All the frustration of the past several months with Tiv's guitar restoration....all the phone calls and in store visits and questions and roundabout answers.... were worth it in the moment that I settled the old gibson in his sister's lap and she played bluegrass tune after bluegrass tune after telling us her "fingers wouldn't be able to do much strumming."
There is something captivating about this group of 8 siblings that make up the collection of great aunts and uncles on my dad's side of the family. They grew up in the holler of Dry Fork, Virginia, with corn fields that went straight up the mountainside behind the house, in the 1920's and 30's when money was scarce and life was tough. They are strong and hearty folk, who love deeply and smile often.... life is simple: be loyal to family, work hard, and always have plenty of food on table cause you never know who might be stopping by.
Because my Great Aunt Lena lives in Kentucky, I have not had much chance to spend time with her outside of the occasional family reunion years ago. It made the day and a half my dad and I spent in her little 1960's bungalow extra special. She is a spry, elderly woman, who may complain of aches and pains, but then promptly tucks her house slippered feet under her as she sits back in the recliner to tell yet another story. Who may say she doesn't do much cooking, but when meal time comes there's a full spread of biscuits, eggs, gravy....... :o)
We spent much of the day talking about old family stories. Lena knew Tivis the best as they were the two oldest in the family. Tiv spent a lot of time keeping Lena away from the neighborhood boys, and they used to play music together and get invited to all the parties in the area to provide the entertainment. She was quieter when she shared stories of Tiv, more reflective with a gentle tone. As much as I love the stories of Tiv showing up with a shotgun and demands, there was a gentle and loving side to him. There is such a tension there....holding on to Tiv's goodness while not denying the hardness.... there is much to be uncovered.
And how delightful to spend time with my (2nd?) cousins Alice and Tony. Alice spent most of the day with us, and was far from the shy and quiet personality my dad remembered. :o) Tony gave us a quick driving tour around the Cincinnati area, taking us to an overlook where we stood four feet from a docile raccoon and to ride across the river on a ferry that took both us and the car.... before we headed to a family-style dinner of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, biscuits..... we ate a lot of food in our short time in Kentucky!
My favorite story of Aunt Lena's was when she herself was a young girl. Two friends, who were pretty well off (in her words, "They never wanted for anything and every summer they would have new white sandals"), invited her to go to the movies. A taxi ride into town cost a quarter, the movie cost another quarter, then the ride back an additional quarter. Lena told the girls she didn't have any money, but with their continual prompting she finally went in to ask her mother for a dollar. Lena's mother told her to take the $2 bill (the only money in the house at the time) from the jar and bring back the change. Lena went to the movies with her friends and afterwards, these friendly girls claimed to be out of money for the taxi ride back. Lena knew they were trying to wiggle her remaining dollar out of her, but having promised her mother to bring back the extra change, Lena refused to pay for the ride back. She looked at those girls and said, "Well, if you ain't got the money for the taxi, I guess we will all have to walk back." And the girls walked the five miles back to Dry Fork. Lena got home after dark with tired and blistered feet. When her mother asked what happened and Lena shared, her mother told her she was "right proud of her, for showing those girls what was what."
I am so thankful for the time we were able to spend in Kentucky with Aunt Lena and her kids. I'm hoping to get back to see her later this summer.... maybe with more questions about Tiv, but certainly to eat some more biscuits and play guitar.... :o)