FAMILY QUILT: FROM TWO TO TWELVE PART 3
My mother was child number nine of the ten, Hazel Elizabeth Poyner Boykin. She was the youngest girl and as a result many of her siblings had already moved out of the family home by the time she came along.
For my brother and I this meant we never got to truly know some of the older siblings or their kids. In fact there is a 6.5 years between my brother and I, so he remembers even less than I do.
Most of my memories are of the various homes and how they made me feel, more so than the individual aunt or uncle. I know that sounds strange, but it was those homes that welcomed me and made me feel safe.
Mother was ill a lot, she had numerous miscarriages and other health issues. Therefore, I spent a lot of time with the relatives. Aunt Lula once told me they would see Dad pulling up at their place with my baby bed when I was young and know Mom was sick again.
Back then not everyone had a telephone, so it was just a matter of showing up when you needed help.
After a while of course taking me to the aunts and uncles became easier because I outgrew the baby bed, but mother’s health never did truly improve. So I spent a lot of my formative years bouncing from relative to relative. It was always an adventure and I think I learned more from those experiences than your average child of the 50's.
Each family member always made me welcome and to that I am thankful. I had a good varied life because of their care.
But like I said, I remember the homes and the feel of those homes more than anything. So here are my impressions.
I spent a lot of time on “the corner” as I refer to it in my mind. That corner had Aunt Lula, Aunt Edie and Aunt Gladys, plus a small family type grocery. At one point there was a fourth house involved, but I don’t remember who lived in it. It was on the same side of the street as Aunt Lula’s.
I loved going to the corner, because I got three aunts who loved me at once. The uncles were, of course, there too but were generally at work. So it was the aunts and cousins I remember the most.
Lula’s had the piano, Uncle Charlie, a kitchen table that dominos were played at, the girls and of course Don. Now Don was a bit of a mystery to me. For some reason I thought of him as an uncle rather than a cousin until I was in my teens. I guess because he was so much older and eventually had a wife and kids.
I remember Don being in a body cast due to a wreck and using a coat hanger to scratch down inside the cast. I also remember even as a young man he was quite a joker, and he remained so his entire life. But for the longest time he was Uncle Don, not cousin Don to me.
The girls were older, but so much fun. There was a lot of laughter in the household.
I did most of my church going as a child with Lula and her family.
Part of the fun of Lula’s was the freedom to go see Edie and Gladys. Their homes felt entirely different than Lula’s and I was often dropped at Gladys’ rather than Lula’s, but then I had the freedom to go down to Lula’s. It was a win, win situation for me.
Gladys’ house brings to mind the washer on the back porch, learning to crochet and embroidery, Chow dogs, cockscomb flowers, and a fairly laid back lifestyle.
I don’t remember Les or Jean being home all that often, again they were the older cousins. But I remember enjoying their company when they came by.
Aunt Edie’s was an entirely different lifestyle yet. Her house fascinated me. Who ever heard of having outdoor showers? I remember her carnival glass as well.
Plus there was Shirley, who often got in trouble with me, and the ever handsome Glen Dean.
Glen was like Doctor Doolittle to me, he always had unique pets, gators, rabbits, raccoons, pigeons and Coco Moe the monkey. My goodness how that monkey could bite, but I was still fascinated by him.
I remember sitting in a mulberry tree and snacking to my heart’s content with Shirley.
Life was good visiting the corner.
Another corner, but many miles away, was where Fay and Everett lived in Collinsville.
While Jimmy was a lot older than me Aunt Fay often took several of us cousins to stay at her house, especially during the summer. This was a great summer vacation as far as I was concerned. From her unique two story house with the narrow stairs going up to the small attic room with its slanted ceiling and small closets under the eaves where the games were stashed, to her beauty shop, to the city park and movie theater within walking distance. Fay’s was always an adventure.
