I do feel as if I live with ghosts and it makes for a wonderfully rich life. The past is just as present and real as making breakfast and sending off emails.

When I met Billy the custom was already established that our clean laundry would go to Aunt Josie’s for ironing and mending. Billy’s friends use to slip their worn jeans in our laundry basket because they would come back  patched, and patched with piece of denim in a matching shade of blue. (She had a large pile of jeans beyond repair in the basement saved for this purpose. The back pockets and the bit behind the knee are generally less worn.) In the return basket on top of the pressed clothes, was always a yellow plastic bag that her Aegis had come in, tied with a knot and filled with newspaper clippings, old letters, and photos she had “dug up.” Sometimes there was a diary, a napkin, an old calendar, or a silver spoon. Picking and dropping off laundry didn’t happen without stopping to sit by the ironing board and having a cup of tea and hearing updates on the cat.

And we have read every bit she sent us and saved them all.

Monday 15th of June, 1914

Dear Annie,
I should have written you on Saturday but there was little time to do so. Hattie is doing well and seems very happy. The baby is fine; weighs eight pounds. Hattie kept wonderfully well till about the middle of the week, when she looked uncomfortable, tho she insisted she felt no pain. Thursday night at eleven pain commenced and continued at intervals tho she could still walk about the house. About eight o’clock Friday evening she went to bed and from that time she suffered until ten next morning most of that time being a severe painful struggle. She was brave and patient beyond words. Dr. Callahan came after ten Friday night and remained here until noon Saturday. No one went to bed, and all night two or three at a time tried all they could to help her. About eight Saturday am Dr. said, “Things have come to a stand still,” so Dr Kneile was phoned for and came promptly with ether and instruments and at ten twenty Saturday morning there was a hearty crying from your young niece. Hattie regained consciousness very promptly and things have gone on as they should. Dr Callahan has been in several times and of course Hattie should be kept quiet for a time; equally of course she is still very sore in every fiber of her being. She will love to see you and we have to have the Calvary kin very soon. Baby has dark blue eyes, dark hair, very long straight fingers and toes- and is what the Dr. calls well nourished, that is, she was not weak or thin at birth.  We are all deeply thankful that Hattie is safely over the trial and we feel that the child will be a sunbeam to all the household, and others as well. She has a bright intelligent face and we think her more and more beautiful every time we look at her. She sleeps mostly and when awake proves good lung power. The Dr. remarked, “that is a noble cry.” Now I will say goodbye. Having much else to do will close, with love from all- E Pleasants Dallam

And when Josephine was still young and each sentence was  an unexpected gift, Aunt Pleasy jotted down a few of her favorite sayings.  I imagine her laughing to herself and thinking she had better write that down before she forgot. Perhaps they were to be interesting bits she added to the letters to the aunts in Vineyard Haven and  Baltimore.  Aunt Josie was adored as a child and grew into a woman with all the confidence of someone firmly planted and  she adored the rest of us right back. She said (often!), “The ancestors would roll in their graves if I was ever found to be unkind to a child.”

“I am going round on the other side of the bed to see if I can find Susanna Gan.” (probably a doll.)

“Christy is husking corn. Johnny Brown has come. Will Banks is expected and Will Dallam is helping.”  (Johnny Brown lived in the rooms over the kitchen.)

“If you will loan me your scissors all day, I’ll give you 50c. I’ll cut your threads.”

She told me to write Aunt Nance “Billy stands up at the table- he is getting to be a strong boy. He knows letters on cards.”

“Aunt Carrie tell Billy where I am.”

“I put the scissors in their proper place.”

“Oh yes, oh yes, very I believe so.”

“Daddy don’t sew. Christy don’t sew. Ladies sew. Grandmothers sew very much.”

“My boy is powerful sick, he ate chestnuts and catsup and I gave him a hot water bag.”

“Children like to call their Aunts, indeed they do.”

“The great big grey cat asked Reddie what makes the clouds get up so early and Reddie said it was the sun made them get up.”

“My boy’s a rascal, I can’t get any thing done, tell him that Carrie.” (Carrie was a maiden aunt who lived at Broom’s Bloom)

“If I had time, I’d sweep and sweep and sweep and make the yard shine.”

“He didn’t know what to make of it.”

Josephine W. Dallam, aged 21 months, Spring 1917

One thought on “Josephine’s Sayings

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