Aunt Maria is a recurring family member.
In the cookbook she terrifies the pots and pans and is generally judgemental…but occasionally complements and helps Mary. I may joke that Grandma is off joining the suffragettes but it’s Maria who I suspect of political ideas.
Grandma probably just drinks and gossips with women of her stature.
“Well,” said Aunt Maria, “you may turn out of some account, after all. It’s about time to call for a ref-or-ma-tion.”
“Yes, ma’am,” said Mary Frances, not un-der-stand-ing the big word—”do you want me to call for it now?”
“Don’t be saucy!” snapped the old lady.
Then she set about washing the little girl’s hands and face, rubbing so hard that it made the tears come, finishing off with the towel until Mary Frances felt her face shine.
“Wonder if she thinks I’m a stove,” she thought. “Maybe she’ll black me some day by mistake! I don’t believe she knows how old I am—she treats me like a baby, for all the world sometimes, yet she thinks I ought to know more. Queer!”
Excerpt From: Jane Eayre Fryer. “The Mary Frances Cook Book; Or, Adventures Among the Kitchen People.”
In the Housekeeping Book she never physically appears but it turns out that she has given Mary Frances two paper dolls in the past. Two…Black…paper dolls that Mary ignores until her white paper dolls have a house and furniture and decide they deserve hired help.
I wish I were making that up. That book is so horrible.
In the first aid book she only is mentioned once:
She made a gesture toward Shesa Brave, who came forward, and together they lifted before the class the tiny medicine cabinet which Mary Frances’ Aunt Maria had given her for her Dolls’ Hospital.
Aunt Maria’s gifts are always dubious. I just imagine her muttering about how even dolls need to learn proper first aid because one never knows when there will be a war or a traffic collision or a horrible fireworks accident.
In the crochet and knitting book we finally learn about which parent she’s related to. She’s a great-aunt… and a lousy teacher.
“It seems very strange to me that you do not know anything about such work,” said her aunt. “Why, I made your father learn how to knit when he was only six years old!”
Mary Frances did not tell her Aunt Maria that her father had told her about those lessons, and how he had hated the work because, every time he made a mistake, his aunt would whack his chubby, clumsy little fingers with a ruler.
You see, Aunt Maria was Mary Frances’ great-aunt, and was the aunt of her father also. Mary Frances’ grandmother, the mother of Mary Frances’ father, died when he was a little boy and his Aunt Maria had “brought him up.”
“Mother would like to teach me,” said Mary Frances, “but——”
“Your mother was not brought up right,” her aunt snapped. “What does she know about crocheting? She doesn’t know star stitch from coffee-bean stitch, and as for knitting—I don’t suppose she knows plain knitting from purling! Very queer! A very queer way to bring up a child!”
“But, Aunt Maria, don’t you remember? Mother fell and hurt her arm when she was little and couldn’t use it for such work for years,” said Mary Frances. “Even now it hurts her arm to try to crochet. That is what I commenced to tell you.”
“Oh, yes,” said Aunt Maria, “I remember now. But your arm doesn’t hurt, and you must learn to crochet and knit, my dear niece. You are so much like me anyway that you must learn to crochet and knit well. Then you may grow up to be almost exactly like me! Now, I must go set my bread. Nothing ever interferes with my program except sickness or death. You must be like me in that, too.”
Excerpt From: Jane Eayre Fryer. “The Mary Frances Knitting & Crocheting Book; Or, Adventures Among the Knitting People.”
In case you wondered, I will not be tackling the knitting and crocheting book. I think the designs are ugly.
They also remind me of the mixed feelings I had about when my grandmother (on my father’s side) would knit clothing for my Barbie. I loved some of it, was frustrated by some of it (Barbie’s hands would always catch on the long knitted sleeves) and straight up hated some of it (KNIT UNDIES). In retrospect I know that my grandmother’s skills were technically amazing (those tiny needles) but that her aesthetics when it came to color and wool choices were horrid.
I have knitting and crocheting skills (more knitting than crocheting) but have no desire to knit or crochet things kids would not be excited to put on their own dolls.
But…yes…now it’s time for Aunt Maria to visit Grandma and Mary and for more sewing to happen.