Thursday, October 27, 2011

Family Portraits: #2 - Auntie Mae

I don't have a photo in my computer files of Auntie Mae, but this is me, my mom and her sister (the famous Aunt Eileen from Family Portrait #1) on the day of my youngest brother's funeral in October, 2009. Still trying to follow the guidelines set out by The High Calling's Community Writing Project - 500 words or less, rich in detail, describe a family member who influenced me during childhood.
Bird-like, slightly mischievous, eyes a-twinkle, heart afire, Mary (Mae) Thompson Alsup Nichols managed to leave a very large footprint, despite wearing a size four shoe. And she was proud of those feet, happy to tell you that she was among the select few who could purchase the shoes displayed in the store window. Because every shoe looks ever-so-much better in a size four, right?

Left motherless at age three, never to have children of her own, she ‘adopted’ her sister’s kids - my mother and her siblings. Mae had energy to spare, loved to laugh and was cute as a button, right up until she died at the age of 102. She married and buried two husbands, both of whom she adored, and lavished love on all the various children of all the various cousins in my extended family.

To this day, my 90-year-old mom and her 88 and 86-year-old siblings give thanks to God for Auntie Mae. Their parents worked full-time during the depression and were seldom home. But my grandmother’s kid sister and the two female cousins with whom she and Mae were raised - they were always available for comfort, fun and companionship. These three attended Angelus Temple and were fervent admirers of Aimee Semple MacPherson. When Mae married and moved across town, she attended The Church of the Open Door in downtown LA, but she never forgot the drama of the Temple.

And color? The brighter the better. She learned to crochet in her late 70’s and promptly began creating anything and everything imaginable. Afghans, sweaters, hats, novelties - I lost count of how many ‘dolls’ she created with crocheted skirts to cover the extra roll of TP on the back of the toilet. Unfortunately, she also went through a ‘neon’ phase. One year, she made coats and hats for my daughters in vibrating fluorescent colors so intense they never made it out of the closet, except for photos to send with thank you notes.

When I was five, I had my tonsils out in a local doctor’s office. Something went terribly wrong and I landed in the hospital for a week, fighting for life. When I was released, I went to Mae’s home, because it was closer to the hospital than our little 40’s house in the valley.  She cared for me as if I were her own little girl, bringing me ice cream at the demand of my bedside bell, encouraging me to talk gently through that ruined throat.

It was a two-week stretch of time that only we two shared. Even though I badly wanted to be in my own home, with my parents and brother and my own safe bed, I somehow knew Mae was special. The gift she offered with her kindness and care was an important one, one that breathed Jesus to me even before I could fully grasp who Jesus was. Mae truly loved the Lord. And she lived a gospel life while creating fun wherever she went.