Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A quilt of memories

I remember my Aunt Bubu (she was my father’s aunt) standing in her kitchen beating cream until it turned to butter. She was always called Bubu (Boo Boo) by the family but other people called her Ruby, her real name. Her sisters were named Diamond and Pearl. I don’t know how she got the name Bubu. I remember the old ringer washer that she used to “worsh” the clothes. “Worsh” was the way everyone pronounced it.

Uncle Rusty looked a lot like Randolph Scott, a movie star who was popular then. He was a quiet man. Aunt Bubu did the talking. She was “feisty,” a word we don’t hear so much nowadays. Like ornery. Aunt Bubu and Uncle Rusty lived in a tiny town called Three Sands. It was founded around 1900 as an oil boom shanty town and my Uncle Rusty worked for the oil company. It had been the largest oil field in Oklahoma and is now a ghost town. Oklahoma had a lot of little towns with names like Tonkawa, Chickasha, Shawnee, Anadarko, Ponca City.

Their home was very small, a living room, a kitchen with a table in it, and two small bedrooms, barely big enough for a bed in them. They had a small black and white TV in the living room. Their yard was, to be expected, mostly sand but I do remember hollyhocks blooming there. And I remember the wash hung on clotheslines and blowing in the wind. The wind is nearly always blowing in Oklahoma. And I remember playing with horned toads in the yard.

I remember staying with them when my mother left to be with my father for a few weeks. Daddy was in the National Guard and when the National Guard was called up for World War II, he left and his unit was stationed a lot of different places. My mother and I went with him whenever we could.

I know now (I didn’t know then) that we were very poor. Almost everyone was very poor then. I remember the pretty pillowcases Aunt Bubu embroidered with a crocheted edge on them. I still have a few of them. She also crocheted potholders and afghans. Everyone made things then because anything “store bought” was expensive and beyond most people’s means.

Oklahoma did not become a state until 1907. It had been Indian Territory and it is still home to more Indian tribes than any other state and 39 of those tribes are federally recognized nations. "Oklahoma" is two Choctaw Indian words meaning "red man." I love the names and I have always loved the Native American spirit that is still strong there. And even though we traveled a lot and only lived in Oklahoma for short periods of time, I keep a clay pot made from the red earth of Oklahoma on my bookshelves and it is filled with the red earth that I brought with me.

Being older does have its advantages. One of them is having a lot of memories. One of the tasks of the last stage of our life is introspection. Recalling our experiences and what we have learned from them. And remembering pleasant experiences brings pleasure once again. Sharing our experiences also brings pleasure. Remembering is rather like making a mental quilt of all the bits and pieces of our memory. And, like a quilt, all the pieces of our life, when brought together, create a special and unique beauty and provides comfort.

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