English Alice

The previous story began with “Grace” and her granddaughter “Lily” discussing the family ancestry.  We were introduced to the character of Grace, her parents, and grandmother, Alice.  Part One is filed under the heading, The Story.  Please note that this is a “draft.”  Enjoy!

 

English Alice

Grace’s grandmother, Alice was a reserved woman, set apart from others, by her own choosing.  Underneath an aloof facade were secrets kept close to the heart. We didn’t speak much about family, Lily.  It just wasn’t done, wasn’t considered polite for the time.  As Alice would comment, “One never airs one’s dirty linen.”  Private matters were kept private though Grace always sat silently, listening for the hints of dirty linen.  However, one did not ask for more information, wishing now, that she had asked Alice to share about herself, wondering was she happy once upon a time? A picture tucked behind glass, inside a pocket watch portrays a young Alice, reluctant smile, head turned toward a man, Charles, her grandfather.

A book of poetry, carefully chosen and scrapped from editions of the Vancouver Sun, suggests a profound sadness clung to Alice’s soul.  There were hints of disappointment and loss. Why did Alice refuse to visit the family home? Certainly, never a public woman, Alice remained secluded, not understandable by everyone in the family.  Excepting Alice’s sisters.  The sisters formed a coven wreath that encircled her.  What happened between Alice and her son, my father? The slightest trace of a wince visible upon her face whenever his name was mentioned.  “He’s not my son,” were Alice’s crisp words.  What do you mean?  Grace mused, for she would never ask, what do you mean by that comment? Later, curiosity and unanswered questions, leading to a search of ancestry records for snippets of information.  Bits and bobs, as Alice would say. Sleuthing the past for understanding and missing pieces.  What did she hope to find? Some of the people, events, and moments, remembered, especially the lowered voices when her name was spoken.

The family had a point. Who shuns family, particularly a grandchild?  For Grace’s initial visits with her grandmother ended when she was seven.  What happened, Lily asked? I have no clue!  They just ended. Perhaps she lost track of time.  We always say, later.  We never do. That is, until many years later when one afternoon in early winter, I accidentally crossed paths with my grandmother in a local shopping mall.

Grace recalled that afternoon in the mall, until Lily’s questioning brought her back to the present conversation.  “Why was Alice called English Alice,” Lily questioned.

My mother named my grandmother, English Alice or Alice from England.   I believe it was in jest as my mother found Alice to be unusual, a simple woman who longed to be posh, a woman who put on airs.  Alice clung to the image of a fine lady, hair tossed in the fashionable style of the day. Marcel waves, a proper dress, gloves, hat, adorned with jewelry fit for a high tea. Alice presented well, on the surface.  Although born in the north of England, my grandmother spoke Queen’s English, the latter which she used effectively, the tight, quick sounds of her words, used to make an arrow sharp point.  Alice had a voice that was pure musicality to the ears. There was a pleasant pitch, variations of length, quiet endings to a phrase.  As a child, Grace loved to sit at the table and listen to her grandmother’s speech.

Alice Sophia    

It was early autumn when Grace’s grandmother, Alice, was born. The pleasant land was awash with orange and bright green from the trees and their turning leaves.  Baptized, Alice Sophia Weston, October 3, 1894, the wee daughter of Joseph Hair Weston, a local cabinetmaker and Emma Weston, registered on the birth document as, “housewife.” Emma was Joseph’s second wife, Alice her only child.  Alice was the youngest of five Weston girls, beginning with the eldest, the beautiful Priscilla, then, Mary or Molly, as known to her sisters.  There was Jane, also know as Jenny or Geordie, Ellen, and the maverick, Elizabeth, who would marry four times. The family lived in a simple, terraced home located at 32 Bond Court, Newcastle on Tyne, England, fashioned in the polite design of the Victorian era.

Newcastle on Tyne, the city where my grandmother lived, is a metropolitan borough, located in North East England.  In Alice’s time, it was a bustling borough.  Trade centered around wool, coal mining, lumber and ship building. The town of Newcastle on Tyne owed its name to a castle built in 1080 and the borough’s location to the fast flowing Tyne River. The proud residents felt it to be the best looking city due to its neoclassical style of architecture or Tyneside Classical as was often referred to.  It was a style derived from classical Greek and Roman architecture with its symmetrical form and Doric columns.  Of all the boroughs in England, Newcastle on Tyne was a lovely, picturesque, almost fairy tale like borough for the Weston sisters to reside within.

