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She used to hep me some, even after she got herself hitched up to the red-est headed man I ever laid eyes on to this day.
We had us a routine, an' unnerstandin', that, when need be, she could go look in on her grandmama, out to the lake whar' the ole' lady lived on after Grandpapa died.
We learnt to work around her need to check on the folks her own mama abandoned--this sprig of girl wif' a bent toward classic literature an' the need to bring order to the world of chaos into which she'd been born.
Lily-chile' ( as I will call her here) never counted it misfortune to enter this world through a nest made by a pair of wayward crows. Buzzards mebbe. Lily bloomed through the hard scrabble childhood, watered here an' thar' by these heartbroke ole' folks who would intervene where they might. Favor smiled on the threesome, they made their own bond. She went to a famed collich on scholarship, got edoocated, then came on home to find some way to work close to her grandparents as they declined. Reckon y'all knows that they ain't much work fer a girl conversant wif' literature but not wif' bidness. No matter, she sold her hobby-made jewelery, took jobs to hep folks like Aunty, an generally made do.
After hitchin', the young pair would come fer dinner an a board game. Uncle ain't one fer such as that, be he loved Lily, too, an' wanted her to know she an her young husband was welcome fer work or fer play. Soon enough she came in one mornin' wearin' a goofy smile an' we knowed in a few months she's goin' to have a fledgling in her own nest. Only this would be a goodly ordered nest.
The new family needed room--cheap room--to grow. They pulled up stakes an moved out west of us'uns to an ole' citrus processin' town thas' mostly abandoned after so many freezes that Orange county bulldozed the groves ...an' orange roofs is all the orange y'all is likely to see.
Like most of modern exurbia, the original settlement was crumblin' at the ole brick crossroad "downtown" last time I wuz through thar', mebbe a decade ago. Meanwhile, out whar' the state widened the highway that passes the town by, a jungle of strip malls an' burger arches an' Auto Zones an' U-Pump-It stations done made the same generic blight that wearies folks from Florida to Oregon. I'se heartsick to see 'em go live in the midst of such. It warn't fittin'.
Now thar's three redheaded peeps in less than five years.
"Aunty, come on out heah an' visit me some. Y'ain't seen wee Zoe an' her be three months ole already."
I made it to the turn off from the big highway into the ole town, a'tween a chain pharmacy an' pea green Army surplus depot. North fer a mile, past a new prison architecture school, an 1980s car dealer lots. Mah heart knotted up tight afore comin' to cross over the ole rail bed...when thangs seemed to tidy up some. I reached the turn off to Lily's street.
A few blocks in the houses is neat but not violated wif' modernization: Ole clapboard cottages wif' ancient live oaks hoverin' over them. Wide,long lawns, shady an' cool, slope gently toward the lake half mile away. The homes is modest, lovingly kept, human sized--no starter mansions. I knowed that these owners was lovers--they loved their little piece of this former ghost town. Inside I imagined folks were livin' wif' out the pressure to "make it big."
"We can jes' stroll the baby to town an have a salad at the Main Street Bistro, if thas' alright wif' ya' Aunty?"
I cain't recall when I'se been so charmed! In four short blocks we arrived at a town square whar' the train station is preserved an' a yellow caboose sits proudly out front. In the middle of the square a splashin' fountain adds to the sense of cool breezes from the trees never chopped down to widen the brick roads. Local merchants is local. No chain bookstore, but a pipe shop cum bookstore. Thar' wuz bicycles in a black iron rack out of the Soda Fountain Shoppe. The movie house featured a family favorite. Young men in khakis an' sport shirts discussed bidness at outdoor tables next to Aunty an' Lily an' baby. I seemed to havestepped into a reverie from the 1950s, a Rockwellian tableau.
It wuz unmistakable: This heah wuz a community. A real, human size community whar' it's folks had a sense of belongin' to it, an to each other.
Full up wif' mah bistro panini of pork, grilled green apple an' gorgonzola ( Yesssss, I did sorta hope fer a "blue plate special" but the panini was decent comfort, I will say), I kissed Lily an' baby redhead good bye when she had to fetch her boy from kinder-play. After a spell of watchin' this li'l miracle of regeneration, I slurped the rest of mah sweet tea an' got in mah buggy to head back up the road home--all the while thinkin' that towns like this is a better future, an some very visionary young folks sought it out, made it what it should be, a blend of the new wif' the human-scale values that Aunty feard wuz
Posted by Aunty Belle at 6:21 AM