June 10, 1918 - April 22, 2011
My Grandma Dodie's BFF since girlhood was Alice. For as long as I can remember Alice was a part of our holidays. We called her Auntie Alice and it never occurred to us that she was of no relation. I don't think one needs to be a blood relative to be family and I'm pretty certain Alice would concur. Alice passed away this week. She was two months shy of her 93rd birthday. All of her Easter baking, including cheese cakes, cookies, poppy seed and Easter breads were complete and her table was set to host Easter dinner.
Alice on her 90th Birthday.
The last visit I had with Alice was in September. She looked well and made us a cup of tea. She gave Fin a little white plush lamb. Finley calls it Baby Baaa and totes it all around the house. We talked a while and then she and Finley looked tired so we headed off - back to NC. Letters went back and forth and I sent her a parcel including her favorite hair colour. It had been discontinued in Canada and so I'd send it from the US. Last week while my sister was visiting I was talking about Alice. I owed her a letter. She had written to tell me she'd had a fall. It was a surprise to get this letter as her hands were becoming so stiff with arthritis she was writing very little. I had also mentioned her several times in the past few weeks to other friends of mine, recounting stories including Alice. It's weird - it's like she was sending me a vibration and I didn't pick up on it to call her or write that letter...
My sister was laughing today at Alice's wake telling the story of the time I brought Granny Dodie and Alice wind up hopping penises, bought as a souvenirs, while on a school trip to New York City. Alice and Granny laughed and wound up their new toys sending them hopping across the formally dressed dining table at one another. I've got photos of that some where. HILARIOUS.
When I got my driver's licence I was able to borrow the car and scoot into town to pick up Alice and Granny Dodie to bring them back to the house for dinners. Usually we'd take a drive around the market down town to see the lights on Parliament Hill or the tulips along the drive way.
When I was modelling I'd pick up Alice and Gran to take them to the local malls to watch the fashion shows I was modelling in. They would sit in the front row beaming up at me whenever I came out onto the stage and later we would eat lunch and they would tell me which outfits they liked or didn't like and which models they thought walked funny. They were quite a pair.
I remember when I bought my first car - a red Geo tracker with a white soft top - I went to pick up the ladies and take them for a spin. There was a handle in front of the front seat attached to the dashboard. Alice asked what it was for and Granny told her it was a "Holysh*t Handle." Granny then went on to tell me about the time she and Alice took one of their beau's cars on a joy ride and when it started raining they didn't know how to turn on the windshield wipers to keep the water off the windshield so Granny Dodie made Alice take off her bloomers to dry the windshield. I laughed really hard at that one since Granny Dodie never ever had her driver's licence.
When I first started out in the TV business I worked on a comedy series as a locations manager. Which meant I had to source the locations to shoot the series. Alice let us use her house as the leading lady's house for the series shoot. We invited her out to the wrap party where she danced the night away with all our actors and crew. Everyone loved her!
Granny Dodie died 15 years ago and Alice and I kept up our relationship. When ever I rolled into Ottawa I made a point to visit with her, we'd go walk the mall, take her lawn mower in for repair, pop into the drug store to get her personal items, things she wouldn't get while out with just anybody and by anybody I mean a man. Alice talked to me about all kinds of things in her life and although we were decades apart she always made me realize how similar we all are. How family influences us and what is or isn't important in our lives.
Me and Alice Summer 2008
Alice baked the most amazing breads and cakes famous for her poppy seed cake. She refused to give the recipe to anyone... except my mom. She always made me my own tin of gingerbread at Christmas time, she probably made a variety, a good two dozen beautiful and delicious little cookies, rum balls and other delights. I wish I had a photo of them. They never lasted long enough to shoot!
Alice always had her hair fixed and makeup on everyday regardless if she was going out or not. She always wore a matching pant suit and had really good jewelry on. She wore a huge diamond that her husband Joe bought her as an anniversary gift. She had a cubic replica made because she was afraid to wear the real one. As a kid I remember how glamorous Alice always looked in her fur coats (back when fur was not frowned upon) she was so chic.
When Alice's husband Joe died he had just purchased a bitchen red Camaro. It was a 1973. Alice kept it stored in the garage under all her old fur coats for safe keeping. She did get her drivers permit and drove that beautiful car out to see us in Richmond once. I doubt she drove it after that. It remained in the garage for some 20 years until she gifted the car to my father. When my mother was in and out of the hospital in her last year battling cancer Alice felt my dad needed a pick me up. She didn't say so, she just gave him the car. It had 6000 miles on it and the original tires. Dad spent that whole summer detailing the car, going between drive nights and the hospital. He was so happy to have that car. It was a good distraction and I think just what he needed at that time. He too parked it, when he lost the love of his life, just as she had.
Alice at 91 meeting Finley 3months old
It's going to be very strange to come back to Ottawa and not drive over to Alice's ... I'm fortunate she invited me into her life for so many years. I'm so happy she got to meet my husband and daughter. I'm fortunate to have had so many written correspondences with her over the past few years. I will forever regret not writing her back on time after her last letter arrived to me in February. I'm usually good with replies but we left on a family holiday and then I wanted to print current photos of Finley to include in my return letter. I left that letter unwritten for too long. She won't get it now and was asking why she hadn't heard from me and where I was......I hope she knows how much I cared even though that last letter was unanswered.
Alice was an incredible woman. She was strong in mind and body. She had guts and gumption telling off anyone who asked her to slow down. She was still cutting the lawn with her push mower last summer at the age of 92! She was a fixture on Plymouth Street in Ottawa - where she lived to her last day in the house her dad built, independent and surrounded by wonderful friends.