Monday is my Aunt B's 87th birthday. Aunt B never had any of her own children but she is the favorite aunt in the family. She may be 87 but she is still going strong. For her 80th birthday the family took up a collection to send her parasailing because that's what she wanted to do more than anything else. She loved it.
My favorite memories of Aunt B are of the times "in the mountains" when I'd go up with my grandparents (the place I recently wrote about). She still has the property adjoining what used to be theirs. She still drives up there to go visit her favorite place and all her animal friends.
A couple years ago when my uncle died Aunt B started writing little stories as a way of working through her grief. I believe it started when she sent a thank you note to someone who had travelled a great distance to come to the funeral. In it she reminisced about times in the mountains they all had shared. The idea was born and she began recording other simple stories, mostly about the animals she loves so much. She showed her two sisters who were less than encouraging in their response. In fact, they were downright discouraging. Aunt B continued writing but became highly selective about who got to read her stories. Last Thanksgiving I was welcomed into that circle. I was delighted by that. Since that time she has sent me several stories she has first shared with other folks. For my birthday this year she sent me one she said she wrote just for me. That was a very precious gift. A few days ago I found another one in my mailbox, which was also written just for me but she said I may share it.
Most of her stories are very simply written. Some folks like the other aunts could be very critical of the style because it lacks polish or sophistication. But the stories express Aunt B's heart, which I find quite lovely. The latest one was also deeply special because it revealed something about my grandfather I never knew. I knew he had lost part of a foot and had the same leg damaged rather extensively during his service in WW2. I knew that his time in the mountains was something that soothed his scarred spirit. I also have memories of how he could sit in the backyard and coax the songbirds to come eat seed from his very hands. Aunt B's story brought all of that into focus in a new way. Allow me to share her story without edit as well as part of her preface in the letter.
Here is a story for you to share. I had seen this many times. It was amazing how that bird would fly to him when he would walk up to see me. He said he called the bird "Skip." He said he named the bird that because he said when he and the bird were walking he felt like skipping but he had a hard time doing that because of his foot.
Love to all,
Hello, I am a chickadee. I have a story to tell you. I lived in the mountains with a friend I miss. His name was Russell. He would come and stay in the mountain home and then we would visit. Russell would sit on his back porch and have a pan full of sunflower seeds and other kinds of food for me to eat. He would hold the food in his hand and I would sit there and eat the food. One day I flew from his hand and I sat on his hat. He got up and was walking around so I stayed on his hat. From then on when I was flying by I would sit on his hat. We would walk all around to see the neighbors and it made Russell feel happy that the neighbors could see us walking. He would walk and I would ride on his hat. That way my wings did not get tired. We were friends for many years. Then one day he went away and never came back. I looked for him for a long time but never found him again.
Ok, a bit melancholy perhaps but a precious gift to me to have a fuller idea of the peace my grandfather found on the trails with Skip. So today I'm counting a grandfather who shared the places of peace, an aunt who has found peace in writing, and the gift of her sharing it with me. For her birthday I plan to share some of the things I've written about my time in the mountains. I hope mine make her smile the way hers have made me smile.