Several months ago, my dad gave me a journal kept by my Aunt Anita. Aunt Anita wrote a little bit each day, what she did, where she went, what she had for dinner, things like that.
Aunt Anita lived in Oklahoma. She was married to my Uncle Ned who died in 1995. She passed away in 2011. Aunt Anita and Uncle Ned never had children of their own, but they would’ve made great parents. As young girls, my sister and I spent an entire month with them one summer. With Aunt Anita’s patient instruction, I learned to sew, mastered the delicate art of milking a cow, and experienced the excitement of making our own butter. Aunt Anita spoiled us with pancakes for breakfast and by taking us out to eat 25 cent hamburgers at a local food stand.
Aunt Anita loved animals. Her dog, Patty, was like a member of the family. Aunt Anita paper-trained her pet bunny and gave it free reign of the house. That summer we played with turtles, lit real firecrackers on the Fourth of July (quite an experience for California girls accustomed to the “safe and sane” fireworks back home), and played house in her fully stocked and comfortably furnished storm cellar. Aunt Anita was a talented artist. I have one of her sketches framed and hung on my wall. It’s the one you see pictured at the top of this post. (I’ve heard it said that Aunt Anita sketched this picture with my Uncle Richard and Aunt Shirley in mind.)
The journal I have of Aunt Anita’s is from the year 1999. From it I learned that she still loved to draw and paint, made use of the public library, and did not like Bill Clinton at all. She wrote about her friends, Audie and Bonnie, and how she worried about Audie when he became ill. She recorded a prayer asking her Father in Heaven to “let Audie have a few more healthy, happy times on this earth.” She often gave her friends rides when they needed them or picked up items for them at the store.
I read about her two dogs, Jet and Tammy. Jet lived out at “The Ranch,” a piece of property outside town Aunt Anita owned. She traveled to The Ranch every day to check on Jet and feed him. She worried about her dog, Tammy, getting old. She wrote, “Got up about 1:00 a.m. and Tammy was not feeling well. Made some coffee and ate a roll. Wrapped Tammy up in a bed roll and laid her in bed next to me.”
Aunt Anita wrote about the heartbreak and anger she felt when she discovered vandals had trashed her house out at The Ranch. She wrote about killing ticks, repairing her lawnmower, and that she carried a gun in her pickup truck. She noted when she received mail at the Post Office, pulled weeds in the garden, and the date she paid her bills. I read about her fears, her disappointments, and how much she missed my uncle Ned. She wrote of how much my parents’ phone calls meant to her and how excited she was when they would drive out from California for a visit.
Some would look at Aunt Anita and conclude that her life and times weren’t all that important. I beg to differ. First of all, as an image bearer of God, her life had profound intrinsic worth. But on a personal level, Aunt Anita was important to her husband, her family, and her friends. She loved and was loved.
Without Aunt Anita, how else would I have known the warmth of hands helping guide fabric through a sewing machine and the pride of wearing my homemade dress to the ice-cream social at the Methodist Church? Where else would I have experienced the heavy humidity of a Oklahoma summer or the incomparable taste of fresh-churned butter melting over homemade pancakes? Who else would have comforted me when I cried myself to sleep for homesickness?
One short summer in a lifetime of summers, Aunt Anita poured her heart into mine. My history would be all the poorer without her.
Aunt Anita wrote about life as she saw it and thereby played a part in inspiring me to start this blog.
Thank you, Aunt Anita.