Note: This is the next in a series of posts contributed by our 90 year-old author, ~~~M Wave~~~. Show her some love! Visit her category “Memoirs of a Nonagenarian” at the right to see what else she has written.
I know that last week-end will remain memorable in my mind as I had a wonderful visit from one of my nieces and her family. I had not had the chance before to meet two of her three daughters, nor her husband. What a joy each person was. These girls are my great nieces and I am their great aunt. This fact stimulated the memory of a great aunt of my own…
When I was small, many extended family members lived nearby. As my brother and I walked home from school, we passed our grandparents’ house. And if we just turned right at the church house before we reached our grandparents’ and walked about a mile or so, we would arrive at my other grandfather’s sister, Lavina Smith and her husband Will’s house. We called them Aunt Vine and Uncle Will.
I was quite young when the grandparents of whom I just wrote were put in charge of my brother and me while my mother was in Chicago at the University of Illinois hospital with her mother whose own story is quite unique. It was at a time when X-rays were rather new and it was not known exactly how they could be used. Our doctor used X-rays “treatments” on my grandmother’s abdomen before he realized she was receiving what was actually, I guess, radiation and now grandmother was one of the first patients who needed help for a radiation burn which would not heal. In fact, since it seems that medical photography was not immediately available, an artist was commissioned to paint the interesting new look of a radiation burn. My grandmother used to joke that, somewhere in Chicago, perhaps she had quite an interesting picture of herself hanging on a wall. Eventually, skin was grafted from her hip onto her abdomen and she recovered. But, “Don’t touch me” became her motto.
On one of the days that Mother was away, my grandparents who were in charge of us had to be away when school was over and my brother and I had been instructed to walk to Aunt Vine’s house, which we did. When we arrived, however, both Aunt Vine and Uncle will were gone somewhere and the doors were locked. So my brother and I explored the area. In one of the nearby buildings, there was something rather special. It was where the milk was stored. (Remember this was wintertime.) It was skimmed milk, and the cream that had been skimmed off was there in a separate container. A tincup was hanging on a wire on the outside water pump and we, being typically hungry right after school, decided we shouldn’t allow ourselves to starve, so we took just a sip of cream. Back then, thick cold cream was tasting a bit close to ice cream in the middle of winter. Anyway it tasted great to us right then and we each had a good helping.
Then reality set in. We knew better than that. This was just like stealing since we did not have permission. We were in bad trouble. Maybe we should just keep quiet about it and no one would notice. Aunt Vine and Uncle Will came home and drove us back to my grandparents’ who had also returned home.
It was days before Mother called us in to her and said she had something important to ask us. “Did you help yourselves to the cream that was stored at Aunt Vine’s house the day you were there after school?” She instructed us to be sure to answer truthfully. Hesitantly we confessed. Mother went through the explanation of all the reasons that was wrong. First of all, Aunt Vine and Uncle Will sold cream at the town creamery and then bought groceries with the money. So we were affecting their having proper food. Secondly, since we did not have permission, it was too much like stealing. We both hung our heads. We felt guilty, and also were dreading punishment. Mother went on. It seems Aunt Vine had told my mother about it, but told her she did not want us punished, but just be given the explanation about the situation. Aunt Vine said she could recall how hungry she always was as a child when she had just arrived home from school and realized that we must have been famished. What a good soul–and how great that her memories were there to help our being forgiven–and to give me a wonderful memory of my great aunt and uncle.
I hope you are building sweet memories. Many friends around my own age have lost almost all of their brain power except for very old memories like this one. Some of these friends appear quite content with only those memories! Perhaps that isn’t all bad.