Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Uncles/Aunts (04/17/08)
- TITLE: McCaughey's Mansion
By Lyn Churchyard
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ADD TO MY FAVORITES
“Just a little snifter.”
I was seven and shouldn’t have known she had been drinking, but the smell of the whisky was unmistakable. I knew it was whisky, because a teaspoon of whisky in a half a glass of milk was my mother’s cure for the violent vomiting attacks I suffered. Ugh! I hated it.
My Aunt was my father’s older sister. She married well, and went from being Miss Edith May Lauren, to Mrs Reginald James Patrick McCaughey – that’s McCacky, not McCorhey. But to me, they were simply Uncle Jim and Auntie Edie. I only saw Uncle Jim a few times that I know of, and just before he died from cancer, my mother had made him a big box of homemade fudge and chocolates and he would feed me one every time he had one. I think I was about five at the time. That was the last time I ever saw Uncle Jim.
I was an only child and every Christmas I spent two weeks with Auntie Edie. I always had a great time and she thoroughly spoilt me. Auntie Edie would bring me breakfast in bed every morning. Mmmm a mug of hot vegemite to drink, and hot buttered toast to dunk in it. I felt like a queen.
Shopping trips with Auntie Edie were a great source of fun, and the butcher always gave the kids a raw hot dog, or a sausage to eat, depending on how generous he was feeling. Mmmm, just think... lovely raw sausage mince. I shudder now to think of it now.
The park across the road seemed like a world of adventure to me, and Auntie Edie and I would go there every day. I’d ride the flying fox, climbed up and down the giant slide – from the slide side of course, try to balance on the middle of the seesaw and make myself dizzy by twisting the swing as far as I could and then letting it spin me around and around until I couldn’t stand up.
My Aunt had one real weakness – racehorses. If it had a leg on each corner, a tail and a mane, she’d bet on it. We listened to every race broadcast on the radio. We’d bet against each other using buttons from the button jar and if my horse won, I was given a halfpenny. You could buy a lot with a halfpenny when I was a kid.
Oh, and could my Auntie Edie cook! She made the best steak and kidney pies, which we always had with lashings of mashed potato, peas, and mashed pumpkin. Dessert would usually be homemade apple pie and cream, or mulberry sponge pudding and for really special occasions, she would make the tallest, sweetest, lemoniest, lemon meringue pie you have ever tasted. I can still taste it in my memory nearly fifty years later.
I never thought of Auntie Edie as being old, but she had to have been at least 69 when I started going to her place for holidays. She was tall and slim, dressed elegantly and always spoke in a refined manner, well, except when she’d had a snifter of whisky.
Ahhh, the memories that trip over one another; the Salvation Army ‘War Cry’ magazines under the sofa cushions, looking through Uncle Jim’s stamp collection and the photos of him when he was a little boy with shoulder length blond curls and a sailor suit. Auntie Edie’s Old English Lavender perfume and the candy jar on top of the kitchen dresser that delighted me with its red and white peppermint humbugs with the soft chocolate centres and the black and white liquorice flavoured gobstoppers. For a kid who didn’t get candy at home, this was sweet-tooth heaven.
Then one day, when I was twelve, a phone call came from Mr Mailing, the manager of Auntie Edie’s apartments. He hadn’t seen her in several days, and she wasn’t answering her door. My mother and I took an hour and a half train trip and while I stayed in the hall, my mother and Mr Mailing opened the door with the master key. They found Aunty Edie in bed where she had died in her sleep. She was 74. Apart from my parents, she was my only relative. I would miss her and our Saturday horse races.
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