Sometimes everything has to be enscribed across the heavens so you can find the one line already written inside you. Sometimes it takes a great sky to find that small, bright, and indescribable wedge of freedom in your own heart. David Whyte

Summer at Aunt Mamie’s

on August 28, 2015

The summer I was seven I was sent to stay with Aunt Mamie in a small town in Alabama. She lived in the house where she and my mother, along with five siblings, were born. I had severe asthma and the doctor thought it would build up my resistance to gain about ten pounds. My mother thought her sister’s fried chicken and beaten biscuits spread with butter churned from the milk of the cow across the street would accomplish that.

To me, a city child, that summer was magical. My education was profound. I learned important things like if the sun shone while it was raining it would rain at the same time the next day. A rainbow would have the same effect. With other uncles and aunts gathered on the wide screen porch of my aunt’s house I listened to a Joe Louis prize-fight on the radio. I didn’t learn until much later that most of America was glued to their radios that night, too. I learned how to make tiny scissors from two crossed straight-pins laid on the train track before the train whistled its way through town. I was initiated into the rhythm of Southern small-town life. I had almost forgotten how to live that way.

The cycle began with dinner in the middle of the day. We had chicken and biscuits along with vegetables from the garden and pie and ice cream for dessert, all accompanied by glasses of ice tea with mint, lemon and sugar. It’s no wonder that I did gain my ten pounds. After dinner it was nap time. I thought sleeping in the middle of the day was for babies and I resisted. Aunt Mamie read to me from the Raggedy Ann stories, identifying herself as the “Tired Old Horse” and me as the “Camel With the Wrinkly Knees”. When naps were over it was time for a bath and putting on freshly ironed clothes – a pinafore for me. Finally we got in the old maroon car and drove around the mile-square town to sit on other people’s front porches in rocking chairs and tell stories of what was going on at the moment or fifty years ago. I listened and received my most important lesson – to love and to tell stories of my own.

Mornings were a child’s dream. I got up early before anyone else was awake, put on yesterday’s pinafore and went outside to play in the sand box filled with cool sand from a nearby riverbank. The birds were up and sun beams were casting shadows of tree leaves barely moving in the morning breeze. I had the world to myself. Those mornings gave breath to my present life.

I was not thinking of the summer at Aunt Mamie’s when I was hunting for an apartment three summers ago. I had moved to be near family and wanted a small place of my own. As I looked out the window of this fourth-floor apartment I knew it was a space I could inhabit. The tall trees, the birds, the flowers on the garden patio below spoke to a well-remembered yet almost forgotten part of me. The arc of time had come full circle.

Written in response to Seeker Dungeon’s Prompt: What did you forget after growing up?

17 responses to “Summer at Aunt Mamie’s

  1. […] Summer at Aunt Mamie’s – Cronechronicler […]

  2. Sreejit Poole says:

    Awesome small town life stories. The ironed clothes for stories on other people porches – priceless.

  3. lauzlau says:

    I’m glad you’ve found a place to rekindle wonderful memories. Your story brought back a time gone by for me, too. My family would visit relatives all the time. I love the idea of “the sand box filled with cool sand from a nearby riverbank.”

  4. Nice piece. Windows are always my cue: if I have the right window, I can live here. That’s what sold us on this 1925-built house. Windows and sky.

  5. vivachange77 says:

    When I think back the windows were the best part of every house I’ve lived in beginning with 1947. Thanks for helping me make this connection. I like the way your 1925 house sounds.

  6. This is beautiful, I was right there with you in that southern summer, which sounds idyllic. I spent some summers with my aunt as a teenager – in a Yorkshire village for me; I’m not sure they taught me as much as yours did but I still look back on them as idyllic summers.

  7. vivachange77 says:

    Thanks, Andrea. I’m glad you connected with my story. Several years I spent a wonderful week based in Harrogate touring Yorkshire. I loved the countryside.

  8. […] Summer at Aunt Mamie’s – Cronechronicler […]

  9. Karuna says:

    I had forgotten about those enforced naps when we went to visit family in the South. I didn’t realize it was a Southern thing even now. And the information about rain is totally new to me. Thanks for sharing your memories!

  10. hbsuefred says:

    What a different place and time you described, and how lovingly and beautifully. I can understand the previously unrecognized impact in continues to have on you, as requested by the prompt.

    I grew up around family in the L.A. area in the 1950s and 60s. If I ever write a memoir, even slightly fictionalized, I would set it in that time and place. If that work ever starts, I will keep in mind your voice in this piece.

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