by Susan J. Decuir
When Dad’s Uncle Ward and Aunt Eunice look out the window and see a 1958 Plymouth with Texas license plates pull in front of their old-fashioned two-story frame house in Lancaster, New York, they burst through the front door. Unable to have children of their own, they loved Dad like a son, and his children like their grandchildren.
While Dad’s mom, a nurse, worked and lived in a nursing home, Dad lived with his mom’s brother, Ward, and Aunt Eunice for part of his teen years. Mom always said that Dad’s children, thirteen-year-old Ray, ten-year-old Doug, and eleven-year-old me were their favorite. And we loved them like grandparents, having little or no memories of Mom and Dad’s parents.
When Dad moved his family from upstate New York to Dallas, Texas in 1953 when I was six, it was a special treat to visit Uncle Ward and Aunt Eunice every other year on our summer vacation. Following hugs and kisses, my brothers and I caught the scent of Aunt Eunice’s freshly baked homemade chocolate chip cookies wafting through the air and took off running toward the source. Sure enough, a platter stacked with Aunt Eunice’s mouth-watering cookies waited for us in her quaint old-fashioned kitchen in the back of the house. Unlike Mom, she didn’t care how many we consumed.
After gobbling down a few, I headed for the ancient upright piano against the wall in the living room, plopped onto the bench, played chop sticks and attempted to make up a few annoying (according to my brothers) songs.
I loved that old home. Multi-colored floral wall paper covered the walls of the two bedrooms directly off the living room. My suitcase went into the bedroom with the red roses (my favorite flower.) The living room was unassuming with a small floral sofa, two simple but comfy chairs, a lamp table, and coffee table. I never knew who lived upstairs; just that it was rented out. One of childhood’s many mysteries.
Once my brothers and I had our fill of Aunt Eunice’s mouthwatering chocolate chip cookies and we finished our tour of the house, we exploded through the kitchen back door and across the wide-wooden porch where the squirrels came to feast on Aunt Eunice’s generous snacks, hopped down the steps, by-passed Uncle Ward’s garage/work shop where he made Lincoln Logs for us, then followed the tree lined rock path leading to the creek behind their property. Before Mom had time to fuss at us to be careful and to not get our shoes wet and our clothes dirty.
I followed Ray and Doug along the uneven rocky path until we reached the narrow winding creek surrounded on either side with tall native oak and ash trees. Using my arms to balance myself across the uneven rocks, I reached the other side without incident, as did Ray and Doug. We followed the clear, sparkling creek and searched for frogs and fish or whatever crawly critters we could find—careful to avoid any snakes. We basked in the freedom after being cooped up in the car for three days and sleeping in musty motels for two nights.
To Mom’s chagrin, the three of us needed a good bathing following our creek adventure. I loved taking baths in Aunt Eunice’s old-fashioned claw foot bathtub. My imagination went into overtime, pretending that I lived in the days of the wild west like in the TV Westerns my brothers and watched at home on Saturday mornings. Before I was ready to give up my adventure, Mom banged on the door insisting that I finish up and give Ray and Doug their turn in the tub. Afterward we feasted on Aunt Eunice’s delicious supper in her exquisite dining room.
Thank you, Dad, for leaving us with so many fun, happy memories. Dad went to heaven two years later due to a hereditary kidney disease. Quoting my favorite Dolly Parton songs, “I Will Always Love You,” Dad.•