This is Alice’s recipe for, trifle, as found in her cookbook~ Us Two Cookbook~ Jennie B Williams, from 1909- Gaskell-Odlum-Stabler Limited, Thomson Stationary Co. Limited, Vancouver, BC.
Any kind of stale cake, sponge or pound cake preferred, one tablespoon of wine (sherry), one tablespoon of brandy (Alice loved a shot of brandy!), strawberry, or raspberry jam, one half-pint of cream, one and one-fourth cup of blanched almonds. In a dish put first a layer of cake, then a little brandy, then jam, then cake, wine and nuts, also a little cream whipped; begin again as before, then add a few macaroons and make a wall of lady fingers. After all the cake and wine are used, over the top put plenty of whipped cream (stiff).
Alice and Grace
When I recall my father, it is always winter. I’m not sure why that is. Upon calling forth memory, I visualize his smiling face, then, a postcard-screened scene of the perfect winter appears. Snow, blanketing the ground. Frosty shades of blue, the softness of the scene, like peering through mohair. Sunlight streams through the dancing flakes of snow. Evergreens dusted, branches bending, sunlight streaming through the limbs, frost glistening, sparkling diamonds upon the earth. A deer standing behind the tree, alert and frozen on the landscape. Perhaps, winter evokes a memory of fragile beauty, frozen in time, a precious beauty that will fade and disappear. Some of my fondest memories are of times spent together, shared during the coldest winter months. My father died on winter’s cusp. My sister was born as winter peeked through the window, nature’s gentle touch, leaving a dusting of frost on the windowpane to prepare her for the cold nights ahead.
I recall one particularly harsh, relentless winter, unusual for the West Coast. The snow piled halfway to the roofline of our house. High banks of snow massed at the sides of the driveway, the endless shoveling, forming mountains of snow, standing fort like in front of the house. My father decided that the conditions were perfect to create an igloo, for you girls to play in. My sister and I waited impatiently for him to finish carving out the igloo’s entrance into the perfectly shaped dome. Wind swept snow compacts well and interlinks the ice crystals. Perfect conditions, girls! My father dug, shaped, and carved away at the mountain of snow until the rounded pile was formed into a perfect dome. We lost track of time; it blurred from morning to evening as we created our snow ice masterpiece. Finally completed, my sister and I crawled inside of the structure. The solid white walls, smooth and damp to the touch, leading upwards to the rounded roofline, the cold air inside, chilling our rosy cheeks and little noses. Our pure delight in the simple beauty of the snow house. Awed by the effect; we discovered that we could almost stand inside the structure. Inside the dome, my father placed two small, wooden crates for us to sit on. We collected a plastic tea set, apple juice, and a sleeve of Saltine crackers to dine. Bundled up in snowsuits, scarves, and mitts, we played inside our frozen playhouse from dawn to dusk. It was if we were miniature characters, enclosed within the simplest of snow globes, frozen in time.
My sister and I were the friends of choice for the neighbourhood hooligans who scampered into the yard, just to get a “pass” into our wonderful world. We had a small window to peek out of and through it we could view the twinkling stars in the inky sky. We rolled snowballs to keep handy incase of a rogue attack. Protection. Our snow house would endure that winter. Finally, slowly, deliberately, the sunlight warmed and melted our magical world away, until we were left with pieces of dirty bits of snow, reluctantly melting on the ground.
