Thursday, March 3, 2016

Chewing the fat with Aunt Nora

My Great Aunt Nora Corr lived in a large bungalow on the corner of Argyle and Kilbourn, fewer than three blocks from my house.  I always passed her place on my way to and from Palmer School.  If she was outside as I happened by, I'd wave and yell, "Hi, Aunt Nora!"  She invariably responded with a friendly wave and a question or comment about the family.

Aunt Nora was my Grandma Lucas' sister-in-law.  Both of them were widows.  They were also good friends.  Grandma Lucas lived upstairs from my family.  In fact, the house in which we lived belonged to Grandma.  It was not uncommon for me to walk upstairs to visit with Grandma and find her with Aunt Nora "chewing the fat," a term they commonly used to describe that they were talking at length about this 'n' that.  I would just sit quietly and listen.

Occasionally I would stop at Aunt Nora's house on my way home from school.  She welcomed me, offered a cookie and some milk, and we chewed the fat for awhile.

On the wall in her living room Aunt Nora kept a small square-framed photo of her daughter Mary, who, when just 5 years old, was hit and killed by a car.  She had chased her ball out into the street without looking.  When I stared at the sepia-colored photo, which showed just the head and shoulders of Mary, it reminded me to be careful and to look both ways before crossing the street.

Although the incident had happened decades before I was born, I asked Aunt Nora if she missed Mary, and did she feel sad.  I no longer remember exactly what she said, but I sensed that keeping that little photo in a prominent place was a comfort to her.  I also learned that people in Aunt Nora's generation had an attitude that I'll call resignation or acceptance when it came to suffering and disappointment.  They were able to tolerate life's hardships with dignity and carry on.

Maybe the way they were able to do this was by spending time "chewing the fat" with their friends and loved ones.


I found this old family photo with Aunt Nora in the center.  On the right is my Aunt Pat Lucas.  I don't recognize the woman on the left.  My best guess, judging from the cards in the background, is that this was taken at Christmas time a long time ago, probably when I was a baby or before I was born.  I think it is Aunt Nora's house, because I don't think she would be wearing an apron if she were a guest at someone else's home.


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