for a lady who had caritas in spades
It’s Valentines Day, a day which always brings a rush of conflicting emotions. Traditionally, I have always taken a harsh tone against the day- citing consumerism as the source of my vendetta. Love is the most important thing that we do as people and most of our actions are rooted in either caritas or cupiditas. I don’t like having my emotions manipulated just to line the pocketbooks of a few (which is cupiditas). However, I have decided to take a new attitude for the holidays wherein I try to be less of a curmudgeon and a finger pointer, and instead try to use the holiday as an opportunity to get a little creative with my celebrations. For Valentines day in the past, I have exchanged favourite books with lovers or proposed celebrating the day with marathon sessions of lovemaking. My partners have certainly never minded.
But on Valentines Day, it’s important to also remember those that we love platonically – and one person I find my heart going out to today is a woman who I loved a lot growing up, but who is no longer around to share the sentiment with.
Alice Schaeffer was my Mom’s best friend even though there was quite an age difference between them. They met on a trip to Florida about 30 years ago while they were both on vacation, and although my mom lived in rural Ontario and Alice in Syracuse, they became constant friends. Trips to upstate New York to visit Alice and her charming husband Norman were a regular holiday for our family, and Alice was always her endearing mix of sweet and sassy to us all.
Alice was a lovely woman who always kept herself in excellent shape by walking a few miles everyday (even into her 90s), and starting each day with a swim in the pool. She had a quick wit and a pocketful of clever idioms that I find myself repeating sometimes. One thing she would always say was “that’s a horse of another colour”, and its kind of stuck. She had a sharp eye for fashion which must come from all her years as a working gal in New York City where she was employed in the fashion industry. I don’t know what kind of positions she held, but we inherited many of her posessions when she passed away a few years ago, possessions my mom has pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle of the past. Among the pieces are pictures of my Aunt Alice in fine suits with giggling girls seated at textile machines and the pale purple bags from a department store that no longer exists.
But perhaps the best treasure that Alice left us was a hand bound book of her fashion illustrations, which in a grand act of generosity my mother gave to me for my birthday present this year. I’m not sure what era they are from, but I would guess that these are likely from the late 20s, or perhaps the 30s. This Valentines day, I thought I would share Alice’s wonderful illustrations with you all because they are really beautiful- quite like the lady that made them.