florene richardson williams — 1928-2015
i visited aunt florene about a year or two before she passed away. we both knew i wouldn’t be coming back, so we said our goodbye’s then. she told me how much she loved me…and that she always had. i knew she loved me, but it was still nice to hear her say it one last time.
she protected me as much as she could and i’m forever thankful to her for that. i think she knew it was an impossible task, but she persevered nevertheless. she was my advocate when nobody else would take on my biological mother. only i knew how to handle my batshit, abusive, mother. aunt florene always tried to reason with her, but you can’t reason with crazy. i would usually disarm my mom with a smile…something only i was able to do…but only sometimes. aunt florene tried to apply logic to an illogical scenario, where i used humor and guile. my aunt never gave up, where eventually i did.
aunt florene was about the only member of my small family i truly loved and respected. she was somewhat well-read, easy for me to make laugh, strong, and determined. she was a country girl who never left the tiny town of eagle springs, nc, where she was born and raised. she had a strong, drawn-out, southern accent, that gave my name more syllables than necessary. most of the time when we arrived at her house on our usual sunday visit, she wasn’t in the house. i always knew where to find her, though. i’d run through the field of cows to the gigantic chicken houses, where she’d be feeding and checking on her chickens. there were a bazillion of them and i hated going inside when the chickens were adults. what assholes chickens can be. when they were chicks (baby chickens, but she called them “bitties”), it was easier to walk through them to get to aunt florene for a hug and kiss.
my aunt was even tempered. the only time she would scold me was when i’d sit in one of her dining room chairs and put my feet on the foot rails. drove her insane. you see…she and uncle marvin were simple folk. they farmed, raised chickens, and lived a meager, country lifestyle while raising two daughters. having survived the great depression, they wanted the few things they had to last an eternity. my scratching up the foot rails with my shoes was counter productive to that. even to this day, i think of her when i rest my feet on my own chair rails. it’s odd the things that become forever etched in our memories.
after her brother, in a drunken fit of rage, burned down the house my grandparents left to my mother and me, i stayed with aunt florene for a while. i slept on a pallet on the floor and woke up every morning to her cooking breakfast for me before school. this was something i hadn’t experienced before. my mother raised me, an only child, to be independent and not to count on others for anything life asked of me. waking up to scrambled eggs and sausage being cooked is an indescribable olfactory experience. i mean…i cooked it before myself on many occasions, but waking up to that smell was like…um…it was like…god, i wish i could think of a clever simile right now. i’ll just say she was like the mother i never really had. i know it’s trite, but it’s true.
i will forever love and miss you, aunt florene. thank you for everything. gonna’ rest my feet on the chair now (sorry), dream of scrambled eggs and sausage, and remember your loving smile.