Another memory. The temperatures dropped below zero for a prolonged period, causing the local lake at the end of our street to solidly freeze over. Some of the neighbourhood children were taking advantage of this gift of nature, skating on the lake’s frozen surface. We longed to join them. One evening, my father arrived home, earlier than usual. Inside the Sears Roebuck shopping bag was two brand new pair of skates. Gently, touching the soft, chalk-white leather, my fingers slipping over the surface of the boot, I could imagine wearing the skates, twirling pirouettes upon the lake’s surface. The steel blades, shiny and sharp. Aching to try the skates on, would they fit? They’re a bit big, Grace. Wear an extra pair of socks. You’ll grow into them. A perfect fit! Driving the short, never-ending distance, to the edge of the lakeshore, headlights shining onto the icy surface to light our way, my father tested the thickness of the ice. Never walk onto ice, girls. Ice must be thick and tested by an adult. Pushing the snow shovel, dad cleared a patch of ice. Smooth as glass, I wondered, could we see the fish below the frozen surface? Carefully, dad tied our laces, giving the slightest tug at the beginning of the skate boot to offer support to our wobbly ankles. Next, my father held our hands and walked us onto the ice. We were apprehensive, What if I fall, Daddy? Will the ice crack? Coaching and encouraging, Hold your arms out like wings, Grace. There you go! Holding us, gliding us along the slippery surface. It’s all right, Grace. I’ll catch you if you fall. The car’s headlights illuminating the surface, under a moonlit night, stars as our witness, we learned to skate on the arms of our father. We learned to be brave, to fear less, to fall down, to get up, and to try again. More than that, we learned that the man we called, dad, was kind and gentle, a man who enjoyed spending times with his little girls, our hero, a man who would catch us if we fell. It was a magical moment in time and if I had the power, I would have conjured a lifetime of magical experiences. Alas, as with all that is magical, there is an elusive, fleeting quality, that in the end leaves the audience wondering, What happened?
On a chilly December morning, earlier than usual, I would awaken and go to the window. It was as if a conjuror had stepped forth to create a beautiful, magical show to delight my sleepy eyes. The perfect postcard picture of winter. Transfixed, I watched the sunlight’s brilliant rays streaming through the window, illuminating the sleeping garden. This morning, there was an unusual clarity to the view. The winter colours, brilliant in nature, a staggering beauty to behold, more than an everyday occurrence. Tumbling snowflakes perfectly spaced apart, falling to earth from a cloud placed overhead. For a moment I was transported into a magical kingdom of beauty and light. Standing in the middle of a snow globe, a magical space, the flakes like glitter raining down upon us, my sister delighting in the scene, my father holding her close. In that moment it felt as if we were connected by a mystical love or energy, interconnecting and binding us together for eternity. Later that morning, the telephone’s ring and the words, Dad passed away early this morning. I already knew.
For many childhood summers, always during the month of August, our family would pack up the car, tossing in the bright plastic buckets and shovels, oversized towels, a large, loaded cooler, dented and scratched from use. These items crammed into the trunk of the Wagon. We would head to the ferry terminal to sail across the Strait of Georgia, to Kaye Bay Lodge, on Vancouver Island. My sister and I cherished this time, as it was an opportunity to spend uninterrupted time with our father, in what could only be described as our Camelot. Fortunately, those were the days before cell phones and computers; we were completely disconnected from daily life, as we knew it. Dad would relax, explore the beachfront, and swim in the chilling Pacific Ocean with us; we knew where he was and that fact comforted my sister and me. My sister would hang seaweed and kelp from our father’s head and shoulders. Our Prince of Tides. If the tides were right, we would dig for clams. My father taught us how to look for the tell-tale bubbles, barely visible under the low puddles of seawater. Other times, we would walk farther out, our tiny feet feeling the damp, cool sea floor, to pick oysters for supper.
Freedom to play for hours on the warm, sandy beachfront and opportunities to mix with others awaited us. This vacation was the highlight of our year and became a wonderful family tradition, especially when my cousins began to join us. My sister and I would compare it to taking a peek into heaven, imagining that if we could actually do so, we would be blinded by the brilliant rays of sunlight, multi shades of blue from turquoise to azure, and an earth below us, that sparkled like diamonds in the light. The white, fluffy clouds, cushioning and carrying our tired, little bodies. On the beach, there would be precious moments of love and laughter, children and adults spending time together, singing around a campfire, the sharing of meals, and arms encircled, as we held one another close, allowing nightfall to curtain the scene, bringing another beauteous day, to an end.
A peek into heaven, it truly was. We couldn’t wait to rise at dawn, arguing over who would get which, Kellogg’s mini cereal box. Our cabin was rustic, made of sturdy logs, one of the original structures on the property. There was a small front step to rest on. Yellowed, wild beach grass grew on either side of the structure. The occasional shell would find itself relocated to rest just outside the cabin walls. We never explored the backside of the cabin, too afraid of what we might discover. At night, in our tiny room, we would draw the curtain to avoid looking through the thin glass window and to keep the night away. I still fear the darkness of night. The silence allows my mind to activate and I begin to remember memories, both happy and sad, however, then, the silence was comforting as the rhythm of the ocean’s waves, crashing to the shore, lulled us to sleep. We were content, dreaming of our beautiful days spent at the beach. A peek into heaven, it truly was, for my sister and me.
