(Note: This was written 2 years ago, but not posted until now).
Missing Mama terribly this morning, and trying to think what I could write about her to ease the ache in my heart. The Lord directed my thoughts to the present and the joy in my life in one of Mama’s descendants, my precious granddaughter, Emma Grace. She and her Granddaddy left early this morning for a dental appointment in Gainesville. When her mom said they didn’t have to come back to school, I thought, oh, no, what mischief will they get into? It would have been fun to go with them, but Grandma would probably spoil their fun. Granddaddy will be at Emma Grace’s command: breakfast at Chick’fil’a, shopping at Aeropostale’s, and most certainly a trip to the western store. His will power becomes putty where Emma Grace is concerned.
At twelve and a half years old, Emma Grace is a kind, loving, and caring pre-teenager. Her favorite pastime is her horses. Before Christmas she presented her Granddaddy and me with a wish list of nothing but horse tack, with which we dutifully obliged.
Tommy is her roping horse, Mouse is used for goat tying because she isn’t as tall as Tommy, and Doughnut does pole bending and barrels best because he’s fast. Two other horses, Little Ann and Landy Moon, are still in training. Their time will come.
There’s just something about the first authentic cool day of fickle fall in Florida. It beckons you to come outside and rejoice in the reality that the hot, lethargic days of summer are winding down. Never mind that the conditions are still ripe for a hurricane—just savor the remarkable feelings that the cool air evokes.
Usually those thoughts are of times past, memorable events that occurred at this special time of the year. Fall signals the start of hunting season where we live. What memories that brings to mind. Our extended family had a houseboat that was hauled to Kelly Creek in Waccasassa Bay about this time of the year in preparation for hunting season. It became our hunting camp and the source of so many enjoyable weekends and holidays. It was there that my dad taught me how to shoot his 12-guage shotgun. I was allowed to squirrel hunt on my own, but should I get lost, 3 blasts from the gun was the signal for help. My first venture into the woods, probably no further than 100 yards from the camp resulted in the firing of those 3 shells. How embarrassing!
The cool, crisp air also brings to mind the mountains of north Georgia and western North Carolina. Ginny was eight years old when we journeyed to Sugar Mountain near Banner Elk to what would become an annual after-Christmas trek for the next 9 or 10 years. Family and friends always accompanied us, some enjoying the ski slopes, others content to sit in front of a warm fireplace.
For the past two years I’ve also been reminded of how much my mother loved this time of the year. She loved Kelly Creek as much or more than we did. Whether on the houseboat at Kelly Creek or in a condo at Sugar Mountain, Mama was the life of the party. She was always ready to play a fun board game or a round of Bridge, Canasta or Spades.
Today marks two years that Mama has been gone. I don’t need a cool fall day in October to remind me of that, but this day will always be a time to reflect on what an extraordinary woman, wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother she was to her family and everyone who knew her. It would be so easy to sit and bawl my eyes out over what we have lost, or I can rejoice in what we had. I prefer to rejoice and praise my Heavenly Father for what a blessed life I had when she was with us and still have today as a result of her unconditional and selfless love.
As if trying to balance my bank statement wasn’t depressing enough, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” started playing on Pandora on my computer. How you loved that song, Mama! Of course you loved hearing Judy Garland sing it, and this rendition is by a fellow from Hawaii, accompanied on his ukulele. You liked the Hawaiian singer Don Ho, I know you would have liked this guy.
Music has a way of affecting my feelings. It can make me happy, sad, contemplative, or silly. It has a way of transporting my thoughts to another time or to another person. So many songs bring you to my mind, Mama. You so loved music. You grew up in a home with a piano….the one that Yellow Boy, the cat, liked to play at night while all the family was upstairs (in the Gator’s Nest) asleep. Your sister, Doris (aka Aunt Sissy or Sister), was an accomplished pianist. You loved the piano so much, I wonder now why you never learned to play.
You and Daddy bought a piano for your house just before the 1950 hurricane (what timing!), when your oldest daughter was only six—much too young in that era to begin lessons. That shows your dreams, hope and determination, that your daughters would learn to play. The tradition then was to wait until a child was 10 years old, when they knew how to do fractions, believing that was necessary before beginning lessons.
In 1956, when Doris Virginia was twelve and I was ten, a trained pianist moved to Cedar Key. Betty Miller was the wife of the high school football coach and they were Methodists! Soon Mrs. Miller began teaching Doris and me. We rode our bicycles every Saturday morning almost to the airport to where the Miller’s lived. Around 1960 the Miller’s moved, and Doris, Miriam and I began taking lessons from Eleanor Sullivan, who lived in Bronson. Mama drove us to lessons until Doris was 16 and could drive.
