Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Huckleberry Finn and the Tale of Aunt Cora

When I was a little girl - one of the frequent visitors to our home was our Mom's beloved Aunt Cora. She was in that time considered a 'spinster' - reflecting, I suppose, the vernacular of the day. She had never married and had no children. But aside from this summary information I had no real insight into why it was this way - if at one time there had been a great love that ended or was unrequited - or if she made a conscious decision to be alone - reflecting her independent mind - her fiery, take-charge spirit. Frankly she passed on at a time when I was still too young to have contemplated these things or in a place where she might have disclosed something more. She was a nurse, like my mom, and lived in a small apartment in the basement of the care home in which she worked - in another town. She frequently swept in when things were in her opinion bordering on unmanageable - including making the sole decision that the kitten we had long lobbied for was just too much for a working widowed mother with three little kids and spirited it away - unapologetically - to a farm nearby.
One night, in an effort to give my mom some respite after my Dad passed away - she bundled my sister and I up in her car for a sleepover at her apartment. We were uneasy about this road trip from the start and not enthused about meeting the elderly people who lined the hallways when she insisted on taking us on a tour. There was one very frail and thin old woman - her exposed arms and hands offering a clear view of raised blue and purple rope-like veins. When she reached out to take my hand I was terrified to touch her  - as a little kid I had no idea you could get that way. When we got back to the apartment downstairs - one of us - probably me - had a fit and insisted on being taken home - the reason being that Aunt Cora "darn well knew this was a hospital" which I suppose having lost our Dad in one was reason enough to be deathly afraid. I frankly don't recall whether she relented that night. And I would be remiss in telling you about her without also saying that she gave me my first introduction to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - which she read out loud to me as I sat on her lap - tears of laughter rolling down both our faces. She didn't skip words or pretend I needed pictures to bring it to life - her voice and her expressions were enough to keep me captivated - though I must have been four or five at the time. It helped inspire my joy of reading - her delight in turning the pages of what was surely a familiar story, with her rapt and waiting audience breathlessly waiting for the next chapter.

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