Last night I received news that a family friend had passed away. I knew it was coming, but I feel shocked. Years and years ago they gave her 6 months to live (cancer). She just kept fighting the good fight.
Anyway that’s not how I wanted to write about Anne.
Growing up I lived in a house with two parts, my home and a chocolate store. These days it’s all chocolate store but that’s another story. Our neighbour was a shop as well. It was called Uneek Sales, owned and run by a woman named Anne. We never referred to it as Uneek tho; it was always Anne’s. Anne was unique. She smoked like a chimney and had a store full of wonderful treasures. At least to the eyes of a child. Merchandise was literally piled in the store and my sisters and I spent countless hours rummaging through mountains of goodies. There was jewellery, toys, knick-knacks and oddities galore. There was a pathway from our backyard to her shop so we could go over by ourselves. What glorious independence for a child! Christmases and birthdays were shopped for all by ourselves! For the majority of my childhood everything my sisters and I purchased for gifts came from Anne’s. And she loved having us over. She would get special toys in, and set them aside for us. She would always have a treat and a nice discount for us. Anne gave me my very first worry dolls. I remember my mother getting calls from Anne that Kaity (my youngest sister) had wandered over there. My mother would head over, or send one of us, and we’d find her playing with a new toy, happily munching cookies or candy. Some things were for dreaming of and saving up for. I remember gazing at a particular pair of cubic zirconia earring for hours, desperate to have them. And there were two china dolls I eventually purchased that were the most beautiful dolls I had ever seen. I gave them away many years ago and today keenly regret it.
It is not possible to impress upon you the nature of the store. It was fantastic. It was a cluttered jumble hiding priceless jewels.
When I was in University Anne discovered she was ill and made the difficult decision to close shop and move closer to her family, here in Toronto I think. She had a blowout sale and we felt compelled to support her and grab as many pieces of childhood memories as we could. It this point we hadn’t been over in years and when I stepped through that door I swear I went back in time. Nothing had changed, including Anne. I spent a LOT of money that day. I found a playboy mirror that has a bunny on it and says ‘best playmate of the year’. It’s hanging in my bedroom right now. I found strawberry shortcake stickers, my little pony colouring books, she-ra dolls and transformers, still in their packages, right from the 80’s. They had a heftier coating of dust but there were things there that had been there since I started going to Anne’s. I bought as much as I could carry. Every once and a while, perusing ebay, I’ll think of Anne and what a fortune she could have made selling her stuff there.
It was hard for me when she sold the place, and someone else moved in, harder still now that she’s gone, truly gone. I spoke to her just over a year ago, while living in Toronto.
“Oh my gosh! Hi!”
“Do you know who this is?”
“Anne I could never forget your voice in a million years!”
It was true. The smoking gave her a distinct voice of course, but it was the hours spent at her shop and what it meant as a kid, that made it so memorable. I will never ever forget it, or her laugh, for as long as I live. I swear.
Now on a lighter note (or is it?), you may wonder why I got rid of my china dolls all those years ago. It was not, as some may think, because I grew older and felt it was time to out away such girlish toys. No. I have a nice little toy collection in the works and still have many of my childhood stuffed animals. That will never be an issue with me. No it was fear. Blame it on Chucky, blame it on an overactive and slightly twisted imagination, but at some point my loving adoration of these pretty dolls turned to terror. They were on a shelf right by the door to my room and I remember lying in bed, wanting to go downstairs but afraid that the minute I went passed them they would come to life and jump on my back, biting my neck. I think one time, while I was looking at the dolls in Anne’s store, she said ‘ that one is so lifelike I just expect her to start talking sometimes”. Maybe that did it. Who knows. But they were beautiful. The first one I bought was a blonde, braided girl in red velvet with white fur trim. She had a muff, furry white hat and cape. I remember thinking of a winter wedding in a dress like that, being pulled by a horse drawn sleigh to a rink where all the guests would go skating afterwards. Yes I have thought about that stuff since I was a little girl. Anyway the second doll I bought became my favourite. She looked older, more woman than girl. She had riotous red curls and a green plaid dress and cap. They were both musical. I’d wind them up and they’d each play their own tune. Maybe that was what started freaking me out. Eventually they would start playing a few bars without any help from me. I ended up having my dad take them to goodwill. I wouldn’t do it myself; just in case they got pissed they’d been abandoned and came back for revenge. I guess they would have gone after my dad then. I wonder if I was subconsciously throwing my father to the wolves so to speak. I’m sure I figured he could defend himself better than I.
Still...what an awful daughter. Heh.