You asked me to describe my school lunches. What did I eat for lunch? This I do remember.
Queen Elizabeth School was a mere three blocks from the first home that I lived in. My mother believed in “hot” lunches and children “home” for lunch. It was the 60s, a decade of social and cultural change. JFK, sexism and racism, people were breaking free. I hardly recall a child that stayed at school, on a regular basis, for lunch. There was stability in the west side neighbourhood. Picture this, manicured front lawns, solid, tall oak trees, their boughs reaching out, protecting and canopying the children that played on the boulevards beneath, moms inside, domesticating the home. Occasionally, I would lunch at school. On those days my mother prepared my lunch, carefully packing my new silver thermos into the plaid, tin lunchbox. “Now, be careful with the thermos, Grace! One drop and it will shatter.” The thermos intrigued me with its fat, torpedo shape, gleaming silver shell, catching the rays of sunlight. The lid tightly turned, protecting and chilling the liquid milk inside. It appeared solid, indestructible.
Those days, “lunch children” would be sent to the school’s cafeteria, located in the basement of the school. Nervously, I would join the short line and as silent as mice, we would tip toe to the cafeteria, behind our beautiful teacher, Miss MacVicker. Cardigan sets, pencil skirts, kitten heels, she was a fashion icon. I would sit next to my neighbor, Bruce, a scientific, little fellow. I imagine him as a research professor now, searching for another galaxy or discovering a cure for autoimmune disease. Bruce loved dinosaurs and could recite any and all details of their existence! He read encyclopedias. In his basement, Bruce had every model of dinosaur, from ferocious Tyrannosaurus Rex to the smallest of raptors and he could tell you every fact about each type along with every detail of the Jurassic or Triassic period. However, the best thing about Bruce was his chameleon!  Imagine living next door to someone who owned a lizard that changed colours! We spent hours experimenting, trying to force changes, the chameleon flicking its long, pink tongue in disgust. Once, I actually thought I saw the reptile-changing colour; its feet turning from green to blue, as Bruce held it captive, wrapped in my mother’s turquoise scarf. “It’s getting angry,” Bruce would declare. Bruce was fascinating, smart and curious, traits I admired. Besides, he had a chameleon!
We were children of the Wonder Bread era. Lunch children sat in rows ordered chronologically; youngest students to eldest, tin lunch boxes or brown paper bags, placed in front of our little crossed legs. Napkins placed upon our laps. Quietly, unfolding our wax paper wrapped, Wonder Bread sandwiches, silently acknowledging the day’s fare. “Oh no. Egg salad, again,” would be the lament. Then the sniffing, as we raised the item first to our noses, then to the light, inspecting it with our sharp eyes, looking for bits to toss or avoid. Trades were encouraged. “I’ll trade you a peanut butter for a plain jam.” Buttered bread with sugar and cinnamon sprinkled on top was a coveted delicacy among the young lunch crowd! Tapioca pudding, oh no! “Ugh! Grace eats frog’s eggs!” I would flush with embarrassment. “Fish!” The disgust was audible. We little ones quickly learned that fish was definitely frowned upon. Homemade cookies and a thermos of milk rounded out the meal. Carefully, I unwound the lid and poured the white liquid into the small silver thermos lid. Sipping carefully. Quietly watching the other children.
One afternoon, running home from school, my lunch kit came unfastened. The silver thermos rolled out and hit the ground. “Test it,” Bruce declared. “Shake it and listen.” When I picked it up, I knew. When I shook the thermos, I heard the chinking sound of shattered glass tinkling inside the base of the thermos. My mother’s words, “Be more careful! I just bought you that one. Now, you’ll have to do without.” My thermos shattered! The solid, strong, steel like exterior, a false front, so easily broken. Insides made of glass, broken and fragile. Shattered.
I preferred to walk home to a hot lunch. It was a reprieve, an escape from the classroom. I took comfort in knowing that I had a house a ‘waiting my return, like a familiar blanket held close to the body, the house wrapped its walls around me, protecting me. Even then, I would imagine returning and the house would have vanished. The panic welling up inside as I pondered my next move.
