One of my favourite relatives was my Mom’s Aunt Annie. She, along with her father, sister May, and my Mom’s Dad, Wilfred, came to Canada when Annie was in her early twenties. They all lived in a small house in Regina, Saskatchewan. When their father died and my grandparents married, Annie and May stayed on in the house until each of them passed.
When I was young, we would make trips from Saskatoon to Regina and stay with my grandmother (Wilfred passed eight years before I was born). But it was the visits with Aunt Annie (for years I called her Anne Tanny and I think she liked it).
Annie was a very sweet lady. She worked as a secretary to support her and her sister. May had married but he was not a very good man and she had a breakdown. Annie took her back in (after she spent some time in a hospital). When May passed, Annie stayed on in the house long past retirement. We finally had to move her to senior’s home after she broke a hip trying to get curtain down to wash. My other aunt was going to do it for her but Annie was stubborn.
The house was very unique. It had a pump on the kitchen sink, which was actually around the corner just before the entrance to the bathroom. The bathroom had a wringer washer in it and a clothesline for the winter months when you can’t hang laundry outside. There was also a staircase that led to the attic.
The attic was so full of items that the ceiling bulged down in places and, when it was time to sell the place, the insulation had to be replaced because it was asbestos. It may have been a tiny house but it was a young girl’s dream home. When I was staying in Regina to go to University I begged my Mom to let me and a friend rent it. But Mom just wanted it sold. It didn’t seem to have the same memories for her.
Okay what about the tea and the lifesavers, right?
When I was five or so, Aunt Annie introduced me to tea. She was very traditional when it came to her tea. The pot had to be “hotted” with boiling water before the tea bags and water on the high boil were put in it. Milk (never cream) was put into the cup (with saucer, no mugs, please!) before the tea so that the hot tea would warm up the cold milk instead of the cold milk cooling the tea!
While Aunt Annie allowed me to have tea, I didn’t notice that she filled my cup with 2/3’s milk and 1/3 tea, and a little sugar to sweeten and take the edge off the tea. She called this paper tea because it was pretty much the colour of paper – almost white! I learned to drink with my pinky out and we would laugh about it. My Mom was totally okay with our tea time because it was special bonding between an elderly lady and a young child.
When my Mom’s brother passed away, instead of going to the funeral to represent my Mom (who couldn’t make the trip from BC), I was asked to spend the day with Aunt Annie. She was very old and frail and was not up to going to her nephew’s service. We had a good time until my cousin came to get me and Annie and he shared some tears. I held mine back until I was back at the dorms.
It was shortly after this that Annie broke her hip and was moved to a senior’s home. It was just down from my boarding school and I would go visit her once a week. She loved five flavour Lifesaver candies and I would stop in the drug store to pick up two rolls for her on each visit. Every time she would say “Oh thank you, dear, I was almost out.” We all knew she probably wasn’t but it was just something I felt I needed to do for her. When my aunt and my Mom cleared out her room, they found over a dozen unopened rolls in a drawer. The nurses said Aunt Annie would say “don’t touch those, my grandniece brings them and they help my dry mouth.”
You know, it is so often the little things that mean the most to us when we remember those who have left us. For me with Anne Tanny, it is paper tea and Lifesavers!