My mother (second from left) had 8 brothers and sisters. 5 of these were half-sisters and a half-brother. In this picture mom is seen with (left to right) Virginia, Mom, Sadie and Laverne (her full sisters). Mom was 16 when this picture was taken. Only Virginia is still with us. She lives in Walnut Creek, California and is still in reasonable health. She also continues to send me every year a birthday card. My grandfather, their father, was Houston Grayson. Their mother was Rachael. Rachael was about 18 when Houston remarried after his first wife died. She was not that much older than Houston’s kids by his first marriage. He was a Baptist minister in Oklahoma and Arkansas.
I really loved the time I spent with my aunts. Sometimes I felt like the combination of all four was the perfect mother. Virginia was always thinking of others; Sadie was always laughing and a great cook; Laverne was the exotic one who always thought she should have been “discovered” at a soda fountain like Lana Turner. Mom was the closest to her father in many ways. She was the most religious of the three–abstaining from alcohol her entire life; a founding member of the East Side Baptist Church in Fort Smith, Arkansas; and a life-long church goer. She read her bible and prayed every night and taught Sunday School for most of her adult life.
Aunts are interesting. They are the closest genetically to one’s mother. They have to have establish their own “voice” and personality. My aunts seemed to be close and genuinely loved each other. Laverne was, as the most overtly “exotic,” envied a little by her sisters buy also thought of as a little self-possessed. But I never sensed there was ever any real envy. Virginia (known to the family as Jinky) once told me that mom was the “teaser”; Sadie “feisty”; and Laverne the “prima donna.” No matter how they felt about each other, I was always treated nicely and with love. I remember fondly many trips to their houses which, of course, included time with my many cousins. My cousin, Penelope Long, wrote in a message to me, “They were kiddingly dubbed Lazy Laverne, Silly Sadie, Cocky Cokie, and Stinky Jinky by their father, our loving grandfather, Pastor Houston Grayson.”
Sadie as superb at making me feel at home. She also cooked a great breakfast including her famous “silver dollar pancakes.” These were pancakes cooked in massive quantities (there were 6 young cousin mouths waiting anxiously) to the size of a silver dollar. Jinky was always concerned with other people’s welfare and making sure everything was OK. Laverne was the only one who married more than once–but when I knew her (she died when I was in college) she as kind of aloof. I did love riding her horses. Since Laverne and Jinky lived in California I only saw them once a year on our annual trips to California (mom and dad moved to California in 1947 after the war but left to go back to Arkansas in 1951 when I was three.)
I have three daughters: Hannah, Nora and Lauren. Hannah and Nora are aunts. Lauren has her daughter Olive (she will be 3 on May 6). For the first time since high school, they all live in the same town (Blacksburg, VA). Olive has two loving aunts. I know I will be long gone when Olive remembers her aunts like I am doing now. I am sure that they will be remembered as loving, dedicated aunts. While I am still around, it will be fun to see how they interact with her.