Joseph Weston had wished for a son, however his wish was not to be.  He had hoped for an heir to teach the fine art of wood craftsmanship necessary to attain exquisite pieces of furniture.  Instead, fate provided him with five daughters to support.  Joseph’s carpentry skills were highly regarded in the town and people of means, sought his time and exquisite furnishings. Wood working was a lucrative craft that allowed Joseph to provide a satisfactory standard of living for his tender wife and sweet daughters.  Still, overworked and exhausted, the volume of work left little time in a day to spend with his family.  That was unfortunate, as fate would have it that Joseph would have precious little time to spend with his youngest daughter, Alice.

Emma, an amiable woman, with a gentle sweet nature, enjoyed her chatty, curious daughters and taught them well.  Daily lessons involved rituals of etiquette, hand sewing, singing, elocution, and handwriting.  Alice was a stellar student and at the age of six, patiently learned to read and write at her eldest sister Pricilla’s side. In her heart, Emma worried, as there was something peculiar about the serious one they fondly called, Wee Alice.  The child appeared withdrawn, uncomfortable outside the gardens of their home, avoiding the gazes of friendly neighbors, at times, refusing to speak.  Alice was too day dreamy, too lost in herself, thought Emma. Perhaps, it is due to the fact that she is the youngest, Emma mused.

The truth was that Alice was a sensitive, serious soul, often lost within herself and uncomfortable in social situations.  The young child would find herself gazing through the windows to view the world beyond, imagining the castle in the borough, climbing the stone steps from the riverside to the castle door.  Alice wanted to visit it one day, live in it.  For Alice was becoming used to a royal touch and felt superior to the common standing of her present situation.

Afternoons were spent walking along Benwell Lane to the gardens of Adelaide Terrace. “Hurry up, wee Alice!  Keep up.” The gardens were a delight to the senses and in the spring and summer; the sisters played amongst the flowers, and sought shelter under the magnificent maple trees.  There, in the gardens of Adelaide Terrace, Alice and her sisters would explore the park grounds and study the language of flowers, a pastime that Alice eagerly looked forward to each day. “Tell me again, Mama.  What is the language of roses?”  “Love wee Alice.  Roses speak the language of love!”  Alice would always choose the prettiest, the reddest of scarlet rose to pick for her mother. When sad, wee Alice would gather up branches of dead leaves and hand them to her mother.

Always protective, Emma would encircle the child in her arms and hold her close to comfort.  It was a comfort, as Alice, possessed an overly anxious disposition, was easily frightened and worried while outside, beyond the safety of the walls of home, feigning illness and displaying a gloomy nature when life did not go as planned. Used to the company and protective nature of her older half sisters, the overly dependent and dreamy Alice did not venture forth without the security of the sisters by her side. Alice came to rely on this sisterhood of support.

Theirs was a contented life, and Emma felt fortunate to have food stores in the pantry and an allowance to run the household in a satisfactory fashion.  Little did Emma know that a bitter wind was blowing and a chill would descend upon the household at 32 Bond Court. That is, until December 1,1903, when frost sealed the date of her beloved Joseph’s death.  At that moment, life changed for the sisters and their mother.  Alice was frightened and fretted over her distraught mother.  Alice learned that the heart is a fragile beating organ and a piece of her heart stopped beating for a brief second, momentarily frozen, enough to form the beginnings of a scar that would thicken over time.  For now Alice knew the beginnings of heartbreak.

The sister’s education plans were put on hold as Emma sought employment to ensure that the necessities such as food, and a roof, remained over the family’s heads.  It was not easy and expectations would be lowered.  No longer could the sisters wander the lane, frivolously explore the language of flowers, or entertain any thought of finishing school.  Priscilla was placed in charge of the younger sisters’ daily care.  Fortunately, a lonely widower, Mr. Alistair Edwards, of 5 Adelaide Lane, was in need of a housekeeper.  Ever resourceful, Emma would struggle to make ends meet on a meager salary, working as a domestic servant for Mr. Edwards and his son, William.

