Monday, 17 October 2011

My Auntie Ediee

Belle, Edith and me; 1948

Words come with difficulty as I puzzle over how to express my recollections of Auntie Ediee. My mother's younger sister, Auntie Ediee is there in my earliest memories, she's one of my mothers. And always, there are children and family around her. She knew how to knit the fabric of family together.

My earliest memory of her: I am a less than six years old and I play with my cousins inside, noisily, enthusiastically, several families together for a time, a tribe sharing a common space. The only adults in the room: Auntie Ediee sitting at a table and Uncle Roy standing beside her. I push a doll buggy past them, I realise she is crying, silently, tears rolling down her cheeks. I feel stunned. I want Uncle Roy to stop making her cry. But I know she doesn't want anyone to notice. She was probably 19 or 20.

A few years later, on Easter, our tribe went to the California foothills which were ablaze in golden poppies, for an egghunt. Cousin Roy Lee found a tiny bird's nest full of little eggs. What a glorious day. Years later I felt sure I had found that nest, but my sister said, no, Roy Lee found it. It took me a moment to readjust my memory and figure out what had happened - that Roy Lee seemed so much a part of me, that it had happened to me, too, when he found the nest.

When my parents moved to Oregon in 1951, Highway 101 was a two lane highway. Two cars pulling U-Haul trailers leapfrogged northward, one driven by Uncle Roy, the other by my Dad, hauling all our belongings, us kids plus the dog, to the dairy farm on the Winchuck River. Uncle Roy returned to his home in Southern California and with Aunt Ediee and the kids began making weekend visits to our place, leaving Southern California on Friday, helping Dad over the weekend, playing Canasta with my folks until late into the night, and returning south in time for work on Monday morning. Eventually they, too, packed up and moved in with us for a wonderful while. I loved having my younger cousins around, Roy Lee and I rode horses bareback until his pony's boney spine rubbed Roy Lee raw in an unfortunate place, and I know my Mom loved having her little sister for company.

Belle, Edith; 1953

Then one summer we moved in with Auntie Ediee and Uncle Roy after they had moved back to Petersburg, Virginia. Life in Virginia proved very different to me. Sheet lightning on humid summer afternoons left me awed. I had never encountered separate public drinking fountains for whites and blacks and I didn't want to drink at either. We had arrived in Virginia just in time for Debbie's birth. I don't know how we all fit in that house. Some afternoons we got treats from the ice cream truck that came through the neighbourhood and you had to eat it fast or Uncle Roy would attempt a raid on your cone. In those days before TV, he entertained us with fantastic ghost stories that left us deliciously frightened. Some days we ran outside when we heard the call: "Watermelon! Waaatermelon!" and stopped the man pushing a cart loaded with watermelon down the street. I learned to weave pot holders from a neighbor girl. She and I went from house to house, selling them as well as crocheted and starched, minature high heels that her mom made.  I remember Donna as a littlie with incredible, curly, red hair. Donna's most powerful threat when pushed to the limit: "I won't let you brush my hair anymore!" I remember Cheryl's big grin most of all. She usually had a twinkle in her eye.... but that sure didn't make her a pushover!

Both families ended up back on the West Coast, mainly in California, but the roving gene remained active. Roy Lee joined the Navy, Debbie ventured off to live in Africa for a while. Back in Northern California, Debbie encouraged Jerry and me to accompany her to see an incredible outdoor performance by a drama group traveling entirely by horse drawn wagons, down the West Coast, from Canada to Mexico. After the performance, we chatted with some of the performers. Someone exclaimed: "Oh, I'd love to do what you're doing, but....!" The performer replied, "You can do it. You just have to decide to do it." Bless your heart, Debbie, for taking us there.

Carrying the roving gene, I've moved halfway around the world to Australia, and I miss gathering with our family, our tribe, in memory of my beloved Auntie Ediee. I grapple with the loss of one of foundation stones of my life's beginnings. And that is how the cycle of Life and Death works.

Aunt Ediee continued to travel back and forth her whole life, spending time with her loved ones, and that special family circle continued to grow, to include grandchildren and great grandchildren as well as more distant cousins . She had to travel this last trip alone, surrounded by loved ones at the outset and surely surrounded by love on her arrival at Heaven's Gate.

Edith, 2002, Scotland (photo by Debbie)
Love and Peace to you all.

by M in JaM


Redbird said...

A very special and dearly loved auntie. Thanks for your stories mom. She is loved and missed.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful story..I live in Smith River come visit sometime!
Deanne Parks (Gray) Charles Gray's daughter

Anonymous said...

Interesting stories of my father Roy Lee...Thank you for sharing.