How many of us can remember the first time we felt loved. I only remember pieces. I was so young. I don’t know if I shed tears when my parents dropped me off at my aunt’s house. I don’t know anything other than my Aunt Thelma as the most amazing woman I have ever known.
She probably stood about my height. She had grey curls that sat close to her head. One of my strongest memories of her is how she would tie her shoes. She would put her foot onto the opposite knee. She would tie the bow on the side of her shoe instead of the middle. I remember thinking why would somebody tie their shoe this way. She was married to my Uncle Floyd. These two people were meant to be known to the world. Floyd was taller, not a giant just taller. To my child eyes, both of these people reached the clouds. Uncle Floyd meant the world to me. A piece of my world would crumble when I was 11 years old. His boat capsized during a fishing trip. My family had visited him the weekend before. I didn’t know it then, but that was the last time I would see my Uncle.
After I was born the doctors advised my mother not to have any more children. However, she became pregnant with my sister. My mother hid the pregnancy until she could no longer hide it. When she was eight months pregnant she had a seizer and subsequently went into labor. Both my mother and my sister’s life were in danger. They had to perform an emergency cesarean section. After the delivery, my mother was in a coma for three days. My father now had to take care of both my baby sister and my mother as well as continue to work. This is the reason I went to stay with my Aunt Thelma and Uncle Floyd.
Staying with my Aunt Thelma was the best experience of my life. Aunt Thelma’s’ children were adults so I became an only child for a time. I don’t know how long I stayed there. I do know that I had a room to myself. I remember the house being big, rooms and rooms. The living room extended into the dining room which led itself into the kitchen. However, the only time I went into the kitchen is when my Aunt would bathe me in the sink. It’s weird I know. She didn’t want me to drown. I assume I must have been pretty young to still fit into the sink or she had a huge sink. I used to love the way she would wrap the bar soap with the washcloth. It felt so delicate on my skin like it was wrapped in love and spread all over me.
The room I remember the best is the basement. It smelled like bleach and mothballs. Whenever I walk into a thrift store the smell of mothballs brings me back to my Aunt’s basement. We would do laundry together. She had an old-style washing machine. It was big, white, and round and it had an external ringer. We would wash the clothes in the washtub and then pull them through the wringer. We would turn the crank and pull the clothes from the other side. As the clothes went through the wringer you could see the water dripping off of them. She always said to watch your fingers. These wringers will pinch them flat.
After laundry, we would place the clothes into a basket and bring them outside to hang on the clothesline. The straight tight line would sag as we placed each item of clothing on it. We didn’t waste clothespins on the towels, we just folded them over the line. The shirts were hung by the shoulders and the pants were hung by the ankles. The air would blow around us and I would watch the clothes dance in the wind. The smell of the barn surrounded me. It wasn’t a horrible smell it was all hay, and feed, and animals. I would give anything to watch the clothes dance and smell the barn one more time.
As I sit here and write this, I think about my Aunt and Uncle and the time I had with them. It fills me with so much joy and sadness. Sadness, because my children will never know an Aunt Thelma or Uncle Floyd in their life. It’s up to me to show them the love that was gifted to me by these two amazing people. My Aunt and Uncle left a footprint in this world. I am their footprint.