As I hung the skate key around my neck and strapped on my roller skates, it was my way to “take flight” from the reality of life. The house at the end of our tree-lined street in northern Ohio was a “safe haven”; a place for me to find a hug and always a treat. Auntie Alice, as I fondly called, Alice Sharp was a neighbor, full time house wife and mother of a young adult son and a daughter whom had drown in Lake Huron when she was five years of age, several years earlier.
Auntie Alice became a surrogate “mother” for me and I, a substitute daughter for her. Our friendship remained for many years, but the frequent moves of my family diminished the friendship as I could no longer “drop in” for those sweet times of fellowship. I now realize Alice comprehended my life was more of a challenge than any five-year-old should endure.
Her 1940’s home with the large wrap around porch possessing a wicker swing, seemed like a fairy- tale castle to me, filled with treasures my young senses had never experienced. Her parlor was laden with beautiful tapestry chairs and love seats, but the showpiece was the player piano. When hearing it, I longed to learn to play the piano, but it would be years before the dream became a reality.
Aromas filled the air which I desired for our own home; fresh flowers and home baked cookies, breads or cakes. These sweet treats were always enjoyed with lemonade or a cold glass of milk on Auntie Alice’s sunny screened in porch or her garden filled with the fragrant flowers which bedecked her home. I was also intrigued with the beautiful summer cottage in Auntie Alice’s garden. The cottage had a fireplace and furniture with gorgeous, floral cushions, which appeared to have been freshly picked from her garden.
The large garage was designed with an upstairs apartment, which I deemed would make a great hideaway where I could reside. This young girl was convinced Auntie Alice truly lived in a castle. Our home at the end of the street, built by the hands of my skilled, carpenter father was new and lovely, but modest compared to Auntie Alice’s fine home.
With seven family members residing in our two-bedroom, one bath house, it seemed smaller than it actually was. It did however have a basement which had been my parents’ home before Dad built the primary residence. Our immediate family of five consisted also of my paternal, teen-aged uncle and my widowed maternal grandmother suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.
Tragically, my father sustained a broken back when falling from a second story scaffold while working in his profession as a carpenter. This fall left my father partially incapacitated for several months. This was a tremendous setback for the family, but also for me as a child. My life as a care free child ended the day of my father’s accident.
I learned at a young age that life would never be one of joy, but God would be with me. Jeremiah 29:11 NIV, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper and not to harm you…”