This is an incredibly sad day. I have lost a dear, dear friend, a wonderful lady that has supported me and all I do for the last 14 years.
She held my hand when my father died, and my heart when my mother followed two years later. She became an adopted grandmother to my daughter and to Ky’s best friend as well.
She was Carson’s “Gramma Dot”, and she loved us all as if we were her own.
She was there with a story, a cup of coffee, a crossword puzzle or a game of crib, through more turbulent times than I can count, and when I was at my lowest, she pulled me back up and made me want to write again.
She was my muse and my editor, combined. She lit up my world.
I don’t have a way to describe the loss I feel. There are no words to say how much she meant to me.
Goodbye, Ruby. Rest now. You will never be forgotten.
I got a great compliment from a Facebook friend that bought “The Waitress” yesterday. She read it start-to-finish before noticing that the sun had gone down, supper was late – but took the time to tell all her friends on Facebook how much she loved it BEFORE feeding the family!
I feel a little guilty, now… just not so guilty that I won’t invite my readers here to starve their own children (temporarily, at least). 😉
Ruby and I have been playing cribbage together since early in 2007. Usually she wins – lots of times I get skunked, and now and again she’s double-skunked me. I don’t know how many games we’ve played in all that time, but I know how many times I’ve beaten her.
One of those two times was tonight.
And tonight I. Skunked. Ruby.
If it weren’t a Sunday, I’d have bought beer by now, to celebrate. A whole case of beer.
There’s something wonderful about winter walks with the dog – especially on a Sunday afternoon, when it seems like no one else in the city is out and about.
We almost always go to the same place every time – a field across from a ball diamond just a few blocks from home. We usually pop across the road to the ball field, too, but it’s almost all I can do just to get around in there, as the snow is knee deep and Kaylee spends most of her time there “swimming” in the snow – which she LOVES to do – and is much less likely to break a trail for me, like she does very generously in the spot where these photos were taken.
When Ruby was a young girl, her school in Northland had a fair once a year, in the spring. It offered the usual school fair “stuff” of the era; games of chance, 4H projects, etc., and students could show off (and sell) their needlework and baked goods.
One year, Ruby won a needlepoint contest – got a trophy and everything. Another year, she and her sister Joycie entered a singing contest. They won 10 cents each for climbing up on the back of a hay wagon and singing “The Little Shirt My Mother Made for Me.”
The real killer year for Ruby, though, was The Year of the $5 School Cake.
She and her sisters each baked up something to sell at the school bake table every year. This year, Ruby had baked a chocolate layer cake. It was a beautiful cake and she was really proud of it.
On the walk to the fair, Ruby fell behind a little, walking veeeerrrryyy carefully to make sure her cake survived the journey intact. She was just coming to the edge of the fairground, far behind her sisters, when a stumbling drunk guy comes reeling towards her, and stops her.
“Hey,” says the drunk. “Whad’ya got there?”
Ruby tells him she’s got a chocolate cake to put on the school bake table.
The drunk says, “Yeah? I’ll give you $5 for it.”
Ruby, not being stupid, promptly handed him the cake. $5 richer, she went wandering around the fair grounds until she found her father at the ice cream stand.
Her father loved ice cream. He looked forward to the school fair every year, just so he could get an ice cream cone. He also loved children, and every year, he bought every kid that came along an ice cream cone too.
When Ruby found him, he asked, “Did you sell your cake?
Ruby said, “Yup,” and told him about the drunk, and showed him the $5.
Now, Ruby’s dad had probably just blown (at 5 cents a cone over 20 or 30 kids) around a buck and a quarter. Ruby, on the other hand, had just gained $5 by scalping her own school cake. All her father could think of to do was laugh.
Ruby has no memory of what she might have spent that $5 on, and it drives her crazy that she can’t remember.
“That was an awful lot of money back then,” she says.
All I can picture when she tells this story, is the drunk – stumbling through the woods and across fields carrying a chocolate layer cake…
It didn’t show up in the photo, so Ruby’s sister, who took the original picture back in 1956, wrote what the sign said with a ball-point pen, on the copy she made for Ruby. Yes, that’s Ruby with the mask, goggle eyes and bathing suit. Ummm. Yeah. That’s a bathing suit.
Ruby had no qualms whatsoever about handing it over for bloggery mischief – in fact, she hunted it out on purpose for me in March of this year.
Sorry, folks. This post is a few months late.
* * *
Did I ever tell you about the time I marched in the Community Day Parade on the Island?
Me: No! When was this?!
(laughs and claps her hands together) Wait’ll you see this!
She disappears into her spare room and comes out with the above photo, at which I, of course, laugh.
Me: ‘Splain to me this, Ruby.
Ruby (eyes just a twinkling): Do you think that Mushy-fella will like this?
Me: I think he’d rather no mask.
Ah, well. He’ll have to suffer the mask, then.
Me: So, what’s with the sign? Were you protesting?
Kind of. But we were more making fun, I guess.
Me: Who were you making fun of?
