Pop Culture and Family

November Sixth

By Alison Bruce

Today marks the anniversary of two life changing events in my life, and the start of something new. The new thing is contributing to Pop Culture Divas. (Never fear, there is some pop culture in here.) But first, the life changers.

Me in the middle with Baby Jo.
At eleven or so in the morning, timed so that the labour deprived my mother of breakfast and the birth made her miss lunch, my sister was born. It could have been worse. When I was born, labour interrupted a perfect gin hand and my mother's "natural breathing" technique made her hyperventilate. Missing a meal or two wasn't nearly as dramatic.

It was pretty dramatic for me... though I didn't realize it until a few days later. I went from being an only child to being a big sister. That lasted until my sister started high school. Suddenly, she became the "big sister" -- in attitude if nothing else. Everyone knew Joanne. And Joanne knew what was best for everyone.

The other life-changing event was the death of our mother. Joanne was positive that Mum picked her birthday to die out of pique. More like a flair for the dramatic, which my sister shared.

I'm more like my father in looks and temperament. However, my mother and I shared a love of storytelling, and Mum was the first person to support my dream of being a writer. What I wrote about had a lot to do with our shared pop culture interests.

Star Trek

Mum hated science fiction but loved Star Trek. When she threw her back out, my sister and I would come home from school and watch two episodes, back-to-back, before with dinner. Joanne would cuddle up next Mum and I'd sit at the end of the bed.

My first fan fiction had me traveling in time to meet the crew of the Enterprise. Later I wrote shared universe stories with other members of the Guelph Star Trek Club. My kids thought I was a geek, but since the new movies, they're fans too. (But they still think I'm a geek.)

 Georgette Heyer

I freaked out my grade five teacher by doing a book report on Alex Haley's Airport. Before I was reading thrillers, Mum started me off on Georgette Heyer's historical romances. My sister, mother and I often shared books but Georgette Heyer was an author we had to get ourselves when we left home. Her books were like comfort food to my mother and, I must say, to me as well. When I finally sorted through the books I had inherited from mum and Joanne, I discovered five copies of The Grand Sophy, not including my hardcover copy.

Georgette Heyer has been a big influence on how I write romance. Add Louis L'Amour and you have two of the chief inspirations for my first book, Under A Texas Star.

The Brit Coms

Dad could take or leave Star Trek and he preferred westerns over Regency romance, but there was one pop culture standard that the whole family enjoyed: British comedies.

It started with the Carry On movies. I saw more of them as a child than Disney pictures. We all watch Monty Python, of course, and listened to the Goon Show on the radio. My mother dated the producer of the Goon Show. One of her claims to celebrity fame is that she met Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan.

One of our all time favourites was To the Manor Born. I think mum would watch anything with Penelope Keith in it. My father would watch anything with Judy Dench... which is why I've seen some As Time Goes By episodes a dozen times or more. It may also be the reason I find the best romances are funny.


Since this is my sister's birthday, I should mention that I introduced her to J.R.R. Tolkein and she introduced me to J.K. Rowling.

When I was taking care of my sister, we took turns reading from The Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter books. She'd read to me when I was fixing dinner. I'd read to her when she got tired. My nieces and my daughter and son listened... well maybe not my son. He was only two or three at the time.

My sister died just before we went to see The Return of the King. I'd already bought the tickets as part of the kids' Christmas gift, so we went. Even though I knew the story, I had no idea how hard it would hit me when Theodon said "My body is broken. You must let me go." It captured those last moments in hospital with Joanne.

So, Happy Birthday Joanne... Chekov to my Sulu; Frodo to my Sam. My first editor, and best (and only) sister.

Alison Bruce has had many careers and writing has always been one of them. Copywriter, editor and graphic designer since 1992, Alison has also been a comic book store manager, small press publisher, webmaster and arithmetically challenged bookkeeper. She is the author of mystery, suspense and historical romance novels. Hazardous Unions, Two Tales of a Civil War Christmas is her latest book. Men in Uniform, a romantic suspense, will be coming soon... er soonish.


  1. I love the ending of this beautiful post - Theodon's words, and your final line. A wonderful tribute to someone I wish I had met, and feel I know somewhat through your words. Must reread Georgette Heyer.

  2. What a wonderful tribute to two strong, humorous and strident women, and what a great way to launch a new part of you. I miss Tanty Jo and JoJo so much, but you have a lovely way of making them alive again. Deep Thanks.

    1. Thanks so much Hil! I miss them but they're still with me and very much part of the fabric of my life.

  3. Must get that copy of The Grand Sophy to you! Thanks for dropping by, Mel.

  4. Brought a tear to my eye. Great post, Ali!!! :) :)

    1. Thanks Kat. November 6 is full of happy-sad memories for me and the family. It also reminds me that finding the humour in a sad situation helps you get through it.

  5. Thank you for sharing a part of your life. Your mum and Joanne must look down and sigh with pride.

    1. I hope so. I'm pretty sure my sister is laughing at me though. I found three typos this morning after I'd published the post and went back three separate times to edit them.


Post a Comment

We would love to hear from you but hope you are a real person and not a spammer. :)

Popular Posts