Grace Sparkes was a fiercely independent woman
It’s always exciting when a new book arrives in our mail. Missus likes to open the packages and she’s nearly as tickled as she is on Christmas morning as she rips off the wrapping.
We don’t clap our hands like delighted youngsters, but we do try to be the first one to blurt out the title when the paper falls away. Colour us silly ol’ sexagenarians having fun.
As Missus tore paper to pieces and revealed this book’s cover we burst out simultaneously. “It’s Grandma Walcott,” I said. “It’s Gracie,” said Missus. We were both right. “Grace Sparkes: Blazing a Trail to Independence” [Flanker Press] is Marie-Beth Wright’s biography of, well, how do I say this without sounding as stund as a stump? Of Grace Sparkes, of course.
In my eyes, Grace’s picture on the book’s cover was a snap of Grandma Walcott, straight from Pigeon Inlet, on account of I was most familiar with her from the television series.
To Missus, the snap was a picture of Gracie straight from a Prince of Wales Collegiate yearbook. Grace was Missus’ English teacher at PWC in 1960-somethin-or-other.
Born in Grand Bank way back in the last century, Grace Sparkes [née Patton] lived nigh onto a hundred years, from a time when many men saw women pretty much as chattel. Nowadays, women are capable of taking over the world.
(Missus just smacked me and commanded me to write this: “We were always capable, buster, but oppressed!”)
That being said, Grace Sparkes is remembered as one of the most independent women in this province’s history.
Oops, perhaps I shouldn’t say province … rather, in Newfoundland’s history.
Grace Sparkes was never in favour of Newfoundland becoming a Canadian province, certainly not in the fashion conniving politicians, practitioners of skulduggery, manipulated it into joining the mainland wolf.
Of course, the grand-daddy of those scoundrels was the Barrel Man, Joey Smallwood, the self-proclaimed Benefactor who doled out the Baby Bonus straight from his own arse pockets.
Grace Sparkes never saw eye-to-eye with Joey.
Had they been characters in a super heroes comic book, they might have stood atop tall buildings chest thumping and hurling lightning bolts at each other while ominous clouds stogged the sky.
The ancients Greeks who invented dramaturgy, or whatever it’s called, would have appreciated the irony of such life-long foes as Grace and Joey both being buried in the same cemetery.
I had to say “That-agirl!” when I read that Grace, who had arranged her own funeral, refused to allow her casket to be carried past Joey’s grave. Instead she had her funeral procession enter Mount Pleasant Cemetery via the back gate.
The second I read this bit, I fancied what might have happened if Grace had passed alongside Joey’s grave. I couldn’t help what popped into my noggin — a cartoony picture of Grace’s foot lashing out for a final kick at the cat, so to speak.
Considering her sense of humour, I further fancy Grace’s hovering wraith chuckling at that image. Change horses. Grace was a young girl in 1919 when the strange-looking dirigible R34 (whatever that means) drifted over Grand Bank en route to elsewhere. Not Grace, I’m sure, but I bet a loonie someone among the spectators cried aloud, “Lord, save us! ‘Tis the end of the world!” Maybe. Other scribblers, I’m sure, will lay down more scholarly lines than I about this book and any paeans they pen will be fully deserved. Obviously, Marie-Beth Wright has written a book that not only deserves to exist but also ought to exist, in that it chronicles the life of one of Newfoundland’s renowned women.
To quote Ed Roberts from the Foreword: as is fitting, “Ms. Wright has given a full account of Grace Sparkes’s life, warts included.” About those warts. Many of us have had warts sprout on our hands. I assure you I did — big ol’ cauliflower ones that I picked at with my compass point when I should have been heeding my Geometry teacher.
Grace Sparkes had some unsightly warts in her character. Ms. Wright has not glossed them over or drenched them with Compound W. Neither has she dwelt on them because…
…because oftentimes, with warts both of the flesh and of the spirit, it’s best to leave ‘em bide.
Consider what happens if you root at a wart with a compass point. The wart, which may have been withering on its own, bleeds all over an otherwise perfectly fine hand.
Thank you for reading.
Harold Walters lives Happily Ever After in Dunville. Reach him at email@example.com