Published: Feb 09, 2013 07:00 PM
Modified: Feb 09, 2013 05:24 PM
During my youth I hadnt met a person as prim and proper as Aunt Mary. As a matter of fact, it would take some thinking now to come up with someone as polished and proper as Julia Mary Francis Scarlett Jones.
After my parents married, mom and Aunt Mary became the best of friends. One is Julia Mary and the other Mary Julia. Each preferred to be called Mary. The sisters-in-law did a lot together. They worked together at the old Hillsborough Dry Cleaners that was located where the News of Orange is currently housed. Both were working the day the equipment exploded, igniting and damaging the customers clothing.
Once, Aunt Mary and mom spent half a day taking turns on a bike coasting downhill toward the Eno River. Aunt Marys daughter, Doris, was about 6 years old and tried to teach them how to ride. Doris would ride down the hill, Aunt Mary would try, and then mom would try. At the end of the day Doris was the only one able to balance a bicycle.
Aunt Mary and mom were missionaries at Piney Grove and Mount Gilead, respectively. They wore nice dresses, hats and they carried gloves during the 1960s. On Sunday mornings you always found them sitting in the Amen corner. On communion Sunday, they wore all white and prepared the table for communion. Aunt Mary habitually pursed her lips and spoke softly, always avoiding signs of anger or frustration.
Aunt Mary turned 100 years old on Nov. 30, 2012. We squeezed as many family members as we could into her home for the party. We shared a wonderful meal with Aunt Mary. She sat at the head of the table with her hands in her lap right over left and her legs crossed at the ankles.
After the meal, a card was read from President Obama and his family. They acknowledged Aunt Marys age and that she has seen a lot of change during her lifetime. This is true.
Aunt Mary grew up on the Fish Dam Road. That is the old Native American trail that the Civil War Soldiers traveled to get to the Bennett farm resulting in the surrender at Bennett Place. This cart way was abandoned before Aunt Mary reached adulthood. Aunt Mary remembers mail being delivered by horse and buggy and she remembers when tar was first put on Highway 70 (west of Durham).
Aunt Mary wanted to become a nurse, but the family was so poor that her parents could not send her to college. She became a domestic servant doing laundry, cleaning houses and preparing meals for families at Southern Power Plant Village.
After the birthday greetings many of us shared our fondest memories of Aunt Mary. I remembered that she ate raw green beans as she gathered them from her garden. A cousin remembered that in the spring of each year she walked her yard until she found a certain plant. She ate a few leaves to cleanse her blood. Someone remembered that she ate small portions but made the best gingerbread. Another remembered her ability to pray and yet another remembered the different duties she performed in the church. All those memories are great but they didnt lend a clue to the soon-to-be permanent memory of this sophisticated woman.
Following the cake cutting, Aunt Mary slowly stood. She placed her hands in front of her right over left. She spoke very softly.
I want to thank all of you who came to my party today and thank you for all of the lovely gifts. That was mighty kind of you, but, I have a secret. There is something about me that you dont know.
I can shimmy!
Aunt Mary held her arms out to her sides and started quickly moving her hips from side to side. One could have purchased all the guests for a dime! We stood there-mouths wide open, trying to figure out whether this was a figment of our imagination. Someone turned on Donnie Hathaways This Christmas and Aunt Marys 5-year-old great granddaughter and 4-year-old great grandson hit the floor and shimmied with her. At that point we realized that we were not dreaming.
As we traveled from Garner back home, mom said I cant believe Mary. Her mind must be going.
I responded I dont think so. She told us there was something about her that we didnt know.
Our first Scarlett centenarian is not only prim and proper she can shimmy.