Uncle Sam always made pancakes on Sunday mornings. Our Aunts would help get us ready for church. Everyone's hair was neatly combed and we had our change for Sunday school in our pockets. All except the baby had little bibles too. After breakfast and a second check to make sure none of us had pancake syrup anywhere. Our Aunts each had a special hat with flowers on it. They wore pretty dresses and shoes to match. Their purses seemed to carry everything from combs to tissues. They had pencils, paper, rain hats, and probably more things I do not remember.
We piled into the car and off we went. Back then there were no seat belts. The grown ups sat up front and Aunt Judy carried little Mattie on her lap. The five of us kids squeezed into the back. Usually, I had one of the girls on my lap.
We must have made quite a scene as we all trooped into church. I remember we took up two pews. We all sang off key but praise and worship was fun anyway. After church one day Jamie overheard two of the grown up ladies talking.
After we got home he asked his mother what a couple of words meant. Aunt Judy was cutting up vegetables in the kitchen as Aunt Titus was taking the roast out of the oven. 'Mom, what does AWOL mean? Also, what is a mistress?'
I remember this because both aunts shouted at once as I set the table in the dining room. 'What? Where did you hear those words?'
Jamie explained that two of the women in church had said that my father was probably not just missing in action but had gone AWOL and most likely found a woman to be his mistress. My aunts told Jamie that was not true. Jamie kept pestering about what the words meant though. Uncle Sam went into the kitchen and decided we all would discuss it after dinner.
So, after dinner we all went into the living room. My uncle explained what the words meant. Our eyes popped open and we were upset. We began to be very adamant that we wanted to have revenge on those two 'old bitties' as we called them. Aunt Titus quieted us all down. 'I think this is a good time to pray for wisdom.' We prayed for our father and also for those two women. We children were told to pray for them in a good way. We did it but we wanted to ask God to clobber them. After we finished this, it was time for desert. The chocolate cake made the younger ones forget what had happened. I was less forgetful.
We changed into our play clothes and the younger kids went out to play. I helped my aunts pick up the dishes. Aunt Titus was putting the food away when I noticed her face. She was obviously very upset. She had done well to hide it from us, but I could tell. Aunt Titus was never quiet in the kitchen. She always sang as she worked. That afternoon she was quiet. Aunt Judy was angry too. She was more vocal though. 'How dare they? We have to put a stop to those wagging tongues before this gets out of hand! What can we do?'
Aunt Titus gave Aunt Judy a look that told her to be silent. Her eyes flashed as she told me I could go outside. I went out to sit on the porch swing and read my history book. Uncle Sam's voice carried though he never raised his voice. 'I will handle this ladies. I am going over to Pastor's house in the morning to help him fix his back porch. But, you women keep praying for wisdom. Now listen, do not under any circumstances contact those ladies. Do I have your word? Things will look differently in the morning.' My aunts must have said yes but I didn't hear any more.
It wasn't until years later that I found out what the pastor and Uncle Sam did. Both men went to speak with the women's husbands. These were Godly men who were the head of their house. The four men agreed that gossip like this was very serious. Whatever those husbands did I will never know. We never heard that gossip ever again though. Those two women became a little stand offish for a bit, but after a while they were friendly.
One of my favorite memories with my aunts was when they took us girls out on the back porch to teach us to crochet. We made a lot of knots for a while. Yet, after a month we began to know how to hold the crochet hook and made chains. Soon the chains became place mats or something simple. To this day, my sisters and cousin Joan still crochet.
Cooking lessons were fun too. I learned how to make cakes, and cookies, biscuits and gravies. There was always something my aunts were doing and more than willing to teach me. I learned to hand sew too. Soon, I was sitting on that back porch with my aunts mending torn pants or darning socks.
We got little mail but sometimes Uncle Bob would write a short note. We sent care packages whenever possible. I remember we made cookies a lot and Aunt Judy made scarves and hats and mittens.
The worst time was when all of us came down with chicken pox. The pastor's wife offered to take Mattie as soon as we started to get sick. The rest of us were a mess. We couldn't hold anything down. There were basins next to our beds. Our aunts and Uncle Sam were busy taking care of us at all hours. We drank ginger ale, and chicken broth. Sometimes Aunt Titus made us tea with honey. We had a few soda crackers too. No one felt much like eating. This lasted for two weeks.
We seemed to all get sick together frequently. If one caught a cold, we all had it. Sometimes the grown ups caught it from us as they tried to take care of us. Aunt Judy got very sick once with a virus. Her temperature was high and Aunt Titus had to wash her down with cold water. I helped with this because Aunt Titus still had the house to run. It seemed Aunt Titus always had ginger ale and soda crackers in her pantry.
Fall began to turn into winter and with it came a surprise for us. There was a knock on the door. A tall thin man in uniform with a cane stood on the door step. Our father was released and sent home. We will never know why he was set free except by God answering our prayers. Yet our father was not well. He had lost a lot of weight and I hardly recognized him. Also, he had only one leg. The screams from all of us kids and Aunt Titus could probably be heard for miles around that day. We had no idea and no word of his coming home.
We all cried and laughed and cried some more. He was hugged and kissed and this went on for hours until finally we settled down. Our new life with Dad began.