Wednesday, March 13, 2013

3/13/13 Aunt Laverne

I dreamed of Aunt Laverne this week. She's been gone nearly fifteen years but she still stops in to say hello from time to time. 

Aunt Laverne was technically Great Aunt Laverne, the sister of my grandfather Pearson and aunt to my dad. Pearson and Laverne were the oldest of the six siblings.

Laverne and Pearson, circa 1909, in Alabama

Circa 1919 (Laverne put a letter above everyone's heads) from left:
Pearson, Price, Daddy John and little Edith, Wilson, Mama Lessie, Baby Travis, and Laverne

School photo, early 20s
Laverne, front third from left. Younger brother Price, back row center.
We do not hail from sprightly, waifish stock, I assure you.

Volleyball team, back row second from right.

Newlywed photo

Laverne and Pearson, all growed up

Laverne and her Rebecca's Lodge friend, Ruby Carroll
(but those do not look like very comfortable shopping shoes.)

Much more Laverne's speed, on the farm with a shotgun, a dog, and in comfortable shoes. 

Wilson, Daddy John, and Laverne
Laverne's place was on the same land as John's house. Lessie died of ovarian cancer in 1950 and Laverne took care of John the rest of his life, cooking his meals every day for the next decade, and chasing off the gold-digger who tried to move in with him.

Laverne and George, who died in 1977. They had one baby, stillborn at birth.  

This has always been an interesting shot, with Price only half there.
The youngest siblings died young, Travis at 10 and Edith at 20. 
Price, who witnessed Travis' death was in and out of institutions most of his adult life. 
Wilson married and his two grandsons are the cousins with whom I keep in touch.

This was taken when Dan Saltsman, John's youngest half brother, and family came from Alabama to visit with John. Dan recorded the picnic they shared on their visit that I've written about before. From right, Dan, John, my grandparents, Laverne, and people I am assuming are related to Dan in front. Who knew young David Hasslehoff was related? 

Laverne, Lometa, Person, Wilson and his wife in front of my grandparents house in a rare color photograph. I am guessing George was taking the picture.

One of my favorite vintage pictures. That's the Laverne I remember.

On the farm

Actually, this is the Laverne I remember. Much later, but still with that laugh and twinkle in her eyes.
She had that gravely voice from smoking like a chimney her entire life and when she'd get set to roaring in laughter, it always ended in a wheezing/coughing laugh that sounded like a freight train. I have vivid memories of that house, of staying overnight, soaking in her claw footed bathtub, the creaking wooden floors, the blue can of cheese puffs she let me eat with abandon, of taking out the back steps from the kitchen and letting me fire her pearl-handled Colt45 into the air.

Tied up with Aunt Laverne is her house and her last dog, Buddy. 

Buddy and me, 1973

My last picture of Buddy around 1980, almost blind, but my best friend whenever we'd visit Aunt Laverne's house. The adults would go inside to talk forever, but Buddy and I would roam all over the place, on the front porch swing, back to the barns and the rabbit hutches, and out into the pastures or under the oak trees where millions of tiny little acorns littered the ground. 

When she died, she was one of the last of her generation, 90 years old, and the preacher who delivered her eulogy had never met her. I slipped him a piece of paper before the service and it was the only thing he said that was really about her. I don't have the original file anymore, but this is the gist of the story:

I was an only child, relatively sheltered, and a city girl at that. But in the summers, when we would visit my grandmother in Mexia, we would also invariably drive out into the country to see Aunt Laverne. One of my most favorite memories was the summer I spent with my grandmother, Me-Maw, by myself. She was not quite sure what to do to keep me entertained. We went vegetable picking and I got sunburned. And we visited Aunt Laverne. On that particular trip out, instead of staying inside the whole time, Aunt Laverne got a wild hair to drive her pickup across the land. I remember the glee of discovering she was going to let me sit in the back of the pickup truck! We got out, across the road, and into the side of the land I never frequented. And then she gunned it. Seriously, the woman gunned that pickup truck over ruts and grooves nearly bouncing me out. I guess she figured being cooped up and picking vegetables needed a thrill ride thrown in for good measure. After the first huge bump, when I got some serious air between me and the truck bed, I looked up alarmed through the back window. And there, looking back over their shoulders, was Me-Maw, slightly worried but smiling, and Aunt Laverne, laughing her head off. I imagine now that they're together again, they're still looking back over the shoulders at me, laughing and reminding me to hold on for the ride of my life. Drive on, Aunt Laverne. I'll meet you and Buddy in that undiscovered country soon enough.

Her gravesite, Dec. 30, 1907 to June 1, 1998, buried next to George, her baby, and her beloved parents, in the Ft. Parker Memorial Cemetery. I've been adding information to FindaGrave, which I should have discovered last month when Dad was telling me to access his free month of


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