In the spring of 2017, I went to Wenachee, Washington and visited my Aunt Jean. I wanted to interview her. It was the first interview that I did. I also included her reading The Bear Story by James Whitcomb Riley, which is in The Trip to Grandma’s House piece that is on the Last Third Best Third website.
I interviewed her and now have created an edit of that. I didn’t do well with the lighting or the sound, but I got what I got and it follows right here:
Full Interview with Aunt Jean
Aunt Jean: My whole family would laugh if they knew anybody wanted to hear me talk.
RO: Aunt Jean, it’s good to be here with you. This is my Aunt Jean my mother’s sister.
Aunt Jean: Her little sister.
RO: Her little sister. (Laughter) Of course I’ve known Aunt Jean all my life.
Aunt Jean: When I was littler (Laughter).
RO: And there are a lot of things about her very special to me. And I think one thing that I would point out that I find very interesting in my own life, is that as soon as I got true freedom in my life, which was 1973, I bought my first Harley-Davidson Sportster. That was in the wintertime, and in the summertime when I stopped working and took some time off, the first place I came was up to Wenatchee to visit Aunt Jean, because I’ve always been so comfortable around Aunt Jean and enjoyed her warmth and family nature and camaraderie and willingness to talk about any old thing that came up and just discuss it and have a good time. So the earliest experiences in my life’s recollection of having complete freedom to just be myself and enjoy who I am and what I like about life was together with my Aunt Jean.
Aunt Jean: That’s special to me. I was thinking about it this morning. And you’ve done some of the nicest things anybody ever did for me, maybe without even knowing. The most special was buying me a dozen orange roses when Mary was married. And that was the first time, I think, anybody ever bought me any flowers, and it was so special. You and Fred came up and cleaned my yard all up and just helped me for days, and I was just amazed. How nice it was that you wanted to come and help me. That was really really special and I was hoping to be able to have a chance to tell you that while you’re here. So now I’ve told you.
RO: Thank you.
The Most Important Things…
Aunt Jean: Before I get up every morning, I always pray. The first thing I do when I wake up is pray. And the last thing I do when I go to bed and all during the day and even when I talk… that’s really my greatest and most important thing to me in the world…
RO: So, at 87 years old you still feel joy, energized, interested, you come alive when you help others, you’re saying?
Aunt Jean: MmmHmm. MmmHmm. The most important thing and it isn’t that…even necessary, but the most important thing that I have done in the last few years is make hats out of Fun Fur. They’re nice and soft and warm. And I make them for cancer patients and that’s so important to me and the people enjoy them, you know. I wear ’em myself. They’re comfortable and I hardly ever go any place that somebody doesn’t smile or say, “I like your hat!” and be pleased.
All of my family, I love very much.
Wenatchee. (Chuckles.) I’ve never seen any place in my life that I like better than Wenatchee. I do have trouble traveling but I just can’t even imagine why anybody goes on a vacation if they live in Wenatchee. It’s a beautiful beautiful place and I like all the seasons. And that’s another thing I like about Wenachee too. You definitely have all four seasons.
I haven’t attended a class since Mert died. We went to quite a few art classes… watercolor, mainly. And I’ve really enjoyed… I like doing all kinds of things, and I’ve done a lot of things like ceramics and painting and sewing. Every time I sit down I…I’m surprised I’m not crocheting now… I even crochet in the car. I can make a whole hat without ever even looking at it. People laugh at me and tell me I even crochet when I’m sleeping. I sit there in the chair and I’m still crocheting while I’m sleeping. I feel like I am a nervous person and I push myself. I feel like I have to be doing something every moment.
Going to Glenwood was always exciting. Aunt Myrtle and grandma were the two people I always knew loved me and wanted to have me around. I kind of always, and still do, feel like a pain in the butt to everybody. Aunt Myrtle was always so happy to see us. She was the busiest person I’ve ever known. She had huge gardens and she watered them, carrying a bucket of time and putting a dipper or two on each plant. And she’d milk cows and she was just so busy. But she was never too busy for us. And she was just letting you think that she was just delighted to have you every moment. I loved her so much.
I always hated traveling, even at that time and I used to get carsick. I didn’t like traveling. The ride wasn’t ever exciting to me. It was just getting there. Grandma and Aunt Myrtle’s they had us singing “The Old Rugged Cross.” I bet I’ve sang that fifty thousand times. (Chuckles.) She let us think we had beautiful voices. Everybody that came we had to sing and it was always “The Old Rugged Cross” at least once.
Grandma would always bring us – we lived in Goldendale for a while. So it was only about 25 miles to Glenwood from Goldendale, wasn’t it? Not very far.
They’d come to town every now and then and grandma always brought us sugar cookies. Aunt Myrtle always saved all of her double yolked eggs. You can tell they are by just looking at them. They’re a little bit longer than the other ones. I remember. Good to be close enough to see him often because we didn’t usually get to see them but maybe once or twice a year. That was a long ways to go, especially when there were nine of you to get in a car.
Aunt Myrtle and Uncle Ruby
I’d like to, if I have a minute, to talk a little more about Glenwood, It was always such a happy time. When Aunt Myrtle married Uncle Ruby… God sure sent him to her because we all absolutely loved Uncle Ruby. He was one of 14 boys. I think they were all boys. He was so good to us. I’ve got pictures of the boys and his red hat and his old boots and stuff, and going to the barn to help him milk the cows and stuff.
Aunt Myrtle made me a little trap and I caught chipmunks. And Uncle Ruby had teased me and tell me he’d give me ten cents for every one I killed, haha, because he knew I wouldn’t kill one. And I caught him one time letting them out of the trap too.
But you woke up every single morning there to Uncle Ruby saying, “Come Big Holler Lou, come Little Missy, Little One, Big One, Pretty One too….” I don’t know how many cows he had, but they all had names and birthdays written down. He was just a delight to everybody. When Aunt Myrtle died I was sick myself and I couldn’t go to the funeral. And he drove clear to Quincy all by himself in his old car to see me. That was one of the nicest things anybody ever did for me. I just see him yet. He was a horrible driver. That was always a joke among the family was both him and Aunt Myrtle driving. And he’d roar his car up and the smoke just rolled and he’d go it a little bit and then stop and he did that and I was standing there watching him and crying as he left. And he was yellin’ and the smoke was just a’rollin’ and he finally got going the last time. That was last time I ever got to see him. He drove clear to Quincy just to see me. So special.
RO: The last time I saw him, he was a curator at the Museum in Goldendale. I remember going in and visiting him.
Aunt Jean: There’s a lot of things of Aunt Myrtle’s and Grandma’s there.
I did get to stop there a few years ago. And first thing, as I just started to go up the stairs, I looked in the entrance to the stairs, and there was a quilt, “Myrtle Smith,” … her first husband was Percy Smith, and then there was just all kinds of things there.
And the two things that were, well the most special thing that I know of, was these pictures that they had gathered arrowheads, and made a picture of an Indian chief. It had feathers and everything. And an Indian Princess. And then a wigwam. And then on the bottom of the wigwam, it said, ‘Americans’ first home.”
Aunt Jean – Thanks for the memories