River. Mike appreciates the scenery and Weed utters a non-sequitur about how some of the country’s worst battles were fought in that area. The O’Connors welcome them warmly and tell the story of Colm O’Connor, the immigrant, who arrived in Canada from Limerick aged 15, having sailed on a coffin ship in 1845 and being the only passenger to have survived the journey. He was quarantined on Grosse Île, then worked his way down the river and was taken in by an English landowner who had Colm help build the stone house in which the O’Connors now live. Mike and Weed are gobsmacked to learn that there were slaves in Canada. Mr O’Connor Sr tells the pair how Colm was saved by the parish priest who took him in and taught him to play the violin, leading to him becoming one of the finest musicians Ireland ever produced. He married Rebecca, an English girl whose background allowed their son to obtain an education, leading to his owning a business and the family becoming wealthy enough over the following four generations to be able to buy the stone house just the same month Mike and Weed came to visit. As if by magic, the family noticed for the first time that the portrait of Colm, painted by his wife, sported a smile. O’Connors from all around eastern Canada descend on the house to throw a family reunion while Weed takes photos and Mike muses about the ghost of Colm O’Connor watching his family. Mike and Weed again become melancholy as they discuss the aspects of history that aren’t in the textbooks. They spend the night in Rivière-du-Loup and Weed photographs a shirtless Mike brushing his teeth. On the return drive to London, Weed says that it isn’t so bad living with Mike, then adds that Deanna asked him to take notes.
The article is published immediately – the very next issue of Portrait Magazine – and is the cover story. Mike gives Weed a noogie and dances in the street with Deanna, as he now knows that he can make a living as a writer.
Liz (often still wearing overalls) and Dawn start their final year of high school. Duane got his tongue pierced and wound up working for his dad all summer because he had a tough time getting a job, plus he got kicked out of the house for getting a nipple ring so is living in his mom’s garage. Candace got a tattoo on her head of a crown of thorns and started to let her hair grow again after her mom’s new boyfriend turned out to be a freak and Candace moved back in with her dad again. Duane and Candace have plans to study psychology next year and Liz announces to John that she wants to become a teacher because she was so inspired by Miss Edwards.
Liz borrows some gas money from John – and a bit extra for pizza. He pays, but lectures her on how her friends seem to take advantage of her, because they always use one of the Patterson cars when they go out, and they never seem to chip in for gas. This plays on Liz’s mind as the needle moves towards empty, but, unable to ask her friends for money, she glowers and gives them the silent treatment. Dawn asks her what’s wrong and Liz says, “Oh, nothing”. She continues to mope throughout the rest of the evening, determined not to enjoy herself; Dawn and Shawna-Marie enjoy the movie – the original Godzilla – and generally ignore Liz. Finally, when a sulking Liz gets to the till to pay for her pizza, snorting about how “when it comes to money, you sure know who your friends are”, Dawn and Shawna-Marie tell her they already paid the bill.
Elly returns to the bookstore full time but feels guilty about leaving Edgar at home alone, so has Liz called over the PA at her school and asks her to go check on the dog at lunchtime. Moira has made a lot of changes to the bookstore in Elly’s summer absence: it now has a coffee shop and sells toys, and the new ventilating system pumps the aroma of fresh coffee and cookies into the streets to help entice customers. Elly loves earning a paycheque again, learning new things and the independence she feels, although she announces her return from her first day back at work by bellowing, “My feet are killing me!!” Perhaps this is due to the 17 cups of “hard stuff” she drank from Lilliput’s coffee corner (and one latte).
Clearly Elly hasn’t tried giving up caffeine in case it alleviates her menopausal symptoms, and she flaps her flannel nightie as loudly as possible, glaring at John and wondering how he can sleep when she’s miserable. She eventually wakes him and he listens to her complain, but after she rebuffs him when he asks if there’s anything he can do, he asks if she minds if he goes back to sleep and she accuses him of not caring. She goes and stands outside, barefoot in December, with Edgar staring at her in confusion. The next morning John tentatively approaches her and suggests that she see a doctor about the hot flashes and insomnia: he’s worried about her irritability and depression – and concerned about his own survival. Elly refuses: other women get through this without medication, and so will she. She heads off to work and flaps her sweater so much she winds up with Madonna-bra-like points. Moira also suggests Elly try some remedies and Elly again insists that she will get through this without medication.
