From airport, bus, ferry and cab, I was disgorged onto the sidewalk outside “Tara”. For better or worse, home from summer in Wales. The window display of our dusty luggage shop was a visual delight. Garnet, my long suffering husband had placed a cowboy hat on Godfrey’s ancient globe, strewn about some old hiking socks, and written “There is a lot to See!”, on a chalkboard. We pecked hello, he was intent on his stamp collection, one customer browsed, smelling the assortment of long outdated hand bags…
I paused to acknowledge the doughty “Bug Chandelier”, the still partially burned fire escape, the ever present aroma of beefaroni and cats, the door of our oddest neighbor, Mr Ghostley’s room opened a crack, his way of welcoming me home. I could hear our landlady ranting at someone a floor above.
It was good to see our toilet, that Godfrey had repaired years ago, still gurgling warm water like a wee geyser. A fresh baked pumpkin pie awaited me, with tinned whip cream and a fork. I was still clutching the air-sick bag, Adelaide’s jam sandwich, now a purplish wodge, and a packet of sister Alice’s latest writing…with pie, I curled up in my turquoise chair, ready to decipher Alice…
At Home With My Love, Myself- From Alice. The dreamy air of summer indeed reeks of a poem. It is a rare day, quietly I spend at my home. Sitting out on the veranda hear the cursing and slap, of an intense game of cards, Ma and stepdad Arthur playing “Snap”.
Dandelions thrive on lawn otherwise unkept, brown and dead. Hear the joyless cry of a nearby child who has fallen on his head. There is one less large rat in the neighborhood this morning, for Arthur’s cat brought it home, I can hear the crunch and gnawing, under the veranda where I sit with tea and poem. Dreamy airs of a quiet day at home.
Wedded Acrimony- My Early Years- from Alice. Our parents were joined in wedded acrimony, granted quite young. I do not recall the ceremony, I was but eight months and three, but well recall at six, being presented with Godfrey.
He squinted up at me, his head the size and shape of an orange, bottom of the market discard pile. Miss Commerford the nurse, (she spits when she talks) told me, mind your new brother, let your Ma rest awhile. Wedded acrimony, they yelled, they fought, she threw bum trinkets at our dad that he bought.
Baby Godfrey disliked beets, but he loved sour pickles, I’d give him one to gum as a soother at night. Slip out the backdoor, drag him in a wagon to our Grandma’s, when Ma and Dad would fight. And oft we’d have to wait, for Gran outside the pub, I’d feed Godfrey chips, and we’d listen to the ships horns, and whistles heading to and from the sea. I vowed back then I would never live, never live, not me, in wedded acrimony.
Indeed, it is true, I did torment him with beets. A trusting toddler, soggy sour pickle in hand, he escaped my grasp as the May Day Parade passed, long before I did, Godfrey ran off with the band. Leaning on a mop in pail, in ill fitting smock, and manner most weary, she stood, Godfrey in hand on the deck of a harbor ferry. “Is this yours?, she asked, “I replied yes, sadly, “though he is my brother, and sorely dislikes beets, I cannot yet ship him off to Norway on his own”. We trundled, with giggle and guffaw, back to wedded acrimony, our home.
Yakmess – from Alice- I spelled Oast-house. and rancid, I spelled correctly blubber and onion. if Yakmess was one word, in the spelling competition I’d have won. “You are disqualified!’ The nasty judge judged, with no argument over Yakmess, I be carried outside. Dragged out to the school yard, where spellers of naughty words were sat, and pervert Mr Verne Von Wanker stood guard.” I learned very young, I must sing loud, over the rabble to be heard, and maintain to this day, that Yakmess is all one word.
Ma- Preneur- From Alice- How did Ma manage? I was 14 when dad never came back, after that final row, his belongings sat for years in a corner of the shed, in a fertilizer sack. Lettuce, Turnip, The Beet, she grew a full garden, kept hens, a cow and pig, knitted every thing Godfrey wore several sizes too big. Ma sold her creations from a market stall in Batley, paid off our cottage, so it was no great worry, in modern parlance she was quite the “Ma- Prenuer”. Always gossiping, always busy, always yelling at Godfrey.
Beware of The Curmudgeon- From Alice. Now in years of my “Dottage”, I sit summer day on my own cottage steps, shaded by stinging nettles deep and thick. Ma and Arthur are still playing “Snap”. I await my current beau, Mr Nudge Giggleswick. “Beware of The Curmudgeon”, Nudge stenciled on my gate, “Mind the Gap”, I wrote in return on his, and we delight of late, watching folks, peddling brushes and religious literature, look down for a gaping hole, or scurry past my dooryard, unsure.
Nudge has brought a tape recording, the sound of crocodiles in mate, we shall hide it by my fish pond, frighten passing children, I can’t wait. I shall hail the ice-cream truck, it brings them running in a pack, happily sit back when Nudge plays the gruesome snarling, and when they run!…they will not be slapped or yelled at, as Godfrey was, but consoled with dear, we warned you…”Beware of that old Curmudgeon”.
My word, I thought to myself, only partway into Alice’s packet, if this is what will help get “The Collected Wisdom of Godfrey” published…so be it. More Alice, love that Alice.