It’s one of those evenings quite familiar to me. Caught between extreme frustration and wanting to act out as grossly immature as possible and yet reminded I’m suppose to be trying attempts at sereneness and sedateness to lower my blood pressure. So rather than plot demises in my head I’m creating lists of gratefulness. It’s interesting where the brain goes when it’s forced into positivity.
Late this afternoon I started messing around in the kitchen and decided to make veggie paella while sipping on a glass of wine and watching the down flurry of snow outside my kitchen window. I nibbled on crackers while the yummy smells of rice, tomatoes, saffron, and veggies melded together. I decided to add Kerrygold butter to my crackers (which by the way, nothing food related in this sentence will be found on a lower hypertension diet) and all of a sudden I was 7 years old sitting at the country club with my Aunt Vi.
Much of what I remember about my Aunt Viola has to be made up but many of stories of this larger than life woman ring true. My Aunt Vi was my Grammy’s sister in law. My great uncle passed away leaving my aunt a widow at a relatively young age. Since my Grammy was also widowed as a young mother the two had a tight bond. I think there are stories of Viola Maxwell being one the first business women in the very small rural town of Mexico, Missouri. Of what type of business I can’t be sure. I seem to recall her meeting one of the presidents one time? I remember black and white photos of her surrounded by large groups of men dressed in 50’s dapper while she shook the hand of someone obviously important. Mostly what I remember about my Aunt Vi was what she talked about and how she talked to me.
Unlike most women of her era or even the current era, my Aunt Vi didn’t talk about other people. She talked about things. She talked about world events. She talked about local politics. When my Grammy would take me to sit in her front parlor amidst all the tiny chatychkes and candy bowls that you would almost guarantee had been there since the second World War, my Aunt Vi would talk directly to me and not over me or worse yet through me like I was invisible. I couldn’t have been more than 8 or 9 by Aunt Vi knew I had a brain worth using and as woman she knew that was one of my greatest assets.
One of my distinct memories is sitting at a long banquet table at the local country club where my Aunt Vi was treating us to a lunch on a hot summer day. Most of the adult conversation was over or through me. The lunch was taking forever in my mind to be served and I was so hungry I could have eaten my little brother’s big toe. I remember by Aunt Vi with that onery, crystal clear sparkle in her eye, slipping me saltines smeared with real butter. Through all the ostentatiousness of a country club in no matter how small the town, through the loud chatter of family get togethers, through the expectation of children behaving and not whining and not complaining of heat, hunger, or boredom my Aunt Vi saw me. I can’t explain why but saltines with soft real butter showed I matter, that she knew I was thinking, and I deserved to be seen.
I can’t tell you much else about my Aunt Vi. I don’t think she ever had children and if she did she survived them. I don’t know her maiden name. I don’t know why she chose to marry my great uncle. There may be a scholarship fund in her name. I don’t know what business she was in. I don’t know what clubs she belonged to. I can’t tell you a single contribution she made to her community. I believe she attended the United Methodist Church. I assume she was of Irish descent but I can’t tell you that for sure. I don’t know much about her other than I thought it was pretty funny when she wore purple suits.
What I can tell you is she was a strong woman in history.But what I do remember right or wrong is a woman who walked with a straight back, who looked you in the eye, expected you to use your brain while she used hers. And that is first entry on my list of gratefulness.