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Charlotte Juarez's Going Home
Sunday, March 9th


Sunday
Birkie, March 9th, 2003

Today is my Uncle Eric’s birthday, and the day he was buried on as a young fifteen year old after a lifetime of battling apolio-type muscular disease.

Joy drove us to church today and joined us for our meetings of Relief Society, Young Women’s group, Sunday School and Sacrament Service.

Rainy, rainy day. But the daffodils are getting ready to burst into bloom from their buds in their beds along the Kingsway.

We were welcomed into the Church building by the members there who were expecting us, as well as several others who, when hearing my name, said, "Oh, I remember you. You were the one that crocheted blankets for the missionaries." Three ladies of my mother’s generation said much the same thing – and one of the brethren said it, too. Then he added, "I don’t mean to offend you, but you really had a bad dose of ‘elderitis’ (that’s what we called ‘crushes’s on the American missionaries). Whenever I wanted to find of the missionaries, " he added, "I would just go looking for you. And if I wanted to find you, I’d just go looking for the missionaries." Then he went off and told Adriana the story, and threatened to tell her more "stories about her mother when she was a lass."

I met with President Paul Clancy, who organized our funeral plan. I still have some home work to do – pay the fees, find out where the "lair" is, arrange for the meal after, and get some flowers. But that’s tomorrow’s agenda. One of the men is going to create a printed program and those taking part will be members from the early days of the Mormon presence in Dundee who had known my mother. President Clancy said he hoped it would be fair, "but if not, " he said, "we’ll bring umbrellas!"

We started our worship day in Releif Society. These sisters sing a capella more beautifully that we sing in America with piano accompaniment. "Love at Home" is not my favourite hymn, but because of the beauty of the Scottish voices I’m sure the memory of it will return to me often.

It was nice to be in the mixed male and female Suncay School class. Our teacher was a short, thin, red headed woman about my age whose passion for the subject of "Taking my yoke upon you" and her love for the Saviour combined with her lesson delivery made me think!!, and I don’t know why, of Amy Semple McPherson and how she must have been in her heyday when she was on a roll.

I felt I had come home to friends.

We were welcomed from the pulpit during Sacrament Service by the Bishop at the beginning of Sacrament Service who announced I had returned and there I am Charlotte Alvoet, known by my early self and maiden name – with my family to bury my mother. And he invited those members "from the Old Glamis Road days" (which was where we used to meet in an old converted house just up from the Kingsway) to attend the funeral/graveside service.

The meeting progressed with two speakers (First and Second Counselors in the Stake Presidency) discussing caring for our neighbours and following Heavenly Father’s commandments, then it was time for the final speaker, President Clancy.

Now, we knew the Clancy family from before I had ever heard of Mormons, much less become a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Dennis Clancy, Paul’s father, was a Scottish balladeer and entertainer at the Palace Theater where my Granny worked in that variety theater’s box office. Paul got up and said, "We have a few spare minutes here." He began to talk about my call to him requesting assistance in burying my mother and how he had gotten to know me since. He called my mother "one of the pioneers of the Church in Dundee." What an honour to be thought of in that way. And what a kindness on his part because my mother had not remained an active member of the Church. Then he invited me to come up and bear my testimony. I don’t remember what I said – but I do remember talking about breaking the rocks with a pneumatic drill to prepare the foundation for that beautiful building; and that sometimes we are like that – rocks to be prepared as the strength and support for something beautiful. I remember expressing gratitude for God’s love – John and my children, and Temple blessings. I remember testifying that no blessing, whether of a child or a husband will be withheld from any sister. I remember testifying our greatest blessing and role is to be a mother, and that the men’s greatest obligation is to answer "Yes" to any call to serve. And I honored the Clancy’s and the Leece’s for their histories of pioneering in Dundee Stake’s early days.

President Clancy had a folksy manner of deliverying a great message of being committed to the moment and doing our best and not worrying about mistakes of the past but to play on, always attempting to do the right thing. And I laughed later when Adriana told me he was like me – a long story with lots of detours to tell the original short story. "Now," she says, "I know where you get it from, Mom." I told her it was the Scottish story telling tradition that needs to live on in people like her.

