Do you have any aunts or uncles who never had any children? What impact did they have on your life?
|left to right, Marie with two of her sisters|
Stell in middle and my mom
Catherine on the right in the '40s
My mother was one of eight children, not counting two who did not survive childbirth. The oldest child was Marie, and she never married or had children. She was very pretty when she was younger, and used to date, according to her sisters. But my dad speculated that a guy must have gotten "fresh" with Marie, as she never had a man in her life once she became a young woman.
Aunt Marie worked in the office of a major department store in Cincinnati, a job she kept until retirement. She took the bus downtown every day, having never learned to drive. She remained living with her mom and dad, so we got to see her when we visited my grandparents. She was always sweet and loving to us, and sometimes she would take a bus and come to see us in Chicago or Des Moines for her vacation.
I never saw her in anything other than a dress. I don't believe that she owned a pair of pants and certainly not any shorts. The small, shot-gun style house that she shared with her parents had no air conditioning, and the only toilet and shower were in the basement until my grandparents were older. Then the pantry off the kitchen was converted into a half bath.
My memories of my grandparents are fairly vague, but I can vividly see my aunt lighting the huge gas stove to make coffee or a meal, and see her standing at the old sink doing dishes. Sometimes when I kept her company in the kitchen I would sit on the old Formica table just to have her scoop me off with the admonishment, "Tables are for glasses, not for little asses!" Then we would burst into laughter, and it was all the more funny to me as Marie was not one for swearing.
One summer summer I stayed with Marie by myself, and I had arrived before she got home from work. I went in the kitchen to get some pop, and I heard squeaking noises from behind the refrigerator. Thinking it was a mouse, I quickly ran out to the front porch until it was time for me to meet her at the bus stop. As soon as I saw here I told her about the noise. "Oh, that's a bat," she nonchalantly stated. I stared at her incredulously. "A ba-a-a-t?", I exclaimed! All of a sudden a mouse didn't seem like a big deal. "It escaped from the attic", she informed me. Great, I thought to myself, I'm not going to sleep in one of the beds upstairs. I'll take the couch.
At the time I had waist-length hair, and the common perception was that a bat would fly towards it and get tangled in the hair. I had to come up with a way to get the bat out of the house - or I was going to go batty with worry. That night after it got dark we turned on the back porch light, then turned off all the lights inside the house. The thought was that the bat would fly towards the porch light. My job was to slam the door shut when the bat hit the screen door. Meanwhile, Marie was outside and would open the screen door to let the bat go. It was a perfect plan, right up until the time that I slammed the door on the bat, smashing it. Marie had to take a broom and sweep it up and into a trash can.
What a memory! All of my thought of Marie are good ones (well, maybe with the exception of the bat), as she was kind and caring and never had a cross word to say. She nursed her parents as they grew old, and she made by hand baby quilts for new additions to the family tree. An unfortunate accident later in life caused her to be paralyzed from the neck down, forcing her out of her childhood home and into a nursing home. She could no longer travel, read, knit, sew or do any of the activities that she loved. But we never heard her express a word of discontent over her circumstances. She died not long after celebrating her 90th birthday. After she died, I tried to put my feelings about her into the following poem, which was displayed at her funeral. She lived a long life in a manner that many people could learn a lot from. I hope that I emulate her, at least to some extent.
|poem for Marie|