Once again, the chilling winds of winter would return, this time for Emma, and paid servitude would be short lived.  In 1909, six years after the death of her beloved husband, sweet Emma Weston, would pass over, leaving her grieving daughters to fend entirely for them selves.  Young Alice had dealt with prior heartache upon her father’s death, however the death of her mother, changed Alice’s heart. A bigger piece of it hardened to the gentle whisperings of life.

Alice began to realize that one must be careful with one’s heart, protect it, learn to switch it off so as not to feel too deeply for another. On. Off. Done.  Still, humans aren’t as simple as light switches and the emotional part of Alice’s soul continued to feel the loss of love.  The scar thickened.

___________________

By 1911, out of necessity, the Weston sisters were all employed throughout the borough of Newcastle.  Mary worked as a waitress, Priscilla and Elizabeth, as domestic servants, Ellen, a box maker at the Bullman Paper Factory, Jenny and Alice, as box packers for the same factory.  Jenny and Alice had the monotonous job of packing postcards for sale into the cardboard boxes. Alice, now seventeen, studied the whimsical drawings on the postcards and smiled as she read the quips and quotes beneath.  Occasionally, she would tuck a postcard into her dress pocket.  Once home, Alice would pin the postcard to the wall.  Gazing at the cards, Alice would wonder and dream, traveling to the sights depicted, imagining the stories told.

Every morning, on the walk to the factory, Alice would gaze into the millinery shop window admiring the trimmings on display.  Where would she go to, what would she do, wearing a hat so fine? Alice knew that she wanted more than the monotony of packing boxes of Bullman postcards, in fact she felt entitled to more. These seeds of change crept into Alice’s mind and lodged there, where they slowly took root, forcing Alice to look for and plan an escape from a place where possibilities and dreams could never come true.

Every Sunday, Alice and her sisters would walk along the shaded Benwell Lane until it became Adelaide Terrace, headed to Saint John’s Cemetery.  Evergreen trees lined the cobblestone path and the cottage gardens brightly bloomed. Lily of the Valley and crocuses were glorious in the awakening spring soil and in the quiet of winter the red holly berries were resplendent against the dark green variegated leaves. The seasons rolled out an ever-changing landscape to delight the sisters’ senses.

To Alice, it was always winter now.  Once the sisters rounded the Terrace bend, the parsonage would come into view.  It was here that the sisters would pass through the wrought iron gate at the entrance and follow the winding path to their parent’s grave.  It was located at the end of a tree lined lane, where, to the right of a small lily pond, a humble row of wooden crosses stood tall against the weathering changes brought about by time and the elements. Joseph and Emma were buried together.  Two wooden crosses stood side by side and a small bouquet of red roses lay beneath.

The sisters would gather round the cross forming a united circle of hands.   Priscilla, always fashionable in a hat adorned with silk flowers, would lead the sisters in prayer, her whispered breath, “Our Father who art in Heaven.”  The words of the familiar prayer gripping Alice, “lead us not into temptation,” for Alice held a secret. Alice was being led into temptation, dreaming a plan to leave her sisters far behind in the borough of Newcastle on Tyne.

Alice knew that Priscilla would sob and hysterics would ensue.  The amassing postcards would be her link to the sisters, after all, she could write them letters. Shy and fearful wee Alice, had decided that she had grown up and would bravely leave 32 Bond Street, having had nearly enough of the box packing industry. The problem was when and how.  Sensing change in her future, Alice steeled herself for the possibilities that it would bring.

The five Weston sisters continued to work and share their pay, managing to keep their beloved home at 32 Bond Court. It is inevitable that time brings change and once again, it brought changes to Bond Court.  Elizabeth was the first sister to separate from the sisterhood, having found a suitor and married, leaving the number of Weston girls in the home to four.  Priscilla, who continued to work as a domestic servant for Mr. Alistair Edwards, fell in love with William, his son.  It was decided that they would marry. Molly, Jenny, Ellen and Alice continued to manage the house, however, it was becoming difficult to make ends meet within the middle class standards of the community.