We were sitting with the Clancy’s whom I had mentioned were pioneers. But I didn’t know we were seated behind Sister Leece the other family I had mentioned. When Church was over the lady in the pew in front turned to me and said, "Oh, Charlotte, there was a time when I thought you would be my daughter in law." And she seemed pleased that once that was a possibility when I tried to muscle in on her son, Joseph, once when he and his fiancé had a falling out. But, it wasn’t to be because they kissed and made up and I was left available for John to find me a year or so later.

As I write this, I’m realizing there is a glint or two in the eyes of some of the men my age – who were just lads when I was a girl – and I’m trying hard to remember what secrets I might have forgotten from being young together. Will just have to keep them away from Adriana in case there’s a story or two waiting to be told!

It was raining when Church ended, but not enough to daunt us from driving around Dundee with Joy. We drove over familiar streets to the Top of the Hill and parked the car in what was once my old Hill Street school playground but is now a car park for tenants of the Derby Street housing that replaced my home and school, and the police box that sat on the corner. The Church, Butterburn Presbyterian, where I was christened still stands, but it is empty and unused and appears to have suffered fire damage. The pend where the Cydesdales were stabled across the street from our house and the tenements above and around the pend are gone, and replaced by modern housing. But the Hilltown Clock still stands and, amazing to report, is telling accurate time – something my Granny swore it never did every time she leaned out our bedroom window to check on it. I know it was telling the right time that day, because I checked.

My very first job was working as a twelve year old message runner and helper to Mary, the niece of Joe and Rosey Lanetta who owned the sweetie and home made ice cream shop on the corner of Mains Road. We went in to the shop and the young lass behind the counter (and surrounded by jars of boilings – soor plooms, granny sookers, licorice allsorts, dolly mixtures – just like I was when I served like she was) told us Mary still lives above the shop, in the back of the tenement and that she supervises the ice cream making to be sure it conforms to her recipe that she sold to the current owner, and that she has another big white chow, named Prince, like the one that Joe and Rose had while I lived and worked in the Hilltown.

Adriana, whom we call Nan, and Xylia my granddaughter stood there in the Hilltown and crossed with me today the same streets I ran across as a Hilltown child. We ran around those rainy streets retracing my paths to the bus stop on Laird Street and the chipper’s (Louis’) on Carmichael Street; the smell of bread baking was still coming out of the Haldane Bakery, now known as Rough and Fraser’s, as I pointed out to my daughter and granddaughter the spot where, let’s see – (them, me granny, great granny, Alex McIntosh, Jessie Hacket Beat and Charlotte Crofts) – their great, great, great granny and Auntie Chat ran a fishmonger and a pottery dealer shop. Family history fell into place from the stories they’ve heard from me all their lives. Dundee became real to them as my memories came flooding back and Joy and I nattered and laughed, with almost every sentence beginning with, "d’ye mind o’ …"

I told the girls once again the story of Dundee’s dragon as we drove out Strathmartine Road and shocked them when I told them about the neglected and orphaned and troubled boys all identified as "bad" in my childhood who were housed at Baldovan and the Downs Syndrome and Dvelopmentally Disabled who were institutionalized at "Bammydoon." And the little shop where I’d run to get my Granny’s Sunday papers was still open for business as we drove by on this rainy Sunday evening.

By the time we got home to Joy’s, we were ready for our tea – which the girls learned is a meal, not a beverage. Joy made a wonderful pot of Scottish tea which, with our floury fresh Dundee rolls was a wonderful end to a beautiful day.

When I peeked in to their bedroom to check on my jet lagged children, I found them sleeping as I used to, snuggled under a mountain of warmth – theirs being duvets whereas mine were blankets covered by a quilt of blocked scraps my Granny had sewn together on her Singer treadle powered sewing machine – noses barely peeking out of the duvets, and sleeping contentedly. And I counted my blessings of good health, good family, and the great happiness that was mine to be able to show my country and their heritage to children who wanted to claim them.

DragonDundee’s Dragon near the Welgate, reminding Dundonians of our Pictish backgrounds and how Strathmartine Road got its name, according to legend. If you’d like to know more about this story, email me at jeatsax1@msn.com


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