Aunt Georgia

TALKING TO MYSELF 5 MAY 2014  As far as I can tell, my name, Georgia, has never been trendy.  George has had a good run from time to time with the English kings and with American presidents. The state of Georgia was named, I presume, for one of those men, even as I was named for my maternal grandfather, George Hudson. But Georgia didn’t catch on with the people who name daughters after states. Virginia is the runaway winner in that category followed by variant spellings of Carolina and Maryland, with Montana, believe it or not, coming on strong.

I mention this as a roundabout way of introducing you to my Aunt Georgia Green (e). In 1935, she married my father’s brother Woodrow– one of the five Green boys raised at the top of the Sparta hill -- and became my aunt through marriage. It was coincidence, my parents said, that my somewhat unusual name was a mirror image of hers.

I suppose “juniors” and girls with popular top ten names are used to sharing their monikers with others.   But to me, the sameness of our names was something unique that spanned the decades between my aunt and me, connecting us like a fraternal organization’s secret handshake. If, for example, our gifts off Pawpaw Green’s Christmas tree got mixed up (picture me ripping open her chenille bathrobe while she ended up with my Tiny Tears doll) we would laugh as though it were a great joke on Santa Claus to have two Georgia Greens to sort out. 

If one were lucky enough to have a twin aunt, I thought, I was double-lucky to have one as quick to smile and as pretty as fair skinned, red-haired Aunt Georgia. It didn’t hurt her popularity with me, either, that she was a whiz in the kitchen.  Whenever we happened by her house a meal was “almost ready, so you might as well stay and eat.”  In her hands, a simple dish like hamburger casserole with with noodles and corn became a masterpiece that would make Paula Deen weep with envy.  And don’t even get me started on her desserts!  (Let me just say that Aunt Georgia considered Philadelphia cream cheese and whipped cream the foundation of the food pyramid no matter what the U. S. government says.)

For a while, she was “big” Georgia and I was “little” Georgia.  Then, the Green family genetics kicked in, and I shot up to five feet seven or eight, right on past my aunt’s petite five feet two.   But even though I towered over her for decades, she was the giant, the one with a heart big enough to love the whole world, the powerhouse energy to feed it, and have a good time doing it.  She wasn’t quite a saint -- she had a redhead’s temper when it was needed -- but she came close.

She was a fulltime housewife by profession, a career she excelled at, from waxing floors to a high gloss, to minding children, to ironing crisp shirts.  She poured her energy into making comfortable homes for her family wherever her railroading husband’s job landed them. In the early years that meant frequent moves, but eventually they settled in the Northern Kentucky town of Walton. There, she and Uncle Woodrow finished rearing their three children, and along the way they had a lot of fun. 

Life with my sharp-witted Uncle Woodrow was filled with laughter, and together they enjoyed the everyday pleasures of living.  For them, those included working on their house, entertaining their large family, faithful service to the local Baptist church, and unwavering support of the University of Kentucky basketball team.  (Uncle Woodrow, as I’ve mentioned before, refused to take his last breath until the very moment the final, overtime score of the UK basketball game was announced on the TV in his hospital room.)  Oh – and I shouldn’t leave out the fierce family games of Rook.

There have been hard times, however, when it was difficult to laugh.  Health indignities, from cancer to cantankerous hips, challenged Aunt Georgia. Larry, her fifty-nine year old son, and then Uncle Woodrow went on to Gloryland without her.   But once she regained her balance, Aunt Georgia returned to doing what she’d always done best, helping other people.

At ninety, she was still rocking babies in the church nursery on Sunday mornings. If you were sick or graduating from something or getting married, she would drop one of her famous letters or special cards in the mail. If you were lonely or having a crisis, she picked up the phone and called. Most likely, though, she showed up in person.  During my mother’s final illness, I looked up more than one afternoon to see Aunt Georgia in her wheelchair rolling down the hospital corridor to visit us, to tell us one more time that she loved us.  Never mind that she lived seventy-five miles away, or that she had to beg and hitchhike a ride to get to us, she was there.

I guess “being there” would be an accurate summation of Aunt Georgia’s life. For ninety-six years and ten months, she has been there for everyone who needed her -- her husband, her three children, her numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren, her extended family, her friends. The better part of a century is a long time to “be there” for everybody, however, and she was tired.  Clear of mind, considerate and efficient until the end, she didn’t make much fuss when she exited. She waited until after supper, and then with little to-do, quietly left. I suspect, though, that’s she’s back at work in Heaven this morning, energized by a new body, putting in a good word for all of us.

In memory of Georgia Henry Green(e)* July 9, 1917 – May 4, 2014

*My father and grandfather, and his father before him, spelled our family name “Green,” as do I. My father’s brothers, however, legally added a final “e” to their surname. It’s about the only thing Daddy’s kind, funny family ever argued about, but we’ve made our peace, each having our own way with that extra e.

Copyright Georgia Green Stamper