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
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.”