Trips to Gainesville were always exciting. Gainesville at that time had no malls, no shopping centers. All the shopping was done of the four streets that surrounded the courthouse downtown. You gave us money, and off we would go. My first destination was Lillian’s Music Store, just behind Cox Furniture Company. I would buy a piece of sheet music for $1.25, then head next door to Mike’s Bookstore. The latest Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys book was just $1.03 with tax.
Since becoming a piano teacher myself, I credit my playing ability to you, Mama. You were always buying piano books with songs of the 30’s and 40’s, encouraging me to play those songs for you. Little did I know at the time, it was all the sight reading that sharpened my skills so much. I know that music must have brought back memories of your youth and the war years. Even though I struggled through many of them, you didn’t care. You marked your favorites in those books. I still have them, but since your passing—I haven’t gotten them out to play your songs. Maybe one day.
I thank you for instilling in me a love of music. Some of my piano students today have mothers like you who will sit and listen and encourage them. The music you are experiencing now is no comparison to my earthly music. I know there is all kinds of praise and worship music in heaven, but I can’t help but think that God allows songs like “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” too!
One by one they left us. William Edwin was the first to go, on September 1, 1982. Just 73 years young, Bill was the oldest of the six Delaino children. Five years later, in 1987, cancer claimed Mary Geraldine (Geri), the youngest of the clan, at 59. It would be quite a few years before losing another. Thirteen years passed before Doris Wilma died on Feb. 4, 2000. She was the next to the oldest, never married, but a loving aunt to her many nieces and nephews. Doris was 87. The following year, Ann Estelle, 80, died May 11. Cora Virginia died Oct. 11, 2011 followed by George Arthur on Mar. 31, 2013.
Will and Essie Delaino now have all their children home with them in Heaven. What a celebration they must have had when George gave up his earthly body and joined them early that Easter morning. How appropriate that on earth believers were celebrating the resurrection of Jesus–our assurance of eternal life with Him in Heaven–and Uncle George himself was resurrected that day! Praise God for His mercy and lovingkindness.
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” Psalm 116:15
The second Christmas without you, Mama, hurts as bad as the first. You always loved this time of the year. The photograph is of Emma Grace’s second Christmas with you. The plaid Christmas outfits she and Jack Burton are wearing, you bought for them. How you loved those great-grandbabies! I only wish they could have grown up knowing what a wonderful, fun-loving , beautiful great-grandmother they had.
After 35 years in our home, we are remodeling the bathrooms. “It’s about time,” you would say. How I’ve missed your advice on what color schemes to select, which vanity would look best, and other endless decisions on which you always gave such good advice. I selected an antique green vanity for the hall bathroom that I know you would just love! Your favorite color, green, has always been mine, too.
This Christmas will come and go, just like the last one. Your absence will be felt by all, but we carry your memory in our hearts. Your Christmas will be awesome, I’m sure. What could be better than celebrating the birthday of Jesus in His Presence! We’ll celebrate with you soon.
Tribute to Aunt Mary Ann
Mary Ann Moore Delaino
Nov. 11, 1917 – Aug. 2, 2012
How sad that some people live nondescript, unremarkable lives. When their days on earth are over, there’s not a lot that can be said about such people. At the memorial service held on August 8, 2012, at the Cedar Key United Methodist Church to celebrate the life of Mary Ann Moore Delaino, the words that flowed from the mouths of friends and family were anything but nondescript. As a tribute to my very special aunt, I’d like to revisit some of those words that rang out today, as well as add a few of my own.
When one walked into Aunt Mary Ann’s presence, the first thing you noticed was her smile. She was always glad to see you, and had a way of making you feel so special. I’ve thought for many years that I was her favorite niece, but I have a feeling that all her nieces probably think that!
She was the epitome of the refined, gracious Southern lady. Her manners were impeccable. Emily Post would have approved.
The small fishing village of Cedar Key may have been her home, but she was as sophisticated as a high-society New Yorker. What other woman in Cedar Key used a cigarette holder for her Lucky Strikes? Audrey Hepburn had nothing on Mary Ann Delaino!
Knowing of Aunt Mary’s knowledge and command of the English language, one was hesitant to say too much in her company. In the classroom, at home, or on the street, murder the King’s English, and she would correct you. She was forever correcting my use of double negatives. And “ain’t” was a word she did not tolerate.
Dignified is another adjective that describes Aunt Mary Ann. When camping at Kelly Creek on our houseboat during hunting season, she refused to use the outdoor “two-holer” erected near the creek. Certainly she went somewhere, but it wasn’t on that outdoor toilet!
When in her 50’s, Aunt Mary Ann suffered a massive stroke, paralyzing her right side. Determination and resilience kicked into high gear at this time. Recovery was slow, but sure. She exercised for years past the time that most people would have given up.
