Friday, October 16, 2009

Remembering Aunt Leone



Most of what I remember about Aunt Leone dates to my youth. I loved going to Bakers to visit. Baker Ranch was exactly 40 miles west of ours on the other side of the road but Tramping Lake being in the way, the detour around by Unity was 70 miles. Terry, Ross, Stan and I would spend most of our time playing outside in the bale stacks when we were younger and down in the basement shooting pool (or the breeze) when we were older. Ev, Wendy and Sandy hung out together doing whatever it is that young girls do (play with dolls and dream of soldiers?).

Aunt Leone was six years younger than my mom, always beautiful and classy, smiling and cheerful. She was always bustling about, too, especially at family dinners and get togethers. She never seemed to be still until everyone was fed and the place cleaned up. Her house was always clean and shining and her flowers outside so lovely, characteristics of her mother, too.

While Grandma and Grandpa were alive, the Johnson sisters and their families got together quite often during the year, especially Easter and Boxing Day. The families were close enough together that traveling wasn’t a problem and the 10 cousins got along famously.

Dinners in the big country kitchen of Aunt Leone’s were to be looked forward to and over consumption was the rule of the day. Aunt Leone could and did cook up a storm. Sweet potatoes were a regular item, something different in the 50’s when food tended to be pretty plain fare and even Chinese Food was unheard of.

Once the cousins started bringing spouses and partners, the old people hid in the living room and the young folks were relegated to the kitchen. I recall once, likely the first year I was married as I am sure Ella was there, making a side comment to Nancy out of the blue about an undertaker who was in dead earnest. Nancy got the giggles so bad, Aunt Leone came out to see what was going on, flashed her big smile and went back to the living room. Close call.

One of the reasons I loved Aunt Leone was that my father didn’t quite approve of her. She had freedom and she had opinions, both of which in a woman were an anathema to my father and both of which she exercised as the spirit moved her. I think my father was always afraid she would infect my mother. Too bad she didn’t.

As we all grew older, distance and responsibilities intervened, visits grew less frequent but I was always so happy to see her whenever opportunity arose. One this trip home, something told me we better not miss out and Tanya and I stopped in for a short visit. I am so glad we did because three weeks later she was gone.

Now she is at peace with herself and the world, reunited with that great big wonderful teddy-bear husband of hers. I am sure Uncle Frank was glad to see her. I can hear his laugh and his booming voice “Well, you sure took your time!”

No comments:

Post a Comment