It was now 1918 and William Edwards had heard of CPR land available to homestead in Canada.  Shortly after, William and Priscilla left England, to claim land in the barren, desolate town of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.  Elizabeth would remarry three times within eight years, losing each husband to disease, finally returning to 32 Bond Street, with a child.  The sisters were aging, the town’s people referred to them as, The Weston Spinsters.  Once again, Alice found herself planning her leave from Newcastle.  To Alice, the home at 32 Bond Court had never brought the same comfort since her mother’s death and with Priscilla, in Canada, the remaining sisters had not been able to sustain satisfactory income, housekeeping, and companionship. What were the sisters to do?

One day, a Bullman postcard arrived for Alice.  It read,

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My Dearest Alice,

     My heart is breaking as I miss you so, dear, wee sister.  What were we thinking to leave England?  William is busy establishing a shop in the town.  We were unprepared for the circumstances we find ourselves in.  The town is undeveloped; I cannot shop as we did in Newcastle.  I keep a garden, however, it must provide for us over the long, harsh and never ending cold winter.  I am alone with a young child, as our properties are far and between one another.  There is no help to be had. I cannot bear this life without my sisters close at hand.  You must come to me.  There are many farmers looking for wives.  You, Jenny, and Molly would be appropriate choices. Elizabeth can find lodging as a domestic.

     Please consider my request.  We shall make room.  My heart breaks for you, dear Alice. It is time for you to leave Newcastle.

Yours,

Priscilla

x

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It was decided that the sisters would sell 32 Bond Court and leave Newcastle, England for life in Canada.  Jenny, Molly, Ellen and Alice walked their final steps along Adelaide Terrace to Saint John’s Cemetery, pausing to pray over their parent’s gravesite.  It was a bittersweet moment for Alice, for in her heart she knew she would never return to England.  The winds blew and Alice felt the feather light touch of winter’s chill caress her cheek.  Alice adjusted her collar higher, turned her back on the two crosses, and walked away, never to return.

The sisters, Jenny, Molly, Ellen, and Alice, set sail from Liverpool, England on October 3, 1919 aboard the SS Minnedosa, a steam ocean liner built to withstand the rough autumn seas encountered on the journey across the Atlantic.  Seasick and heartsick, emotionally, the sister’s hearts were still in England. Alice telegraphed to Priscilla,

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October 5, 1919

 

My Dearest Sister,

     We are finding the sailing difficult.  The seas are rough and we are all ill, experiencing seasickness effects.  We long to disembark and set foot on solid ground!  The Captain invited us to join him for dinner this evening.  None of us had appetites however we enjoyed the banter and prestige of being seated at the Captain’s table.  Such a gentleman.

     Sister, we are half way to the end of our ocean journey!  We look forward to disembarking in Canada and beginning the final journey to you.

Yours,

Alice

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The Weston sisters arrived in Quebec, Canada, on October 10, 1919. The immigration document states that they were to be handed over to the care of their brother-in-law, William Edwards. Alice was relieved to disembark the ship and stand on solid ground although she swore that the ground continued to move and sway for many days after. The CP Railroad transported the sisters through the hills and valleys, finally depositing them in the tiny prairie town of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.  The sisters were ill prepared for the cold, harsh winter nights that were to follow.  Alice shivered as she pulled the thin covers over her body.  There was a foreboding feeling in the frigid air, a warning that Alice took seriously to heart.  Alice knew that she needed to leave Moose Jaw and once again began to plan an escape.

“Grandma, wouldn’t it be hard to leave your parents behind?  Grace felt a tightening in her chest.  Lily continued,  “Even though Alice’s mom and dad are dead! Still it must have been difficult for Alice to leave them alone in the cemetery.” Grace felt the chill of winter upon her skin and resolved to turn up the thermostat. Perhaps I am coming down with something, Grace mused although she knew this wasn’t the reason for her discomfort.  I imagine it was heart wrenching, Grace replied.

Grace recalled that sad day when life punched back.  It was exactly noon when the car pulled away from the curb.  It was not really a surprise as Grace noted furniture disappearing from the basement bedroom, boxes leaving the house during the dark of night, bits and pieces of a life packed up or tossed.

