They weren’t nuns but they were Catholic. On the left, at the back, is Grandma Ducharme. She was Uncle Dan’s sister and Lillian’s mother (you’ll see them later). On the right is Aunt Mary, Uncle Dan’s wife. They look stern and unfriendly but actually they were just the opposite. See how lovely my Evil Sister is dressed, with her oxfords, ribbons in her hair, a flower dress and a nice spring jacket. I, on the other hand, look like a homeless person, with ragged pants, worn at the knees and a shirt that looks like it came from the rag bin. It is apropos that we are standing in front of the barbershop and I am the only one with no hair. I can almost promise you that my brush cut did not happen at the barber. For some reason my father fancied himself a barber. I think it was from his army days. He managed to find some manual hair clippers (hand operated, sans electricity) and for several years, off and on, he would cut my hair into stubble. The clippers did more hair pulling than clipping. But I was just a little kid, so I didn’t know or care what my hair looked like. When I was 13, he cut my hair after he returned from a few hours at the Legion. I’ll show you that lovely piece of work later.
For some reason, unknown to me, all Catholic women, in those days were named Mary or Marie or Mary-Anna or some derivative. Grandma Ducharme and Aunt Mary were no exception. The problem is that when they spoke to each other or about other female family members, their names all captured the letter D, inserted to replace the R. So, it was Muddy said this or Muddy-in-awe said that. It was impossible to tell who they were talking to or about because everybody was Muddy, like swamp creatures. They were best friends, of course. Like sisters actually.
A couple of blocks from this spot was the big Eatons Department store. Uncle Dan worked there, selling flooring. Aunt Mary worked a couple blocks north at the Ivanhoe restaurant, as a dishwasher. Grandma Ducharme worked a few blocks the other way at the Fort Café, as a cook in my Grandfather’s restaurant. Eatons, of course, was a favorite place to go. They had a toy department that covered half a city block. Grandma Ducharme would meet my sister and I at Eatons and buy us things. She told us to ‘meet her under the big clock’ which was at the center of the main floor. Sadly, we never made our way to the toy department with her, as I recall. We always ended up with some lame piece of clothing.
Grandma Ducharme used to tease me mercilessly. Her favorite ploy was to make like she was pulling my pants off to expose my ‘popun’ (penis). I, of course, was tremendously modest and would screech and scream, laying on the floor, kicking my feet, clutching the waist of my trousers while she pulled away at my pant legs. She thought it was side splitting funny, but I did not. She mostly did this in front of the French relatives.
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