by Richard H. Liddell
Hugh Beaton Elementary School,
Grade 8, 1958-59, Windsor, Ontario. Richard Liddell is
bottom row left, Audrey Stewart is 2nd row right.
the summer I received this e.mail: I’m trying to locate
Richard Liddell, who wrote the article entitled “The
Christmas Dance” (December 2002, The TIMES.) Do
I have the right person? Beth Reidy
Thinking I was perhaps about to be sued for something I had
written, I sheepishly replied:
Beth, you have located the author of “The Christmas
Dance.” Unfortunately, the last name Reidy does not
ring any bells in my cobwebbed brain cells.
She replied: My mom was Audrey Stewart. A neighbour came
across your article in The TIMES [Audrey was featured in the
story]. I was so touched by what you wrote. My mom died when
I was nine, and a lot of my memories are limited to everyday
things. People who knew her always say what a great person
she was, but I never had a real sense of her until I read
your story. I want to let you know what you did for me, and
that I will treasure that story always as a reminder of what
a special lady my mom was. Thank you again, Beth Reidy
There are times as I am writing my “cute” stories
that I wonder if anyone really cares. I have led a charmed
life with few adversities and so my stories lack the depth,
power and passion of fellow TIMES writer, Tom Paré.
Beth’s response validated all those moments and I guess
even my simple stories do have merit.
Beth and her sister, Brenda’s permission, here is another
story about their mother.
dictionary had Audrey in mind when it defined “cute.”Short
and tiny with a head of jet black, curly hair and eyes dark
as a gypsy whose smile was at times mischievous. She didn’t
beat around the bush and forced her friends to get to the
point. I was one of those friends. I wasn’t cute. I
was a geek. My greatest asset was my pocket protector, which
soaked up large quantities of ink from the cartridge in my
loved to fight. Being the tiniest person in our class made
this interesting. I remember one baseball game in the boy’s
schoolyard at Hugh Beaton Public School when there was a close
call at first base. Audrey said she was safe. Max, the biggest
kid in the school, declared her “out.” Audrey
attacked. At first Max laughed, then shouted, “Hey,
that really hurts!” We had to pull them apart.
Audrey and I liked to swear, but never in front of adults.
I had read my first swear word on the urinal in the boy’s
change room at Hugh Beaton and asked my mom what it meant.
She carefully explained all the swear words she knew except
for two and asked me not to use them, even with my friends.
I let her down almost immediately. Audrey let her mom down
too. When Audrey swore I would laugh. Somehow those words
coming from that petite frame just seemed incongruous and
as I laughed, she would get upset and the words became louder
until she too would start to giggle.
was the fastest boy and she was the fastest girl sprinter
in our public school. Because of her tiny size Audrey probably
ran twice as many strides as the others but she usually broke
the tape at the other end. Road Runner and Speedy Gonzales
cartoons will give you some idea of her footwork.
were on the Safety Patrol and in grade eight, I became the
captain and Audrey, moved to my previous post at Kildare.
As captain, I was supposed to visit each post at least once
weekly but every morning I would arrive at Kildare and spend
the entire time with Audrey, as I did at noon and after school.
loved music and I would bring my transistor radio to our corner
and we’d listen to CKLW play the hits. Audrey was so
upset the day when Richie Valens, the Big Bopper and Buddy
Holly died when their plane crashed. Each of those artists
were hot and had current hits in the Top Ten.
hot, spring Saturday years later, when I was trying to study
in residence at college, someone cranked up Buddy Holly’s
“Peggy Sue.” A few people shouted, “turn
it off!” but most countered with, “turn it up!”
I thought of Audrey and “the day the music died.”)
loved to dance. She had an amazing hop style. Her daughter
Beth confirmed this love when she revealed to me that when
she and her sister took tap lessons as children, Audrey took
my story, “The Christmas Dance,” there is a moment
when Audrey was the only person who would dance with me at
the Safety Patrol Dance after I had put my foot in my mouth
and completely embarrassed myself and two of my friends. She
made me forget my bumbling stupidity.
one of us had a date for the grade eight graduation so went
together. It wasn’t really a date, but I have to admit
that Audrey liked to slow dance really close and to a disgusting
pubescent teenager like myself, that was just fine. As we
danced to Sonny James sing “Young Love,” she placed
her head on my chest and as I slowly closed my eyes, I could
feel those beautiful curls on my cheek.
I said goodnight that night at her home, Audrey told me she
was not going to Walkerville next year but to the High School
of Commerce. I was surprised but told her we would still see
a lot of each other, but she probably knew differently. Indeed,
the next year, new friends at high school replaced the old.
graduating from the Ontario Veterinary College, I worked for
a short time at Brack Animal Hospital on Howard Avenue. Audrey
appeared one day with Nuisance, her Siamese cat. Her beauty
and size were the same and after a few awkward moments, it
was like old times.
moved to Ajax to set up my own animal hospital, returning
to Windsor a few years later for a Walkerville reunion. There
I learned from Audrey’s brother, that she had died.
and I never kissed or hugged or held hands except on the dance
floor but I now wonder “what if?” What if she
had gone to Walkerville? Would our friendship have
I do know is that for the brief time Audrey and I were close
friends and in each life, close friends (and a good pocket
protector), are our most important asset. I miss her.
and Brenda: I’m sorry you didn’t have the chance
to know your mom longer. In the vernacular of the 1950’s,
she would have been so neat to have grown up with.
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