In desperation, John turns to Ted for advice, explaining that this wasn’t quite what he’d envisioned when he wanted to marry a hot woman. Ted tells John that there are lots of things to consider first before trying estrogen therapy, and when John learns that he might be stuck with a crazy person for the next five years, Ted laughs and points out how it makes 50th anniversaries even more significant (actually, the collection books show that Elly first flapped in 1994, so it should be coming to an end eventually…right?). When someone who looks vaguely like Anthony (but is called Louie) offers Elly a coffee at the bookstore, she says that she’s off coffee, sugar, chocolate, salt and fried food – in short, giving up every edible thing in the world she truly loves. Louie asks if she plans to do this for the rest of her life and she grabs him by the shirt and demands a mocha latte and honey-cheese croissant.
Elly overhears April telling Edgar that, if Elly doesn’t stop being so crabby, Santa won’t bring her anything. Elly apologizes to Liz and April (who calls her Momzilla), and says that she bought some medication and hopes she will feel better again soon. She says she feels very guilty about her recent behaviour and wants to make it up to them – April asks for a raise in her allowance and Elly turns into a silhouette with a storm cloud above her head. That night, when John asks Elly about how she’s feeling, she tells him not to worry, and slips outside quietly to cool down, telling Edgar that she has finally learned how to cope with discomfort without complaining: “It’s amazing how long it takes to ‘grow up’.”
Jim inherits Dixie from a neighbour who has moved into a pet-free seniors’ residence. He tells Elly that he is getting a bit more confident, a bit more cheerful each day, and knows that he is going to survive on his own, especially now that he has Dixie. With Christmas approaching, Elly prepares the house for Jim’s arrival, and tries to replace the traditional family decorations with a theme of fruit and gold ribbon: sparkly pears, garlands of grapes, peaches, cherries, limes…John and the girls re-pack the fruit and take out their old favourite ornaments. Jim arrives with Dixie, who tears through the house with Edgar; a day later Mike turns up, but tells Elly not to bother making a bed up for him – Deanna’s parents’ place is huge and they have two empty bedrooms, so he’ll be staying there. It’s just an hour away and they’ll come to Milborough on the 25th. Elly frets and Liz tries to set her straight: Mike’s an adult and he’s going to be getting married and getting his own place anyway, and Elly always wants her kids to be where she can see us and know what they’re up to, but it’s time to let go. This lecture is undermined when Liz complains that Elly didn’t come to tuck her into bed.
Mike and Dee join Gord and a heavily pregnant Tracey for their first New Year’s Eve party in their own house: Tracey’s parents sold it to them, but kept the mortgage so the payments weren’t too bad. Liz and Anthony spend New Year’s Eve together someplace off-panel, although the first Sunday strip of 1999 shows them making out in a car for so long the windows freeze over. John and Elly see in the New Year on TV and John asks Elly to dance. She says, “I can’t believe after 23 years you’re still so romantic” and he thought-bubbles, “I can’t believe after 23 years, you’re still my girl!”
Connie and Elly meet up for (wait for it) coffee and gossip. Connie identifies with Jim’s decision to get a dog, saying that she wouldn’t know what she’d do if Sera weren’t around, suggesting that all is not well in the Poirier-Thomas marriage. Connie says the house is quiet without Lawrence there and she and Greg don’t socialize much, so Elly and Sera are her closest female friends. Connie reveals that her “eldest stepdaughter” (name not given, just that description) is married now and all she can think about is when she is going to get some grandchildren. Elly is surprised to hear this, but Connie said she has been watching Jim with April and “those feelings” started to come over her. April begs Jim to stay for ever and ever, but he returns to Vancouver – doing a little jig as soon as he’s away from the Pattersons.