Grace resolved that she would not show emotion or tears and even managed to graciously smile, masterful at the art of concealing emotion, tidying up the unpleasant bits, all the while screaming behind the mask of the face she wore.  Then, just as quickly, Grace quickly turned her back, breaking down, tears flowing.  It happens quickly; a punch of heartbreak and one is left changed, the heart, a bit scarred, the body, a little more cautious, and distant.  Bits and pieces of life’s memories packed away deep inside, suddenly exploding from the soul.  One can’t catch all of the bits, blown away forever, the secrets, the neglect, and pretence, are all that remain.  Life looks and feels different as you piece the salvaged bits back together, hoping to rediscover the beauty.

This wasn’t the first time that Grace had briefly turned her back on another to protect herself, hide the falling tears.  Perhaps, Alice and I are more alike than different, Grace thought.  “Be careful,” whispered the winter wind. Alice shared something in common with her granddaughter, Grace.  Two women, both knowing heartbreak, both inclined to show a quiet indifference in its presence, to hide their pain behind a mask with a reluctant smile.  Pretence.  Both frozen in time, waiting.  For what, you ask?  For the other to step forth.

Lily’s voice brought Grace’s awareness to the moment, “What happened in early winter?” Perhaps, you would say, an act of hope occurred.  A chance for renewed hope presented itself or was it a chance encounter on that fateful winter afternoon in a mall? Perhaps there is a pre determined plan sent forth from the heart of the universe upon our birth, a blue print, with a map of events to follow.

Topsy

Topsy

Alice ‘s treasured parti-colored cat, Topsy, would sun on the stone path that wove around the pansy garden.  Toffee markings with a touch of chocolate, black around the paws, Topsy was a fine specimen of cat.  A bit of a tortie, Topsy was the exception to the rule that parti-colored cats were usually female. A bit of a Tom, Topsy ruled the lane ways in search of a feline to prance around cat town.  Oh, the stories he could tell.  Perhaps he shall.

A giant specimen of cat, Topsy would guard the back door, much like a sentry.  One eye open just enough to take a peek, the other ignoring the world.  A flick of the tail, thud, thud, thud.  Counting the seconds of time, waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting bee or bird.  Perhaps, a mouse or rat?

A fine mouser, Topsy ‘s whiskers knew every nook and every cranny of the small house from the dank, darkness of the crawl space to the clutter of the knick knacks that adorned his mistress’ home.  Just the sound of her voice and old Topsy came a running.  There was always food~ a tidbit or two from the tabletop.  Perhaps a touch of salmon?

Topsy was King of the Place and he lorded rank over the creatures that frequented the pansy garden.  Even the dog in the neighbouring yard knew better than to mess around with Topsy.  After all, one should never underestimate Topsy’s scratch.

Such an unusual name~ Topsy!  Who names their pet, Topsy?  Why not, Prince or King Leo?  Those are fine names, fit for the likes of a calico mix.  A calico like myself.  A fine mouser.  A loyal pet for dear, simple, Alice.  After all, my ancestors herald from Spain.  Spanish royalty, symbol of good luck.  Perhaps a talisman for Alice?

Topsy contemplated these questions as he lay sunning himself on the stones that wove around the pansy garden.  There was much to watch as he noted the comings and goings from house to house.  The stories I could share, thought Topsy.  People are such fools; they assume that no one is watching, no one sees their deceptive ways.  Who is this child that watches me, shying away from my stare?”

When I met Topsy, he was older and wiser with many stories to tell, pleased to inform you that he shared quite a few.  You might be surprised at the information I have.  Perhaps, I shall share.  A tid bit or two.

I regret to inform you that Topsy’s final days on earth were disconcerting, filled with struggle, hardship.  Unable to stand, Topsy literally became his namesake.  Many a day, I would right him off the ground, until one day it was all too much for Topsy.

Topsy is in Heaven above and Alice has joined him.  They are happy to be reunited.  After all, they were loyal friends and comrades, traveling side by side since the beginnings of time.  Topsy continues to lie on the stone path that weaves around the pansy garden.  Topsy keeps one eye open, just enough to take a peek, however, don’t be fooled into thinking that he isn’t watching the comings and goings.  Oh, the stories he could tell.  Perhaps he shall.

