Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: LOVE (agape and/or phileo) (03/12/15)
TITLE: A Name For Clarice
By Fiona Stevenson
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Aunt Jean’s treble shrilled through the still evening.
“Coming, Aunt Jean.”
With a mock grimace Clarice slipped from her chair and crossed the lawn. Conversation suspended, we watched as she mounted the steps and after a brief moment took something from the elderly lady and ran off down the road.
“Message for Uncle Jack.” Commented Betsey and we lost interest, picking up the thread of the interrupted conversation. But without Clarice the continuity was gone: our voices dwindled to silence. Daisy-Daisy leaned forward, propping her chin in her hands while her elbows dug into her knees.
“I wonder why Auntie Jean calls Clarice ‘Lovey’?”
We thought it over but no one had a suggestion, except that Aunt Jean had a nickname for every child on the Mission Station. With one exception her position as Aunt was honorary: she was my mother’s aunt. Together with Uncle Jack she came to the small town more than forty years ago. Uncle Jack set up a small clinic. Aunt Jean provided nursing and clerical assistance until their home town church sent another couple to assist them. Now the Mission Station was a thriving community providing the addition of a church and a kindergarten. School aged children were bussed to the local town school.
As the clinic grew to a small hospital with an increased staff Aunt Jean relinquished those duties to set up the kindergarten. Working with small children was her greatest pleasure. She kept a meticulous register of every child who was treated in the clinic, attended the church, or started their schooling in the kindergarten. She made sure that every birthday, every anniversary, was celebrated. Her peculiarity was in awarding to each child a nickname of her choosing, and that was the name she used for child and adult alike.
She came to visit Mother but Mother was in town. I invited her to wait as Mother would soon be home and offered her a cup of tea. We exchanged polite enquiries and Aunt Jean asked about my soon coming examinations. She held my hands and prayed for my success which was very kind. That was Aunt Jean.
Encouraged by being alone with her I asked: “Aunt Jean, would you mind if I asked you a question?”
“Well, I know you have nicknames for each of us, but why do you call Clarice ‘Lovey’?”
Aunt Jean chuckled. “It goes back to before she was born. Her parents came determined to lay down their lives for the people and the church. They have a very deep love for the mission work, passing on the story of Jesus’ sacrifice and the love of God to all who will listen. They wanted nothing to interrupt what they were doing. They had no intention of having a child.
“They worked tirelessly for about seven years before Mrs. Clarence realised that the worst thing in the world had happened. She was pregnant. That poor little baby was so unwanted. Mrs. Clarence’ mother came just before she was born and she looked after the baby, who was named after her grandmother.”
She grimaced, adding: “Fancy calling the poor thing Clarice Clarence – no imagination at all. She was a beautiful baby, and she just loved everyone: even her parents who really didn’t want her. It took nearly a year but she won them in the end. Today they wouldn’t be without her.
“Think about it, Pickle. All through school she has loved everyone, young and old alike. She was talking to me about what she plans to do next year. She wants to teach like her parents do because she loves the little children. I think she will make an excellent teacher. Ah, here’s your mother. Thank you for the cup of tea.”
I took the tray to the kitchen to make a fresh batch of tea. Mother looked hot and tired. I wondered why Aunt Jean calls me Pickle but I didn’t have the nerve to ask.
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