Aunt Sue and the Autumn Leaves

Aunt Sue had a green thumb. Her home sat on a hill surrounded by distant Blue Ridge Mountains, an inspiring sight. However, up close, Aunt Sue tended to trees and flowers and vegetables with the same loving care she tended her family. Her home-canned green beans were out of this world and rivaled those of Aunt Mot, but that’s a story for another day.

Near the end of Aunt Sue’s life, she was diagnosed with cancer. She strove to hide her pain with a cheerfulness that bordered on denial. She still invited folks over and sat them down to a table laden with mouth-watering corn bread and butter, fried or baked chicken, stuffing flavored with the sage that grew outside her kitchen door (when I was a little girl, I was her stuffing tester), an array of vegetables, cooked and cru ˊde ˊta, and some wonderful dessert. She always kept friendship bread starter, and that was one of her tastiest offerings.

Once when I visited her with my daughter, Jenny, who is not much younger than Aunt Sue’s daughter, Vanessa, the autumn weather was pleasant enough for us to sit out on the front porch. As we talked, the wind got a little blustery and yellow, brown, and red leaves started falling from the trees at the edge of the lawn.

Among the old superstitions that we mountain folk grew up hearing is the one that states: “If you catch a falling leaf on the first day of autumn you will not catch a cold all winter.” It might have been Aunt Sue who reminded us of that saying.

It was worth a try. Was each of us secretly hoping there was enough good luck in an autumn leaf to dispel cancer? Jenny and Vanessa led the way as we all clambered down the steps and started trying to catch a falling leaf.

What fun that was! We must have looked like a bunch of kindergarteners, the way we squealed with our arms out-stretched and our faces up-lifted. . . . You’d be surprised how hard it is to catch a falling leaf in the wind.

I can’t remember if any of us caught cold that winter.

I do remember the joy Aunt Sue felt in life and the way she spread that joy to others with her good food and warm hospitality.


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Betty Wagner
    Feb 13, 2011 @ 17:22:50

    Very nice. I was always afraid of Aunt Sue. But I loved Aunt Mot. Strangely last night I had a dream about her. I was at your old house and everyone was there, but Aunt Mot was being mean to me and when I asked her to make her biscuits, she said no! I woke myself up crying because she wouldn’t make them. The happiest parts of my girlhood was when I got to go to your house for the weekend!


  2. Barbara Bockman
    Feb 13, 2011 @ 17:56:25

    Dear Betty,

    Thanks for stopping by. I can’t imagaine you being afraid of Aunt Sue, but I guess she could be a bit bossy. Aunt Mot was a real sweet-heart. They were both excellent cooks. I loved it when you came over.


  3. vanessa mcnelly
    Feb 14, 2011 @ 07:28:19

    I remember that day. We had such fun. I still try and catch an autumn leaf to stay well all winter!


  4. Donna Shepherd
    Feb 14, 2011 @ 14:02:33

    Lovely memory. Thanks for sharing.



  5. ccgevry
    Feb 14, 2011 @ 20:41:29

    What a lovely story. Thanks for sharing it with us.


  6. Barbara Bockman
    Feb 14, 2011 @ 21:01:59

    Thanks to Vanessa, Donna, and ccgevry (may I call you cc ?)

    for stopping by and leaving comments.


  7. Holly Owen
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 10:44:38

    I do know how hard it is to catch a falling leaf. And I enjoyed this lovely story. Aunt Sue reminds me of my own Aunt Helen, who is an amazingly gifted cook and a dear person. Thanks for sharing your memories, they sparked some of my own.


  8. Barbara Bockman
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 16:19:18

    Hi Holly,

    It’s always good when we can remember happy times with beloved family members.

    I love the motto on your Vanishing Veil blog: “learn to love.”


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