Remembering Aunt Mabel

My great-aunt Mabel was a woman of old lace and glass teapots. Her family was well-known in the county, being fairly extensive land owners. Her home place was a large, three-story brick house built on a knoll overlooking their property. They were early settlers here, but none of this was of any serious consequence to Aunt Mabel.

My memories of her are in her later years, and as of late, she has been on my mind for some reason, even though she has been gone for many years. As I was making notes to write this column, I slowly realized that I am mirroring her life without any intention to do so. There are many differences but almost as many similarities, especially late in my life.

Aunt Mabel was single most of her life. She and her mother, Gertie, lived together for years, with Aunt Mabel tending her mother when her eyesight failed, as did her hearing. Aunt Mabel did finally marry, but it was short-lived, as he passed away much too soon.

On trips Mother and we girls (sister Juanita and I) would make to town, we would often stop in to visit. I remember the house as spotless and always in order, but welcoming. Old lace doilies covered the side tables with knick-knacks atop them. Of particular interest to this 8-year-old was a small, mahogany-looking wall clock that hung directly over her floor model TV in the living room. It boasted the old Roman numerals for the hours and, of all things, chimed on the hour, as well as on the half hour. I was completely taken with this “musical” clock!

Through the small kitchen, with a small white table and two chairs in the middle of the floor, you could reach her closed-in back porch. During one visit, Aunt Mabel escorted me there to see her many house plants. The entire length of the porch has windows so that the morning sun shone full strength through the glass. She dutifully named each and every plant, all of them potted in the old red clay pots and various cups and bowls, and I remember thinking how green they all were and healthy looking. She gave me my very first aloe plant, which was new to me, with full instructions on how to take care of it, of course!

There was one trip we took to the attic, which was just as organized and almost as clean as the rest of the house. She led the way up the stairs, but I don’t remember what we were looking for. I just recall the dry, old-time attic smell and a straight-backed chair, some books, not much else. But Aunt Mabel fit right in up there.

She was one to always care about her appearance. Anytime we stopped by, she always had on a well-pressed skirt, short-sleeved cotton blouse, nylon hose, black lace-up shoes, and every hair in place.

I can still hear her laugh! Her voice was a bit deep and so was her laugh! And she laughed a lot, which made me want to be around her. She was never afraid to laugh at herself–heartily! I never forgot that.

Our family always got the most enjoyment out of her telephone habits. She was not a gossip in any sense of the word and did not waste time on anything that wasn’t fruitful for her.

Of course, her hearing was quite bad (which I have inherited), so the phone was not her favorite thing. We would call to check on her on occasion, the conversation was mostly one-sided, and when she was done, she hung up! Often, without even a good-bye!

She was the one who got me interested in embroidery, which I have spent a lifetime enjoying. I still have a beautiful crewel embroidered couch pillow in my living room that she lovingly stitched. I have had many compliments on it and am always proud to say she made it especially for me. I, also, have several “stand scarves”, we call them, that she stitched, and I use them on a regular basis. Right now, they grace the backs of all my dining room chairs.

In my later years, I took up sewing and Aunt Mabel knew this. She gave me a pattern for a waste apron, a common piece for her day, that I use to this very day. She had placed a mail order for it. I looked last week; the postmark is 1950, and the pattern is sorely worn. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

She was a special lady. There was no planned entertainment when we visited her. We went simply because she was there. She drew us in, and I am so glad she did. She is a lost generation now, a generation I would have missed if she had not welcomed us.

And, now, I see in so many ways that I am living the life she did. So much of what I have written applies to me now. Isn’t that ironic? Who would have thought? My great Aunt Mabel. A blessing in my life–from then until now–whose value and influence I finally realized.