Writer’s Block: Dark Chocolate & White Magnolia
Sweet tastes and heavenly scents are bittersweet reminders of childhood and a special neighbour
A little old lady creates lifelong memories for a young girl, thanks to two very simple things.
The story I am about to tell takes place in Northam, P.E.I., in a beautiful, tranquil setting. It is about a little old lady who has had a lasting effect on my life largely due to two simple things, dark chocolate and a white magnolia tree. She also kindly took the time to sit and chat with a five-year-old girl (me) and my eight-year-old sister.
On a beautiful Prince Edward Island day, in a rustic country setting, a summer breeze gently blows over an old farmhouse early in the evening. A delicate perfumed scent of white magnolia blossoms wafts through the air, as a little old lady saunters across the yard from doing her daily farm chores of milking the cows. Libby is clad in a long, black dress with a flour-bag apron over it, rubber boots on her feet and a milk pail swinging from her arm. She pauses, gathers her skirts and ascends the steps of the old farmhouse and makes her way to the kitchen.
Just then, my sister and I begin our long walk down the flower-lined, dirt-road lane to visit with this exquisite lady. As we trudge along, we stop to pick and eat berries here and there. All kinds of wildflowers grow along the fence and we stoop to smell the different fragrances, and admire the beautiful colours of pinks, reds and blues. We pick the prettiest ones for a bouquet for a very special lady called Libby. We continue walking towards the old farmhouse with a lovely veranda that is nestled in a patch of apple and magnolia trees.
By now, Libby has had a chance to have her supper and relax a little bit. She has also changed into another black dress with a white crocheted collar and has her hair neatly coiled under a hairnet. We approach her doorstep filled with great anticipation. We knock on her door and beautiful Libby beckons us to come in and sit awhile. As we make our way through the porch and into the kitchen, wonderful aromas of homemade bread, churned
butter, wild strawberries and freshly brewed tea fill the air. She thanks us for the flowers, takes them and puts them in a glass tumbler and places them on the kitchen table.
We perch on the couch, all the while chatting away with her as we listen to her tell of her daughters who live so far away. She must have been very lonesome at times.
Now comes the magic moment when she arises from her rocking chair and disappears into the pantry. We can hear her rustle in her cupboards and soon she reappears with a large box of delicious dark chocolates that have been sent to her from her family in California. She pulls back the shiny wrapper covering the candy and allows us to choose our favourite one. Of course, we can tell what filling is in the centre of each chocolate as we know them all by heart by now, so after carefully making our selection, we all move out to the veranda to enjoy the quiet solitude of the nightfall. There, we sit and listen as Libby reminisces about bygone days and everyday happenings. As we sit and chat with her, white magnolia blossoms fall to the ground and we gather them to make a bouquet to take home to our bedroom.
Soon it is time to bid her goodbye and start our walk home. Libby needs her rest as she is 72 years of age and very active on her farm. So off we go, savouring the taste of the dark chocolate in our mouths and breathing in the fragrance of our white magnolia bouquet. It has been a great day!
Summer and fall pass by and December sets in. We awake one morning to find our dog Tippy cry- ing and looking towards Libby’s house. Something appears to be terribly wrong. Our Libby has not made her morning trip to the barn, and very soon we find out why. Her son comes by to inform us that Libby passed away at her breakfast table. Libby is gone. We have suffered a great loss in our young lives.
More than 60 years have passed since then, and to this day, when I smell the fragrance of white magnolia or taste dark chocolate, I still see a tiny, elegant old lady, clad in a black skirt and flour-bag apron with a milk pail swinging from her arm, strolling along a path from the barn to her house, and I am transported back to my childhood.
How I treasure this memory and the lovely legacy Libby left to that little five-year-old girl. ■