Connie and Elly change venues from the Pattermanse to Lilliput’s and continue their coffee and gossip: Connie recalls that John will be turning 50 soon and says that, when it happens to her, she’s getting plastic surgery – she is happy with the way she was and wants to look that way again. Elly tells Connie that she is crazy, but that night looks in the mirror and stretches her skin to see how she’d look without wrinkles. John tells Jean that he hasn’t given his birthday too much thought. He and Ted go out for lunch and Ted says that he can still pick up a babe in a bar and, to John’s dismay, hits on the waitress, who is young enough to be his daughter. Ted says that he’s pretty devoted to one woman for a great many years; John points out that Ted’s mother is over 80. Ted reflects on how he had opportunities for marriage, but prefers the chase: his first test is whether or not a girl would look good in his car. John mentions this over dinner and Liz derides him as “that guy who still lives with his mother” and says that she remembers him from “like, forever ago” when he dated Connie, then reveals that Ted was in a bar on 3rd Street on Saturday trying to pick up a 20-year old girl. John and Elly turn on Liz: what was she doing in a bar?! Liz explains that she went to the Windsor Arms to play a little snooker with some other kids, and reminds her parents that it was Ted who was being the jerk that night.
John and Elly lie awake, trying to come to terms with the fact that Liz is going to the Windsor Arms, even though the snooker tables aren’t in the bar area. Elly passes along to Connie the story Liz told about Ted. Connie wonders what it would have been like if she’d married Ted instead of Greg. Elly mutters, “Pure misery” and Connie remarks, “Yeah…but I can dream, can’t I?” (again, sounds like not all is well in Connie’s marriage). Connie also recalls that the Windsor Arms was a seedy old flea pit (isn’t this where the Lizthony wedding reception was held?) and reminds Elly that Elly wasn’t above borrowing someone’s ID and going in for a drink, which Elly refuses to answer on the grounds she might incriminate herself.
The Windsor Arms saga continues as Anthony frets that Liz told her parents where they went, and can’t believe how much she tells her parents. Liz says that she doesn’t tell them everything, just truthfully answers the questions they do ask and hopes they don’t ask others. Eventually April asks Liz about the Windsor Arms and Liz says it was smoky and dirty and a creepy old guy tried to pick up one of her friends: pretty boring, actually.
John worries that Elly is planning a surprise party for his 50th birthday even though he has asked her not to. He wakes on the morning of his birthday and finds a front lawn full of plastic flamingos. Elly says they appeared mysteriously during the night. John catches his dental staff by saying that there were 49 and the unnamed assistant blurts out, “There were supposed to be 50!” John takes April out to sell bulbs for her school fundraising, expecting to return to a surprise party, and tries to force himself to be excited, although he dreads it, so he is stunned when he opens the door and no one but Edgar is there to greet him. Elly took him seriously when he said he wanted just a card and a cake for his birthday: she had spent the past year collecting signatures and letters for a giant card, which included photos and letters from his family, patients, high school friends and teachers, even his profs at university. And the cake was made by his mother, who flew out from Winnipeg to deliver it, as did Will and Bev, and Mike returned from university. April and Liz, dressed and sitting exactly the same way, watch Will and John and remarks how two people of such different ages could be so much alike. Will and John stand outside and look at the stars and Will pats John on the back and says he’s proud of his son: John’s doing a good job.
Liz resents being expected to be April’s babysitter and tells Elly that she’s going to have to find someone to do it when Liz heads off to university. Elly acknowledges that this is a problem and April, eavesdropping, tells Edgar that she’s a problem, and goes to bed with hurt feelings, thinking that no one wants her around. Liz comforts her and clears up the misunderstanding and April wishes she could be as grown up as her sister so maybe she wouldn’t worry about things as much: Liz goes to bed and lies awake, thinking about moving away and having to make new friends, live in a residence and not be able to come home as often.
Connie goes ahead with a blepharoplasty (eye bag lift) - $1000 an eye. Again John finds Elly staring the mirror wondering what she’d look like. Connie tells Elly that Greg was 100% behind it because she asked him right after he’d bought himself a custom-made set of golf clubs and was feeling guilty. The surgery leaves Connie with black eyes and Greg doesn’t want to be seen with her in public until they heal. Elly wonders how early in life people become critical of their appearance just as April asks her if her overalls make her look fat. Elly moans about this to John and then asks him if she’d look fat in an outfit she is holding.
