Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tuesday Stories - Guest Writer - POCKETBOOKS

Today's story was written by a friend and fellow sufferer of ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis). She has had it much longer than I have and has worked through much of it with a sense of humor still intact. I hope you enjoy the story!

by Nita Dozier Thatcher

(62nd in the Tueday Story Series)

I want to share with you a story. A story about my Grandpa Dempsey's older sister, my great aunt Cora. The story starts from the memory of a five year old who didn't realize that her great aunt Cora might be a little strange.

Great aunt Cora loved calendars. So much so that she papered the walls of her living room in her tiny little house with pictures taken from calendars she had received from local businesses she had faithfully patronized over the course of years and years. To a five year old it was the most fascinating room imaginable. Over there in the corner were the mighty Swiss Alps, a bit yellowed, but recognizable. Behind the rocking chair, horses grazed in green pastures. By the potted fern lived dogs and kittens, and down at the bottom, over under the window was President Calvin Coolidge. Well! Every house should have a room just like it in order to keep it from being ordinary!

But that's not the story I want to tell.

Great aunt Cora also had collections. There was a pile of rocks in the fireplace from places she had visited. That was okay because the fireplace didn't work anymore because the chimney smoked like my great uncle Frank Crago who was destined to die of lung cancer before he ever reached 90. Or so great aunt Cora, aged 92, smugly explained and I guess she was right because the white paint on the mantle above the fireplace had a bit of a smokey gray look to it and so did great uncle Frank Crago.

But I digress, so back to great aunt Cora's collections. There were vases full of feathers, collected in the wild by great aunt Cora herself, from every bird native to the eastern part of the United States of America. Or so the cardboard plaque on the long shelf over the front windows holding the vases said. There was the row of little brass picture frames, all hinged in the middle, marching zig-zag across the mantle. Each frame proudly displaying locks of hair tied with ribbon. Every last one of great aunt Cora's eight children, twenty-nine grandchildren, and eleven great-grandchildren, to date, having been caught and shorn for posterity. Most puzzling of all, stacked from floor to ceiling in the corner, each one in it's own box, was every single puzzle great aunt Cora had ever put together in her whole life. Three very colorful stacks of them. Floor to ceiling. One on top the other. And they were never supposed to be taken down and put together again because some things were only meant to be done once. Well!

Be that as it may, that's not the story I want to share with you about my great aunt Cora.

No, the story I want to share has to do with the little room off the kitchen, right next to the back porch, the little room which contained another one of her collections. I was all of eight by the time my snooping self had explored the other oddities of great aunt Cora's house and I discovered the little room. I had pondered by then that just possibly my great aunt Cora might be slightly different from most older ladies of my acquaintance so the discovery was nothing unusual and little did I know it would, many years later, cause me to pause and contemplate my own life.

There was the usual stuff in the little room. The broom and dustpan, the sack of potatoes starting to get their eyes growing, the old wash tub, the sofa sized photograph in the gold frame, leaning up against the wall, of the huge pig that her late husband had won the blue ribbon with at the 1946 county fair for having birthed a litter of 33 piglets, the largest piglet production to date in Jackson County Ohio! The very same pig picture that great aunt Cora liked to have sitting in the corner of her dining room once a year to show to relatives at Thanksgiving as we sat to eat the traditional ham.

No, what caught my eye were all the big pocketbooks hanging by their straps from nails pounded into the walls of this little room. Row after row of pocketbooks. All shapes, all sizes, all colors, one hung right next to the other, right up and down all four walls.

My eight year old mouth hanging open in awe and wonder, having just discovered the supreme importance of accessorizing one's wardrobe, I dragged my great aunt Cora to the little room amazed that she was so au courant in fashionable good taste. Expecting to be regaled with stories of which pocketbook went with which outfit and pair of shoes, I waited to be fashionably educated.

Only to discover that great aunt Cora's pocketbooks were nothing more than a filing system. A filing system! I had failed to see a number pinned to each pocketbook. 1927, 1933, 1921, etc. It seemed each and every year, at the first of the new year, from the day she first married and set up her very own household, great aunt Cora went to the store and bought herself a brand new pocketbook.

Then, instead of accessorizing her wardrobe with that new purse, like any ordinary lady, she began tucking into it all of the cards she received, all of the articles she'd clipped from the Jackson County Newspaper about events she'd attended, ribbons she herself had won at the county fair, invitations to parties she had attended, napkins kept from weddings, all of the letters she got from friends, birth announcements of babies she had welcomed into the world, obituaries from the funerals of friends she'd said farewell to, Christmas letters from her piano students, pictures from trips she'd taken, every bit of it went into that new pocketbook. Stuffed full to bursting. Some so full their clasps hung open and things poked out.

Then at the end of the year, she pinned the current yearly date on that pocketbook, drove a new nail right into the wall of that little room and hung up that pocketbook! Never to be opened again, except to occasionally take out a few memories and cry and laugh over them.

Well! That's when I had my first inkling that my very own great aunt Cora might be a bit eccentric and strange, but just maybe something of a genius as well.

Sometimes, still to this day, I think of great aunt Cora and her filing system that organized her memories of a full and complete life. I think about her little room off her kitchen near the back porch and I think about what my own little room might look like with pocketbooks hanging on the walls, all neatly dated with dates starting from my own wedding in 1968 and going right up to 2012.

And I realize something. The first few years my pocketbooks would be overly stuffed to bursting with memories, clasps gaping open with stuff hanging right out the sides. The next several years, the pocketbooks would be bulging a bit at the seams. Then would come quite a few years where my pocketbooks would be a bit under-stuffed. Then the rest of my precious pocketbooks, right up to this year 2012, would be very nearly empty.

This is what a long history of ME/CFS does to one's life.

Although the pocketbooks I continue to hang on my wall may not be as full as they once were, every year I live I will still have a brand new pocketbook to mark my time. A pocketbook into which, in spite of everything, I can place memories. Fewer memories, perhaps, simpler memories, maybe, but they will be golden ones because I now know how precious and rare they may be.

Maybe that golden memory will be of my husband cooking his first Thanksgiving turkey and peeking in the oven every few minutes to make sure it's okay. Maybe it will be a golden memory in the form of a picture of my first great-grandchild. Maybe it will be a golden memory of the new friend I meet when it's time to ask for a Home Health Aide. Maybe it will be a golden memory of how my family and friends, each in their own unique way, support me when I need someone who understands.

And each and every year I will celebrate with a joyous heart the hanging of my brand new pocketbook!

Come see my latest postcards I've received on Postcards Buffet!


  1. Wouldn't it be nice to be just a little like Great Aunt Cora - love the wall paper.... thanks for the story.

  2. What a wonderful story.
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. LOVE this story! Now I don't feel strange collecting rocks and stuff. What a great storyteller!

  4. Great to see you again in the Art Gallery tour yesterday, Rebecca :)

  5. Rebecca,I love the picture of the pocketbooks hanging on the wall that you have added to my story. It was my great honor to share the story with you and your readers. I'm quite sure my great aunt Cora would be very pleased indeed! Nita


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