My Aunt Rose (Rose McCormick)
From my earliest childhood memories, one of my fatherís sisters played an important role in my growing up years. She lived next door to my family. Although she may not have been of an ideal weight by some folksí standards, she was always very neat and attractive when she was all dressed up to go either to church or out to shop. She was a very active member in her church, First Methodist here in Livingston. She was an excellent seamstress, a marvelous cook, and was a lot of help to my mother who was raising four children while my father worked in another state. I didnít realize it at the time I was growing up, but me, my sister and two brothers were very important to her, just as she was important to us. She was divorced and had no children of her own. Since my mother didnít drive, or for that matter even own a car, Aunt Rose provided transportation to lots of places for us. And it was because of her that we were able to go to some places that otherwise we wouldnít have. And in looking back, I believe itís because Aunt Rose and her influence on my young life, and the fact that she was always on the go that I am that way too. Iím always looking for new places to go, new restaurants to eat in, new shops to poke around in, just as Aunt Rose was when we were growing up. We made several trips at the invitation of Aunt Rose to Rugby, an English settlement near Jamestown. Through these visits, we were introduced to the way of life that the early Rugby settlers had. I found it very interesting, and even today, my sister and I still try and make at least one trip every year.
Aunt Roseís sewing skills brought a lot of interesting ladies into her home, and since I was brought up by the rule that children should be seen (always clean and neat, by the way) and not heard, that I would sit quietly and observe these patrons of my aunt. My very favorite was a flamboyant beauty shop owner who sometimes brought along her very sophisticated husband that had a slight resemblance, I thought, to Rhet Butler. Aunt Rose created many, many spectacular fashions for this particular lady that often included a cape with real fur trim, and sequined dresses that sparkled and glittered. This lady took lots of trips to Nashville and sometimes to New York, and I can remember being very fascinated by her. She was very tall with warm brown hair that was shoulder length, but most of the time she wore it up. Sometimes these sewing sessions for her required many fittings, and I did my best to try and be there when I knew she was coming to try on something. She talked very loud and smoked cigarettes constantly. I remember being astonished once when she tried to get me to enter the beauty contest she helped to sponsor during the county fair. That was definitely one time when I cut that visit short. After all, how could anyone who looked like I did - all arms and legs, a girl who was tormented by all the mean boys in her class at school as being a "bean pole" or "skinny minnie" even think about being in a beauty contest. Why, Iíd be the laughing stock of Livingston, or so I thought. Boy, what Iíve give to have that problem again!
Aunt Rose also had three friends who not only socialized with her, but she also made most of their clothes. These three were sisters and were members of one of Livingstonís oldest families. I looked forward to being included in their visits also, especially to the home that two of the sisters shared together. Aunt Rose asked me to go with her to lunch at their home one day, and Iíll always remember that occasion. We ate in the dining room. The table was set with some of the sistersí best china and silver. I was very impressed. The thing I remember most about the meal was the crystal compote with raspberry preserves in it. At that time, I remember thinking Iíd never seen anything so beautiful. Perhaps that why today those kind of crystal pieces always catch my eye when browsing in an antique shop.
Another of Aunt Roseís good friends was a lady named Mabel. I really did enjoy her visits too. She was quite thin, had snow white hair, and always wore lots of beautiful jewelry, especially rings. She wore lots of rings, and bright red lipstick. She also smoked, but the one difference my aunt made with her was that she had to empty and wash out her ash tray when she got ready to go home. She loved to play cards, and she talked a lot about men. Since I was really more interested in watching her than in what she had to say, I donít remember too much about the "men" talk. She was a very colorful character to say the least.
Aunt Rose loved to go shopping in Nashville. She would ask my mother to go along with her from time to time, and that would mean I got to go too. We would get up around 4:00 a.m. on the Saturdays when a trip to Nashville was up, and hit the road in her old Chevrolet. No interstates of course, just Highway 70 all the way into Nashville. Harveys and Cain/Sloan were her favorites. It would always be way past dark when we got back home. There were lots of occasions that if my mother couldnít go with her on these Nashville trips, she took my oldest brother along. Sometimes she would stop in Carthage where her sister, my Aunt Anna, lived, and get one of her sons who was around the age of my oldest brother to go on into Nashville with them. Weíve laughed a lot about riding in that old Chevrolet with her. We hold those memories very precious now.
