Childish Nonsense

Exploring Children's Literature

Stories, Stories Everywhere

on June 12, 2015
Aunt Mary's 95th

Norma, Mary (95th), Shirley (Mom)

This past week, I traveled to Iowa. What was supposed to be my aunt’s 100th birthday party turned into a funeral when she died suddenly, four days before her actual birthday. I say “suddenly” because, even though we all knew her time was short, she was in relatively good shape and was very much looking forward to the party.

The one good aspect was that most of the family already had travel plans. I saw all my living cousins on that side of the family for the first time in many years.

Even though the minister officiating didn’t know her well, he did an excellent job of gathering stories about the wonderful woman my aunt was. Naturally, there were aspects of her life that were too painful for anyone to bring up, but I’m sure the good memories triggered thoughts in everyone of those other times.

Any family gathering is rife with stories. Not all of them can be easily adapted to the story you’re trying to tell, but taking notes (or at least taking note) is a really good idea for writers.

Aunt Mary was an incredible cook. She learned a lot of what she knew from my grandmother. Borne at least partly out of the Depression and hard times, her meals always consisted of plentiful and basic ingredients. They always had a huge garden, and she canned or froze everything. Green beans, pickles, strawberries, cherries, corn, rhubarb, and horseradish. Although I don’t think I’ve had gooseberry pie since Grandma died. Must not have been a favorite of Aunt Mary’s. Homemade chicken and noodles is as close to heaven as you can get. Nothing like Aunt Mary’s macaroni and cheese. Knowing these flavors can only help a story.

My cousin, who preceded her mother in death, was mentally challenged. She was the closest thing I had to a sister growing up. My aunt and uncle could have chosen to have her institutionalized, but she lived with them well into her fifties. As she aged, Judy developed health problems that also affected her personality. Through it all, Aunt Mary dealt with whatever came. Taught me so much about how to approach people and how to deal with what’s in front of you.

These are just two areas where I feel my aunt’s influence enriched my life and my writing. She was a force to be reckoned with and I shall carry her with me forever.

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