I may have some names wrong. I may have forgotten the dates, or the colour or the sound. But these are my memroies. And now they are all I have.
Cathy used to be my baby-sitter.
She and her family lived the equivalent of "over a block" when I was growing up. Since we lived in a rural area that meant the only way to drive to her house was a long ways down the two lane road, two quick rights at a weird corner, a long rolling tree lined road, left at a little plateau of a place with huge pine trees that carpeted the corner with needles and then along a bumpy gravel driveway with a huge pond along one side curving through trees up to the house. Walking to her house meant across a road, up a hill, along a trail, and then hit the pond from the back side and hike over the berm to the driveway.
She was taller than me, of course. And her voice was sharp but not in an unpleasant way, just one that carried and made you sit up and listen.
And we would, sit up and listen. Up far too late watching Dr. Who and trying to thread needles for embroidery all the while aware my parents could come home at any moment and I would have to race into my bed before they made it out of the car. I know a few times she yelped "I hear them" and rushed me into bed when they really weren't coming yet at all.
I recall she could never remember that my bedside lamp had a thumb wheel switch on the cord instead of a pin or tassel by the socket. After many years she stopping trying to turn out my light for me and just let me do it myself.
I can remember her getting ready to cook dinner for us and looking for pots and pans in the wrong cupboards every time and never remembering where things were until I pointed them out to her.
When I was cast as Queen Isabella in the grade five play she found a dress I could borrow. It was pale blue and gorgeous. So gorgeous in fact that I was not allowed to wear it in the play since it was "too nice" and no one else has anything as special. I wore a peach cape and detested it since I had been robbed of my periwinkle clouds.
Cathy told me a little bit about the club she belonged to, the one that owned the dress I never wore on stage. People dressed up in costumes and danced and sang and did needlework. Some of them even wore armour! They liked the past, with feats and castles and cool things like that. My mother and I almost got tickets for a dinner once but then we couldn't go. Cathy said we could always go another time.
As well as looking after me at my house, sometimes my brother and I would go over to her house, Their pond was much bigger than ours but we couldn't play in it since it was too close to their well. But they had the biggest rope swing in the whole town I'd bet! A slope made the drop even worse and the rope between the two trees sagged so the rope tied to it - the one you grabbed in to - had that extra swoosh that could drop the bottom right out of your stomach.
She had cats and baked different cookies than my mom did. Jam thumbs and things without raisins. They also never drank water straight from the tap since the well water tasted funny. She always drank Tang or other drink mixes which I thought was an amazing treat but she thought was dull and boring since it was what she did every day. Both our families had campers for their trucks and Cathy's dad would come over to our house and fill the tank with our water, "city water", before they went camping. I used to think this was awful and yet nice of our dad to let them have our water. It took me a long time to understand utilities and billing and that while we were taught very carefully about water conservation we weren't going to suffer family drought if they took "our" water camping.
Our fathers knew each other through the model railroad club and her father was a well respected electrician in town. The dads would tinker with wires in my house, her house, on the railway switches in my backyard. The two of them installed a new breaker panel right outside my room on my birthday once. Purhaps my sixth? The weather was classic spring rain and sun and rain and sun and we all ran in and out so many times that we broke the scream door and I had never *heard* such words from my father - or anyone else for that matter - before.
It doesn't snow much around here but when it did we always went sledding down the hill. That path on the way to Cathy's house included a very steep bit of road, narrow and not very populated - perfect for sledding. You could build a jump at the bottom or just crash into the ditch on the right. The left was all black berry and while she never had to pull *me* out most of the gang from the neighbourhood went in once or twice.
Cathy's father and my dad build the Sled of Doom (tm) one year. I had never seen adults so enthusiastic for tobogganing before! It was a huge sheet of aluminum with "2 by 4"'s along the side for edges. It was waxed down with waxed paper rubbed on hard and had a simple rope handle. We actually had to stand guard at the bottom of the main hill for cars since you could not stop this thing with four adults in it.
I remember finding boxes of frozen Girl Guide cookies in her freezer (They had a separate freezer in the basement! So cool! Wait, they had a basement! Even cooler! My house only had a crawl space.) and trying to chop them up to put in ice cream. I remember the "bumper pool" table and when were good we were actually allowed to use the snooker table with the softly coloured balls and the rules we made up ourselves.
Their garden was bigger than ours and didn't have much of a fence. If you can't convince the deer to not bother you a fence won't hold them back. Cathy and her sisters would sit on the deck and fire at the blessed scamps with a sling shot. Now ball bearings would eventually make the soil unusable so they had a unique solution. Gobstoppers. Everlasting Gobstoppers. Rock hard spheres of coloured candy goodness zizzed past furry ears and nicked tails as you weren't allowed to actually *hit* the blighters but you could try to scare them off as best you could.
As a family of five girls would have a lot of clothes I got boxes of hand-me-downs from Cathy and co. I never actually bought a Brownie or Guide uniform as I wore all of theirs. I also remember many many hours of playclothes that were all the nicer knowing that Cathy or Stephanie or even the much older girls might have worn them.
The trail between our houses was travelled by foot and by bike and even my lawnmower. It was faster to drive the damn thing over than to load it up on a truck and you didn't have to make a return trip until you were done with it! When my father got a new Husqvarna with *headlights* he and Cathy's dad and few others took turns driving up and down our driveway as the light faded. I remember my mother actually rolling her eyes at the men before calling me in to bed since it was summer and the sunset meant it was late.
Later, when I joined the SCA myself Cathy was the one person who already knew me and knew me pretty well. I remember trying to impress the other newcomers I was with by talking to her by her "real name" at a fight practice in Memorial Park. She was engrossed in her needlework and I was all about the smashing but we chatted a bit about "old times" and I felt like I could look some of the "regulars" in the face.
I remember her dress at 3YC. Yards and yards and *yards* of gold cord and her walking with her head slightly down as the fashion show paraded. I was so proud that I could call her a friend.
She got sick some years ago. The last time I saw her was at a Daffodil Tournament a few years ago. The cancer was in remission at the time but she definitely had been hit hard. She was tired and slower but still the boisterous Cathy that had played badminton with me when I was young. We talked about the past and were our own little bubble surrounded by people who didn't remember our little world of burnt casseroles and light switches and train tracks and trails.
Twice before Christmas I bumped into her mother in Zeller's. She said Cathy was doing well, all things considered. Had a hard time getting around but was happy with her needlework and her movies. I was glad to be able to tell people who knew her as Annica van Heusden that she was doing okay.
My father called me a couple of days ago. Cathy is in the hospital. She is in ICU, in a coma. The talk is about days, if that.
I will go by tomorrow. Because I remember.