Fearless Females (10): Aunt E

PLEASE NOTE: There is no post for Fearless Females (Day 9) SUBJ: Narrative from Document


Religion was a big thing in our house. Allow me to explain:

Gramma Rabbit was French and a devote Roman Catholic. She married Papa John who was also a devote Catholic, but he was English (the Queen’s English).

Enter: Mum, a fiery red-haired girl of Irish descent.

Yep, do you see the conflict? My mother’s upbringing was Protestant … with the typical orange curtains covering the window at the kitchen sink overlooking the back property.

When I was small, I remember the one visit we had to St. Joseph’s. It was a massive convent located just outside the boundaries of the city on a very vast estate of green, rolling lands.

Josephs Convent
Sisters of Saint Joseph, Hamilton, Ontario; property closed 2016-2017; and for sale

Mum told me that my brother, sister and I were all too young to go to school yet, so imagine: two young boys in short pants, a little girl in a frilly sun dress and all three of them are b-o-r-e-d!

No toys, no colouring books, no drawing tablets to be found anywhere — in the convent or in the car!

We thought about escaping outside, but Mum said that we could not go out, because we were waiting to visit with “Aunt E,” my father’s younger and only sister, Elaine, who had introduced my parents to each other.

I had to have been about four or five years old. Kindergarten did not exist in the little rural community we lived in, so my education started late with Grade One.

My siblings and I had never met “Aunt E” before. We were a little concerned when three ladies all dressed in black with only their faces showing approached us with big, wide smiles.

The tallest one introduced her two older friends, then she hugged Mum and Dad, before turning on us!

With unprecidented synchronization, we moved as one entity. One step back with a slow lean back, heads down and looking up with our eyes like a trio of wounded animals. The two friends had the beginnings of worry on their faces.

Mum began chastizing us, but Aunt E stopped her.

“It’s alright, Ethel,” she said as she slowly knelt to the floor, “this outfit isn’t very flattering or commonplace for them. Hopefully, I look a little less menacing now.”

She turned back to us and slowly began conversations with each of us. She knew our names … and our ages … our favourite colours, and food.

“I like Dr. Seuss, too,” she confessed.

That broke the ice, but Aunt E didn’t expect what came next, I think.

“What is this place?” my sister asked.

“I work here,” was the answer given.

“Are those your working clothes?” I inquired. All three of the black-dressed women enjoyed a good laugh.

“Well,” replied Aunt E smiling, “I’ve never heard them called that before, but yes, I work in these clothes.”

“How do you get home when you finish work?” This was my brother’s question.

“I live here,” she said.

We were not sure about that one.

“But, what about Gramma?” I asked, “You lived with her, now she’s alone!”

“My friends and I visit Gramma every Wednesday,” she said. “And on Sunday afternoons, Gramma visits me here.”

A few more questions and then Dad brought his camera from the car for some pictures.

[Only a couple snaps have survived all these years, if I can just remember where they are.].

It would be a few years before any of us would see Aunt E again. And when we did, we didn’t recognize her at all!

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