Aunt Blanche

Aunt Blanche - 192?
Aunt Blanche – 192?

Aunt Blanche was my mother’s older sister. She was the first born – and she wasn’t very old before my grandmother realized she was a little, well, different. I suppose the proper, “politically correct” term to describe Blanche would be mentally challenged. She never went to school, never held a job, and never married.

I have a photo of Ky, when she was about 4, that looks just like Blanche. Ky hates that picture, which is why I’m going to dig it up someday and post it, ‘cuz I think it’s cute that she looks like a modern-day version of my Aunt Blanche, and I’m the Mom, and she can’t stop me.

Blanche held a very special place in my grandmother’s household, and was quite responsible in many ways. She had chores to do, like everyone else, and managed nicely in most cases. She would get upset, now and again, if things didn’t go in the order she thought they should.

My mother had a knack for calming her down in these situations. She could usually convince Blanche that since she was the oldest she should do the thing she didn’t want to do, or not do the the thing she wanted to do, because, being the oldest, she should consider what was best for all concerned and “take the high road”. Blanche always wanted the best for the family, and would generally concede the point.

There are a few snippets of “Blanche Stories” that I’m going to post over the next while. This is one of them:

My mother’s kin were farmers – and the largest meal was the one at midday, which they called “dinner” rather than “lunch”. That was the meat-and-potatoes meal, served with several loaves of fresh homemade bread, baked just after breakfast, many pots of tea, and something sweet to finish up with, usually pie or a jelly-roll, also made fresh that morning. There were eight kids in that family, three girls and five boys, Gramma and Grampa, and however many hands they might have on the farm to feed before the men went back out to work.

Every afternoon after dinner, Gramma would either lay down for a nap, or take a walk into town to sell eggs or run her errands. My mother, her younger sister, Helen, and Blanche would be left to wash up the dinner dishes. The mountain of dinner dishes. The last words Gramma would say to my mom and Helen were always, “And don’t let Blanche do all the work!”

Because Blanche would, if you let her.

So, my mom and Helen would wait ’til Gramma was down the driveway, or sleeping, and they would tell Blanche that they were going to the outhouse. And they would say to her, “Don’t you dare do all the dishes without us!” The dishes were very lovely bone-china pieces from a shop owned by Gramma’s sister. None matched – they were “seconds” given to Gramma, that couldn’t be sold because of a chip here or there, or bits of the pattern faded or missing. Blanche believed that Mom and Helen enjoyed washing the dinner dishes, because the plates were so pretty.

So, Mom and Helen would go out the kitchen door, and sneak around the corner of the house to peek in the kitchen window. Blanche did enjoy washing dishes. And eventually, when they didn’t come back right away, she would go ahead and wash them all, and then the pots and pans afterward.

It’s here I must remind you, that the farmhouse had no running water. There was a well, and a pump, but the water was hauled by hand, in buckets, and heated up on the woodstove. None of this turning a faucet and filling a sink with hot water, the way we have it, now.

When they still weren’t back from the outhouse, Blanche would dry everything and put it all away, mumbling to herself that if Maude and Helen were going to take so long, it was their own fault they didn’t get to help. She always thought she was getting one over on them by doing the dishes by herself.

Of course, once the kitchen was all cleaned, Mom and Helen would come back, look around angrily, and yell at Blanche, threatening to tell Gramma on her and get her into trouble. It wasn’t fair that Blanche should get to wash all the dishes, just because she was older than they were. Blanche would beg them not to, and they would reluctantly agree, if she would promise not to do it again.

But, of course, the next day after dinner…

Random Song-for-the-Day: “Let’s Dance” – David Bowie

10 Replies to “Aunt Blanche”

  1. Sounds like your mother had the upper hand on things…wish my brother had such a workaholic! Since I was older though, I got all the gardening, waxing, and field line jobs. Frankly, I can’t remember him ever doing any of the work except walking behind the self-propelled mower!

    Les Says: I don’t think my mom always came out on top. I used to try to feel sorry for Aunt Blanche where this story was concerned… but I really think she enjoyed thinking she was putting one over on the sly little sisters.

  2. Poor Blanche! I’m glad she at least liked it.

    WONDERFUL story!

    Les Says: Thank you, Louise! I have a few more really good “Blanche Stories” that I want to share in the coming weeks/months. I hope you enjoy them just as much.

  3. At least Blanche enjoyed doing all that work lol.

    Les Says: Yes, I think that was my mother’s only saving grace in this story. They may have deked her into the work, but everybody won in the end, didn’t they?

    Thanks for the visit, Jayne – hope to see you here more often!

  4. That photo is brilliant. Your mama sure did have a knack! haha.

    Les Says: That is a great shot, isn’t it? I wish I knew who had taken the photo – I’ll have to ask my Mom if she knows…

  5. Oh, and you should post that photo of Ky too! C’mon, you’ve got a knack haven’t you? 🙂

    Les Says: Oh, I most definitely WILL be posting the photo of Ky – I’d have done so in this post, but the I think the pic is on another computer. Soon, Dale, promise – and we’ll all have a laugh at my kid’s expense. She’s the spit and image of Blanche at about the same age, spectacles and all. 😀

  6. thank you for introducing us to Blanche- can”t wait to get to know her.

    Les Says: I think you will like her very much, Denise. She was cool people, Blanche was.

  7. I *wish* my kids fought over the chores. No such luck. I always *get* to do all the cleaning. Aren’t I lucky?

    Les Says: Oh, please, let’s not go there – I’m in the same boat, most of the time, where Kyla’s concerned. Problem is, I’m just as lazy as she is, when I have a J.O.B. – and the place is either a knock-down, drag-out mess, or I go the other way, and I’m so picky that I’m always shining the sink and nothing ELSE gets done but the housework. There never seems to be a happy medium.

  8. Wonderful story! Blanche was a sweet soul, sounds like.

    Les Says: Yes, she was. And people weren’t always quite that mean to her, harmless or not. She also had a great sense of humour – I have one about her and my dad, who thought an awful lot of her, and she of him.

  9. What a beautiful story! Thanks for telling it.

    Les Says: Quite welcome, Sara – and it’s nice to see you Where the Walls are Soft! Come back again, soon; there will be more Blanche stories, along with “catch-a-bear” stories and, of course, Land-Lady stories… 🙂

  10. That’s funny, but I still feel sort of bad for Blanche. Did her parents ever find out what the two younger girls did?

    Les Says: I think Gramma knew about it much later. Seems to me, I first heard the story around my mother’s kitchen table during a visit from Gramma. I remember hearing a few stories involving a younger version of my mother that made me realize she wasn’t always “the good little girl that grew up to be the stern schoolteacher” that I’d thought she was. 😉

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