Tuesday, September 18, 2007
The Late Great Edith Douglas
When I was about fourteen we lived across the highway from my Great Uncle Gary and his wife, my Great Aunt Edith. Aunt Edith was what people in those days would call a fragile beauty. She was very much into her Church duties, loved gardening (flowers) and was the first woman I ever remember seeing wear gloves in her flower gardens. My mother had gloves, she just didn't wear them. She couldn't, she would say, feel the root of the weed she was pulling with gloves on. Aunt Edith had small perfect little hands with oval nails that were always clean, her cuticles were never broken, that I remember. She was very fond of Gladiolas, and had several beds of them. She would prepare a bouquet of flowers to sit on the table in front of the Minister's dais so that he would appear to be framed by pink and orange glads as he gave his sermon. (It's funny how I can remember her flowers more than I can remember what the minister preached about.) I don't think I ever remember anything in spring and summer but Glads, and Christmas was decorated with the tree and wreathes. But the gladiolas linger in my minds eye like a bridal veil... a shimmering mist just out of reach. Uncle Gary was a business man, he had a seed company. Douglas Seed Company, it was called. He would have to go out of town on business trips and Aunt Edith, not liking to be alone, would ask my mother if I could stay the night with her. She had a beautiful home, a split level house and a grand piano on a level all its on. Her son, Gary (Jr) could play so beautifully and she was so proud of him. The first time I stayed set the pattern. I would go over to her house when I had finished my homework, around four pm. I would knock on her kitchen door at the carport and she would have a tea party all set up. She showed me the proper way a young lady should hold a tea cup and we had ladies fingers and Earl Grey. Lemon, no sugar. Her voice was soft and sweet and I always felt she didn't feel quite a part of the family for some reason. There was, I don't mean aloofness, but an apartness from the rest of the family (my grandparents and her mother-in-law and sisters-in-law) that I felt, rather then knew with a certain knowledge. It wasn't a rudeness. It was a shyness. We reached out to each other and I grew to love her so very much. Her health was poor for as long as I can remember. But I can still see her arriving at Church with her flower arrangement in hand, a pretty little hat on her soft grey curls, cheeks pink her tinkling laugh and her mink scarves decorating her suit jacket, tiny little feet encased in soft leather pumps. Sometimes Missy, her cocker spaniel would be with her, if the morning was cool. I used to think that she loved that dog as much as any human. Maybe more than some. All I know is that I can never see Gladiolas and not think of her. She lives in my heart as surely as she walked the earth. I never heard her raise her voice, or saw her raise her hand to any living creature. She was just who she was, the ideal of a young girl.