|CONTEST...the most adorable child.|
By Gloria Phifer
Some relatives are faint images in my mind. There are two aunts whose colors are vivid. Their memory is a sweet fragrance in my life. One of them was my Aunt April.
My mother had five sisters. April was 16 months older than my mother. They never had a close relationship…perhaps it was personality differences or competition in childhood.
Aunt April was about 5ft 5inches tall. She had large brown eyes and light brown hair. She was energetic, talkative, and always smiling. Her eyes lit up when I came into the room. Aunt April loved me. When I was a small child she would kneel down and talk to me eye to eye. I knew she cared. Like a magnet, I was drawn to her warmness and love.
In 1949, we lived in
. My mother enrolled me into pre-first (equivalent to Kindergarten). I was five years old. Bayard, New Mexico
My brother, Lawrence Marion (Bronco) was born in December of that year.
My stepfather, Slim, and my mother decided to leave
. Slim wanted to search for a job in New Mexico . I would be staying in Montana Sharon Springs, with Kansas
April and her husband Kenny didn't have any children at this time. They lived in a quiet, older neighborhood. Their house was a white, two story. To a six year old (I had turned six in December) the house was huge.
I can remember my family leaving me and walking out the front door. My mother was hesitant, but Aunt April assured her I would be fine: and I was. I didn't cry. I felt uncertain but not abandoned. I was always a very perceptive child. I could always read the situation around me. I knew I was safe with my Aunt April.
My aunt enrolled me in Sharon Springs Elementary. Instead of Kindergarten (pre-1st) they put me into the first grade. For twelve years I was usually the youngest in my class. I graduated at seventeen years old.
I really have no memories of the school. My memories are of the neighborhood and my time with my aunt. I had my own bedroom off of the living room. When I came down with the measles, I can remember April taking good care of me. She tucked me into bed and shut the curtains. "To protect your eyes," she said.
Aunt April was always kind to me. She never raised her voice. She always seemed happy with me. I was the apple of her eye and I basked in her attention. I felt content.
There were a few kids in the neighborhood. I was the youngest. One day we were playing "cowboy and Indians". I had a toy pistol. The oldest boy took my toy and said I could not have it back unless I paid him a dime. I went into Aunt April's house and took a dime out of her purse. I gave it to the bully, but I never told Aunt April. (Sorry Aunt April. I owe you a dime.) One day, this same boy set up a situation where he thought he could take advantage of me. The whole group was playing in a tent…I ran home for a few minutes. When I got back, the bully was the only one there. What is interesting, at six years old, I knew he had sent everyone home and had set this up. He asked me to do something disgusting. With all the furious indignation, this six year old had, I pointed my finger at him and yelled "you are a naughty, naughty boy!!!" and I ran home. I never told Aunt April about either of these instances. Looking back she would have taken care of both situations. Why don't children tell adults what they are going through? As I think about it now, there were numerous times in my life, that this God given instinct saved me from harm.
When school was out in the spring, I knew Mom and Slim were coming for me. I knew I was facing the inevitable…which as a child became my norm. I was riding the bike; April had given to me, as our 1949, black Ford passed by. My mother waved at me. I returned to the house but I wasn't excited. I'm sure my mother was disappointed that I had no reaction.
I was sad as I left my Aunt April. Looking back, I think it was the sense of peacefulness and security that I felt. And the love. Our family was always on the move. Never permanently settled and not much abiding peace? As an adult I realize that peace is very important to me.
The only memory I have, of the drive to
, was holding my baby brother, as I sat in the back seat. (This was before car seats and baby seats). He was over a year old now. My mother turned, from the front seat, with a smile on her face. "Don't you want to put him down? Isn't he heavy?" "No," I said "I just want to hold him." Montana
That summer, in
, they rented a cabin that was small. It had a kitchen and a place to eat. (If I thought it was small at six years old, it must have been small.) At night, the four of us slept in a tent. Bronco was in a crib. My mother, Slim and I slept on cots. I woke up one night with a cat sitting on me. (Didn't take the love of cats out of me) Butte, Montana
I spent a lot of time down the street at a neighbor's house. She let me play her piano and xylophone. She told mom that I needed a piano and lessons. She thought I was musically inclined.
