Aunt Sis, she has another name that sounds nothing like Sis but for reasons long lost to family lore she became Sissy some sixty plus years ago and the name stuck. I grew up knowing her as Aunt Sis.
People in my family tend to earn new names from their given ones. I am Mamie, Mame for short. Only the closest to me call me by that name. My niece Ellie Grace (She is called Eggie) calls me Mamie and while it is intended to be a two syllable word, she says it with such a Southern twang and drawl that it has more like eight syllables.
My Aunt Sis can spin a yarn like nobody I’ve ever known, I used to beg her to tell me stories when I was little. She could transport me to a time when the adults I knew were children. They were wild and free, romping about thickets of pine trees. Those conifers were so densely packed they left a carpet of pine straw on the ground year round, beneath the carpet was the richest and darkest dirt. One day the conifer carpet would compost down into more beautiful black dirt, thick with nutrients and soft as biscuit dough and excellent for mud pie makin’. Shoes were rarely worn, and storm weathered saplings would serve as pretend horses for pint size riders to gallop upon. There is a legend that as a baby my Mama was “thrown” from one of those hoses. In a rodeo type fashion Mama was placed atop just such a tree by her older sister, my Mama wasn’t a very good rodeo Bronco Buster because she promptly fell straight to the ground. Sis told me that story. I’d venture to say she told me that story multiple times to halt my incessant story requests.
She told me the story of Ol’ Mrs. H and her buttercups too. There is not a spring that goes by that I do not recollect that story and the adventure that followed it.
Mrs. H was an older woman in our small church growing up, in fact I hardly remember her, by the time I made any connection to her at all she had long since moved away from her sprawling estate. Her house was ginormous, or so it seemed, filled with mystique and legend it seemed to be bursting with old stories. It sat on the left of the Highway to Home but come the first of spring it wasn’t the house you noticed but the Buttercups that engulfed the grand old home. The rest of the world refers to them as daffodils but Sis called them Buttercups and so do I. I can still smell the sweet spring air, their aroma overpowering. As far as the eye could see all around that long abandoned antebellum home with its huge columns. A sea of yellow. Hundreds, maybe thousands of Buttercups lined up in perfectly straight and neat rows after row, as far as the eye could see. Bulbs planted decades before when the old house was alive and well.
Sis told about the old lady’s brother, having been born a little different, he struggled with the day-to-day, but he liked to plant and plant he did. Perfectly straight rows of buttercups, acres and acres of them. One spring Sis got permission from the Old Lady to have some of those buttercups. We set out on an Adventure of a lifetime. We got in “MIckey’s Bus.” Her husband drove a suburban before Suburbans were cool and she had aptly named it “Mickey’s Bus.” Its seats were covered in fabric that vaguely resembled those rag rugs that used to be popular. We drove the few miles over to the Highway and dug up several clusters of those Buttercups. We howled with laughter and giggled with glee as we went about the task of procuring those plants. Sis would tell us stories of the house and legends long since dead. We traversed the rows of Buttercups and unbeknownst to me at the time memories were born that day.
Memories that still make me smile, long after that grand ol’ house was replaced by huge metal warehouses in the name of progress, I’ve often wondered if the warehouse worker people know that they are standing on what was once that magnificent sea of yellow. There have been a few survivors from those original buttercups, I know where they reside. The Highway to Home split the estate and at the time a small section became a parcel or private property. Sis pointed them out me once some thirty years ago and and told me who the Planter would of been. I point them out to my children now, as the only reminder of that Sea of yellow planted a century or so ago, a remnant that remains unassumingly on the other side of the Highway to Home.
In the moments they are being made those memories rarely seem significant. I suspect that lovely cool day as we meandered down the road in an old white suburban, laden with sweet smelling flowers, shovels and picks, if you had told me that particular day would be one of my favorites and stand out in my memory and as a precious one at that, I likely would not have recognized it as such. Memories and stories that marked me and help to shape me into who I am.
I love to tell a story myself. I find myself on the other end of the incessant pleas for a story. I often tell my very own niece Eggie the stories of Rabboni. I told her the first Rabboni story as we sat on the beach many summers ago. I wrapped her in a towel and spoke just loud enough for her to hear. I waved my hand toward the water and its particularly rough waves that day and told her of His friends afraid on the sea. As the waves rolled in and the shadows grew long I told her how Rabboni walked on the rough and tumultuous sea, one very much like the one we were sitting beside. I told her how He enjoyed the company of fisherman; we giggled when we thought of how fishy his friends probably smelled. Most of all I tell her how He loves people. She loves to hear the stories of Rabboni and I love to tell stories of Him. Hebrews 12: 2 says that He is the author and perfecter of our faith. I am so thankful that He is writing my story beautifully and included sweet smelling Buttercups to serve as reminders of His faithfulness and Creativity.