Aunt Mary Ann was a wonderful musician. She played the piano at the Methodist Church for many years, urging me to take over when I reached the ability to play hymns for congregational singing. After her stroke she could no longer play, and I know she missed that very much.
Reading was a favorite pastime for Aunt Mary Ann. I was always interested in what she was reading whenever I visited her. At one point she loved English mystery novels. After a summer trip to upstate New York, I told her about visiting Hyde Park and Springwood, the home of the Roosevelt’s. How interested she was, and she wanted to read my souvenir book on Eleanor Roosevelt.
Aunt Mary Ann was a brilliant educator, one with true “withitness” (eyes in the back of the head!). When I was in the 10th grade I’ll never forget coming up short one six week grading period without the customary book report. Knowing what a failing grade would do to my average, I proceeded to make one up—author, title, characters and plot. When I finished reading the report to the class, was I ever grilled! Aunt Mary Ann wanted to know where I got the book, which facilitated another lie. Thankfully she didn’t ask to see the book. She gave me a “B-“ on the report and I kept that charade to myself for a long time. It was only in recent years that I confessed to her what I did that day in the 10th grade, thinking she was be amused by it. Not so! She looked sternly at me, pointing her finger and said, “Evelyn Walrath, you should be ashamed of yourself!”
I could write many more words describing Aunt Mary Ann. It’s been said that “actions speak louder than words.” I would like to say that one’s own words speak volumes about a person. Over the years Aunt Mary Ann and I communicated not only in person, but in letters and emails. Her wit and clever use of words shine brightly in a few of these communications that I will now post.
A thank-you note for a gift:
Dear Evelyn, Sammy and Ginny,
There are all sorts of blues – the sky on a summer day, the aqua of a tropic sea, the royal of our nation’s flag, the sad realization that your outgo exceeds your income – and then there’s the color of the gorgeous vase you gave me! Thank you. It was great for you just to think of me and especially with such a lovely thing. I’ve been looking for the right place to display it, a place where the sun can reflect on it. There’s a serious hitch in my search: no sun to reflect! Oh, well, I know it’s still up there and surely soon it’ll shine on us.
I hope these holidays have been perfect for you all and that the new year will bring all sorts of good times for you.
Won’t you come over and visit sometime? I realize that you are all busy folks, but I do miss seeing you.
Aunt Mary Ann
This letter was sent to me when I retired from teaching school in 2000.
In this time of rapidly changing situations, a special need has arisen: those retiring from their initial career (it was indicated in a recent conversation that perhaps you were among that group) are seeking interesting, maybe even profitable, second careers.
Always alert to the social and economic needs of our population, I have given this perceived problem thoughtful consideration. Surely all this talent can be put to serving some of the many needs in our society. What better think can I do than help our people create a more smoothly running civilization? After all, we are constantly being reminded that technically we are prepared for Utopia, that it is only in our management of our assets that we have failed.
With this in mind, I thought, “If I can create a situation in which just one of these soon-to-be retirees can be involved in work mutually beneficial to her and to the public, I will have made a step in the right direction.”
Amazingly enough, it was you who gave me this first idea! “How?” you may ask. Let me explain: it is quite likely that in this village and, to enlarge our vision, in surrounding areas and, not to limit the possibilities, all over this country there are people – women and men, boys and girls – possibly even pets – lying abed in the morning – let us say at 8:30. There they are unconscious, letting the world pass them by.
So, what’s to be done? It seems to me that you are eminently well qualified to step right in and correct this deplorable condition. I am prepared to give references verifying your ability to operate a wake-up service.
Think of the possibilities here: you could set up a system that would cause beside telephones to ring everywhere at whatever time you considered suitable and for a nominal fee get those lazy laggards out of those beds!
I recognize that there are drawbacks to overcome. The possibility that some of those awakened might become belligerent, not readily accepting that this was for their own good, would have to be faced. It might be advisable to hire bodyguards for yourself until your clients calmed down a bit. Then, too, there is that regrettable tendency in America today to bring law suits over most trivial matters. Perhaps it would be wise to be represented by a reputable law firm.
But, surely, one of your excellent character and intelligence can see beyond these small obstacles and are ready to take positive steps toward establishing this service to benefit your fellow citizens! I shall be glad to offer my services as you initiate this move.
Aunt Mary Ann
President, Helpful Enterprises, Inc
P.S. This document shows an idle mind doing its thing! What mind, you ask?
E-mail in response to some jokes I sent her (5/17/2005):
Just finished these delightful stories…Hazel is sitting over there having her breakfast….She wants to know if I will entertain her luncheon guests (old friends from her Tampa garden club) by telling these jokes. I think I better not. They might decide that hazel should be removed to a more refined location! However, she, Rose and I have enjoyed them.