Entering the kitchen, my lunch would be placed onto the table. Campbell’s Tomato Soup, Chicken Noodle, Alphabet, Saltines, grilled cheese, simple fare, repeated throughout the week. Delicious! Sometimes Playbox biscuits! “Howdy Doody”  would be on the radio and I would listen with delight when Princess would sing my favourite song, “High Hopes.”  I could picture that little ant pushing that big rubber plant, as I’d sing along with Princess Summer, Fall, Winter. That show was responsible for nightmares for years to follow. The thought of Howdy, Uncle Bob, and Princess actually seeing me through the radio was disconcerting to say the least. Bruce thought that they were probably lying to the children about the seeing part.
You asked me to describe what I ate for lunch. It really doesn’t matter. My mother made my lunch. I had a home, my mom, a little sister, and a friend. This much, I do remember.
“There is no stranger under the cherry tree.”- Issa
There is a tree I love. The circumference of the trunk thick and wide, so broad, that I cannot circle my arms around it anymore. Knotty, the bark rough to my cheek’s soft touch. The trunk, darkened, blackened, and browned with touches of gray. Gnarled. Leaves that are a dark green, jade, larger near the top to kiss the sun, forming a canopy to shield me. When spring returns, the tree I love awakens to life, its pink blossoms changing from crimson to a blush shade as the petals unfurl. The tree I love. Home to squirrels, chipmunks, ladybugs. Butterflies pause to rest their fragile wings for a brief moment. Bees drone and circle the blossoms, briefly alighting to dust their legs with pollen. The tree I love, a home and nurturer of life. The robin builds her nest in the uppermost branches, a safe haven for the turquoise eggs, the broken pieces of shell float to the ground when the young birds take flight. Collected by the child who gently wraps the remnants into a Kleenex. The tree I love.
It is impossible for me to walk past the Cherry Tree. Its presence alluring, pure beauty as it commands the ground. The tree I love has roots that spread and twist as they deeply anchor and nourish. Steadfast. I pause to stand under the majestic canopy and close my eyes. For a brief moment, I can summon back the memory of a little girl and her younger sister. A memory of love.
The winds begin to blow, gently teasing the tree. Dancing together the wind embraces the pinks, twirling and whirling them about before slowly releasing them to the ground. Carpeting the earth, a pink quilt, covering the ground. Fragile beauty. A memory of love, fleeting.
“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.
You make me happy when skies are grey.
You’ll never know dear how much I love you.
Please don’t take my sunshine away.
The other night dear, as I lay sleeping,
I dreamt I held you in my arms
When I awoke dear, I was mistaken,
So I hung my head and I cried.
You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.
You make me happy when skies are grey.
You’ll never know dear how much I love you.
Please don’t take my sunshine away.” 
-Jimmy Wakeley and The Sunshine Girls- Bob Hamlin
-Jimmy Davis- 1940
Songs can bring back memories. Dad loved to sing in the car and we loved to follow along for the ride. As we traveled the roads in a variety of weighty cars, the Impala, the Cougar, the functional Wagon, the radio’s volume turned to high, it wasn’t long before he’d break into song. Then, I’d join in. Off tune, oblivious to the fact, we sang together. Shortly after, his hand would move behind to the back seat, seeking mine. He would give it a squeeze. Then, it was my sister’s turn. Her small fist would reach up, to find his strong hand, above the seat back. Briefly, joined together, we would continue to sing. It was a spontaneous, loving act, a moment in time. Songs can bring back memories. Dad loved to sing in the car and we loved to follow along for the ride.
Thank you for the sacrifices that you make on a daily basis. The times that you are up all night cuddling an ill child, reassuring a small one that there really aren’t any monsters in the world. The strength that you draw from within, when faced with adversity. The resilience that you develop to survive the difficult times and remind others that “this too shall pass”. The gift of time that you share at the cost of your own quiet. Always wearing a smile. Offering a kind, encouraging word. Loving unconditionally. That is a mother’s responsibility. To all the mothers everywhere, I wish you a Happy Mother’s Day! Thank you for the sacrifices that you make on a daily basis.
