Aunt Francis as she told me to call her lived on this earth over 100 years. Aunt France born in 1965 was born the daughter of slaves. She always thought herself as being watched over by the Angels, her mother and father were never sold, they were still together at the end of the War.
Her name was Sarah Francis; she came into my life when I was six years old. My daddy needed someone to watch over my great-grandmother and me while he was in the cotton fields. My mother worked in town and she would come home most times after we were all in bed and be gone before most of us got up.
Aunt Francis was a very old woman when she came to us. Daddy had gone to the cotton gin in Priceville, Alabama, pulling a trailer of cotton with his tractor. When he returns in the trailer, where the cotton once lay was Aunt Francis sitting in her old rocking chair. Beside her a huge trunk which held all of her worldly belongings. She lived in a little one room rustic shack near our house, which was three rooms, front and back porch, our house was known as a “tar paper” shack covered with a wrap siding that looked like brick. Fake brick!
My mother was very unhappy with the situation, very unhappy. She disliked Ma my daddy’s great grandmother living with us, Ma was a full-blooded Native American, Chickasaw. Now she had to put up with an old black woman. Daddy sometimes would say to me, “You know that your mama married beneath her upbringing”, I would be much older when I understood the implications of what he said. I also felt bad for my mother she had made the mistake of marrying one of the most handsome men in Alabama. Dark, strong, that kindness and love made her say “Yes”.
Therefore, I grew up learning how to act, live and survive; these lessons came from Ma and Aunt Francis. I was a young woman when I lost both of them. Ma along with my daddy had given me full knowledge of “The Ways” of their people, the nobility and strength. Aunt Francis gave me the meaning of life, to be alive and how to survive. She also, gave me the graciousness, and how a young woman should act. I doubt that I have lived up to their expectations of me, I have tried.
When I returned to Alabama to attend the funeral of Aunt Francis, it had to be one of the darkest days in my life. My daddy had taken care of her until the day she died. She moved into town when daddy left the farm, he rented her a place and paid her rent. He gave her spending money and brought groceries to her, bought from a list she prepared for him. My heart aches at the thought of how much she meant to us.
Later in life I painted a picture of Aunt Francis in Acrylics, I wanted her to be young and alive. I have the picture today. Then much later I begin to write poetry, naturally the piece created “Another Spring for Aunt Francis”. She did get one more spring after that last one, and I have to smile at remembering her huge body walking across the creaky boards of the old tarpaper shack. The long dress covered with a starched white apron. Most of all I remember her hugs and kisses, she loved me and I loved, still love her.
Another spring for Aunt Francis…
Her knees bend forward away from the worn out rocker, her legs getting their bearings while she made a puckered brow while looking out the window at the garden. Everything dies she said; soon the fragrance of spring will be gone.
She narrows her eyes looking into the hedgerow at the end of her flowerbed to see if the sparrow hawks have returned, slowly she turns keeping contact with the old chair, holding onto its worn arms. After one-hundred listless summers, her soul still feeds on emotions of the stillness of the sweet-scented honeysuckle growing around her front porch.
Holding her breath she falls back into the chair, it shudders under her weight. She knows not to take her being able to stand for granted. Closing her eyes to rest, bible in hand, and her thoughts we none other than she could get back up another time, another spring. Maybe!
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Aunt Francis was as real as life itself, she lived day by day, singing her gospel songs. I wish that everyone could have had an Aunt Francis, maybe today could have been a different world. I am grateful. Someday I will write her story, she deserves that much.
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