Mike tells Weed that he wants Weed to be his partner and Deanna to be his wife, but doesn’t know how the details will work. Weed wants to travel, and so does Mike, but he can’t understand how Mike could possibly travel and still be married. Then Weed discovers a letter from Portrait Magazine – he thought it was a bill and didn’t open it – saying that the story they did on the O’Connors is up for an award and the family has approached a publisher and wants to know if Mike and Weed would be willing to travel to Ireland. Before Mike can tell Deanna that he has a chance to travel after graduation, she tells him that she has an opportunity to go to Honduras and has volunteered with the medical missionaries. Her parents weren’t pleased and Mike thinks that perhaps they felt she should have asked them first before agreeing to go, to which Dee replies, “Then we’d have a real problem”.
Elly again hears Mike’s news when Liz reads her an e-mail, so she rings Mike and gives him a lecture over the phone, then complains to John about how annoying it was that Mike e-mails when he knows she’s unlikely to read it. Meanwhile Weed reads Mike’s e-mail and sees that Gord and Tracey’s daughter Rosemary has been born. Mike races back to Milborough to meet her and finds Tracey alone in the hospital. He holds the newborn and apologizes that he hasn’t brought a gift. Tracey says that Gord will be happy to stay at the garage because he’s so busy, and her parents are in Florida, so Mike can drive them home. They stop at the garage to see Gord, and Gord and Mike embrace, before taking Tracey and Rosemary to the Mayes home. Tracey tells Mike that Gord’s parents joined AA and don’t drink anymore, and that it has something to do with being grandparents as they feel that they have another chance. Mike considers Gord and Tracey’s life and knows that he isn’t ready yet for that kind of responsibility. While he’s in the neighbourhood, he pops by the Pattermanse and tells Liz that she’s turned into a babe. Liz talks about her plans to go to a different university than Anthony, saying that she can’t wait to move out as she feels so monitored, so tied down and wants her freedom, wants to live in a new town, meet new people and experience new things. Elly spies her two elder children getting on, recalls how much they used to fight, and cheers aloud that it was all worth it.
Elly asks John if he’d trade places with Mike, but John can’t imagine going through all that again. John and Elly watch Liz and John asks Elly the same thing: does she wish she was 18 again? No, she says, she’s been there and likes being who and where she is now. “Still,” John muses, “It would be nice if we could do it all over again. Come back in another life.” “Would you really like to come back again, John?” Elly asks. “Sure…but on one condition. I’d have to be able to find you.” Liz looks through the window and sees her parents embrace in silhouette.
Recurring themes / This strip conserves punchlines
Unintentional knob joke alert: Elly tells Mike that he’s a good writer and some day the doors are going to open, to which Mike responses that right now it feels like he’s just fiddling around with the knobs.
Dr & Mrs P – When Elly teases Liz, Anthony, Dawn and some mystery guy wearing an “I fear no beer” t-shirt, asking if she could come with them for a day at the beach, Anthony calls her “Mrs P”.
- Gord invites “Mrs P” upstairs while her car is having an oil change; Tracey calls her “Mrs P” as soon as she gets to their apartment
- Lawrence looks over April’s school fundraising catalogue – selling bulbs – and calls Elly “Mrs P”
- Jean and miscellaneous dental assistant wish “Dr P” a happy 50th birthday
- Jim, on the other hand, says, “I’m going to make it, El.”
The O’Connors speak with accents: none of them can pronounce the leading ‘h’ at the start of a word, and they say things like “‘twas”.
Technology hard: Elly tries to learn to use the word processor again and gets frustrated. Duncan tells April not to help her, saying that she’ll never learn if they don’t let her figure it out for herself.
John can’t dress himself: Elly takes John shopping and tells the salesclerk all the colours, fabrics and styles John will be buying.
Ogling the girls: despite the constant theme of Mike and Deanna’s engagement to be engaged, Mike and Weed go girl-watching until their eyes hurt.