The early wake up call. “Mom, can you pick me up at the Sky Train Station? I worked a night shift” My son, now an adult, still occasionally calling mom for a ride home! Disheveled, flattered, I manage to throw myself together in relatively decent style. Arriving at his townhouse, my son suggests I view the garden. The small plot of earth carefully arranged with green shoots, annuals and perennials reaching for the sunshine. Lavender bushes. The window box of herbs. The three raspberry canes, looking forlorn, yet hopeful, the promise of bearing sweet fruit. My son asks questions and seeks advice on gardening. “What’s a good rose to grow?” Depends, if you want a rambler or a climber. Touched, I lovingly recall the little boy he once was and the times we spent looking at the gardens in our neighbourhood, planting the Mother’s Day gift of lupin seeds, a memory from the story we shared, Miss Rumphius, placing picked flowers into a vase, floating rose petals in a bowl. I ache to go back in time. What struck me is that the little things we often take for granted, count. Pivotal moments in time. The walks and talks. Simple acts, like planting flowers, teach us to appreciate the beauty in life.
Precious gifts of time that we share with one another. Years ago, my father and grandfather taught me, through their simple actions, to find peace in a garden, to create beauty, to nurture life, to discover hope in the bleakest of conditions. Their gift of time, passed on to me, passed along to my son.
My mother grew up in a charming, solid, Craftsman style home , a style influenced by the English Arts and Crafts movement as well as by Oriental wooden architecture, made popular from 1905- 1920. This style would have suited her father, a serious Scottish student of architecture, and a draftsman, a man who was at ease with the rigidity of straight lines and angles. Upon immigrating to Canada, Grandfather James, would work with the City of Vancouver, designing and drafting many projects. A man of few words, grandfather spent hours building and shifting the classical structure of the house to suit. The child recalled that although her grandfather, “Boombah,” wasn’t much of a communicator, his mind was sharp and his watchful eyes held a flair for detail. In carpenter overalls, a hammer hanging from the leg strap or back pocket, Grandfather James was always building and creating projects throughout the house. At one point he raised the original bungalow, creating a basement area. Birthday parties would be held in this space. The child enjoyed wandering silently, following her grandfather about the back yard, watching him repair the fencing, hammer on a post, or sketch his plans onto a scrap. Grandfather would hand her the tape measure or thick black pencil, motioning with his hand when he wanted its use. The intuitive child understood the man’s grumbling ways and quietly followed him about the yard. Occasionally the child would help locate his false teeth, usually left on a pile of lumber or a fence post in the back yard. Although they rarely spoke, he would smile and nod. The child knew that she was watched over and that in his odd, curious, silent way, Grandfather cared for her.
A distinctive feature was the shell of the house, Spanish stucco with bits of bronze glass embedded in it. The child loved to gaze at the sparkling glass, the early morning sunlight bouncing off of it, pretending that the sparkling glass bits were jewels, golden nuggets left by a genie, escaped from the tall silver lidded pitcher kept on the windowsill in the living room. The top half of the house consisted of wide planks of plywood, painted a dark, forest green to blend in with the natural surroundings. A tidy path of stepping-stones, wound from the sidewalk to the front steps. If you followed the stepping-stones, the path would wind around the perimeter of the house. The child would pretend that she was Dorothy, following the yellow brick road, tugging Bear along the journey, step by step. 
The sidewalks on West 13th and Camouson are now shaded by majestic oak and elm, their long branches reaching across, joining together, to form a canopy over the sidewalks. Every autumn, their spirally arranged leaves drifting and blowing to the boulevard were raked up into a high pile. The nuts a welcome winter meal for chipmunks and squirrels, the pile of leaves scattered and tossed by the children from the block. From a young age, children played on the front lawns of the properties. Mothers relaxed on the front steps or went about their daily business inside the house; knowing that their children were safe. No one feared abduction from the front lawn. If a child strayed to the sidewalk or boulevard, other children, pulling and riding wagons up and down the 13th Avenue hill, protected one another from harm. There were the occasional falls and bumps, which were largely ignored. It was on this sidewalk, in the late afternoon that the child would patiently wait for her uncle to appear arriving home after his studies at UBC. These were happy times, small gatherings of family and friends chatting on the sidewalk or doorstep of her grandfather’s home. The child watched her uncle and a friend toss a rubber ball into the sky, so high, she thought it would touch the sun and disappear. It was on the boulevard alongside the sidewalk that her uncle would snap a photograph of the child wearing her new birthday outfit. It was a two-piece ensemble, navy blue plaid top with a sailor style collar and tie at the front. The short skirt was pleated. The little girl wore white ruffled ankle socks, leather Mary Janes. Her hair was styled by Mr. Derry, the local hairdresser at the barbershop on Dunbar. The child disliked Mr. Derry’s pixie cuts but she loved the silver sparkles that he’d toss onto her head. The delight from the adults, the attention and focus made the child smile as she posed for the photograph. It was a costly store bought outfit, carefully selected by her uncle. Although, now grown, the woman fondly remembers that special day.
