July 2, 2019
I found out later that she was as surprised as I when she answered the door, that instead of her being taller than me by 2 ½ inches, I was now taller than her by the same! I’d driven 3.5 hours to have lunch with my Aunt Adeline in the town where I was born. At 92, she supplied the meal. She does not like restaurants; neither did her husband, my Uncle Gary, who died last December. I was delighted to eat barbeques that tasted just like those my mother made – they were very good, as was the cheese, pickles, potato salad, watermelon, and ice-cream that went along with them. Aunt Adeline has lost much of her hearing, but we communicated just fine.
We spoke of the sad, deserted downtown of this place to which she returned after teaching and living in Oregon for 50 years. When I was a girl it was a bustling, thriving town where we went for all of the needs we could not supply from our farm. I had a nightmare one time, barefoot in town; we ran barefoot at home but wouldn’t think of being barefoot in public. The dime store was my favorite, of course; there was a fabulous toy section and an area where tiny glass and ceramic animals were sold. Dress shops supplied us with clothes, a department store had astonishing pneumonic tubes that the cashier used to exchange money in a little brass cylinder with the office upstairs. I purchased my first Beatle album: Beatles 65, in the Music Store, where one could sit in a booth and listen to records before purchasing them. Hunter’s, the grocery store was physically connected to a farm store. In springtime, we’d push the swinging doors and go back in time to a barn-like atmosphere with rough wooden floors, to see live chicks under a heat lamp.
All that is gone now, and main street buildings are empty – one after another. With the demise of Shopko, the only place to buy clothes is Walmart, hunkered down north of the town proper, where it has been sucking the life out of the area for 30 years and which now finds itself preyed upon by Amazon. My Aunt, who does not use a computer has no other place to purchase what she needs, and she doesn’t like cheap things.
Avarice has its victims.
When we had finished our meal, I was admiring a photo of my grandparent’s home in winter, and of younger Aunt Adeline and Uncle Gary in photos on the wall in the hallway. My Aunt described the locations of the photos and commented on one of a buckskin horse, in a saddle and tied to a tree obviously in the wilderness. She and Uncle Gary used to go packing and camping on horseback in the mountains. She told me once that she was scared to go but didn’t want to be left behind, so she went anyway. I’ve always admired her for that courage. They had many adventures together, and owned numerous horses, some were Peruvian Paso Finos, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7SslqmM-YY.
Aunt Adeline invited me to choose something, if I was interested in that sort of thing, from her curio cabinets and walls for myself for after she died. It felt a bit odd to do this, and yet was wonderfully freeing – the truth is, she will soon die, and we spoke of that during my time there. The first thing I chose was the photo of my Grandparent’s home, but that had already been claimed by a cousin, so I asked for the photo of the horse. It was a mare who both my Uncle and she rode in the mountains. She put my name on a sticker and put it on the back; I’m hoping Aunt Adeline remembers the mare’s name before she is gone, she couldn’t then. The last thing I need is another thing for my wall – we are overrun by art, but this is what I want to remember about them. She encouraged me to choose other items, so I found a delightful little creamer and sugar bowl in an Art Deco style from Austria. If I’d found it in a second-hand store, I’d have bought it even though I didn’t need it, so it is especially meaningful that it is from her. When she no longer needs a beautiful hand thrown ceramic bowl, I’ll get that as well.