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The China Adventures Of Arielle Gabriel

The Canada Adventures of Arielle Gabriel

Betty Gillis, Mom of My Best Friend

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Betty Gillis was a mother who stood out in our suburban neighbourhood.

Her husband Robert was a serious alcoholic, something we did not need to refer to by any words. The couple managed hotels and motels for their living, and Betty owned real estate as well. She called herself a business woman. So she worked, and the burden of the work was more upon her.

She read extensively, and all types of novels, biographies, and nom-fiction. She was smart. I remember seeing books by Jean Paul Sartra, Albert Camut, Tolstoi and Dickens among the hundreds of classics lining her living room shelves. That was unusual in those days, and maybe even now.

She was independent, and took holidays separately from her husband and her children, flying off to Mexico, and talking about handsome the men were. She especially liked the movie star Clint Eastwood, and talked about him to us.

She was devout, a Roman Catholic, saddled with a heavily drinking mate, never abandoning him or her children, except for her much needed tropical vacations.

She was generous, baking German bundt cakes for Barbara and me, bringing them over to our Selma Street house in Burnaby, on a weekly basis, artistic looking creations that looked even better than they tasted.

She had a salty, down to earth, practical way of talking, and a feminine, elegant way of dressing - clothes that went out of style for a while, but are now coming back with a vengeance. Sleeveless sundresses with boned bodices, and flaring full skirts. Rustling taffetas, and fabrics without an ounce of synethics in them: wools, cottons, silks.

Mr. Gillis was never really violent nor abusive, but his drinking caved a hole in the unity of their family life, just as the promiscuity of my father sunk my own family, as the iceberg sank the Titanic.

After Barara's parents bought their motel on Kingsway Boulevard, I used to take the bus over there on the weekends to hang out with Barb, sleeping overnight on a rollaway cot in her bedroom. 

In the mornings, we made French toast, piles of it, a favourite breakfast food, with endless coffee, to discuss crucial interests, like our latest infatuations on boys and what to do about them.

One memorable and poignant visit, I remember arriving to discover that Mr. Gillis, in a drunken state, had killed the family's pet budgie the night before. We were all so shocked, we were as speechless as the now departed bird.

And Betty continued on, baking her German bundt cakes, a good Canadian woman, a wife and a mother.

She was as stoicical as my own mother was verbiose, two responses to difficulties in marriage.
Both loving mothers who had tried their best at wedlock, and perhaps deserved more.

Lamma Island * Lantau Island * Cheung Chau Island
Hong Kong * Mui Wo * Peng Chau Island
Tung Chung * Shenzhen * Nanning * Hunan Province
Bobcaygeon * Pointe Claire * Montreal
Peterborough * Lake Sturgeon * Ontario
Vancouver * Richmond * British Columbia

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The China Adventures Of Arielle Gabriel

Bobcaygeon, Mui Wo, Lantau, Tung Chung
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