A visitor to the house would notice the beautiful pink rhododendron bush, a genus as old as time that grew in the garden beside the front staircase. A stand out in the front garden. The ancient flowers, the color of ballet slippers. As a child; she would delight in picking up the soft, velvety petals that spilled from the drooping blooms, the dark green leaves used to scoop up an unsuspecting creature. Grandfather planted that bush when he first obtained possession of the house. Snowbells, their tiny, pure white bell shaped flowers drooping to greet the seeds germinating beneath the earth. Among them, stood the tall foxgloves, purple, and pink. The child slipped the soft flowers onto her fingertips and delighted at her velvety nails. Sometimes she was a tiger, stalking quietly through the ferns, peeking from behind the branches of the rhododendron bush, claws spread open to frighten her prey. On other days, she was a wicked witch with long petal fingernails; one touch would poison Bear and send him into a deep sleep. There was a blood red, climbing rose that inched up the side of the house. The child pretended that the rose climbed up the castle walls. Some days, she would collect the spent petals and flowers and hand them to her mother, who would arrange them into a glass bowl on the kitchen table.
Before her time, another little girl, the child’s mother would explore the garden; walk the dirt paths around the perimeter of the house, imagining herself as a woodland sprite or a graceful cat pacing through the tall grass. Daffodils, their lemony colour as bright as the sun bloomed in the garden under the growing rhododendron bush. Purple, pink, and blue hyacinths scattered throughout the front garden, their intoxicating perfume scenting the air. Plantings were left in a natural state with many of the varieties native to B.C. and grandfather would journey to Hyland Barnes to select his plantings. Mother would share, “The old man really liked gardening; he was into it with a vengeance.” There were several fruit trees throughout the backyard, a plum tree that the child’s mother would later pick plums to preserve. An unfortunate pear tree that rarely produced fruit, surprised the family the year it produced a single, magnificent golden pear! “A rather puny apple tree that always produced sour fruit, covered in blemishes,” attempted to survive throughout the years. Like her daughter, the child’s mother would pick the rose petals from the ground and artfully place them into a glass bowl on top of the table.
The child could watch a variety of creatures make their home in the garden. Spiders spun silken, glistening webs between the branches of the rhododendron bush. Ladybugs flew to the daffodils, tickled the child’s finger, until taking flight. Bees buzzed busily amongst the lilac bushes. The child pretended that they were making honey for her bear. Worms could be seen, wiggling up to view the world beneath the garden flowers. Black ants marched in line and the child would patiently follow them to their hill. Treasures, such as the tiny, turquoise robin’s eggs that the child found on the ground beneath the tree. Simple gifts from the universe.
There were wrought iron rails that followed the stairs to the front porch landing. The child would sit on the stairs and run her hands through the spaces and twist her fingers around the twirling, black rails, hard and so cool to the touch. Once the child had a playmate that managed to place his head between the rails, causing panic and commotion when he couldn’t release his head from the iron bars. The child’s mother was called to gently ease the playmate’s head from its ironclad jail. That followed by a lecture that ended with, “You two are damn lucky I didn’t have to call the Fire Department!”
At the top of the front cement stairs there was a landing, sheltered by a wide, enclosed overhang with decorative post supports. This sheltered porch provided a certain solidity, protecting the little child and before her, her mother, arriving home from school or play. Entering through the plain, cream coloured door, a guest would notice the small foyer and to the right, a living room behind leaded glass paned doors. The squeaky oak floors led down a hall to the kitchen. The child would sit in the nook at the south end of the kitchen, watching the birds alight upon the cherry tree.
