Monday, September 2, 2013

Fresh Country Air

Fresh country air. What does that mean to you? Is it the smell of freshly mowed hay as it swirls through the wind? Maybe it's the sweet scent of honeysuckle in the breeze as it whips through the trees. Or maybe it's the stench reeking from the hog farm down the road! Maybe it's all of the above! Regardless of what you classify as fresh country air, that term will always conjure up sweet childhood remembrances of a beloved aunt and the visits to her country home on Cowpath Road...that's right, Cowpath Road, (not Cow Patty :) near Christiansburg, Ohio. But here's the best part. Aunt Clara is 103 years old today! Isn't that amazing?!

Aunt Clara, a.k.a. Clara Davis Stagner, is the only living sister of my sweet mother who went on to be with the Lord a little over three years ago. She and the baby of the family, my Uncle Amos, are the only surviving siblings out of seven. As families go, we were quite close. There were eight children in my family and Aunt Clara and her husband, Mier, or Bud as everyone called him, were parents to seven and all pretty close in age to us. That made for lots of fun get-togethers, especially between our two families since we lived only a short drive away.


This picture was taken before my time on the porch of our home.
My mom is in the middle holding my sister, Barbara.
Aunt Edna, (Mom's twin) is on the left and that is Aunt Clara on the right.

This photo was taken on the same day as the one above...
...a bunch of cousins from the three families... 
...really, just a drop in the bucket...not nearly everyone got in the picture!


I can still visualize the house...with its wrap-around porch and how the swing would slam into the side of the house if you swung just a little too high. It sat pretty close to the narrow road which was lined with cornfields on either side and most of the traffic consisted of tractors or other farm vehicles...not much worry about getting out on the road and getting hit by a speeding car. It was pure country as far as the eye could see. The term "fresh country air" was really kind of a joke we kids made up because of that hog farm which was was just a short distance down the road! It was a thing we would always matter where we were and we happened to notice the smell of fresh manure in the air, any one of us would never fail to say, "Ahhhh....smell that fresh country air!"  And while on the subject, there was no inside bathroom in Aunt Clara's house for several years so having to use the outhouse added to the fond memories! Just ask my sister, Barbara, she'll tell you all about it. It seems she was an uninvited guest one day when she had to go to the outhouse to sit for a spell. The yellow jackets who had made their home under the rim of the seat were not happy campers when someone came in and invaded their space! She came running out of there and into the house screaming bloody murder, bare butt and all! I don't know how many times she got stung...but (pun intended) really didn't matter. Have you ever been stung by a yellow jacket??? YEOWWW! At night time, an old enamelware chamber pot sat at the bottom of the stairway along with a roll of toilet paper in case someone had to "go".

There are many things I see that spark a memory of those days. Here are a couple more examples:

Duplex sandwich cookies could always be found in the cookie jar. She would serve them to us with tall glasses of milk poured into glass glasses with designs on them—unlike getting a half glass at home and we could get more if we drank it all. As funny as it sounds, this seemed like a real luxury to me. At home, Mom was always very cautious about giving us glass glasses to drink from. How can a glass be anything other than glass, you might be asking? Well, at our house, we drank from either metal or plastic cups...even though we called them glasses :) Am I confusing you? Regardless, the point being she let us drink full glasses of milk from glasses something like these you see below.

We would also love playing upstairs in our cousin, Sharon's room. It's always more fun to play with someone else's toys, right? I will never forget her doll house—it was the coolest doll house ever with the coolest furniture ever. We would play with it for hours and hours. When we got a little older and were young teens, we had a blast singing and dancing with Sharon as we listened to her collection of 45's on her record player up in her room. And I will never forget hot summer days as we worked on our "tans", slathering ourselves with Crisco... yes, pure Crisco... and proceeded to fry as we laid on blankets out in the yard!

Through the years, being able to visit with Aunt Clara was always a special treat for me, especially after I moved away from Ohio. My Uncle Bud had passed away several years before so she had been widowed for quite some time. I always looked forward to seeing her sweet smile and loved being greeted by her gentle, soft spoken demeanor. As the years passed, Mom's health started to fail and she was in and out of the hospitals and the nursing home on several occasions. Aunt Clara, being two years older had also started to decline a bit and was unable to stay at home alone after a while. As God would have it and to soften the blow, the sisters who had been so close all of their lives were "roomies" at the nursing home! Here are a few photos of us taken in 2009 when all of my children and grandchildren came for a visit. Mom looks like she could use a nap :)

Unfortunately, Mom went home to be with the Lord in the spring of 2010. 
She didn't get to witness her sweet sister reach her milestone birthday of 100 years...
... but I know she was rejoicing in heaven.

Oh, I just love this picture of her! Look at the joy on her face!

Here she is with her "baby brother", my Uncle Amos, 
who I think is now about 97 or 98 years young :)


Just look at that sweet smile and those bright, cheerful eyes!
I think this was taken a few days after the "Big 100" party and that was three years ago! 
I haven't been able to get up to see her for a while but my sis, Barb keeps me posted on how she's doing... 
and from what I hear, she is going strong!


There will be more partying going on today, I have no doubt. When you have lived as many days and years as she has, everyday is a gift and should be celebrated. Really, shouldn't we all be living like that regardless of our age? We are never guaranteed tomorrow...some of us are just blessed with more of them than others!

I thank the Lord for blessing this sweet woman with so many years of life. I am also thankful for all of those simple little things I have spoken of here that remind me of her. The memories of my childhood would not be complete without them!

Happy 103rd Birthday, dear sweet Aunt Clara! 

I love you!

UPDATE: It saddens me to say that less than 2 months after writing this post, my sweet Aunt Clara went home to be with Jesus. She is finally reunited with her loved one who went on before her.
The events that surrounded the day she died inspired to write Bittersweet, a post on my main blog.