Everything I know, for better and for worse, about making a magazine comes from watching my father pack the trunk (“the boot” we called it) of whatever second-hand family second car we were entrusting our lives to on that particular vacation (“holiday” we’d have called it).
“This time we are leaving crack of dawn” dad would say. So there I was, standing shivering in the dawn’s early light, marvelling at dad’s packing prowess – as wave after wave of impossibly large quantities of stuff kept arriving beside the car, somehow finding their way into every nook and cranny of the trunk.
Only an hour later than planned, victory! Dad slams the boot lid down. Well, nothing so satisfying as a slam, actually. More like a muffled “humph” as he stands on tiptoe and bears down till the latch clicks. And turns in triumph, only to see my mother coming out of the front door, dwarfed by the largest suitcase yet.
It’s called explosive silence. With a little staring contest thrown in. “Well you didn’t think I was going to leave my own suitcase behind, did you?” I can still hear Mom say, witheringly quiet, across the many years. I don’t remember what ended up having to be cut to make room. Not any of us four children or the two dogs. So maybe nothing at all.
Just like making a magazine.
Packing to come to Canada in 1975, some 18 years later, was a different story. “Just me and a backpack and a two month bus pass,” is how I used to boast about it to my own children, until they started rolling their eyes. A very full backpack it was, I should add: shoes for every occasion, passport with student visa, complete works of William Shakespeare … three favourite ties. Even a toothbrush. A masterfully stuffed backpack, every nook and cranny of it.
So as this first full post-pandemic season, fuelled by gallons of hope and a dash of denial, roars back to life, and you browse your way through this overstuffed first issue of our 28th season, spare a thought for all the packing and repacking that went into accommodating that last big story that got wheeled out to be added after we thought we were done. (I won’t tell you which one it was.)
Saying I came to Canada with only a backpack is not strictly true, though. I walked into the U. of T. International Student Centre (on St. George St.), some afternoon in late August 1975, dragging my backpack with the broken strap behind me. “Hello, name please?” asked the friendly person at the desk. “Perlman” I said, and started to spell it “P-E-”, but before I even got to R she turned around and shouted to whomever was on the other side of the partition behind the welcome desk, “PERLMAN’S HERE.” And a loud chorus of “woo-hoohs” came back in response. And all of a sudden I remembered the 30 to 40 manilla-wrapped parcels, each with six or seven precious books, that I had mailed to myself care of the ISC in the two months before I left for this new life.
The books we cannot bear to part with reveal us! Even now, 48 years later, if I spot one of them among the many hundreds more on my shelves, and touch it, take it down, turn to a page at random, it is like opening a time capsule.
I dip into the 27-year archive of The WholeNote in a similar way. (All our issues are available on line at kiosk.thewholenote.com.) I skim for the stories I am afraid of forgetting, then find myself lingering in the listings, marvelling: for the legendary artists I have been privileged to hear; for the ones I heard before they became legends; for the music I already liked, for music I never knew I would come to like; concerts I went to for some exalted piece of music I craved like comfort food, and instead came away gobsmacked by the joy of encountering something rich and strange that I would never have found on my own.
May the joy continue.