I was just 4 1/2 years old when she died, but I remember my mom’s Aunt Freda. Without pictures, I likely wouldn’t remember what she looked like, but even without pictures, I certainly remember what it felt like to be near her.
She didn’t have any of her own, but she loved children and children loved her. We spent holidays together – sometimes with a crowd of relatives at her house, sometimes with that crowd at our house, but there were quieter times together too.
Mom says Aunt Freda gave her strict instructions to call the minute my sister and I woke up on Christmas morning so they could quickly drive over to watch us discover what Santa had brought. She took care of us when my Mom had an appointment or errands to run. Better than that, she sometimes let us stay the night at her house. She and Uncle Everett had created a room in part of their attic. It wasn’t fancy by any means, and separating it from the rest of the attic was only a small doorway with a curtain hung between the two spaces. It held an old chifforobe, two rollaway beds – one full/double size and one twin, and a table between them. Had that room belonged to anyone else, it may have seemed scary; but when we were with Aunt Freda, everything was fun and the attic was a cozy and almost magical place. We talked and told stories and giggled in the dark there. Aunt Freda invested time and love in us and nobody made us feel more special than Aunt Freda did.
She was a stylish dresser, wearing hats and high heals. She walked with confidence and purpose, but knew when to stop to enjoy things along the way. She loved her Maker, and wanted others to know Him too.
Her home was practical, but carefully decorated. She had pretty things displayed all over. In a built-in shelf above her sofa sat miniature ceramic items to be admired. One day, out of the blue it seemed, Aunt Freda told my sister and I that we could pick out ANY one of the little sets right off the shelf of her pretty collection. My sister choose a dainty teapot and cups. I chose a chicken family (I can offer no explanation for that choice). I still have that chicken set and the memory of her generosity. I believe my sister has both her set and the memory too. Aunt Freda bought us girlie gifts. Something in style at that time was a furry tube attached to a long ribbon called a “muff”. It was worn around the neck for the purpose of keeping hands warm in the winter. My sister loved hers and could be found wearing it inside also. Aunt Freda had beautiful flower gardens. There was a white trellis in her front yard where a flowery vine grew in summer months. She planted prickly pear cactus near the back door that I worried about falling into should I misjudge my footing. The beautiful yellow flowers that cactus produced were worth the risk of it’s thorns.
Like most women during that era, she donned an apron when working at the house. There were often ladies at her home playing cards at a card table in the living room.
Freda’s grandmother, Rozelma, passed family history information on to her daughter Nina
(see post titled “I Found My Great Grandmother in a Box”), who passed it on to her daughter Freda, who passed it on to her niece/my mother. (I hadn’t noticed before that all three names end in “a”.) As valuable as names and dates, they all instilled in the next a desire to know and preserve the information, which came alongside a love of family.
Mom says when Aunt Freda died, she braced herself for my sister and I to be sad and cry. So it was a surprise when a smile started and grew big on my face as I said “Won’t Jesus be happy to see her?!” For many years, we wore Aunt Freda’s hats and shoes to dress-up like her and we hoped that when we grew up we would be like her.
The shoes and the hats are gone now, but I still feel the love that surrounded Aunt Freda wherever she went whether it was in her bright cheery flower gardens or the primitive yet magical attic. And I hope I did grow up to be like her.