Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Alice and Anna - Part 2: Two Lives Rememberd

This is Part 2 of Alice and Anna.

When we moved to Oakley Place in '75 our favorite neighbors became the two maiden ladies across the street.  They were both government workers, Alice at the Treasury Department and Anna for the Latin American Development Bank.  They hadn't yet retired.

There had been fiancees in the picture, but as daughters of the time and the culture they devoted their lives to their mother, Veronica (b 1889 in Armenia).  We never knew their mother who was a teacher in Armenia.
She spoke French, English, Latin and her native tongue.  In the early 1900's she  fled the turmoil and danger of Armenia for Marseille and then moved on to the Boston area in 1909.  Boston was a headquarters for Christian relief groups working in Armenia.  Veronica had an arranged marriage with Kevork O. (b 1887 in Armenia.  He arrived in the US 1906).  They had a son and two daughters.  She lived with the girls until her death.  Alice was quite passionate and vocal about their Armenian history and Turkey.  She kept the traditional "money belt" brought from the old country.

Alice rose to be a GS 15, an unusual position for a woman in those days.  She had completed all college course work for a degree, but Simmons College denied her a diploma because she had not resided on campus for her studies.  One of her early interviews for a job in Boston led to surprise for the interviewer when she arrived.  They were expecting a Boston Irish Miss O'H, but she was decidedly non-Irish  ... Armenian to the core.  She became a cracker jack accountant anyway and traveled the world on Treasury Department business.  Some time in the 50's her boss, finding Social Security checks were being lost in the mail, decided to institute direct deposit.  Alice spearheaded the implementation of that advance which effects us all.

Anna never went to college.  While not the professional power house like her older sister she had a successful government career.  Imagine their surprise.  In Washington she had the highest possible score on her employment test for the Latin American Development Bank.

I wish I had pictures from back then.  One outstanding image relayed from a friend was seeing them at church in very spiffy black hats and dresses with collars and cuffs of their mother's handmade lace.  They were always the height of fashion thanks to Anna's superior skills as a seamstress and tailor. She was a collector of material and sewing machines.  She made all their clothes and even some of the signature hats.

They were both music lovers.  Classical music and opera were the audio track in their home.  Alice was the pianist.  She played at her church and the local Christian Science senior citizens home into her 80's.  The music gene ran strong with a nephew's membership in the Canadian Brass.

They developed their garden from bargain 3 for $10 azalea bushes that eventually covered the hillside.
Alice was the most involved gardener.  She was a fan of my raspberries and my Juliette cherry tomatoes.  I got in the habit of buying her tomato plants each spring when I got mine.  As she aged, PFS mowed her lawn and I shoveled the walks in winter.  When we moved her next door neighbor Chris took over.
Anna, Chris, Alice
(note bowler hat)
I could never break her habit of digging the dandelions from my front lawn!  I'd drive up and she'd be on her knees digging.  She considered it therapy.  I gave up the fight.  Stubborn was her middle name.

They were both pet lovers. They loved my cat Mrs. Frisby and all our dogs ... Timaru, Molly, Abe, even Shannon who was not the nicest animal we ever owned.  Their cat was Sigfried, the Peke Brunhilde ... both were spoiled rotten  They had a key to everyone's house and popped in to pet a cat or walk a dog during the day.  Alice often left one of her famous poppy seed cakes on the kitchen counter, or a container of Anna's stuffed grape leaves.  They shared their favorite fast food with the kids ... Popeye's curly fries from the drive-in.

Alice was the driver, despite poor eye sight and short stature.  They always had a big car.  Anna navigated.  After passing them on the road one friend commented he preferred to be able to see the driver's head over the wheel. They were the thrifters so they needed the car every Saturday for their rounds.  Anna logged each purchase in a journal as to item, place of purchase and price.  And the price was seldom the full asking price.   The only time we remember Anna paying full price (an astonishing $150) was for a stylish bowler hat she HAD to have.  Alice "rescued" fine needle work and collected many (like hundreds) placemat and napkin sets.  The house was a treasure trove with many Oriental style pieces.  They added on to the house to make room for the collections, the furniture, the library of books, the grand piano and to make a larger sewing room for Anna.  Unfortunately the home became one they could not/would not leave.

Anna suffered a terribly fall several years ago, breaking bones in her face and elsewhere.  She became confined to the house and to her bed.  Alice refused all thought of day or live-in help or assisted living options.  Any suggestion from friend or relative met with total dismissal of the idea and the presenter.  Family relations suffered.  As PFS said in a vast understatement:  "Alice had strong opinions."

A acquaintance, George, became increasingly close and assumed the role of care taker.  In January he was concerned enough about Anna to call the EMS.  Anna died of a heart attack after a few days in the hospital.  It is a testament to Alice's iron will that she outlived her younger sister.  She had been obviously ill.  Each time I saw her she had shrunk more.  At the end she was a mere 4' something and 80+ pounds.  She soon went from home to the hospital, ironically to the same room in ICU Anna had been occupied only two weeks before.  Leukemia was diagnosed.  George took her to his home where she passed on a month after her sister.
Alice (May 1913-February 2011)
Anna (June 1917-January 2011)

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