Saturday, October 18, 2008

Remembering Aunt Ruth

Note to my readers:

This year has not been kind to my elderly relatives. My Great Aunt Susie lies near death in the nursing home. In the spring my Great Aunt Elsie passed away. Over the summer, I lost my Great Aunt Ruth.

This is a tribute to Aunt Ruth. It was published in the October 15 edition of The Fincastle Herald under my "Country Crossroads" column.

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Remembering Aunt Ruth

Blueberry pancakes always make me think of my Aunt Ruth.

When I was a wee lass back in the late 1960s, she operated the Blue Jay Restaurant near Dixie Caverns.

On Sunday mornings, we’d pile into Mom’s blue Dodge Charger for the long drive. What a time of anticipation!

Aunt Ruth greeted us with a happy smile and her tinkling laugh. She joked with my parents and patted me on the head before kissing my brother, who sat in a high chair.

That’s because I was five years old and certainly too big for such a seat.

Once we were settled, Aunt Ruth handed out menus and asked us what we wanted to eat.

I always ordered blueberry pancakes.

They were exquisite kid-sized flapjacks, smothered with butter and covered with pure maple syrup. Plump juicy blueberries were cooked into the batter, not piled on top, just the way I like them.

Aunt Ruth was the cook, you see. And she must’ve made those pancakes with some kind of love to make them taste so good.

I don’t know how many Sunday mornings I spent eating Aunt Ruth’s blueberry pancakes. Maybe we went there for several years.

And then one night we went there for dinner.

My parents ordered fish – seems to me like maybe it was fish fry night – and when the time came, Aunt Ruth looked at me. “And what will you have, darlin’?” she said.

“Blueberry pancakes!” I announced.

Aunt Ruth broke out in a whoop. My father was not amused. “You will not have blueberry pancakes,” he said. He turned to my mother. “They’ll make her throw up this late at night.”

I am very sure that is what he said.

I pouted, a talent I believe I have outgrown. “I will not throw up, Daddy. I won’t!” I cried.

I imagine I was very endearing, sitting there with bows in my hair and a pretty little red dress on. I probably had tears in my eyes and everything.

Aunt Ruth laughed again. She was always laughing. “It’s no problem, I’m glad to fix them for her,” she said over my father’s protests.

When dinner came out, there they were. A stack of piping hot blueberry pancakes, made especially for me.

I was in heaven. I even remembered to say thank you to Aunt Ruth before I dove into my special treat.

Aunt Ruth surely had other customers and many other things to cook on those times we visited, but I remember her checking on us frequently. She always asked my mother about my grandfather, who was Aunt Ruth’s brother, and she followed up on other family members. The place might have been overflowing with people to feed but she always found time to spend with us.

My great aunt, Ruth Harris Morris, passed away on August 24, eight years to the day that my mother died. I now have double reason to mourn at that particular time of year.

Aunt Ruth lived a long and bountiful life. She had hardships and tears but she seemed to find more laughter and joy in the world than anyone else I know.

She had a family, my cousins, whom I am sorry to say I barely know, who she loved and pampered and cared for up until the end.

I saw her last in July at the family reunion, an annual affair she had insisted on for the last 15 years. She looked frail and she told me she thought it wouldn’t be long before she went on to be with Uncle Ted and my mother.

“When you eat blueberry pancakes, you be sure to think of me,” she told me before I left, because she remembered what I liked to eat, too.

I will never forget you, Aunt Ruth, or the wonderful kindnesses you paid to a small child who loved your fluffy blueberry pancakes.

6 comments:

  1. What a loving tribute, Dew. Loved ones stay forever young in our hearts and minds.

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  2. Ohhhh .... what a wonderful tribute! You are so fortunate to have had a loving relationship with your great-aunts! I never knew my maternal grandfather or my paternal grandmother and I only knew one great-aunt, whom I have fond memories of. Family is so important, isn't it?

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  3. You are surely blessed with the most wonderful family. How many people go through their lives craving those kinds of memories (including me :)! And you certainly do your aunts and your family proud with your tributes. They are the kind of stories people remember forever.

    I'll be thinking of you and your aunt Susie.

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  4. What a lovely tribute to your Aunt Ruth! You are so fortunate to have had such a large extended family of people who loved you and to have so many precious memories to hold on to. I'm sure you'll always think of your Aunt Ruth when you eat blueberry pancakes.

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  5. That was beautiful! I actually am just reading that on a relaxed Sunday morning here after our family just had pancakes. Next time I'll have to put blueberries in.

    I remember the scrambled eggie sandwiches my Granny made. Funny how we can associate a dish so strongly with a person. Shannon

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  6. The little things that touch a child's heart...you will never hear of a blueberry pancake without thinking of her. Guess it will be fun to see if she whips you up some when you see her in eternity!

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