A robin, flying by, looking down upon the low pitched, gabled peak, would see a beautiful cherry tree in the centre of the back yard. A perfect home for a stick formed nest to hold and protect the tiny blue eggs. The cherry tree changed with the seasons. In the spring, the branches would sag with the weight of the snow-white blossoms that hung from the branches. In the winter, the tree stood bare and stalwart, a solid, sentry sheltering the house from the elements. When the wind blew, the branches that reached close to the house, would tap upon the windowpane, both frightening and yet calming to the child. Was there a spirit outside the window? It was this majestic cherry tree that entranced the child. Every morning she woke to its beauty. Every evening, the child would take comfort in knowing it would be there when she awoke, an old friend. This beauty took center stage; it’s brownish black bark, rough and scratchy upon her velvety soft cheek. The branches reaching toward the sun and stars at night, the child imagined that she could climb to the very top of a branch and pick a star into her tiny, plump hand. Some days, standing upon the back porch, you would see the child, book in hand. Tossing the Little Golden Book toward the centre of the cherry tree, the child would delight when the impact occurred. Like snow, hundreds of little bits, exploding and scattering white blossoms, flurried toward the ground. Sometimes, the child could convince her sister to stand under the majestic cherry tree. When the blossoms fell, her sister would dance and twirl with delight, her arms lifted above her head, peals of laughter. Always, this game would end in tears, as the book would miss the branch or rebound, finding its target, whacking the little, round, blonde head. The cherry tree watched over the child as she sat under it, back touching its trunk, reading a book. From her bedroom window, the little girl could see it, underneath an ebony sky, the white blossoms of the tree, illuminating the deep, dark yard. Upon nightfall, the precious child sailed off to dreamland, her mother’s calm voice reciting the poetry of Eugene Field’s, Wynken, Blynken and Nod; the melodic rhythm of the words luring her to sleep.
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe —
Sailed on a river of crystal light,
Into a sea of dew.
“Where are you going, and what do you wish?”
The old moon asked the three.
“We have come to fish for the herring fish
That live in this beautiful sea;
Nets of silver and gold have we!”
Said Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.
The old moon laughed and sang a song,
As they rocked in the wooden shoe,
And the wind that sped them all night long
Ruffled the waves of dew.
The little stars were the herring fish
That lived in that beautiful sea —
“Now cast your nets wherever you wish —
Never afeard are we”;
So cried the stars to the fishermen three:
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.
All night long their nets they threw
To the stars in the twinkling foam —
Then down from the skies came the wooden shoe,
Bringing the fishermen home;
‘Twas all so pretty a sail it seemed
As if it could not be,
And some folks thought ’twas a dream they’d dreamed
Of sailing that beautiful sea —
But I shall name you the fishermen three:
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.
Wynken and Blynken are two little eyes,
And Nod is a little head,
And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies
Is a wee one’s trundle-bed.
So shut your eyes while mother sings
Of wonderful sights that be,
And you shall see the beautiful things
As you rock in the misty sea,
Where the old shoe rocked the fishermen three:
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.
My father took pride in enhancing and modernizing the interior of Boombah’s house, planting chrysanthemums and tending to the garden. My uncle would later share that,
“The garden never looked better than when your father lived with us.” My father, experienced as a bricklayer for a time, replaced the drab, yellowing, brick fireplace. On either side of the fireplace there were doors inset with leaded glass panes, “horrible to clean,” my mother would lament. Curios and vases were placed on the shelves inside the cupboards. Dad discovered a cracked plaster wall in the living room area and covered it with walnut wainscoting to elevate the room’s stature. My mother felt that, “The place looked quite decent once your father fixed it up.” The flooring was oak hardwood, which seemed to squeak with each footstep. My uncle and grandfather had two small bedrooms on the upper floor of the house. There were two small attic doors, which led to creepy areas under the roof. One terrified neighbourhood child ran off after my uncle opened the doors to show the bear in the attic, which was actually a small bearskin! Many years later, my uncle would send me a letter stating, “It was a very good time for all of us in that house, by far the most pleasant time your mom and me had ever experienced in that rather unhappy house. Your dad’s presence really curtailed much of your grandpa’s angry behavior. This was a great benefit to all of us, including, Boombah. Looking back it was a wonderful time for all of us. “ These were happy times for us, a family full of hope and promise.