The only word that could describe her aunt was gracious. The other family on that hill, her second set of parents, were her mother’s sister and her husband. They were childless. Even as an adult, she ran between the two houses and didn’t really differentiate between her parents and her aunt and uncle. She loved them equally. Her aunt, like her grandmother, was a take-charge woman. Liberated, strong, but loving and above all, gracious. In so many ways, she saved her.
Her aunt was a teacher and she made a nice test student. She tested her for reading, math, all skills, from the time she was three or four years old. She insisted she be well-rounded and bought her a piano. She started lessons at seven years old. She had all the reading material that a girl could want. Between her mother and her aunt, they bought her beautiful school clothes in the nearest big city. She often felt like a princess. But, she was shy and most people didn’t know any of this.
Her aunt tried to teach her how to be a lady, but she was a tomboy. They lived in the country and all of her playmates, except two, were boys. She learned to play baseball and was the pitcher. Her aunt just shook her head. Her first love, for all of her life, were her dogs. Her uncle would find dogs by the road and bring them home to her. She would nurse them back to health. Her aunt would smile in spite of herself and shake her head again. She always found time to study and four hours each day to practice piano.
She had great respect for her aunt. She listened to her lessons about life. She listened to her lessons about their family. She particularly listened to her lessons about her parents. Her aunt desperately wanted her to go on into higher education and become self-sufficient. She didn’t really know what that meant then, but later she did and she appreciated her aunt’s push in that direction. She depended on her for so many things.
Later in life, when she was a very young woman, her aunt became ill. Her Daddy was ill. Her mother was ill. Her aunt and her Daddy died within three months of each other. She was forlorn. She still had her mother and uncle. She still had a large extended family. But, she felt the very fabric of her life being ripped out from under her. She was losing the families on the hill and she didn’t know how to cope.