It seems I was passed around quite a bit when I was a kid. Not that this was a bad thing, though. My parents headed out to work each morning around 7AM and dropped me off at my grandmother's house on the way. Some mornings, Grandmother would have errands to run - the bank, the beauty shop (every Thursday 10AM), an hour or two at Palais Royal or Foley's. In these cases, her go-to substitute was Marguerite Nell Maraman, or as she was known by me and other close family members: Aunt Reat.
The 1910 federal census shows the three girls living with their mother as head of the house, a house that apparently was freely owned by Edna. She married Charles Doss later that year.
Still, Marguerite was supposedly married before the above-mentioned union. She had a son named Garland, who was already in elementary school in the 1930s. I'll touch on this in a separate post.
Another memory has more to do with pain than pleasure. Not that Aunt Reat would ever harm me. She was kind as could be. As was her custom, she would take me out on the back porch to get some fresh air. For her, it was a cigarette break. She must have been a smoker for some time as you could hear it in her gravelly voice and see it in the lines all about her face. There was a set of concrete steps that led down to a paved area between the back of the house and the detached garage.
Now, I don't know about you, but when a little boy hears the words "don't touch that", it is incumbent upon him as a little boy to set aside that admonition and proceed with his curiosity. I think all I really heard was, "Look! It's glowing red stuff. Touch it!" While I don't recall the specific level of pain thirty-some-odd years after the fact , I do remember jerking my hand back in a state of shock. What resulted from this experience was a lifelong abstention from tobacco in any form. Well, done Aunt Reat. Well done!
I also recall going to Marguerite's house on a few occasions. If I could sum it up as a color, I would say it was gray. Just like her old Corolla, just like her ashy curled hair. And it probably was a gray house - a duplex, if I'm not mistaken. The living room was a museum, though a different sort from that of Grandmother's piano room. An old recliner was situated next to a tray that served as a makeshift coffee table for her TV guide, glasses and utility bills. Simple enough. But against the wall just before the kitchen entrance, there were two glass hutch-like cabinets. They were filled with an abundance of figurines, glass dishes and collectible trinkets. I knew I was to keep my distance based on my experience at Grandmother's house.
Put these few and fleeting memories together with a recollection of her flowered blouses, and there you have an imperfect portrait of my Aunt Reat. Towards the end of her years, she too became ill. She wore one of those push-button devices around her neck to alert a medical professional if she needed assistance. On June 11, 1988, she pressed that button. My grandmother quickly drove over to her house and found Aunt Reat still hanging on. She held her in her arms as she breathed her last breath, later recounting the sadness that filled her heart at that moment. Personally, I think the experience brought back memories of her of own mother Julia and grandmother Edna. The bitter and the sweet with which we must all come to terms.