There is a stray Manx that has appeared just outside my garden gate, sleeping, one eye open, just enough to take a peek, on the stone path that winds through the roses.   A bit of a tortie, this stealthy beauty appeared one winter’s morn and has returned nearly every evening since.   It has been several years.  Hidden under the hedge, the cat waits for my return, rolling over to greet, snuggling up to meet.  It waits like a sentry, guarding my home.  Is it a sign from Alice? A reminder, she is watching from the heavens above, a symbol of good luck?  I have no answer to your comments yet I sense a presence watching the comings and goings of the house, gathering up stories to tell.   Perhaps we shall.

Hello~ it’s Alice

Alice
Alice (Photo credit: Danny PiG)

Hello~ it’s Alice

Cheerio, Darlings!  It’s Alice peeking through the clouds of Heaven.  As summer winds down I felt it timely to share a wee bit of Alice Wisdom with you.  Soon the chills will be upon us and we must have a plan to fortify the home and its members!

 

No home should be without honey and pure fruit juices.  A spoonful of home honey every morning helps to fortify your defenses.  Use the fruit juices to prepare hot drinks for colds and chills.  Black currant is best, dears!  They must be pure juices. 

 

Finally, have a wee tot of whiskey in the house, love.  A teaspoonful in a toddy is a grand pick-me-up when you come in chilled to the bone!  Adults only, dears!

Now, Mother have a look in the medicine cabinet and make sure that you are prepared!

 

Until next time,

Ta~Ta!

Alice

x

Tea With Alice

Lily's Tea Cup
Lily’s Tea Cup (Photo credit: Joe Shlabotnik)

Tea with Alice was amusing, if not, slightly charming.  My Grandmother Alice enjoyed a spot of tea, Earl Grey being the tea of choice.  Alice used a cooking pot to boil the water before transferring some of the scalding liquid into a metal teapot to warm it up.  Then, my grandmother would take a minute timer and tip it over, the sand slipping through the tiny channel of glass.  After 3 tips of the timer, 3 minutes, according to Alice, she would dump the warming water into the sink and fill the teapot, adding Earl Grey to the mix.  From my vantage point at the cluttered chrome table, I could see Alice’s prep area, a tiny room that extended off of the kitchen area, as if built as an after thought, Where shall I cook, Charles?  There was a window through which Alice could observe her two sisters who lived in the house next door.  Looking to the right, Alice could see her garden of pansies.  Usually, Topsy, the cat was sunning on the brick borders or the adjoining sidewalk between the two houses.  Painted white cupboards attached on either side of the sink area.  The counter top was wooden.  There was a plunger on the floor.  Beneath the sink was open shelving crammed full of various odds and sundries, a container of Ajax, a tobacco tin, plastic bucket, oil, paper bags, bolts, washers, and a mousetrap.  The Scotch and Sherry were hidden behind the plastic bucket. The everyday cutlery sat in a large empty tin of Nabob’s Instant Coffee.  The yellow handles looked like they were fashioned from bone. Open shelving lined the wall opposite the sink, where Alice kept her box of saltines, sugar biscuits, canned ham, flour, and baking items.  Did I mention the cookie bags and cake boxes?  I should tell you that Alice stashed cash in the bottom of cookie and food packages.  Like a  resourceful little mouse wife, Alice managed to stash a lot of cash.

The stove was in the open area of the kitchen, where I would patiently sit, watching and waiting for our tea to brew.  Alice preferred her tea strong and would let the tea brew for five minutes, before pouring the dark, amber liquid into a teacup.  I preferred my tea, weak.  It’s practically water, Grace!  Carnation Evaporated Milk to flavour the tea, turning the liquid to a creamy, caramel shade.  Alice would pour a drop of canned milk into her cup and stir it slowly with a teaspoon, the creamy milk creating swirls in the dark liquid.  The biscuits were usually Peak Frean’s Sugar Biscuits, the thin wafer deliciously sweet with sprinklings of fine sugar.

