In December, when my husband, Clif, broke his wrist before Christmas, it wasn’t long before I started feeling frazzled. By a stroke of organizational good luck—unusual for us—all the presents had been wrapped, but there was still a lot of cooking and cleaning to be done. Fortunately, I could rely on Ida LeClair for advice, who came up with a list of “December De-Stressors,” one of which involves buying pre-made items from the store when you don’t have time to bake or cook. Yes, homemade bread is best, but it was a great relief to just buy bread and English muffins in between chauffeuring Clif to work and to the doctor’s office.
Then there was the time, earlier in the year, when I needed new bras. I quite naturally turned to Ida, who advised buying two black bras as well as a flesh-colored one. I did as she suggested, and I have been completely happy with my choices.
Clif recently observed, “I’m beginning to think you learned everything you know from Ida.”
While he might be exaggerating, he does have a point, but there is only one slight problem with my reliance on Ida LeClair—she doesn’t actually exist. She is the alter-ego of my friend Susan Poulin, a very funny and talented performer who has created a series of theatrical works revolving around Ida. (If any of Susan’s shows come to a theater near you, then don’t hesitate to see them. Not all of them are about Ida, but they are all terrific.)
Susan’s most recent endeavor is a humorous advice book written from Ida LeClair’s point of view, and that book is Finding Your Inner Moose: Ida LeClair’s Guide to Livin’ the Good Life. Ida, who is Franco-American and from the fictional Maine town of Mahoosuc Mills, lives in a “tidy and tastfully decorated double-wide with high school sweetheart Charlie and adorable dog Scamp.” She works as a cashier at the local grocery store, and her best friends are Celeste, Rita, Betty, Dot, and Shirley. She also has a niece, Caitlin, who is as “cute as a button,” and is into “New Agey stuff” such as feng shui. (Ida refers to Caitlin’s New Age interests as “woo-woo.”)
With Caitlin’s help—woo-woo or not—Ida discovered that the moose was her totem, her symbol. (Actually, the moose chose Ida, but that is a story unto itself and best told in Ida’s inimitable voice. So read the book for more details.) Caitlin informs her aunt, “Moose teach us to value ourselves and to reward ourselves for a job done well done.” This certainly clicked with Ida, and she was “off and running” with her Inner Moose book.
Each chapter in Finding Your Inner Moose covers a topic—marriage, friendship, aging, attitude at work, even death. Here is Ida’s take on aging. “”There’s something to be said for aging gracefully, but you don’t hear much about that nowadays. It’s more trendy to fight aging tooth and nail. But I say, let’s bring the ‘aging gracefully’ concept back” Here is her advice about diet and health: “Start from where you are…If you’re waiting for your life to be perfect before you start living it, your life will consist of lots of waiting and not much living.” Then there is the title of her chapter on marriage, which needs no explanation at all: “A Good Marriage Starts with Please and Thank You.”
In each chapter, Charlie and Caitlin get their say, with a little section of their own—Straight Talk from the Barcalounger and Caitlin’s New Age Nook. Again, no explanation needed. Charlie’s masculine voice and Caitlin’s “New Agey” voice make nice counterpoints to Ida’s own earthy voice, which is sassy but wise and warm.
It is not every day that you find a humorous book that is also an honest-to-God self-help book, one that makes you laugh and learn at the same time. Finding Your Inner Moose is such a book. As Charlie puts it, Ida “just loves giving advice to people, whether they ask for it or not.”
That might be the case, but when Ida gives advice, I listen.