The Town Council, that’s who! A couple years before this, somebody on the council got the bright idea, that if they made a sand beach along the waterfront on one side of the Island, that the tourists would come in droves. There was fighting and voting and more fighting and more voting than you ever would believe over that beach mess, let me tell you!
Me: Looks as if the town wanted it, by the sign…
Nope. Just the opposite. Most people in town didn’t think it would work at all. They figured Lake Huron would just wash the beach away in a couple of years, and wouldn’t that be just a waste of sand and money?
Me: I guess it would.
Your darn right it would! But Council won out, and they must have spent thousands trucking in sand in big trucks and dumping it. They made a right nice beach, too.
And the very next Spring, Lake Huron melted and hauled the whole works away to God Knows Where! (laughs for a long time) Town Council was pretty red-faced about that, lemme tell you!
Me: And so you marched yourself down Main Street in the Community Day Parade with that get-up and a sign, just to make fun of the Council? I wouldn’t have thought you to be so mean, Ruby!
(I said this ADMIRINGLY, though, you must understand….)
I was telling Ruby tonight about posting my Dad’s harrowing experience on the ice in 1938. I had been about to add that I thought he was jealous of all the attention she was getting from my readers.
I didn’t get the chance, because once I told her the story she jumped right in with, “That’s nothing. I know people that drove trucks over the ice to Cockburn Island.”
Umm, well, actually… so do I. My dad is one of them (no, Mushy, not the kind of “ice truck driver” you were telling me about… just stupid Canuckians trying to save a buck). He did it when the crappy truck he had over there already finally died, and he didn’t want to pay The Bargeman a bzillion dollars to get another one over there in the summer. He tossed his snow machine in the bed of the slightly less crappy truck and away he went. Ijit. He drove the snow machine back the next day.
And Ruby continued telling about when one of the Bruce Mines Robinsons (Sandtrampers, originally, they were) “drove over there with his skidoo in the bed of the truck. Smart, he was – that was how he got himself back again, wasn’t it?”
I didn’t dare say another word about my Dad. I have another story from him to post, as well, but I think I’m going to post another from Ruby first. I see her more often, so I guess she should get precedence. Not to mention, she has the fan-base. And I don’t want her to raise the rent…
I did ask her if she’d ever been to Cockburn herself.
“Nope,” said she.
“Why not?” I asked. “Just never had the opportunity?”
“Nope,” she laughed. “I just never had a boat.”
* * *
So I have a favour to ask of you all…. does anybody out there (anywhere on the planet…?) have a Velvet Elvis painting they’re willing to send to Canuckia? I’ll pay for it (I’m poor, though, remember, so go easy on me…), and the shipping, too.
No, my taste in art is not “off” (no offense to Velvet Elvis fans, or Elvis fans in general) – but I need it as set dressing for a soon-to-be-starting web production of “Magnificent” proportion. I would have thought I could find a Velvet Elvis painting at some second-hand emporium here in town, but so far, no such luck.
PS – Day 12 Smoke Free!!! The “Patch” is spectacular. Last night I dreamed that Stuart Little moved in… and for some reason, so did Ky’s dad, and we got into a heated argument over whether Stuart should have his own little cup to drink from (my argument), or whether he should drink from the cats’ dish (The Dad argument), since he was eating cat food anyway. Stuart – not Ky’s Dad. Poor little mouse should have his own cup, dammit…
And Craig Ferguson is still stalking me. In my dreams, that is. Last night, he made his producers hire me for some unknown but extremely well-paid job, and had them commemorate it with a really ugly porcelain plaque that said “Welcome On Board!” That’s right – “ON Board” – not “Aboard”. I KNOW!!!! How weird is that?!
You noticed “Ruby” in the header, didn’t you? That’s why you’re here. My stats go waaaaay up when I post about Ruby. You should have seen the look on her face when I told her that the other week. Grinning to beat the band, she was.
And then she told me she didn’t think she had any more stories in her. I told her I didn’t believe her, but she insisted that, rack her brains as she might, she couldn’t think of anything she hadn’t already told me.
We went back to the crossword, both a little depressed.
Me, befuddled: What’s a 7-letter word for a “cream-coloured dog?”
The Waitress, the Whiskey & the Handcuffs Part 1 of The Ruby Chronicles
Ruby Daniel is a 30-something widow trying to get by in a small backwoods Northern town in the 1950’s. Her chicken farm is failing, and she takes a weekend job as a barmaid at an illegal drinking establishment run by a crooked police officer, hoping the extra income will allow her to keep her farm and raise her kids.
When her crude and offensive employer plays an embarrassing prank on her, Ruby gets revenge with the help of her mother, whose devious tactics and unrestrained glee in the details of retaliation leave Ruby in awe, and a little fearful of the woman who raised her.
This comedic short story will leave you laughing out loud and cheering Ruby on, as she learns that standing up for herself can sometimes backfire, but revenge really does taste sweet – and an indignant mother is a surprisingly fierce force to be reckoned with…