I remember one summer there were several of us staying, including Dean, Kenneth’s son, and we would stay up most of the night playing games in that upstairs room, then around daybreak we would, at Dean’s encouragement, eat pears off the neighbor’s tree.
Once the pool at the nearby park would open we would walk over to spend the day at the pool, coming and going all day from the pool to go back to Fay’s to get a bite to eat.
To get to the pool we had to cross a blacktop or oil and rock road that got VERY hot and sticky in the summer months. Because we all ran barefoot back then that road was treacherous to our feet. So we would take one pair of flip flops (thongs, toe spratters) and take turns crossing the road then throwing the shoes back to the others to wear to cross.
If your throw was bad, you had to hot foot it out into the road to retrieve the shoe. I was, and still am a horrible pitcher so I always made sure I crossed the road behind someone who could throw well and have them throw the shoes back for me, or make certain I was the last to cross where I didn't have to throw at all.
Toward evening on certain days we would go back to Fay’s, change into dry clothes, have a bite to eat and then clutching a dime for our admission walk down to the theater in downtown Collinsville, where we would watch a movie and then walk back to Fay’s late at night. Or at least it seemed late at night to us then.
An added blessing was Uncle Everett and Aunt Iva’s up the road. Talk about a culture shock from Aunt Fay’s. While life was very simple at Fay’s it seemed very structured at Iva’s.
While I enjoyed the family I always felt a wee bit uncomfortable. Aunt Iva kept an immaculate house. I don’t remember ever even seeing a dirty dish. I came from a less structured home and I was always worried I would make something dirty at Aunt Iva’s and cause her and Joann extra work, which I never wanted to do.
I also felt much more of a tomboy than her girls, although I did have a lot of fun when I was around them. I didn’t really know the older children, and Lisa was so much younger. So I don’t believe I ever spent the night there, despite Jan being my same age, but I did often visit them when staying at Fay’s. After all cousin’s are our first best friends and they were fun.
Paul and Phala’s was fun, I remember the cousins and I always seemed to have something to do and being outside a lot. Sliding down the cellar door was a favorite. Details escape me for some reason. But I do remember thinking Danny handsome.
Uncle Charles always seemed to have a new baby girl. I know there were only four, but it sometimes felt like more. Snooks was full of laughter and fun to be around. Uncle Charles was always reaching toward his dreams.
Uncle Kenny’s was Aunt Ella Mae and PAT! I loved being around Pat, she always came up with ideas on things to do. Unfortunately, more than once I got her in trouble because Aunt Ella Mae held her responsible for me because I was younger. I was rather ornery at times and poor Pat felt the brunt of it when I got into trouble. Sorry Pat.
Karen and Cindy were younger and I just remember them being like my little brother, being tolerated, but not part of our fun.
I also remember them redoing their wood floors often and the juke box, I think it was, in the garage. It may have been a pinball machine. I just remember it being there.
Ed I never knew, in fact I don’t know if I ever even saw him.
As I grew older and my family moved to north Tulsa it put miles between all of the cousins and me. I missed them a lot. Over the years my parents played cards, mainly canasta, and dominos with many of Mom’s siblings, but generally by that point I was left home to take care of my brother.
Speaking of cards. Mother and Fay played cards together the most, but because Fay was in Collinsville, working out when and where they would play cards became a problem. This was of the time of party lines, and long distance fees so the two of them worked out a certain code to set up their plans for card playing and to avoid long distance fees.
If one of them decided they wanted to play cards they would call the other’s phone number and ask for themselves. They had a different answer for each scenario.
So “She’s not here, she’s gone with Earl right now and will be back at 6” would mean “Yes, we want to play cards and will be there at 6”,
“No, she’s working tonight” meant “No we are busy tonight.” And so forth. They both knew the code quite well and so did I back then.
House’s and the people in them is what I remember of my childhood when all the ten were alive. There was so much more to my wonderful group of aunts, uncles and cousins, but this is already very long.
What do you remember?