Our Aunt Lib, not our first level Aunt (?? Dad - need your help on the family relations here!) was a tiny older woman who lived on a big old house in West Virginia. Getting to her house was always exciting. My father always liked nice cars and driving in "wooly wonderful" West Virginia is a treat for driving enthusiasts - great views, windy, curvy, crazy roads through mountains, and few cops. My father was always an excellent driver, really understanding the feel of the car on the road and how much it could handle - a trait he passed on to my brother (and us girls to a lesser extent).
Driving to go visit her was always exciting. My dad would drive the windy roads and take the curves super fast. It felt like being on a roller coaster! I think my mom just gripped the door and prayed. You have to cross over a big (well at least it seemed big to a kid) steel, ugly bridge to cross into WVA into Charleston, then drive another hour or so into the state in the mountains.
Aunt Lib had a dog named Pepper. He was a short, fat, squat little thing with brown and black hair. We loved that mutt. He would waddle around behind us everywhere we went.
Aunt Lib's house was wonderful. It was always perfectly clean, lots of older era type things (lace doilies, tassles on the lamps) but full of things kids would find interesting too - hologram cards, board games, and lots of outdoor stuff to play with, especially in the barn.
Her house had a huge yard, big porch with swings where people would congregate in nice weather most often. The kitchen was actually kind of small, which looking back was strange b/c they spent an awful lot of time in it. Lots of good smells would come from there.
Deer would often come into the yard (to destroy the garden!) but they were fun to watch out for. They really do freeze in the light so we'd try to wait up at night to try to catch them.
Aunt Lib was always very, very gentle and kind. I can't remember ever hearing her talk negatively about anyone, although we were usually running around, not participating in the adult conversations.
The big barn behind the house was fun to explore. We'd crawl up into the eaves. My brother was the only one
dumb brave enough to jump into the old hay.
There definitely were some characters living in West Virginia, but most of the people we met through Aunt Lib were good, solid people working the land and making a living. They all seemed to just pitch in whenever someone had any trouble and help each other out. You'd wave to everyone, whether you knew them or not. Everyone was friendly. And EVERYone there had a gun or three or five. A lot of hunting takes place there, which I hated. (that's another story.)
One thing that always surprised me was how expensive the basics were there such as gas and food. I thought that since it was one of the poorest states in the United States, things would be cheaper. But that's not how it works. I remember our Grandma Arlis explaining that things had to be trucked in so far, for few people, that it drove the prices up. Many people had farms to supplement with fresh fruits & vegetables, which they'd grow in the summer and can for the winter.
I remember one time Aunt Lib trying to teach us how to can goods. She was also making jelly or jam. I remember my jaw dropping when I saw that entire bag of sugar go into the pot! I think we got too impatient though because I don't remember sticking around for the entire process.
Aunt Lib also had this little garden house that always smelled like worms and dirt. She didn't like Pepper going in there because he'd get dirty. We'd go in there - where she did most of her seedling planting and canning - and play "house" in it.
Going to sleep in this old house was really comforting. The wind would blow a breeze through the house for most of the day, with the curtains moving gently. At night the old radiators would start their clanking and creaking and seem to be calling to each other from various parts of the house. It really seemed as though the house would settle down into itself for the night. I think we never slept better than in her big old warm beds.
Aunt Lib died many years ago; I think when I was in college in the early 90's. But I vividly remember her curly hair and big smile for everyone.