The Little Green Box
By Beverly Hicks Burch
There are two months that can be particularly hard for me…June and August…and not for the reasons you might think. Although I am a true Southern belle, I hate heat and summer. Mild, temperate summers are something I am envious of say…Alaska! My idea of fun is not scrapping the summer humidity off my skin with a table knife…and this summer has been truly juicy. I am actually more of a spring, fall and winter person.
In reality, these months, June and August, mark certain events…one a birthday and one a very tragic event. They always give me pause for reflection.
I’ve been very fortunate to have some very special, important women in my life. In addition to my mother, I had two maternal aunts, Mom’s two sisters, my Aunt Korinne and Aunt LaRue. They have at different times in my life been like Rocks of Gibraltar for me…and that’s what family is all about. Some aunts are distant non-involved aunts, but not these two.
I love my Momma. My Mom knew early on what and who she wanted…my Daddy…it was kind of love at first sight for them. Once she laid eyes on that tall, dark haired, handsome looker in a church service in East Tennessee, there was no turning back. Daddy has always said he was drawn to those “big ol’ doe eyes” of Momma’s…translate, big, soft sensual brown eyes, which she passed on to two of her daughters. My baby sister got Daddy’s big ol’ soft sensual gray eyes and all three of us got his long luxurious eyelashes. Momma was 15 and Daddy was 16. They dated four years, all through high school, got married and eleven months later I was born. At first Mom thought she had a virus, but, surprise, it was lil’ ol’ me and I think I’ve been making her sick ever since…just kidding Momma…
Daddy was the “bread winner” and Mom was the stay-at-home mom…raising three girls in the `50’s, 60’s and `70’s. Yes, it does sound a tad like Ozzie and Harriett or Donna Reed…and actually it kinda was. I have no complaints with my upbringing…it was basic, normal and I received what I needed plus I was raised to be independent, a thinker and to take my education seriously. We were raised to believe we could be just about anything we wanted to be…even if it was to be a stay at home mom or a professional.
Momma was the oldest of the girls and the “artsy” one who was kinda quiet and shy. She, like her sisters, was a voracious reader while the other two were more musically inclined. Mom dabbled in art and painting and the textile arts…she sewed many a dress for her little girls. She even took up quilting after I did in the `80’s. Mom has made sure my mentally and physically challenged baby sister stayed home with the family and lived with dignity…a decision that was light years ahead of its time. She’s had health issues and kept on plugging away. She had a way of passing on the desire to cook without making it seem like a chore and she showed us how to be furiously loyal and devoted to a husband and how to like men…yeah, we were Daddy’s girls.
My Aunt Korinne was like my grandmother, the educator of the three sisters. She loved kids and taught elementary school. Little boys in her class would fall madly in love with her and hang their coat by hers in the cloakroom and try to play matchmaker with her and their single dads. She had a beautiful alto singing voice and could play the piano and organ and her classroom was the joyous precipitant of that nurturing skill. Along with my Aunt LaRue, Aunt Korinne sang with my grandfather at church in a trio and it is a little girl memory I will hold with me forever.
I was the beneficiary of her skills too, and as a result I could read and write a long time before a lot of my contemporaries thanks in part to my parents fostering reading at an early age…they started giving me books when I was a baby and Aunt Korinne was a strong supporter with her educational skills.
Aunt Korinne was always whisking me away for outings and adventures…even if it was for a ride on a bus…a big thing for a little girl, who thought the bus doors were magical. She took me to see Gone With the Wind for the first time in a theatre in Chattanooga…intermission and all…she actually lost a contact on the way to get refreshments.
I loved my Aunt Korinne. She often told me we were alike and she encouraged me and took the time to listen to me. She read a lot of my writing and encouraged me to continue and pursue it. We talked about traveling to New York and other places together when I graduated from high school. Usually, I would spend two weeks or so with her in Tennessee during the summer. I think I had pizza for the first time during one of my summer visits with her and we were known to mix it up in the kitchen on my visits during the summer. We had many a late night pajama party, sitting up talking girl talk, watching old movies, eating popcorn or snacks and just having a blast. The first time I ever saw the movie Splendor in the Grass with Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty was with her and we both cried our eyes out like two teenage girls…which of course I was… We would be sobbing then look at each other and burst out laughing and then start crying again.
Guys called her a heartbreaker, (as I was called later) but it wasn’t a deliberate thing with her…so many just fell in love with her and it took her a while to find the one to fall in love with…when she did, it was the wrong one and it ended divorce. She had one son she dearly loved from the marriage. It seemed history repeated itself we me because I later became the only sister of three to end up divorced. Yep, I had picked wrong…but, I did end up with a son I dearly loved and I did find Mr. Right when I married Tall and Handsome. She never found her Tall and Handsome…that makes me sad…
Aunt Korinne was a June baby…born on the 19th. Unfortunately, 36 years later she was taken away from us on August 21st just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. In addition to everything else she did Aunt Korinne taught a middle school age Sunday School class and they and some more youth from the church were on their way to Six Flags Over Georgia…and they almost made it. Aunt Korinne had driven a blue Ford Mustang and it was loaded with kids. Somehow, someway, a car hit her from behind and when it did her Mustang was thrown into the next lane of the interstate in a 90 degree angle…into the path on an oncoming 18 wheeler truck. There was nothing the truck driver could do. They said he stripped every gear in the truck trying to stop it, but in the end it was futile. Aunt Korinne and every child in her car but one was gone…on impact.