Enjoy this gorgeous day —–Love Aunt M A
A letter in response to reading the book I wrote on the history of the Walrath’s (2/19/2008):
Occasionally I’ve been scanning your book, looking at pictures; yesterday I read it from cover to cover and really enjoyed it all. I couldn’t pass a test with questions about which Walrath married whom or how many children each had, but at the end I realized that I understood more about what happened during their time in history than I ever had before: about the hardships the people in that disputed section of Europe suffered as territorial wars were fought; about the courage it must have taken for them to leave their homes and make the daring and difficult journey to a strange new world; about a family’s successes in their establishment of a new life.
And strangely enough, I understand more about that time in our nation’s history. The French and Indian War was always a dim period in my mind—of course the teachers talked about it – I read many historical novels by important men of that era – but still had no understanding or feel about how it took place. As you wrote about the events that touched the lives of real people and their participation, I understood more clearly what happened – what does that fact tell us about learning?
I didn’t plan to write an educational treatise – just wanted to thank you and compliment your work. The book was beautifully written; to weave so many facts into a readable, enjoyable piece requires many skills – you’re good!
It surprised me that someone had kept the letter Bill sent to his Aunt Ginny – it was fun to read – showed to the 66 year-old guy –he liked that….it’s great to remember those days (and forget how difficult they may have been).
Thank you again for letting me see your book. I also have your Eleanor Roosevelt book – you need to come by when you can.
Love to your family and you —Aunt Mary Ann
(l.to r.) Ruth & Gene Duden, John White, Aubrey Griffis
My mother, Virginia Delaino Walrath, was a graduate of the Class of 1942 at Cedar Key High School. In the ’80’s and 90’s, and even into the early years of 2000, she hosted a class reunion get-together for the classes of 1940, ’41’ and ’42. It was always a delightful event for the classmates to reminisce about old times and renew acquaintances. Mama always had a delicious meal prepared for her guests. On one occasion, Gene Duden gave a toast to Mama. He had written his words down on paper that was tucked away in a drawer and only recently discovered. Following is Gene’s gracious toast to an equally gracious lady.
Toast to Virginia
Gene Duden (Class of 1940)
“We should honor Virginia this wonderful evening. We are all familiar with Virginia’s generosity and grace, but her reputation should go well beyond this and if you’ll indulge me for a moment while I borrow a page from history, I will explain.
Washington, D.C. was originally founded not only as our capitol, but as a gathering place and cultural center for all people. In spite of this, it was not until Thomas Jefferson named the very fashionable Dolly Madison as his lady (of the White House), that Washington became the country’s ultimate destination for parties and social events.
Dolly knew how to mix people, music and food to create the atmosphere for a party. She was so gifted with talent and charisma that her parties became an art form and she was the ultimate artist of her time.
No Dolly Madison ever made her way to Cedar Key….but Virginia DID. And if Dolly Madison set the benchmark for how to throw a party in Washington, then Virginia is the one who perfected the art in Cedar Key!
Virginia, I believe I speak for everyone when I say your efforts and energy create an atmosphere which enriches us all and makes you the equal of Dolly Madison in every way but one—you are still the better cook!”
Mother’s Day was bittersweet this year. For the first time in sixty-five years, it was celebrated without our mother. We celebrated as if she was there. Dinner was served in her beautiful home, in her charming dining room that she decorated many years ago with half of one wall, from floor to ceiling, filled with nostalgic photos of family members who have long been gone. A lovely curtain, sheer and flowing, made by Mama, covered the windowed wall. We sat at her majestic walnut dining table that easily seats twelve—it just had to seat that many to accommodate the countless dinners she hosted years ago. The china, not her best, but the eclectic plates she one by one collected from the antique stores she loved to browse, was not identical, but similar, each containing a muted pink rose pattern of some sort. Countless other reminders are there in her home….that home where she raised her three daughters. Come to think of it, Mama was there that day, not as she has been in previous years, but we celebrated Mother’s Day with memories of Mama all around us, and fervent love for her still in our hearts. This poem expresses our sentiments so eloquently.
In Our Hearts
By Rose de Leon
We thought of you with love today,
But that is nothing new.
We thought about you yesterday.
And days before that too.
We think of you in silence.
We often speak your name.
Now all we have is memories.
And your picture in a frame.
Your memory is our keepsake.
With which we’ll never part.
God has you in his keeping.
We have you in our heart.
Jami always had a special place in Mama’s heart. Not only is she the wife of Mama and Daddy’s grandson, John, but she is the mother of those very special little boys, Jack and Wes, G-G’s great-grandsons. Jami and John met while Jami was a student at Florida State University. Not only did our family fall in love with Jami, but with her family as well.