Aunt Mary was one of my mom’s older friends. She and her husband had one daughter, Ruth, who was perhaps a little younger than my mom and lived in another town. Mary Riggle took an interest in me and invited me to visit her and stay over night when I was in my early teens. “Aunt Mary” was an honorary title, for she not related to our family at all.
Aunt Mary and Uncle John lived in a lovely old house with big square rooms. Of course most rooms are square but that’s what my memory says about the house and rooms, square, neat and tidy. Uncle John went to work during the day and came home for supper and the evening. Both Uncle John and Aunt Mary were round and soft and jolly, sort of like Mr. and Mrs. Claus.
At bedtime, Aunt Mary made sure I was properly settled for the night. It felt so strange –strange but somehow delightful — to be alone in the big, upstairs guest room over night. The bed seemed so high and the mattress and pillows were so comfortable.
Comfortable is another word that is prominent in my memory of Aunt Mary. She was a happy, comfortable person to be around. I don’t think I have a picture of her but maybe when I have time to sort through the box of pictures that I have from my parents I will find one. We didn’t take a lot of pictures back in those days.
I don’t remember the meals so they must have been the kind of fare I was used to, or I would remember that. I remember that Aunt Mary’s favorite expression was, “Boys!” Where some would say, “Good grief!” or “my goodness!” Aunt Mary said, “Boys!” She said it a lot. Sometimes I would laugh and say, “Girls!” when she used her favorite expression.
Aunt Mary had a little dog, whose name escapes me, but the little dog loved to play with a little ball. She would bring me the ball and I would roll it across the floor and she would get the ball and bring it back to me. I remember thinking I would play with her till she got tired. But! She never got tired! I did!
Aunt Mary told me that she loved to play little tricks on the her little dog. One trick was that she would hide behind a door and when the little dog came looking for her, Aunt Mary would jump out and say, “Boo,” and startle the dog. After she did this several times, the dog turned the tables and hid behind the door and jumped out from behind it to startle her! After that, I think she stopped playing that game.
I remember visiting Aunt Mary’s mother with her. We walked a short distance through the alley to her mom’s house. Grandma lived in a long narrow house. My mind’s eye sees the dark, long, living room, with Grandma there in a long, dark dress. I don’t remember any conversation but I know that I was interested in this new situation. I think that Grandma was in her 90s, or at least seemed so, to me.
Aunt Mary told me that my mother had asked her to teach me to crochet, so she got out the crochet hook and thread and we sat down and I learned to crochet. As it turned out, my mom wasn’t the one who asked Aunt Mary to teach her daughter, but I was the one who learned, and I’ve never regretted it.
On another visit, Aunt Mary taught me to tat. I learned to make the basic loops and picots, making a long chain of them, but I never learned how to make a lace border with the skill. I still have the tatting shuttle that she gave me.
When I got married, Aunt Mary gave me handkerchief with a beautiful tatted edging that she wanted me to carry on my wedding day. Odd thing though, another of Mom’s older friends, Mrs. Harter, also gave me a handkerchief to carry on my wedding day. Not very many people that I knew tatted, even in those days. The hanky edgings were both exquisitely beautiful and I still have them, though I don’t remember which one was made by Aunt Mary. Nor do I remember how I solved the dilemma of which handkerchief to carry. I thought I would remember things like that forever but that would be over 50 years ago now, and a lot of those memories are dim. One of the sad things about getting older is that there is no one left now whom I can ask for clarification of my dim memories. Those dear ones are gone and I’m left with the big picture of the memories. Most of the fine, interesting details are lost in obscurity, packed in the archives of the past.