The first picture was taken, obviously when they were all young. The second picture was when they had aged some but were still 'young at heart.'
They were very special to me. They were honest, ethical, hard-working, good-timin' people. The men loved to play cards when they got together; usually euchre, and I can still hear the cards slap on the table as they would shoot the moon.
They were God-fearing, church-attending, bible-believing people who loved the Lord and taught their children to do the same.
One by one, they left this world, along with my parents. The one remaining was my Aunt Luella. She was the baby of the family and my godmother and my 'second mother.' I referred to her as that because I lived with her and Uncle Herb for 2 weeks every summer. They had a daughter, my cousin, who was only 10 months older than me and we considered each other sisters. I would spend 2 weeks in the big city of LaPorte, Indiana, and then Kathy would come home with me and spend 2 weeks enjoying country life at my house. We both thought the other life was the best. Sort of 'the grass is greener' concept.
On Saturday, I attended the funeral of Aunt Luella. She finally, at almost 98 years old, got to join her brothers and sisters in heaven. I am so happy she is there, but sad too. I have so many memories of those summer visits. I realize most of you reading this, didn't know my aunt, but perhaps you can relate to some of my random memories from childhood.
She made delicious meatballs. That was something we never had at home. My mother was a wonderful cook, but Italian fare was not in her repertoire. There was a day when Aunt Luella and Uncle Herb were going out for the evening and left Kathy and me in charge of Ken, Kathy's little brother. (What were they thinking??) Dinner was ready for us: spaghetti and Italian meatballs; a large pot full. When they returned, she asked what we did with the leftovers. Kathy and I looked at each other.
Leftovers? We were supposed to have leftovers? Aunt Luella was incredulous.
"Do you know how many meatballs I made?" We didn't, of course.
"I made 40 meatballs." (they were small, ok?) "Did Kenny get any?"
"Of course, he did," we said rather indignantly. "He had 6, probably."
"You girls ate 34 meatballs?" she said in a stern voice, but as we looked at each other and back at her, she started laughing and couldn't stop. Whew. We were off the hook.
Another time, we were all setting at the table, ready to eat. Kathy and I were across from each other. I took a large gulp of milk, looked at Kathy and for no explainable reason, burst into a spasm of laughter, thereby spewing the milk in my mouth across the entire table and the food. Aunt Luella looked at Uncle Herb, who was as dumbfounded as she, and then she said, "Well, for goodness sake." She got up, got a towel, wiped up as much as she could and continued on as if someone covered her prepared dinner in milk every day of the week.
She was not only my favorite aunt, she was my godmother, too. She would give me really cool, in-style gifts for my birthday and Christmas. One year it was a lime green scarf (yes, lime green was in style way back then, too) with a pin to fasten it when you tied it around your neck. I still have the pin. I thought I was hot stuff.
When it was unbearably hot at night, she allowed us to pull the mattress off Kathy's bed and put it on the floor in front of the window so we could get a little breeze. We giggled uncontrollably about everything and nothing. Usually, we didn't even know what we were giggling about. Aunt Luella would come to the foot of the stairs and tell us to go to sleep. We would promise we would. Fifteen minutes later, she would tell us the same thing. We tried...we just couldn't stop laughing. Some nights, I think she made 5 trips to the bottom of the stairs before we went to sleep. She never screamed and yelled; she just kept saying, "Girls! Go to sleep."
I could go on and on with stories about Christmas cookies we found in a cookie jar on top of the refrigerator, in July. (They were Lady Fingers, but they should have been renamed Rocks by the time we found them. She told us to go ahead and eat them.), the summer we were going to a forbidden movie and got caught, or the Pat Boone movie we sat through 3 times, having to take Kenny to the park and hating every minute of it, or cluttering up her entire living room while we played 'office' and school. She allowed us to go to the lake and swim nearly every day. I tasted my first pizza in LaPorte. (Another food that wasn't on the menu at home.)
I choose to remember all of my aunts and uncles in loving ways. It is rather scary to me to think that with her death, there are NO MORE relatives of that generation, which makes my generation the oldest. No more people to ask questions about something from their lifetimes. I have a lot of it written down, but occasionally, I wish I could ask something.
Aunts and uncles are so important in children's lives. They are the second line of defense, after the parents, against some of the things of this world and should take that responsibility seriously. I learned so much from my parents and grandmother, but I learned a lot from my aunts and uncles, too.
Try to be a good aunt or uncle. Your nieces and nephews will remember what you say and how you act. I did.