Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Combining Habits

My previous post opened up long forgotten personal memories of childhood and relatives - and for me, the two didn't often provide happy memories.

I was an incredibly shy and introverted kid and all my life, I have never felt comfortable in a group of people.

Part of my problem grew from having very outgoing, extrovert and confident relatives - at least on my mum's side. We didn't spend much time with those on dad's side and even he enjoyed the in-laws more than his own family members.

As I mentioned in that post, mum was one of 12 and that meant 6 aunts and 5 uncles and half were in farming in some way or another. Two of the aunts and 2 of the uncles moved to England either before I was born or not long after. This still left plenty and when I was around them, I felt intimidated by their confidence.

I did have favourites and even though I never saw much of her, I loved my Aunt Louisa. There were 2 good reasons for not seeing her a lot. First she was one of the aunts who lived in England and second, she was a Mother Superior in a closed order convent !! Basically nuns there were not allowed to leave the premises.

Before I left for a life in England myself, the Vatican changed the rules (oh now what a surprise) and the nuns could leave from time time to time if they wanted. Aunt Louisa, or Sister Perpetua, to give her 'religious' name, would visit maybe once or twice a year and was so different from my other aunts that I loved her from the first time I met her.

She was a Whoopi Goldberg meets Julie Andrews sort of nun. Very funny, didn't seem particularly zealous at all and was a hoot to be around. She lit up a room with her presence and personality - although as we always associated with Catholics, her appearance was guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser on so many levels !

One event stands out vividly in my mind and again it's from the days when summers were long and hot and I never wanted them to end. It was hay bailing time and this WAS hard work back then. My uncle had invested a fortune in a new combine harvester which pooped out the classic
boxed bales of hay and not the huge wheel types that we see these days. They may have been smaller but they were still a challenge for a puny teenager to haul up onto a trailer to take back from the field to the farm.

But it was still fun. The craic was great and although I rarely contributed to any of it, I started my lifelong fascination with listening to people. When you are shy, there isn't a lot else to do !!

Mid afternoon, Aunt Louisa hovered out (I always thought when women became nuns, they traded in their shoes for some hover mechanism as it seemed to me that they glided everywhere on a sort of celestial cushion of air) to bring us some lemonade in true 'cotton picking' style. As usual she was taking some friendly banter from her family members for not 'mucking in' and helping with the hay bailing and, with that wicked glint in her eye that I loved to bits, she said she'd help out by driving the harvester.

No one was more surprised than her when her oldest brother and the owner of the harvester said....ok then, up you go !!!

I took this photo. It's slightly faded due to age and, being taken several decades before digital photography came about, has had to be scanned to get it up here.

It's one of my favourite photos as it completely sums her up in my mind. It's a 'caption photo' if ever I saw one and my effort was made in the title of this post.

It makes me smile to see it now as it immediately takes me back to those carefree sunny summer days when I didn't have to be constantly worried about being bullied at school for my shyness, my looks and the fact that I came from a small rural village.

I was out in the fresh air, out in the fields and on this particular occasion, out with a wonderful aunt who made me feel that I WAS special. She listened to me, gave me advice and generally was there for me and I was all the better for knowing her. Her smile and laughter lit up a room and lit up the heart of a small timid boy who needed such a light in his life then.

That light went out suddenly, and much too soon, on 19th October 1980 and I often wonder what part she'd have played in my life if she'd been around longer.

As it is, she probably left an indelible impression on many people in her 'professional' life as you can't become a Mother Superior without doing so. But for me she was always Aunt Louisa and I will never forget what she meant to me.

The phrase about a picture being worth a thousand words has never been so true.

1 comment:

Daphne said...

Wonderful photo and a fascinating glimpse of a different kind of a life. More please.

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