Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Little Dirty Feet

My Aunt Emogene died today. She was 81 years old. My father's oldest sister. There were five children in his immediate family. All boys, except Emogene.

Can you imagine being the older sister to four brothers? I'm sure my dad and his brothers tormented the living daylights out of her. I remember she always wore her blue jeans rolled up at the bottom, and when Emogene married her husband, Uncle Cab, she moved five doors down from grandma. That's where she had her four kids and lived until she died. In that same coal town she grew up in. I doubt she traveled anywhere other than to Ohio and back a few times.

Emogene was a West Virginia mountain woman. Wary and suspicious of outsiders. Not many visitors meander to that part of the country. The coal camp all but shriveled up when the miners left town. But her family and a few others stayed. My, how she loved her family.

Like so many descendants of coal miners who moved north to Ohio, we took to the roads every weekend to go "down home." Down home was Widen, West Virginia. I remember staying with Aunt Emogene when I was bitty girl. The thing was, my mother liked to keep me pristine. Cleanliness was godliness in my mother's book. But I loved to play with my cousins in the dirt roads, in the creeks, and on my grandmother's front porch. And my aunt loved to see me get nice and dirty. It's hard to keep a little girl clean in a coal camp, she used to say.

My mother threatened me with a whipping if I took off my shoes to play at Aunt Emogene's house. But inevitably, the bottoms of my feet were as black as soot at the end of the day. Along with every other part of me. I recall my aunt just hollering laughing when Mama finally got a hold of me.

I suppose it's her laugh I'm remembering today. She was a quiet woman most of the time. But every time she got a hold of me, she stripped off my frilly dress and threw me into a pair of overalls. Watching me get dirty tickled her silly, especially when my fussy deep-south mama had a fit over it.

It's sad to know your elder family members are passing away. I didn't see her much through the years, but I'd like to think she thought of me from time to time, as I did her. And of my little dirty feet.

Blessings to the Woods family today. Blessings to you and yours.

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