Another favorite place I liked to go with Aunt Rose was to Reederís Auction on North Church Street. It was located where Tomís Welding is now. Auctions were held every Friday night, and although my aunt didnít go every Friday night, the nights she did go, usually my mother, me and my younger brother went along too. I donít know if she or my mother ever bought a single thing at these auctions, but I do remember how much fun it was. We would always stay late, and lots of times, my mother and Aunt Rose would find my brother and myself asleep on the back seat of the car when they were ready to go home.
Aunt Roseís cooking skills were unsurpassed by most. I canít count the Saturday mornings she would call our house and say, "Come on down, Iíve just took a cake out of the oven - letís have a piece while itís still warm." Her cakes were always made from scratch. Pound cakes were a speciality. Homemade rolls, chicken and dressing - the list goes on and on. There was nothing like the wonderful smells coming from her kitchen.
She was the family historian and literally the person that the entire family stayed in touch through. Hardly a week went by that she didnít have news from family members that lived in other places. And she would also keep those family members advised of what was going on in Livingston. She knew all her nephews and niecesí spouses on a first name basis, and any new babies that came into the family were worthy of a trip to the new parentsí home for a "look-see" at the new addition.
When I got married, she and my mother made my wedding dress and veil which I still have. After I married, I moved to the country where my husbandís family lived, and she was one of the few in my family that wasnít bothered by the distance that I lived from town. Sheíd get in that old Chevrolet of hers and make the dust boil on those country roads coming to see me. She liked my mother-in-law, so visiting us in the country was always a treat to her.
I remember the second Thanksgiving of my married life quite clearly. Although my mother-in-law cooked and canned for a very large extended family, that year she asked me to get Aunt Roseís recipe for dressing. I called her on the phone and she "walked" me through the process. Over the years, I think Iíve come pretty close to achieving the same taste she did with dressing, or at least some of my family members tell me that. I wish I could tell Aunt Rose that I have passed her recipe along to my oldest son the same way she did with me - over the phone. The only difference is that he was in Texas when he and I "walked" through the process. She would be so very proud.
Cancer took Aunt Roseís life at age 65. She died July 24, 1973. Her birthday also happens to be July 24. And even when she was in the last stages of that awful disease, I would sit by her bedside at her house and make notes about our family tree. I took an interest in genealogy around the time she found out she was sick. She kept a good attitude in spite of the fact that she knew her life was short, and even under the influence of pain medication, she passed on to me things she felt would be helpful in piecing together the family tree. I was happy she lived long enough to know each of my three children. She died when my youngest was not quite two.
Everyone should be so lucky as to have an Aunt Rose. I really believe some of the traits I have today are because of her good influence. On the day of Aunt Roseís funeral, one of her aunts, my great-aunt Olive, that managed to out-live her, gave me a pound cake recipe that included some unique instructions ... "after putting the cake in the oven, donít peek ... even if you have glass door in the oven, donít peek!" I use this recipe a lot and I refer to it as my Aunt Olive cake. When my children were growing up, I would always remind them not to run in the kitchen when I was baking this particular cake, that I had "Aunt Olive" in the oven. They always laughed about that. I would like nothing better than to bake this cake for Aunt Rose and to be able to call her on the phone and say, "come on over, Iíve just took a cake out of the oven - letís have a piece while itís still warm." We sure would have a lot of catching up to do if that were possible.
Sometimes it seems to me that days like those I experienced growing up donít exist anymore. I really hope that isnít true. Hopefully there are young folks today who have a special person in their family whose influence is totally good and is also long lasting. So many things today seem fleeting and temporary to me, no substance at all. I hope for Aunt Roseís sake that Iím wrong. Iím thankful for the influence she had on me and that I have those good memories I can now share with others.