They rented a house in
before winter set in. I began the second grade. The last half of the year, I finished the grade in Butte , where we moved to. Philipsburg, Montana
As the years passed, Aunt April and Uncle Kenny had three children and lived on a ranch. I would see her occasionally if we visited them or if she came to
to see my grandmother. (By this time we were back in Albuquerque .) New Mexico
Aunt April became a business woman. She owned and operated her own fabric store. She now sported a short, blond hair cut. She always dressed nicely as did her children. I thought Aunt April's life was "all together". No one on the outside knows another's life.
Years later, she went through some hard times. A bitter divorce and tragic circumstances. She moved to
and began working for the phone company. Albuquerque
She was still my Aunt April, but there was a hardness there. She was in survival mode. She smiled, but it was through a broken heart. Despite her many losses she still had a heart of gold. A giving heart.
I married, moved to
and had children. On occasion she would call me. I loved to hear her voice…I recognized it immediately. Iowa
One year we were vacationing in
. My husband CJ was making a long distant phone call from our motel room. The operator said , "Carroll Phifer, where are you?" It was Aunt April. We had a good laugh over that. Colorado
When we visited
, Aunt April always insisted on taking us out for breakfast. She would not allow CJ to pay the bill. I think she liked the tug of war and loved having him give in. There was no arguing with Aunt April. Albuquerque
Twice I flew to
by myself. Once I had a lay over in New Mexico . Aunt April's daughter and her husband were living there at the time. I was so surprised to see them. How Aunt April knew my schedule I never knew. She had sent them to be with me during my lay over. They visited with me until I got on the plane. Denver
On another flight, some years later, when I landed in
, there was my cousin Kim …Aunt April's son. He helped me with my luggage and I had to transfer to a bus. I was on my way to meet my half sister for the 1st time. After the visit to Albuquerque , Aunt April picked me up. I stayed at her house until my brother Bronco came to take me to Clovis . Farmington, New Mexico
Aunt April and I had a good visit. She arranged for all my cousins that were in
, to meet us for breakfast, so I could see them. Cousin Kim and his children were the only ones who showed up. She was "Hot"! I told her I was fine. I enjoyed being with her and her family. (I'm sure when she saw my other cousins she gave them "The what for!") Albuquerque
I had dreaded going to
. Mom and my step dad Deryl were alcoholics. (Slim died when I was ten.) But, I actually found a blessing in Farmington . On Easter Sunday night, Bronco, Mom, Deryl, my Aunt Ruby, her family and I went to a church service. Deryl was sitting next to me during communion. He turned to me and said, "You really believe, don't you?" and I said, "Yes, I do." Then we both took communion. After the service Mom and Deryl held hands and went to the minister. They asked him to pray for them. Later, My Aunt Ruby cooked supper. As we were together, I heard Deryl say to Bronco, "I love you Bronco." And Bronco answered back, "I love you too Deryl." God had brought me to a place of blessing. Farmington
A friend of Bronco's, (Bronco had to work) my mother and Deryl brought me back to
Albuquerque, from , so I could catch my flight. Farmington
Aunt April was at the air port. It was a heart stretching situation. Mom and Deryl were so fragile. (I knew they were trying so hard to stay sober). Aunt April held on to my arm as if she didn't want to let me go. .
What do you do when people that you love, are beside you and you know the many hurts in their lives? You love them, and tell them you love them. Then (as a friend told me) prayer is the best you can do. How do I know God loves broken people? Because, I come from broken people. I was a broken person. I needed a Savior Who would love me and take care of me. One who would never leave me and would never leave the people I love.
Of course I didn't know it at the time, but Mom and Deryl were headed for some hard times. And, it was the last time I would see April.
A year or so passed and Aunt April called me. She had undergone some surgery. She told me she was not feeling well, but was sure everything would be alright.
Within the month, I received a vanilla envelope. April had sent me the pictures she had of me.
When my mother called and told me Aunt April had passed away, I was not prepared for it. She had been a special person in my life.
After a few months, I was looking again at the photo's she had sent me. I happened to turn one over and there, pasted on the back, was an entry form…"The Most Adorable Child."
She had entered me into a contest, and I had never known it.
My wonderful, Aunt April, I'm so thankful you were in my life. I am thankful to God for your love for me. It made a huge difference…as love always does.
|Slim, Bronco ( 5 months) Gloria 5 yrs. Bayard|