Dane believes that he has one memory of Violet – his mother’s sister – from a time before his mother died. He remembers very little from that far back. He hardly remembers his mother. He has one picture of his mother standing in front of the mirror at the kitchen sink, tucking her red hair under a navy-blue straw hat. He remembers a bright red ribbon on the hat. She must have been getting ready to go to church. And he can see a swollen leg, of a dull-brown colour, that he associates with her last sickness. But he doubts if he ever saw that. Why would her leg be such a colour? He must have heard people talking about it. He heard them say that her leg was as big as a barrel.

He thinks he remembers Violet coming for supper, as she sometimes did, bringing with her a pudding which she set outside in the snow, to keep it cool. (None of the farmhouses had a refrigerator in those days.) Then it snowed, the snow covered the pudding-dish, which sank from sight. Dane remembers Violet tramping around in the snowy yard after dark, calling, ‘Pudding, pudding, here pudding!’ as if it was a dog. Himself laughing immoderately, and his mother and father laughing in the doorway, and Violet elaborating the performance, stopping to whistle.

Not long after his mother died, his grandmother died – the one who lived with Violet, and wore a black hat, and called the hens in what sounded exactly like their own language – a tireless crooning and clucking. Then Violet sold the farm and moved to town, where she got a job with Bell Telephone. That was during the Second World War, when there was a shortage of men, and Violet soon became manager. There was some feeling that she should have stepped down when the war was over, given the job back to some man who had a family to support. Dane recalls hearing somebody say that – a woman, maybe one of his father’s sisters, saying that it would have been the gracious thing to do. But his father said no, Violet did right. He said Violet had spunk.

What Were You Dreaming?
A Conversation Piece