Don’t quote me, but I have a feeling that the copy of the L M Montgomery book Magic for Marigold that I had has a child was given to me by my recently deceased grandmother. I LOVE THIS BOOK. Marigold herself is a somewhat demented delight, all scarrilous adventures and imaginary friends, but it was Old Grandmother that really made the book for me. From memory she was kind of crotchety, refusing to live past 99 just to spite the relatives who wanted a centenarian, and demanding eggs fried in butter. She was also custodian of the famous Skinner doll an entity whose existence gave me all sorts of delicious shivers (and was apparently based on a real doll):
‘Her other great treasure was in the opposite corner. A big glass case with Alicia, the famous Skinner doll, in it. Old Grandmother’s mother had been a Skinner and the doll had no part in Lesley traditions, but every Lesley child had been brought up in the fear and awe of it and knew its story. Old Grandmother’s mother’s sister had lost her only little daughter of three years and had never been “quite right” afterwards. She had had a waxen image of her baby made and kept it beside her always and talked to it as if it had been alive. It was dressed in a wonderful embroidered dress that had belonged to the dead baby, and wore one of her slippers. The other slipper was held in one waxen hand ready for the small bare foot that peeped out under the muslin flounces. The doll was so lifelike that Lorraine always shuddered when she passed it, and Salome Silversides was very doubtful of the propriety of having such a thing in the house at all, especially as she knew that Lazarre, the French hired man, thought and told that it was the Old Lady’s “Saint” and believed she prayed before it regularly. But all the Lesleys had a certain pride in it. No other Prince Edward Island family could boast a doll like that. It conferred a certain distinction upon them and tourists wrote it up in their local papers when they went back home.’
Conveniently, the entire book is available for nowt here. Of course, Lucy Maud Montgomery was far more famous for the Anne of Green Gables books, which I loved almost as much. Anne was an incorrigible optimist, despite her many scrapes and unforntunate circumstances, and her attitude reinforced the sense of ‘she’ll be right’ already instilled in me by my ludicrously chipper family (optimism was quite a useful/necessary trait if you grew up with my lot. Now I think of it my Mum and I were watching the Anne mini-series one time when we heard a car alarm going off in the next street. Nobody came out to stop it. We eventually realised it was our he car (it has an alarm?!?!), and found one of the local hooligans, the aptly named ‘Blunt Sharpe,’ close by, claiming he was just on his way home from footy training and had nothing to do with it. He was on crutches, and it was almost midnight. Welcome to the Western Suburbs).