Aunt Barbara


She was always her voice, a timeless southern drawl that caught your attention, rarely raised in anger but often seeped in laughter or surprise. I should have more easily forgotten that she witnessed the part of my life I consider to be the most base. It was a perplexing part of my life to know someone so kind in all the ways people should be good could be capable of looking sideways; only as an older person did I even begin to see how foolish much of my insistence toward oversimplification stripped her of her own individuality. She, like me, lived her life with the gifts she had available; unlike me, she did it with more openness.

It is without rancor that I say that she mounted an offensive for family, always being the cohesion against the twin foils of her siblings who provided either raucous debauchery or aloof superciliousness. When I changed my name almost 3 decades ago, it was she who demonstrated one of the deepest wounds, though she of all people knew in her compassion-filled heart that my motivation was one of self-preservation.

She lived a great life, even when tempered by my strangely fluid definitions. Laughter, family, and even tragedies came and went; and yet, her sense of humor tempered every peak and valley. She stayed in the small hometown that both defined her and amplified her. Such a small place of diminishing returns certainly will be less bright without her.

If this world were to have more of her, there would be more happiness and more hands on shoulders, and even more glasses of iced tea in the summer. (Because while iced tea wouldn’t cure your ills, it would always give you something to enjoy in life, if someone were there to accompany you as you drank it.)

The video was taken in her yard on a July day some 21 years ago, out on the edge of Monroe County, in a place almost everyone speeds through to get from one place to another.

Not her.

She was always where she needed to be, just as she is now.

Her voice lingers on the edge of highway 49, though, evoking the gentlest reminder that so many great moments can be found where you are.

I can hear her voice now, drawling out a slow and welcome ‘hey, y’all.’ .

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