About A Woman Named Millie

Bicycling in the late 1930's
In the picture: Grandpa and Grandma and friends. Taken in late 1930’s in rural Ontario; I think before they were married.

This year I feel my GrandmaD’s presence. I see her subtle influence so often of late. After Grandpa died, and she became a widow, she changed. She would only wear the colours black, white and red. Sometimes maybe a beige top every once in a while in the summer … but normally just the basic black, white and red. Shoes, tops, pants, socks, the whole works she wore nothing but those colours head to toe.

Her other standard attire was the gardening uniform, consisting of an old poop hat (reference to a line from the movie On Golden Pond), and a white skort (shorts and a skirt in one).

Nothing she wore I would have termed “stylish”. And she was not shy about showing off her skinny chicken legs. Nope. GrandmaD could quite frankly care less what you thought, and if any of those thoughts escaped your mouth, she would drive into town in the most gaudy or weird outfit she had, just outa spite!

Oft could be heard across the driveway between our houses, “Mom, do you have to wear that to town”? or “Is that what you’re wearing? Because I’m not going with you if it is“.

She had a habit of mix-matching her socks and shoes – intentionally. If one foot had on a white sock, the ugly plastic wedgey shoe would be black. And the opposite for the other foot – a BLACK sock and an ugly WHITE wedgey. Nice. Then maybe a red acrylic sleeveless turtleneck and of course a pair of black “trousers”, not pants, they were “trousers”.Probably a pair of black earings. She often came off looking like a painting by Mondrian. Today she would be “trendy”. Amazing.

The Morning After The Night Before
The Morning After the Night Before

That woman never ceases to amaze me. She had such a style that more the 60 years later, all those things she wore back then are back in style.

Grandma, as I’m sure I’ve said before, was a stubborn, proud, funny, woman of strength. She was weird, kind, believed in UFO’s, the after-life, and ghosts. She went to church every Sunday, believed in God.

She had an opinion, and had no qualms about sharing it. She was smart and knew stuff, like a real bona fide wisewoman. Remedies for whatever may ail thee, even ones for your mental health, all tucked away inside her head. She respected those who were well spoken, and believed, like Bambi, that “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. She felt there was a wrong way, and a right way to eat. Actually, there was a right way and wrong way to do everything, but who’s got time for all that. Whether you agreed with her or not, never concerned her, you were doing it her way. She thought that having a keen mind, good manners and kindness would serve you from a modest lunch with friends, to dinner with the Queen.

This Mother’s Day I feel her presence, I had forgotten. My own loss now makes me feel alittle weird. Its almost like I get her now.

My sister wants us to write about the grand loves this family has had over the years, all of which eventually lived within these walls. And died. To write about these characters – from Great Great, maybe even another GREAT, Grandma and GrandpaC, to Grandma & GrandpaD, and our parents, all of them have loved, and fought and said goodbye, under this roof. IMG_0271These are sad tales sometimes, stories of unhappy women, and strong-wills. Of parenting, and childhoods, and fireworks. Of fights and anger, lies and adultery. There was lots of love, and lots of smiles, and laughter and passion, joy and compassion too. There is a wealth of vignettes I hope to share over the next while. I’m thinking of maybe sorting out, in writing, some of these tales here on the blog. I need to find the voice, or maybe perhaps “their” voice.

To write about these things is going to take time, and I need to find a narrative. I think we’re going to do a trilogy, and write it as an epic tale. Three generations of this family, and all the characters who have walked these old floors, and who’s hands grazed that bannister, walked through that doorway, and stood at this window, out onto a far different view than mine today. I know these people, both of us in our way, and have lived with their stories since we were young. Now it is time to put this tale down. Maybe write about what I’m writing about, or maybe write about what I’m struggling with, or just something I learned about writing I want to share. Maybe I’ll find a name for it even and give it an official spot on my menu. Stay tuned.

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