We always sat across from one another, Alice with her back to the mudroom, mine to the stove.  Picture this, Alice’s drying rack hanging directly behind me to the left of the stove.  Always, there would be bits and pieces of personal garments hanging from this suspended contraption.  Slips, nylons, knit wool socks, when my Grandfather was alive; Alice never wore socks, only nylons. Sheer scarves would dangle, along with the occasional brassière.  I always thought that this was rather unusual and out-of-place to air your laundry in full view of the guest, so to speak.  If the space heater was blowing or the window open, it was not unusual to find a sheer half-slip or a pair of nylon stockings on your head or dangling off a shoulder-blade, all the while sipping tea.  It was rather cheeky and quite disconcerting to politely pick the undergarment off and return it to the drying rack.  Alice was rather proper in her deportment therefore I never understood this rather improper arrangement she had with her laundered undergarments, scarves, and guests.

A comfy Queen Ann style chair sat beside the stove, under the suspended drying rack. Alice would sit and read the daily paper; teacup perched on the stovetop, before retiring off to bed.  It was the very same chair that held her tired shell, the morning I looked in the window and saw her sitting in the chair, dead, with a half-slip covering her hair.

Alice’s sister, Molly fascinated me.  Molly was constantly soaking her feet in hot water.   Newspapers would be spread under the bucket to catch the splashes and drips.  Sometimes, when I would enter Alice’s kitchen, Molly would be soaking her feet as she rested her ample bottom on the Queen Ann. My grandmother, Alice, said that Molly worked in a local Fruit Cannery and had, rheumatism. Molly’s legs bowed as she ambled with an awkward, stiff gait.  Aunt Molly never spoke, ever.  We would look at each other and I would say politely, How are you Aunt Molly?  She would nod and grin.  Whereas Alice was pretty, Molly was crone like, slightly frightening, her feet plunked in a bucket of hot water, watching and grinning. I’m ashamed to admit, I imagined Molly flying about the night skies on a broomstick.  Molly read trash magazines; that’s what my father called them.  The National Enquirer was her choice.  This tidbit piqued my curiosity as I was only allowed to read real books, forbidden comics, no sensational trash.  Once I located Molly, sunning in her chair, I would stroll by, attempting to crane my neck enough to see the tabloid cover shot of the MAN WITH TWO HEADS or some other fantasy alien creäture.  Purposely, I would venture to the side of my Grandmother’s house, lurking about, hoping to find a forgotten copy of Molly’s trash tabloids. That opportunity ended abruptly, my childhood days spent visiting Alice, over, and by the time I was seven.

That’s the perplexing thing, why did our occasional visits to see Alice cease? My father appeared uncomfortable in his childhood home; he didn’t seem to handle the small, claustrophobic space that well.  Pacing about the perimeter of the small kitchen, sitting for a few minutes, standing and pacing, that’s how I remembered my father’s actions.  Sometimes, my Grandmother would bring out some of my father’s tin toys with wind up keys.  Minstrels, feet tapping  on a tin stage, wind up cars, a one-eyed sawdust teddy bear, and mechanno covered the living room carpet.  Our visiting time was usually up, shortly after we arrived.  On the car ride home, father would comment on his mother, She’s an odd old bird, junk and stuff everywhere, never throws anything out.  Dad does everything for her and the sisters.

 

It was about the time that our visits ended when Alice began to take it upon herself to preach the word about, Cod Liver Oil.  Alice decided that my sister and I could use a bit of fortification and took it upon her self to administer a tablespoon-sized dose of the ghastly oil.  We weren’t impressed.  The grown ups crowding, Molly, grinning that crazed grin, watching as the spoon got closer and closer.  My sister would cry until my father picked her up, puckering her mouth shut, refusing the vile liquid.  I would resist for as long as possible until finally weakening, succumbing as the hard edge of the spoon was pushed into my mouth.  It was about that time that I decided that it would be best for all if we never returned to Alice’s house.  We never did, not as children.

My Grandmother Alice’s Trifle

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).

* Consider adding a mix of summer fruit to the dish to make it a slightly healthier, 2013 version!Image

Love,

Alice and Grace