Some Memories of Aunt Aldine
My dad had a hard childhood orphaned at age 11. After serving in the service, he moved to AL where his brother (Ray) and wife (Aldine) were living. She kept encouraging him to go to college — she probably hoped that this would get him on a better path than the drinking he was doing at the time. He did go to college and he graduated. Later he went back for more and became a teacher —- probably again from Aldine’s influence. He deeply valued his education and where it had taken him in life and what it brought to him personally. He always credited Aldine for this.
My mom talks about the other woman my dad was dating before they married. Her name was Marie. Someone told her that my dad asked Aldine which one he should marry: Marie or Hazel. Aldine chose Hazel. Mom thinks it was because she was going to a Baptist Church and Marie was Catholic. Whatever the reason, I’m glad Aldine chose my mom!
With my dad’s parents dying when he was a child and my mom’s dying when I was very young, I felt sad without grandparents. Aldine gave us a picture of my dad’s mom holding my uncle Ray when he was a baby. She had painted the picture. In it, I saw a bit of the resemblance that my dad had seen when I was on swim team and my hair was pulled back. I have her “widow’s peak.” Having this picture meant, and still means, a lot to me. It connected me to my grandmother that felt so far removed by distance (Maine) and tragic loss.
As a kid, I was a wannabe rebel. There was a time when I was visiting Athens and wanted to write down recipes from a new recipe book Aldine had. She provided the paper and pens. What she didn’t know was that I was really interested in writing down the recipes that had alcohol in them (I bet she didn’t know that there were any such recipes in there!). What exactly I thought as a 12 year old I was going to do with a bunch of recipes with rum and bourbon is lost to me now, but I knew she would be really upset if she saw me doing this.
I remember this as one of the most stressful sneaky things I did as a kid. She seemed to know I was up to no good. She kept looking at me. Every time I’d look up, her eyes would be on me from the other room, then she would look down. I was in my absolute best stealth mode. I had a sheet with a non-alcohol recipe. Every now and then she would stop looking and walk over and I’d quickly shift papers and continue writing the lasagna recipe. This went on for at least 2 hours. I think she commented on how many lasagne recipes the book had.
A few months later, Aldine gave us a picture she had painted. It was me sitting at her kitchen table. Writing down recipes.
My parents put the picture up in the den. Every time I saw it as a teenager, the memory of my sneakiness would come back and how disappointed she would have been in me if she had discovered my shenanigans. The picture became a watching presence to me during my teens and young adulthood.
It is interesting how we shape each other’s lives — sometimes in ways that are not clear or straightforward. I miss her and I miss Ray.
With love to all those who loved her and were touched by her.
Monday January 1, 2018 at 11:08 pm