I was 19 years old when that hot August day infringed upon my life and changed it and I was never the same. You always miss the person you loved when they’re gone. For sometime after she was gone, I had very vivid dreams about Aunt Korinne.
Over the years we gather around each other and held on to the family that was left. So, my Aunt Korinne gave me the gift of the years of bonding with my Aunt LaRue…hurray for Aunt LaRue! She is an August baby…born on the 13th so that gives me a joyous reason to look forward to the month. I love my Aunt LaRue!
I could fill pages about Aunt LaRue. She was 15 when I was born…yes, I’ve grown up with young parents and aunts. She is my confidant, best friend, partner in crime, second mom, travel buddy, angel and anything else thrown into one. Like me, she suffers from many of the same autoimmune aliments…proof that they do cluster in families…so we can commiserate on treatments, flare ups, good days, bad days and medications and what not. When my son was born sick and was in neo-natal intensive care, Aunt LaRue was there…when I had lung cancer surgery, Aunt LaRue was at the hospital…
She was the first person I call when Gomez the Unremarkable walked out after 27 years of marriage for a co-worker. She was as stunned as I was because she had just been up and spent some time with us. She told me then she knew something wasn’t right with him. When we had taken her home to Florida, Gomez had spent a lot of time in her back yard among the citrus trees…on his cell phone. Phone records later showed he was calling his girlfriend’s work extension and personal numbers.
Aunt LaRue like her sisters is talented and smart as a whip…and she’s people smart and savvy, too. She’s quick with numbers which doesn’t surprise me, because she is very musical. She had a four octave range voice in addition to playing the piano. Like Mom, she’s dabbled in art. For years, she worked in the family clothing business and can make just about any alteration you need to clothing…men’s suits included.
The woman can cook!! She’s known as THE cook in the family amongst a family of cooks. Chicken and dumpling…to die for! Fried chicken and gravy…yep, to die for. Egg custard pie…yum!
Aunt LaRue and I are known for our marathon talk sessions…yes, long distance that last for three, four, even five hours…that’s why I have that one rate long distance plan…and we usually have these gab sessions in the middle of the day or late at night when Tall and Handsome is out of town on business. My Uncle Johnny says he doesn’t know how two humans can have so much to say…lol! He’s a man of few words, but we do gab and giggle like girls. We talk about books, and recipes and movies and life and anything that comes to mind. One year when Aunt LaRue came to visit, she brought a bunch of pictures for me to scan for my family genealogy files. Sometimes we talk about that. We both share a love for reading and love to read Ann Rule books.
Two of my favorite memories of my Aunt LaRue were a trip with her to the US Virgin Islands and a trip to San Antonio, TX. In the Virgin Islands we saw the second place where Christopher Columbus landed in the New World at St. Croix. We took a hovercraft from St. Croix to St. Thomas and shopped in the beautiful harbor village of Charlotte Amalie. At our hotel that evening, we sat and dined at the open air café on wonderful gourmet food and looked out down over the harbor and watched as the cruise ships quietly sailed back out to sea in the setting sun.
We still chuckle at the memory of traveling across the big ol’ state of Texas in my Explorer at the time. I tend to get tunnel vision and at times food is the last thought on my mind when going cross-country like that…at least until I pass something that really jumps out at me and catches my fancy. Way east of Dallas I heard my Aunt LaRue say, “Beverly, I’m going to have to get down in the floor board and find me some crumbs to gnaw on if we don’t stop and find a place to eat.” I knew that was her way of saying she was hungry.
I had such a blast getting to travel with her and I hope we can do more of that in the future…she deserves it.
In the 1980’s Aunt LaRue moved to Florida from Tennessee…my uncle was transferred down there. I’ve been able to go down a few times and spend a few weeks with her…once when the orange blossoms were blooming. That is a heavenly fragrance. Another time, we decided to do some painting and stuff. We had a blast. Once when she came and spent some time with me I made some of my home-made banana pudding. She said it was the best she had ever had…and coming from my Aunt LaRue, that was one of the best compliments I could have gotten.
So, my friends, are you wondering what on earth caused Bev to rattle on and reminisce like this? The answer is simple…a little green box…my Aunt Korinne’s little green recipe box. For some reason I picked it up and was browsing through…I had been thinking about her Fudge Pie recipe and the moment I popped the box open, there was her handwriting and her printing…just like the perfect second or third grade school teacher that she was…just as if she had left it there yesterday. That little green box will always be a cherished treasure of mine.
I hope you enjoy a little gem I share with you from the Little Green Box…
© 2007 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.