Aunt Florence

I have written before about the time I spent in Fairmont, West Virginia when I was little. Much of that time was spent at my Aunt Jeanette’s house. She was my mother’s older sister and was widowed during WWII. I have a lot of good memories of that house. We would arrive late at night, and there was always coffee for the parents and something that Aunt Jeanette had baked. I still have an afghan she made me and one that she made for my son. As soon as I could, though, I would head up the hill to my Great Aunt Florence’s house.

Aunt Florence lived with her daughter, Agnes. I know she was married, but I never met her husband. In reality, she was my father’s aunt, his mother’s older sister. This is what I liked about Aunt Florence’s house: it was OK to be me there.

See, I was always tall for my age. And not very coordinated. In fact, in my “‘tween” years, that led to my being banned from a relative’s trailer. It was small; I might break something. But none of that mattered at Aunt Florence’s. She and her daughter Agnes always greeted me with a smile.

Can you guess what was even better? Aunt Florence and Agnes had a knick-knack shelf, and they never minded that I played with the things that were on it. Of course I was very careful. But I was used to being reminded about breaking things, and they never did that. They just let me be me. I was reminded of that this week when my younger sister visited with her kids.

My nephews are twelve and ten; my niece is six. My niece played with a scrapbook that my daughter made for me, very carefully turning the pages. She wound and rewound a music box that the daughter had given me, too. Not once did I worry about her breaking things, and I know that she had fun. She got in the drawers of the buffets we have in the living room and asked me and the hubby questions, but she was just being herself. As a result, I got to show her pictures of her mother and me with which she was unfamiliar. She got to listen to her own heartbeat with the stethoscope the son and daughter gave us so we could monitor blood pressure.

The nephews? They cooked. My sister and her family are vegetarians, so in their honor we had a tomato and artichoke heart pizza, and it was actually good! The boys cut the artichoke hearts, and they knew exactly what I was talking about when I reminded them to behave themselves with the knives. Then we baked the breakfast fig and nut cookies that I had tried not too long ago. The boys were very proficient in the kitchen. I was surprised by that and very pleased because they liked what they baked.

Which reminded me of Aunt Florence. My sister lives five hours away from me, and I don’t get to see her and her children as often as I would like. I love them, and I know they love me, but you have to really spend time with kids to get them to talk to you, and my sister’s kids are quiet like she is. So I am hoping that when they get older, they will look back on their visits to my house and get a warm feeling like I do when I remember mine to Aunt Florence. I hope that, through the things we did together, they will know that even though I don’t get to spend a lot of time with them, I love them. A lot.

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